Health, Social Care and Security Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office

Health, Social Care and Security
Sir Edward Davey Excerpts
Wednesday 28th June 2017

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Home Office
Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Hansard

The public fully appreciate that community policing and bobbies on the beat are important, not just in respect of knife and gun crime but in providing the first line of connection and communication with the community when it comes to tackling terrorism.

I was wondering who the Home Secretary was accusing of scaremongering. Was it the president of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, who said that

“There are now 34,000 fewer staff working in policing than there were in 2010, including 19,000 fewer police officers”?

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard

On the right hon. Lady’s theme, has she heard Cressida Dick, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, talk about the need for more resources and say that the Met is stretched? Has she ever heard a Met Commissioner demanding more resources so publicly?

Ms Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Abbott - Hansard

Government Members can mock, but Londoners are very concerned that within the overall levels of crime, there is rising violent, knife and gun crime. No, I have never heard the Metropolitan police talk so clearly about funding problems.

Break in Debate

Amber Rudd Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 1:17 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to it, and I will certainly take a look at it.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 1:28 p.m.

Will the Home Secretary give way?

Amber Rudd Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 1:28 p.m.

I am going to make some progress, but I look forward to coming back to the right hon. Gentleman.

In terms of what else we are doing to combat terrorism, earlier this month the Prime Minister and President Macron announced a joint action plan, which included measures to tackle terrorist use of the internet. We have Prevent, which the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington referred to, and I repeat my invitation to her to come and visit some of the Prevent initiatives. If people see them for themselves, they will find they do a really positive job in engaging with communities. In addition, the Channel programme, which offers voluntary tailored programmes of support to people assessed as being at risk of radicalisation, has supported over 1,000 at-risk individuals since 2012.

However, as we have, sadly, seen with the recent attacks at Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, the country faces an escalating threat from terrorism—36 innocent people dead, 150 hospitalised, families torn apart, and communities left grieving. The Government must do everything in their power to defeat the scourge of terrorism.

Where we can learn more and improve, we will. That is why, as set out in the Gracious Speech, our counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed. We will look at our whole counter-terrorism approach across Government, police, local authorities and the security services to ensure that they have what they need to protect our country.

If the review finds that further legislation is needed, the House can be assured that we will put this before Parliament. As I announced last week, there will also be a separate review of the handling of recent terror attacks to look at whether lessons can be learned about our approach to these events. This review will be conducted by the police and MI5, and I have asked David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, to provide independent scrutiny.

Break in Debate

Dr Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis - Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 2:20 p.m.

The hon. Lady is a staunch defender of everything to do with the defence of this country, and she is absolutely right. It is a measure of the management downwards of our expectations that we are supposed to ring the church bells in triumph at our not falling below the bare minimum that NATO members are supposed to achieve. We really have to rethink this. We really should be looking at 3% of GDP, and not this bare minimum of 2%.

I want to turn mainly to what is said in the Queen’s Speech about the creation of a commission for countering extremism,

“to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread.”

That implies, although it is not explicit, that the new body will be some form of executive agency. I want to hear from the Front Bench that that will be the case, because we are approaching a key point: it looks likely that the territory seized by ISIL/Daesh will be retaken from it. That will rightly be hailed as a considerable achievement, but we need to remember that only a few years ago no one had heard about ISIL/Daesh, and everybody was overwhelmingly concerned with al-Qaeda. It was unusual for a terrorist organisation to seize territory, because by doing that, ISIL/Daesh gave up the advantage of invisibility, which is what most terrorist organisations make maximum use of. However, I venture to suggest that when it has been removed from its territory and its moment has passed, there will be other groups that take its place, perhaps fighting in different areas and perhaps not trying to seize territory. This will go on and on, as long as there is no effective response to the underlying ideology.

This is not the first time that there has been talk of commissions of this sort. Back in 2013, David Cameron had a taskforce on tackling radicalisation and extremism. On that occasion, too, evidence was taken, but I believe that any future successful plan needs to draw on the similar threats that we faced and overcame in the past.

As I said in an earlier intervention, huge agencies were called into existence to counter other totalitarian ideologies. This rather massive book was never really meant to be published. It is called “The Secret History of PWE”. PWE was the Political Warfare Executive, and the book is a classified history of all the work that it did to counter fascist and Nazi ideology. It was published as recently as 2002. Another organisation, the Information Research Department at the Foreign Office, worked on a grand scale to counter the poisonous ideology of Marxism-Leninism.

What we need today is an organisation that is equally wide-ranging, equally proficient, and equally capable of answering the thoughtful interjection of the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on the subject of the vocabulary that we should use—whether we should use the terms “Islamic”, “un-Islamic”, or simply “violent extremism”. We need an agency to do that. Until we have such an agency, and until it operates to scale, groups will continue to crop up to implement the ideology, and we do not want that to happen.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 2:20 p.m.

