To keep this country safe, we must be prepared to make tough decisions. As I told the House on Monday, there must be consequences for those who back terror. More than 900 people travelled from the UK to engage with the conflict in Syria and Iraq, At least 20% have been killed in the region. About 40% have returned. They have all been investigated, and I can reassure this House that the majority have been assessed to pose no or a low security risk.
Those who stayed include some of the most dangerous, including many who supported terrorism, not least those who chose to fight or to raise families in the so-called caliphate. They turned their back on this country to support a group that butchered and beheaded innocent civilians, including British citizens; tied the arms of homosexuals and threw them off the top of buildings; and raped countless young girls, boys and women.
I have been resolute that, where those people pose any threat to this country, I will do everything in my power to prevent their return. This includes stripping dangerous individuals of their British citizenship. This power is used only in extreme circumstances, where conducive to the public good. Since 2010, it has been used about 150 times for people linked to terrorism or serious crimes.
We of course follow international law. An individual can be deprived of British citizenship only where it will not leave that individual stateless, where they are a dual national or, in some limited circumstances, where they have the right to citizenship elsewhere.
It would not be right to comment on any individual case, but I can say that each one is carefully considered on its own merits, regardless of gender, age or family status. Children should not suffer, so if a parent does lose their British citizenship, that does not affect the rights of their child.
Deprivation is a powerful tool that can be used only to keep the most dangerous individuals out of this country, and we do not use it lightly. However, when someone turns their back on fundamental values and supports terror, they do not have an automatic right to return to the UK. We must put the safety and the security of our country first, and I will not hesitate to act to protect it.
I thank the Home Secretary for his reply. On the legal grounds to remove citizenship because it would be
“conducive to the public good”,
can he set out the criteria he must use to make such judgments on the public good?
As the Home Secretary knows, the law prevents him from making someone who is British by birth stateless. In November, the Home Secretary lost a case before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission on a similar decision made by his predecessor to strip two terror suspects of their British citizenship. Then, as now, the Home Office contended that the two had Bangladeshi citizenship by descent, but the court ruled that that was not the case and that stripping them of British citizenship was therefore unlawful. Will the Home Secretary tell the House what changes have been made to the decision-making process since that case to give him confidence that he is acting lawfully now?
In removing British citizenship, the Home Secretary is essentially saying, “She’s somebody else’s problem,” but in the words of the former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne:
“Which other country is supposed to look after her on our behalf?… Can you imagine the fury here if we took a French or Italian citizen who joined Islamic State?”
Surely a British citizen, born in Britain, is a British responsibility. The Home Secretary mentioned national security in his answer. Can he explain what evidence he used to conclude that this 19-year-old mother and her new-born baby would be a threat to national security? Will he confirm that the evidence required to prosecute Ms Begum for supporting terrorism is readily available from the media? Will he explain why he is so unwilling to bring her to justice?
Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman please tell the House what he expects to happen to Ms Begum’s new-born baby boy? This child is an innocent British citizen, and we have a clear responsibility to ensure his wellbeing. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to uphold that important responsibility?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his questions, which I want to go through. But let me say to him and the House that these decisions are never taken lightly, and I am not just speaking for myself.
The power has been in place for more than 100 years. It was set out properly in the British Nationality Act 1981, since when it has been used by successive Home Secretaries. Although I will not know every decision that every Home Secretary made in the past, I can be certain that none would have taken decisions on deprivation of British citizenship lightly. There are a number of things to weigh up: national security, moral issues and legal issues all need to be carefully taken into account. No decision of this type—as serious as this—can be taken lightly.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the grounds for a citizenship decision. As I have said, I cannot talk about an individual case, although I am happy to try to answer his questions. Almost all these decisions, depending on how far back one goes, are made on what is called the “conducive test”: conducive to the public good. The test can apply to a number of issues—to the case prominent in the papers now, but also to many recent cases, including the ones that he mentioned, to do with terrorism and national security. In each of those cases, I would look at the evidence put in front of me: some of that would be secret intelligence and some would be more publicly available information. That would be used to determine the threat that the individual might pose to the country. Alongside that, officials from the Home Office, working with other partners and partner agencies, would put together a case, including a legal case, to look at a number of issues but of course absolutely to make sure that if we went ahead and took the decision to deprive someone of their British nationality, that person would not be left stateless.
