Cookies: We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. By continuing to use the site you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more.

House of Commons Hansard
30 November 2017
Volume 632

  • (Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if she will make a statement on the activities of Britain First, online hate speech and the sharing of inflammatory content online by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

  • Britain First is an extremist organisation that seeks to divide communities through its use of hateful narratives that spread lies and stoke tensions. The deputy leader of Britain First is subject to a pending criminal trial, accused of religiously aggravated harassment over the alleged distribution of leaflets and the posting of online material.

    British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance and respect. We will stand with them in doing so. That is why we launched our counter-extremism strategy in 2015 and our hate crime action plan just last year. This House should be clear that this Government will not tolerate any groups that spread hate by demonising those of other faiths or ethnicities and that deliberately raise community fears and tensions.

    We have been clear: President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet videos hosted by the far right group, Britain First. When we look at the wider picture, the relationship between the UK and America, I know how valuable the friendship is between our two nations. As Home Secretary, I can tell the House that the importance of the relationship between our countries—the unparalleled sharing of intelligence between our countries—is vital. It has undoubtedly saved British lives. That is the bigger picture here and I urge people to remember that.

  • Mr Speaker, you will recall that the last time I raised related matters with you before yesterday was when Members from across the House expressed their clear view to you that, after his racist and sexist behaviour, President Trump should not be afforded the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.

    I thank the Home Secretary for her answer and the strength of her words, the Prime Minister for her comments, and the others who have spoken out over the past 24 hours. The extraordinary events we have seen undoubtedly underline why Members from across this House were right to make that call about the President not coming here and why the Prime Minister’s premature offer of a state visit should not now go ahead.

    Let me be clear: I condemn the original content of the messages shared as abhorrent. Anybody who purveys hatred or violence online or in person, whether that be the fascist far right, those who falsely claim to be acting in the name of Islam, or anti-Semites, should rightly be exposed and dealt with.

    Let us also be clear: this is the President of the United States sharing with millions inflammatory and divisive content deliberately posted to sow hatred and division by, as the Home Secretary says, a convicted criminal who is facing further charges and who represents a vile fascist organisation seeking to spread hatred and violence in person and online. By sharing it, he is racist, incompetent or unthinking—or all three.

    Will the Home Secretary please explain what the Government are doing to crack down on the activities, including those online, of Britain First and other far right organisations, and explain why Britain First has not yet been proscribed in the way that National Action has been?

    Given the extraordinary events of the past 24 hours and the direct attack by the President on the Prime Minister for rightly condemning his actions, can the Home Secretary confirm whether the President and the Prime Minister have spoken? Has the Foreign Secretary who, just days ago, heaped praise on the President’s statements on Twitter, saying that people related to them, summoned the US ambassador to express his concerns? Will she also advise whether President Trump’s actions and implied endorsement could have any prejudicial impact on the criminal proceedings currently under way against Ms Fransen? Is the Home Secretary aware that Ms Fransen posted a video last night online, personally urging the President to

    “help keep her out of prison.”?

    Finally, will the Home Secretary confirm when she and the Government will take tough action, on which I support her in her efforts, on the social media companies? We have had no response from Twitter, a typically irresponsible attitude.

    Let me conclude by emphasising that I love America and Americans. My true grandfather was an American GI who came to this country in 1944 to help us fight the dark forces of fascism. I have travelled the length and breadth of 25 of the United States, and it is a country and a people of extraordinary generosity, courage, kindness and humanity. But this President represents none of those things. In one of his last speeches as President, the great Republican General, protector of America at a time of great peril and friend of Britain, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said:

    “Down the long lane of history, yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

    As we stand in the shadow of the words of our fallen colleague, Jo Cox, I sincerely hope that her words, that we have more in common, and the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, will be heeded in these dangerous times. We must always take a stand against hatred from wherever it comes, otherwise we will slip into the darkness.

  • Order. Just before I ask the Home Secretary to respond, and on the basis of sound professional procedural advice, I ought to say to the House that Jayda Fransen, as just referenced by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), is awaiting trial on, I believe, 14 December. I hope that Members will be conscious, while giving vent to their views, as they should and will do, of the importance of avoiding comments that could be prejudicial to the proper conduct of the criminal proceedings. I thank the hon. Gentleman.

