My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the terrorist attack in Paris and the G20 in Turkey this weekend. On Paris, the Home Secretary gave the House the chilling statistics yesterday, and now we know that among the victims was a 36-year-old Briton, Nick Alexander, who was killed at the Bataclan. I know the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with the families and friends of all those affected. On Saturday I spoke to President Hollande to express the condolences of the British people and our commitment to help in whatever way we can.
After our horror and our anger must come our resolve and our determination to rid our world of this evil. So let me set out the steps we are taking to deal with this terrorist threat. The more we learn about what happened in Paris, the more it justifies the full-spectrum approach we have discussed before in this House.
When we are dealing with radicalised European Muslims, linked to ISIL in Syria and inspired by a poisonous narrative of extremism, we need an approach that covers the full range: military power, counter-terrorism, expertise and defeating the poisonous narrative that is the root cause of this evil. Let me take each in turn.
First, we should be clear that this murderous violence requires a strong security response. That means continuing our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And, where necessary, it means working with our allies to strike against those who pose a direct threat to the safety of British people around the world.
Together, coalition forces have now damaged over 13,500 targets. We have helped local forces to regain 30% of ISIL territory in Iraq. We have helped to retake Kobane and push ISIL back towards Raqqa and, on Friday, Kurdish forces retook Sinjar.
The UK is playing its part—training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing vital intelligence support. Last Thursday, the United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohammed Emwazi, the ISIL executioner known as Jihadi John. This was a result of months of painstaking work in which America and Britain worked hand in glove to stop this vicious murderer.
It is important that the whole House understands the reality of the situation we are in. There is no government in Syria we can work with, particularly not in that part of Syria. There are no rigorous police investigations or independent courts upholding justice in Raqqa. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots against our people. In this situation, we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing that things were different. We have to act to keep our people safe. And that is what this Government will always do.
Secondly, on counterterrorism here in the UK, over the past year alone our outstanding police and security services have already foiled no fewer than seven terrorist plots right here in Britain. The people in our security services work incredibly hard. They are a credit to our nation. We should pay tribute to them again in our House today, and now we must do more to help them in their vital work.
So in next week’s strategic defence and security review, we will make a major additional investment in our world-class intelligence agencies. This will include over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff and more money to increase our network of counterterrorism experts in the Middle East, north Africa, south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
At the G20 summit in Turkey this weekend, we agreed additional steps better to protect ourselves from the threat of foreign fighters by sharing intelligence and stopping them travelling. We also agreed for the first time ever to work together to strengthen global aviation security. We need robust and consistent standards of aviation security in every airport in the world, and the UK will at least double its spending in this area.
Thirdly, to defeat this terrorist threat in the long run we must also understand and address its root causes. That means confronting the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism itself and, as I have argued before, going after both violent and non-violent extremists. Those that sow the poison but stop short of promoting violence are part of the problem. We will improve integration, not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance, and we will actively encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists, as so many already do.
It cannot be said enough that the extremist ideology is not true Islam, but it does not work to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists, not least because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. There is no point in denying that. We need to take apart their arguments and demonstrate how wrong they are. In doing so, we need the continued help of Muslim communities and Muslim scholars. They are playing a powerful role, and I commend them for their essential work. We cannot stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values with practical help, funding, campaigns, protection and political representation. This is a fundamental part of how we can defeat terrorism both at home and abroad.
Turning to the G20 summit, there were also important discussions on Syria and on dealing with other long-term threats to our security, such as climate change. Let me briefly address them. On Syria, we discussed how we can do more to help all those in desperate humanitarian need and how to find a political solution to the conflict. Britain, as has often been said, is already providing £1.1 billion in vital life-saving assistance, which makes us the second-largest bilateral donor in the world. Last week, we committed a further £275 million to be spent in Turkey, a country hosting more than 2 million refugees. In February the United Kingdom will seek to raise further significant new funding by co-hosting a donors conference in London together with Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations.
None of this is a substitute for the most urgent need of all: to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables the millions of refugees to return home. Yesterday, I held talks with President Putin. We reviewed the progress made by our Foreign Ministers in Vienna to deliver a transition in Syria. We still have disagreements, there are still big gaps between us, but there is progress. I also met President Obama and European leaders at the G20 and we agreed some important concrete steps forward, including basing some British aircraft alongside other NATO allies at the airbase in Incirlik, if that is the decision of the North Atlantic Council that will meet shortly. They would be in an air defence role to support Turkey at this difficult time.
