My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, on 2 July. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.
My Lords, I would like to say a few words about security. As I informed the House two weeks ago, I have now received the final report from Sir Jon Murphy, who was commissioned to carry out an independent review examining the security of the parliamentary estate. The report will be considered carefully and appropriate action will be taken.
There is one recommendation, however, which can be addressed immediately. It concerns the wearing of security passes. Security passes identify those who have a legitimate reason to be on the parliamentary estate. An individual on the parliamentary estate failing to display a security pass should raise questions. A security review in 2004 recommended that security passes be worn at all times by everyone. Regrettably, there is still a small but significant number of Members and staff from both Houses who do not wear their passes while on the estate. The review makes it clear that efforts to secure the perimeter of the parliamentary estate will be undermined if individuals fail to take security seriously.
Further action will be taken in the autumn when the Parliamentary Security Department will begin a process of replacing all security passes. The new passes will have additional security features: they will be double-sided for maximum visibility and will have a distinctive hologram to establish authenticity.
I encourage everyone to wear their pass at all times when on the estate and to remove their pass when leaving the estate. Individuals failing to display a pass are liable to be challenged. I would be most grateful for the co-operation of all noble Lords.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to set up a Data Ethics Commission, as set out in their 2017 manifesto.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and draw attention to my digital interests as set out in the register.
My Lords, data governance and the effective and ethical use of data are vital for the future of our economy and our society. The Government are committed to creating a sound ethical framework in the UK that will give people confidence in how their data are being handled and used. We are working closely with industry, civil society groups and academia to examine how we can best achieve this.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his Answer. It is encouraging to hear his enthusiasm, but the scale and scope of data usage is growing fast. Just in the past couple of weeks, parents have been scrambling to work out how to protect their children’s location from Snap Map, and we have heard that Vodafone has been using robots to screen candidates in advance of interviews. Just because you can does not mean that you automatically should. The technology world will not wait for us. Will my noble friend say when a commission will be set up?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this because we agree that these issues are vital. It is critical that we get the rules right so that we can give the public confidence in how their data are being used. I completely agree with her that things are moving very fast. I can be more specific about the timing when we have consulted various groups that will be set up or have been set up, and when we have looked at the reports, particularly the Royal Society and British Academy report. When we have considered those reports we can be more specific, but we aim to update our thinking later in the year.
My Lords, the necessity of an ethics component in a structural engineering degree is well known: you cannot become one unless you have completed an ethnical component to the course. Would the Minister consider the other points at which we could insert an ethics course in our computer science degrees or other points of learning?
That is a very good idea. This affects many areas of work and our society: data are part of everything. Many degrees, not just the ones the noble Baroness mentioned, should consider the ethical issues surrounding this. A careful consideration of ethics is part of any good education.
My Lords, Matt Hancock from the other place said that fundamentally, intelligent systems will take off only if people trust them and how they are regulated. I understand and totally agree with the noble Baroness’s suggestion that we must have a clear timetable for this commission, but what steps are the Government going to take to properly engage with the public to ensure that we gain their trust?
We are going to liaise with civil society groups, as I have said, and academia. The Nuffield Foundation, for example, is going to develop plans in partnership with the Royal Society, the British Academy, the Royal Statistical Society and the Alan Turing Institute to establish an independent convention on data ethics. This is something we support and will contribute to, and I think the public will be able to learn from such conventions. As I say, we will update our thinking later in the year.
My Lords, will this commission cover not only ethics but the use and application of data, for example through machine learning and development of algorithms? Can the Minister also explain how this commission will interrelate with the new data protection regulations starting in 2018 and the digital charter announced in the Queen’s Speech?
The data protection Bill, which will come before Parliament in the autumn, is to give effect to the general data protection regulations and the law enforcement directive. It will obviously include things to do with privacy, but data ethics covers many other things, such as artificial intelligence, which the noble Baroness mentioned. So it is not specifically a regulatory thing, although regulation may come out of it. It is to consider the new issues that come with this new technology.
My Lords, artificial intelligence has the potential to significantly empower us as humans, but comes with the worries that have been expressed. The noble Baroness, Lady Harding, mentioned parents. What plans do the Government have to engage children in this discussion about their data and their rights to the privacy of that data?
That is of course important, and the data protection Bill will include measures to protect children and to allow data which is held by social media companies, for example, to be deleted. As for engaging children in considering these ethical issues, that is something that the data commission can consider but, as I said, we have not yet been specific about the structure, function and remit of the commission.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the ethics and governance council for UK Biobank. Does the Minister agree that the potential value in health of the use of big data—in the development of new medicines and other fields—is enormous? In view of that, will he ensure that the interests of medical research are included in the commission’s terms of reference, given that it is essential that the public have trust in the systems governing the use of their information?
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. One issue that the commission can consider is whether, as data increases exponentially and individuals give data which can be used by data-mining companies and others, what is considered private data, even if it is anonymised, can be used for the greater good. We have to consider exactly such things. The Royal Free Hospital, for example, was in trouble under the Data Protection Act for allowing data, although anonymised, to be used by another company. We have to consider such things because a tremendous amount of benefit can be obtained for the general public from that data.
My Lords, much of this data is held outside the UK. In fact, we are not sure where quite a lot of it is held. How will we be able to regulate people when we do not know where they are?
The best way is to get international agreement. It was discussed—
In the EU.
I think it has been discussed in many multinational organisations—including the EU, I completely agree. One point of the data protection Bill is to try to get equivalence in data flow across borders after Brexit, but the point that the noble Lord makes is right: it is not always easy but we have to lead the way to show that an ethical regime is the way forward.
My Lords, are all non-classified reports or reports back compiled by officials—for example, reports back on trade missions around the world—in the public domain?
I do not know the answer to that, but I am sure that not every report is in the public domain.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are giving to connecting communities and economies in the north of England by the re-opening of railway lines.
My Lords, the Government are investing billions of pounds across the north of England in order better to connect communities and build the northern powerhouse. In the spirit of devolution, it is of course for local enterprise partnerships and local transport authorities to decide whether the reopening of a railway line is the best way to address the economic needs of their area and to secure appropriate funding, including that made available by the Government.
My Lords, there are ambitious plans for substantial investment in new high-speed railway lines in the north of England, but the Minister will be aware that many towns have been missed off the network. There are missing links that need to be put back in to provide an ordinary service in some of those towns—none more so than the Colne-Skipton link, which can provide not only a local service of benefit to local people in the region but a new strategic east-west route between the west coast and the east coast, particularly for freight. There has been a 20-year campaign for this, with half promises from government at all levels. Will the Government step in and put some oomph behind this proposal?
I can see that that position has widespread support. First, I thank the noble Lord for his interest and considerable advocacy on this subject. We also pay tribute to the work of the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership—that well-known group—in raising the profile on the case for reopening this line. Local partners share a desire to improve connectivity across the Pennines. Their recent connectivity report suggested that there may be economic benefits in doing so, and they will be actively involved in the Transport for the North corridor study to consider potential solutions. Through growth deals, we have provided the north of England with almost £3.5 billion of local growth funding, which is supporting local authorities and LEPs to deliver more than 150 local transport schemes.
My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the North York Moors railway line, of which I have the privilege to be honorary president. The fact that the line was able to access the national rail line to Whitby has opened up tourism, and the number of people visiting the railway has risen phenomenally. Will my noble friend share this with his ministerial colleagues to look favourably on Heritage Lottery Fund grant applications for such lines in the future?
I am sure there is considerable benefit to the North Yorkshire communities in the reopening and additional service provision on these lines, and I am happy to support my noble friend’s assertion.
My Lords, the Minister is aware that one of the key facets of the northern powerhouse is rail connectivity. Two years ago, plans were announced by the Government for the electrification of the line from Manchester to Leeds. Reports over the weekend have suggested that those plans have been shelved. Is that correct?
My Lords, we will be announcing our proposals for that line in due course, but let me just say that we are investing more than £1 billion in the great north rail project, which is transforming rail travel for passengers across the north up to 2019 as part of our over £13 billion investment in rail infrastructure.
My Lords, opening lines is one thing; opening stations on lines that are already open ought to be considerably easier. There was the line between Halifax and Huddersfield reopening in 2000. A railway station was built in Brighouse, and we were promised one for Elland, but we are still waiting—17 years later. Once the business case has really been made, and expectations have been created, how long does the Minister think that folk should have to wait for this station?
Clearly, the provision of additional stations on important local lines is vital, but I shall have to write to the noble Lord on the detailed business case for that particular station.
My Lords, no doubt the Minister has a list of all the potential local railways, so may I ask him to look at the case for the Penarth to Keswick line? It is one of the examples of where Beeching vandalised this country, so let us put that right.
The noble Lord is right: I do have an extensive list. However, I do not see that one on it, but I will write to him on that particular case.
My Lords, I remind the House of my railway interests in the register. The Minister will be struck by the support that exists all over the House for the reopening of rural railway lines. Can I draw his attention to the report by the Association of Train Operating Companies in 2009, which looked at communities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, and at the potential for reopening services where they used to exist? There were 14 lines of the highest priority where there was either an existing freight line or a disused line. No Government have yet acted on that report, so will the Minister now please have a look at it?
I will certainly have a look at the report, now that the noble Lord has drawn my attention to it.
My Lords, the Minister is well aware of the general feeling in the country that HS2 is a waste of time. Can I urge him to review it urgently because, if common sense prevails and that silly scheme is scrapped, there will be plenty of money for all these very sensible schemes in the north?
I am, of course, aware of the noble Lord’s passionate opposition to HS2. However, I am afraid that on this one occasion I will have to disagree with him, because I think it is an excellent scheme and we will be going ahead with it.
Will the Minister now answer the direct question of my noble friend about the reports in the press? Are they true or not?
No, they are not true. We are re-evaluating the scheme, but we will be going ahead with it and we will publish our proposals in detail on it in due course.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the #CostingEquity report on disability responsive education financing, published by the International Disability and Development Consortium, which outlines the steps and resources necessary to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive education.
My Lords, we welcome the IDDC’s report. Disability has been underprioritised in the past and, as a result, insufficient global resources have been allocated to education. We recognise the challenge and are steadily taking steps to scale up our own response and encourage others to do more.
My Lords, I am very grateful for that Reply. The Minister will be aware that more than 32 million children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are out of school and denied an education. That is why 40 NGO leaders have endorsed a joint call to action to invest in disability-inclusive education, in which they have agreed to make education for children with disabilities in developing countries a top priority and to urge donors to increase funding for inclusive education and make disability inclusiveness a necessary criterion for accessing funding for all education programmes and projects. Can the Minister assure the House—and from his Reply I am very hopeful that he can—that the UK Government will follow the same approach and support these recommendations?
I am very happy to give that assurance, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his work on the steering group of this very valuable report. We are still digesting a lot of its conclusions—but, undoubtedly, the one that we should focus on is that 90% of children in the developing world with disabilities are not in school. Clearly, that is contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to at least goal 4—and probably goals 8 and 10—of the sustainable development goals. It is something that we are committed to responding to, and I will be very happy to speak to the noble Lord afterwards to outline some of the thoughts that we have in this area about what we hope to bring forward in response to the report.
In response to the report on disability from the International Development Committee three years ago, the Government adopted a disability framework. What progress is being made in evaluating the data to identify how many disabled children in particular are affected in countries where DfID has programmes and to what extent is DfID targeting them, as well as on employing disabled staff in the department to ensure that there is a real connection between the rights of disabled people and the need to serve their needs?
One thing that was identified in the report to which we have just referred was the lack of data about what the need was and what the responses were. We have a disability framework in the department, which guides everything that we do across our aid strategy. We are looking at finding better practices for what is working; for example, we are working in Kenya and Uganda with Leonard Cheshire to try to find better examples of what is working on the ground to address this problem.
Is the Minister looking at how many of these children are in institutional care and whether it is always appropriate for them to be so? Many of them could be better placed in foster or kinship care. Is that a matter that the Minister might look at?
A number of excellent charities are working in this very area. It is certainly something that we are sympathetic to; disability has been one of the core criteria for UK Aid Direct, a new round of which has come in. We also have the Girls’ Education Challenge, which has educated some 46,000 girls with disabilities in schools. The next round of that project will increase the allocation still further to 15% of the total fund.
My Lords, promoting inclusive education is obviously a key priority for DfID. The International Development Committee of the other place recommended that DfID should spend at least 10% of its budget on that, but it is currently 8%. What steps is the Minister going to take to ensure that we reach that target so that we can deliver the promise of the noble Lord, Lord Low?
There is a significant financing gap in global education. The UK is one of the better ones—in fact, the report on page 26 highlights that DfID was ranked number one by donors for its disability education as a priority, and number 2 for its funding overall. The amount is currently at 8.5%, about £650 million; we also spend about £227 million through multilateral agencies, so I think we are doing better than most. But with the scale of the problem that has been identified, we cannot afford to be complacent and we will certainly keep that under review.
My Lords, perhaps I may refer to the Minister a charity called Wheelchairs of Hope. Using old plastic chairs, the inventors have created strong and sturdy wheelchairs for the developing world at a cost of somewhere between $50 and $100 per chair. This has been a great thing for people in the developing world, especially for young children who would otherwise not be able to get to school. I suggest that the Minister has a good look at it. I hope that DfID might help these children get to school and give them a bit of mobility which they have not had before.
I am very happy to look at that. I also encourage the charity itself to see whether it would be eligible for the UK Aid Direct funding round which is in place at the moment, or the small charities challenge fund, which has just been launched.
My Lords, one noble Lord mentioned earlier the need for DfID to employ people with disabilities. This is extremely important: we need their talents and we need them as role models. What is DfID’s policy? Also, what is its policy towards other organisations to which it gives grants? It is extremely important that they, too, employ people with disabilities.
Through the disability framework, we now ask a question about disability inclusion as part of all business cases. I am very happy to write to the noble Baroness with specific numbers. Our annual report was produced last week and the numbers are listed in it, as they should be. I am sure that there is more that could be done, but we can take a degree of pride from the report on what UK aid is doing for those with disabilities around the world.
My Lords, this is obviously work of great international importance. However, does the provision for our own children meet the criteria that we are recommending for international communities?
The international standard that has been adopted by the UN recommends that between 4% and 6% of GDP should be spent on education. In the UK it is currently 5.6%. In many of the countries that we are helping most, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is 2.4% and 2.2% respectively, so there is a lot more that those countries can do themselves—and, of course, there is always a need to keep spending in this country under review to ensure that we continue to maintain our standards.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to update their anti-corruption strategy.
My Lords, the Government are working on a new anti-corruption strategy, which will be published in due course. They continue to take forward a wide range of anti-corruption measures, including those agreed at the London anti-corruption summit.
My Lords, it is over a year since the anti-corruption summit which promised that new strategy. Is the Minister aware that there are voices around which suggest that Brexit is an opportunity for Britain to hoist the Jolly Roger and buccaneer its way around the world with scant regard to things like bribery or money laundering? Is it not time that the Government sent out a clear message that we are a beacon of integrity in these matters by bringing this strategy forward, giving a vote of confidence in the Serious Fraud Office and finding a new anti-corruption champion to succeed the one who has now departed the other place? Those challenges would make us a beacon of integrity, rather than the other way.
The noble Lord asked a number of questions. First, he is quite right: the deadline has been missed. We hoped to publish the updated strategy by December last year. There was some turbulence in Whitehall following the outcome of the referendum and then, in March, when the inter-ministerial group met to consider the draft strategy, there was a further discontinuity with the general election. However, a near-final draft of the document is being prepared and we hope to publish it shortly. There has been a series of anti-corruption champions: Hilary Benn, Jack Straw and Ken Clarke. Eric Pickles was the last but since the election Sir Eric is no longer a Member of Parliament. We hope to appoint a new champion in due course.
On the noble Lord’s second point about the Jolly Roger, I prefer the union jack. However, he is quite right: this country has a reputation for integrity and fairness throughout the world. That helps us win export orders and inward investment. The noble Lord may know that in a recent analysis of integrity, the UK was ranked joint 10th out of 176 on the Transparency International corruption perceptions index. He is quite right: we value our reputation and are determined to maintain and enhance it after Brexit.
My Lords, the Government have previously indicated to the House that they were attempting to meet a target by the end of June this year to have central registers of beneficial ownership opened in the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories. I believe it is now July. Therefore, I would be very grateful if my noble friend updated us on the current position.
I am grateful to my noble friend. It is indeed now July, and I am happy to tell him that good progress has been made with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. Most of the larger territories already had these central registers in place. I think that only two, or possibly three, have not met the deadline, and they are making good progress. Therefore, significant information is now available, almost real time, in this country for law enforcement and HMRC because of the central registers of beneficial ownership that the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies have now introduced following last year’s London summit.
Will the Government review their own actions bearing in mind that they have just given a £1 billion bung to the DUP? Does the Minister think he should put his own house in order first?
I understand that in another place, Nigel Dodds MP suggested that he might put in the public domain correspondence between Gordon Brown and the DUP following the 2010 election. I also remember the 1974 to 1979 Parliament, when the Callaghan Government limped from Division to Division, putting together a series of deals with individual parties and individual Members which involved significant expenditure of public money. The noble Lord may wonder where this train of argument may lead him.
My Lords, during the passage of the Criminal Finances Bill, a great deal of concern was expressed around the House about the number of properties, particularly in central London, being acquired by anonymous foreign owners, often using corrupt proceeds of crime. Can the Minister update the House on what is happening with unexplained wealth orders and, indeed, with the proposed register of foreign owners of property here in London? It is time we kept the momentum going on this.
I am grateful to my noble friend, who played a significant role when the then Criminal Finances Bill was going through the House in ensuring that we had the unexplained wealth orders in the right shape. That legislation hit the statute book on 27 April. We are now preparing statutory guidance, subject to the affirmative procedure order, and introducing new court rules and training for officials so that we get the orders in good shape before they are introduced. We remain committed to a register of beneficial ownership of foreign companies that own or acquire property in this country. Good progress is being made. BEIS submitted a consultation document earlier this year, and it is now analysing the responses. I say to my noble friend that we are determined to honour the commitment to introduce such a register.
My Lords, the Minister will know that four senior executives from Barclays Bank are facing criminal prosecution for wrongdoing that took place in the financial crisis of 2008, and that this is the first such prosecution. The director of the Serious Fraud Office, whom I hope the Minister will confirm will remain in his place, has repeatedly called for reform of UK law on criminal corporate liability to make it easier to prosecute private companies involved in wrongdoing. Could the Minister tell the House when the Government intend to reform the UK’s very weak laws on corporate liability, so that companies can be held to account for actions that facilitate money laundering of the proceeds of corruption?
I cannot give a substantive reply to the noble Baroness, but I would like to write to her. I think I am right in saying that recently, companies have been prosecuted. For example, I think that Rolls-Royce as a company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and, as a result, paid a penalty of over half a billion pounds—and that was for the company. I am cautious about saying anything more, because I understand that individuals are also under investigation by the SFO. I am afraid that I cannot comment on the question she raised about the personnel at the SFO, but I will make inquiries and write to her.
That this House takes note of the current security situation in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, recent events mean that this debate to consider the security situation in the UK is especially timely. This year, on four dates over the course of three months, our country was attacked by terrorists, in Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Borough Market, and Finsbury Park, with 36 dead and over 150 injured in these atrocious attacks. Terrorists mean to sow fear and division, but ours is a community of many faiths and many nationalities, and all have come together in the face of these senseless acts. If these attacks have shown us anything, it is that an attack on one part of our community is an attack on us all.
Our law enforcement agencies continue to tackle serious and organised crime and sexual exploitation of children. We have also seen over the last few months a number of high-profile cyber incidents, not least that which affected parliamentary systems.
During the course of this debate, I will focus on some of the most pressing domestic national security issues that impact on the security situation in the UK. I will reflect on recent events, but noble Lords will be aware that there is a wide range of issues with security that we could consider, from civil emergencies to public health.
Although this debate focuses on the security situation in the UK, we are clear that in an ever more interconnected world, our security depends on addressing issues overseas and online. We have seen this with the rise of terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, in the way that cyber criminals have targeted systems across the globe, and in the way that criminals are exploiting vulnerable people to perpetrate organised immigration crime and modern slavery.
The threats we face are global. That means that strong alliances and partnerships across the globe are ever more important. A global Britain will continue to meet our NATO obligation to spend 2% of our GDP on defence; we will maintain the most significant security and military capability in Europe; and we will continue our investment in all the capabilities set out in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, remaining a world leader in cybersecurity and renewing our nuclear deterrent.
Our strong bilateral relationships with EU member states and countries across the globe help tackle threats of terrorism and serious organised crime. We will, in due course, be leaving the EU. It is in all our interests that we continue our deep co-operation with the EU and its member states to tackle these threats together. We seek a strong and close future relationship with the EU. Security and law enforcement co-operation with our EU and global allies remains of the utmost importance, and we will continue to invest in our close and effective relationships with international partners.
We must also continue to develop strong relationships with the private sector, including tech companies and the banking sector. The threat is not a challenge which government alone can address.
Keeping our people and interests safe is the first duty of government. The people who make up our security community work tirelessly on a daily basis—often, for obvious reasons, largely unseen by the public. The events of recent months serve to remind us all of the bravery and professionalism and, above all, of the incredible sacrifice made by those who work to keep us safe. However, the response by our communities to the terrorist attacks has illustrated that we all have a part to play, often by just going about our daily business. All have come together in the face of these senseless acts.
I begin by explaining the threat we see from terrorism. The current threat level from international terrorism is severe—an attack is highly likely. Daesh is currently the most significant terrorist threat globally and to the UK and our interests overseas. Its propaganda, including that of its affiliated branches, has inspired radical groups and individuals to plan and conduct attacks worldwide, and encouraged hundreds of people from European countries to travel to Syria and Iraq. This includes around 850 people of national security concern from the UK.
