Debates between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace

There have been 6 exchanges between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace

1 Tue 11th September 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Home Office
5 interactions (848 words)
2 Tue 10th July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Seventh sitting)
Home Office
10 interactions (2,883 words)
3 Thu 5th July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Sixth sitting)
Home Office
23 interactions (6,353 words)
4 Tue 3rd July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fourth sitting)
Home Office
3 interactions (1,323 words)
5 Tue 3rd July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fifth sitting)
Home Office
15 interactions (3,353 words)
6 Tue 22nd May 2018 Serious Violence Strategy
Home Office
3 interactions (631 words)

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Tuesday 11th September 2018

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
11 Sep 2018, 7:23 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) - Hansard
11 Sep 2018, 7:28 p.m.

I am grateful for the approach that the Minister and the Secretary of State have taken, and for the fact that the loophole in terror insurance to cover non-physical damage has been addressed in the Government’s plans. However, the explanatory notes suggested that the Government would do several things to support my community, which was so badly affected last June, yet still not a penny of Government support is going to the employers in my constituency who were affected by that terror attack. Despite the fact that the Government failed to update the legislation sooner, that could have been done some time ago and was not. My constituents and their businesses are still not being compensated for the damage they have experienced—150 firms have lost more than £2 million.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
11 Sep 2018, 7:28 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
11 Sep 2018, 7:28 p.m.

rose—

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
11 Sep 2018, 7:29 p.m.

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.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Seventh sitting)
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Tuesday 10th July 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:05 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:08 a.m.

It is different when there is an accidental need to raise, such as in the Minister’s example of a car accident, although I would hope that the NHS would cover that. Cancer was another example. Again, I would hope that NHS treatment and research would be done to try to prevent that from happening. In the context of the Bill, we are talking solely about terror attacks and those who deliberately sought to attack us, this country and our way of life. In response to that, I think a unique and different position should be adopted by the Government. Also, when we make donations we do not expect anyone to take a profit from those donations.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:09 a.m.

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

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:16 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:18 a.m.

I have listened carefully to the Minister, but I am afraid that I am not reassured, for a number of reasons.

I have spoken to the Treasury about its plans and I am interested in having a discussion with the Minister with responsibility for charities, but I remain aware that JustGiving meets with charities in this country about the more immediate Disasters Emergency Committee-type approach to an international incident. It goes to the table with the charities, which are working out how best to support people through the immediate aftermath of a terror attack and the urgent need of communities affected. The fundraising platforms, however, are sitting at that table and they know that they can make a profit out of the incident and future events. Their involvement will guarantee them additional income and revenue on the back of a terror attack.

Precisely because the Bill covers terrorism, the charities issue deserves to be treated separately and can be drawn out uniquely. Terrorism, being so uniquely horrific, is clearly the reason why the public are so generous in their response. That is why the figures are so much higher after a terror attack, because people respond. The British public respond when they see children attacked in Manchester, because they want to be able to help. When they see innocent civilians enjoying a night out around Borough market, they want to donate. The large sums arising from those donations are the reason why there is more significant concern.

I had hoped that the platforms involved—JustGiving is the prime player, but there are others—would have done more to cap their own policies, but they have not done so. I do not accept the idea that they would no longer be there or that this would limit future donations, because others would always step in to fill that gap.

There is a unique opportunity with the Bill not to undermine the collective will of the British public who seek to help innocent civilians and their families. The ministerial mantra of terrorists not beating us or changing our way of life can be reflected in this new clause. It would mean that donations from the public that are designed to support the continuation of our way of life are not watered down through the profit margins of others. The Government are trying to take some action. The Minister suggests that we wait and see if that works, but we have a clause here that would do the job much quicker and better.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:38 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard

When she was Home Secretary, the Prime Minister warned that Brexit had risks for our national economy and national security. Does this new clause not go some way towards reassuring the Prime Minister about her concerns about Brexit?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 10:41 a.m.

