There have been 6 exchanges between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
|1||Tue 11th September 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
|5 interactions (848 words)|
|2||Tue 10th July 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Seventh sitting)
|10 interactions (2,883 words)|
|3||Thu 5th July 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Sixth sitting)
|23 interactions (6,353 words)|
|4||Tue 3rd July 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fourth sitting)
|3 interactions (1,323 words)|
|5||Tue 3rd July 2018||
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fifth sitting)
|15 interactions (3,353 words)|
|6||Tue 22nd May 2018||
Serious Violence Strategy
|3 interactions (631 words)|
(1 year, 6 months ago)Commons Chamber
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
On 22 May last year, I was woken from my slumber by the tragic news of the attack on the Manchester Arena: the murder of women, children and men who had been out enjoying their day and night at the arena. A member of ISIS chose to target them ruthlessly, in a way that showed total discrimination, when they were at their least defensible. Last year, society faced numerous attacks from terrorists. In March this year, we saw the reckless and very dangerous use of the Novichok nerve agent on our streets, which sadly led to the death of a British citizen.
The Government did not knee-jerk—we did not jump, as has sometimes happened over the past few decades, to take measures. The Government considered the issues, considered our vulnerabilities and not only took strong steps to produce a Bill that will help our security forces and our police tackle the changing threats, but were determined to be as collaborative as possible throughout the legislating process. Tonight, Members will have heard how we rightly accepted the observations from the Labour Front Bench and the SNP about some of the measures. The Labour party and the Government discussed the streaming of content online and came up with a sensible solution to make sure that people who stream horrific material are brought to justice.
This is not an attention-seeking Bill; it is a Bill designed to make a difference, to make our streets safer, to make our citizens safer and to send a message that one of the reasons the United Kingdom is one of the world leaders in counter-terrorism is that we not only learn our lessons from every event, but build on the experience of previous Governments. Much of the Bill is built on the back of the Terrorism Act 2000, which was brought in by the last Labour Government. We have taken the best elements and learned from our experiences and the threats to produce a piece of legislation that in my view and that of the Government strikes the right balance between liberty, individuals’ rights and the security of this nation. It is a balance that we do not take for granted and that we review constantly.
That is why this country probably has some of the greatest oversight of its intelligence services, ably led by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the judicial commissioners, Lord Justice Fulford and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. All of those learned and respected individuals take a strong role, as do the Members who sit on the Intelligence and Security Committee, in scrutinising the people who are charged with delivering the security of this nation. That, coupled with our long adherence to human rights, makes me confident that the Bill does not tip the balance in the wrong way, but navigates the difficult course that we are faced with, given the emerging technologies, to keep people safe.
The hon. Gentleman made that point in Committee. I was due to meet him last week. Unfortunately, because of the Salisbury issues, that meeting was delayed, but I will meet him. I have spoken to the Exchequer Secretary. The hon. Gentleman is right about some of the issues with the package for his community, compared with what has happened after other events. That is a discussion for us to have with the Mayor of London.
The hon. Gentleman’s points are well made but, with respect to him, I need to draw to a close.
If it is passed, this Bill, much of which has the support of all parties in this House, will leave this House doing the right thing to keep people safe, striking the right balance with our rights and allowing us to remember those people who in the last few months and years have lost their lives tragically to terrorism and, lately, to the actions of a hostile state. I am afraid we must remember that out there, there are very bad people, very bad terrorist organisation and, nowadays, some very bad states who wish to do real harm to our values. This Bill protects our values, but deals with the issues and gives our security services and police forces the tools that they need.
(1 year, 8 months ago)Public Bill Committees
The hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark made, as with his other points, a passionate appeal to do something about this issue, as a direct result of working with his constituents in Borough market. Charities in this country do an incredible amount of work. I think the public gave more than £10.3 billion to charity in 2017. As a British citizen, I am incredibly proud that it is still in our nature to contribute to a range of charities. The establishment of the Charity Commission has played a hugely important role in supporting and helping to co-ordinate the work of fundraisers and charities in responding to such major incidents.
We should also reflect that it is not the incidents that define people’s hurt, need and suffering. The pain and goodwill of the husband, wife, brother or sister of someone desperately trying to raise money for an operation abroad, someone trying to raise money for the hospice where their father died, someone raising money to deal with someone injured in a car accident, or someone trying to campaign for change or for the NHS, for example, to produce some new treatment, are the same as those trying to support victims of terrorism. Someone who has lost their children at the hands of knife crime, not terrorism, will feel no different to, and no less a victim than, any other victims. I am not saying that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark suggested that.
There are emergencies all the time that result in a significant loss of life. Thankfully, they are not all caused by terrorism; in fact, they are very rarely caused by terrorism, and I would not seek to put a line on one versus another. I would not seek to say that one incident deserves a cap or a lesser fee than the other. We have to get to grips with the core of what needs to be put right.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I understand his dividing line of accidental or unavoidable, but many more people are killed in this country as a result of domestic abuse than terrorism. Many more people are killed because of knife crime or violent crime every year than terrorism. It is the same; no one went out to look for that. That is the position. We could probably debate all day where we would draw the line. That is one of the challenges we face.