However, Daesh is not the only threat. Al-Qaeda’s ideology and organisation is a long-term threat to the UK and our interests overseas. This is a significant challenge. There have been over 1,500 terrorist-related arrests since 2010; in 2015 alone, 150 attempted journeys to the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts were disrupted; and the Security Service currently has 3,000 subjects of interest and 500 live investigations.
The events of the past year—the murder of the Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, and the appalling attack in Finsbury Park—remind us all of the threat from the far right. We will use every means available to disrupt individuals or groups associated with the far and extreme right wing who threaten or pursue acts of violence. That is why in the last year we proscribed National Action, the first such move against an extreme right-wing group.
Terrorist tactics constantly change. Although many groups still aspire to mount large-scale and complex attacks, as we have seen with the recent ones, there is a move toward so-called lone actors. These terrorists plan attacks without specific direction from terrorist groups, acting alone or in small numbers. Their weapons are often knives, small firearms, homemade explosives or vehicles. We must have a comprehensive response to this threat and our approach to countering terrorism is set out in our counterterrorism strategy, Contest. We must attack the problem at source and combat it wherever it occurs.
Since June 2013, our police and security services have disrupted 18 terrorist plots in the UK that were either linked to or inspired by Daesh and its propaganda, including five since the attack in Westminster on 22 March. In the last Parliament, we announced an increase of 30% over five years in government spending on counterterrorism. We have protected overall police funding in real terms since 2015 and funded an uplift in the number of armed police officers. There are more officers and staff involved in counterterrorism policing than ever before. However, the challenge is not simply about maintaining police numbers. As the nature and complexity of the threat changes, so does the nature of the skills needed to tackle the threat.
Due to the unique and sensitive nature of the work, counterterrorism policing requires highly skilled staff, including specialist armed officers and detectives, digital and cyber experts, all who have the highest levels of vetting. Funding for the security and intelligence agencies has increased in cash terms by 5% since 2010, from £2 billion to £2.1 billion, and we are in the process of recruiting over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff.
In addition to ongoing investigations and intelligence gathering, significant protective security measures have been implemented to protect potential targets. We will continue to see enhanced levels of police resources—both armed and unarmed—on our streets, and this will continue for as long as it is needed. We have increased physical security measures in some places, for example to protect pedestrians on our bridges. All forces have reviewed their security and police plans for forthcoming events and, where necessary, additional security measures have been put in place.
The Government continue long-standing work to provide the owners and operators of crowded places with advice and guidance to understand the threat and to take appropriate measures to reduce their vulnerability to an attack. We have long had detailed plans for responding to such incidents. In recent years we have developed a strong, police-led, multiagency capability to deal with a range of terrorist attacks in the UK, and we test and exercise those regularly. Recent attacks have shown our response to be effective. The attack in Westminster was over in 82 seconds and the attacker shot dead. In Borough Market, the attackers were shot and killed in less than eight minutes, and in Finsbury Park, police officers were in the immediate vicinity of the attack and responded within one minute.
The Home Office has established a cross-government Victims of Terrorism Unit to enable us to support UK citizens directly affected by government events. We have developed a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism in prison and probation. The separation centres announced recently to manage the most dangerous and subversive offenders are just one aspect of our work. We have introduced a wide range of measures to clamp down on extremist behaviour in prison and probation, including new specialist training for front-line staff to identify and challenge extremist views. We have also created a new counterextremism task force which will advise staff on how to deal with specific terrorist threats, and have banned extremist literature from prisons.
There is no single pathway to radicalisation, whether for Islamist-inspired, far-right or any other form of terrorism. The Channel programme, which offers support to those assessed as being at risk of radicalisation, has supported over 1,000 individuals since 2012. Around a quarter of Channel cases relate to concerns over far-right extremism. We are taking the robust action that is needed to tackle radicalisation online and to counter the poisonous ideology promoted by extremists. The Government are committed to ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to operate online.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary continues to lead efforts with technology companies to remove terrorist material. We continue to work closely with social media companies to progress an industry-led forum that will look to take a new global approach to tackling terrorist use of the internet. We have also just announced a joint programme of work with President Macron which will focus on ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists on the internet. Since February 2010, social media providers have removed 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material, following referrals from the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit.
But we must do better. The gracious Speech we heard last month included a commitment to review our strategy to ensure that our approach continues to adapt to the evolving threat. We will also ensure that the police and security services have the powers they need and make sure that custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are of sufficient length to keep the public safe. A separate review, led by a former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, will consider the handling of recent terror attacks and ask whether there are lessons to be learned about our approach.
We live in a country which is as secure as it is open, diverse and inclusive, but there are those in Britain who do not share our values and who wish to do us harm. Extremism cannot be ignored. As the Prime Minister has said, “Enough is enough”. We need to do more to confront extremists and to contest their narratives. Since 2015, we have had a government-wide counterextremism strategy—the first of its kind. At the heart of the strategy is a partnership with every single person and organisation in this country that wants to stand up for our fundamental British values and is committed to defeating extremism. Through the strategy the Government have taken steps to protect our public institutions from the threat of extremism. Good progress has been made. We are supporting civil society groups to confront extremism in their communities and we have established community co-ordinators to work locally in support of groups challenging extremism.
However, there is more that we can and must do. That is why we are establishing a powerful new commission for countering extremism. The commission will help us to take on extremist ideology in all its forms. It will work in communities, with the public sector and across society to promote and defend our values of democracy and the rule of law, of the freedoms of belief and expression, and of mutual respect, tolerance, opportunity for all and integration. Work is under way on the design of the commission and we will set out our plans in due course.
In the last Parliament we introduced the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that law enforcement has the crucial powers needed to investigate and disrupt terrorists, paedophiles and organised criminals, and the Criminal Finances Act improves our capability to tackle terrorist finance, fraud and corruption, making the UK a more hostile place to launder the proceeds of crime. There are more than 6,000 organised crime groups active in and causing harm to the United Kingdom. Serious and organised crime costs the UK at least £24 billion each year. Around £5 billion of the annual “tax gap” is due to organised crime, so the threat is very real. In October 2016, a month-long operation led by the National Crime Agency and national counterterrorism policing led to the seizure of 833 firearms, nearly half of which are viable, and with hundreds still being assessed.
UK residents are more likely to be the victims of fraud than any other type of crime. Last week, the National Crime Agency produced its annual strategic assessment which shows that the scale of threats such as modern slavery and human trafficking is growing. Organised criminals are abusing online technology to defraud and extort, to facilitate the abuse of children, and to advertise the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. The rise of the dark web has created illicit international marketplaces for firearms, drugs and indecent images of children. The Government are alive to the significant threat of serious and organised crime.
We have established new partnerships with industry, harnessing the skills and knowledge they can bring to bear. The Joint Fraud Taskforce is bringing government, banks and law enforcement together to lead the fight against fraud, and the National Crime Agency continues to build on its impressive track record of disrupting serious and organised crime and safeguarding children. Between April 2015 and March 2016, its work resulted in more than 3,000 arrests and 915 convictions, with 236 tonnes of illegal drugs seized, and £26 million in assets recovered. In that same period, the work of the NCA led to 1,802 children being safeguarded or protected. We are leading the global effort to end online child sexual exploitation and abuse. The WePROTECT initiative began with a UK-hosted summit in 2014. It has galvanised the global effort to tackle this despicable crime.
Our economic and international status make us a target for criminal cyberactivity and for hostile foreign intelligence services. The threat from serious cybercriminals is growing and we know that there are several established, capable states seeking to exploit computers and communications networks to gather intelligence and intellectual property from UK government, military, industrial and economic targets. Recent ransomware activity that impacted our NHS networks and the attack on parliamentary systems brings these threats into stark focus. Our national cybersecurity strategy, supported by a £1.9 billion investment, will improve our country’s ability to deal with cyber threats. The National Cyber Security Centre, which began work in October last year, will work with law enforcement, the intelligence community and industry to make the UK the safest place to live and do business online.
Our border is a critical line of defence against threats to our national security. Our capabilities to identify and disrupt threats are amongst the most advanced in the world. We continually review those measures and ensure that they are proportionate to the threat. The border provides us with a unique line of defence and an intervention point. There is a high level of collaboration between all common travel area members to strengthen the external CTA border, including use of passenger data and joint operational activity. This work is fully embedded into the work of our border security.
It is clear that there are real and persistent threats to our security, but we are committed to ensuring that our response to these threats adapts and evolves to meet them. We have unique assets in this country: the bravery of our emergency responders; the skill and dedication of our law enforcement and security and intelligence services; and, above all, our shared values. These will remain the cornerstone of security efforts in the United Kingdom. I beg to move.
My Lords, I begin by referring to my interests in the register—in particular that I chair the independent reference group of the National Crime Agency and co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Policing and security. I am and the whole House are grateful to the Government for giving time to this important debate and to the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, for outlining the terrorist attacks that have taken place against this country in the last few months.
It was against the background of the series of murderous terrorist incidents across western Europe from the beginning of 2015 that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, shortly after his election in May 2016, asked me to conduct an independent review of London’s preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident. While I am tempted by the full range of issues that the noble Baroness outlined in her introductory statement, I will confine myself specifically to how the nation should respond to the fact of terrorist attacks.
My immediate focus in conducting that review was on London’s ability to respond speedily and effectively to a marauding terrorist firearms attack. However, the review looked at a range of possible attack scenarios, including vehicles used as a weapon, as in the Nice and Berlin attacks and subsequently seen on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge. I have previously been heavily involved in this field when, on behalf of successive Home Secretaries, I had oversight of policing work on counterterrorism and security from 2004 until early 2012.
The headline conclusion of my review was that preparedness had improved substantially compared with four or five years earlier. In particular, the emergency service response would now be much faster than it would or could have been in 2011. This was demonstrated during the course of my review by a stabbing incident in Russell Square on 3 August last year. This turned out not to be a terrorist incident, although the response was triggered as though it might have been. An individual, whom the court was subsequently told was suffering from,
“an acute episode of paranoid schizophrenia”,
attacked passers-by, tragically killing an American tourist.
The time that elapsed from when the first emergency calls were received to the control room being informed that an individual had been subdued and arrested—and not shot dead, which might have been the outcome elsewhere—was less than six minutes. This was a fast response by any standard. As the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, outlined, the Westminster Bridge incident—of which, regrettably, we were all observers—lasted precisely 82 seconds from the point at which the terrorist drove his vehicle on to the pavement until he was shot dead: just 82 seconds from start to finish. Again as the Minister outlined, in the London Bridge/Borough Market attack on 3 June, the police were on the scene within two minutes and paramedics from the London Ambulance Service within six. The three terrorists were shot dead less than eight minutes after the first emergency call. In all those incidents, the emergency response was rapid. However, it is an important and salutary lesson that even those fast response times would have appeared far too slow to those caught up in the incidents concerned.
Moreover, the London incidents involved individuals carrying knives rather than guns or bombs. Had they involved multiple assailants armed with automatic weapons or explosive devices, the death tolls in such crowded places would have been far higher.
It is of course theoretically possible further to increase the armed police presence so that those response times could have been shorter. However, we should be clear: that would not eliminate the risk or necessarily prevent fatalities. People armed with powerful guns could kill a lot of people even if the emergency response time was much faster. As we saw in the Manchester Arena, it is the work of a moment for a suicide bomber to blow himself up.
So the issue is what level of risk is acceptable. Doubling or quadrupling the armed police presence would obviously have a financial cost—even if it were practically possible to recruit, train and equip the officers required—but it would also have a profound impact on our way of life. How far are we prepared to go to change the look and feel of our cities to reduce, perhaps only slightly, the number who might be killed in such an attack? That is the dilemma: whatever we do, we, government, can never guarantee safety.
During my review, I was impressed at the huge amount of thought and analysis that has gone into planning and exercising for a wide variety of attack scenarios. There is necessarily a constant need to consider developing threats and evolving attack methodologies, and I watched this in action by sitting in on the fortnightly security review committee when, among other things, the implications of the Nice attack and an incident at RAF Marham were being considered.
This sort of preparation is essential. It has to be remembered that new attack methodologies can be spread via the internet within seconds. However, while it is imperative to have as good an intelligence picture as you can, planning should also be on the basis of expecting the unexpected. That something has never happened before does not mean that it will not happen tomorrow.
I remain disturbed that, even now, not enough is being done to limit the availability of guns. We benefit from the fact that firearms are more difficult to acquire in this country than elsewhere in the world. However, there is almost a complacency about this, with an assumption that attacks such as those that occurred in Paris in 2015 would not happen to us. But London and other cities are by no means firearms free. During the July and August of my review, the Metropolitan Police recorded 202 firearms discharges compared to 87 in the same months of the previous year. These were criminal rather than terrorist incidents and, of course, there is clear evidence that some convicted terrorists have tried to obtain arms from organised crime groups or from other sources.
Our borders are not as secure as they should be—I have questioned the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this on many occasions. We have far from adequate coverage of our coastline by air and sea patrols: just three working vessels patrolling 7,700 miles of coastline, compared to the 16 that patrol the Netherlands coastline of 280 miles. Only a tiny proportion of vehicles crossing into the country through the Channel Tunnel or on ferries are ever searched, and the same is true for crates of goods arriving through our ports. The resources available to address this have declined in the last six or seven years. If there is complacency, it is misplaced and I fear that it is only a matter of time before we see a significant gun-related terrorist incident in the UK.
More generally, it is important to build a culture of resilience into the fabric of society so that risks can be mitigated. Some of that is about physical measures: bollards and barriers to limit the scope for vehicle-based attacks, and the capacity to close off roads to prevent cars and trucks entering areas where large numbers are gathered. Much more should be done to map crowded places and proactively install barriers to reduce such attacks. It is tragic that the barriers on the London bridges are being fitted only now and were not put up before the Westminster and London Bridge attacks.
We should use design to make new buildings harder for terrorists and require that certain physical standards be incorporated to make attacks more difficult. When premises require licensing for public use or for specific events, there should be an expectation set as to their emergency plans and the extent to which their staff must be trained to manage certain types of incident. I hope that the noble Baroness, when winding up, will agree to look at these matters, particularly around the licensing of events.
The aim should be to develop a culture of security in all spaces where the public have access. During the review process, I was struck by how variable this was. I was particularly concerned about schools. Most schools have plans for evacuation in the event of fire. Very few had even thought about the need for an “invacuation” plan in the event of the school being under attack: what teachers should do, how pupils ought to be drilled and so on. Most have some rudimentary perimeter control system, designed to keep out predatory paedophiles, but are less well equipped to deal with a heavily armed marauder. I specifically recommended that each school should have a governor responsible for thinking about these issues and devising arrangements appropriate and proportionate for that school. The DfE was lukewarm about issuing any guidance, saying that it was a matter for individual schools. Of course I accept that each school is different—but surely they should all be encouraged to think about these things. Perhaps the Minister, when she replies, can reassure us that this attitude in the Department for Education has now changed.
Businesses have a duty of care, not only to those who work for them but also to their customers and perhaps also to those simply passing by. Many employ security personnel. In London alone there are estimated to be some 100,000 such operatives registered with the Security Industry Authority; that is roughly three times the total number of police officers. Incidentally, I understand that the Home Office commissioned a review of the Security Industry Authority and has been sitting on the results of this for some 18 months. Perhaps the noble Baroness, when she responds, can tell us when we might learn the future of these regulatory arrangements. In the event of an attack, depending on the location, it is those security guards who may be first on the scene, and the public may look to them, as uniformed members of staff, for advice and protection. At the very least, they need to be adequately trained on how to respond in the event of a terrorist incident. At best, they are a massive resource to help protect the public.
Communication is key to all this. In the recent attacks, the Metropolitan Police used its Twitter feed to provide frequent, authoritative updates to counter what might otherwise have been misleading material on social media. However, there is much more that should be done, as has happened in a number of other cities, with the development of alerts directly to the mobile phones of everyone in the areas affected. The capacity to provide cogent, real-time advice targeted at different cell sites or different types of recipient is already available. I understand that the Cabinet Office has been looking at this for some time—three years—but has not yet reached a conclusion. Perhaps the Minister can tell us when it will do so.
Preparedness has to be proactive, and flexible enough to be relevant whatever the form of attack. We all must react seamlessly and effectively, whatever the nature of the incident. We all need a mindset of community security and resilience. Our cities and towns should have security and resilience designed in. They should be part of society’s fabric. Ultimately, it means that everyone should see security and resilience as their responsibility just as much as they are the responsibility of the emergency services and the civic authorities.
My Lords, I start by endorsing the Minister’s concern for the victims, thinking about those who have suffered, those who have been bereaved and those who will live with life-changing injuries. I intend to raise five questions and wonder whether we can draw conclusions on any of them. I attach a caveat: I retired from MI5 10 years ago. I am out of date. Therefore, I am not going to stray into the other threats, such as cyber, on which I will rapidly fail to be convincing, but will focus on terrorism.
What conclusions can we safely draw from considering the following questions: the tempo of attacks, of which we have seen quite a few in recent months; the scale of the problem; the type of attack—the noble Lord, Lord Harris, mentioned several; the knowledge of the perpetrators; and the performance of my former service, MI5, and the police?
On the tempo, it is clear that the pace has accelerated markedly. During the five years I was privileged to lead M15—2002 to 2007—we had 15 significant plots, three of which were not detected in advance. These were: 7/7, evidently; 21/7 two weeks later, when the detonators failed to work; and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, who was stopped by an alert air hostess. Now we know from the Home Secretary that after Westminster and before Manchester my former colleagues and the police detected and prevented from materialising five other plots in as many weeks. That shows there is a very high level of plots indeed. As the Minister mentioned, the current level of severe—meaning that an attack is highly likely—is strongly justified and the tempo is intense. Therefore, the pressure on the police, who I think have performed magnificently in recent weeks, M15 and the other agencies is relentless.
The second factor is the scale of the problem—we have already heard the figures—which I think is genuinely unprecedented. I am not one to exaggerate but when we are told that MI5 has 500 active investigations involving 3,000 subjects of interest—as well as a vast pool of some 20,000 others whom it cannot focus on at the moment but about whom there have been past concerns, and whom it would like to go back to look at if time and resources allowed—it is pretty serious. Even I find this scarcely imaginable. In 2006, I gave a speech at Queen Mary College—not invited by my noble friend Lord Hennessy but by somebody else—and I mentioned 30 plots, not nearly 500. That figure was thought at the time to be astonishingly high. At that stage, MI5 was looking at about 1,600 people. The scale of change is dramatic.
On methods, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has quite rightly encouraged us not to think narrowly in this area. We have recently seen attacks that involved few people and were unsophisticated and low-tech, using knives and vans, as well as the shrapnel-packed bomb vest of the Manchester bomber. But none of us in this House can judge whether this is a pattern: whether it will continue to be low-tech, which in some ways is more difficult to detect in advance; or whether the large-scale conspiracies with which I am familiar from my time in MI5 might return—or, a whole lot of other, different techniques. We do not know—and will not, unless we have been paying attention—whether there are cases going through the courts at the moment in a run of terrorist trials that show other sorts of methods and attacks. Among the thwarted attacks ending in prosecution or, less satisfactorily, disruption there may be ones with quite different characteristics from those that we have seen so visibly and recently. There is a suite of tools and methods that the terrorists can use, and I am confident that the authorities will not narrow their scrutiny to the most recent but be ready for a spectrum.
My next point is our knowledge of the perpetrators. Some of the perpetrators were known to the authorities in advance. I know that I would say this—but I think that that should be a cause for praise, not criticism. Intelligence had worked and identified some of those people, who were likely to have tried hard to keep their activities secret. As my colleague and noble friend Lord Evans of Weardale—who is not meant to be here, and on his behalf, I apologise to the House that he cannot be here at the end of the debate to speak—said when he was head of MI5:
“You can know of someone without knowing what they will do”.
Given the scale of the problem, there are always going to be acute choices about where to focus, where to prioritise and how to rate the threat from individuals and groups.
That brings me on to performance. I very much welcome that there was not a rush to label the recent attacks as “intelligence failure” without knowing more. Failure in intelligence clearly can occur, but you have to look back to see whether what happened was really preventable. Context and scale are important. This House should have confidence that the reviews conducted by MI5 and the police, overseen by the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, will be rigorous. I have little doubt that the Intelligence and Security Committee will also have a role. It was certainly the culture of MI5 when I was there—and I am confident that this will absolutely not have changed—to subject itself to a good deal of self-criticism and self-scrutiny in a search for constant improvement. We were never satisfied that we could not do better. We were always searching for fresh ways of maximising our chances against, sometimes, a clever opponent. We were never misled by a recent success to assume we would stop the next attack. My colleagues will have been devastated by the recent attacks, but that will not affect their determination to do their utmost to stop further ones. As the Minister said, we should not forget that 18 plots have been stopped in the past four years, saving lives and leading to the conviction and imprisonment of terrorists.
I have a few further observations on matters that I am sure will come up in this debate, the timing of which is very welcome. Terrorist groups here are directing, encouraging and inspiring people here and overseas to mount deadly attacks, and not just in London. For too long people assumed that this was a London problem, but Manchester graphically showed that it is not. Planned attacks have involved guns, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said, and we must not rule them out as a possibility. We are not alone in this. Many other countries are suffering high rates of terrorism, and substantial intelligence will continue to be shared with our friends and allies. One of the things that is nearly always said after a terrorist attack is that we need to share more information. Vast amounts are shared already, but even sharing everything will not prevent some attacks.
Those are five observations, under five headings, and I have some conclusions to pick up on. In Downing Street on 4 June, the Prime Minister made four pledges: to defeat the ideology; to address the “safe spaces” of the internet; to address the safe geographic spaces; and, finally, to review the UK’s counterterrorist strategy. I will pick up only the first and the last of those.
