My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“The primary duty of government—our abiding obligation—is, and will always be, the safety of all British people and the protection of the British national interest. Following approval by the National Security Committee and the Cabinet, the Government are today publishing the first national security strategy for this country.
“It states that while our obligation to protect the British people and the British national interest is fixed and unwavering, the nature of the threats and risks we face has, in recent decades, changed beyond all recognition and confounds all the old assumptions about national defence and international security. As the strategy makes clear, new threats demand new approaches. A radically updated and much more co-ordinated response is now required.
“For most of the last half-century the main threat was unmistakable: a Cold War adversary. Today, the potential threats we face come from far less predictable sources, both state and non-state. Twenty years ago the terrorist threat to Britain was principally that from the IRA. Now it comes from loosely affiliated global networks that threaten us and other nations across continents.
“Once, when there was instability in faraway regions or countries, we had a choice: to become involved or not. Today, no country is, in the old sense, far away, when the consequences of regional instability and terrorism—and other risks such as climate change, poverty, mass population movements and even organised crime—reverberate quickly around the globe.
“To address these great insecurities—war, terrorism and now climate change, disease and poverty; threats which redefine national security not just as the protection of the state but as the protection of all people—we need to mobilise all the resources available to us: the hard power of our military, police, security and intelligence services; the persuasive force and reach of diplomacy and cultural connections; the authority of strengthened global institutions, which can deploy both hard and soft power; and, not least because arms and authority will never be enough, the power of ideas, of shared values and hopes that can win over hearts and minds and forge new partnerships for progress and tolerance, involving government, the private and voluntary sectors and community and faith organisations, as well as individuals.
“Mr Speaker, the foundation of our approach is to maintain strong, balanced, flexible and deployable Armed Forces. I pay tribute to Britain’s service men and women—and those civilians deployed on operations—who every day face danger doing vital work in the service of our country and, in particular, I remember today the sacrifices made for our country by all who have been injured or lost their lives in recent years in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres of war.
“To raise recruitment and improve retention, we will match our new public information recruitment campaign, launched this week, with the Government’s first ever cross-departmental strategy for supporting our service personnel, their families and veterans, to be published shortly. In the last two years we have raised general pay levels and introduced the first tax-free bonus of nearly £400 a month for those on operations, as well as a council tax refund. Today the Secretary of State for Defence is announcing new retention incentives for our Armed Forces. There will be increased commitment bonuses of up to £15,000 for longer-serving personnel. Starting with a new £20 million home purchase fund, we will respond to the demand for more affordable home ownership for service men and women.
“To meet the threats ahead, after a trebling of its budget since 2001, the Security Service will rise in number to 4,000, twice the level of 2001. We will be increasing yet again, this time by 10 per cent, the resources for the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which brings together 16 departments, including the police and intelligence agencies, and giving it a new focus on the longer-term challenge of investigating the path to violent extremism.
“I can confirm that, to meet future security needs, we have set aside funds to modernise our interception capability; that at GCHQ and in the Secret Intelligence Service we are developing new technical capabilities to root out terrorism; and that the new Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, which we set up last year, will provide a higher level of protection against internet- or cyber-based threats.
“The strategy published today will be backed up by a new approach to engage and inform the public. Two years ago we removed from being classified as secret the information on threat levels for the UK. We will now go much further. Starting later this year, we will openly publish for the first time a national register of risks—information that was previously held confidentially within government—so the British public can see at first hand the challenges we face and the levels of threat we have assessed.
“To harness a much wider range of expertise and experience from outside government and help us plan for the future, we are inviting business, academics, community organisations and military and security experts from outside government to join a new national security forum that will advise the recently constituted National Security Committee.
“Having accepted the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee—I thank it for its work—to separate the position of chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from policy adviser to the Government, and appointed Mr Alex Allan as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, I can confirm that, as proposed by the Butler review, his responsibility will be solely to provide Ministers with security assessments formulated independently of the political process.
“We will immediately go ahead to introduce a resolution of both Houses, in advance of any future legislation, that will enshrine an enhanced scrutiny and public role for the Intelligence and Security Committee. This will lead to more parliamentary debate on security matters, public hearings on the national security strategy and, as promised, greater transparency over appointments to the committee, so that the committee can not only review intelligence and security but perform a public role more akin to the practice of Select Committees in reporting to and informing the country on security matters.