In every decision that I am aware of—I cannot think that any of my predecessors would have taken a different decision—that has been applied, every single time. Our lawyers are expert in this field and would look carefully at judgments in previous cases—the right hon. Gentleman referred to those—if they have been challenged, to see whether there are lessons to be learned. Those would be taken into account. When a decision then has to be made, I have to be, in every case, absolutely confident that it is not only conducive to the public good, but legally proper and correct, and compliant with both international and any relevant domestic law.
The right hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that Lord Carlile, an individual whom he will know well, has already made a public comment—I can refer to public comment—about the case in the press at the moment and other such cases that he has been familiar with. He is worth listening to on how this practice has taken place in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about minors. Again, I cannot talk about any particular individual or case, but in the case of a minor, clearly even more care must absolutely be taken. It is absolutely paramount in all cases to take into account the welfare of minors. I cannot refer to any particular case, but that is also in domestic legislation: in any immigration decision, including about deprivation, the welfare of a child is taken into account where that is relevant.
Finally, I say gently to the right hon. Gentleman that he was a senior member of the previous Government. He was not only in the Cabinet: for almost three years, if I remember correctly, he was a member of the National Security Council. He would have discussed counter-terrorism issues in that council on countless occasions, and it would be hard to think that the issue of deprivation never came up. Not only was he a member of a Government who made decisions on deprivation, many on terrorism grounds, but he even voted for the Immigration Act 2014, which extended the powers of deprivation. Now he stands here pretending that he knows nothing of that and trying to play politics with such an important issue. He should reflect on that.
When I was Home Secretary, I did not deprive anyone of their citizenship, and although the power is necessary, it is being used with ever increasing frequency. Every patriotic British citizen has to accept that we have fellow citizens who are extremely unpleasant and have very unpleasant and dangerous ideas. We deal with them through the rule of law—international law and domestic law. Some people are mass murderers, but we have given up transportation or exile as a response to such cases.
As this woman is only one, but several hundred have already come back and hundreds of various western nationalities are now stranded in Syria, is it not right that we should begin at least from the position that we should accept back the people who are obviously British, by every ordinary test of the word, and that others have to accept back everybody who is obviously a national of their state? Somehow leaving these people to disperse through Syria seems to me quite a serious threat to future security. We can use the full force of the criminal law —we must—and the full resources of the intelligence services once these people have got back here. That is how my right hon. Friend is going to be able to protect the British public.
First, I should say that I always listen carefully to my right hon. and learned Friend, who is very distinguished in the House and served as a distinguished Home Secretary as well as in many other positions of responsibility. As usual, he has made an important point. All I would say is that each case should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. That is exactly what happens in the Home Office: I look at each case very carefully against what tools are available that will help protect our national security and citizens here at home and in regard to what can be done to help bring people to justice.
My right hon. and learned Friend is right to point out that many hundreds of people from the UK—more than 900, we believe—have gone in recent years to Iraq or Syria to join terrorist organisations. There are many more from other European countries and countries such as the US and Australia. We work closely with our allies. I hope he welcomes the fact that we are trying to work even more closely with them following the recent news that Daesh is being defeated in the region, in the expectation that more people may want to come back to the UK or other European countries. We must work with our allies and see how we can co-ordinate and have a more unified approach.
On the general question of returning foreign fighters and ISIS supporters, the President of the United States said:
“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”
Does the Home Secretary accept that what the security services have been calling for is a very specialised programme of questioning, interrogation, de-radicalisation and quite possibly putting these people on trial, fashioned for this group of foreign fighters and their supporters? What is not helpful is to strip them of their nationality, which on the face of what he has said appears to be on a wholly arbitrary basis.
On the particular issue of Shamima Begum, there is no question but that she has said some very reprehensible things in the media, particularly about the Manchester bombings. However, the Home Secretary knows that the Home Office lost two cases where it attempted to strip people of their nationality on the basis of Bangladeshi nationality by descent, so why is he going forward with the same strategy now? Let me remind the Home Secretary of article 15 of the universal declaration of human rights:
“(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”.