The belief that Islam is under attack from the West, which is corrupt and decadent, holds appeal for too many in our society and around the globe—and generates, to some degree, the outrageous right-wing response to those sorts of attacks. But we need to look at the whole pattern, not just rely on the security and intelligence organisations, the police and many other people. Here I pay tribute to the vital work of MI6 and GCHQ, as well as of MI5 and the police. But we should not rely just on them to deal with the worst manifestations of this belief at the end, as it were, of the chain. All the weight should not fall on them. To use a medical analogy, we have to look at the whole epidemiology of the disease—its causes, its transmission—not just its terminal, in every sense, result. The Home Office Prevent programme, on which I fully admit I am out of date, has been much criticised but I recognise that prevention, if achievable, is the best option.
Finally, on the counterterrorism strategy, we must never tolerate language which misleads people into thinking that this can magically be cured in the short term, however hard everybody works and whatever bright ideas people have, or that all attacks can be prevented. This is a long-term problem and requires our continued resolve. But to try to cheer myself and your Lordships up at the end of my speech, I will say that as we face the challenge, we draw on great strengths, such as world-leading police, intelligence and emergency services—some of the things the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said were very reassuring to me—equipped with the powers they need to do their job. Many of your Lordships will have been in the Chamber during passage of the Investigatory Powers Act and know that they have the powers to do the job, alongside deep and enduring international partnerships, and the resilience and courage of our people, including the members of the public who behave so bravely in many of these attacks.
My Lords, building on that, I will try to be a little hopeful. I too thank the Government for the opportunity to discuss these matters. First, we need to acknowledge that in the light of these horrors we are right to identify security as a primary aim of government. In a debate such as this, we also need to make sure that we pay proper tribute to our Armed Forces, police, prison staff and many others who daily face danger and harm—and of course, as we know, who even lay down their lives, such as PC Keith Palmer.
It is also incumbent on us to remember those who have laid down their lives in the past. This gives me a chance just to mention PC Ian Dibell, who died restraining a gunman in Clacton five years ago in the diocese where I serve—yesterday was the fifth anniversary of his death. We need to remember and to salute these individuals. But of course this debate is also about how we support and resource them so that they can do their job of maintaining our security. I certainly welcome what I have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, about the comprehensive and international approach that the Government want to take but, along with others, want to question whether the resources we are looking at will be sufficient. As we have just heard, we also need to be resolute in identifying and opposing anyone who harbours, supports or funds terrorism—anyone at all, from any direction or ideology.
Furthermore, it is rightly said that when strengthening defences against terror and murder, we must not sacrifice the freedoms which are among the values that stand so firmly at the heart of our national life. We welcome and recognise that this Government, like their predecessors, will attend closely to the right balances between privacy, safety, freedom and security that we have already heard about.
I want briefly to emphasise one further angle, which I hope is hopeful and perhaps takes a slightly longer view. The word “secure” originally means “without care”. It is a condition where one is free enough from apprehension and fear to flourish and develop as a person and as a society. The Hebrew word “Shalom” and the Arabic word “Salaam”— basically, the same word—are very close in meaning to “secure”. They point to a totality of harmonious relationships where one is safe and secure, where there can be human flourishing and where human well-being for everyone prospers.
Of course, when such security is threatened, our instinct is to build more walls and post more sentries. As I hope that I have already made clear, proper provision and support for those who keep us safe and making that a national priority is of course vital, but we must also acknowledge that beyond that, bigger walls and more heavily armed sentries cannot be the only answer.
In Australia, cattle graze on vast farmlands without the boundary markings of a fence. “How do you gather your cattle together?”, a rancher was asked. “How do you keep them safe?”. “When you have dug a well,” he replied, “you do not need a wall”. This is another interesting approach to security. The long-term security of our nation and our world will only be achieved in the same way. As well as investing in walls, we must equally—perhaps, more so—invest in wells.
One thing that pains us most about recent incidents is that these terrorists are homegrown. It gives me no pleasure to say that in the diocese where I serve, which covers five east London boroughs and the whole of the county of Essex, in the work I do visiting communities, many young people feel disfranchised and overlooked and do not have the opportunities that we would wish them to have. I am not trying to make any particular point here, other than that I see that. These conditions are breeding grounds for disenchantment which can, under a certain toxic mix of circumstances, turn to radicalisation of various sorts.
We need to provide the wells: the opportunities, the hope, the unifying values that can refresh and envision. It is good to hear about the initiatives that the Government and previous Governments have made. I thank them for them—indeed, I have been involved in some of them locally—but we must continue to address them. For instance, there is Near Neighbours in east London and the work of local schools, parish churches and other faith and community groups. On the ground, these are places that are investing in our neighbourhoods and providing hope. In the end, it is these things that will be our very best defence against the entrapment and radicalisation that leads to terror and dis-ease.
I hope that government policy will continue to keep its eye on the well as well as the wall and that your Lordships will forgive me, as one who is a follower of someone who broke down barriers and burst out of tombs, and consider this a reasonable contribution to this debate.
My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Vere. I think it is the first time she has opened a debate in this House, and I congratulate her on the way in which she has done it on a subject on which I must say your Lordships have already heard enough to realise that there will be some very significant contributions. Indeed, we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, with his huge experience in policing in particular, and, of course, from the noble Baroness, with her unrivalled knowledge in this field. As I am following the right reverend Prelate, I shall say one or two words about the relationship that the Church of England and the other churches can play because at the heart of this is the terrifying abuse of religion, if one looks at it in that way, in which we have a sect that now seems to believe that 98% of the world’s population are legitimate targets in pursuit of its particular objectives, which is an amazing situation.
I bring to this debate my own experiences in Northern Ireland, particularly with regard to terrorism, but I am struck enormously by the totally different situation that we face here. Thank goodness we never had suicide bombers, who introduce a totally different range of possibilities of assault. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, referred to trucks and vehicles in which the drivers themselves accept at the start that they will probably not come out of it. They are lethal and damaging attacks and can be very much worse. I think that one single driver in the lorry in Nice killed 80 people, so terrifying new possibilities exist.
I am also very much struck by something else. Sinn Fein/IRA, as it was then, was sensitive to public opinion to an extent. It did not want to lose morale and tried to enlist more and more support from the nationalist community. I remember particularly the huge damage that was done to it by the attack at Enniskillen—noble Lords will remember the number of people killed at a Remembrance Day service. That was a huge public relations setback for the IRA and Sinn Fein at that time. The terrorists that we face now seem not to mind at all the outrage committed in the cause that they seek to serve.
I went on from Northern Ireland and then defence to be the first chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee—a few noble Lords behind me will remember that with either pleasure or grief. I stopped doing that when I left the House of Commons 2001 I stopped being an MP then and came to your Lordships’ House. I am struck by the fact that, at that time, as an MP I had not had an email. Members of Parliament now have to cope with 300 or 400 emails a day and the burst of new challenges that now exist in that whole world. It is only 16 years, but we have had since this extraordinary explosion of social media communications, the world of the internet and—which I find very difficult to keep up with—the worlds of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. They are all virtually brand new in the history of our time, yet they pose enormous challenges.
I strongly support what the noble Baroness just said about the situation that we face going forward. This is not a short-term problem. The situation in the world at the moment is the most disturbed it has ever been. There are 60 million displaced people in the world at present, some internally displaced within their own country and others desperately trying to get to another place that may be rather happier than where they were brought up.
The problems now are linked together: the population explosion; climate change; the number of countries that are failed states, where the best thing that anyone can do for themselves and their families is to get out as quickly as they can and try to move to other countries; and the problems of water supply. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, gave me an article about the prospects for Iran, saying that the water prospects there could mean that up to 20 million people will have to emigrate within 30 years’ time. That could be a gross exaggeration, as somebody said, but even if it is, it still means that the potential for disturbance and the problems that could arise from that are massive.
Against that background, we have Islamic extremism. At the moment, although there seem to be military victories—and the latest news from Mosul and what may be happening in Raqqa may be encouraging news in that respect—encouragement has probably been given to the leadership by lone wolf attacks, which offers no great encouragement of any early change.
On the subject of lone wolves and all that, I have been hugely impressed by the skill and ability of ISIS in the whole social media field. Look at the production of videos—I do not know where ISIS does it, and I do not know whether we will be told that the success against Mosul and Raqqa means that suddenly ISIS will find that harder to organise. But it has been extremely impressive in its ability to produce videos. It has done it for operational communications—and I understand that the whole of the explosion of success that ISIS had in its early stages in capturing all those territories was entirely done by communications on WhatsApp. It is far more efficient communication than we ever had in the British Army, in terms of instant communication with thousands of people. That can be illustrated by the way, as noble Lords may have noticed, a substantial force can suddenly turn up somewhere it was not expected—in Palmyra, for example, which ISIS captured when we thought it was on the run.
The use of the social media outlets in that way has been hugely effective. Some of it has been for operational purposes, and some of it has been for poisonous propaganda, which it has used extremely successfully, with incredibly large audiences. It is not just a problem of what is being said in the mosque; if those hate preachers get on to Facebook, Twitter or whatever communication vehicle—and the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, knows much better than I do how they might do this—they can potentially communicate with millions of people. Also, given the opportunity, they can recruit a lot of new people as well.
I was very struck by the article in the Times today, which some may have seen, which says that Germany is taking a substantial initiative to try to get the social media companies to be much more active and prompt in removing unacceptable illegal content, including hate speech, terrorist material and other forms. The article says:
“Videos on social media are known to have influenced Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, and Khuram Butt, one of the London Bridge attackers”.
We also know that the Manchester bomber found instructions on YouTube on how to make his bomb. Against that background, Germany has now acted and is setting fines of up to €50 million under a network enforcement law, if companies fail promptly to remove illegal content, including hate speech and terrorist material.
The Prime Minister has already gone on record, in May, I think—as has President Macron of France—to say that we are thinking of doing something along these lines. I hope we can get on with it, because the Germans are already doing it. We certainly know that there is no question of these companies having no money and being unable to afford to take the necessary steps in these directions. They could be much prompter in dealing with some of these abuses and the quite unacceptable and dangerous material which is being allowed on their various channels.
Against the background of all the threats that we face, I strongly endorse what the noble Baroness said. I am hugely impressed by the successes which our intelligence services have had. The fact that they do not catch every single one should not be seen as an abject failure. The volume which the noble Baroness spelt out so well—the number of incidents they are dealing with—is obviously a huge and critical challenge for them, and they deserve our fullest support.
However, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, things are going to go wrong. There is a real risk of further incidents and nasty challenges of one sort or another. Against the threat that we face, it may not be possible to hold them all. When she opened the debate, the noble Baroness drew attention to the seriousness of that threat. In such situations, during my time in Northern Ireland I always felt the resilience of the local population: the world was not coming to an end and they were going to stand together and overcome the challenges they faced. Maintaining public morale in these dangerous situations is hugely important.
And we do that, not as an isolated country, but with the fullest international co-operation. Countries throughout the world are now facing challenges of this kind. It would be no surprise to anyone in this Chamber whichever country it turned up in. It might be in South America, the Far East, in Africa or somewhere in Europe, but we all face it and need to work together with every other Government of good will. We particularly need to maintain our European relationships, including Europol, as actively as possible so that we can do the best possible job of protecting our country against the very serious threats which we face and which we will have to be prepared to resist.
My Lords, I declare an interest as police and crime commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland. I too welcome the fact that the Government have found time for this debate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, about the huge level of expertise among those who have already spoken—including, of course, the noble Lord himself—and all those who will speak afterwards. I fear I am not really in the same category. I did have experience as a Defence Minister, but I left that even longer ago than the noble Baroness left MI5, so my knowledge of security from the military point of view, if there ever was very much, is much reduced. My present position does compel me to talk about the policing side of security, and counterterrorism is not the only part of policing which touches on, and is essential to, security. In preparing for this debate, I was lucky to receive a written briefing from my force and, more importantly, I spoke to my chief constable, the deputy and assistant chief constables and the head of counterterrorism in Leicester. However, it should be clear that all the remarks I make are mine and no one else’s.
I had the privilege of attending the gold group that was set up immediately following the Manchester outrage and to have been present at a number of meetings at which the emphasis was on security and safety of all those who live and work in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. That perhaps gives me a little insight into how and in what manner an excellent police force deals with the security crisis resulting from this series of attacks in Westminster, Manchester, Borough Market and Finsbury Park. Therefore, I hope the House will forgive me for sharing some thoughts from someone who does not have a career background in policing but hopefully has picked up one or two things in the last 14 months.
A fundamental truth is that security has to be a total system, starting in neighbourhoods and reaching to the security services, and so the importance of neighbourhood policing in the security field cannot be exaggerated. Information that can save people’s lives can and does come from a proper—by that, I mean a properly funded—system of neighbourhood policing. That is why the funding debate, which I hope the Government now recognise is a real debate, cannot in the security field be about simply giving more money to counterterrorism, important and timely though that is, given the cuts that have already taken place in counterterrorism over a number of years.
Everyone knows that neighbourhood policing has suffered most over the last few years from the cutbacks in police funding which seemed to be policy for the coalition and for the present Government. No one is saying that efficiencies and some savings were not sensible and necessary, but I submit that all reasonable people know that it has gone too far. Talking in a local context, the figures are frightening. In Leicestershire, for example, we have had a cut in grant of approximately 38% and have lost 547 police officers between 2009 and 2016—that is around 23%. We now have one police officer per 599 members of the public. In 2006, there was one police officer per 430 members of the public.
This loss of funding cannot be sustained for ever. The Government must stop pretending that flat cash funding does not represent a cut in real terms, because it quite clearly does. The effect of these cuts can be seen even more clearly and sharply at a time of crisis in national security, when they are highlighted in a startling way. It shows how good security fundamentally depends on policing being properly funded. Of course, the lack of police numbers makes it even more difficult for forces to take the action needed following an incident.
Of course, the police are used to being under pressure. That goes with the job: it is what police officers sign up to. However, there has been just too much pressure in the last few months. This is because limited resource has had to be moved to cover extra work occasioned by the change in the threat level to critical, and the continued heightened atmosphere, followed by the move back, a few days later, to severe. In policing parlance, there were a lot of abstractions, which required much back-filling. This involved many 12-hour shifts, which resulted, frankly, in many worn-out and exhausted police officers and police staff. This will have happened around the country. In my own view, Leicestershire Police responded very well, with a calmness and sense of public responsibility that we have become used to. However, the underlying truth, which cannot be escaped, is that there are now just too few cops. In the words of a senior officer, “The security crisis is amplified by the lack of resource”.
In fact, the way in which the force has publicly responded is to be applauded—and I know that that is true of other forces around the country as well. I will tell the House some of the measures which have been taken by my local force in response to the security issues the country faces. First, it has put more visibly armed officers on the street and in key locations, but with a strict brief to talk and be friendly with the public they meet; secondly, it has increased community engagement, including, of course, involvement in interfaith activities and taking part in the vigils that occurred outside mosques as well as in other public areas; thirdly, it has set up a gold group, which I mentioned, which has drafted a strategy to cover the whole force area, drawing up, for example, a list of public events that would need special attention; fourthly, and importantly, it has briefed and had input from the local resilience forum, which has worked well; fifthly, there has been a strong, powerful response to any increase in hate crime; sixthly, a sophisticated communications plan has kept the public both advised and informed by way of joint circulars to partners, including local authorities and other agencies, with up-to-date information, signed off by a chief officer and myself; and, finally, there has been public reassurance on the media, and of course—here I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord King, said—on social media, from the chief constable himself.
Because of my role as the bridge or link between the public and the police, I needed to be satisfied that at this highly sensitive time the police were getting it right and that the messages being put out were appropriate. I am proud to say that the diverse public that make up the Leicestershire area have remained very supportive of all the actions that so far their police force has taken. In fact, I have heard no criticism, and people are not normally short of coming up with criticism of the police.
We are all still very conscious that the security situation is still very serious, and I hope that we are alive to the dangers the country still faces. In Leicestershire, we are proud of our diversity: the fact that people with different backgrounds and faiths live and work next to each other peacefully is a matter of great pride. Everyone, from wherever they come, agrees that there can be no other response, of course, than total condemnation of those who practice terror. Tomorrow evening, I will be opening a police-inspired meeting around the Prevent programme, at which all communities will be represented. The intention is to discuss the events of the last few months and the way forward. It is only through the community and the police working together that we can possibly defeat those whose evil actions are determined to divide us. We will not be divided.
My Lords, I take part in this debate with some diffidence, in particular following the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord King, and the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller. Their experience is practical, whereas mine, albeit as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, has always been theoretical.
I will pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord King, about the significance of the retaking of Mosul. We have already seen evidence of displacement of effort from Daesh, and it is likely—indeed, inevitable—that that will continue, and at a much greater level. That, if anything, will once again increase the burden on those whom we charge with the responsibility of providing our safety and security.
I doubt very much that it is possible to defeat the doctrine of so-called ISIS. I suspect that containment and deterrence may be as much as we can do, at least in the short term, but, as has been referred to in the debate, that does not in any way absolve us from doing the things which Parliament and society can do in support of the security services, rather than just relying on them, and I will come to one or two of those things towards the end of my remarks.
In the aftermath of some of these terrible events, it is often said that they have been an illustration of mindless violence. It is not mindless; it is clearly decided upon because of its effectiveness in causing fear in the first instance, in provoking extreme responses, which may yet radicalise more of those who are sympathetic to the cause of the terrorists, and in undermining the values of the societies which they detest to the point of destruction. We should never forget that those who direct terrorism do not lack ambition. They will never be satisfied, I suppose you could argue, until the last round is fired and the last man or woman is standing. Therefore, the problem will have many facets, even after what might be thought to be considerable success.
When anxiety is expressed about these matters, it is sometimes said that the statistics tell us that you are less likely to be killed by an act of terrorism than you are in a road traffic accident. Of course, that is not the point, because a terrorist attack is the most intrusive violation of our space. It is a violation of our values and a violation of our rights, and that is why it can never be compared with fatalities from traffic accidents, as some rather loosely seek to do.
The physical and emotional impact on victims of terrorism is self-evident, but the emotional impact on society at large is in many ways equally severe. There is the fear and alarm to which I have already referred but there is also the undermining of our confidence to go about our daily business, and of course the undermining of the confidence of those who have the difficult responsibility of ensuring our protection. That last point is even more significant when the recent mechanisms of terrorism have been everyday objects such as vehicles and knives.
In such circumstances as we find ourselves after the events of the last few months, it is easy for the debate to become polarised, in that people—often in newspapers’ editorial columns—simply call for more powers for the authorities. However, such calls are met by fears that that would be irreparably damaging to the very freedoms that are the foundation of our society. We saw some of that in the progress of the Investigatory Powers Bill through this House, but I want to say now, as I said then, that in my judgment that Act contains necessary powers governed by necessary safeguards.
It is not clear to me that any of the atrocities of the last few months would have been prevented by increased powers or longer sentences. There is some suggestion that we should create what has rather fancifully been described as an Alcatraz. But I offer the slightly fanciful parallel of Colditz. The Germans put all those people who were clever at escaping into Colditz, and what did they do? They became much cleverer. They were not perhaps as successful as they might have hoped, but they passed on the tradecraft they had learned and therefore became all the more skilled at what they sought to do.
These terrible events might have been prevented by greater resources in order to ensure full use of the powers already available. The noble Baroness who introduced the debate referred to the additional 1,900 positions and the effort to ensure that the total sums expended in these matters kept pace with inflation. But I remind her that that undertaking was given by Prime Minister David Cameron, in the autumn of 2014 to the best of my knowledge and most certainly before the general election in 2015. Noble Lords who have contributed to the debate so far have pointed out the extreme nature of the challenge as compared with historical circumstances. In that spirit, I respectfully suggest that the whole issue of resources needs revisiting.
I also hope that it is possible—and I am talking about society—to create an environment in which individuals will be more willing to provide information to the authorities. There are two kinds of intelligence, SIGINT and HUMINT, and I sometimes think with our justifiable concern about the internet that we do not place sufficient emphasis on achieving the kind of information that can be provided by witnesses. I also believe—I am happy to see that the Government have this issue in mind—that we need a different relationship with the internet service providers. In support of that, I offer the fact that Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered by two men who were known to the authorities, one of whom, it later emerged, had been engaged in an exchange on the internet on the basis of having said, “I want to kill a soldier”. That information emerged only after his conviction and that of his co-accused. That puts into sharp relief the extent to which the internet service providers are willing to ensure that such information is not allowed to lie on the internet.
The interesting thing about that case is that the individual concerned had had several accounts closed because of the unacceptable nature of the material on them. I appreciate that this involves a considerable burden that gives rise to all kinds of social and some might even argue cultural issues, but the internet cannot be freely used without any check or effort to prevent the dissemination of material that arms those who seek to do us harm.
None of the things I have suggested would necessarily have guaranteed that Trooper Lee Rigby would have been saved, but one or other of them might have done so. On that basis, when we are seeking to eliminate risk, we must consider every possible avenue by which to do so.
I have already referred to what I call, perhaps rather neutrally, a more productive relationship with the internet service providers. The noble Baroness mentioned that the Prevent strategy has been the subject of some criticism. In principle the strategy is clearly significant, but we should examine carefully the extent to which some communities have come to regard it as not only unacceptable but highly intrusive.
Finally, it is necessary to pay tribute, as others have done, to the quite extraordinary quality of those who have the responsibility for protecting us—not only the security services but the police as well. As we have seen recently, they put their lives at risk in an effort to fulfil their responsibilities; sometimes a legal obligation but I suspect for many of them, a far greater moral responsibility. We should never discuss the issues we are considering today without recognising the importance of these obligations.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows.
“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the G20 in Hamburg. At this summit we showed how a global Britain can play a key role in shaping international responses to some of the biggest challenges of our time. On terrorism, trade, climate change, international development, migration, modern slavery and women’s economic empowerment, we made leading contributions on issues that critically affect our national interest but which can be addressed only by working together with our international partners.
On terrorism, as we have seen with the horrific attacks in Manchester and London, the nature of the threat we face is evolving and our response must evolve to meet it. The UK is leading the way. At the G7 and subsequently through a detailed action plan with President Macron, I called for industry to take responsibility to more rapidly detect and report extremist content online. The industry has now announced the launch of a global forum to do just that. We set the agenda again at this summit by calling on our G20 partners to squeeze the lifeblood out of terrorist networks by making the global financial system an entirely hostile environment for terrorists, and we secured agreements on all our proposals.