We also agreed about the importance of stepping up our joint effort to deal with ISIL in Iraq, Syria and wherever it manifests itself. This raises important questions for our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are really doing all we can be doing, all we should be doing, to deal with the threat of ISIL and the threat it poses to us directly not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory it controls.
We are taking part in air strikes over Iraq, where we have struck more than 350 targets and where significant action has been taken in recent hours, but ISIL is not present just in Iraq. It is operates across the border in Syria, a border that is meaningless to it because, as far as ISIL is concerned, it is all one space. It is in Syria —in Raqqa—that ISIL has its headquarters and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa, if you like, is the head of the snake.
Over Syria we are supporting our allies—the US, France, Jordan and the Gulf countries–with intelligence, surveillance and refuelling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country and we need to deal with it, not just in Iraq, but in Syria too. I have always said there is a strong case for us doing so; our allies are asking us to do this and the case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot and should not expect others to carry the burdens and the risks of protecting our country.
I recognise that there are concerns in this House. What difference would action by the UK really make? Could it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? Above all, how would a decision by Britain to join in strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy to bring the war in Syria to an end? I understand these concerns and I know they must be answered. I believe they can be answered. Many of them were expressed in the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so. It is for the Government, I accept, to make that case to this House and to the country. I can therefore announce that as a first important step to do so, I will respond personally to the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. This strategy—in my view—should include taking the action in Syria I have spoken about. I hope that setting out the arguments in this way I can help build support right across the House for the action I believe it is necessary to take. That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days and I hope colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make clear their views so we can have a strong vote in the House of Commons and do the right thing for our country.
Finally, the G20 also addressed other longer-term threats to global security. In just two weeks’ time, we will gather in Paris to agree a global climate change deal. This time, unlike Kyoto, it will include the USA and China. Here at this summit, I urged leaders to keep up the ambition of limiting global warming by 2050 to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Every country needs to put forward its programme for reducing carbon emissions and as G20 countries we must also do more to provide the financing that is needed to help poorer countries around the world switch to greener forms of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change.
We also agreed that we should do more to wipe out the corruption that chokes off development, and deal with antimicrobial resistance. Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems the world faces today, from migrants fleeing corrupt African states to corrupt Governments undermining our efforts on global poverty by preventing people getting the revenues and the services that are rightfully theirs. While if antibiotics stop working properly—the antimicrobial resistance issue—millions will die unnecessarily. These are both vital issues on which the United Kingdom is taking a real lead.
Let me conclude by returning to the terrorist threat. Here in the UK the threat level is already severe, which means an attack is highly likely and will remain so. That is why we continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant and we will do all we can to support our police and intelligence agencies as they work around the clock. The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life. Now more than ever we must come together and stand united, carrying on with the way of life that we know and love. Tonight England play France at Wembley. The match goes ahead. Our people stand together as they have done so many times throughout history when faced with evil. Once again, together we will prevail. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. I am sure other noble Lords shared similar emotions to mine as we watched the horror of the attacks in Paris unfold on Friday evening. Such deliberate, calculated evil is almost impossible to comprehend, especially in such a beautiful city, where so many of us will have happy memories and remember good times.
I totally endorse the comments already made about our thoughts and prayers being with those who were murdered and maimed, their friends and their families, but also with the citizens of Paris and the whole of France, whose lives and confidence have changed dramatically as a result of what happened on Friday evening. There can never be any justification for such acts of terror, so we share their hurt, their anger and their resolve. We also share the determination to protect our citizens, and those of other countries, from such attacks. Such violent attacks are totally indiscriminate. Those of all faiths and none can be killed, maimed or lose loved ones, and those of all faiths and none have come together to condemn universally those responsible, without reservation.
I reiterate and reinforce the commitments made by my colleagues in the other place: this is an issue above and beyond any party politics. A Government’s first duty is to the safety, security and well-being of their citizens, and we will work with the Government to fulfil that duty.
The Prime Minister outlined the action that has already been taken with our international allies to tackle those who create death, mayhem and fear. I welcome that he acknowledged, and said that he understands, the concerns raised by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and others about the way forward, and how and whether further military action, such as airstrikes on Syria, should be part of that response. We welcome his commitment to respond personally, as the noble Baroness said.
