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Counter-terrorism: Resources

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

12. What steps he is taking to provide security and law enforcement organisations with adequate resources to counter terrorism.And thank you very much, Mr Speaker. (910136)

I add my good wishes to my hon. Friend and wish her all the best for the future.

Our security and intelligence agencies are currently conducting more than 700 live investigations, so it is crucial that they have the resources needed to keep our citizens safe. In 2015, the Government increased counter-terrorism funding by 30%, from £11.7 billion to more than £15 billion, for the spending review period.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. How does he respond to the concerns raised by the security and defence chiefs about the danger posed by the withdrawal agreement to our security relationships with the US, NATO and the Five Eyes alliance?

I read with interest the article and the letters sent by the former Chief of the Defence Staff and Secret Intelligence Service—in fact, I served with the former Chief of the Defence Staff. I regret to say to my hon. Friend that I think they are completely wrong. Nothing in the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration cuts across NATO, our defence and intelligence relationships with the EU or the US, or the Five Eyes alliance. The withdrawal agreement guarantees that it is the United Kingdom’s sovereign choice to co-operate with the EU on foreign policy and intelligence matters, while protecting the UK’s national security safeguards.

It would be a very odd and almost irregular parliamentary day if the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) did not leap to his feet to pose an inquiry to the Executive branch, and I am delighted that he has done so. In particular, I am pleased that he has not been unduly dispirited by Huddersfield’s relegation.

Thank you for your condolences, Mr Speaker. We live to fight another day.

There are some thoughtful people on the Government Front Bench, but listening to today’s questions I get the feeling that they live in a silo, where they are comfortable but do not join up with other Departments. I hear from senior police officers up and down the country, but particularly in West Yorkshire and Huddersfield, that there is inadequate supply of the special skills needed to combat terrorism on the internet.

I am afraid that is simply not the case. I speak regularly to all the leaders of the regional counter-terrorism response and the serious organised crime response. The part of policing that currently gets increased funding around that speciality is organised crime and counter-terrorism. I am happy to visit with the hon. Gentleman the counter-terrorist unit in his part of the country, which does a first-class job. The problem is not access to that speciality but making sure that we cut off the future demand and threats. I urge him to come with me to visit his local unit, and we can discuss the Prevent programme together.

May I add the congratulations of Members on the Opposition Benches to the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray)?

The Minister has spoken about having more money for counter-terrorism, but when an appalling terrorist attack occurs it draws in officers and resources from mainstream policing as well as specialist counter-terror officers. Surely he must accept that cutting more than 21,000 police officers since 2010 has diminished the Government’s capacity to keep people safe.

The hon. Gentleman will know that when police forces come under pressure—such as when they respond to a terrorist incident, to an incident such as Salisbury or, indeed, as in my constituency, to a process such as fracking—there is an extra grant for those police forces. We have refunded extra money to police forces in Dorset, London and Manchester, and we will continue to do so. That is why we have this pot in the Home Office: to make sure that we can flex as something happens. Police respond, and they then get back the money that they need.