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Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2017

7. What recent steps his Department has taken to support implementation of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy overseas. (901177)

Broadly speaking, there are two, mutually contaminating ecosystems of terror that we face, one is at home and one is abroad. What the UK is doing overseas is to drive out the terrorists from the spaces they currently occupy, be that in Iraq, Syria, Libya or Nigeria. We are having a great deal of success in that. The ungoverned space occupied by terrorists has been greatly reduced in the past year. In addition, we are working to increase aviation security around the world and, above all, at the UN, with the resolution agreed last month, to bring Daesh fighters to justice.

Following last year’s decision to strip the Foreign Office of its responsibilities for co-ordinating the UK’s diplomatic counter-terrorism relationships, what reassurances can the Foreign Secretary provide that his Department’s unique expertise in this area is not being lost?

I believe the hon. Gentleman is referring to the JICTU—Joint International Counter Terrorism Unit—arrangement we have across government. I think he would accept that in view of what I have said about the mutually contaminating ecosystems of terror that we face, where people are being radicalised online here at home and people are in the ungoverned spaces, be it in Iraq, Syria or wherever, a one-Government approach has to be taken to all this by Her Majesty’s Government. It is right therefore that we co-ordinate with the Home Office to tackle this, but we are also tackling it overseas. One aspect of international diplomacy which the Prime Minister has been leading is countering online radicalisation and taking more than 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material off the internet.

May I remind the Foreign Secretary that 20 million Russians died in the second world war, without which we might have lost the war? Does he agree with Sir Tony Brenton, the former British ambassador to Russia, that despite Russia’s being a leading nuclear power, a member of the UN Security Council, a fundamental source of hydrocarbons and other vital raw materials, and a leading player in the middle east, we are, through “pointless sanctions” and “demonisation”, doing everything we can

“to push Russia into China’s arms”?

Does the Foreign Secretary agree with Sir Tony Brenton that this may prove to be

“the geopolitical blunder of a generation”?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out Russian sacrifice in the war. He is quite right to allude to it, although I might also point out that probably 30 million people died in Stalin’s purges and famines and various other things associated with communism which, as I say, were indulged by the Labour party. [Interruption.] It is true. My hon. Friend’s point about engagement is valid, and that is what we are doing.

One of the things we need from cross-Government co-ordination is for British citizens who fought for Daesh to be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes. More than 400 people from this country have fought in that conflict and come back here, but not a single one has been prosecuted for either genocide or war crimes. Surely that must change.

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. As he knows, they are guilty of a crime—what they have done in going to fight overseas is a crime—and they should be brought to justice. What we have done overall is to call for the evidence that we need to prosecute them to be gathered by the special investigative team that has just been set up by the UN, thanks to the UK’s agency.

Did my right hon. Friend notice Tony Blair’s remarks over the weekend in which he recognised that the international community was wrong not to enter into dialogue with Hamas when it was elected in 2006? In the light of the deal between Hamas and Fatah that has been brokered by Egypt, is there not now another opportunity to engage Hamas in a dialogue in order to draw it into a constructive position and at least have a chance of making it a more constructive player?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question; he brings great learning to this subject. In the end, there might be the prospect of Hamas being brought in—of course that must be right—but before that can happen it has to renounce terror, to recognise Israel’s right to exist, to cease and desist from vile and anti-Semitic propaganda and to abide by the Quartet principles. Nevertheless, what he says has a profound truth; if only Hamas would listen to it and act on what he says.