I know the noble Baroness understands the huge human cost of the conflict in Syria and the necessity for a full, strategic plan to seek a politically sustainable resolution that will bring peace to Syria, and for a longer-term strategic plan to seek to deal with the aftermath. The thousands who have fled their homes include so many of those who will be needed to return to build the peace. The Prime Minister’s comments at the G20 yesterday, when he said:
“I think people want to know that there is a whole plan for the future of Syria”,
“the future of the region”,
were widely welcomed. To be successful, any plan will need national and international support.
I shall raise specific questions about security here at home. We welcome the additional support and money being made available for security and intelligence. We welcome the announcement of greater resources for tackling cybercrime and terrorism. But when asked, when he made the Statement today in the other place, about the role of community and front-line policing—given the cuts that have been made and are being planned to the “eyes and ears” on the ground—the Prime Minister did not respond.
There are many in your Lordships’ House who, through professional experience, can provide real examples of how community policing is essential and successful in tackling crime and terrorism. On 28 October, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bates, about this very issue. My Question was prompted by those in the most senior roles in counterterrorism in the UK being very clear that community police, through the normal course of their work, pick up intelligence and information that is essential to fighting serious crime and identifying terrorism threats. Of the proposed further cuts in policing, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, said:
“I genuinely worry about the safety of London”.
I understand that the noble Baroness is unlikely to answer a question that the Prime Minister failed to, but can she assure your Lordships’ House that she recognises the seriousness of this issue? Will she commit to raise it directly with the Prime Minister and report back to your Lordships’ House?
Those seeking to leave and enter this country, including British citizens, will face increased levels of checks and security at borders. It is right that visitors and refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL and chaos in the region should be subject to such security, but the noble Baroness will also know of the reductions made in border security staff at ports and airports. What plans are there to ensure that staffing levels will be appropriate to deal with the increased level of security required?
In recent years, the Government have introduced a number of new measures designed to tackle terrorism. One referred to in the Statement, which the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and I discussed at length in the course of a recent Bill, is about closing down any educational institutions teaching intolerance. Is this commitment and others to be met from existing resources, or will new resources be made available? To what extent is the Treasury involved in such decisions on new powers?
Lastly on security, the Prime Minister said in his responses that all members of the Privy Council can receive security briefings on these issues. The noble Baroness may be aware that I have previously requested such briefings when speaking for the Opposition on security and counterterrorism, but I was not successful in receiving any. The Official Opposition in the other place has welcomed the briefings to date, so will she confirm the Prime Minister’s commitment to briefings for privy counsellors?
I welcome the understandably brief comments at the end of the Statement on the other issues that were raised at the G20. Specifically on global warming, we welcome the fact that the USA and China will join the Paris talks and we look forward to hearing more on that after the conference. However, the noble Baroness also referred to the UK taking the lead on action to tackle corruption in a number of areas. This is essential. I appreciate that there is not enough time today to cover the whole range of issues that this raises, but can she provide further information on the areas and the success of any measures that have been taken? If the noble Baroness is unable to respond today, perhaps she will write with more details.
Finally, in the Statement, the noble Baroness, repeating the Prime Minister, asked the public to be vigilant. We must, of course, do that, but let us also pay tribute to those in the emergency services and the first responders, who never know from day to day what they may have to attend to. It is right that this House should recognise their service.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. On behalf of my noble friends, I join in condemning the atrocities in Paris on Friday evening, and those who perpetrated them. I also offer condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed, those who were injured and those whose lives will have been shattered. I also join the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the emergency services and the ordinary citizens who responded with such evident compassion and help.
I also ask the noble Baroness the Leader of the House to join me in expressing sympathy for the victims of the suicide bombings in Beirut on Thursday, which killed more than 40 people as they, too, went about their daily lives. It is important to send a signal by showing our solidarity with the people of Beirut, as we do—rightly—with the people of Paris. While ISIL likes to frame the conflict as one between the West and Islam, is not the truth that, day in, day out, ISIL is murdering scores of Muslim believers?