“Emerging from all the experience and lessons learnt of the past decade is the clear conclusion that we are at our strongest when we combine the resources of our military, police and security and intelligence services with effective diplomacy, and when we work closely with international partners to confront the new global challenges and bring about change. This approach emphasises the importance of strengthening our key diplomatic and military alliances with: the United States, our strongest bilateral partner; NATO, the cornerstone of our security; our central role at the heart of an outward-facing European Union; and our long-lasting and deep commitment to the Commonwealth and to working through international institutions.
“Britain will be at the forefront of diplomatic action on nuclear weapons control and reduction, offering a new bargain to non-nuclear powers. On the one hand, we will help them, and we have proposed the creation of a new international system to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need, including our proposed global enrichment bond; and we are today inviting interested countries to an international conference on these themes later this year.
“But in return we will seek agreement on tougher controls aimed at reducing weapons and preventing proliferation—first, by ending the stalemates on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and secondly, by achieving after 2010 a more robust implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the aim of accelerating disarmament among possessor states, preventing proliferation and ultimately freeing the world from nuclear weapons. A new priority to meet the dangers both of proliferation to new states and of material falling into the hands of terrorists will be tougher action—not just against potential proliferators such as Iran, but new action against suppliers—seeking to strengthen export control regimes and build a more effective forensic nuclear capability, to determine the true source of material employed in any nuclear device. Having already reduced the numbers of our operationally available warheads by 20 per cent and made our expertise available for the verifiable elimination of nuclear warheads, I confirm that we, Britain, are ready to play our part in further disarmament.
“As great a potential threat as nuclear weapons proliferation—and as demanding of a co-ordinated international response—is the risk from failing and unstable states. The national security strategy proposes a new departure, learning the lessons from recent conflicts ranging from Rwanda and Bosnia to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. We will create a standby international civilian capability so that, for fragile and failing states, we can act quickly and comprehensively by combining the humanitarian, peacekeeping, stabilisation and reconstruction support that these countries need. In the same way that we have military forces ready to respond to conflict, we must have civilian experts and professionals ready to deploy quickly to assist failing states and to help rebuild countries emerging from conflict, putting them on the road to economic and political recovery. Britain will start by making available a 1,000-strong UK civilian standby capacity, which will include police, emergency service professionals, judges and trainers. I call on EU and NATO partners to set high and ambitious targets for their contributions.
“Between now and 2011, Britain is offering £600 million for conflict prevention, resolution and stabilisation work around the world, including in Israel and Palestine, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya and the Balkans. As we assume our presidency of the UN Security Council in May, we propose an appeal by the UN Secretary-General for a co-ordinated crisis recovery fund that will provide immediate support for reconstruction, and to which Britain will contribute. Specifically, because we know the importance of peace in Darfur, I am announcing more help from Britain to train, equip and deploy African troops for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping operation. Because of the importance of peace in Somalia, I can announce that Britain will help pay for 850 Burundian troops, as part of the African Union peacekeeping force there.
“Because of the critical importance of economic and political reconstruction complementing military action as the elected Afghan Government face down the Taliban, we propose an integrated civilian-military headquarters, headed by a civilian, which will be constituted in Helmand. In Iraq, where we have already brought electricity and water supplies to over 1 million citizens, we are stepping up our contribution to the work of long-term economic reconstruction by supporting the Basra Development Commission, led for the British by businessman Michael Wareing, who is doing an excellent job. To maximise our contribution to all the new challenges of peacekeeping, humanitarian work and stabilisation and reconstruction, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence is also announcing this afternoon that, as part of a wider review, the Government will examine how our Reserve Forces can more effectively help with stabilisation and reconstruction in post-conflict zones around the world. This year sees the 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army and I pay tribute to the service men and women in our reserves, who are such an essential element of our nation's defence.
“The security strategy published today also makes clear that, as well as being able to respond to crises as they develop, we must tackle the underlying drivers of conflict and instability—poverty, inequality and poor governance. Focusing on areas where poverty breeds conflict, we have quadrupled Britain’s aid budget and are pushing for bold international action in 2008 to meet the millennium development goals. On climate change and competition for natural resources, we are leading the way in arguing for a post-2012 international agreement and a new global fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, including in the areas most under stress and therefore most likely to suffer instability as well as humanitarian disaster. On disease and global pandemics, our priority, with the World Health Organisation, is to improve early warning systems, increase global vaccine supplies and help put in place a more co-ordinated global response. Because of the importance of building stability and countering violent extremism in the Middle East and south Asia, we are increasing the number of Foreign Office staff in those regions by 30 per cent.