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.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Sixth sitting)
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Thursday 5th July 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Home Office
Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:30 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 26, in clause 19, page 19, line 27, at end insert—

“(4) Where an event occurs which the Secretary of State has grounds to believe may be an act of terrorism for the purposes of terrorism reinsurance, the Secretary of State must within three days of the event make a statement that—

(a) the event is or is not an act of terrorism for the purposes of terrorism reinsurance; or

(b) there is not yet enough evidence to make a statement under paragraph (a) and set a timeframe for when it is expected that such a statement is likely to be made.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to make a statement in relation to whether an event is an act of terrorism within three days of the event occurring, or else provide a statement of when such a statement is likely to be made.

It is a great pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Ms Ryan. I hope the amendment is self-explanatory, so I shall keep my comments to a minimum. Under the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993, the Treasury holds responsibility for providing certificates of classification for acts of terror. Members might think that that duty would more sensibly sit under the Home Office, given its wider responsibilities for policing and security. The Bill is the chance to update that obvious discrepancy and to speed up classification to better help those affected when terror attacks occur. The Government and the security services tell us that the threat remains severe so, sadly, further attacks will come.

Under existing arrangements, the Treasury is supposed to classify within 21 days, but in practice that varies widely. There is also a contrast with individual Ministers, who often state on the day or the next day after an attack occurs that it was terrorism, but official certification takes longer. Ministerial comment should act as a guide to insurers and others involved, but the practical experience at London Bridge and Borough market in my constituency has taught me that that does not always happen, leaving those distraught after an attack with further problems just knowing how and when those with insurance can claim back losses.

I believe that the Westminster attack took 11 days to classify, and the London Bridge and Borough market one took far too long to declare: that happened 21 days after the attack, and only following pressure as a result of an Evening Standard intervention on behalf of classification. Those delays have consequences. The amendment aims to tackle situations in which businesses hit by terrorists are then held up by a convoluted process in moving on with their lives and their business.

As mentioned on Tuesday, claiming on insurance after attacks is tough enough. One insurer told a business affected by the Borough market attack that it was not covered for terror attacks, and the same insurer told another firm—one with terror insurance—that the Borough market attack had not been classified and that no payment could be made. That is simply not good enough, and the amendment would end that bad practice.

The amendment would allow for swifter declaration, in line with ministerial statements, and would protect businesses further and better. The uncertainty and delay over London Bridge and Borough market caused more anxiety for those affected at an already difficult time. It is unnecessary and unhelpful to experience delays in accessing the support that is supposed to be there in very tough circumstances, with businesses already badly damaged.

Ministers have claimed previously that London Bridge and Borough market took longer to classify due to the involvement of three police forces: the British Transport police, the Met and the City of London police. Blaming police forces that did so much to end the attack so swiftly and to help all those affected is simply distasteful. The amendment could provide a swifter process, to prevent police officers from being blamed for delays to classification.

Members may have concerns that a three-day limit is too short a timeframe in more complex incidents, but the amendment is designed not to be overly prescriptive—I thank the Clerks for helping me draft it. Cyber-attacks, by their very nature, can take more time to identify—months, in some cases—and any return to planting bombs around buildings or infrastructure without the involvement of suicidal attackers might also take more time to investigate to confirm motives. The amendment would allow for that.

The three-day process is designed for the more obvious attacks, such as that in my constituency last year. Ministers and the Prime Minister stated on the day that it was a terror attack—weeks before formal classification. However, the amendment includes a means of deferring formal declaration for more complex attacks. It would make a helpful, practical difference to employers affected by terror in the immediate aftermath. For attacks that take longer to classify, the amendment allows a statement to be made indicating what that time might be. At the time of any event, and in the face of all the facts, which may or may not be in the public domain, it would be entirely up to Ministers to make that statement and give direction, without that being burdensome.

The proposal would allow insurers and Pool Reinsurance to step in more swiftly to support those affected by any future attack. I hope that the amendment is welcomed by the Government, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:34 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:39 a.m.