We agreed to work together to ensure that there are no safe spaces for terrorist financing by increasing capacity-building and raising standards worldwide, especially in terrorist finance hotspots. We agreed to bring industry and law enforcement together to develop new tools and technologies to better identify suspicious small flows of money being used to support low-cost terrorist attacks such as those we have seen in the UK. And just as interior Ministers are following up on the online agenda we set at the G7, so finance Ministers will follow through on these G20 commitments to cut off the funding that fuels the terrorist threat we face.
I also called for the G20 to come together to better manage the risk posed by foreign fighters as they disperse from the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, and we agreed that we would work to improve international information-sharing on the movement of individuals known to have travelled to and from Daesh territory. By working together in these ways, we can defeat this terrorist threat and ensure that our way of life will always prevail.
Turning to the global economy, we are seeing encouraging signs of recovery with the IMF forecasting that global GDP will rise by 3.5% this year, but many both here in the UK and across the G20 are simply not sharing in the benefits of that growth. So we need to build a global economy that works for everyone by ensuring that trade is not just free but also, crucially, fair for all. That means fair for all people here in the UK, which is why we are forging a modern industrial strategy that will help to bring the benefits of trade to every part of our country. It means fair terms of trade for the poorest countries, which is why we will protect their trade preferences as we leave the EU, and in time explore options to improve their trade access. It also means strengthening the international rules that make trade fair between countries. So at this summit I argued that we must reform the international trading system, especially the World Trade Organization given its central role, so that it keeps pace with developments in key sectors like digital and services, and so that it is better able to resolve disputes.
Some countries are not playing by the rules. They are not behaving responsibly and are creating risks to the global trading system. Nowhere is this more clear than in relation to the dumping of steel on global markets. The urgent need to act to remove excess capacity was recognised last year at the G20, but not enough has been done since. If we are to avoid unilateral action by nations seeking to protect themselves from unfairly priced steel, we need immediate collective action. So we agreed that the global forum established last year needs to be more effective and the pace of its work must quicken. To ensure that its work gets the necessary attention and there is senior accountability, I have pressed for relevant Ministers from around the world to meet in this forum.
The UK will play a leading role in championing all these reforms so that all citizens can share in the benefits of global growth. As we leave the European Union, we will negotiate a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU, but we will also seize the exciting opportunities to strike deals with old friends and new partners. At this summit, I held a number of meetings with other world leaders, all of whom made clear their strong desire to forge ambitious new bilateral trading relationships with the UK after Brexit. This included America, Japan, China and India. This morning I welcomed Australian Prime Minister Turnbull to Downing Street, where he also reiterated his desire for a bold new trading relationship. All these discussions are a clear and powerful vote of confidence in British goods, British services, the British economy and the British people. I look forward to building on them in the months ahead.
On climate change, the UK reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris agreement, which is vital if we are to take responsibility for the world we pass on to our children and grandchildren. There is not a choice between decarbonisation and economic growth, as the UK’s own experience shows—we have reduced our emissions by around 40% in the last 16 years but grown our GDP by almost two-thirds. So I and my counterparts at the G20 are dismayed at America’s withdrawal from this agreement. I spoke personally to President Trump to encourage him to rejoin the Paris agreement and I continue to hope that is exactly what he will do.
On international development, we reaffirmed our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development assistance and we set out plans for a new long-term approach to reduce Africa’s reliance on aid. This includes focusing on supporting African aspirations for trade and growth, creating millions of new jobs and harnessing the power of capital markets to generate trillions of new investment. We welcomed Germany’s new Compact with Africa, which reflects these principles.
On migration, I expressed the UK’s continued support for the scale of the challenge facing Italy and agreed with Prime Minister Gentiloni that a UK expert Home Office and DfID delegation will travel out to Italy to see how we can help further. This is further evidence that, while we are leaving the European Union, as a global Britain we will continue to work closely with all our European partners. The G20 also agreed to use the upcoming negotiations on the UN global compacts to seek the comprehensive approach that the UK has been arguing for. This includes ensuring refugees claim asylum in the first safe country they reach; improving the way we distinguish between refugees and economic migrants; and developing a better overall approach to managing economic migration. It also includes providing humanitarian and development assistance to refugees in their home region. At this summit, the UK committed £55 million to support the Government of Tanzania in managing their refugee and migrant populations, and to support the further integration of new naturalised Burundian refugees.
Turning to modern slavery, it is hard to comprehend that in today’s world innocent and vulnerable men, women and children are being enslaved, forced into hard labour, raped, beaten and passed from abuser to abuser for profit. We cannot and will not ignore this dark and barbaric trade in human beings that is simply horrifying in its inhumanity. That is why I put this issue on the G20 agenda at my first summit a year ago, and at this summit I pushed for a global and co-ordinated approach to the complex business supply chains which can feed the demand for forced labour and child labour.
Our groundbreaking Modern Slavery Act requires companies to examine all aspects of their businesses, including their supply chains, and to publish their results. I called on my G20 partners to follow Britain’s lead. I welcomed Germany’s proposed Vision Zero Fund, to which the UK is contributing, as an important part of helping to ensure the health and safety of workers in those global supply chains.
Finally, we agreed to create better job opportunities for women, to remove the legal barriers and to end the discrimination and gender-based violence that restrict opportunities both at home and abroad. As part of this, the UK is contributing to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, launched by the World Bank, which will provide more than $1 billion to support women in developing countries to start and grow businesses. This is not just morally right, it is economically essential. The UK will continue to play a leading role in driving forward women’s economic empowerment across the world.
Of course we did not agree on everything at this summit, in particular on climate change, but when we have such disagreements, it is only more important that we come together in forums such as the G20 to try to resolve them. As a global Britain, we will continue to work at bridging differences between nations and forging global responses to issues that are fundamental to our prosperity and security, and to that of our allies around the world. That is what we did at this summit and that is what this Government will continue to do. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, from a number of reports I have read, this seems to have been quite a challenging G20 meeting, but the Prime Minister’s Statement strikes an extremely optimistic note about future trade relationships—she spoke about “exciting opportunities”. It is clear that, for her, our role in the global economy and trade relationships and trade deals following Brexit were high on her agenda.
The Statement refers to the bilateral meetings with America, Japan, India and China. We have had reports of that meeting with President Trump. I understand that the Prime Minister claimed to be “optimistic” that President Trump could be taken at his word regarding a swift trade deal with the UK. Let us remind ourselves of what President Trump said, because, as we know, he never knowingly understates a case:
“There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries. We have been working on a trade deal which will be a very, very big deal, a very powerful deal, great for both countries and … we will have that done very, very quickly”.
Yet the experienced Canadian negotiator who dealt with the Canada-US trade agreement described that statement as “political puffery”. As well as understanding the complexities of international trade deals, the President would have to consult Congress, which would have to take at least six months to consider the issue. Is that the Prime Minister’s understanding as well? It would be helpful to have some clarity and detail about those discussions, as well as about the timescale that the Prime Minister discussed with the President given his quite emphatic statements. We also need assurances that, in her eagerness to ensure a deal, we do not negotiate away the protections that we have gained—for example, for the environment, for employees and for food safety—that have served this country well.
Many of us may have heard the report a few weeks ago on Radio 4—I think that it was on the “Today” programme—about American poultry farmers who, post Brexit, want to export their chickens and turkeys to the UK. US standards allow chemicals in production that we in this country do not consider safe or appropriate. We have to maintain our high standards, so assurances on that issue would be welcome.
Is the noble Baroness able to provide some more information on the other bilateral discussions with Japan, China and India, which do not seem to have received the same attention? At the last G20 meeting in September, following our bilateral with Japan, the Japanese Prime Minister issued a 15-page document on its specific concerns regarding a trade relationship. When the Japanese returned to the bilateral at this meeting, did they discuss that document and have those concerns been addressed? Last time, the Prime Minister was unable to say whether they had discussed car manufacturing. Is the noble Baroness able to do so today, particularly with reference to any financial assurances that have been given for the post-Brexit era? Also, the Statement referred to a meeting today—not at the G20 but today—and discussions at No. 10 with the Australian Prime Minister. I am not quite sure why that is in the Statement: it does not seem any different from the casual assurances and statements made at last year’s meeting, but seems to be just a repetition of an ambition, at some point in the future, post Brexit, to do a trade deal. Can the noble Baroness tell us what those discussions were today and why that is in the Statement?
Staying with trade issues, the Statement refers to the risks created by the dumping of steel on global markets. One report at the weekend said that UK officials acted as a go-between during the disagreement between the US and China over the alleged overproduction of steel. The Statement refers to calls to remove excess capacity in steel from global markets. The noble Baroness may recall that the steel industry in this country was desperate for the Government to back European intervention to protect our steel industry from being destroyed by imported steel, yet the UK Government at that time refused to act. Therefore, I am curious now about the role the UK played as a so-called go-between. Can she enlighten us on that?
On economic issues, the declaration raises a number of matters under the heading “Building Resilience”. Mark Carney, who is also the chair of the G20 financial stability board, has warned about the continued economic risks to the UK banking sector. While the UK’s financial stability remains resilient, there are a number of worrying trends; specifically, the increase in consumer credit, which at more than 10% is outstripping household income. The ratio of household debt to income is high by historic standards. Is this the case across the G20, and was this considered at the summit?
On counterterrorism, which was the first issue the Prime Minister raised in her Statement, the noble Baroness will be aware that I have returned to this issue many times to express concerns about how our leaving the EU improves our serious and organised crime and counterterrorism operations and investigations. Obviously, we welcome any successful co-operation on counterterrorism, including tackling the funding of extremism. In the Statement the Prime Minister says that:
“The UK is leading the way”.
Does she understand and recognise that part of leading the way is through the co-operative work we lead and are part of within the EU? What consideration has been given to post-Brexit negotiations on this issue? Given that the Statement refers to tackling the funding of such activities as being key—the noble Baroness will be aware that this issue has also been raised many times in your Lordships’ House—when will the Government release the report into the foreign funding of extremism and radicalism in the UK?
Before she met President Trump the Prime Minister said she would raise with him his personal attacks on Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London. The President’s attacks on the mayor on Twitter were extraordinary. What the mayor said, in reassuring people after the horrific terrorist incident in London, was “You have no need to be alarmed about additional police and armed police on our streets; they are there for your safety”. This was a perfectly reasonable and responsible comment to make. The President attacked him constantly on this on Twitter and the Prime Minister said that she would raise that directly with the President. Did she do so? The Observer newspaper reported that she failed to do it. If that is true, and given that she said she would, can the Minister assure us that she is seeking another opportunity to do so? The mayor was speaking and acting for Londoners at a difficult time and should not be attacked for doing so by a foreign leader.
Finally, my favourite film is “Casablanca”. Bear with me—it might not seem relevant but I am getting there. One of my favourite scenes, and the saddest, has Rick saying goodbye to Ilsa at the airport as she leaves with her husband to continue their work trying to save France from the Nazis. Rick tells her not to worry, saying, “We’ll always have Paris”. When the Paris agreement on climate change was signed last year, to great acclaim, I am sure that I was not the only who thought of that scene. To protect the world from climate change, we’ll always have Paris. But will we? Nineteen of the 20 countries remain committed. But President Trump’s rejection is a bitter blow. In the Statement, the Prime Minister said that she raised this personally with President Trump but I understand that she did not raise it in the bilateral, which was the appropriate and proper place to do so. So how and when did she raise it? I hope it was not an informal chat over a cup of tea later on. It is all very well being “dismayed”, as the Prime Minister said in the Statement, but if our close relationship with President Trump is to be meaningful, it has to be two-way and it has to have an honesty about it. If she did not discuss it with the President in that informal meeting, did she talk to, support or advise President Macron in any way, and thank him for taking a lead on this issue? What are the implications of the US rejection of the agreement?
My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. “Casablanca” is also one of my favourite films. I think the line that the Prime Minister takes from it is, “Play it again”, because the use of exceptionalist phraseology is played again and again in prime ministerial responses to this kind of international gathering.
I suspect that this summit will not be remembered for any great new international agreements, for there were none. But it is possible that historians will look back on it as marking the end of US primacy in world affairs and the point at which the US accepted tacitly the Russian strategy of regional hegemony, to which there was no opposition, as far as one could see, in the long meeting between President Trump and President Putin. I suspect that at the end of those two hours it was President Putin who was smiling behind his hand, rather than his opposite number. The change in the balance of power in the world was evidenced by the summit’s communiqué, which made no attempt whatever to hide the differences between the US and the rest of the world on climate change. I was intrigued when the Prime Minister said that she urged President Trump to rejoin the Paris agreement and that she hopes that he will do so. Has she any reason to believe that this is even a slim possibility?
Many of the issues debated at the summit were worthy and important and it is a great sign of progress that we have the 20 most important countries in the world discussing issues in a constructive manner, whether it is security, migration, modern slavery or women’s empowerment. Modest baby steps forward were taken on all those issues. However, listening to the Statement, one cannot but be struck by the lack of progress on—or even mention of—some of world’s flashpoints; for example, there is nothing about the Middle East or North Korea. Clearly, this is to be regretted.
On our own domestic agenda, the summit did discuss trade, where again the US is in danger of taking a unilateral line which would weaken the world trading system. But clearly the key trade issues for the UK relate to Brexit. The Prime Minister met the leaders of America, Japan, China and India, all of whom, we are told, expressed an interest in having new bilateral trading relationships with Britain post-Brexit. The situation in respect of Japan is particularly concerning. Japan has just signed a deal with the EU which covers 19% of all world trade. It took four years to negotiate and along with the traditional tariff reductions, there are major new levels of co-operation on standards, regulation and opening up public procurement markets. What is rather chilling is the thought expressed by a leading commentator in today’s papers that unless the UK replicates the EU’s trade agreement with Japan, Japan will have a closer trading relationship with the EU than we will. Even if we replicate it, there is a major challenge to the British motor industry if we are not inside the customs union. First, Japanese direct investment is likely to go to the EU, and, secondly, rules of origin mean that unless 50% of a product is made in the country, it does not qualify for free entry into the other country. How many motor cars made in the UK have 50% of their parts made in the UK? Very few. I wonder how the Government hope and expect to be able to, at worst, replicate the trade agreement now entered into or coming into force between Japan and the EU.
As far as America is concerned, the Prime Minister seems to take President Trump at his word when he says we are going to have a terrific, new, quick trade agreement. She is the only person in the world to do so. The rest of the world just does not think it is doable. Even if were doable, it is very noticeable that the EEF has said today that the damage caused by the kind of Brexit being pursued by the Government would not make up for any potential trade deal with the US. Equally, this very weekend we had the head of the German industrial federation saying that, as far as he and Germany are concerned, trade with Britain will be second to protecting the single market and the four freedoms. So how do the Government think they are going to be able to protect trade in a situation where they are not prepared to contemplate the single market or the customs union at a time when, as the ONS pointed out this very day, some 2 million people working in Britain today owe their jobs to direct investment from the EU? That investment is jeopardised by the Government’s stance.
This was an eminently forgettable summit for the UK. The major challenges to our well-being, whether in terms of the economy, security or influence, stem from Brexit, and here the Prime Minister certainly has a lot of work to do.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. As the Statement set out, this summit saw Britain leading the way on a number of complex and challenging issues and also showed that there is a shared desire to build and maintain strong relationships. Leaders from around the world made clear their strong desire to forge lasting relationships with the UK after our exit from the European Union.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord mentioned the possible trade deal with the United States. Discussions are at a very early stage, but we are optimistic about a deal that can be struck. The International Trade Secretary was in the USA a week or so ago talking to the American Trade Minister about future trade opportunities. The Cabinet Secretary has set up a working group with Wilbur Ross, the US Trade Secretary, to discuss how we can start setting out mutually beneficial parameters for a trade deal but, as noble Lords will be aware, there is a legal limit to how much can be done before we leave the EU. However, we are starting early and positive discussions.
The noble Baroness and the noble Lord also asked about Japan. The Prime Minister welcomed the announcement of the agreement in principle between Japan and the EU in relation to a free trade agreement. As we leave the EU, we are seeking to ensure continuity in our trading relationships. The EU/Japan deal could be a good starting point for that.
The noble Baroness asked about steel. Certainly, the Government recognise that dumped, or subsidised, steel is a significant global issue. We are disappointed that not all countries have fully engaged with the global forum since it was set up last year. The Prime Minister raised this issue directly with President Xi in her bilateral with him. We have also invited the UK steel sector to use the opportunity of a sector deal through our industrial strategy to set out its plans to capture future opportunities and long-term growth. We certainly value the sector and have provided support to it. We have made sure that social and economic factors can be taken into account for public sector steel procurement. We have successfully pressed for the introduction of trade defence measures to protect UK steel producers from unfair steel dumping, and we continue to compensate for the costs of renewable polices.
The noble Baroness asked about counterterrorism. As I have said many times at this Dispatch Box, we want to continue to work closely with all our international partners, and have shown the impact we have had. The actions following the G7 Statement have shown that when international leaders put their collective weight behind an issue, action can be taken. We called on the private sector to step up efforts to tackle extremist content on the internet, and two weeks ago, we saw the announcement by the four major communication service providers of an industry-led global internet forum to counter terrorism. We will continue to work with our international partners in a whole array of forums to ensure that we continue to do this.
The noble Baroness asked about the review commissioned into the funding of Islamic extremist activity in the UK. The review was comprehensive and has improved our understanding of the nature, scale and sources of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK. Ministers are currently considering advice on what in the report can be published and will update Parliament in due course. In relation to the comments that President Trump made about Sadiq Khan, the Prime Minister has been very clear that she in no way supported what the President said. She made that clear and will of course continue to support the mayor in his efforts to help protect London.
The noble Lord and the noble Baroness both raised the issue of climate change. We joined many other leaders at the G20 in making it clear that the Paris agreement and the international momentum that underpins it are irreversible. The Prime Minister brought up the issue of climate change with President Trump and had many conversations with him about it over the time they were at the G20. As the noble Lord rightly said, she will continue to encourage and press him to bring the US back into the Paris agreement. We continue to hope that this will happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about North Korea. The Prime Minister raised that issue in her bilateral meeting with President Xi. The noble Lord also asked about trade deals. As he is well aware, we are working to negotiate a good and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU and are confident we will get a good deal for both the UK and EU. We will talk to countries that have existing relationships and arrangements with the EU about what arrangements we can come to so we can ensure a smooth process as we leave. But we are also talking, as I have said, to countries such as America and India about what we can do in terms of improving our trade relationships and what trade agreements we can have once we leave the EU.
Would my noble friend accept that there is actually quite a lot to welcome in this Statement from the point of view of the United Kingdom and other countries? I was particularly pleased that the intention to reform the World Trade Organization was in the Statement—that is overdue—and our decision to help Italy face the enormous new wave of migrants and refugees, since very few other European countries seem prepared to lift a finger to help Italy at present. That is a very creditable move by the United Kingdom Government. But does she not wonder whether the USA is quite as isolated as several commentators have claimed? CO2 emissions in the United States are dropping faster than in almost any other country, admittedly from a very high level, whereas in Germany they are rising, which needs to be taken into account before one enters into too much condemnation of President Trump on that.
Finally, neither my noble friend nor the Statement mentioned where America and Russia may just be getting to over safer zones in Syria. It looks as if there is some progress there at last, which should be welcomed. Would she also explain to the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Democrats that the EU-Japan trade deal is a great thing but is by no means settled yet, and that it is a bit early to start claiming triumph and glory for it?
I thank my noble friend for covering a range of issues. We certainly called for changes to make the trading system more effective and quicker to act, and for all WTO members to take more responsibility for complying with the rules, but of course we made clear our firm commitment to free trade. The Prime Minister also discussed further aid to Italy, which is facing real problems in terms of the migrants who are coming over at the moment. We indeed welcomed the US-Russian agreement in relation to Syria: we obviously welcome any initiative that contributes to a reduction in violence in Syria and we hope that all parties will engage to this end. A genuine cessation of hostilities is fundamental to progress towards the inclusive political settlement that we will continue to work towards.
My Lords, on the much vaunted US trade deal announcement, did the Minister notice that four days ago at the G20, President Trump announced a very big, very important deal with the Russians on a joint cybersecurity unit? Did she further notice that that did not last 72 hours—it was abandoned last night? What inference does she draw regarding the reliability of such proclamations following joint photo calls and press conferences by the American President and others?
As I made quite clear in my responses to the noble Baroness, we are at a very early stage. Working groups have been set up and discussions are going on, but we are at an early stage, and we shall continue to talk to the Americans.
My Lords, the Statement omitted something that was in the G20 leaders’ declaration—nothing to do with Brexit, for once: the growing threat that antimicrobial resistance represents to public health and economic development. The leaders made various recommendations, of which an important one was a new R&D collaboration hub and examining how to give incentives to encourage new antibiotics on to the market. I declare an interest in that my husband survived—just—a very serious case of sepsis. More than 40,000 people a year in this country die of sepsis. He also chairs a London health trust which deals with TB patients. Half of TB patients with resistance are in G20 countries. What are the Government going to do to follow up on that aspect of the summit?
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. We made clear at the summit the imperative to tackle global health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, that research funding alone will not solve the problem and that we must in parallel develop incentives for pharmaceutical companies to bring new drugs to market. The publication of the G20-commissioned report, Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance, Ensuring Sustainable R&D, means that we have a clear way forward looking to the Argentinian G20 presidency next year and beyond. We will continue to work with our international partners on that. We have also committed £50 million towards a global AMR innovation fund, which will target investment in underinvested areas of research and development.