“Among all the security challenges to citizens of this country covered by this new strategy, the most serious and urgent remains the threat from international terrorism. The head of MI5 has said that today Britain faces 30 known plots, and 200 networks and around 2,000 individuals are being monitored. There have been 58 convictions for terrorism in just over a year, and the Home Secretary is announcing today that we will now have four regional counterterrorism units and four regional intelligence units, significantly increasing anti-terrorism police capability in the regions.
“Since the events of 11 September, on suspicion that they are a threat to national security or fostering extremism, 300 individuals have been prevented from entering the country. Now, backing up our unified border agency, compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals and our proposals in the Counter-Terrorism Bill that in unique circumstances we can extend detention to ensure full investigation of terror threats, the Government will match stronger action against those we suspect of stirring up tensions with collaborative work with our European partners to strengthen the EU rules on deporting criminals—a matter I will be discussing with President Sarkozy next week.
“For action against terrorism and organised crime, it is important also to strengthen Europol and Eurojust, ensure rapid and secure exchange of information across borders, and speed up both the extradition of criminals and the confiscation of their assets. Starting with the United Arab Emirates, we are signing more agreements so that, once the assets of a convicted criminal are seized in one country with the assistance of the other, both countries will get a share of the proceeds.
“Our new approach to security also means improved local resilience against emergencies, building and strengthening local capacity to respond effectively to a range of circumstances from floods to possible terrorism incidents—not the old Cold War idea of civil defence, but a new form of civil protection that combines expert preparedness at a local level for potential emergencies with greater local engagement of individuals and families themselves. The Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary will report next month on additional measures we propose for young people, in colleges and universities, and in prisons and working with faith communities, to disrupt the promoters of violent extremism—all building upon the support of the vast majority of people, of all faiths and backgrounds, who condemn terrorists and their actions.
“The national security strategy shows a Britain resolute in the face of an unstable and increasingly uncertain international security landscape. It demonstrates the lessons we and other countries have learnt in recent years—that we must expand our policing, security and intelligence capacity, which we are doing; do more to prevent conflict, including by more effective international control of arms, which we are doing; strengthen the effectiveness of international institutions to promote stability and reconstruction, and we have put forward proposals on this today; and always be vigilant and never leave ourselves vulnerable, supporting, and at all times and wherever necessary strengthening, as we do today, our defences and civilian support for national security. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating this important Statement. The whole House shares an immense sense of debt to the police, security services and our Armed Forces for the often unseen, and sometimes never known, work that they do to protect our country.
The House will want to explore this new strategy, which is being billed as a unique event in national history, very closely. There is of course unparalleled expertise in this House on these matters.
Will the noble Baroness confirm that, while the Statement bore the mark of the Prime Minister’s hand, a central place in drafting the strategy as a whole was played by the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead? If so, the doctrine of parliamentary accountability would greatly reinforce the case for an early debate in this House.
Of course, we welcome the idea of a national security approach. Two years ago, my party said that it was time for a national security strategy. I am glad that the Prime Minister is now joining in this.
The noble Lord, Lord West, is also right to warn that issues affecting our national security—from terrorism, to cyber attack, to nuclear proliferation and energy security—are proliferating. The terrorist threat is certainly spreading multinationally. Incidentally, does this not confirm the warnings given to the Prime Minister and his colleagues by the Joint Intelligence Committee before the Iraq war that invasion would worsen the Islamist terrorist threat to us at home? What is the noble Baroness’s assessment of that? Does she accept that the result is as was then predicted? Is it not essential that we have a full inquiry into the whole saga of our engagement in the Iraq War and discover what lessons must be learnt?
On cyber attack, are the Government concerned that this country has been probed by cyber assaults on several occasions and that some suspect the involvement of national Governments? There are major threats: real, emerging and, perhaps, re-emerging. However, does the noble Baroness not see that a kitchen-sink Statement of this kind, which includes sending a civil commissioner to Helmand province, paying for 850 Burundian soldiers and re-announced council tax refunds for soldiers—all that detail—risks confusing the wood for the trees? Did not too many of the grave crises we faced in history arise from not looking in the right place at the right time? Are there not dangers in lumping long-term problems, such as global warming and disease, with council tax refunds?
A national security strategy will work only if it is put in place and carried out properly. Institutions in the UK need to be properly organised to deliver a national security approach. Therefore, we very much regret that the Prime Minister has missed the opportunity to establish a proper national security council. The existing committee clearly needs its authority reinforced. On the “Today” programme this morning, the noble Lord, Lord West, said that the Government had concluded that they did not need a national security council. However, the Prime Minister, in reply to my right honourable friend Mr Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today, said that he already had one—so which answer is correct?