The Government are committed to ensuring that victims of terrorism receive effective support that is comprehensive and co-ordinated. That is why last year we set up the cross-Government victims of terrorism unit to co-ordinate support to UK citizens directly affected by terrorist events at home and overseas. We continue to work across Government, including with the third sector and private sector organisations, to improve and strengthen the support available so that victims receive the best possible support now and in the future.
The Government’s approach to digital fundraising platforms is to promote self-regulation, with the aim of ensuring that transparency and the public interest are protected. The Fundraising Regulator, working with a number of digital fundraising platforms, has developed new transparency requirements, which it consulted on and announced just last month on 7 June. These changes were incorporated into the “Code of Fundraising Practice”, the rulebook for fundraising in the UK, and the platforms have until the end of August to make any necessary changes to their systems and processes. Most digital fundraising platforms have already registered with the Fundraising Regulator. Several platforms chose to waive or cap their fees in relation to some of the incidents last year, including the Manchester terror attack.
Alongside the updates to the “Code of Fundraising Practice”, the Fundraising Regulator has developed guidance for online fundraising platforms, to help them meet the expected standards of transparency. Guidance has also been produced to help members of the general public who want to use these platforms to ensure that they do not inadvertently breach the code and that they consider how funds will reach the intended beneficiaries.
We expect non-statutory regulation under the Fundraising Regulator to work, but as a backstop the Government have reserve powers to regulate fundraising under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, should that prove necessary. We will not hesitate to do so, if that is the case.
These changes are already having an impact. One prominent for-profit funding platform has changed its practices; as well as being more transparent about its fees, it now offers donors the ability to make an additional payment to cover the fees, ensuring that the entire donation goes to the beneficiaries.
I have greater sympathy for a more directive approach when it comes to gift aid. Some digital fundraising providers include the gift aid amount when they calculate their charge. I think that is outrageous. Gift aid is taxpayers’ money that is given to charities; it is not meant for businesses that operate fundraising platforms. That is why my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury has asked Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to explore options to ensure that gift aid is passed on in full to the charities to which it is due.
Separate to the work of the Fundraising Regulator in improving transparency and the regulation of digital fundraising platforms, work is underway with the charity sector to better co-ordinate charities’ response to major emergencies. This programme is being supported by the Charity Commission, working closely with a range of charities, fundraisers and regulators, including the Fundraising Regulator.
In January this year the Charity Commission organised a roundtable event involving 25 charities, regulators, fundraising platforms and others, to start to develop a framework for a more co-ordinated charity sector response to national critical incidents. Attendees agreed to the principle of creating a collective framework for co-ordinating such responses. They formed a working group to develop the framework and operating principles behind any future disaster response. That work is progressing well and focuses on the themes of first response, fundraising, distribution of funds, and recovery.
I am sure that this is not the intention of the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark in new clause 5, but we believe that, at the moment, there might be unintended consequences for reducing the charitable funds raised to help victims of terrorism. Were the new clause to become law, some of the digital fundraising platforms might stop people setting up fundraising pages for the victims of terrorism, resulting in less charitable funds being raised. There is also a risk that funds already raised by established charities, using professional fundraisers, which could have been used to support victims, could not be used for the proper purpose. There does not appear to be a clear rationale, as I said earlier, about where we draw the line. I hope that he understands why I cannot support the new clause.
I assure the Committee that work is underway to improve the transparency of digital fundraising platforms and the co-ordination of charities’ responses to major incidents, including supporting victims of terrorism. I am happy to facilitate a meeting with the hon. Gentleman and the Minister with responsibility for charities to talk that through directly. As a Security Minister, my locus is over terrorism, but the wider regulation of charities across the whole sector—all types of charities—is the responsibility of another Minister. I am happy to present the hon. Gentleman’s intentions in this new clause to that Minister and then arrange a meeting between them.
I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman that we are working through the Fundraising Regulator and the Treasury to ensure that his concerns are met. At the same time, we are trying to balance the modern technology of the world, which a lot of people use to fundraise and collect donations.
Break in Debate
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The first thing to do in a big event is get out loudly and publicly the alternative charitable telephone numbers. Telephone lines for donations are always set up, often directly to charities and sometimes through the Department for International Development—for foreign emergencies —or other Departments. That is the first path.
I am constantly disappointed by this. As an ex-soldier, I was approached by a forces charity and asked to be one of its many patrons, only to discover that a massive wedge was for the fee. The charity does not advertise that on its stall when it is raising money. The problem has gone on for too long, which is why the Government, with cross-party support, introduced the 2016 Act. That was also on the back of elderly people being ruthlessly pursued by some fundraisers. The charity sector, in many different areas, has to clean up its act. Recently we have seen sexual harassment cases in some major charities.