My Lords I thank the noble Baroness for the Statement and the Government’s continued commitment to tackling modern-day slavery. I am particularly grateful for the commitment to cultivate a radically new global and co-ordinated approach to this problem, which traps 46 million people in conditions that deprive them of their God-given dignity. Can the Minister give an assurance that they will put the victim at the centre of this new global approach and that it will enlist the support and help of the Churches’ global networks, which are already beginning to mobilise through the Santa Marta Group and the Clewer initiative to condemn this abomination, which Pope Francis has rightly called a crime against humanity?
I thank the right reverend Prelate. Tackling human trafficking and modern slavery remains a top priority of this Government. We are very grateful for all the work that the Church does internationally in this important area. The leaders of the G20 countries agreed with the Prime Minister that we need to take immediate and effective measures to eliminate modern slavery, child labour and forced labour from global supply chains, and we called on our G20 partners to follow our lead in working with businesses at home to ensure that they report any modern slavery in their supply chains. As the Statement made clear, this is a personal priority of the Prime Minister and one that she will continue to push among our G20 colleagues.
My Lords, I ask the noble Baroness about the phrase in the Statement that we must reform the world trading system,
“so it is better able to resolve disputes”.
What proposals did Her Majesty’s Government put forward better to resolve trade disputes? Does she believe that the United Kingdom will be in a better position to advance that cause outside the European Union than inside?
We want to champion this agenda. We called for change and will be working with colleagues in advance of a meeting later in the year to develop proposals. Good progress has been made. The trade facilitation agreement that came into force earlier this year will benefit UK exporters through its customs reforms, and could boost global trade by up to $1 trillion every year. We are clear that the WTO must remain the foundation of the global trading system, but we need to work together to improve it.
My Lords, I note that the Minister has failed to answer my noble friend’s question regarding the blatant misrepresentation of Sadiq Khan by the American President. It should have been raised face to face. Does the Prime Minister want to remain in Europol and Eurojust? What conversations have there been with the nuclear and health industries about the Government’s stated position and the Prime Minister’s decision, and wanting to leave Euratom? Can I have the details please?
The noble Baroness will be aware that Euratom and the EU share a common institutional framework which make them uniquely legally joined. So, when we gave formal notification of our intention to leave the EU, we also started a process for leaving Euratom, and the exact future relationship will be subject to negotiations with our EU partners. Of course, we want to maintain the relationship, and indeed, a number of other non-EU countries do so, and we will be working to achieve that. I responded in relation to Sadiq Khan and said that the Prime Minister will continue to support him; I can go no further or give more information. On the noble Baroness’s other point, I will need to write to her.
My Lords, even just a few years ago it would have seemed slightly surprising that a dotcom entrepreneur was speaking in a debate about national security. Now it would seem surprising if I were not. In fact, I am looking forward to contributing as a new member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. I also declare my interest as a director of Twitter and co-founder of Doteveryone, a charity fighting for a fairer internet.
The world has changed irrevocably and irrefutably with the immensely rapid rise of the internet and digital technologies. When Brent Hoberman and I started Lastminute.com 20 years ago, we were grappling with the early technologies to make credit card payments safe on the web, and the largest cloud we faced was the drama that the potential of the millennium bug was presenting. Now we face a set of complex and interrelated challenges unprecedented in human history, and all exaggerated by the global and borderless nature of the technology that is woven so deeply into our everyday lives.
There are many themes relating to security and it would take far more time than I have today to describe even just what has happened in recent history. Look at what we have faced in the last few months: NHS data breaches; WannaCry ransom attacks; ATMs hijacked; fake news; Jihadi content on YouTube. Now let us think for a moment of a potential future: more use of big data; autonomous vehicles hitting our roads; the internet of things being implemented all over the place; and more and more machine learning, underpinning all our systems.
I want to tick off three areas: first, the role of the large tech platforms; secondly, the levels of digital understanding in Parliament; and thirdly, the wider digital security of our citizens. First, on the large technology businesses—the so-called platform businesses —I am the last person to rush to the defence of the monopolies that dominate our consumer internet. Indeed, it is one of the greatest surprises of my life that more of the original promise of the web, to redistribute and enable many more voices to be heard, has not been fulfilled. Five large companies dominate our online world and they have unimaginable power: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.
However, I find the lack of sophisticated debate about the internet and security in the media—and, in parallel, the knee-jerk reaction by parliamentarians—extremely serious. Too often, all the internet is lumped together and blamed for an attack in the real world. It has recently been felt that, as long as we turned the internet off, we would all be safe. This weekend, I was lucky enough to hear John Kerry give a masterful Ditchley lecture in which he highlighted this point, calling for elected representatives to be honest with us all about the real causes of extremism—and he specifically talked about social media. He reminded the audience that the young people demonstrating in Tahrir Square during the Arab spring organised themselves using Twitter, and they were not terrorists. They needed the anonymity of social media to stay safe. As Professor Peter Neumann and Dr Shiraz Maher have written earlier this year, big social media platforms have cracked down on jihadist accounts, with the result that most jihadists are now using end-to-end encrypted messenger platforms, such as Telegram. This has not solved the problem, it has just made it different. Moreover, few people are radicalised exclusively online; blaming social media platforms is politically convenient and intellectually lazy.
As we have heard, some of the big tech businesses have now come together to form the global internet forum to continue to fight extremism. They will work on four strands. First, there will be sharing and developing new software to detect terror-related content. I must spend a moment explaining that this is harder than many realise. To use Twitter, an example that I know well, if we run an algorithm that we believe has 90% accuracy in finding inappropriate content, we might wrongly remove 50 million tweets—at 90% accuracy. Secondly, they will research bringing academics, industry and government together to share intelligence on the nature and scale of problems. There will be knowledge-sharing with smaller companies, as many tech companies find themselves suddenly with huge user bases and without the infrastructure to deal with those new legal and policy issues. This group will share best practice and help them to set up internal systems. Lastly, it will focus on counter-speech, boosting efforts by working in communities.
The noble Lord, Lord King, talked of the German Government’s recent decision to impose massive fines on these businesses. Although I believe that that might be the wrong solution and hard to implement, it is imperative that Governments hold those companies’ feet to the fire and make no apologies for them. They have been too slow to realise the gravity of the content created on their watch. Nevertheless, we cannot undermine a free and secure internet for political expediency, or allow the systems underpinning our daily lives to be weakened. It was refreshing to hear Robert Hannigan, the ex-head of GCHQ, speak so eloquently just this morning on Radio 4 about why the idea of a so-called “back door” into encryption is flawed and shows the gap between the reality of this dangerous activity online and perception.
That brings me to my second point. How will we ensure that we make the right decisions if our parliamentarians do not have the experience from which to understand these issues? I find it hard, and I have devoted my life to the technology sector. I believe that the gap between innovations driving the pace of change in citizens’ lives and the ability of policymakers to keep up is one of the most pressing questions that we face. Do we need new global institutions? Do we need more-focused parliamentary education programmes? As a local example, Doteveryone, the charity that I started, runs an MP mentoring programme; a small cohort of MPs were matched with digital mentors to help to increase their knowledge. It was a huge success. Corporate boards now have digital security in all its forms as a top priority. Compared to a few years ago, it would be as unacceptable if a CEO claimed that she did not understand its seriousness as it would be if she said that she did not understand the balance sheet. This has to be true in the public sector, too. Every new Minister should have the tools to ask the right questions when they start a new brief or run a new department; only then will we avoid such a situation as the mammoth failure to upgrade departmental software witnessed in the NHS.
Finally, I was very struck by research that I read about at the weekend, undertaken by Haifa University. Do random cyberattacks increase feelings of anxiety and panic? It is surprising to me that that was the first such study of the wider impact of cyberattacks; it is unsurprising that the results overwhelmingly showed that when an attack happens cortisol levels are raised and people immediately feel more anxious. Perhaps most interestingly, those feelings then led to a formation of more-militant political beliefs.
I end with that, as we are only at the beginning of understanding how these cyberthreats will affect us all. Noble Lords will have heard me talk before about the urgent need to increase skills in citizens who do not understand technology, but that is not enough. We must be relentless in encouraging digital understanding at all levels, for everyone. Only then will we be able to talk honestly about the threats that we face and make the right decisions, both individually and nationally, to keep us safe. I fervently believe in the power of an open internet to help in this endeavour. We cannot allow an already fearful public to become more fearful of technology. I urge the Minister to do what she can to tone down the alarmist rhetoric that comes from many parts of government and the media so that we can engage in a well-informed debate.
My Lords, this has been a well-informed—one might even say learned—debate, and I hope that I do not bring the tone down too far. It is obviously a huge topic, so I am going to pick a few issues where I feel the Government have got it extremely badly wrong. I would have added digital issues as well if I knew more about them, but as it is I have four.
The first issue is Prevent. No one would disagree that prevention is better than cure, but at the same time you have to make sure that what you put in place actually functions. I argue that Prevent does not: it has far too many failings. It has targeted too many innocent people, including children. At this stage, it does not have the respect of the communities that it is meant to be engaging with and has become counterproductive. Part of the problem is that it is vague and prone to misapplication, particularly because its definition of extremism is so broad. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, QC, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, has described the definition as “hopeless”. Despite a declared intention to introduce a counterextremism Bill, there is not yet a statutory definition of extremism. The only working definition of it is the Prevent one:
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”.
That is just too broad and encompasses far too many people.
The NGO Liberty has done a very good briefing on Prevent, which I can pass on to noble Lords. Its three recommendations are: repeal the statutory duty, which has absolutely failed and brought Prevent into disrepute; drop the focus on non-violent extremism; and establish an independent review of Prevent. We have had something close to this from the Prime Minister, but we really do need to move on with it. We need a community-led, collaborative approach to tackling extremism. The vast majority of people want to help to defeat terrorism, and we tend to ignore them. What the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, called a “culture of resistance” is exactly what we need. We need to engage with people and get them to trust us.
My second issue is the Government’s declared intention to establish a commission for countering extremism. We still do not know much about this commission, but we understand it will be statutory and called “the Commission for Countering Extremism”. Apparently it will,
“identify examples of extremism and expose them”.
It also includes proposals to regulate online spaces with a digital charter. We already have laws that fulfil these needs; we do not need any more. We need to use the laws we have and resource them properly. Part of the problem is that the agencies responsible just do not have the resources to do the job. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill QC, has said that we do not need new laws to tackle the current terrorist threat. Despite this, the Government are still going to try to legislate and not even just for terrorism, but for what they call “non-violent extremism”. What does that mean? Is it ideas that are difficult, unpleasant or offensive or just ideas that the Government disagree with? The simple fact is that it is impossible to agree a definition of what constitutes an extremist. We all have very different ideas—personally, I would argue that the DUP is an extremist organisation. It is quite dangerous to set up a commission responsible for defining, identifying and exposing people whom it thinks are extreme. As I have said in your Lordships’ House before, I am concerned that we will create our own distinctively British brand of McCarthyism.
I also have concerns about press freedom. It is surely a fundamental British value that our press is free and reports on all our strange ways, whether we are politicians or members of the public. I also have concerns that people will be seen as criminals through thought crime. They will not actually commit a crime; they will just be thinking about it. However, that does not make them criminals.
I am also curious to know whether we will have our own equivalent of the European Court of Justice. I think I saw something today about our having an interim relationship with it. I would like to know more about that, if possible. Where will people take their cases when they feel that the Government have been intrusive or that they have been overpoliced? Where does the DUP sit in deciding all these things? How much of a voice does it have? I would like some answers to those points. At the moment, there are more questions than answers, so anything that we can be told would be great.
My third issue concerns policing. Given the more than decade and a half during which I was a severe critic of the Met, when I sat on its police authority and then on a policing committee, I did not think that I would defend it quite so fiercely today. It has experienced massive budget cuts, which were far too fast and far too hard, which meant that no rational decisions could be made. The Met had to cut many millions of pounds every year. Personally, I think that has created a Met police force which perhaps is no longer quite fit for purpose. Although one might argue that its budget is not changing, if the budget is static while costs are rising, the force is much worse off.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said recently that the Met already has a budget shortfall of £170 million for national counterterrorism work. That is work over and above its responsibility as a police force for the capital. That money is normally expected to come from the Government, so will the Government please pay that back to the Met? I would like to know that. Personally, I think that the Government should, of course, pay that, but somehow the magic money tree cannot be found when it is a question of Londoners’ safety. I find that quite offensive. If we are to forge better relations with communities so that we can have vital intelligence on all kinds of crime, including terrorism, many more community police officers are needed. That means understanding how we can prevent attacks on our freedoms. It is what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, called neighbourhood policing. There just is not enough of it anymore, which means that communities do not have an easy way to express their fears and concerns if they think they are a little too mild to report officially.
My last issue concerns Saudi Arabia. As a politician, I understand that we sometimes have to work with some very unpleasant people and we have to sit down with them and negotiate with them. We might loathe them, but we have to keep a dialogue going. However, we do not have to sell them arms. Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship. It is one of the world’s worst Governments in terms of human rights abuses. We should not be selling it arms. Today the High Court ruled that the case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade was not valid and that it was perfectly legal for the Government to sell Saudi Arabia arms. I would argue that, if it is legal, the law needs to be changed. We also all know that “legal” does not mean ethical— tax avoidance springs to mind, for example, in this context.
The Labour leader has said:
“If Theresa May is serious about cutting off financial and ideological support for terrorism, she should publish the suppressed report on foreign funding of UK-based extremism and have difficult conversations with Saudi Arabia, not hug Saudi and allied Gulf states even closer”.
It is very embarrassing that we are selling arms to a country that is responsible for human rights abuses in its neighbour Yemen. It is bombing hospitals, schools and wedding parties. How do we square with our conscience the fact that our arms are being used in that way? I would like to know a little more about publishing that report. We heard a little about that earlier, but I would like to know more about publishing it. Is it true that the Saudi royal family is involved in some way in the foreign funding of extremist terrorist groups here, because that is what people appear to be saying? It would be good to know that. If it does involve Saudi financing of groups here in the UK, that is absolutely unforgivable, and the Government need to do something about it.
Does the Minister truly believe that we need more laws to fight terrorism, or does she accept that we have enough laws and we just have to apply them properly? We already have a lot of intrusion into our private lives, and we have a significant amount of repression of people who think a bit differently. I find that unacceptable. Theresa May herself said something about celebrating the diversity of Britain, but everything the Government are doing seems to be closing down that option.
Finally, to echo the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, how far are we prepared to go in reducing our own freedoms as a response to people who are trying to take them away? It seems to be the exact opposite of what we should be doing—we should be celebrating our freedom and allowing more of it rather than closing it down.
My Lords, I will focus on one aspect of what is a very timely, important and thoughtful debate. We are, rightly, discussing the security situation in the United Kingdom; my key point is that we cannot assure that security by action in the UK alone.
Almost all the recent terrorist attacks in this country and in other parts of Europe have involved people who either travelled abroad to be radicalised or who have been inspired by foreign-based terrorist groups. Take, for example, the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi. He seems to have been radicalised during a series of trips to Libya, and—according to the French Interior Minister—also travelled to Syria. One of the London Bridge attackers, Rachid Redouane, had also spent time in Libya before he travelled to Ireland and then to the UK. Another of that group, Youssef Zaghba, had made several efforts while he lived in Italy to get to Syria; he had been stopped, and that information had been put on the EU database. This fits with the pattern we have seen in other attacks in Europe. Most of the terrorists involved have travelled between EU countries and have crossed the EU external border to go to countries like Syria, Iraq or Libya.
When I was ambassador to France, I lived through the awful, large-scale attacks in Paris on the Stade de France, the Bataclan and other places. Most of those attackers had been radicalised in Syria. The attacks were planned in Raqqa, mounted in Molenbeek, in the suburbs of Brussels—which is, I think, where the guns came from—and were carried out in the streets of Paris with almost no warning. This, therefore, is the reality we face—it is trans-border terrorism.
Clearly, getting at the heart of the terrorist threat by tackling the ISIS group is essential. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King, that the fall of Mosul must be a good thing as regards closing down the capacity of ISIS to operate, and if Raqqa falls shortly, as looks likely, that will be good as well. However, security experts have warned us that in the short term this will lead to brutalised and radicalised European citizens who are currently in the region coming back home. The EU terrorism expert said recently that he thought there were probably 2,000 European citizens still in the region, and Sir Julian King, our EU Counterterrorism Commissioner, said in London recently—the noble Baroness also used this figure in her opening speech—that roughly 850 British citizens have travelled to that region, of which he thought that a quarter or so remain there. Whatever the numbers, we face the prospect, as the bastions of ISIS fall, of quite a large number of people flowing back to this country and to other countries in Europe, and then to countries in north Africa.
I welcome the fact, which has been confirmed this afternoon, that the Prime Minister raised this issue of co-ordination with other partners at the G20 summit, but the fact remains that this risks being another major burden on the security authorities, which are already hard pressed. This is surely a moment for maximum co-operation among our EU partners. I welcome what the Minister said in her opening statement about the priority that we give to EU co-operation on terrorism, but I looked in vain for that to be among what the Government now seem to have agreed as the priority issues for negotiation in Brussels. As noble Lords know, those three issues are: first, EU citizens, which is a very good point to raise; secondly, the Irish border; and, thirdly, the money in the financial settlement. I am sure that, as my noble friend Lady Manningham-Buller said, the closest exchange of information and intelligence will go on between our security and intelligence agencies, but it seems to me crucial that we maintain the UK’s institutional participation in the EU’s existing mechanisms—for example, the Schengen Information System, the databases of fingerprints and DNA, and the European arrest warrant. When I was ambassador, I saw that in action, with potential terrorists and criminals wanted for prosecution here being brought back to this country.
Our security agencies and our police force are doing an extraordinary job. I had the privilege of working very closely with our intelligence community when I was the National Security Adviser. However, they cannot keep the country safe without the most effective possible international networks. Frankly, I am surprised to find that the Brexit negotiations do not seem to be giving priority to the continuation of co-operation on terrorism and security with our EU partners. At a time when the threat from returning fighters looks like growing, that surely risks leaving a serious gap in our defences.
My Lords, I start by making a small procedural point. It is awfully important that Ministers try to answer debates in your Lordships’ House, and that is why I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Williams will be answering this one. We want to hear her views; we do not just want to hear the standard opinion of Home Office officials, who all too often regard any outside view as a rather impertinent interference and reflection on the competence with which they deal with their mandate. One of the best Ministers whom I have known in the 25 years that I have been in this House was the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. He took charge of and sorted out, rather than defended, the Defra administrative shambles over the payment of Brussels money to British farmers. However, speaking as a farmer, I suggest that national security is perhaps rather more important than that.
When, on 27 June, we debated Home Office affairs in the Queen’s Speech debate, I raised a number of points. Understandably the Minister could not answer them because, first, it was a different Minister and, secondly, there had been about 50 speakers with five minutes each. Last week I rang up the department of my noble friend Lady Williams to ask whether there was any intention of giving me any sort of answer in writing—the Minister answering the other debate had said that he would—and I was told that I would get an email to tell me whether the Minister would be commenting or answering, but so far there has been radio silence. Therefore, I do not apologise to the Minister for again referring to some of the points that I made on that occasion.
I suggest that the greatest threat to our security in the UK comes from political Islam and, in particular, from its military wing, Islamic State or ISIS. It has dwarfed most of the earlier jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and so on, and has sought to embrace them. Since IS announced its arrival three years ago with the aim of creating a worldwide caliphate, we have seen enough of its brutal methods to be able to classify it as a fundamentally fascist movement clad in the cloak of Islam. Until religious Islam strips away that cloak, exposing and denouncing ISIS, or Daesh, as the contemptible terrorist outfit that most Arabs in the Middle East as well as the Iranians, Turks and many others regard it, we in the UK will be limited as to what we can do to protect ourselves from its influence and activities.
IS also has a political cover. In this, it is remarkably similar to Soviet Bolshevism. It is not communism that is being sought but Islamist theocracy administering sharia law, which is every bit as threatening as the now discarded belief of communism once was.
Along with the threat from political Islam is the huge challenge that, very largely, it has spawned: the mass migration of people. I remind your Lordships of the figures from the UNHCR. Worldwide, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2016. Of these, 22.5 million were seeking safety across national borders as refugees, which is the highest number since the UNHCR was founded in 1950 to deal with the tragic legacy of World War II. The biggest number of refugees is 5.5 million from Syria, followed by 3.3 million from South Sudan. At the end of last year, 2.8 million people were still seeking asylum. By far the largest number—over 80% of refugees—were in developing or middle-income countries, with some of the poorest countries hosting huge numbers: Turkey, 2.9 million; Pakistan, 1.3 million; and little Lebanon, 1.1 million, which is almost 20% of its population. Yet Saudi Arabia, which is about 200 times larger in scale and with three times the national income per head than Lebanon, has virtually none.
This migration is not a European challenge; it is a global challenge. That explains why the EU has been so ineffective at meeting it. Although being in the Schengen area has its advantages, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, referred to, as the UK is outside this area we are, to some extent, shielded from the insensitive fumbling of the EU Commission, with its national quotas for refugees which have been largely ignored by the Schengen states.
Meanwhile, we should have the greatest sympathy for countries that have had their capacity to receive people overwhelmed by the numbers. I am thinking in particular of Italy and Greece, two of the most generous-hearted countries in Europe. Already, Italy has received more than 200,000 refugees—some 90% of them are still in emergency accommodation. By June this year, more than 60,000 had crossed the sea from Tripoli to Italy, which is a 25% increase on the same period last year. Tragically, more than 1,600 refugees have lost their lives in the crossing this year. Stranded on the tiny Greek islands are 14,000 refugees, sometimes in very poor conditions. Not surprisingly, there is growing resentment at the well-meaning but misguided rescue operations of various NGOs, which have in practice offered a ferry service and filled the pockets of the people traffickers who dispatch their victims in fragile coracles to Italy and Greece. The answer of course is that all these unfortunate victims must be rescued when in peril on the sea, but they should be returned to where they originally took passage. Some noble Lords may be aware that I have four times proposed in this House—on 9 July 2015, 23 May, 16 June and 29 October 2016—a detailed scheme for that to happen under UN auspices. Obviously, I will not repeat it again except to say that several countries are now taking an interest, but so far, sadly, HMG are not.