  • Mr Speaker, thank you for your guidance regarding the criminal case. I hope the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) will understand if I do not reply to that particular element for the reasons you have set out, Mr Speaker.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words, and I share his views about America. I also love that country, having worked there for a year, and as I said in my opening answer, I am in awe of the mutual trust between us and the Americans, the effort they make to work with us, our shared values with the American people and the way their work has been so important in helping us on intelligence matters—it has undoubtedly saved British lives.

    The hon. Gentleman asks what we have done about online social media extremism of various sorts. We have taken it extremely seriously, which is why I proscribed National Action, the first far-right group to be so proscribed as a terrorist organisation. He asks about other organisations to be proscribed. We are very careful in identifying what merits proscription. He may have a different view, but we abide by the letter of the law in being very clear where members or activists embark on actions that are or are not legal. We have to draw that line very carefully. We have therefore proscribed National Action and will always keep under review what other organisations may be proscribed.

    The hon. Gentleman asks what else we are doing with online companies to ensure that the internet is free from dangerous material, and he will no doubt know that the UK has been leading in this area. The Prime Minister has called for more action. In the wake of the terrorist attacks this year, we called for a global internet forum for counter-terrorism, and I went myself to San Francisco for its launch in the summer. The internet companies are also taking action. Twitter now takes down 95% of illegal material with artificial intelligence. That it is now engaging in machine learning to take down this hate is an incredibly important investment and breakthrough in ensuring that more is taken down, but we are not complacent—more needs to be done—and we will always make sure that we provide the vital leadership necessary to ensure it is taken down.

    Finally, the hon. Gentleman asks about the Prime Minister and whether she has spoken to the President. I will simply say that the Prime Minister will always have regular calls with the President. She has been explicit in criticising this tweet, however, and I know that she will always call it out where she sees it, which is what she has done here.

  • The retweet has been condemned. We can concentrate on the wrong done by the original tweet. Can we ask the Home Secretary if we can do right by identifying, isolating, putting down and putting out the intended community, religious and ethnic strains?

  • It is essential that we have a fair approach to all types of extremism, and with a view to that we always make sure that far-right extremism is treated just as harshly, as it should be, as any sort of radical Islamic terrorism. It is interesting to observe that 25% of referrals to the Channel programme—the bespoke programme that follows Prevent referrals—are in fact on the far-right side.

  • The Home Secretary will appreciate that the Labour party believes that the United States is our most important ally. We anticipate that any British Government would want to work closely with the United States on issues of mutual concern, and we bow to no one in our affection and respect for the American people, but on the question of the online activities of the 45th President, does she accept that the fact that he chose to retweet material from Britain First is offensive not just to British people of Muslim heritage and British people of black and minority ethnic heritage, but to all decent British people. It is also an attack on the values of this country. Although the Labour party appreciates the importance of realpolitik, we also call on the Government to make it clear that, in no way and at no time, do they give any support whatever to the distasteful views of the 45th President on race, migration and Muslim communities internationally. To do anything else would be an affront to voters in this country, whichever side of the House they support.

  • I thank the right hon. Lady for her powerful response. I think it is fair to say that we have been very clear. President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet videos posted by the far-right group Britain First. We have said so clearly in this House and the Prime Minister has said so clearly online. We will continue to speak freely and frankly when such activity takes place.

  • I think that the whole House will agree with the Prime Minister’s words. One of the advantages of having such a special relationship with the United States is that when a friend tells us we have done something dreadfully wrong, we tend to listen. Would not the world be a better place if the Prime Minister could persuade the President of the United States to delete his Twitter account?

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is true that we all listen more carefully to criticism from our friends than from people with whom we do not have a relationship. I hope that the Prime Minister’s comments will have some impact on the President. It is interesting to note my hon. Friend’s advice regarding Twitter accounts; I am sure that many of us share his view.

  • The Scottish National party has long taken the view that the current President of the United States should not be afforded a state visit to the United Kingdom, and yesterday’s actions have reinforced that absolutely. We respect the office of the President of the United States, which is a fantastic country and ally. However, the sharing of tweets by an extremist, offensive and racist organisation is not fitting of someone holding such high office and must be condemned unequivocally. We welcome Downing Street’s suggestion that the tweets were wrong, but we call for the Government to go further because is not one of the key dangers of a state visit that we have absolutely no idea what the President will say or tweet next and before he visits? What does he actually need to say or tweet before the idea of a state visit is ditched once and for all?