It is essential that intelligence assessment and activity is, as the Government suggest, entirely independent of the political side, as was recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in his review. Never again must we see in this country the outrage of spin doctors e-mailing intelligence officers about their job. Will the noble Baroness confirm that Mr Carter, the Prime Minister’s new head honcho of spin, will have no access to security material?
The United Kingdom must retain the power, properly funded, to intervene abroad militarily when necessary, but we must understand that military operations abroad have consequences for security at home. Lately, that has been too often forgotten. At the same time, our Armed Forces have had to step in repeatedly—in the fuel crisis, in the foot and mouth outbreak and in firefighting—to bale out poor domestic planning.
Why have the Government still not banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that poisons young minds against our country and way of life? Why did we not follow the Irish Government in barring Ibrahim Moussawi, a spokesman for Hezbollah and an apologist for terror, who recently conducted a lecture tour of the United Kingdom?
Why, despite the urgent need for secure borders, do Ministers still refuse to create a proper border police force with enforcement powers? Can the noble Baroness tell us why, in the new spirit of openness, the Government do not publish the report of the noble Lord, Lord West, which aims to improve security in crowded places and protect critical national infrastructure in the event of attack? I repeat my request to the noble Baroness, to which I am sure she will agree, that all these matters should be discussed in a government debate, one perhaps headed by the noble Lord, Lord West, and responded to by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones.
I welcome two things. First, there was no mention of the maximum 42-day detention without trial. I assure the noble Baroness that there is no consensus about going beyond 28 days’ detention. The Government have tried to make a case for that, which we do not think has been met and will oppose the relevant provisions of the terrorism Bill when it arrives here. Secondly, the Government appear to be backing away from their wasteful and ineffective plan to impose ID cards on the British people. Biometric visas are one thing, but spending billions registering and tracking children and their grannies on trips to Portsmouth is quite another. Neither compulsory ID cards, nor the absurd totem of 40-day detention, featured in this massive security Statement. The noble Lord, Lord West, may shudder if the phone rings from No. 10 after he has been on the “Today” programme, but he should hold fast to his course. If he does so the whole House will be grateful for that.
My Lords, I wish to be associated with the tribute of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to our police servicemen and to the security services. They do great service, in some danger, to the benefit of us all. The best tribute that we can pay them is to provide a system of political checks and balances, whereby Parliament shoulders its responsibilities in this matter and where we avoid, if possible, asking the Armed Forces and others to carry out actions based on misjudgments, misinformation and down-right folly. At the outset of a new strategy for security, the best tribute we can pay our Armed Forces, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, indicated, is to have an inquiry now into the origins of the decision-making that led us to the war in Iraq.
Parliament would have done its duty better five years ago if the Conservative Party had not been in the claque of cheerleaders for war and had done a proper job as the Opposition by questioning Ministers. Be that as it may, the time is now more than right for such an inquiry and the precedents are there.
On the basis of this new strategy, of course we welcome an overview of strategy in these areas. We are second to no one in our determination to give full security to the British people. The threats are new. The challenge to Parliament is still there. How we meet those threats properly and effectively, while retaining the civil liberties which make us, in a full sense, a liberal democracy, will put heavy responsibilities on Parliament. With a Statement of this length, there is certainly a need for an early and full debate, so that the expertise that exists in this House can be deployed on its contents, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said.
I have one point to make on the exchange in the other place. When my right honourable friend Nick Clegg raised the question of the missile defence system, apparently the Prime Minister said that that was nothing to do with the United Kingdom. That is an extremely disturbing response and reaction. Probably the Lord President would like to clarify that because we are deeply involved in it. There are reports in American papers saying that if the Poles back out, we will be next in line to get even more deeply involved in something on which there has not been a full national debate.
We welcome many of the proposed initiatives. Does the Lord President not agree that many of them will need the full co-operation of our colleagues in Europe for them to be at their most effective? The sooner we get Europe onto a working basis, looking at these real priorities for our own and for Europe’s security, the better. We welcome the initiatives for the failing states. In recent times, it has been absurd to find that there are hold ups because no helicopters are available anywhere in Europe, or some such thing. Matters have to be improved.