I now move on to some of my specific suggestions for mitigating the threat to our security today. My first point is that HMG should always make an independent proportionality assessment of the greater national good when there is a clash between the interests of national security with civil or human rights. We cannot afford the cost or risk of some of the cases in recent years where courts have had to take a precise and limited view on rights with little regard to security. We simply cannot allow another Abu Hamza, who was briefly detained in Britain in 2004 and then it took 10 years until he was sent to the United States in 2014 and sent to prison for life in January 2015.
To follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, said, I believe that British jihadists who have travelled to take part in IS operations anywhere in the world should not be allowed back into this country whether they are British citizens or not—by naturalisation or birth. Their passports should be cancelled and their citizenship revoked. They have made their choice and if they have not died from it, they should live with it. We cannot afford to take the risk and pay the price of doing otherwise.
We also need greatly to tighten our borders. That must mean that the Passport Office should know much more about what passports other than British passports people hold. I remember pointing that out to Cressida Dick about three years ago when she was still involved in anti-terrorism in the Met. She expressed astonishment that the Passport Office did not have a record of other passports that British passport holders held. The Passport Office should also temporarily invalidate British passports held by anybody who is in prison or on bail. One of the London Bridge attackers was apparently on bail. That would mean automatic notification of instances such as that by the courts to the passport authorities. There must also be automatic electronic cancellation of passports when death is notified to the registrar. At the moment, the trouble is that a lot of passports belonging to dead people drift around and are used by living people.
It is most important that there is an automatic recording of people when they leave the country, which should be kept for at least five years, as well as of people arriving. It is absurd at present that the Home Office says, “We record departure only when it is intelligence-led”. That has not worked and it is not enough. We do not necessarily need national identity cards—I have never been keen on the cards—but we need a national identity number. We have a multiplicity of numbers, but we should all have one number that identifies a person with biometrics. Those should not be on the card, because that is quite dangerous—clever terrorists can fake cards and put biometrics on to them to say, “I am who I say I am”, but there should be a central register of the biometrics. The key thing is the number. We really must reconsider that. We also need new standards of positive vetting, as we used to have in the Cold War days, to make sure that terrorists—it has been said that there are many in the UK—cannot get into sensitive positions.
Finally, the Government really have to review the status and the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain. Its links with jihad are not unlike those that Sinn Fein once had with the IRA in Ireland; it is a rather similar outfit. The MB was declared a threat to national security three years ago by Sir John Jenkins, then the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, when he was asked to report on the organisation by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister. As noble Lords probably know, it is partly the problem of the Muslim Brotherhood which is causing the Qatar-Saudi conflict because the Saudis are Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood is an alternative source of information and competition. Sadly, they are both guilty of having funded a great deal of terrorism.
Further on the Muslim Brotherhood, let us not forget that the organisation started in Egypt in 1928. Its members killed an Egyptian Prime Minister in 1949 and then killed President Sadat in 1981 because he was a peacemaker. President al-Sisi of Egypt is fighting very hard to prevent the formation of another Muslim Brotherhood Government because, frankly, the ultimate thing about all this sort of terrorism is to separate religion from the state. We cannot have the politicisation of religion in order to secure monopoly power in any country.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord because we entered this House together some 26 years ago. I shall touch in my speech on some of the things he has said. I should start by saying that I have absolutely no practical knowledge of anything that anyone can think of, but I am a social scientist. In the wake of 7/7 I wrote a book about terrorism called Rethinking Islamism and I shall draw upon it in my contribution.
The central question that we have to ask, because it is one that goes on reverberating, is this. What is it that makes people who are born and bred in Britain become jihadists? The definition of extremism is where someone does not agree with fundamental British values. We have to remember two things. The first is that the way we see our history is not the way the world sees our history. The world has a different perspective on British history from us. I have had the good fortune to come from a former colony and to have settled here for many years, so I know both sides of the reading of history.
How many of us know that two years from now will be the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh? I would bet that very few people here know what Jallianwala Bagh is, but it means a lot in India. Unarmed people were fired on with machine guns by soldiers led by a British Army officer. That does not matter to us, but you could easily turn—I am deliberately using a non-Muslim example here—a Hindu boy, born and bred in this country, into a sort of terrorist by telling him, “The time has come to wreak revenge for this enmity of 100 years ago”. That is exactly what is going on in Islamism.
In his speech the noble Lord, Lord King, contrasted the Irish question with current terrorism. He said that in the Irish question we knew the nationalists and the unionists, and that religion was never the issue: it was about politics and history. The Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley was a scholar who wrote many books about theology. We did not worry about any of his books; we worried about the fact that he was a politician. Difficult though it is, we need to forget that it is a religious problem.
The problem is that the way Muslims see the history of the last 100 years is very different from the way we read it. The other day in our Chamber we debated the Balfour Declaration. Be prepared for a huge terrorist attack on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, because it is not thought to be as good a thing by most of the Muslim population as it is by most of us. We have to face these things.
One hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire was breaking up and we had the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire even before it was defeated. Places such as Syria and Iraq and various countries were created. Later on they were assigned after the war to either Britain or France. We have forgotten that history, but they remember it. They have not been reconciled with what happened to the Ottoman Empire at the hands of the British and the French. I have read a lot about this.
As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, pointed out, Islamism and terrorism are not new. A lot of Islamism was a war within Islamic countries, one faction against another, but then it became globalised and turned against us. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, America subsidised the Taliban, which later became al-Qaeda. They defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan by making them religious fanatics and telling them, “This is your jihad. Throw out the Soviets from Afghanistan”. That al-Qaeda may now have become ISIS.
ISIS may have disappeared, but it will become something else because the central complaint and grievance of the Muslim population of the Middle East has not been solved—I do not think it can be. The fact that one of the longest-lasting empires disappeared—an empire that lasted 700 years and which took its origin directly from the Prophet—means that the caliphate disappeared. That is why when ISIS was set up the dream was to have a caliphate again. Of course, now the caliphate is gone. It is very hard for us to understand why this caliphate is so important, but it would be like having the Catholic Church without the Pope. In that situation, there would be Catholics who would want to have a Pope back. That is why there is a big desire in the Muslim world to have a caliphate back.
This is a complex story through which many boys and girls are being converted. Yes, they are old stories; maybe they are wrongly read and maybe they are a wrong reading of history, but read what Osama bin Laden wrote. If you do not want to read his original, read my account of what he wrote in my book. Systematically, the idea is that this is a war that has been going on since the Crusades. The last phase was in the early 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire was broken up, and this is where we are now.
The borders of Syria and Iraq are all completely imagined. These lines were drawn on a map in the Foreign Office and later implemented. These injustices of history we of course cannot now correct, but I urge that whoever is working on Prevent should know something about this history. We need to know our history as other people see us, because if we do not see it that way we will never understand why they go against us. They do so because they no longer believe our pretensions that we were just, liberal and kind, and that we helped them come out of savagery or whatever it is. It is not even about Wahhabism, because that is a war of Muslims against other Muslims. It is the idea that there was this ugly battle at the end of which the Muslims lost decisively when the Ottoman Empire disappeared, and they want to resume the battle.
We have to treat this terrorism as a more or less long-run fact; it will not go away. We have not even begun to understand where these things come from. They are certainly are not going to go away. We should be able to educate ourselves a bit better and understand what drives the other side. If we understand that, we will be able to be more self-critical and not just assume that such attacks are unjustified. That is not the way that other people read this history.
In the past few months, at least since Donald Trump was elected, people have been worried about the future of the liberal order and about its collapse and so on, but those who have praised the liberal order have been very uncritical as to why it is so good. It does not seem so good to the rest of the world. It may seem very good to the north Atlantic region, but the rest of the world does not think that it is great. We have to be more self-critical; at least, we have be more self-educated, so as to understand what drives our children, born and bred here, to accept this other version of history.
That is all I can say; I do not really think that much more than that will be useful. A knowledge of the history of the past 100 years, especially that of Islamism—
In analysing the history of the events we are facing at the moment, the noble Lord seems to pay no attention to the involvement of the Sunni-Shia conflict. Following the invasion of Iraq and the deposition of Saddam Hussein, the Shia took their opportunity to settle a lot of old scores. There seems to be considerable evidence that the origins of ISIS were the remains of Saddam’s Sunni army. That showed when they managed to acquire a lot of the Iraqi army’s American-gifted equipment, and had the skill to operate it extremely efficiently. ISIS started not in an attack against the United Kingdom or the United States, but in a determination to take over Iraq and as much of Syria as they could and to establish a Sunni supremacy. Is that not an analysis of the history which is well worth remembering?
I thank the noble Lord for that. I had not even come to the 21st century, but I quite agree. It is true is that there are battles within Islam, between Sunni and Shia, that have been going on for quite a while, and that is part of the Qatar-Saudi Arabia battle right now. The noble Lord is also quite right about the way ISIS was set up. However, the story starts much before ISIS. It starts with the Muslim Brotherhood and afterwards with what happened to clean out the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, as the noble Lord no doubt knows, where jihadists were created and financed by us to remove the Soviets—they were given lots of drugs, arms and so on. Through that came Osama bin Laden. These attacks have been going on since the early 1990s—let us remember the first frustrated attack on the World Trade Center, then on the USS “Cole” and then on the American embassy in Kenya. They were even before we got to 9/11. I agree with the Sunni-Shia commentary, but we need to make ourselves aware of this complex history. At least, those fighting radicalisation should be aware of the broad perspective that the young, radicalised man or woman has when they want to go off and throw a bomb at us.
My Lords, this debate invites us to take note of the current security situation in the UK. I wish to focus my remarks this evening primarily on that situation in London. However, we all know that terror can come in different forms, in different times and in different places. Innocuous white vans are driven as weapons of murder into crowds on pavements, young people out for the evening, tourists staring at Big Ben. The weapons can be knives. They have been described in this debate as low-tech: cutlery bought to slash and stab innocent and defenceless people. The weapons can be suicide bombs, carried inconspicuously and devised, as in Manchester, to tear people apart with homemade shrapnel. Terrorism is what we face anywhere, everywhere and at any time. Doubtless, those so motivated that they have no doubt are working now on the mechanics needed for atrocities to come.
Of course, we recognise and respect the expertise and the courage of those who seek to protect us. Much tribute has been paid in this debate to the police, the security services and those charged with surveillance, struggling to pin down suspects about to cross the line from murder imagined to murder realised. As the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made clear in this debate, they face an awesome task. Yet there are patterns of predictability and one of these is the magnetic attraction of London to those intent on attacking symbols of our standing in the world, our way of life, our freedom from fear, our tolerance. They wish to kill to change us, to replace security with insecurity, to make us unsafe where all seems familiar and normal. And there are noticeable effects, more noticeable by the day. On stations and trains, announcements urge us to contact the authorities if we see anything suspicious or anyone acting suspiciously. On the underground we observe fellow passengers carefully and, indeed, their luggage—I certainly do. On our crowded streets, we notice individuals, not just generic groups of schoolchildren, tourists or people queuing to board trains or go to the theatre. Such individual surveillance, one of another, can be helpful and we are urged to do it, but it is not natural. We have to recognise that while people in dictatorships are always wary of each other, in a free country that is not our way, but this is an erosion, a process that is taking place.
As I said, there are patterns of predictability and we should seek to address these, so I shall turn specifically to London. I have been, for better or worse, commuting into and out of London for more than 50 years; by car, by taxi, by train and underground; as a journalist, as somebody in politics, as a businessman. I still feel, as I am sure many of us do, that it is a privilege and an excitement to come into this most populous, diverse and brilliant capital, but in recent years a strange strangulation of London has occurred and continues to do so. The roads grow narrower. Bicycle lanes, idealistically planned, now choke the roads. The crowds thicken. New and restored buildings spill out into the streets. Crowds are a magnet for terrorism. Today London makes itself vulnerable. Our arteries, if you like, have thickened. Our infrastructure is inadequate.
Last week, as an example that I personally experienced, the heat closed Paddington and reduced Waterloo to frustrating chaos, with hundreds of people crammed into carriages where the windows were sealed and the air conditioning did not work because it was hot. The temperatures were impossible and even English composure broke down. We take in silence what might make others scream. In such an environment—predictable and recurring—individuals with murder in mind could too easily grasp an opportunity or plan for it.
In this somewhat combustible environment in London, we are now told of further cuts to neighbourhood policing teams. These cuts will—must—debilitate the capital’s safer neighbourhood teams, so well described as the Met’s eyes and ears on the ground. Will the Minister consider what can be done to reverse such a policy now as a matter of urgency?
I fear that iconic London makes itself more vulnerable as people are constantly distracted by noise and muddle and the everyday battle to get from one place to the next. The drivers of black cabs are also the eyes and ears we need. Now, despite their knowledge, they struggle with ever changing constructions, constrictions and diversions. Transport for London also has a responsibility for the security situation of Londoners. We all share responsibility. The blackened ruin of Grenfell Tower by the Westway is not only testimony to the irresponsibility of the council but witness to the false assumption that cheap solutions will do.
The challenge of terrorism in the United Kingdom and in its capital will, as we all recognise, last for many years, and it may get worse. The forbearance, kindness and patience of Londoners are precious assets not to be squandered. We can all unite around the determination not to be deterred, to continue to practise a way of life envied for its freedom, but we must not allow inadequate funding of our public services, inadequate standards of protection in the use of our roads, inadequate funding for our transport infrastructure—inadequate carefulness—to jeopardise the way of life we seek to protect.
I declare an interest: the new police video released today was made by my company. It urges Britons to be alert this summer when on holiday. But the truth is that Londoners need to be alert every day and every night for as long as we can foresee, and on their behalf we, too, must become much more alert than ever before.
My Lords, in rising to make a modest contribution to this important debate, I venture to start with the oft-repeated assertion that the first duty of any Government, regardless of their political persuasion, is to secure the safety of the realm and its citizens. Of course, an essential contribution to that vital duty is the support and funding of an efficient and functioning police force.
In the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, following no less than four terrorist incidents in recent weeks, it is right that we keep a clear mind on these matters and stand ready to increase the size of our police forces if that is thought to be necessary, or at least to ensure that they are not further reduced. As is, of course, well known, there have been some reductions in recent times brought about by budgetary constraints but I suggest that the various threats which we now face argue against further reductions for the foreseeable future. Effective policing is manpower-intensive. These further reductions from today’s levels ought to be resisted.
On 22 June last, shortly after Parliament resumed following the general election, I tabled a Question for Written Answer concerning the funds available to the Metropolitan Police for anti-terrorism operations and asked whether any additional funds are required. My noble friend Lady Williams replied to the effect that much of that information cannot be released, which of course I understand and accept, but she helpfully included in that Answer a reference to cross-government spending on anti-terrorism; in particular, she referred to a 30% increase from £11.7 billion to £15.1 billion. I would be grateful if when she comes to reply she can give me a little more information about this expenditure—for example, over what period is this increase allocated and is it a direct response to recent outrages or have these figures been in the budget for some time now?
It is, we are told, the case that the firm cap on police salaries is encouraging early retirement and discouraging effective recruitment. I hope that will be taken into account in whatever is decided with regard to public sector salaries generally. I put it to your Lordships that in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, exemplified by the Westminster Bridge outrage during which Police Constable Palmer gave his life, special considerations should apply.
A few weeks ago there was a press report to the effect that the assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police responsible for counterterrorism, both in London and elsewhere, I understand, had written personally to the Home Secretary, presumably on the matters upon which I have touched. When she replies can my noble friend say whether that was indeed the case and, if so, whether my right honourable friend the Home Secretary or one of her Ministers intends to reply?
I end with similar thoughts to the ones I ventured to express to your Lordships in my opening remarks. It is the duty of every Government, regardless of their political persuasion, to make proper provision on the safety and security of the realm. In the light of recent events, I urge my noble friends to keep their compliance with this essential requirement under continuous and careful review. I look forward to my noble friend’s reply.
My Lords, I hope I will be forgiven if I start by saying that the concept of security can be very subjective. I think that if you talk today to thousands of people in Britain living in multi-storey blocks, their primary concern about security is about whether they are going to live securely and stably in their homes. I do not think it takes very much imagination to begin to draw lines between that reality, all that lies behind it and the issues which have preoccupied us in this debate.
I am one of those who believe absolutely fundamentally that ultimately the battle against terrorism is a battle for hearts and minds. In the context of this debate, we have had some very significant contributions from very experienced people which have strengthened my conviction. I was greatly heartened when the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made the point that we have to look at the context and see the interrelationships and cannot look at the subject on too narrow a front. To hear her say that was indeed powerful.
In the same way, I thought my noble friend Lord Harris was making much the same point when he said that, in the end, there can be no absolute security and we should not pander to false illusions that there can be. What matters is society making rational choices about how it is going to allocate its resources: how much should go into building a society worth living in and how much should go into policing that society. That argument will never go away. It is a very real argument and has effects on people.
I have observed in my own life that terrorism thrives when there is a climate of ambivalence around, and of alienation and disaffection. Substantial numbers of people are not leaping out of their beds every morning and saying “These horrible things, how can they happen, how can we get these people and obliterate them?”. Many of them are saying, “How absolutely horrible these things are, and we would not be able to participate in anything like that ourselves, but perhaps, just perhaps, these people are on our side”. We have to face up to that. There is therefore a social dimension to terrorism and how we tackle it. There needs to be very intensive concentration on the provision of social infrastructure, particularly where communities find themselves in the midst of a large and growing number of people from completely different backgrounds. There must be good schools, good hospitals and good policing.
Several noble Lords have stressed in the debate today the importance of community policing, which is music to my ears, because I just do not understand how we can seriously take a stand against terrorism if we are not giving priority to community policing. It is not just about policemen going into the community to be the eyes and ears of the state in that community; it is about policemen building relationships with that community in which they actually enlist the community and create a shared sense of responsibility for ensuring the security that is necessary.
But we also have to be very clear about counterproductivity. I sometimes think that my biggest concern about the fight against terrorism is the danger of counterproductivity. Whatever the nature of terrorism and whatever its motivation, it is determined to reveal our society as hypocritical and ill founded, and our institutions as not worth having. We have to be very careful that we do not play into that sinister and manipulative argument. That is why, however tough the challenges and however real the immediate pressure on people in the front line, we have to maintain the highest standards of human rights and to ensure that our system of justice remains as transparent as it can possibly be. Of course I am a realist and realise that some of that justice cannot be transparent in a fight against terrorism, but we have to make sure that “because it cannot always be” does not become a convenient way of beginning to say more and more that the justice system is not going to be transparent. It needs to be transparent, and people need to have confidence in the system of justice. All these things matter tremendously, and I thought the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford made a very wise and thoughtful intervention about how we will win the battles in the fight against terrorism.
There is also an international dimension. I cannot accept that what we are doing in foreign policy has no implications for stability here. I was talking about alienation and disaffection. If we parade the significant part that we played in bringing about the arms trade treaty and claim credit for it but then refuse to stand up to the Saudi Arabians for what they are doing in Yemen, that has a direct relationship with the growth of alienation and dissolution, which becomes prey to manipulation by terrorist recruiters.
We have to be consistent, transparent and convincing in our foreign policy. Even journalists are now picking up the reality that, whatever may be said about victory in Mosul, this is about distorted minds: it is not just a physical defeat in battle. The terrorists will melt away and reassemble in other situations. Until we diminish the conceptions in the mind, we will always be on the defensive.
I applaud the police, the fire services—my God, I applaud the intelligence services—and all those involved, the medical and ambulance services and the rest, but this can become a sentimental rant. If we really value these people, how are we demonstrating that? How are we giving them pride of place in our society? We have been incredibly well blessed by the loyalty and devotion of our public services in a situation that has become intolerable given the great success, triumph and esteem of those who make money over those who serve the community.
All these things have to be brought together. There is no simple approach in which we can take one segment on its own and stand it up: they all interrelate.
I am most concerned that in all this we understand that, whether we like it or not, we are born into an international, interdependent community. There is no way that we can have an intelligence stand against extremism and terrorism on a national basis. Any effective stand must be made with others; we have to work with others. I have had the privilege of listening on Select Committees to people working in the area of policing and other spheres on an international basis. Let us call a spade a spade. I am not trying to refight the referendum—I am one of those who, however desperately unhappy, accepts the result of the referendum. If you have a referendum, you must accept the result. But virtually every person whom I heard who operates in this sphere talking to us on Select Committees said that of course pulling out of Europe is potentially a weakening of our security and police arrangements, because crime, drugs and trafficking—certainly terrorism—are all international issues.
Some people would argue that we have to keep a sense of proportion about this: we are particularly good at our policing and intelligence; will we not be weakening our position if we get ourselves bogged down with too many people internationally? The wiser people—my impression was that they were wiser; that was probably because I agreed with them—were saying no, you are only as strong as the weakest link. If you are to have an effective operation, where there is weakness, where things are not up to scratch, you need to be working at improving the situation internationally, not running away from it.
There is a huge and incredibly complex challenge here. I come back to what I said earlier: it is a battle for hearts and minds, and minds will win. Minds are influenced by hope, having a stake in a society that is worth living in, and individuals having a future and a stake in something that matters to their families, and the rest. That is how we will win. We have to be resolute in building social solidarity.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and the Government for finding time for this timely and important debate. I want to focus my remarks on the intelligence community—namely, the three intelligence services and their co-ordinating structure in Whitehall. I draw attention to the fact that I was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee during the last Parliament.
I pay tribute, as others have done, to all those who work in our intelligence community, and in doing so I readily acknowledge that there are others in this House who know their work far better than I do. They work under sustained and relentless pressure, in some cases in conditions of personal danger, and the very nature of their business is that their work goes largely unrecognised. Day in, day out, they play a crucial role, along with their colleagues in the police and the other law enforcement agencies, in enabling the rest of us to go about our daily lives.