  • An invitation for the visit has been extended and accepted, but the dates and the precise arrangements have yet to be agreed.

  • Local authorities have a key role in combating extremism. Can the Home Secretary say exactly what the Government plan to do further to support local authorities to ensure that they can undertake this role?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right that local authorities have an important role to play. We actively engage with them through the Prevent programme, which allows us to support community organisations that are embedded in the local area. Those organisations can go out and engage with local groups, providing the support to safeguard people, particularly young men and women who may be becoming radicalised. It is an incredibly important part of the way in which we look after our communities, and we will continue to do so.

  • We agree about the importance of our relationship with the US, and our peoples have stood together against far-right extremism and Islamist extremism and will do so again. That is exactly why we cannot pander now. Britain First gets its succour from spreading its poison and its extremism online—that is how it works—and the President of the United States has just given it a rocket boost in promoting hatred in our communities. Online is where the new battle for democracy is being fought, and the Prime Minister has rightly challenged Putin’s Russia for what she described as

    “seeking to weaponise information…to plant fake stories…in an attempt to sow discord”.

    That means that—no matter what diplomatic route we find to do this—we cannot simply roll out a red carpet and give the President of the United States a platform to also sow discord in our communities. We know that he and these groups will keep doing this and keep spreading extremism. We also know—from the plaque behind us and from our own history—where the spread of extremism leads unless enough of us are prepared to stand up now and say no.

  • We do stand up to extremism; we stand up to it in our own communities. We stand up to it as the Prime Minister did when she criticised the President for doing the retweeting that we are discussing today.

    The right hon. Lady is absolutely right about trying to clean up the online community. That is where so much of the battle takes place, which is why the Government are focused on making sure we take these things down. That is also why our relationship with the US is so important. When I called for a roundtable of the internet giants after the first terrorist attack, in March, what we got was the UK representatives coming. It was only with the support of the US that we were able to get the Global Internet Forum set up, which is based in San Francisco. Being able to work at the highest levels with our US friends to get action taken is the best way to achieve such outcomes, and I urge the right hon. Lady to bear that in mind.

  • About a month ago, the most popular man in the world was a last-day employee of Twitter who unplugged the account of the President of the United States. Was he not right? If Twitter is genuine in its commitment to fight hate crime online, it should have no hesitance in taking down the Twitter account of the first citizen of the US, as it would that of any other citizen of the world who peddled such hate crime.

  • I am sure that the chief executive of Twitter will have heard the interesting suggestion from my hon. Friend, and we will leave it to Twitter to decide what action to take.

  • It is pretty clear, on the basis of what we already know about this fascist President, that mere words are not enough. Action is needed. Three times the Home Secretary has been asked by Opposition Members to cancel the state visit. Action is needed now, not a slap on the wrist. Cancel the state visit.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his views, and I can only repeat what I have said before—that the invitation has been extended and accepted, and we have yet to make the arrangements.

  • Is it not an irony that the President of the United States, who loves Twitter and talks about fake news, actually retweeted fake news? However, the real danger is that the vast majority of our constituents have never heard of Britain First, and this retweet has given it huge oxygen. Should we not all go back to our constituencies and our communities and say that, no matter what people’s faith is and no matter what their beliefs are, we are together as a community, and the President was stupid in what he did?

  • I thank my right hon. Friend, and he raises such an important point, which is that we need to reassure our communities that the sort of hate that is promoted by Britain First is alien to us. If we look at the response to not only the tragic, tragic death of Jo Cox but the terrorist attacks this year, what we actually saw was our communities coming together and refusing to be divided, and we should make sure that we show that to be the case around our own neighbourhoods as well as across the Benches of the House.

  • How would the Home Secretary respond if similar tweets to those made by President Trump were made by a Muslim leader promoting hatred? Would they be allowed into the UK?

  • The hon. Gentleman should not rush to that conclusion. As I hope he has heard, I have been clear that we take an even-handed approach to individuals and to extremism of any sort, which is why I took the time to point out that right-wing extremism of the sort we have seen retweeted and the sort we have seen from National Action, which meant that we proscribed it, is just as hateful and just as dangerous as any sort of radical Islamic extremism.

  • I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister on their strong words and strong action in condemning the spreading of these evil words. Will my right hon. Friend look at encouraging the internet companies to make sure that Twitter and Facebook accounts, and other such accounts, are clearly identified as the mouthpiece of individuals and the organisations they represent? There is a risk that people think this is a general view of British people, and it clearly is not. We need to isolate these people for what they are.