On parliamentary scrutiny of the security services, I welcome what is in this document. I realise that to my left is the brooding presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who will no doubt intervene to tell us that this will bring the security services to rack and ruin. I disagree with her; the best and most effective security services are those that are exposed to proper parliamentary scrutiny. The lessons from this country and elsewhere are that the security services are at their least effective, and can do most damage to the countries that they serve, when they operate without proper accountability and scrutiny by the relevant parliament.
We also welcome the nuclear initiative, which I hope in part reflects the influence of my noble friend Lady Williams, who has been advising the Prime Minister on these matters and putting forward many of precisely these proposals. We worry about the contradiction between activity on soft diplomacy and the effect of our Foreign Office—we support that—and the fact that, as was demonstrated in a recent debate that we instigated in this House, we are cutting back on the Diplomatic Service. Although we may be putting diplomats into hotspots, we are cutting back in other areas. I was recently in Tunisia, where we are cutting back on diplomacy; in such posts we might find gaps in our information and influence.
We welcome the Statement so far as it goes. We want to know far more about the national security forum, which should not be seen by the Prime Minister as a safe option for Parliament. Security strategy must be examined most carefully in this House and the other place. We welcome the promise of more parliamentary debates. We need one on this document very soon to make sure that, although the defence of the realm remains the first responsibility of government, that responsibility is under the scrutiny of a very alert and active Parliament.
My Lords, I am grateful for what I think was a general welcome for the strategy. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that I appreciate what the Conservatives put forward a couple of years ago. What is critical about the way in which this approach has been brought together is that it is the first time, as I said in the Statement, that we have pulled together the different strands to create this strategy. It is important that we look at it in the round. It is not for me to determine whether there is a debate; the usual channels must discuss that. I am sure that they have listened with great care to what both noble Lords have said about their desire to discuss the detail of the Statement and, more especially, that of the document. I am sure that they will have discussions to ensure that that debate can be facilitated if possible in whatever way works best for your Lordships’ House.
Both noble Lords requested an inquiry into Iraq; that also came up when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed the Statement in the Commons. I can only repeat what he said: that the time for an inquiry is not when the Ministry of Defence is—rightly—spending its resources on and looking to the theatres of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but when the troops are back in the UK. It would be wrong to put resources into an inquiry at this point. Noble Lords may disagree with that but, frankly, the most appropriate time for that is when one is able to devote resources to doing it properly and effectively. I am sure that that will be taken forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, felt that, with regard to detail, this was a bit of a kitchen sink. When presenting Statements, it is important to be able to give the level of detail that will indicate the Government’s commitment to the issues raised in a strategy and ensure that people understand that those commitments are not just words but turn into actions—that resources are made available and that there are details about why the resources have been made available and what is being sought with them. When noble Lords read the strategy in detail, I hope that they will see the ways in which the Government have turned the vision of a strategy on security into the reality for the people whom we are trying to support in the many areas that the strategy covered. The reply that Mr Cameron got on the national security council was that we already had one. That fits exactly with what my noble friend Lord West, who played a significant part in putting the strategy together, said, and we are sorry that Mr Cameron apparently missed it—never mind.
The noble Lord has asked before why we have not banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the answer is the same: the legislation is very clear, and we monitor organisations very carefully to make sure that those that should be banned under the legislation are banned. We are not at that point, and it is being monitored. Equally, Mr Moussawi’s visa was reviewed, and it was decided not to revoke it at this point.
On the broader issues that noble Lords have raised, particularly the 42 days and the issues that will come before us in legislation, we will no doubt debate them at great length, and I look forward to that. The Government’s position has always been that we should be clear that when evidence is presented to us that we may need to hold people for longer than 28 days—noble Lords will know that I and my noble friend have many times in your Lordships’ House discussed the reasons for that, which are partly to do with technology and partly to do with the need to gain information from other countries—we should have at our disposal the capacity to do it in those exceptional and, we hope, rare circumstances. It is much better to discuss and deliberate on those issues in advance of that need; I fear being forced to make decisions too close to the time because of incidents that had occurred. From the evidence that we have before us—noble Lords will debate this at length in the legislation—it is clear that that time may be approaching and we should therefore discuss and deliberate on it. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said about opposing it. That does not surprise me in the least, but I hope that when noble Lords hear the rationality of the debate, we will be able to get consensus in your Lordships’ House that it is important to have on the statute book, with careful political, judicial and parliamentary safeguards, that ability to keep our country safe. That must be the paramount reason on which we operate.