We, too, support what the Government are doing. We accept that the primary duty of any Government is to safeguard their citizens. I welcome the announcement of additional support for the security services in general and for strengthening cybersecurity in particular. I hope the Leader of the House will endorse what the Prime Minister has said in another place about the importance of safeguarding human rights. ISIL detests our diversity, our freedoms and our values; we let it win if we compromise on any of these.
I also echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said about police funding. Reassurances have been given about the counterterrorism element of police funding. I will not elaborate on what she said because she very clearly and concisely put the point about the importance of community policing and the intelligence-gathering that can be done through it. I repeat her request to the Leader of the House to recognise the strength of feeling on this and to undertake to take the matter up with the Prime Minister.
It would be very easy, in the aftermath of such outrages, to make knee-jerk, rather than properly considered, responses. I therefore welcome the fact that the Prime Minister says that he will respond personally to the report from the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons on military intervention in Syria. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement that many questions and concerns have been raised—including some from these Benches—about the wisdom of joining in airstrikes and adding our explosives to the tons that have already been dropped on Syria. Specifically, the Prime Minister, in articulating some of these concerns, asked what difference action by the UK would make. Would it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? How, above all, would a decision by Britain to join strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy for bringing the war in Syria to an end?
He went on to say:
“I understand those concerns, and they must be answered. I believe that they can be answered”.
I do not expect the noble Baroness to give us the answers today, but will she give us some indication of when those questions are likely to be answered? When the Prime Minister says that he will set out a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East, will he also be consulting our allies before he makes that announcement on his strategy? It is important that we reflect on the allies. He has said that progress has been made in Vienna to deliver transition in Syria, but we are entitled to ask some questions about the nature of the international coalition. It is important that it is international. We have called in the past for engagement with Russia and Iran but clearly, too, there are a number of different countries and partners—such as the Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and Turkey—that do not all share the same priorities and objectives. Trying to pull together that coalition is clearly a complex matter. What specific steps are the United Kingdom Government taking to make sure that when these talks take place and a coalition is being put together, everyone is pulling in the same direction?
At home, the Statement recognises the importance of engaging with the Muslim communities. Britain’s diverse Muslim communities are affected by conflict and they are as well aware as anyone of the efforts being made by those who would pervert Islam to try to sow poison in those communities. We need an active dialogue with the leaders of our Muslim communities on an appropriate response. When she held office, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, did sterling work in taking this forward and I would welcome reassurances that the level of work and engagement that she undertook continues to be undertaken by Ministers.
Finally, the Statement also referred to climate change. Not surprisingly, given the enormity of what happened on Friday, it has been somewhat overlooked but it will be in Paris next month that people gather again to discuss climate change. The Secretary of State at DECC is reported to have indicated recently that the forecast is that we will manage only 11.5% of energy from renewables by 2020, rather than the EU obligation of 15%. Can the Minister confirm this and, if it is indeed the case, will she not take the opportunity that this House has provided by taking out the clause that would accelerate the ending of the renewables obligation for onshore wind? Perhaps she could reflect again on that and just quietly drop it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for their comments and support for the remarks of the Prime Minister in his Statement. I certainly share in the warm thanks of the noble Baroness for everything that the emergency services do in and around our country, alongside the security services, in keeping us safe. I understand very much the risks that they face.
Various points and questions were put to me, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised a number about policing, which were echoed by the noble and learned Lord. I will make a few points in response. First, it is absolutely this Government’s commitment that the police forces should have the resources necessary to do their work. In the previous Government and this Government, we have not just protected the funding for counterterrorism policing but are actually increasing it, as has been announced in the last few weeks. More general police funding will be part of the spending review but it is worth noting that, over the last few years, the police have worked very hard to achieve efficiencies in police forces in order for them to apply their resources to front-line policing. Community policing numbers have actually risen in recent years.
Secondly, the noble Baroness raised points about additional resources for counter-extremism and protecting our borders. It has been evident from what we have said in the last few days—not in response to the events in Paris but as part of a clear plan for ensuring that the right funding is available for these essential services—that we are putting money where it needs to be and that by having a growing economy, we are ensuring that we use our resources effectively, in the way that is needed to deliver the security that we all expect.
The noble Baroness raised a point about briefings for privy counsellors, and I will take that issue away. I certainly do not want to exclude her from any appropriate briefing that is available for privy counsellors. I will get back to her outside the Chamber.