Can the Home Secretary explain how his actions are not in breach of the articles of the declaration?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her questions. She will know—I have said this at the Dispatch Box before—that we estimate about 900 people of national security interest left the UK at some point to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. We estimate that about 40% have returned and approximately 20% have died in the region. Of those who have returned, in every case we know of they have been investigated. Where there is enough evidence, they have been prosecuted for their actions.
The right hon. Lady will also understand that the part of the world they are in is a very lawless and dangerous place, so it is not always possible—in fact, it is incredibly difficult—to gather evidence of their activities that could be used to try to have a successful prosecution, either in the UK or in the other countries with which we work closely. If we have evidence, we can help to bring about prosecutions either at home or with our allies. In each case, we work carefully with them. It is always the case that the preferred outcome is always one of justice, where there is evidence and we can be sure that there can be proper legal proceedings and proper hearings. Our preference in many of cases is to see if more people can be tried in the region. As I mentioned earlier to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), we are working with a number of other countries to see if more work can be done together. Sadly, this challenge is not unique to the UK but is shared across many countries including our European friends.
The right hon. Lady referred to other cases, as did the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey). She knows that at any time any decision made by any Minister can rightfully be challenged by anyone in court. That is their right. But it would be wrong to take one particular case that may have been in the courts and apply it to all other potential cases that follow. It is worth repeating that where legal cases may have an impact, our own legal advisers, who are incredibly experienced and take these issues very seriously, would of course take them into account.
The right hon. Lady referred to the UN declaration of human rights. We absolutely abide by that and it is incredibly important that all Governments abide by it. She quoted the declaration by saying that no one should be made stateless. That is absolutely correct. No one should ever be made stateless and that is not something we would ever do. We would never take a deprivation decision if someone, as a British national, has only one nationality. We would not do that. We would not leave anyone stateless. She also suggested that these decisions are somehow arbitrary. As I said to the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), each decision is taken incredibly seriously. The facts are weighed on a case-by-case basis. It is anything but arbitrary.
May I draw the attention of the Home Secretary and the House to an important article just published online in The Independent by the self-described liberal journalist Ahmed Aboudouh, who says that Egypt paid a terrible price in taking back jihadists who begged to be allowed home after the Afghan and Chechen campaigns? He points out that in November 1997, 58 western tourists were slaughtered in Luxor by returned jihadists who only a year earlier had been begging to come back. Clearly, there is a danger in letting radicalised people come back. However, given that not everyone can have their citizenship withdrawn and not everyone who has been out there can be successfully prosecuted because of the lack of evidence of what goes on in a place like that, does the solution not have to be a change in the law so that the act of giving support, aid and comfort to terrorist groups is itself a prosecutable offence?
I thank my right hon. Friend for drawing the attention of the House to that case in Egypt and for his question. He outlines that in cases—again, I am not talking about any particular case—where the only opportunity to keep out a dangerous individual is through deprivation, thereby preventing re-entry into the UK, then any Home Secretary would weigh that option very carefully. Ultimately, my No. 1 responsibility is to do everything I can to keep everyone who lives in Britain safe. The last thing anyone would want to see—he cited the example of Egypt—is a situation where someone returns who could not be kept out and goes on to kill, murder and destroy lives. The duty to keep their constituents safe should be paramount in the mind of every hon. Member. That is why the House has supported successive Acts of Parliament that allow deprivation. As I said, the Immigration Act 2014—not that long ago—actually extended powers of deprivation. That was the will of the House. My right hon. Friend referred to changes in the law. I know he welcomes the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, which became an Act just last week. That also gives the Government further powers to prosecute terrorists.