My worry is that those who sometimes oppose charities might seek to exploit all that. We have to get this fine balance right, because we want people to keep giving. We should be much more prescriptive about fees, we should publicise how much they are and what the alternatives are, and we must recognise that people give in many different ways. That giving costs money.
An amazing thing, which no one ever really publicises, is that during Ramadan mosques in this country raise £100 million for charitable causes. That is a huge collective effort over a short period. One of the pillars of Islam is charitable giving, but people do it differently. We have to ensure that the platforms that people use, whether verbally in the mosque or online, are supported and enabled without grotesque profits being made out of suffering.
We have therefore taken the power under the 2016 Act. The first process is to get the industry, through the regulator, to self-regulate, with us keeping a close eye on it. Where the system has been abused, we have to go to the heart of things and question motives. Abuse of gift aid, for example, makes me incredibly worried. What type of organisation does that? I hope that my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary takes strong and swift action—I shall reinforce his efforts—to ensure that is dealt with at once.
I hope that I have reassured the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. I agree with his motives but not his methods, so I ask him to withdraw the motion.
Break in Debate
We absolutely have. It is not just about scale or who is better at one thing over the other; it is genuinely that in such activity the sum of the parts is greater. The United Kingdom has developed a clear lead on counter-terrorism policy through our intelligence services and police services learning to work together on domestic issues quicker than our European allies. That needs to be scaled up to working internationally. At the same time, we need to navigate the real obligation of the state to protect its citizens’ data. It is not a free-for-all.
The hon. Member for Torfaen is right, and we are totally determined to get there through negotiation. It is not that we disagree; I simply take the view that primary legislation is not the place for individual parts of a negotiation. The new clauses would not make any difference, because the Government would not be bound to the outcome but just be saying, “This is what we intend.” The Prime Minister has said what our position is and what we want. I have said it to the Committee, and we have said it to the European Commission. It has been said on a number of occasions and no piece of primary legislation will change that. We agree with the intention, and I understand the symbolism of putting an objective into the Bill, but it is not necessary. As long as I am the Security Minister and the Government are negotiating, we wish that to be the case, and that is what we are asking for.
The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth worries about the new Brexit Secretary, but we are all in a team with collective responsibility and he was probably not aware in 2014 of the clear importance of intelligence and security sharing and how it makes a difference to saving lives every single day. Most recently—two weeks ago—the United Kingdom contributed a significant part towards foiling a plot in Cologne involving a terrorist who had managed to make ricin and was making a bomb to devastate that city and its people.
As long as I have breath in my body, I shall do everything I can, but I do not believe that primary legislation is the place for our negotiating objectives. I will happily arrange it for anyone who is in any doubt to visit our police officers to see how important that is.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Prime Minister’s Munich speech in February, in which she continued to make this point about security—it is not a competition and our offer is open. The only danger to our security would be a dismissal by the European Commission out of hand and refusal to give us any intelligence or data. That would be a danger to us and to it; it would cut off its nose to spite its face.
All the Commission’s professionals, and member states’ intelligence services and police forces, are telling them that. In all my meetings with member states’ Interior and Security Ministers, they agree and concur. It is time that the Commission reflects that, because it is in the interests of European citizens to continue this relationship. It is not purely in our interest; it is in their interests, too.
The Prime Minister is absolutely determined on this point: a safer Europe is a safer Britain; and a safer Britain is a safer Europe. I do not think that will change. My simple dispute with the Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson is that I do not believe that this duty needs to sit in primary legislation.
(1 year, 8 months ago)Public Bill Committees
It is nice to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan.
As the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) explained, the intention behind the amendment is to ensure that the Government make a public statement three days after an incident about whether it is an act of terrorism as defined by the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993. If that is not possible within three days, the amendment would require the Government to provide an estimate of when they will be able to make such a statement.
The amendment would significantly alter the current process, and would introduce uncertainty for businesses and insurers during what is already a stressful and challenging time, following a terrorist attack. The 1993 Act requires that reinsurance and guarantee arrangements can be extended only for losses related to acts of terrorism, as defined by the Act. There is an established contractual process, under which an incident is certified as an act of terror in accordance with the 1993 Act. That important process is designed to give the insurance industry certainty about whether an incident is within those reinsurance or guarantee arrangements.
In the case of the Government-backed terrorism insurer, Pool Re, Her Majesty’s Treasury has an agreed deadline to certify whether an incident is an act of terrorism. It must do so within 21 days of receiving a certification request from Pool Re. It is worth clarifying that Pool Re’s formal certification request may not necessarily arrive on the day of the terror event, as it is driven by whether any of its members have received a claim.
The Treasury treats certification as a priority, to ensure that Pool Re and its members can proceed with the claim process. That means that businesses can get the financial protection they have paid for through insurance contracts. The Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks in 2017 were all certified within 21 days. For example, the Manchester Arena attack was certified within five business days of the certification request being received from Pool Re.