The noble Baroness also asked about corruption’s being on the agenda at the G20 summit. This is a matter on which the UK has very much taken the lead. One of the steps we have taken, which other countries are now following, is to ensure greater publication and transparency of ownership of companies. We will be implementing a public register of company ownership in the UK from next year, and hosting an anti-corruption summit next year. We believe, as I said in the Statement, that this is a big contributing factor to overall safety in global matters. I am pleased that we are very much in the forefront of action in that regard.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, rightly referred to the terrible attack by ISIL in Beirut a few days before that which took place in Paris. I very much share his view and the point he made that ISIL is quite indiscriminate: it is not attacking just western countries but a range of different countries. We must never ignore the fact that this is a group of extremists, of violent people—the Prime Minister has called them a “death cult”—who attack Muslims as well as people of other religious faiths. The noble and learned Lord asked about protecting human rights and liberties. Of course, these terrorists—this evil group—are trying to remove from us our liberties and our belief in liberty and the way of life we hold so dear. We are taking steps to combat them in order to protect the liberties and human rights which are an important part of our society.
The noble and learned Lord asked various questions about the response the Prime Minister will make to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the other place. He also asked what discussion there has been and will be between the United Kingdom and allies who, like us, are seeking to defeat ISIL and bring stability to the Middle East. The Prime Minister held several bilateral talks while he was in Turkey yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary was very much involved in and at the forefront of talks in Vienna at the weekend. We continue to talk and remain in contact with all interested parties in this way.
We are just recognising as a House one of the reasons why some of our allies are keen for us to go further than we have. Although we are not contributing militarily in Syria in the way that other countries are, we are doing an awful lot already in contributing to the effort against ISIL. Noble Lords have heard me talk about the contribution we have made in air strikes in Iraq. Some of our ground forces are training Iraqi ground forces on combating IEDs—we are doing a lot to support the coalition.
Some of those countries are keen for us to get involved further, particularly with the air strikes, because we have some of the best equipment for targeting these terrorists in a way which protects civilians. Other countries, including the United States, do not have this. By contributing to the military effort in Syria, we could make a big contribution not just by attacking ISIL, but by doing so in a way that affords greater protection to civilians.
The noble and learned Lord mentioned climate change and the Paris summit in a couple of weeks’ time. Clearly, this remains an important priority for us, and we are committed, as we have been throughout, to making our contribution to tackling climate change and ensuring that all other countries make their effort as well.
My Lords, if a killer disease was rampant, every effort would be made to find its causes and the environment in which it thrives. With Islamic extremism, we need to do much more to look at the ways in which radicalisation takes place. There are verses in the Koran that were written for particular circumstances 500 years ago, when the infant community was being besieged and its very existence threatened—words such as, “Kill them wherever you find them”, which are pretty direct. They were written for different circumstances, but they are being used today by those people who want to radicalise disadvantaged youths, or youths generally, to move them towards this extremism. Do the Government agree that they and the Muslim community need to do much more to ensure that young people in mosques understand the context in which some of these verses are written—and that, perhaps, the explanation should be in English?
My Lords, we published the counter-extremism strategy in October. It is very important to stress that it is about supporting mainstream and inclusive Muslimist voices, and showing that we actively back them. There are four strands to our counter-extremism strategy, and building cohesion among communities and ensuring that we take steps to prevent the radicalisation that is such a serious threat is very much part of that.
My Lords, will the Government consider expediting the enactment of the Investigatory Powers Bill, perhaps with a sunset clause and detailed post-legislative scrutiny, to ensure that the security services have the proportionate facilities they need, and to enable an informed judgment to be made of the provisions in action?
I know that the noble Lord and many others in this House are concerned, and rightly so, to ensure that our security services and counterterrorism measures are adequate for the threat we face. If there was any suggestion that that was not the case, clearly, we would want to look at that and take the necessary steps. The Investigatory Powers Bill, which is about to receive pre-legislative scrutiny, is landmark legislation that futureproofs the existing legislation, which gives the powers the security services need at this time. So while the noble Lord makes some interesting points, what is important is that that Bill receives the proper scrutiny that Parliament expects it to receive. However, at the same time, I assure the noble Lord and the House that, if there is anything the security services do not have now that they need to do their work, we will review that legislation and reconsider our approach to it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her repeating of the Statement and, from these Benches, join your Lordships in offering our sympathy for the tragic loss of life and the injuries that occurred in Paris—and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said, in other parts of the region, in recent weeks.