The question the right honourable Mr Clegg asked in the other House was, I think, whether the missile defence system will be here. The answer that my right honourable friend gave was that it will be in the Czech Republic and Poland—I am doing this from memory as I was watching from the Gallery. There was nothing wrong with the question or the answer. The answer was correct for the question. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked a broader question about the involvement of the UK. Discussions are ongoing; the noble Lord would not expect anything else in terms of our discussions with the US. I agree with him about co-operation across Europe with our European partners. It is an important element in what we do, although in much of what was said in the Statement the role of NATO is also essential. I am grateful for the welcome for the important work we have done on failing states. I am waiting for the noble Baroness, Lady Park, to ask a question on the ISC. I know she will ask me; in fact, I think she would agree that I have prompted to her to do so, so I shall deal with that specifically. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who has done extraordinary work on nuclear proliferation which I hope is reflected in the Statement.
I hope I have answered as many questions as I can within my time.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of the VT Group. At the moment the Ministry of Defence is in meltdown because the budget it has been given is totally inadequate to service the demands of the defence programme in the short, medium and long term. We thus see woeful shortcomings in readiness levels, as set out in the defence planning assumptions; we see ships unable to meet their sailing programmes because of logistic underresourcing; we see troops unable to train on the equipment they will use in theatre; we see debilitating mini-saving measures being inflicted upon our service establishments, which completely undermine quality of life; and we also see our future programme, which will ensure our ability to fight future wars, being reprofiled out of sight because there is no money to pay for it. Future-proofing has gone out of the window as we struggle to deal with how to manage today.
My Lords, if the Government are serious about delivering the national security strategy, how do they intend to ensure, to paraphrase part of the Statement, that the military can be responsibly mobilised if they continue to short change the military in the way they are doing at the moment?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for bringing his remarks to a close. I did not want to cut him off but I am conscious of the time. A very useful discussion took place in my office between the Secretary of State for Defence and noble Lords. The noble and gallant Lord was away and could not be there. I had a nice letter from at least one of the noble Lords who participated about how useful and valuable they found the opportunity to put forward their comments directly to the Secretary of State and to my noble friend Lady Taylor.
It is very clear that there is an increase in the budget for defence. If the noble and gallant Lord looks through the strategy he will see that many of the issues that were raised with me by colleagues in your Lordships’ House have been addressed by the Ministry of Defence in thinking through what needs to be done about retention, about training and so on, issues which are of great concern to him. I do not agree with his analysis.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their comprehensive and energetic approach. Will my noble friend confirm that there is no suggestion intended in the Government’s Statement that the Joint Intelligence Committee has at any time been influenced in its assessments by inappropriate political considerations or pressures?
As the Government seek to inform the public about, and engage them in, the range of threats to their security, publishing a national register of risks, how do they plan to influence media presentation and public attitudes, to ensure that people do not either panic or shut their eyes and simply hope that this menagerie of horrors will go away, but instead maintain a sensible alertness? Do the Government accept that at hearings of the Intelligence and Security Committee held in public, nothing of any sensitivity or significance will be said? If scrutiny by Parliament of the agencies is to be enhanced, will not the Intelligence and Security Committee need the powers, the will and the resources to ensure that it can reach anywhere within the entrails of the agencies, and will the Government facilitate that?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The committee has the powers to which he refers. Although I am still waiting for the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, before I get into the detail, I agree on the issues to do with the committee. He is right about the principle that issues of sensitivity must not be discussed in public. I also agree that it will be very important to engage the media and the public in the appropriate way to ensure that they do not panic but find the information of value and feel themselves party to what we are trying to do on security. I shall have to come back to my noble friend with more detail, but he has raised a very important point.
My Lords, as the brooding presence, perhaps I may say yet again that, although there are many good things in the Statement, it is totally mad to think of having open discussions and open meetings in the ISC. Agents will not come forward to be recruited if they think that is going to happen; agencies such as the CIA will be very reluctant to tell us what they are doing; and, not least, it is absolutely idiotic to think that only people of goodwill are going to be earnestly asking, “Are we doing the right thing?”. There will be many people of ill will taking advantage of the situation. That is something no one can get round.