It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). He mentioned the new commission for countering terrorism. I look forward to debating the issues surrounding the commission with him and with many other Members, and to listening to what the Government have to say. This is a very important initiative, and we need to get it right.

As the House debates any issue relating to security and home affairs, not just today but in the coming weeks and months, we must recognise what has happened in the last few weeks. There have been the terrorist outrages in Manchester, at London Bridge and at the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, and, of course, there has been the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Those issues, and how the House responds to them, will be a measure of whether Parliament is serving the British people properly.

Having read the Queen’s Speech, I want to address some of those issues, and others that will occupy this Parliament. I intend to concentrate on three themes: sovereignty, security and regulation. Let me begin with sovereignty. As we debate the issues surrounding Brexit, we must bear in mind that criminals, terrorists and organised crime do not recognise borders. They love borders: they can hide from justice, and seek succour. How we as a country keep our people safe and secure will be partly determined by how we work with other countries. In the European Union we developed, over time, a set of organisations, policies and systems that was keeping our people safe: Europol, Eurojust, ECRIS—the European Criminal Records Information System—the Schengen information system, and the European arrest warrant. Those systems and policies help our people. They catch terrorists, they catch rapists, they catch murderers. As we debate our relationship with those very important crime-fighting systems, we have to get it right.

During the Brexit debate, some have said, “We will still be part of those organisations: do not worry.” Well, I do worry. I visited Europol in 2009, and met Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, a Brit and a former MI5 agent. He led, and leads, the organisation very well, but after Brexit, it will not be a Brit who is leading it. Over a period during the setting up of those institutions—those crime-fighting mechanisms—the British Government, and parties of all colours, were at the centre of the development of rules for them. We will not be, after Brexit. I worry greatly about how those mechanisms will evolve. These are very important discussions. I also worry about the Government’s position on the European Court of Justice, which manages issues relating to the European crime-fighting institutions. I think that the rejection of the Court is a serious mistake on the Government’s part, and that they will come to rue it.

When it comes to security, yes, those European co-operation systems are fundamental, but so is the need for more police. We heard from the shadow Home Secretary about the mess that the current Government have made in the police. We have heard from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, that the situation is serious. The Government can quote figure after figure, but if they look at what is happening in our constituencies, they will know that cuts are affecting police on the ground. Since May 2015, my constituency has lost nearly 10% of our police officers, which is having a big impact: crime is going up in my area. The Government must stop these police cuts.

As we heard from the right hon. Member for New Forest East, the proposal for a commission for countering extremism prompts many questions. Will the commission be independent? Will it be accountable to the House? Will it reach out to all groups who want to help the Government fight extremism, and will it look at all causes of extremism? Common sense suggests that extremism must have multiple causes, including terrorist groups recruiting and the activities of hate preachers, but there is one cause on which I want to focus briefly, and that is Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is rife in our country, and we do not speak out against it enough. British Muslims play an incredibly important and positive role in our society, but that is rarely recognised, in the media above all. The reporting of some newspapers makes it appear that British Muslims are the enemy within, and the House should speak out against the press barons who allow such reporting. Just a few months ago, a headline in The Sun read “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis”. The press regulator said that that was “significantly misleading”, but the headlines still come. “British Muslims are killing our troops”, according to one newspaper. Other headlines read “Britain goes halal” and “Muslims tell us how to run our schools”. Those are outrageous headlines, and they are irresponsible. I hope that when the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary meet newspaper editors, that issue will be No. 1 on their list, because if we are not countering Islamophobia, we are not working against one of the issues that are creating extremism.

My last point concerns regulation. We must challenge the way in which we debate regulation. Regulations are not always bad; many are superb. I am afraid that Conservatives have an ideological block about some regulations. I was once told by the former Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar that regulations were communist. I told him that “Thou shalt not kill” was a good regulation—and it was introduced before the time of Marx or Lenin.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con) Hansard
28 Jun 2017, 2:26 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey).

When the national health service was launched in July 1948, it was launched on the basis of three core principles: that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need and not the ability to pay. Those principles continue to serve us very well; they are supported across the House, and they have been reinforced by the NHS constitution.

The extraordinary success of the NHS and public health provision lies in its delivery of increased life expectancy. Many people who now survive into adulthood would not have done so when I qualified as a doctor, some years ago. However, that extraordinary success hands us the key responsibility and challenge of ensuring that we can continue to provide and to meet the needs of everyone in the coming decades. The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) spoke of the importance of joint working across the House. Given that we now have a different parliamentary arithmetic, I agree with her, and I would extend that to the way we talk about funding of health and social care.