On the area of ideology, the third area in the Statement, can the Minister go a bit further? While we make every effort, as we must, to deal with this issue by military power and by counterextremism measures, the area of ideas is a matter which I ask the Minister to consider very seriously in terms of quite small but important resources, as we try to develop the right relationships in the community that the Prime Minister so wants—not just asking Muslims to argue for a good Islam, but also to join people of faith, or no faith, of all parts in developing right thinking, friendship and deep relationships, which will allow us to move on from this ghastly use of violence into a more integrated society. Will she also encourage us to make a successful integration of the new wave of Syrian refugees fleeing from death in their own country?
The right reverend Prelate makes an important set of points about the importance of cohesion and for us to all unite around a clear set of values that are so important to our own way of life. In the counterextremism strategies that I have already referred to, a big part is about supporting different communities and cohesion among communities. The Prime Minister has been clear about the importance of British values. This is something that we are keen as a Government to promote. As a country, we should not shy away, as we may have in the past, from saying that our values as British people are the ones that—whoever we are, whatever our faith—must unite us and are so important to the way in which we continue to prosper.
Does my noble friend accept that the efforts of our right honourable friend the Prime Minister are very welcome in trying to nudge Mr Putin into a more co-operative and commonsense approach to the horrors of ISIL? Should we not now put aside further hesitations on this point and take firm decisions by the Executive of this country and others to pull together regional and global powers to support efforts by, for instance, Jordan to cut into the heartland of ISIL territory—and to do so on the ground, against a ruthless enemy who is not open to dialogue, does not believe in political discussion of any kind, and will not be dislodged just by bombing?
The Prime Minister has talked about a comprehensive approach and his overall strategy. That very much involves not just the way in which we are currently supporting the region and the way in which he is talking about extending military action, it is also about supporting neighbouring countries and working with them in the region. The points that my noble friend makes are well made, and certainly very much in the Prime Minister’s mind as he considers how best to respond to the current situation.
My Lords, there is a great deal in the Prime Minister’s Statement with which I concur—not least his sentence which was very simple but should mean a lot to all of us:
“In this situation we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing things were different”.
In that context, I make just two comments to the Leader of the House. First, it is absolutely proper that we should be engaged in trying to find a political solution to some of the problems in Syria, but we would be operating under a delusion and deceiving the people of this country if we implied that even should a political solution—with President Assad or without him—be achieved tomorrow, it would solve the problem of ISIL. It will not. This is part of a long-running, generational attempt to establish an Islamo-fascist empire under people who will stop at nothing. Therefore, it is to delude the people of this country to say that opposing ISIL is somehow made redundant if we achieve a political solution.
The second thing is what is missing from the Statement in terms of domestic security. Last week I asked the relevant Minister, and received assurances, about the scrutiny of refugees coming to this country. However, 750 UK citizens have gone off to Syria, 450 of whom have come back. They are prime facie not only sympathisers but active supporters of the atrocities that have been carried out by ISIL abroad, and there is every reason to suspect that they will continue that sympathy, and potentially that action, in this country. What are the Government doing about the 450 who have come back, and why was there no mention of them in today’s Statement?
The noble Lord argued in his first point that finding a political solution in Syria would not render our efforts to destroy ISIL redundant. I agree; he is absolutely right. On his question about those Britons who have left the UK, gone to Syria and elsewhere and then returned, the measures that we introduced in the Counter-terrorism and Security Act, which was passed by Parliament earlier this year, were designed specifically to address this kind of threat.
My Lords, I strongly commend the Prime Minister’s Statement that my noble friend has repeated on the response to the terrible tragedy and outrage in Paris.
There is an aspect of the Statement that I regret. It rightly says that, recognising the threats that we face, intelligence is a crucial first line of defence for this country—one or two breakdowns in that respect may have contributed to the disasters in Paris. It also says that we will do all that we can to support the intelligence and security services. If I may make one small point, I do not think this Parliament has done that. For more than two years, we have been trying to consider the gaps that exist in our armoury of what is available to our intelligence services to protect our country. Two weeks ago in this House I asked a question about the Investigatory Powers Bill, pointing out that we are now embarked on a pretty leisurely process which, if we are lucky, will get those powers into effect by next September or October. I wondered at that time what events might happen between now and then. I am all too sorry that within two weeks that has proved to be the case.