  • My hon. Friend raises the very good point, which was also raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), that we must be careful not to allow all this conversation about a hated, hate-filled group to fuel interest in the group. We want to make sure it does not represent Britain, does not represent our values, and should not in any way be interpreted as doing so. I think it is an interesting point, and one we should all act on.

  • Hate breeds hate, and an attack on the Muslim community is an attack on us all. Not content with attacking minorities in the United States, Donald Trump, by giving a platform to Britain First, a rabidly racist and neo-fascist organisation, is now actively sowing seeds of hatred in our country. At a time when the number of hate crimes in our country is increasing, what action will the Home Secretary take today to mitigate the horrific actions that the President took yesterday?

  • The hon. Lady knows, I think, that we take all forms of hate crime very seriously. We always encourage communities to report it when it takes place. I have active engagement with the police and crime commissioners and the chiefs of police to ensure that reporting does take place. Critically, we have a role to make sure that online companies do more to take material down, ensure that reports of fake news are not posted and help us identify who has been promoting hateful information. So we as a Government are on the front foot, ensuring that we engage with the online companies, show the leadership that is expected and make sure such material is taken down.

  • We all condemn and feel disgusted by the hate speech that has been propagated by Mr Trump and others. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the danger with organisations like Britain First is that they conceal their hateful activities behind a cloak of fluffiness? They sometimes talk about Remembrance Day in a very insidious way, to trick people—I am not suggesting that in relation to Donald Trump; he ought to have known better. Those are the tactics they use. What is my right hon. Friend doing, with the Government, to develop her understanding so that we can fight hate crime on all the fronts that infect our communities so dangerously?

  • My hon. Friend raises an important point. She is absolutely right that sometimes extremist far right groups try to hijack our national symbols and our national days of memorial and remembrance. We need to make sure that we always call that out. I would say to my hon. Friend, the best thing we can do is call it out, and make sure that we spread the alternative word—the alternative story—about British values.

  • Two million people signed a petition of outrage when the President was given an honour that has never been offered to any other President, when he was invited to make a red-carpet visit to this country in the first month of his office. Since then, he has dangerously increased tension in every frozen world conflict that he has addressed. He has disgraced himself again and again, and he worries us because his impulsive finger is on the nuclear button. If he is allowed to come to this country now, he should be treated as anyone else who breaks the law, and charged with inciting racial hatred. The Government should withdraw the invitation.

  • I would simply repeat that we have not yet made the arrangements for the visit, but the invitation has been extended and it has been accepted.

  • Politics and Twitter are a toxic mix. For politicians, tweeting encourages the transmission of half-formed ideas instead of listening to the developed arguments of others. It promotes a culture of instant reaction as opposed to considered thought, and it provokes people to immediate outrage instead of pauseful reflection. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how politicians taking to Twitter has led to an improvement in modern civilisation?

  • I think that is slightly beyond my capacity today. My hon. Friend is right in so far as I think that many of us could benefit from a little more considered thought and pauseful contemplation before we press reply to Twitter attacks.

  • It is important that the messages of hate spread by the President of the United States are condemned as the vile acts that they truly are. I speak on behalf of my party when I urge the Government to rescind their offer of a state visit to a President who has used his global platform to propagate intolerance. May I ask the Home Secretary to elaborate further on the pressure that will be exerted on social media platforms, such as Twitter, to prevent such untrue and poisonous content from permeating our society?

  • I repeat that the invitation to the President for a visit has been extended and accepted. We must remember that the United States has such an important relationship with this country in keeping us safe, and I urge all hon. Members to keep in mind the importance of that relationship before rushing to make such changes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has heard from me this morning how seriously we take the need to make sure that all illegal content, including extreme content, is taken down from Twitter and other online platforms; and the importance of the platforms taking a more active role in ensuring that such material does not stay up.

  • In a cynical attempt to harness the Brexit vote in my constituency, the English Defence League last year sought to organise a far-right march. Just nine people showed up, but that is nine people too many. Although the abhorrent views of the EDL and Britain First do not represent the mainstream in this country, does the Home Secretary agree that there is still work to do to disabuse people of such views, and that we need to bring forward more measures to allow us to do that?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those organisations in no way represent the views of the British people, as we all know. There is always more work to do, and, as he says, the presence of even nine supporters is unwelcome. As has been pointed out several times in the House today, the real danger is increasingly the encouragement of extremist activity online. That is where we are focusing much of our effort, to ensure that it is not allowed to continue.