My second point, about which I feel equally strongly, concerns the idea of investigations within the services. Inside the services there is a policy of strict need to know. When I left Moscow after two years, the day after ended all my access to whatever was happening on the Soviet Union; it was no longer my business. Inside the services, that has been a vital safeguard. If we were to have investigators coming and saying, “That is a very interesting file; there is a reference to it so I would like to see that as well”, it will destroy a system and make agents feel very unsafe. So, in terms of recruitment and producing intelligence, I suggest that the present system is admirable. The services have talked freely to the ISC as it was and is constituted, but no service should be exposed to an ambitious MP—I think there may be some—with a useful media friend asking some interesting questions. At this stage and at all stages, the services should be protected. You will simply have to trust us.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall quickly try to divide up the different issues that we have tried to address within the Statement. First, the Statement refers to the need for Parliament to have more discussion and debate about security issues. Noble Lords have already asked for more debate in this House on the strategy and, in general, that is a good thing. I think the noble Baroness would agree with that.
Secondly, the function of the ISC in terms of its ability to educate and inform is inevitably underestimated. Perhaps in that arena one would see the opportunity to do things, if one liked, in public. I do not think that anybody is suggesting that evidence of a sensitive nature would ever be provided by the services in public. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, in response to a question in another place and, subsequently, in other discussions that I have been party to this afternoon, has made it clear that the balance that he is looking for is the opportunity for more debate and discussion about security issues while not, at any point, wishing to put the services at risk.
We will not only have to convince the noble Baroness, but, obviously, my right honourable friend and others will have been talking to the services. We would not wish to do anything to damage the way that we work with the services or, indeed, as the noble Baroness said to me in the Corridor, recruitment and retention in those services. That is very important. The investigations are generic; they would not be able to do what the noble Baroness fears. I understand that they have happened satisfactorily in the past and they would take place in that way.
My Lords, towards the end of the Statement, the Leader of the House referred to 30 known terrorist plots and 58 convictions in the past year. The Terrorism Act, as she will know, contains many offences at the minor or less serious end of the spectrum. Last summer, five young Muslims were convicted under Section 57 of that Act of possessing an article for terrorist purposes. A week or so ago their appeal was allowed and the Lord Chief Justice went so far as to question whether they should have been prosecuted in the first place. Incidentally, I assume that those five are not included in the 58. The House will certainly want to know, before we debate the Counter-Terrorism Bill, the breakdown of those convictions and, as far as can be given, the breakdown of the 30 plots. Without that information, I do not see how the House can seriously address the question of an extension of detention beyond 28 days.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who has enormous expertise in this area. I can confirm that the five are not included in the 58. I am sure that a breakdown of convictions will be available as noble Lords begin to discuss the legislation. For lots of reasons, I do not think that we will be able to give a breakdown of the plots per se, because it is very difficult to see how one could do that without revealing information. However, I have noted the point and I will take it away.
My Lords, the Statement made several welcome references to strengthening international institutions. I have not had a chance to read the whole document but I think that the Statement, unfortunately and regretfully, made no mention of the rule of law. Respect for international law has been one of the great casualties of the past seven years, including UN instruments such as the torture convention and the refugee convention. Unfortunately, we have had torture, disappearance and rendition. Recently, President Bush vetoed a Bill outlawing torture, and there have been allegations, not least from the European Parliament, of European Governments colluding in extraordinary rendition. We had a recent admission from the Foreign Secretary of an overlooked rendition through Diego Garcia.
Can the noble Baroness reassure me that the Government now see upholding the international rule of law as vital to national and international security? Will the Government make every effort to prevail on the President of the United States and other Governments that the exercise of rule of law is essential to our security?
My Lords, is it not a question of the Government now; the Government always have done so. If the noble Baroness turns to chapter 2, Guiding principles, 2:1 says:
“Our approach to national security is clearly grounded in a set of core values. They include human rights, the rule of law”.
If the noble Baroness reads the section when she has a chance there will be nothing in it with which she will disagree.
My Lords, my noble friend referred to the civilian standby capacity. Does she agree that apart from involving NATO and the European Union there must be an increase in linguistic capacity? How is that to be achieved? What priorities are to be set with regard to it?
My Lords, the 1,000-strong group that we have described within the document are people who have particular expertise. We talked about police officers, the judiciary and so on. Linguistic capacity will be a part of that and that is why we will need to think about who will be relevant and necessary for a particular set of circumstances. But we have a long history of working closely with nations across the world where the provision of expertise from Britain has been highly relevant to trying to help states recover or not to fall into moments of turmoil.
My Lords, is the Leader of the House aware that while she is right to heed some of the warnings of my noble friend Lady Park on the matter, there is nonetheless a strong case for strengthening the role of the ISC. When I was chairman I envisaged that it might be possible to hold occasional public hearings, not discussing secret matters of course. I particularly welcome the statement that the staff of the ISC is to be reinforced to give it an effective investigative arm which we used to have and was unfortunately lost and not replaced, which was a great mistake.