Let there be no question: everyone in this House deplores Daesh and this young woman’s choices in going to join them, and of course there are security issues that must be addressed. However, the young woman we are talking about is British. She was radicalised in Britain. Daesh is a worldwide phenomenon, but she is our problem. Why is the Home Secretary not bringing her home to put her on trial here to be judged by a jury of her peers? Apart from anything else, she may have valuable intelligence and insights into how she was radicalised. Why is he washing his hands of this problem? He cited what Lord Carlile had to say, but if he, like me, was listening to the “Today” programme this morning, he will have heard Baron Anderson of Ipswich, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation from 2011 to 2017, suggest that we ought to be dealing with our own problems here.
I respectfully say that there is nothing that the Father of the House said with which I would disagree. The rule of law is fundamental to our democracy and if the Home Secretary thinks he can overlook the results of previous decisions, I would very gently suggest to him that he might want to seek a lecture about the doctrine of precedent from the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who is sitting beside him on the Treasury Bench. Unless this young woman holds dual citizenship, he may be found to have acted in breach of UK and international law by rendering her stateless. My question is this: is that a risk he is willing to take? Is he more interested in playing to the populist gallery than respecting the rule of law?
Let me say a couple of things to the hon. and learned Lady; again, I cannot talk about an individual case, but I will try to answer her questions. Every decision on deprivation—I think I speak for all former Home Secretaries who, under successive Governments, have made decisions on deprivation—are weighed up very carefully. The Government and officials in the Government—these decisions have been made over a number of years under successive Governments—will be looking at legal cases individually, on a case-by-case basis. Of course, that would take into account any judgments in court that may be relevant. I am not proclaiming to be an expert on the law in this matter, and a decision like this would not be taken—certainly not by me—without my officials, who are the experts in the law. I know that the hon. and learned Lady is a distinguished lawyer, but I do not think that she is an expert on this particular issue, and it is important to listen to experts on this.
I also gently say to the hon. and learned Lady that it was in July, not that long ago, when another case was considered in an urgent question—the Kotey/Elsheikh case, again, related to foreign fighters—and in a similar way to now, she accused the Government of “departing from” Government policy. That was her language at the time. She went on to talk about how we were ignoring
“our long-standing policy on the death penalty”.—[Official Report, 23 July 2018; Vol. 645, c. 728.]
That was her accusation at the time. She will know that many months later, that case was looked at by the courts, quite properly—as is their job—and they ruled in the Government’s favour on all five counts, so if anyone is trying to play politics with this judgment, I think it is the hon. and learned Lady.
Order. Criticism by one right hon. or hon. Member of another is not a novel phenomenon. I have heard what the hon. and learned Lady said, but she has other colleagues who can pursue these matters in questioning and I am sure that she will take that opportunity. It would not be right for me to intercede at this point, other than to request that the House hears from Sir Desmond Swayne.
The Home Secretary’s power to deprive is open to challenge and, in most cases, will not exist at all. I urge him once again to arm himself with powers of Executive detention so that people can be sufficiently quarantined before they are allowed back.
In cases where terrorists or suspected terrorists are returning to the UK, a number of powers are available, including, for example, temporary exclusion orders, which have been used and can place a number of restrictions on someone, including the port of entry and reporting requirements, as well as other restrictions. We would always look first at what existing powers we can use, and if we feel that they are not sufficient, we would always look at what more might need to be brought to the House.
The Home Secretary is right to want to prosecute anyone who has been involved in terrorist activity here or abroad and we should support him in doing so. However, on the citizenship issue, he said that he will never make anyone stateless, but it appears in this case that he is relying legally on this young woman’s potential right to citizenship in the Netherlands or Bangladesh and presumably on the expectation that one of those countries will accept her, even though she has not lived there and was radicalised here. Does that mean that he accepts that the same principle would apply to other people who might be citizens of Bangladesh or the Netherlands, who might either have potential citizenship in the UK or actual dual citizenship rights, and that if those countries removed their citizenship first—even though this was somebody who had committed crimes in that country who had never lived here—we would somehow be expected to accept those citizens?
I understand why the right hon. Lady referred to a particular case and I will not comment on that, but on her broader question, it is worth reminding the House that every time such a decision is made, it is done on a case-by-case basis. By definition, each case is going to have a different set of facts—sometimes completely different—and we will take all those into account. In every single situation, there is no question of making anyone stateless under any circumstances. Not only would making someone stateless be unlawful, it would be morally wrong, and that is not something that we would do. In any case, and certainly with any decision that I have made, I am perfectly comfortable that the analysis is done properly by expert legal advisers. I would not make such a decision unless I was absolutely confident on the statelessness issue.