  • In her previous role as Home Secretary, the Prime Minister banned from entering this country individuals who had promoted organisations peddling the hate-filled ideology of fascism. This morning, David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, applauded Donald Trump. The New York Times notes:

    “No modern American president has promoted inflammatory content of this sort from an extremist organization.”

    Not only has the commander-in-tweet done this, but he has defended it, publicly chastising the British Prime Minister for her comments. Putting aside the question of a state visit, should he even be allowed to enter our country? Unprecedented actions require unprecedented responses.

  • I point out to the hon. Lady that the Prime Minister has robustly replied to the President and made her views absolutely clear. On the hon. Lady’s other proposal, we do not routinely comment on individual exclusion cases.

  • Is the Home Secretary satisfied that President Trump’s behaviour—this is not an isolated incident—does not undermine our important security and co-operation relationship with the United States? May I also say that just because somebody stops using Twitter, it does not mean that they cease to be a twit?

  • My hon. Friend puts his finger on it, if I may say so, in the first half of his comment when he talks about the importance of that close relationship. However strongly hon. Members feel about the President, we must protect the particular relationship that we have with the US, which does so much to keep British people safe.

  • If I am honest, I think the Home Secretary is missing something here. This was not an accident, and it was not stupid; it was deliberate and intentional. The evidence for that is that even after the Prime Minister said the President was wrong, he decided to stand by Britain First. I say to the Home Secretary that it is no good saying, “We’ve been robust.” The Government have been robust before, and it has not made the blindest bit of difference: he is a repeat offender, and this will go on and on. We cannot stand up to this kind of action and stand up to horrible racism—or pretend to do so—and then invite the man in through the front door.

    In the past, when she was the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister repeatedly said that homophobes and racists who stir up hatred in this country will not be allowed into this country, and that if they come to this country they will be arrested. That is what should happen in this case, and the Home Secretary knows it. Just say it!

  • There is no pretence here: we are absolutely clear about the action we will take against people who propagate hate. The hon. Gentleman should not under- estimate the Prime Minister’s views on this and her absolute clarity in showing them to the public by criticising the President in her comment to him. I will not take any criticism from the hon. Gentleman on the fact that Conservative Members and the Government are committed to the agenda of making sure that we protect people and promote British values, and I will continue to take that position.

  • I thank the Home Secretary for her important words this morning, echoing those of the Prime Minister. Does the Home Secretary agree that all politicians and community leaders at every level and in every community have a duty to be temperate in their language, tolerant in their actions and mindful of their social media presence, and will she make sure that she holds content platforms to account so that community cohesion and understanding are maintained?

  • Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is incredibly important to make sure that we support communities in their genuine efforts, plans and programmes to hold together, despite the difficulties that may come along. We saw that this year when, in spite of and in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, our communities did hold together, and many of them went out of their way to support other faiths when other people were criticising them. That is the British way, those are our values and that is what we should be proud of.

  • We must take a firm stance against hate speak and ensure that future generations do so as well. Will the Home Secretary and her colleagues consider supporting Holocaust education in schools so that younger generations understand the importance of standing up against discrimination and the very grave consequences of inaction?

  • The hon. Lady makes a very important point, and I thank her for raising it. The Holocaust Educational Trust does incredibly good and important work. I know that because some of the children in my schools in Hastings and Rye have been on such trips, and I have been on one myself. It is a very powerful way of remembering the terrible things that happened, and of learning how by remembering them we can make sure that they do not happen again. I absolutely support her point.

  • Does the Home Secretary share my astonishment at the fact that someone in the position of the President of the United States actually finds the time to trawl through Twitter looking for posts as abhorrent as the ones he has retweeted? Does she share my view that far from making America great again, his actions in retweeting those tweets reflect badly on his office and undermine the very principles on which the United States was founded?

  • My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and that is why the Prime Minister was so swift and so firm in her response to the President’s tweets.

  • When I think of Muslim children in Newcastle waking up to find themselves being attacked by the President of the most powerful nation on earth, because that is how it will appear to them, my heart bleeds. The 45th President is not accountable to the children of Newcastle—it is hard to see to whom he does hold himself accountable—but the social media giants are accountable, through the Home Secretary, so what is she going to do today to demonstrate that accountability?