Once such a request has been received, Treasury officials consult the police and the Home Office before giving advice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who makes a final decision about whether an event should be certified as an attack. That certification process properly sits with the Treasury, as the Chancellor’s approval is ultimately required to authorise any financial support required for Pool Re.
Pool Re is not the only underwriter of terrorism risk in the country. Many businesses across the UK are insured via contracts with different terms, conditions and certification processes. That means that if the Government were to make a public statement about the status of the certification process, as it related to Pool Re, it would risk confusing those businesses about the status of their own claims.
I know that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark is particularly concerned about the length of time it took for the horrific terrorist attack in his constituency in June last year to be certified, and I am very conscious of the impact that any delays can have on businesses. I have therefore asked that our officials look at why the process is not quicker after a Pool Re certification request comes to the Treasury, given that, as Security Minister, I sometimes know within minutes or hours whether an attack is a terrorist offence. Indeed, the head of counter-terrorism often makes a public statement to that effect within hours, not days.
I have taken the essence of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment and his constituents’ concerns and sought to follow up to see why it takes so long when a request enters the Government system—I cannot do much about how long it takes for claimants to submit a claim. The clock starts not once the event happens but once a claimant makes a claim to an insurer, and then the insurer triggers the Pool Re request. That could take time, depending on loss adjustment and that end of the process.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will seek to improve the performance of the process and to find out why it takes so long once the Government formally receive a request. His point is well meant, and I do not disagree with it. I cannot see why the process takes so long in some cases. I assure him that I will follow that up. I hope my assurances, which I will keep the hon. Gentleman updated on, are enough to persuade him to withdraw his amendment.
I am very conscious of the wider impacts of terrorist attacks on surrounding communities and businesses. However, I am afraid that there are several issues with the proposed amendment and its objective. Most prominent among those is the increased regulatory burden that would arise from the amendment. That would be likely to lead to an increase in the cost of insurance for people across the UK, as the hon. Gentleman has said, as well as for businesses being sold terrorism insurance instead of other insurance products that might better suit their needs.
The amendment would also impinge on the existing regulatory protection provided by the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA’s “Insurance: Conduct of Business” sourcebook sets out the regulatory framework for the conduct of insurers and brokers in the United Kingdom. It aims to ensure that customers are treated fairly and given clear and fair information when they are sold insurance. These rules already include an obligation on firms involved in selling or providing advice on insurance to make sure their customers have sufficient information to make an informed purchase. In practice, that would mean that if terrorism is excluded from a business interruption product that is being purchased by a business, the broker should tell them, so that different businesses can consider whether a different product might better suit their needs.
If a customer feels that they were not provided with advice that met that requirement, they can ask for a review by the Financial Ombudsman Service. That service is open to individuals as well as to small and medium-sized enterprises with less than 10 staff and an annual turnover of up to €2 million. Larger businesses can take their insurer to court.
The amendment would also reduce the flexibility of the existing regulatory framework and potentially stifle innovation. That is because further primary legislation would be required to adjust the statutory duty in the future if necessary, unlike with the rest of the FCA’s rules, which can be updated quickly in line with trends in the insurance sector.
By imposing a specific statutory duty outside the FCA’s regulatory framework, the amendment would also risk significant additional consumer detriment. It would require any firm involved in providing advice on insurance products or selling insurance products to consider whether terrorism insurance was relevant to every one of their customers. In practice, that would mean that such firms would have to consider whether individuals and businesses would benefit from terrorism insurance when they are looking to purchase other insurance products, such as home insurance, mobile phone insurance, travel insurance and motor insurance.
This prescriptive approach would likely result in cases of mis-selling and an increase in the cost of insurance. That would be driven by firms that are more concerned about avoiding penalties for breaching a new requirement cost than the interests of their customers, as well as by firms introducing new processes to ensure they are compliant with the amendment.
The amendment might also result in those firms over-prioritising the sale of terrorism insurance relative to other risks, which might be a greater threat to an individual business. There are over 5.7 million SMEs in the UK. It is not generally the Government’s role to prescribe to those businesses the risks against which they should be insured.
Officials at the Home Office, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are working on options to improve take-up of insurance by businesses and by SMEs in particular. This is part of an holistic approach, looking at insurance as one of the many steps that an SME can take to improve its resilience to financial shocks.
Given the steps that are already under way to improve take-up, the existing protections already available through the UK’s regulatory framework, and the potential for significant additional costs to consumers—
The Association of British Insurers and the insurance broker trade industry do great amounts of marketing and promotion to get people to buy insurance and be protected and covered. The biggest threat to us all in the insurance space is inappropriately covered people, whether that is in terms of terrorism or anything else. That is a constant challenge to the industry, often because a number of its risks are mutually pooled, as we were talking about when considering a previous amendment on motor insurance. Therefore, it would be in the interests of the insurers to ensure that people have appropriate insurance for their risk; that is quite important.