The right hon. Lady also referred to citizenship of other countries and how that may or may not work. She will know, as the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, that the citizenship rules can be very complex. They are complex in our country and have similar complexity in many other countries. However, we make sure that we work with lawyers, sometimes including foreign lawyers, if necessary, to make sure that our interpretation of how citizenship laws work is correct.
As somebody who served in the ISIS campaign, I am very aware of the difficulty of extraditing and prosecuting returning UK ISIS fighters. Does the Home Secretary agree that the priority is monitoring those 400-plus fighters who are back in the UK? Is he aware of how many of them were actually fighters? How many of those people are likely to be prosecuted, and if he cannot supply the information now, would he be able to give it to me or the House in some form at a later date? Does he agree now that there is also a case for an updated and renewed treason Bill or Act to cope with these sorts of incidents in future?
I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for his question. As I mentioned a moment ago, we estimate that of the 900 or so people who left the UK to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, approximately 40% have returned. He asks how many have been prosecuted. Each one is investigated—that does not necessarily lead to a prosecution, but anyone who returns should absolutely expect to be questioned and investigated, and prosecuted where possible. I believe that around 40 have been successfully prosecuted. Some have received very significant sentences. I am aware of at least one case in which I believe a sentence of more than 10 years on terrorism-related charges was given by the courts. I will also see whether I can provide any more information to my hon. and gallant Friend.
As the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), noted, in Greater Manchester we have particular reason to find the conduct and utterances of Ms Begum abhorrent. We also want to understand why and how she apparently became radicalised in this country, as indeed, have young people from my constituency who have also tragically gone to Syria to fight with the jihadis. How can the Home Secretary assure us that we are taking every possible step to understand how that home-grown radicalisation occurs and what we can do to prevent it in future if we are not able to bring back our own citizens and interrogate, investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute them?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point. We have been talking about cases that hon. Members have raised in the House involving people who sadly went on to join terrorist organisations, but how we prevent that from happening in the first place is just as important.
The hon. Lady will know that intensive work is being done across Departments, including through programmes led by the Home Office. We are doing our best. There are many people, especially young people, who seem vulnerable and are preyed upon by extremists. The first thing is to find out who they are—that is what we try to do with the Prevent programme, particularly through the Prevent duty—and then to develop bespoke programmes working around those individuals. Each case will be different. In the most intense cases, people move into the Channel programme. Last year, 7,000 people were referred to Prevent and of them about 400 went into the Channel programme. Many of those referrals were to do with Islamist terrorism, but almost half of the Channel referrals last year were to do with right-wing terrorism and extremism. We want to fight all types of extremism, and we work throughout the country, including in Greater Manchester, to do so. Just a few months ago, I went to Bethnal Green and looked carefully at the programme there, and I am very happy with what I have seen so far.
This country is admired around the world for its sense of decency, fair play and the rule of law, which is why I am concerned about this case. I realise the Home Secretary cannot talk about this specific case, but can he tell us how many other people have had their nationality withdrawn, be it British or dual?
It is worth pointing out again—it cannot be said often enough—that nationality will be withdrawn only where the Home Secretary is satisfied that it is conducive to the public good and that such action will not leave the individual stateless. As I said at the start of the urgent question, this power has been used more than 150 times since 2010. I do not have the number for before 2010, but it was used by successive Home Secretaries under successive Governments prior to 2010.
I am sure that many of us recall the attack in Manchester, and I am sure I speak for everyone in saying that security in relation to such attacks is a priority. That goes without saying. That said, how can the Home Secretary defend the dangerous concept of what is now in effect a two-tier citizenship system and invoke the name of national security in doing so? Surely—I am thinking how people might perceive this outside—this plays to the sense of injustice and the brainwashing narrative of those seeking to radicalise young people in communities across the United Kingdom. How does he anticipate remedying the underlying causes of radicalisation when he opts to act unilaterally instead of making use of a rigorous justice system? It is through justice that we achieve what we want, which is a sense of fairness in society, and if we are unfair in society, he loses the moral high ground. I beg him to consider how he uses justice to best effect.