  • The hon. Lady might refer her friends in the community to the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He very much made his comments as a Muslim, and I think that other Muslims in this country might take comfort from them.

    We are making sure that we provide the leadership necessary to have as much as possible of the hate speech and illegal information that is sometimes put online taken down. The House must understand that the relationship with the US is critical to making real progress with the online companies. They are American companies; they are based in Silicon Valley; they are subject to US law. If we are going to make real progress with these internet companies, we have to do it in close alliance with our American friends.

  • When the Prime Minister has her next regular conversation with the United States President, could the Home Secretary ensure that she conveys to him that the purveying of this kind of hate speech simply serves the ends of those who wish to promote hatred between different communities in my constituency? Will she undertake to ask the Prime Minister to tell him that every time this kind of hate speech is perpetrated my black, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other minority constituents feel more fear and fear alienation and suspicion from others in the community, and that the President will not be welcome in this country because he is perpetrating and extending that hate speech?

  • We are clear that the sort of hatred that she describes and the sort of division that is sown by Britain First, for instance, is unwelcome here in the UK. We will always take action to call it out. We operate in the Home Office to take down information that gets up on the internet that should not be there. We take down about 2,000 pieces of terrorist content a week. We are always stepping up to ensure that there is more information out there that can help to bind our communities together. I share the hon. Lady’s view. I have the same response in my constituency. I want to be absolutely clear that our communities will hold together, and that we abhor all hate crime, and we will always say that.

  • May I offer the Government a way out of the diplomatic ditch that they are in? Her Majesty the Queen has been cutting back on her engagements due to her great and welcome age. She has a royal wedding to look forward to next year and the birth of a new great grandchild. Do not those facts alone justify the Government’s announcing the postponement of the state visit by the President of the United States for at least, say, three years?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his thoughtful advice to the royal family. As I have said, the dates have not yet been agreed.

  • I am very saddened by what Trump has done. Like many people in our country, I have been a great friend of America. Indeed, as a very young man, I emigrated to the United States, and still cherish my old green card. So many of my American friends and relatives have said to me in the past few hours, “This man does not speak for America. This man is betraying the traditions of the United States of freedom, liberty and respect for everyone, whatever their religion or background.” Please, as we negotiate this thing, stop this man coming on a state visit. If he comes, there will be unparalleled demonstrations in this country. Please will the Home Secretary act now before it is too late?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. Like him, I am a great admirer of America, and I have friends with different views, shall we say, to those of the President, who are keen to communicate them to me sometimes. As for the invitation, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his views, but no date has been agreed yet.

  • I emphasise that what the President of the United States has said on Twitter is not what the American people feel. I am sure that most Americans are embarrassed by and abhor what the President has done. The Home Secretary is in charge of policing in this country so this is a very serious and direct question. Inciting racial and religious hatred is a crime in this country. Have Twitter or the President of the United States committed a crime?

  • We keep all potential crimes of the type that the hon. Gentleman has referred to under review. I will not comment on individual cases of the type that he has referred to. I am sure that he can conclude by himself on the line between free speech and criminal activity. I think I will leave it at that.

  • Two years ago, I tabled an early-day motion calling for then presidential candidate Trump to be banned from visiting the United Kingdom until he retracted the extremely divisive comments he had made at that time. Given his tweets yesterday and overnight, it is clear that he has not changed. That is the key point. Will the Home Secretary tell me why it is right for someone so intent on stirring up hatred, contrary to the values of this country, to be invited here for an all-expenses-paid state visit at the expense of the taxpayer?

  • What about the values of the American people, of whom he is the President? So many Members on both sides of the House have said how much they admire the American people. Those are the values that I admire and with which I feel we have much in common.

  • As the Home Secretary will know very well, in this tolerant country of ours, non-Muslims and Muslims live in peace together as friends and neighbours—sometimes as members of the same families. How do I go back and explain to my constituents that there is a national interest in inviting somebody who is there to divide our communities, one from the other?

  • I would urge the hon. Gentleman to make, perhaps, some of the points that I have made today in the House—that Mr Trump is the American President and we have such admiration and affection for the American people and share values with them in so many different ways. We are also so grateful to their intelligence and security services, with whom we work so closely. The closeness of that work, the trust between us, allows them to help save British lives so effectively. That is why we have such a close and special relationship with the Americans.