The Government can play a role in highlighting awareness of the threat of terrorism. Everyone here will be very aware of the shift in terrorism over the last 18 months; it has been top of the news most weeks. Probably like everyone else, I will look at whether my travel insurance for my summer holiday covers terrorism—well, I am going to Wales, but if I was not, I would check that. The difference between me and the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark is that he wants the Government to direct the insurance industry to tell people about that insurance. The position of the Government is that the FCA should use its regulations and advice to be more responsive, and we should not use primary legislation.
Members on the Government side of the House would also say that there is some onus on the customer to seek the most appropriate cover from their insurers to match the threat that they face. That is where we differ, and it is why I urge the hon. Gentleman to help us seek a way to improve take-up through the building up of marketing and promotional material on getting the right insurance, and indeed through regulations, rather than primary legislation. A project is under way to improve take-up, and I will write to him with further details if he would like me to. I urge him to withdraw his amendment.
Break in Debate
I understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do, which is, in order to ensure that we do not miss the impact—in terms of how victims of terrorism are dealt with—of the changing threat, to have a review of that to ensure that all the holes in cover are plugged in future. The only point on which I differ from him is in understanding what Pool Re is.
We have to be careful. Pool Re is, first of all, not the only organisation in the marketplace. The Government have a duty to all the insurers, including Pool Re, to indicate where risk, certainly in the security space, is developing or currently stands. We must be minded that it is not a stand-alone organisation. It should be the Government who indicate risk in security. It is our JTAC, the joint terrorism analysis centre, that indicates, independently of Ministers, what the latest analysis shows about where a security threat is developing. We raise severe threat levels and so on.
It is not the Government’s job to tell people how to do the insurance, and we would not seek to tell Pool Re how to carry out or issue insurance policies, but it is the role of Government—because the Government are independent of that vested interest—to be the owners of understanding where the threat is going and being able to pull together all those experiences. It is from the hon. Gentleman’s experience as a constituency MP that he has learned about his businesses in Borough Market. The police will have their experiences, as will the ambulance service and so on.
If we are to really get to grips with understanding the vulnerabilities, it requires someone who is set aside from the insurance industry. I do not think it would involve the Government producing a report saying, “You must insure this, and this is how you do it.” I think it would be the Government saying, periodically, “Let’s have a look at what has happened, what has been missed out, what the public need to be aware of and what action they need to take.” That is where I would sit; that is the issue I have with the start point of the hon. Gentleman’s new clause. Again, his meaning is not misplaced and nobody in the Committee disagrees with his determination to improve his constituents’ opportunities to get insurance, but I see it as a question of how we will get there.
The hon. Gentleman’s question would basically mean asking an insurer “Whom should we insure?”. As to the role of Government, they have secret intelligence at their fingertips, and have numerous reviews. After the Manchester attack, dozens of reviews took place over the past year; we have all of that. Some of it is secret, and some is not. That can help us understand and be better informed. We have no interest in the outcome of that.
We have lots of discussions with Pool Re and many other insurers, and it has asked about cyber, as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. I have met its representatives several times, being the Security Minister. It has asked to do cyber, and we then take that into the process and go to the Treasury.
We are not going to agree: I view the role of the Government in this space as being able to review an incident, take input from communities, police, ambulance services and everyone else who has dealt with damage, add that to the secret intelligence they have on emerging threat, and come up with a position.
When we do such reviews they are significant. In the case of Manchester attack, the operational improvement review alone was 1,300 pages. Every detail was examined. That is where that type of advice to the market, including Pool Re, should come from. Clearly we are not going to agree on that. It is not that Pool Re is not a great organisation; but it is owned by its members and is a reinsurance company. Call it big state, if you like, but I think that the role of the Government of the day is to be able to direct it. That is the right place for it to sit, so I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the new clause.
Break in Debate
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I spoke to the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark after the Committee sitting last week. After last year’s attacks, mayors and local authorities got together and produced requests of Government, which we met, with £23 million or £24 million in Manchester. We also met a request from Salisbury.
I said to the hon. Gentleman, “Let’s meet and speak with the local authority that covers Borough market and put together an ask.” I did not receive a reply from the Mayor of London on that, but we did receive replies from the Mayor of Manchester and the Salisbury council leader. I am happy to sit down and see what we can do. We gave an extra £1 million to the NHS to deal with some of it, but in comparison, for the Manchester package—the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) was involved in that—we gave in response to a big long list of everything, from a marketing budget—to help that great city attract people back—to help with infrastructure and so on.
I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and his local authority and say, “Okay, come on—what is it you seek?” whether it be business rate relief or whatever. The Treasury will go mad at me for suggesting that. The point is, I have not received such a request, but I am happy to help stimulate it and will also work with the Mayor of London to do so.
The clause simply introduces schedule 3, which confers powers exercisable at ports and borders in connection with the questioning and detention of persons for the purpose of determining whether they are or have been engaged in hostile activity. It fulfils a mechanistic function; the new powers will be best discussed when we debate schedule 3.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1 year, 9 months ago)Public Bill Committees
Clause 12 confers on police the power to enter and search the home address of a registered terrorist offender. The police consider home visits an important tool to properly manage and risk-assess registered terrorist offenders while they are subject to the notification regime. The clause therefore gives police officers the power to enter under warrant—they have to go to a magistrate to get it—which will allow them to ascertain that an RTO does in fact reside at the address they have notified to the police, and allow them to check compliance with other aspects of the notification regime.