The hon. Lady lays down a fair challenge in asking that in such cases we—whether me or Ministers more generally—think very carefully about fairness and the impact of our decisions. I understand why she raised the issue of people who would look for excuses to try to radicalise populations and communities. That should weigh heavily in any decision on deprivation as against the Government’s responsibility to keep their citizens safe. It is worth keeping something else in mind. Let us imagine a hypothetical case where there is the possibility to keep a terrorist out of the country, but the Home Secretary decides not to, for some reason, and that that individual returns, continues to preach extremism and radicalise others, and potentially even carries out terrorist attacks. It is worth thinking about the impact of that on communities and how it could radicalise people.
Earlier today, several Labour MPs said that removing British citizenship from dual nationals accused of terror offences and acts against the British state could harm dual nationals residing abroad who get themselves into serious trouble. Is it not the case that, typically, countries deport back to this country British citizens convicted of serious crimes in those countries?
My hon. Friend asks me about deportations. In the case of deportations from the UK, we are talking about individuals who, for one reason or another, if they have broken laws, we would seek to deport. The best example in the UK is probably the deportation of serious foreign national offenders once they have served their sentence in a British prison. We take a case-by-case approach, but where appropriate we would look to deport. As he pointed out, many countries seek to deport back to the UK British citizens abroad who have committed offences once they have completed their sentence.
I have been tackling radicalisation and terrorism since 9/11. What sets us apart from those radicalisers and terrorists and their barbaric ideology is the rule of law. We need to tackle them with the rule of law, not kneejerk reactions to tabloid headlines. The Government could have done something about this in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, but there is no mention of it in that Act. You have the terrorism prevention and investigation measures. How many of the people you are looking at in terms of radicalisation are currently on a TPIM? You have no records of people—
Order. I am not looking at anything. I have no record of anything. The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that debate goes through the Chair. He should not say “you” because “you” does not refer to the Minister; it refers to me, and I am an innocent in this matter.
My apologies, Mr Speaker.
The Home Secretary has no idea what is going on with TPIMs. How many people who have been radicalised are having no action taken against them in relation to their capability to strike terrorism and radicalisation in this country? Will he give me some figures on TPIMs, and what control does he have over those?
I have seen for myself some of the work the hon. Gentleman has done, particularly in the west midlands, to help with deradicalisation, and I commend him for it. It is important that he and others continue such work and continue working with local authorities and other partners in doing so.
The hon. Gentleman asked me about deprivations generally and talked about the rule of law. Of course we operate according to the law, as does any Government, and that law is set by this House. I referred earlier to the British Nationality Act 1981 and the Immigration Act 2014. Both talk about deprivation. The 2014 Act extended the provisions for how deprivations can be done. He was a Member of the House in 2014. I am not suggesting he voted for the Act—I do not know; the point is it was debated and is now the law. This is the rule of law. As well as that, we are signed up, quite rightly, to a number of international conventions that we care deeply about. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) mentioned the UN universal declaration of human rights. There is also the convention on the rights of the child, which is relevant in some cases. Those are all hugely important, and we absolutely abide by them.
I cannot stress enough that we would not make a decision that had not been looked at carefully by Government lawyers—experienced lawyers who have worked for many Governments—and which we did not feel to be absolutely lawful. I do not pretend for a second that Governments do not get decisions wrong and that decision are not sometimes declared unlawful if challenged—that has happened under many Governments, and when it does happen, Governments have to listen—but we strive every time to make a completely lawful decision. We have in the past published transparency reports in the House on deprivations—the last one, which was published in May, I think, gives year-by-year numbers—and we will continue to be transparent. The hon. Gentleman also asked about TPIMs. I do not have the exact numbers, but I will write to him.