  • Taking the charitable view that the President of the United States does not know the character of the organisation whose vile utterances he has endorsed, will the Home Secretary assure the House that the Government will make him well aware of their view of the character of this organisation and its effects, so that he has the opportunity clearly to distance himself from any association with it before there can be any question of his visiting the United Kingdom?

  • It is certainly our intention to be absolutely clear that the type of organisation that the President appeared to be promoting in his retweet is wholly unwelcome and full of hate, and we will continue to call that out. I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made that clear in her criticism of him, but we will not miss an opportunity to make that point again—and we will do so strongly and firmly.

  • Back in 2010, the now Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, banned radical Indian televangelist preacher Zakir Naik from entering the UK for his repeated pattern of unacceptable behaviour—in particular his line that “every Muslim is a terrorist”. Her exact words at the time were:

    “I am not willing to allow those…not…conducive to the public good to enter the UK.”

    Surely the same applies to President Trump and his frequent repugnant outbursts? We are in Islamophobia awareness month, which was launched here the other day. The Government’s own Casey report was quoted. It says that trigger events feed Islamophobia, which means that women have their hijabs ripped off them; that grandads are murdered on the way back from prayers; and that pigs’ heads are left on mosque doorsteps. As a Muslim, I ask the Home Secretary to do the same as her predecessor, our Prime Minister, did in those previous examples. A rapper was also excluded for his misogynist lyrics. Can the Home Secretary not just continue on that track and ban this visit altogether?

  • I thank the hon. Lady, particularly for her point about Islamophobia, which we take incredibly seriously. That is why it featured so strongly in the hate crime action plan that I launched last year and why we have provided extra money to make sure that mosques can be protected. We have also given additional financial support for Tell MAMA, which does such great work in combating Islamophobia.

    We are very serious about making sure that the type of hate crime that the Prime Minister addressed as Home Secretary is taken seriously and stopped so that we can protect people. She was absolutely right to ban the people whom the hon. Lady referred to. We do not comment on individual exclusion cases, but I will make sure that we always look very carefully at that when it is appropriate.

  • My constituents know only too well where extremism ultimately leads. The actions of the President cannot be isolated as a mistake; as has already been said, he is a repeat offender. These are his views, and anyone else who held them would not be welcome in this country. The Home Secretary must recognise the double standards that she is representing by saying that she condemns the President’s actions while at the same time opening her arms by inviting him to come to this country. Surely she must send the clear message that he is not welcome here.

  • I do not accept that there are double standards. What I accept is that we have been totally consistent in ensuring that we call out hate crime and take aggressive action in order to stop it. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister responded so strongly to the tweet, and why other Cabinet Ministers have taken action as well. We will always ensure that we take action to stop the vile hate crime that sometimes takes place.

  • Has any member of the UK Government asked for these tweets to be taken down?

  • I shall have to come back to the hon. Lady on that.

  • Can the Home Secretary provide me with some guidance on how I should respond to residents in my incredibly diverse constituency when they ask me why our Government are affording someone with such abhorrent, vile, fascist, bigoted views the luxury of a state visit? If we do not take action today, when will we?

  • I ask the hon. Lady to refer her constituents—as I will refer mine—to the Prime Minister’s strong response. I also ask her to explain to them why the strong relationship with the US is so much in their interests, and to explain that action that we have shared with the intelligence services in the US helps to keep British people safe. We do not want to jeopardise any of that. The hon. Lady shakes her head, but this is an important point about keeping her constituents safe. That relationship is so critical to us that I would not want to harm it at all.

  • Surely the robust response that is required now is a withdrawal of the invitation.

  • The important step that we can take to stop the promulgation of the type of hate crime that has been promoted by Britain First, and by other extreme right-wing groups, is to work with the major internet companies to ensure that more action is taken. That is exactly the area in which the UK has been leading internationally, and in which the Prime Minister has been leading at the recent United Nations conference. The whole House can rely on the Government to ensure that those companies deliver for us.

  • I thank the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) for submitting his urgent question, and I thank the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary for being present on this important occasion. Let me also express my gratitude to all colleagues for participating in a very important set of exchanges.

    Before I call the shadow Leader of the House to ask the business question, I should emphasise that there will be huge pressure on time from now on. There is to be an emergency debate under Standing Order 24 which can continue for up to three hours, and two debates are to be conducted under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. There is therefore a premium on short questions and short answers.