In response to the question from the hon. Member for Torfaen, some of the purposes would be home schooling. If someone was concerned about the welfare of the children of a serious terrorist offender who was back at home, the police would have the power to look at that after applying for a warrant. More importantly, the purpose is compliance with the regime and the conditions on the offender’s release. As has been rightly said, I suspect it would be about things such as flags and digital material, whether they have complied, and whether they are doing the sorts of things that they have undertaken not to do.
The sadness about a lot of terrorism is the re-engagement of terrorists. I still remember, 30 years later, a bizarre statistic from my days in Northern Ireland. If a man was convicted of a terrorist offence in Northern Ireland, after serving a sentence of about 10 years he usually stopped being proactive or a leading light in terrorism. He would perhaps engage in the political wing of an organisation, but he would not go back to his previous activity. Bizarrely, women would almost always re-engage. I do not know what that says about women’s determination and loyalty to the cause, but I have never forgotten that bizarre pattern. In today’s environment, in which some terrorism has a strong ideological bent, we are worried that some individuals re-engage, or try to re-engage, pretty quickly. Unfortunately, therefore, these measures are necessary for us to put certain restrictions on people.
As I said, these measures will allow officers to observe someone’s living conditions and identify any indications of a decline in their mental health, drug or alcohol use, family problems or other issues that may indicate an increase in the risk that that individual poses to the public. I will address the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth later.
In providing for such a power of entry, we are not breaking new ground. The clause mirrors existing provisions in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in respect of registered sex offenders. Our experience has been that subjects are aware of their requirements and of the police’s power of entry, so they tend to co-operate with visits by officers and give them their consent. I am confident that extending that power to enable the management of RTOs will increase the extent to which they co-operate with visits by officers.
We have been careful to place a safeguard on the operation of the power. The clause provides that a warrant can be applied for only if a constable has tried on at least two occasions to gain consent from the RTO to enter their home to carry out a search for the purposes I outlined, and has failed to gain entry. I should also stress that the power is exercisable only on the authority of a warrant issued by a justice of the peace or equivalent, and that any application for such a warrant must be made by an officer of at least the rank of superintendent.
The hon. Gentleman makes the fair point that it is all very well having lots of powers, but we must have the officers to deal with such matters. We have increased funding for counter-terrorism policing to ensure that we have as many such officers as possible. I am confident that the management of terrorist offenders is predominantly down to counter-terrorism officers. It would not be left up to a PCSO or a general beat constable. We have sufficient police officers to deal with this issue.
The power is as much an offender management tool as a criminal justice pursuit tool. It is about how we manage offenders effectively. That is why it is voluntary at first: we ask twice whether we can come and check up on someone, and only then do we resort to the law, which I think will happen rarely. There will probably be a reason when it happens, and that is when we will see a borough commander. People in the constabulary would move resources to address this.
I share the sentiment expressed by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth that the police and other law enforcement authorities should exercise their powers sensitively. Many members of the Muslim community in my constituency live together as large families. It may be that one person is a terrorist offender but no one else is. We all have good and bad neighbours and family members, and we have to respect that.
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the power to enter and search will be exercised under the powers of entry code of practice, which is issued under section 48 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The code states that officers entering properties where people are subject to the notification regime in part 4 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 must act reasonably and courteously to persons present and the property, and use reasonable force only where it is assessed to be necessary and proportionate to do so. We all know that that requirement is not always met, and we have to intercede with local police to ensure that our constituents’ concerns are addressed.
The amendment would therefore create a provision analogous to the code of practice by which the police already operate, in the context of their seeking twice to be granted entry voluntarily. One hopes that a good police officer would manage to get there without having to resort to the law.
I believe that the safeguards built into the clause are sufficient to ensure that the power will be used proportionately and only when it is absolutely needed by police officers. Introducing a requirement for police officers to have reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed would restrict the use of the power to an unnecessary degree and undermine its primary purpose, which is to ensure that officers can assess the risk posed by a convicted registered terrorist offender at the address they have provided.
It is important to mention that we are dealing with people who have been convicted of an offence rather than those who are suspected of having committed one, so restricting the power of law enforcement forces would get the balance slightly wrong. These people are already offenders, so I believe that our police should have slightly wider powers in this respect.
I remind the Committee that Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said last week that the power of entry
“is something that allows us to assess the ongoing risk of their re-engaging with terrorism…You might find a flag being displayed. You might find material that is of use to a terrorist. That is the purpose of it.”—[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Committee, 26 June 2018; c. 25, Q52.]
Given the clear operational need for the provision, I ask the hon. Member for Torfaen to withdraw his amendment.