The intelligence community has, of course, been under huge pressure of late, and I was interested in what my noble friend Lady Manningham-Buller was saying about the tempo and scale of the threat we are facing. Counterterrorism obviously remains the highest priority in the aftermath of the attacks we have seen and has naturally formed the focus of this debate. But, in parallel, we have seen an upsurge in co-ordinated, possibly state-sponsored hacking and cyberattacks, presenting new challenges to our intelligence services.
Yet, at the same time, old challenges do not fade away. In such an unstable and volatile time in world politics, the traditional need for high-grade political and economic intelligence has never been greater. Have the intelligence agencies the resources to meet this pressure? Despite the severe restrictions on public spending in recent years, the expenditure on all the three intelligence services has been, as the Minister reminded us, increased significantly, not least in the November 2015 spending review. While I think there was widespread acceptance that these increases were justified, there is, in my view, a continuing case for the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee to continue to scrutinise how these significant extra resources have been used. It should examine whether this additional expenditure has been deployed effectively across all three services, bringing them closer together, particularly in ways that not only deliver further capability but, at the same time, encourage further savings when necessary by pooling resources between the three services.
Looking more closely at the three specific priority areas that I have mentioned, let me focus first on counterterrorism. In the aftermath of the series of attacks that we have endured, it is important to recall that the intelligence services have constantly reminded us, as others have today, that we cannot be guaranteed 100% security. Tragically, there will be attacks which succeed and get through the net, with such horrific and life-changing consequences for those directly involved, their friends and families. The important thing is to learn the lessons of these incidents; it is imperative that we do so and, where possible, be seen to do so.
I welcome the appointment of David Anderson, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, to oversee a review of the handling of recent terror attacks. He knows the intelligence world and brings incisiveness and clarity to difficult issues. Has he been given a date on which to report, and will a redacted version of his review be made public? A starting point for his analysis may well be in looking again at the issues raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who was a member of the committee at that time.
Some of the issues may well be very relevant as we search for lessons from the recent attacks. Obviously, there were many questions then about resources, but there were also questions about process. Can MI5 progress low-priority casework even when under huge pressure of running an increasing number of high-priority investigations? How can we deal with “self-starting terrorists”, who are increasingly security conscious in how they go about their business? As we have heard today, the question of communications service providers came up in the report; I welcome the Government’s activity in that important area. How do the agencies manage the vast amount of data on individuals not assessed as posing a risk to national security, and how do they process more effectively intelligence from local communities, which may prove vital in any investigation? All those issues were exposed in 2013, and I suggest that they may be very relevant as we look to learn lessons in 2017.
The second area for further scrutiny is in the field of cybersecurity. We have been reminded over recent months of the threat faced not only by organisations regarded as critical national infrastructure but by those further afield. The establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre has been an innovative and creative response to the need to build a bridge between the necessarily secret work of GCHQ and the more open world of assuring the security of business and public bodies. There is a widely recognised need to raise public awareness and provide high-level advice—and I salute the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in promoting that. As the Minister reminded us, the centre has not yet been open a year, but I think that, before long, there will be a case to take stock of its work and to learn lessons from how it is carrying out its vital role.
Finally, in the more traditional world of intelligence there is always an insatiable requirement for high-grade political and economic intelligence on the many trouble spots in the world. What are the Russians’ intentions in Ukraine or the Baltic? What do we know about the shifting political sands in the Middle East, the Gulf, Syria and Iran? What do we really know about intentions and capabilities in North Korea? The list is endless; the resources are finite; priorities need examining. Continuing scrutiny of the work of the intelligence services in these areas, as well as the effective use of their resources, is the proper function of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee appointed by the Government. I hope that this parliamentary body can be reconstituted soon, given recent events. In another place last month, the Home Secretary fully recognised the need for this. Does the Minister have further news on the re-establishment of the committee? The committee has a vital and crucial role both in explaining the intelligence community to the public and in holding it to account. That it does so effectively is in the interest of the public, of Parliament and of the intelligence community itself, as it can only be really effective if it continues to enjoy the widest possible public trust that effective scrutiny brings. I firmly believe that it deserves that trust, but we should never take it for granted.
My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lady Vere for initiating this debate and I look forward to the Minister’s response. Many noble Lords have modestly stated how ill equipped they are to contribute to this debate. I fear that I can win that competition hands down.
The objective of terrorism is to create fear, alarm, loathing and discord, often where little or none existed before. The terrorists that we are now concerned with hate our modern liberal democracy with its great set of shared values backed up a very well-developed system of justice and the rule of law. They will succeed only if we discard what we have developed over many years and overreact, in doing so making matters worse rather than better. We should never forget the lessons from the recent troubles in Northern Ireland where some of our policies acted as a recruiting sergeant for terrorist organisations.
It seems that every time there is a terrorist incident the media suggest that there were intelligence failings or ask why, if the perpetrator was known to the authorities, he was not put under relentless surveillance. With regard to the latter, the simple reason is that we are not a police state. We will not fall into the trap of allocating disproportionate resources to security. The authorities should be using intrusive techniques only when appropriate and only against suspects who are assessed as being a genuine threat. Sometimes that assessment might be in error and the risk is underestimated. I am furious with the leaking of techniques—particularly SIGINT capabilities that are so useful for keeping us safe. The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, has just touched on that point.
Similarly, the authorities will not always get the intelligence in the right form, at the right time or it may simply be overlooked. It is inevitable that some attacks will get through and when they do we should support our security people. I salute them all. We should be grateful that they foil many attacks while at the same time adhering to the principles of justice and the rule of law and avoiding us slipping into becoming a police state. I therefore support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and other noble Lords.
We have talked much about what we can do to reduce the risk of attack by Contest and Prevent, et cetera, and I am sure that these are sound approaches. However, I worry about whether we are striking the right balance between detecting and being able to successfully prosecute perpetrators on one hand, and, on the other, recovering back to normal life as quickly as possible—in other words minimising the strategic effect of an attack. I fully accept that the police recover a vast amount of evidence and that it is analysed using all sorts of interesting and clever techniques.
Most of us find it extraordinary that anyone would commit suicide or expose themselves to a lethal armed police response, but the fact is that they do and they are not deterred by very long prison sentences if they are caught. Of course, if they are detected and convicted, perpetrators need to be locked up for a very long time for reasons of public protection. But even a suicidal terrorist will want to be confident that he will have effect—by that I mean strategic effect. I am concerned that the length of time we have a crime scene cordoned off may increase the effect—perceived or real—of the attack. For days after the attack the media show footage of cordoned-off scenes that only amplify the effect of the attack. It might seem cold-hearted, but I hope that Ministers consider very carefully how to minimise the perceived effect of an attack to make further attacks less attractive.
Another concern is that the media keep repeating the name of a terrorist perpetrator so that he is burned into the public consciousness: in other words, we have inadvertently made the terrorist a very significant person when he was not before. Is this a good idea? Can we think about encouraging the media to refer to the perpetrator only once in the back of a newspaper or report, or to once a day actually say what the perpetrator’s name is?
With the recent attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster we saw the media showing footage of relatives and friends of missing people hunting for their loved ones. I cannot believe that the police are handling the issue of missing persons as badly as is suggested in the media. Will the Minister write in detail to me and others taking part in the debate on how the issue of missing people is being handled by the police, because I do not believe that they are doing this as badly as is portrayed?
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was very interesting and measured. He was absolutely right about his concerns about an MTFA. That is certainly what keeps me awake at night. However, I believe that the Government are doing all they can to reasonably choke off the supply of illegal firearms. A lone wolf terrorist attempting to acquire a suitable firearm runs a high risk of being either defrauded or reported to the authorities. On the other hand, a properly trained and experienced terrorist runs the risk of being detected as part of a group. Unfortunately, there are ways other than smuggling to acquire powerful weapons, but I do not think it would be helpful to talk about them publicly. We could massively increase the effort of firearms control, as suggested by the noble Lord, but then still be subject to an MTFA, so I think that Ministers have the balance right.
Finally, all noble Lords will have been extremely disappointed by Kensington and Chelsea’s handling of the dreadful Grenfell Tower disaster. We easily run out of superlatives to describe it. Despite the awfulness of the disaster, it should have been relatively easy for the local authority to look after the adversely affected residents and set up a missing persons’ register. After all, there are only 24 storeys, with four or five families in each storey. Surely a local authority such as Kensington and Chelsea would have many more competent officials in its planning department alone than families to be looked after. Frankly, as a Conservative, I was deeply ashamed. There were only about 500 people directly and adversely involved. What would happen if it was 5,000 or, God forbid, 50,000? In the light of the abject failure of one LA to manage a highly localised and finite disaster, how can we have any confidence that there are no other equally weak local authorities? Can the Minister assure the House that the Government are taking active and urgent steps to ensure and verify that all local authorities are meeting their obligations in terms of emergency planning and capacity? I believe this is very important because it goes back to my point about minimising the impact and strategic effect of any attack.
My Lords, I will concentrate on the issue of terrorism. I guess that if we had not had the attacks in Westminster, Manchester, on London Bridge and in Finsbury Park, we would not be having this debate today. I also want to acknowledge the significant experience among noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, who is a police and crime commissioner, has perhaps the most up-to-date experience. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, is a former director-general of the security services, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is not just the former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority but the author of a recent report on London’s preparedness for a terrorist attack. I noticed some non-verbal reactions to what the noble Lord was saying. However, the fact is that among his 127 recommendations were that the authorities should consider barriers to protect pedestrians from the sort of attacks we saw in Nice and Berlin—a recommendation that was made prior to the London Bridge and Westminster attacks.
However, on a positive note, the noble Lord will be pleased to see that at the Pride in London event on Saturday, significant changes had been made to ensure the safety and security of those who participated, including—I noticed in particular—police vehicles parked across all the side-roads leading to the event to prevent a vehicle attack. So, some of the lessons from that report have clearly been learned.
The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, with his experience in Northern Ireland, is of course a former chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee; the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, is a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee; and the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, is another member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
With regard to my own experience, I was the police spokesman in press conferences following the 7 July bombings in 2005, and I was the Metropolitan Police’s community relations lead after the failed attacks on 21 July 2005. I visited the officers at different police stations around London who were involved in the body recovery of the victims of the 7/7 bombings, and, with other noble Lords who have spoken today, I was in the Palace of Westminster when Keith Palmer was murdered and others lost their lives. I have been talking to the officers around the estate every day since to ensure that the response from the authorities has been appropriate. I was at home, 10 minutes’ walk away from Borough Market, when the attack happened there. So I have professional experience of and personal involvement in these issues. However, I do not have any inside knowledge, nor have I had any briefings from the police or the security services on the most recent attacks.
This is a debate, and on some points I have to acknowledge that what I will say is no more than an educated guess, albeit one informed by experience, research and analysis. I would welcome a challenge from the Minister in her response should she not agree with anything I am about to say.
Many noble Lords have given their assessment of the security situation. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, most powerfully described the contrast between the situation now and the challenges she faced 10 years ago. Eighty plots have been disrupted in the last four years, and there are 3,000 subjects of interest and 500 active investigations. The key here is of course to try to differentiate between people who espouse extremism and those who are prepared to carry that through with a violent attack. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem talked about the attack on Lee Rigby and the fact that a Facebook entry was found subsequently in which the attacker said that he wanted to kill a soldier. The fact is that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of similar threats in posts made by people who had no intention of carrying out, or the ability to carry out, such an attack, but how do you differentiate between the different apparent warning signs?
The most important message that I want to deliver today is that we need a mature and considered response to what we have experienced. Although the situations may be different, we may be able to take some comfort from what has happened in the past. I have already referred to 7 July 2005, when four suicide bombers set out to detonate their devices on four Underground trains. One appeared to lose his nerve and ended up on a bus rather than an Underground train, and then detonated his device. Fifty-two innocent people lost their lives.
Two weeks later, a copycat group of would-be bombers tried to repeat what happened on 7 July. Even though it was apparently not in the original plan to explode a bomb on a bus, they tried to detonate three devices on the Underground and one on a bus. Thankfully, all failed to explode. Those responsible were quickly tracked down, prosecuted and convicted, including one who was returned to the UK very swiftly as a result of the European arrest warrant. There were no further attacks of that nature. Even though at the time it looked as though there would be a series of such attacks, in reality they never materialised.
On 22 March this year, Khalid Masood drove a car along the pavement on Westminster Bridge, killing four pedestrians, and then abandoned the car and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer. My personal view is that, if the fixed-point armed officers who had been in place until recently had been in place immediately behind the unarmed officers at the entrance to the Palace, that attacker could have been stopped even sooner and potentially Keith Palmer’s life could have been saved. Unfortunately, that fixed post of two armed officers standing immediately behind the unarmed officers was replaced by a patrol. The patrol, understandably, went to see what had happened on the bridge because they heard screaming and the sound of the car crashing, leaving those unarmed officers exposed.
On 3 June, three attackers drove a van along the pavement of London Bridge and then abandoned the van and fatally stabbed people in Borough Market. Eight innocent people lost their lives. It appeared to me to be a copycat attack of the 22 March incident.
In April 1999, David Copeland, a right-wing extremist, waged a 13-day terror campaign against minorities in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. He exploded three sophisticated nail bombs, killing three and injuring 162. He made the bombs himself. He was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia but was none the less convicted of murder.
On 22 May this year, Salman Ramadan Abedi exploded a bomb packed with nuts and bolts in Manchester, killing 22 innocent people and injuring hundreds more. He made the bomb himself. We do not know what his mental state was at the time but it appears to have been an attack similar to that carried out by Copeland.
The point I am trying to make is that we may not be living in unprecedented times as far as successful terrorist attacks are concerned, but the picture painted by open-source material of the activity of people suspected of terrorism, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, set out, clearly shows that an unprecedented number of plots have been thwarted. Nor must we forget the attack on Jo Cox and on the Finsbury Park mosque—both, again, apparently from the right.
I am afraid that I cannot move on without taking issue with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater—it has become a bit of a tradition between the two of us. If I recorded correctly what he said, he described Daesh or ISIS as a “religious sect” and he talked about “Islamic extremism”. My belief is that Islamism, as opposed to Islam, is a violent political ideology that looks to overthrow democracy and liberal values using a corruption of Islam as an excuse. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said—I see he has returned to the Chamber right on cue—it is probably more to do with politics and history than religion. It is a political ideology, not a religion or a religious sect, and I believe that “Islamic terrorism” is a contradiction in terms. I said that in a press conference following the 7 July 2005 bombings, and I stand by what I said.
What should the Government’s response be? The noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, talked about reviewing the counterterrorism strategy and the length of sentences for terrorism offences. However, as the noble Lord, Lord King, pointed out, the nature of terrorism has changed, certainly since the time of Irish republican terrorism—we did not have suicide bombers in those days. One has to ask: how many suicide bombers would be deterred by longer prison sentences for terrorist offences?
I also take issue with what the noble Baroness said about bilateral agreements with European partners. I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, will correct me, but counterterrorism intelligence exchange tends to be on a bilateral basis, whether it is with the “Five Eyes” countries or individual European countries. However, when it comes to law enforcement and prosecuting people for terrorism offences, the structures tend to be EU-wide: Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and the European Court of Justice all play a central role in bringing people to justice. Those are two separate issues. In exiting the EU we will have a real problem in the prosecution of people, even if we do not have as much of a problem on intelligence exchange, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, pointed out.
Of course people expect the Government to respond to such outrages, and it is important that the Government review their strategy and tactics and the emergency response to such events. However, this needs to be done carefully and in a considered way. We need to look at the nature of the threat. As I have just said, it is not like Irish republican terrorism, which used to be based on a formal, hierarchical organisation that could be infiltrated, planning logistically sophisticated attacks. Islamism is a violent political ideology that wants to overthrow democracy and liberal values, and is perhaps more akin to the Red Army Faction, conducting guerrilla tactics against society.
Rather than a conventional organisation, ISIS is more a political idea that inspires people. There are two types of extremists: the first, intellectuals who have a corrupt and distorted view of Islam, which drives them to recruit the second, the foot soldiers. These are usually vulnerable, impressionable young men with a criminal past, who are encouraged to continue their previous criminal and violent behaviour in the name of Islamism. I draw the probably imperfect parallel between sophisticated, organised drug dealers who import and distribute illegal drugs but never leave their fingerprints on the packages, and the street dealers—petty criminals who are seen as disposable and easy to replace if they get arrested, leaving the masterminds unaffected.
Many suicide attackers are people who can get together on one day and carry out an attack the next. Even more sophisticated attacks can involve only person, and so communications between people are not necessarily helpful. What was helpful in every one of these attacks were changes in behaviour of those involved, as noticed by friends, relatives and neighbours. We heard that in the London Bridge attack, where a neighbour who was interviewed said that they were suspicious of the way that one of the people involved was behaving on the day of the attack by asking about how to hire a van and so forth. That is why many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Bach, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, all mentioned the importance of community policing. If we are to encourage people from communities to come forward with information about changes in behaviour in those to whom they are close, those communities must have trust and confidence in the authorities. They have concerns about passing information to the security services because they do not know what the security services will do with it. A familiar and trusted face in the community to act as a conduit and provide reassurance is what community policing provides. That is why in our manifesto we had £300 million extra a year that could have been used to recruit an additional 8,000 community officers.
I have mentioned to the Minister before the fact that since 2010 we have lost almost 20,000 police officers and 24,000 support staff. When I mentioned that in an Oral Question, the Minister said that she did not recognise the figures. I hope that she can now say whether mine are correct. If not, perhaps she could write to me with the real figures as far as the fall in policing resources is concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has said, some cuts were clearly necessary. All public services had to tighten their belts to try to balance the books. But these cuts have now gone too far. It is not just cuts to community policing, but resilience in the face of terrorist attacks and the increased security that is required. We now have officers outside here whose days off are being cancelled—they are only getting one day off a week instead of two. They are working 12-hour shifts and becoming exhausted because there is not the capacity and resilience to be able to respond in these sorts of emergency situations.
As far as the internet is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, talked about the German approach of fining social media companies if they fail to act in taking down terrorist material. We know from our exploration of the issues around imposing age verification on adult websites that fining overseas-based tech companies is impractical. The only way that it can be done is to ask UK-based internet service providers to block websites that fail to comply with age verification, but that would not be a proportionate response to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and similar internet giants. We need international co-operation, particularly with the United States. An initiative started by Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister to appoint the Prime Minister’s special envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, is an example of the sort of international co-operation required. The new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill QC, said that the suggestion of punishing technology companies such as Facebook and Google for not acting on unacceptable content was not the best course of action because they needed to be “brought firmly onside”. Pushing material on to the dark web where counternarratives cannot be set alongside the violent political ideology of Islamism is not the way to go. We are very fortunate to have the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in the House. We should listen very carefully to what she says from her position of expert knowledge.
Weakening encryption makes us all, including the Government and business, open to exploitation by criminals and hostile foreign Governments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, said. Even end-to-end encryption does not prevent the tracking of useful metadata: who is communicating with whom, even if the content is not readily accessible? Equipment interference, where individuals who are suspected of serious crime or terrorism are known, provides a solution to accessing the content of end-to-end encrypted messages.
What about the question of more legislation? In the light of the spate of recent attacks, it is understandable that we should review the current situation in terms of practices and legislation. We have set out our position in a policy paper entitled Safe and Free which was approved at the party conference last autumn. It states that we believe that there is no need to change our position in the light of the recent attacks. The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 goes too far in terms of some blanket surveillance, and we are not alone in saying that. The pressure group Liberty has been given permission by the High Court to challenge the legality of some of the measures in the Act.
On the question of more legislation, Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, told the BBC less than a month ago:
“It’s perfectly natural that we should all feel that we must do more, we must do something to combat what we are facing. My view coming into the scrutiny which we are told the prime minister wants to conduct is that we do have the appropriate laws in place, and that essentially the police and security services, and those whose job it is to keep us safe, do have the powers at their disposal.”
We have no objection to the complete surveillance of suspects where there is reasonable cause to suspect that they are involved in terrorism. What we object to is the storing of vast amounts of data on every member of the UK population on databases vulnerable to being accessed by criminals and hostile foreign powers, just in case less than 1% of those records come in handy in future prosecutions. The security services have consistently maintained, as they did when the former Labour Government tried to introduce 90 days’ detention of terrorist suspects without charge, that the internet connection records of every UK citizen are not necessary for them to keep us safe.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talked about the Prevent strategy and the definition of extremism. The definition as set out in the Government’s counterterrorism strategy is too broad. By their definition the DUP would be included, so clearly something somewhere is not right. There are serious concerns about the Government’s Prevent programme. Indeed, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation shares our views on it. He wrote in the Evening Standard that many in the Muslim community felt unjustifiably targeted by Prevent and asked, if there is evidence that their concerns are not justified, why the Government will not produce it; they refuse to publish the results of their own internal review and refuse to allow an independent review of Prevent. He goes on:
“Prevent is controversial, to the point where reputable community organisations refuse to engage with it … Significant reform is required”.
We need a mature and proportionate response to the threat we face. We have the best police and security services in the world, which are doing everything they possibly can to keep us safe. The recent spate of terrorist outrages are not a sign of failure; the many more plots that have been thwarted in recent years are a sign of success. The police and the security services deserve our respect, our admiration and our wholehearted support, but they can succeed only with the help and support of all communities in the UK. To do that, our laws and the way we use them must win their trust and confidence.
My Lords, this has been an interesting and thoughtful debate and I thank the Government for providing the opportunity to raise some areas of potential, if not necessarily always actual, concern. It was the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I think, who urged the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, to answer the questions raised in this debate by giving us her personal views. If the noble Baroness does that and her personal views differ from those of the Government, this may be one of her last appearances at the Dispatch Box even at a time when Cabinet Ministers do not always seem to be expressing a common policy line.