I have one constructive suggestion. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I do not think it realistic to take the whole of this huge Investigatory Powers Bill through on some accelerated process, but there is one element in it that the Home Secretary has indicated is the one additional power that she wants: the retention of internet communications data, which might enable us to identify some of the links that obviously existed in the attack in Paris and the way that it was organised. I suggest that, by discussions through all the usual channels, this particular element in the Bill is taken out and dealt with by an Order in Council and emergency regulations, with a sunset clause, so that it is operational while the normal parliamentary procedures for the Investigatory Powers Bill can continue in the way proposed by the Government without the liability that we do not yet have the crucial power that the Home Secretary has identified as being essential.
On my noble friend’s first point about the security services and intelligence being our first line of defence in this country, I agree that they are the first line of defence and do magnificent service for this country. Indeed, I think that the UK’s intelligence services are very much seen as the best in the world.
I am not sure that I agree with him that we have not supported them in the way that they need in order to do their work. We have ensured that they have all the funding and additional resources that they need, and I am sure that the House will be familiar with the range of different announcements that the Government have made, as I have already referred to, in the past few days.
We will keep the Investigatory Powers Bill under review. If there is anything in the draft Bill which the security services need now to do their work but do not have, we will certainly reconsider our approach. However, my noble friend must accept that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which we passed in July, brought into force the additional powers which the security services need, but they expire at the end of next year. The Investigatory Powers Bill will make sure that we enshrine and protect those powers for the future. It is about future-proofing powers, rather than giving new ones.
My Lords, I note that the Statement makes no reference to the Government’s announcement, last week, that we are still providing munitions to the so-called moderate rebels. Does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House accept that, instead of pouring more fuel on the fire of the Syrian civil war, we ought to be persuading the rebels whom we call our friends to enter into talks with what our American friends, at least, still regard as the Syrian Government in Damascus?
The United Kingdom has been ensuring that we support the moderate forces which oppose Assad in their efforts to fight him and ISIL. They have regained some important territory and are making some progress. We need to encourage them to go further and that is where we are focusing our efforts.
My Lords, remembering the baleful effect that ensued when George Bush Jr used the word “crusade” in the context of the second Gulf War, does the Minister agree that the language we choose at this moment is extremely important? In this context, does she agree that use of the word “war” is, at best, unhelpful and perhaps even unwise, given that it will only reinforce the Manichean view of the terrorists? Does that also apply to the Prime Minister’s favourite phrase, which is that we are fighting for “western values”, when we are, in fact, fighting for the universal values that underpin all the great religions and philosophies, including Islam?
The noble Lord is right that language is very important, at any time, and certainly so at a time of great sensitivity. As to the Prime Minister’s use of language and what we are fighting for, he has been clear, on very many occasions, about the importance of protecting the way of life which all of us in the West enjoy and which many in other parts of the globe look to and want for themselves.
In the main, I would oppose fast-tracking the Investigatory Powers Bill. Much of it concerns modernising the authorisations. It is right that we do that: nobody is arguing that the present system will prevent what needs to be done. However, I served on the RUSI panel, which gave evidence about this sort of thing, and if, as the noble Lord, Lord King, said, there is a need to take out a couple of clauses then I would support that. The international internet companies need reminding: not one of them would ever have been able to start their businesses in China, Russia or any of the other oppressive states in the world. They relied on doing it in western, liberal democracies. If the extra powers are needed just to retain some information to assist the security services in protecting our people, then it would be legitimate to fast-track them. Their opposition to it would be damaging to their own customers.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I hope I have made it clear, in responding to several questions on this, that if there is any need for us to reconsider that Bill, we will. However, at the moment I am confident in the approach we are taking.
My Lords, have the Government considered why educated, bright, French or Belgian-born Muslims are driven into extremism? These are people who know no Arabic, have no understanding of their religion and actually train in order to find an alternative so that they are recognised and valued. Is it not necessary to start at the very beginning?
The noble Baroness is right. That is why we, in this country, are trying to tackle the root causes and reasons, and to prevent young men—and women—being influenced and adopting a mindset that is clearly and completely wrong. That is part of our overall comprehensive approach; it has to be because we have to combat this evil ideology.