(1 year, 9 months ago)Public Bill Committees
I am very sympathetic to the aims of the amendment, and the clear issue that people who are going about their business not thinking about terrorism become victims. They run small businesses, and then without much ado they go through the terrible attack that we saw on London Bridge. Visiting people was amazing, and I pay tribute to the courage and bravery of the constituents of the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. When individuals cut across the bridge and ran into people, the first thing the public did was run to help. The best of humanity came out that night, and also some of the worst. Not content with murdering people who came to help, the terrorists then embarked on an attack in Borough market, and we saw unarmed people challenging them and doing their best to make sure that they were not allowed to go any further. Then the police came and took very strong action.
I understand what the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark seeks to do, but I have to point out the difference between Pool Re and other insurance companies. Pool Re effectively insures insurers. It is not a customer-facing organisation where we make a claim against it. Individuals make a claim to an insurance company and that company goes to Pool Re, and under certain conditions the claim is paid out. The hon. Gentleman’s amendment would slightly change that relationship.
The amendment also does something that has been alluded to by Opposition Members. Our difference of opinion is about timing. The MIB, the Motor Insurance Bureau, is having a vote as we speak—a postal vote. Can we, as a Government, say to them, “Don’t worry, we’ll step in. Don’t worry about mutualising your risk”? That is ultimately where most countries solve that problem. It is where many other issues around niche insurance—it is pretty niche—is dealt with. The insurance industry mutually insures the risk out of its profits. I am often slightly frustrated by the insurance companies, but we should not forget that the risk of being involved in terrorism is tiny. I have raised this before. One by one, travel insurance companies have dropped covering counter-terrorism. The risk of it is very small and therefore the impact of standard cover for terrorism on profits will be minimal.
That is why our preference is for those companies to mutualise their risk through their profits. As I said earlier, our challenge is perhaps a difference of opinion on timing. The MIB is having this vote, and if the Government were right now to indicate, “Don’t worry, we will take it out of Pool Re,” those insurance companies would feel less compelled to vote to mutualise that risk, not more. The Government will, for now, maintain the view that we step in when something is uninsurable and at the extreme of market failure. I do not think that now is the moment to indicate that somehow the MIB can pass it on to the system.
The hon. Gentleman refers to catastrophic losses and scale. Pool Re already covers that large pool of loss, to some extent. I would be interested to see the insurers’ calculations of the actuarial risk, if we extended it to personal injury through motor vehicle. Whether we like it or not, the catastrophic costs of the big IRA bombs, for example, were because of the scale of the truck bombs, which led to the sealing off of large parts of city centres of high retail value and high-expense property. That cost is extreme. He talks about Nice, but the current indication is that that scale of threat to people and personal injury is still very rare. The Government’s position is, therefore, that we would like the industry to mutualise that risk.
At the same time—this is good news—we are moving in the Bill to ensure that loss of business is covered by Pool Re. When areas are shut down, we think Pool Re has a role to play in that, and not enough has been done by the insurance companies. Perhaps it is a matter of timing that divides us, rather than what we both want to achieve. I will get on to timing at a later amendment. I am slightly thrown, because I think the timings have changed for the Committee.
Break in Debate
I hear hon. Members’ concerns, but for that reason, and to see where we get to with the MIB and its vote, I ask that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark does not press his amendment. We will explore what more can be done. I understand the concerns, especially about vehicles being used as weapons. I believe that our insurance companies, which are on the frontline in their relationship with customers, should deal with this risk. The Government should step in only if those companies fundamentally fail to do so.
I listened to the passion that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark has about his constituency. I have heard similar passion from my colleague the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who also argued for such things after the arena attack.
I understand the challenges that businesses—especially small businesses—have faced, but this is one of those moments where the Government have to say difficult things. Retrospectively changing the terms of insurance would go far wider than the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. If we put in law a retrospective date, the unfortunate consequence would be that we would all pay—not for the particular issue that he has raised, but by adding risk to the insurance market, which is obviously what insurance products are based on. Insurance would never know whether at any moment the Government of the day might change the risk and table an amendment to set the date back in time. If it was not 1 January 2017, it could be the bomb damage we have seen over decades. Where would we draw the line?
I dispute the hon. Gentleman’s view of our failure to address the gap. If someone is a victim of another terrorist attack—even one that happened five years ago—they would quite rightly see it as completely unjust that their event, their damage, their loss of business or their injury was not deemed important enough to make it into the deadline of 1 January 2017. I spent my early life in places that were bombed and blown up, and I spent my early career with victims of terrorism. When I meet them, even to this day, they hold that loss to them personally. To say to them, “Yours isn’t valid, but others are,” would be deeply unfair.
The Government’s proposal in the Bill is about the future. It is about recognising, because of the lessons learned from attacks such as Borough market and the Manchester Arena, that the type of attack we are seeing now is having a major impact on business continuity and that the terrorism insurance market does not cover that enough in some areas. That is why we are taking action.