Inevitably, in a debate on this issue the Government will be limited to a greater or lesser degree in the amount of detail they feel able to give in response to issues raised. From the Opposition’s point of view, the inevitable lack of such detail makes it difficult to challenge and hold any Government to account, but I hope there are Ministers, however few, who know exactly what our security and intelligence services are doing and in what way, and that there are checks and balances so that Ministers are not simply dependent on what they are told.
That is not a criticism of anybody; it is simply what ought to be the case in a democracy where there is accountability through elected leaders. There is, of course, the joint Intelligence and Security Committee, but the Government can hardly be expected to answer for it. In any case, it cannot be answerable to the people of this country for the effectiveness of the role it undertakes in the way that a Government and Ministers can for their actions and decisions. However, it would be helpful if the Government could provide an assurance that even if the number of Ministers in the know is small, they are satisfied that they have sufficient control over and knowledge of what our security and intelligence services are doing to be able to say that there can be no significant or potentially controversial activity that our security and intelligence services had undertaken of which they were not aware.
There has been much discussion recently about public sector pay. I assume our security and intelligence service personnel have also had their pay capped for the last seven years in the same way as other public employees, including the police. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that or otherwise. If that is the case, what impact has that had first on morale, secondly on recruitment and retention rates, and thirdly on the number of posts vacant? Has this vacancy figure increased or decreased over the last few years?
The Government have said that more resources have been put into intelligence and security services. Will they confirm what that increase has been in each of the last three years? Will the Minister also say who determines where existing and additional resources will be directed? Is it ultimately a ministerial decision in the sense that it at least requires ministerial agreement, or is the issue of priorities and where resources are directed one that is left entirely for the intelligence and security services to decide?
Governments often talk about the need to get value for money. I assume the same applies to our security and intelligence services. If that assumption is correct, what are the criteria against which a judgment is made on whether our security and intelligence services maximise value for money in respect of their resources? Equally, and perhaps more importantly, how do we know the extent to which a lack of resources may be impeding the effectiveness of our security and intelligence services with potentially serious consequences?
In the current climate, our security and intelligence services have never maintained that they can or will be able to stop every attempted act of terrorism from succeeding. They have always said in the current situation that it is a case of when rather than if, but have also quite rightly drawn attention to the number of occasions on which they have been successful in nipping a significant number of likely such acts in the bud. The significant number of successful prosecutions for terrorist or terrorist-related offences is of course a matter of hard fact. From that we should take considerable comfort and for that we should all be extremely grateful for the work they do.
In recent months, we have had four high-profile terrorist incidents in which varying numbers of lives have tragically been lost. In some of these instances it has been reported that the perpetrators have been known to the security and intelligence services. There can of course be different interpretations of the relevance of that situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said. As I understand it, the Government have asked the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, to look into issues surrounding these recent attacks. What doubt or concern led the Government to ask David Anderson to undertake this exercise? What exactly are his terms of reference? When will the report, and to what extent will his findings, be made public?
The Government intend to establish a counterterrorism commission. What existing government concerns or issues is the commission meant to address which are not being addressed at present or not being addressed adequately? In addition, what activities currently undertaken by other bodies or individuals will in future be undertaken by the counterterrorism commission, and to what extent will its work be new and not undertaken at present? What kind of budget will the commission have?
The Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has said—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to it—that existing statutory powers are sufficient to address current threats from a legal powers point of view, although he has indicated that sentencing levels should be reviewed. On both these issues, is the Government’s view the same as that of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and, if not, what is the hard evidence that further legislation would make our security and intelligence services more effective in combating terrorism and related acts? Were any of the four recent incidents in London and Manchester not prevented because of insufficient legal powers as opposed, for example, to insufficient resources to cope fully with current workloads or just plain bad luck? Is this one of the questions on which David Anderson has been asked to report?
One area where there has been a reduction in resources is in our police, whose numbers have been cut over the past seven years. The Government’s argument has been that, since crime rates have fallen, this has not caused a problem. Crimes of violence, however, are on the rise; the level of hate crime has increased; cybercrime, which affects individuals and large corporations alike, has gone through the roof, and there is now heightened concern over acts of terrorism both here and in mainland Europe.
Our security, police and intelligence services play a key role in combating acts of terrorism; so, too, do the public, as other noble Lords have already said, not least my friend Lord Harris of Haringey. One way in which the role of the public is vital is through drawing the attention of the police to those whose actions and words suggest they might be open to being persuaded or encouraged to contemplate such acts. Yet cuts have been made in community neighbourhood policing—the very police personnel who have built up the closest contact and relationship with the communities they serve and who are most likely to have the confidence of those communities. That confidence is so vital to picking up and being given information and can not only reduce the level of long-term crime but help in combating acts of terrorism and hate crime and in preventing people going down that road. My noble friend Lord Bach spoke powerfully on the impact of cuts on neighbourhood policing and on policing in general. The effectiveness of the Prevent strategy can only have been weakened by the cuts to community neighbourhood policing.
Concerns have been expressed about the approach to the Prevent strategy as opposed to its concept or purpose. Terrorism is not confined to those who claim to act in the murderous and thuggish way they do in the name of a particular faith or religion. As has already been said, Jo Cox MP was murdered by a right-wing extremist, and the perpetrator of the attack at the Finsbury Park mosque certainly was not claiming to be doing it in the name of Islam, any more than do those behind the recent increased levels of hate crime against Muslims and against women Members of Parliament. Yet for many Muslims the Prevent strategy seems to be aimed primarily at them, and with it the inference that Muslims as a whole are both the source of terrorism and supporters of terrorism. That does nothing to enhance trust and confidence, and nothing to encourage the flow of information which is so vital in preventing and combating acts of terrorism, acts which do not distinguish between faiths when it comes to those who are killed or maimed as a result. Indeed, the hard facts show that those who commit acts of terrorism or hate crime are more than likely to already have criminal records. That suggests either that they are easily led by those with extreme political views, or that they simply choose to adopt a violent approach to those groups they decide they do not like: that is the key factor behind the acts they commit, rather than any credible adherence to any faith or religion. They do not deserve the cover for their actions which they claim a faith or religion provides, and no faith or religion deserves them.
Cybercrime has become an issue of real concern, both when individuals, often vulnerable individuals, are the victims, and also when major companies and organisations, including Governments, are the targets. The acts appear to be committed by individuals who see it as a game, by individuals and organisations which are in it for illicit financial gain or competitive advantage, or by those who act for or with the full knowledge of nation states against other nation states. We appear to be in a situation where our major public utilities, our banking and financial services system and our health service, for example, are potentially at risk of being brought nearly to their knees by such attacks. Presumably, the threat is also there in respect of neutralising or reducing the capability and effectiveness of our Armed Forces.
I appreciate, of course, that there will be real limits to what the Government will want to disclose, but how are decisions made on the resources that need to be made available to protect us from cyberattacks in a situation where the speed of technological advance is rapid, and where keeping ahead of the game is vital? Is the provision of resources to combat the threat of cyberattacks, particularly by or with the blessing of other nation states, affected by financial constraints, or do we provide whatever resources are needed to combat those threats? Lower down the line, have our police forces been given the resources, skills and capabilities needed to combat the rapid increase in the types of cybercrime with which they increasingly have to deal? Are decisions on how such resources are allocated determined by individual chief constables and police and crime commissioners when they draw up budgets, or are such matters determined on a national basis, and, if so, by whom? The effectiveness of the National Crime Agency in combating cybercrime, which recognises no individual police force boundaries, can be hampered only if individual police forces do not regard putting more resources into combating this particular type of crime as a priority when forced to make such choices through being stretched, which is how more than one commissioner or chief constable has recently described their current situation.
There is also the role of service providers, as well as government, in preventing the internet and cyberspace being used to spread extremism and hatred, or as a vehicle for planning acts of terrorism. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, spoke about this and, in particular, about what can and cannot realistically be achieved. The decision to withdraw from the European Union, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, referred, could affect co-operation with other European nations through European agencies—the European arrest warrant, for example—which are key parts of the armoury in the constant battle to combat serious crime, including terrorism. What undertakings are the Government prepared to give today at the Dispatch Box that, whatever else emerges at the end of the negotiations on our withdrawal from the European Union, our existing membership of the European agencies and procedures involved in combating crime, including terrorism, will continue to no lesser extent than they do today?
In 2015, the Government announced proposals to introduce a new extremism Bill, but no such Bill ever materialised. In 2016, a counterextremism and safeguarding Bill was announced, but no detailed proposals ever emerged. That may well have been no bad thing. There has been a cross-government review of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy, known as Contest. There have been reviews of the Prevent strategy. We now have a review by Mr David Anderson. There is now going to be a commission for countering extremism. With this Government, there is quite a lot of talk about what they intend to do to counter the threats of extremism and terrorism, whether through Bills or reviews, but all too often not enough action to address the problems our police, security and intelligence services actually face. Indeed, some government actions have made the situation worse, not least through the reductions in community neighbourhood policing. There is also the reality that additional resources found for counterterrorism activities, particularly on the police side, can be at the expense of resources able to be directed at other significant areas of crime.
During the election, following a terror attack in London, the Prime Minister said that, “Enough is enough”. That is true: we have had enough talk. We now have to provide the resources needed to address the major increase in the number of investigations our hard-pressed security, intelligence and police forces have to handle, and end a situation where chief constables, commissioners and PCCs are uncertain whether they are still going to be asked to accept further cuts in real terms—further “efficiency savings”, as they are often called—when they are already using the euphemism that their forces and budgets are being “stretched”.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been a very good debate, with some wide-ranging comments from different parts of the House and on different aspects of security. I am particularly grateful to see such representation on the Cross Benches from the intelligence services in one way or another. I will start with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, who said that this is very complex and the solution will not be a quick fix. She is absolutely correct, which is why we have been debating this for so long, and rightly so.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, made a very profound speech, I thought, and talked about how rapid the response of our emergency services was but that, for the people who were caught up in the attack, it probably seemed like it took for ever for them to get there. That said, some emergency services were there within seconds, all of them within minutes. He also talked about the police presence in London versus our freedoms. I do not know about other noble Lords, but when I first came back to London after the attacks, it felt like a very different London from that which I had left several weeks earlier.
The noble Lord and I have talked a lot about securing the border. We adopt a rigorous approach to border security. As he knows, this includes effective working between agencies to manage the threat posed by terrorism, serious organised crime and immigration. It includes specific briefings to those who work at the border on how to identify those potentially returning to the UK from conflict zones. It includes carrying out 100% immigration and security checks at the primary control point, advanced checks where available, and intelligence-led targeting at ports. We have contingency plans in place for a full range of situations and are able to flex our resources appropriately. For example, between 2010 and September 2016, more than 1,500 people were arrested for terrorism-related offences. We refused entry to nearly 9,000 EEA nationals; nearly 6,000 of these were stopped at our juxtaposed borders. In total, more than 116,000 people were refused entry to the UK, with nearly 30,000 of those stopped at the juxtaposed borders, to help keep us all safe.
The noble Lord has also talked to me on several occasions, and we have had several Questions in the House, about firearms and the effectiveness of the border. As he will know, the Home Office continually reviews the approach to border security. Border Force invested £68 million in technology and infrastructure in 2016-17, a 70% uplift on the previous year, to make our already secure borders even stronger. Building on the learning from successful multiagency work on firearms in 2016, a multiagency firearms unit was recently established. This is being led by the National Crime Agency and counterterrorism policy, and it is co-ordinating law enforcement activity to disrupt the supply of illegal firearms and to improve our understanding of the terrorist and organised crime threat in the UK and internationally.
The noble Lord asked about protective security and barriers. Protective barriers are only one part of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy. The national barrier asset for the temporary mitigation of vehicle threats is available for all police forces. We continue to expand it as a resource and ensure that its deployment is considered where required for events.
The noble Lord also asked me about protecting events, the licensing of major events and staff training. Specifically on protective security for events, the protection and preparedness of events are dealt with through operational policing efforts overseen by a common team with the counterterrorism element dealt with by a security co-ordinator. Mandating requirements on event owners through licensing would need to be very carefully considered and would have to be appropriate and proportionate for all event organisers, as the noble Lord will appreciate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made some very good points about the types of attacks that we are experiencing now, the knowledge of those attacks, the tempo of attacks—nobody can disagree that the tempo of attacks has significantly increased over recent months—and the high level of plots, and said that the level of “severe” is justified and the level of “critical” for that week was totally justified. She talked about the difference in recent years with the number of people on lists as being of interest has gone up massively since as few as 10 years ago and she wondered whether the pattern of low-tech or low-sophistication is going to continue. It looks like a pattern. If she would like, I will write to her further on what we expect patterns to be, but I suspect it is a national security question and I will not be able to answer, but she of all people will understand that. The noble Baroness also rightly talked about the 18 plots that have been foiled in recent months. That is a huge number, but that is not to detract from the number we have seen. She mentioned that the solution will not be a quick fix.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford talked about the unifying values the Government have envisaged. Some of the programmes we have had in recent months and years have homed in on those unifying values. He mentioned the Near Neighbours projects which have been so good in promoting the unifying values of cohesive communities in our society.
My noble friend Lord King talked very interestingly about Northern Ireland never having had suicide bombers—that is so true—and said that they were at least sensitive to public opinion. I do not know how sensitive they were to public opinion, but certainly after the events of Enniskillen there was a big backlash and they thought long and hard. We are in different times. I was also very impressed that my noble friend knows all about Snapchat—it was my children who told me about it. We have this climate now of rapid communications, for good or for bad, as he pointed out. He also talked about the problems coming upstream created by population explosion and failed states, of which there are several, and mentioned the interesting fact about water shortages in Iran that might necessitate further population movements in the future.
In the interlude while the Statement was on, we talked outside about the production of videos by ISIL, or Daesh. These videos are very appealing to a certain minority of people, as are the other messages that are produced and appear on social media. He is absolutely right that Germany is getting CSPs to take internet content down, but the Home Secretary has also been very successful in this area. She was in Ottawa last month and we secured support from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US for our campaign to take terrorist material offline. Together we announced that companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter will form a new global industry forum to tackle terrorist use of the internet. This is a huge step forward. We have been absolutely clear that hateful content used to recruit and radicalise should not be allowed on their platforms and that it must be removed more quickly and more proactively. As one noble Lord said, we have done it without legislation, by agreement, and that is the right way to work together internationally, as my noble friend said.
My noble friend also asked about legislating to fine companies for not removing content. We are, as I have said, trying to work with them and will also explore the possibility of creating a legal liability for communications service providers if they fail to take the necessary action to remove content. But the relationship with them so far has been very productive and positive.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach, talked about CT and community policing and the value of the latter in identifying where there might be extremism or moves towards terrorism. We know that crime is changing and are sensitive to current pressures on policing. We are absolutely mindful of the pressure that the police have been under in the several terrorist attacks that we have faced, and indeed in the Grenfell Tower incident, which left many of them absolutely exhausted. We have protected police spending since 2015, but we are in talks with them to ensure that, on the back of what we have seen, they have enough resources to be able to carry out the jobs that they need to do.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, talked about co-operation with CSPs. As I have just said, we have made significant progress in that area. She also talked very positively about the positive things about the internet. We are tonight talking about some of the bad things that can happen on the internet, but of course it is a very positive force for good in so many ways. Are we as policymakers keeping up? I have just confessed to the House that I had not heard of Snapchat until my daughter talked about it. It is absolutely vital that we know what we are talking about when we are making laws on this. I hope that we take plenty of advice from people such as the noble Baroness. She talked about the domination of online by the big five. It is true: they do. She also talked about the crackdown on the jihadis notion by CSPs. They have taken a huge amount of content down: 270,000 pieces of inappropriate internet material since 2010.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, questioned the value of Prevent and called for it to be reviewed. We think that it has made a significant impact on preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. It delivered 142 community-based projects in 2015-16, reaching more than 42,000 participants. We have trained more than 850,000 front-line staff in Prevent, including NHS staff and teachers. Significantly, we disrupted 150 journeys to the Syria-Iraq conflict in 2015.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about the definition of extremism and asked whether it is too broad. We still stand by it. The 2015 strategy sets out the definition. It is,
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
Extremists seek to undermine these values and divide communities, but I agree that there is much more that we can do. The noble Baroness asked whether the commission for countering extremism will be statutory. Ministers are considering the delivery options for the commission and will bring forward legislation if necessary. The Government will make an announcement in due course.
The noble Baroness also asked why the Government have not published the Islamist extremism funding review in the light of the recent attacks in London and Manchester. The review has improved the Government’s understanding of the nature, scale and source of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK. Ministers are considering advice about what in the report can be published and will update Parliament in due course.
The noble Baroness also asked about Saudi aiding and funding of radicalisation and whether the Government are prioritising economic benefit over security by keeping the funding part of the report back. The UK has vital national security and prosperity interests in maintaining and developing our relationship with the Gulf region, including how we work together to tackle the threat of extremism and terrorism. The Government are determined to cut off funding which fuels the evils of extremism in the UK, including from overseas, and will continue to work closely with our international partners to tackle the shared threat.
The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether leaving the EU puts our national security at risk. It is in all our interests that we continue our deep co-operation with the EU and its member states to tackle threats together. We will seek a strong and close future relationship with the EU, with a focus on operational and practical cross-border co-operation. Security and law enforcement co-operation with our EU and global allies remains of the utmost importance and we will have close and effective operational relationships with international partners.
The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, also asked about the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU saying that we will withdraw from Prüm. No decisions have been taken regarding how the UK will continue to co-operate with the EU on tackling cross-border crime and security threats, as this will be a matter for negotiation. He also asked about our membership of Europol once we leave. Law enforcement co-operation with the EU will continue after the UK leaves the EU, and we will do what is necessary to keep our country safe.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford asked about my letter to him. It was with him today, or at least, it was deposited today, and I hope that he will enjoy reading it. If there are any matters arising from it, he can get back to me. He also asked why the UK cannot arrest everyone who tries to return to the UK from Syria. Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed any crimes, and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security. Those who have committed a criminal offence should expect to be prosecuted for their crimes under the full range of existing counterterrorism legislation. However, any decision on whether to prosecute will be taken on a case-by-case basis. There have already been several successful prosecutions for those who have returned from Syria, and this includes a 12-year custodial sentence for a British national who took part in terrorist training camps in Syria, and helped to create recruiting videos for Daesh.
My noble friend also asked about our taking Syrian returners’ passports away. Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 provides for the deprivation of British citizenship where the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is conducive to the public good and would not make an individual stateless. He also asked about the Muslim Brotherhood. We continue to monitor a number of organisations, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. We are always ready to examine any new evidence that is shared with us, which would be measured against the UK’s own legal framework.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, talked about the history of the last 100 years, and my noble friend Lord King helpfully intervened. My conclusion on the contributions from both noble Lords was that it is definitely complicated, without giving my own opinion on the last 100 years.
On the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne’s contribution, I think I have gone through the issue of police funding. I have not mentioned CT police funding. We have a constructive and ongoing dialogue with police colleagues, including the Metropolitan Police, about ensuring that the right powers, capabilities and resources are in place. We remain committed to increasing cross-government spending on CT by 30%, from £11.7 billion to £15.1 billion. The overall CT police spend has been protected in real terms against the 2015 baseline over the spending review period. We have allocated £633 million of resource funding and £42 million of capital funding to support counterterrorism policing in 2017-18. In addition, a further £32 million will be provided for armed policing from the police transformation fund in 2017-18.
The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, talked about the internal review by MI5 and the police and asked when it would be complete. It will be thorough and will take time, but we expect David Anderson to conclude his work by the end of October, and he will then report his conclusions to the Home Secretary, copied to the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
I realise that I have gone over time, but if noble Lords will bear with me for a couple more minutes, I shall hopefully be able to get through the majority of responses.
The noble Lord asked when the review would be published. We will be as transparent as possible in making public David Anderson’s findings, and a summary of his conclusions will be made available publicly. However, to be thorough, the review will need to look in detail at sensitive material, as the noble Lord will appreciate, and we will not be able to publish some of the findings in full where it would compromise our ability to disrupt terrorists and prevent further attacks.
My noble friend Lord Attlee referred to local authorities and local planning. We keep preparedness under constant review. In addition to armed policing, on which I have already spoken, a multiagency capability is deployable from key locations in England, Scotland and Wales to an incident occurring anywhere in the UK. The national counterterrorism exercise programme works to ensure that the Government, police and other blue-light responders, the military and other agencies, are prepared to respond to terrorist attacks in the UK.
I have left out a load of questions from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser. Would they be okay for me to write to them, because I really am going over time now, at 24 minutes?
Recent events have reminded us all that the threats we face are real and persistent, but they have shown us that we have much to be thankful for, not least our strong and resilient communities and our world-leading emergency services, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for how they have responded in the past few weeks—and also our security and intelligence services. Those are the assets on which we will draw as we ensure the security of the United Kingdom.
House of Lords
Monday 10 July 2017
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.
Oaths and Affirmations
Lord Mitchell and Lord Christopher took the oath, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Death of a Former Member: Lord Sandberg
Lord Speaker’s Statement
Data Ethics Commission
Railways: Northern England
Education: Disability Financing
Opticians Act 1989 (Amendment) Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for the sale of adjustable focus spectacles.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Newby, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Digital Economy Act 2017 (Amendment) (Definition of Extreme Pornography) Bill [HL]
A Bill to amend the definition of extreme pornography in the Digital Economy Act 2017.
The Bill was introduced by Baroness Howe of Idlicote, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Marriage Act 1949 (Amendment) Bill [HL]
A Bill to make amendments to the Marriage Act 1949 to make provision for all religious marriages to be solemnized on the authority of a superintendent registrar.
The Bill was introduced by Baroness Cox, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Right to Die at Home Bill [HL]
A Bill to create a right to die at home.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Warner, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Learning Disabilities (Review of Services) Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for the Secretary of State to undertake a public consultation reviewing the provision of comprehensive and integrated services for adults with learning disabilities.
The Bill was introduced by Baroness Hollins, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Security in the UK
Motion to Take Note
Security in the UK
Motion to Take Note (Continued)
House adjourned at 8.07 pm.