My Lords, in that vein, I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to inspect and shut down any educational institutions which teach Islamist intolerance and, I presume, violence. Can the noble Baroness confirm that this policy will include all evening madrassahs and, indeed, our mosques, where so much of the poison is spread?
My Lords, it will include any establishment where this kind of extremism—non-violent and violent—is being pursued. We can no longer tolerate a situation where it is okay for somebody to espouse extremist views and stop short of inciting violence. Because of that, we are committed to taking all necessary steps. As the noble Baroness said a moment ago, we have to ensure that people are not in a position where they are influenced by or attracted to this kind of ideology, which is so damaging and dangerous.
My Lords, does my noble friend take as much encouragement as I do from the extent of the support all around the House for the guts of the Government’s policy on this? Will she advise the Prime Minister, if he needs it, to listen to that advice and not to the leader of the Opposition?
My noble friend is right in saying that there is widespread support for the measures that we have already committed to taking, and I am very grateful for that. The Prime Minister said very clearly today that he knows that he and the Government have a responsibility to come forward and make their case for the additional steps that we believe are right, and that is what he is going to do. He hopes very much that by doing that in a very clear way, he will attract strong support for the additional action that is necessary to keep this country and its people safe.
Is it not perhaps an unpalatable truth that the progressive removal of border controls—and, indeed, the virtual elimination of boundaries between many countries of Europe—while very good news for law-abiding people, can have pretty serious consequences so far as the movement of terrorists across Europe is concerned? Has the Leader of the House seen reports that it is now a deliberate strategy of the terrorists to make plans for terrorist attacks in one country and implement them in another? Given the dangers facing Europe at the moment, is not the progressive removal of border controls—not, of course, applicable to the UK—an aspect that heads of Governments need to look at?
As the noble Lord has just acknowledged, we are not part of the Schengen agreement. We remain very committed to retaining our borders and to policing them strongly. As we have announced in the past few days, we are taking even more steps towards, and investing further in, protecting those borders. We also play a big part in protecting the outside borders of Schengen agreement countries. However, I agree with the noble Lord that this raises very serious issues that have to be considered by countries that are part of Schengen.
My Lords, we neglect the home front at our very great peril. The Statement rightly says that the terrorists’ aim is clear: it is to divide us and destroy our way of life. We therefore need to strengthen everything that holds our society together, and that lead must be given by the Government. We have to demonstrate that they are a Government for the whole people, not part of the people. Where things appear to bear down unfairly not only on members of ethnic minorities but on our indigenous community, such as we saw demonstrated a fortnight ago, it is essential that the Government put themselves in a position that shows that we are all on the same side in this and no longer fragmented.
My noble friend is right that good governance is about governing for all the people and about being clear about the principles and values to which a country expects its citizens to subscribe. That is an important part of what makes us British. I say to my noble friend that one of the problems in countries such as Syria that needs to be addressed as part of the overall approach towards civility in the region relates to good governance and to those in charge governing for all the people.
My Lords, the language that we use was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and, by implication, many others. Does the Minister agree that there is no contradiction in, on the one hand, using very severe language to describe the bloody extremism, fascism and so on of a tiny minority and, on the other hand, using language to describe the civilisation that is common to all of us, going back to the Indus Valley, the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Assyria and so on? That is our common civilisation and it needs to be emphasised. It is not a question of thrusting it down people’s throats; rather, it is a question of nurturing the great majority. There is a need to use language to describe our common civilisation in order to make some purchase in that territory.
My Lords, although tiptoeing across some very dangerous ground, I should like to expand on what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said, which I endorse wholeheartedly. Among all the difficult problems that the EU has to consider at present, surely it must now be a priority for it to consider the question of having open borders—both the extent to which they exist today and the extent to which they facilitated the dreadful scenes in France that we have all witnessed.
Clearly, borders are a very important issue. As I have already said, we as a Government are pleased that we retain control of our borders. I am sure that this matter will be discussed again by the European leaders. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be at a justice and home affairs special meeting at the end of this week and I imagine that this will be very much a part of the discussions there.
My Lords, reverting to the need to eradicate Daesh and its territorial base as part of a comprehensive strategy, does the noble Baroness agree that the YPG is the most effective military force in opposition to Daesh? Will we therefore make supreme efforts to bolster its efforts by supplying armaments and logistics?