I wish I could do something about the past, and about people who did not have insurance or whose insurance companies were unreasonable, but the principle of the Government retrospectively putting that type of legislation in place would, I am afraid, have a significant impact on the insurance markets. I do not mean on their profits; I mean on us, as customers, who would understandably feel the change in risk profile. There are lots of other examples of losses, which are perhaps not as tragic as terrorism, but for which the constituents of many hon. Members would seek to claim for retrospective loss. It is not that I disagree with trying to help the victims of terrorism. It is just a simple fact about how our insurance market and the private sector work.
The principle of retrospective legislation means that it will not be possible for us to accept the amendment, not least because it raises the question of who would go and talk to all who were victims of terrorism in 2015, 2010, 1998 or 1992, when I lost 30% of my sight—would I get retrospective insurance? I am afraid that that is just the way we try to frame our legislation. The Government do not seek to denigrate people’s experiences in Borough market by saying no, but we must accept the way the insurance market and risk work. We seek to deal with that by trying to head off the problem in the future, but we cannot do it retrospectively for the last year.
Where we can, and where there are requests for financial assistance, I am happy to listen to the hon. Gentleman and help him to champion that cause, if he feels that he has not got any money for Borough market from the Government. I did the same for the hon. Member for Manchester Central and for Andy Burnham to ensure that we got the money for Manchester in that bigger pot and that No. 10 understood the importance of it. I am happy to take that on board.
Pool Re insures insurers. Because of the way in which Pool Re works, the amendment would effectively intervene in existing contracts made between insurers liable for additional risk, and customers. It is not customer-facing insurance; it is not a state version of Aviva or anyone else. That is one of our biggest challenges.
There are cases in which the Government seek to use grant money to help business rate relief. We gave money to Manchester, as I think we will to Salisbury, to help tourism, to help it get back on its feet and a whole load of other things. I think we gave Manchester £23 million to deal with that.
As the hon. Gentleman alluded to, some insurance companies have been quite helpful, but not all of them; some have paid out outside their remit. I agreed with him on Second Reading in hoping that Aviva would respond with flexibility. It has since written to me to say that, contrary to my comments, it had been flexible and paid out, even for people who did not have that part of terrorism insurance—although I do not think that affects people who did not have terrorism insurance. However, I should certainly put on the record that Aviva says it has been flexible.
The Government cannot retrospectively interfere in contracts between insurers and customers, which would be the amendment’s effect. I am afraid that is why we can only try to deal with this for the future. By doing so, we will hopefully make sure that future events like that at Borough market have a minimal impact on people and that the terrorists do not win. While I do not think it is likely, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment. I hope he understands that this is not about motives, but simply about the structure of the insurance market and the Government’s relationship to retrospective legislation.
(1 year, 10 months ago)Commons Chamber
A year ago, I was in Manchester, from very early in the morning of the attack, and I wish to take this opportunity to place on the record my appreciation to Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, to the leader of the council and to chief constable Ian Hopkins for the fantastic and amazing work they have done over the past 12 months in helping to heal Manchester and bring that community together. Having visited the investigation on many occasions, I cannot say just how much regard I have for the police and intelligence services, who are still pursuing leads and still working to keep people safe. I believe we have the best police and intelligence services in the world, which is why Manchester is back on its feet, alongside a great community who are determined to make sure that the spirit of Manchester lives on. Although I am not there with them today, many of us are there in spirit and we stand ready to continue to help that great city.
We must pursue, disrupt and prosecute those who commit violent crimes, and a robust response from law enforcement therefore remains critical. As I have said, we will introduce legislation to strengthen our response to violent crime. That will include the introduction of new measures such as restrictions on buying and carrying knives and corrosive substances; and banning certain firearms. An offensive weapons Bill will be introduced into the Commons or the Lords in the next few weeks. We will also continue to support and facilitate police action such as Operation Sceptre—weeks of action designed to tackle knife crime—and action to prevent violent gang material on social media. The serious violence taskforce has been established to drive the implementation of the strategy and support the delivery of key objectives. The taskforce brings together Ministers, Members of Parliament, the Mayor of London, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the director general of the National Crime Agency, other senior police leaders, and public sector and voluntary sector chief executives.
I absolutely support our forcing these outlets to take this material down where we can. I met Google and YouTube this morning to discuss exactly that subject. The challenge around the world on videos and YouTube stuff is not on cases where a clear crime is involved, such as bomb-making manuals or child abuse; it is where companies—often based abroad—decide that our version of incitement or extremism is not their version of it. That is where we have to look at all alternatives. That is what the announcement at the weekend on the consultation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was about. We have to have a proper collective discussion and ask, “Where do we start and stop? How do we draw a line about what is freedom of speech, what is incitement and what is violent extremism?” That is not as straightforward as people say. However, 98% of violent extremism on those internet platforms is being taken down within 24 hours and some of it is being taken down within two hours. We are pushing for this to happen even quicker, through using artificial intelligence and machine learning to recognise those issues. We want these companies to put more of their resources into that, to make sure these things are taken down. I also want them to report this content when they take it down so that our police and agencies can do something about it.