In fighting Daesh, we faced a new phenomenon. People through their own actions decided to join and embrace a new foul and warped state. It was a matter for them to choose. May I therefore commend my right hon. Friend for the bold action he has taken, which I am sure is supported across the country? Will he reassure me that our position on these difficult issues will be rooted in British values and proper judicial processes?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. He is right to talk about the threat from Daesh. It is not the first and will not be the last terrorist organisation that we have to confront, but the number of people who left Britain to join that vile terrorist organisation, and to commit the most horrific crimes either themselves or by supporting what it wanted to achieve, was unprecedented. I do not think that any country that has faced a similar problem—citizens leaving to join such organisations—has a perfect answer to deal with it, which is why it is important that we work with other countries, which we will do. I assure my hon. Friend absolutely that we must always uphold our values. As I said in answer to the previous question, we must ensure every single time that we act properly and at all times within the law.
The actions and words of Shamima Begum are reprehensible and almost undoubtedly illegal, but we are not to know because the Secretary of State has rejected due process and the law that it is his duty to uphold, and has instead chosen to treat British citizenship as a privilege accorded to those with whom he agrees. He is also abandoning our responsibility to pursue and prevent terrorists made in Britain, and in the process ceding the moral high ground to President Trump. Do the Secretary of State’s actions do justice to Britain or to his political ambitions?
I have had some dealings with the hon. Lady in the past. She is a wonderful woman, and she is a lot better than that question. Perhaps it is a Whip’s handout—that is not her. Much of her question has already been answered in this urgent question, but I am happy to say it again. We must ensure that at all times we are fair, that we are acting morally and also lawfully. As I have said, such important a decisions cannot be taken lightly. The facts must be weighed very carefully, and decision taken only when all alternatives have properly been taken into account.
The Home Secretary has an incredibly difficult job. The interests of the public in this country are paramount and he must keep them safe. We have a fine tradition in this country of not exporting our problems around the world, but of trying to solve problems around the world. Does he consider that we have sufficient powers to ensure that people coming from abroad who may pose a risk are contained? If so, does he also consider that it may be worse for humankind if individuals with problems are exported to parts of the world where there are not such safe containment laws as ours?
My hon. Friend asks whether we have sufficient powers. It is right that we keep our powers under review at all times. If we feel that things need to change, and if that change can be brought about, we would bring it to the House, as we did very recently with the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.
It is worth saying that no matter what powers we have, any prosecution would require sufficient evidence because of our absolute commitment to due process. That is incredibly difficult when people have gone abroad, joined terrorist organisations and carried out the most horrific attacks. It can be incredibly difficult to achieve justice by obtaining evidence that we can present in a court of law under whatever power we have. That is why, as Home Secretary, I must look carefully at all the powers at my disposal. In some cases—and only in some cases—when it is deemed that the best way to keep this country safe is through deprivation of citizenship for someone who has more than one nationality, that should be taken as a serious option.
May I bring the Home Secretary back to the answer he gave to the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), who is no longer in her place? He referred to the Prevent programme. It clearly does very valuable work, but, as far as I am aware, it is a UK-based programme, so the question remains: in what way can he find out why or how a young woman was radicalised when she was a child if she is in a camp in Syria? What assessment has he made of the risks of a large number of people remaining in a camp in Syria and developing networks there that provide us with a risk here at home?
The right hon. Gentleman rightly brings to the attention of the House the fact that these are tough decisions that have to be made after weighing a number of factors. I will not refer to an individual case, but he talks about people in camps abroad who are members of terrorist organisations. We might have limited evidence of what they have done as members of those organisations, but we know that they have joined. I hope he accepts that there are risks of their staying in the region and of returning to the UK—there are risks both ways, which is why each case should be looked at individually and judged on its own facts. I do not pretend for a second that these are easy decisions. Any Home Secretary must take all factors into account and everything should be balanced out, but ultimately it is my responsibility to keep our citizens safe. That must be paramount in my mind when making decisions.
I strongly welcome the action taken by the Home Secretary. There has been a lot of use of the word “arbitrary”, but surely the key point is that the young lady chose voluntarily to go out and join and live among a terrible regime that has behaved in a barbaric fashion. Has he reflected on whether she wants to come back because she has regret and feels remorse, or whether she wants to come back because the caliphate is being defeated? My constituents would ask why someone can choose to go and join an organisation while it destroys, but be welcomed back as if nothing has changed once it finds its downfall.