The Statement is full of immediate matters and long-term matters. It recognises at last the serious problem of retention, particularly in the Army at the present time. Sadly, it is not a question of spending more money. Now the Government have to address the issue. The noble Baroness’s friendly talks with the Chief of the Defence staff in her room are not a substitute for recognising the real problems. The real problem is in terms of resources and experienced people. They are willing to do one tour; they are willing to do two tours, bravely discharging their duties in a magnificent way; but when it comes to a third tour and the impact on the family, the Government face a challenge that money is not necessarily going to put right.
My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said about the ISC. Perhaps I need to ask him to talk to his noble friend. It fits well with what my right honourable friend Margaret Beckett, the new chairman of the committee, was saying this morning. I cannot hear what the noble Lord is saying to me—I am sure I was not meant to hear it.
I take the noble Lord’s point about the Armed Forces. I did not mean to suggest that friendly talks in my room were anything other than an opportunity that I was willing and wished to give for those people with great concerns to be able to meet the Secretary of State for Defence. I am glad that it was friendly, but when I left the room I had no idea whether it would be.
My Lords, a purely national security strategy is probably relevant only to emergencies such as floods when more and more we need to co-ordinate our strategy with friendly alliances. Can my noble friend say to what extent the priorities in the document have been aligned with those of the European Union for their own security strategy and other international organisations?
My Lords, in terms of the relationships that we have described in the Statement, there is the bilateral relationship with the United States and our relationship with NATO. We talk about the role of international institutions whether that is the World Bank, the UN and so on and indeed our role with our partners as part of the European Union. All of those relationships are important. On Monday I reported back on the spring Council on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. It is clear, as noble Lords will know, that climate change and other issues are firmly on the agenda. That is led in large part by the UK in order to have that sense of a co-ordinated approach that we are going to need if we are to tackle some of these global issues.
My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that one of the crucial elements in preventing terrorism is taking action with regard to nuclear and other dangerous materials. In that context, will she look at the decision to send from Sellafield cargoes of plutonium dioxide, which is a very dangerous material, to France for reprocessing? Will the Government decide whether it is a completely safe method? Does the noble Baroness further agree that, in order to protect this country, it is absolutely essential that we play, as we are beginning to do, a major part in the creation of international architecture that will enable us closely to control nuclear materials and, in particular, materials that could lead to the construction of nuclear weapons; for example, through strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and strengthening the decisions to move away from short warning times for nuclear weapons?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I agree entirely with her on the important role that we must play in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We, too, are anxious about materials moving around. On Sellafield, my noble friend is conducting a review of a number of issues, of which this will form part.
My Lords, some very interesting facts have emerged this week about how the Government moved towards the resolution of the problems of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Do they intend to learn the lessons of that experience in dealing with the problems of terrorism now?
Of course, my Lords, though there are huge differences, as I indicated in the Statement, between what was a real problem in terms of terrorism from the IRA and the situation that we face now. However, all the lessons from the ongoing conflicts in which the UK has been involved in any way need to be learnt. As the noble Baroness said, it is important to make sure that those lessons play a part in how we put together the strategy.
My Lords, we are hugely grateful for the inclusion in the Statement of issues of shared values and the gathering together of the faith communities in this task. I am sure the noble Baroness would accept that, in the absence of confidence among the people and a sense of communality in our life together, no amount of technical arrangements for security will succeed. Does she also accept that the more one marginalises the leadership of key communities, the more one encourages unhealthy voices to arise within them, and the more we can engage in continued conversation and partnership, the more we make that more difficult? Does she further accept that it is important that DfID recognises the need to build up civil society in those weak states overseas in which we work if we are to provide a structure that preserves the values that hold our common life together?
My Lords, I am tempted to say yes, yes and yes, but the right reverend Prelate deserves a little bit more than that. I could not agree more that it is essential that underpinning all this—I can take no credit for it being in the Statement, though the right reverend Prelate gave me some—is the work that we do with our own communities, developing those relationships and dealing with the issues. As the right reverend Prelate will see in the document, global issues such as poverty have their part to play in destabilising societies. We should foster those voices, as the right reverend Prelate described them. I agree that it is important for the faith communities to play their part together. I pay tribute to the work that the church and other faiths have already done. It is important that we do not marginalise. DfID has played an important and valuable role in understanding that and working with other Governments, especially in developing our strategy in other countries.