My hon. Friend will understand if I do not talk about a particular case. As I said earlier from the Dispatch Box, we believe that more than 900 people have gone to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist organisations, many of whom have promoted that fact. As I said a moment ago, it is hard to gather evidence on what they may or may not have done, but we know the cause with which they have aligned. We know what those terrorist organisations stand for, their objectives and the kind of things that they do.
It is worth recalling that Daesh is a lot weaker than it was even a year ago, but certainly a lot weaker than it was when many people went out and joined it two or three years ago. It is not surprising that those who are there and who seem to be being pushed out of the region want to come home. They might have that thought, but we must know about each individual. It is our duty and our right to think carefully about the best interests of this country and how best to protect our citizens.
I have listened for the last while to many people from the Father of the House to honourable, right honourable, learned and gallant Members, and I have listened carefully to the Home Secretary’s responses to each and every one of them, but I still cannot get over the fact that the case that he will not refer to, as is proper, but that everyone else is referring to and the press are referring to, concerns a 15-year-old girl who was radicalised, went to Syria, has lost two children and is now a lactating mother—and she requires that her citizenship be rescinded? The Home Secretary keeps talking about security; can he explain to me in what regard she will affect the security of this country if she is allowed back in?
Again, I hope the hon. Lady will understand that I cannot talk about an individual case; I hope she recognises that. But if individuals have voluntarily left this country, joined a terrorist organisation and have for a number of years been supporting that terrorist organisation, it is self-evident that individual is a risk by dint of the fact that they have joined a terrorist organisation. As I said a moment ago, some of the acts of this organisation are there for us to see. I therefore hope that the hon. Lady can understand why such individuals could be a threat to this country if they returned, and that if I have a proper reason, based on the facts put in front of me in each case—this should be done on a case-by-case basis—that the best way to protect our national interest, and in particular the security of people living in the UK, is to exclude someone from re-entering the UK, that surely has to be the right decision.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
No, no, what I was saying to the right hon. Gentleman, I thought clearly in terms that brooked no misunderstanding, especially by one of his perspicacious intelligence, was that now was not the time for a point of order, but if he wanted to put a question he could. If he wants to wait for his point of order, we will all wait with bated breath, beads of sweat on our brows and eager anticipation. Meanwhile I call Rehman Chishti.
Having previously successfully pushed the Government to accept the correct terminology, Daesh, to defeat the idea, the ideology and the appeal that is sucking in hundreds of individuals from the UK to Syria and Iraq to fight for this poisoned ideology and entity, may I ask the Home Secretary the following? Peter Neumann, one of the world’s best experts, based at King’s College London, has said the presumption must be for host countries to take back their foreign fighters. Unlike France, which is taking back 120 of its foreign fighters straight away in one lump, will the United Kingdom be looking at taking them back in a gradual way, for example taking back first those who assist the UK by giving evidence against those they have been fighting with and excluding them until they do that? Linked to that, on the issue of revoking the citizenship of individuals with dual citizenship rights, can the Secretary of State explain the following? Before the Government do that, do our Government speak to country x or y where these individuals may have originally come from to see if they will take them back? If not, they will become stateless, and that would not be what the Government want.
The hon. Gentleman has now acquired the dubious distinction of being known in the House, I think for ever after, as among other things a cheeky chappie, as he somewhat abused my generosity in asking a question of that length. But never mind, he has done it now, and he can repent at leisure.
Each case is looked at individually, on a case-by-case basis. My hon. Friend mentioned France, and the UK and France have probably had the most people go from their countries to Syria or Iraq as foreign fighters, so we work closely with our French counterparts, and other European friends, on whether there can be a more co-ordinated approach to this challenge that we face. Cases involving individuals who may have the nationality of other countries as well are again dealt with on a case-by-case basis. As I have said, we would need to satisfy ourselves that they do genuinely have the nationality of another country before they can be deprived of their British nationality.