I thank the Minister for his response. The difficulty is that he wants a reactive system, whereby insurers wait for someone to get in touch with them, but I think we should have a more proactive approach. Insurers should step in as soon as a Minister makes it clear that a terror incident has occurred. However, on the basis that the Minister is seeking further advice before the Bill progresses any further, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:44 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 27, in clause 19, page 19, line 27, at end insert—

“(4) After section 2 of the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 (Reinsurance arrangements to which this Act applies) insert—

‘2A Duty to advise on terrorism insurance

(1) Where the conditions in subsection (2) are met, an insurance provider has a duty to advise on the available insurance related to losses sustained as a result of acts of terrorism.

(2) The conditions referred to in subsection (1) are—

(a) that a person asks the insurance provider for advice in relation to insurance (whether related to terrorism or not); and

(b) that it seems to the insurance provider that the person may benefit from insurance in relation to a loss which is covered by terrorism reinsurance arrangements under this Act.

(3) In this section, “insurance provider” means—

(a) a person regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority who sells insurance, or underwrites the risk of such insurance, or

(b) the agent of such a person.’”

This amendment would require insurance providers to advise on the insurance available in relation to losses sustained as a result of acts of terrorism.

I thank insurers and brokers for all their help since last June, including the Association of British Insurers and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. The amendment would require insurance providers to advise on the insurance available in relation to losses sustained as a result of acts of terrorism.

The Government have been commended for belatedly acting to better extend the Pool Reinsurance model to cover contemporary forms of terrorism. Having seen my constituency attacked without the adequate protection that could have been available, I am slightly more reticent to congratulate them. However, covering non-physical damage and allowing employers to be covered for all business interruption issues arising from a terror attack is a significant step forward for people and firms who might be affected by future attacks.

There were firms at London Bridge and Borough market that were affected by physical damage from the vehicle that was used initially in the attack on the bridge. The vehicle ended its journey on the edge of the bridge, damaging the Barrowboy and Banker and the London Bridge Experience. Some buildings incurred other damage during the attack, including bullet holes from the swift police response to end the brutal rampage. However, most of the damage was non-physical, as we discussed on Tuesday. The closure of premises; the lack of access to stock; the loss of stock; the inability to contact customers; lost bookings; lost contracts; and employees leaving, with the associated recruitment costs, are all forms of business interruption, as highlighted on Tuesday. Extending coverage for those matters as standard in future attacks is welcome.

The Government tell us the threat remains severe, so it is likely we will witness more atrocities, sadly. The Government are taking one step towards better cover, but they need to recognise the broader issue of coverage. Even when the Bill is enacted and implemented, coverage will have another limitation: terror insurance will still need to be held. “Market penetration” is the term the sector uses. The Minister spoke on Tuesday about insurers and brokers upping their game. In effect, the amendment would help to ensure that they do and that more firms take out protection through better awareness of the offer when advised by insurers and brokers.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association estimates that less than 2.5% of 5 million UK businesses have terror insurance. That leaves vast swathes of employers and jobs at risk under the severe threat that the Government tell us exists of another attack. The amendment is designed to help tackle that issue and increase take-up.

There are options. The Government could compel Pool Reinsurance to advertise, but have never done so. Pool Re has been left alone, with the consequence that coverage has been inadequate in terms of what is protected and who has bought into the system. My personal preference would be to compel larger employers and firms with higher turnover to hold terror insurance. That could be done alongside compelling some form of direct marketing of terror insurance and Pool Reinsurance to businesses, especially in areas known to be at greater risk. I appreciate that that is not the Government’s approach, so my amendment is designed to find a means of promoting coverage that is not onerous, that facilitates choice for all firms, that reflects the level of risk in different areas and that has a means of delivery that is not burdensome on those involved.

The amendment would compel insurance providers and brokers of insurance to offer terror insurance and to advise on the merits of terror insurance and the risks of not having it. Individual businesses would still be able to make their choice based on circumstances, including location, but the offer must be made, and advice must be given on the pros and cons and risks involved.

I am aware that Pool Reinsurance has adapted its package and support, and now offers a £30 arrangement to cover up to £500,000 in damages. The costs of taking up support are not massive for most firms. The amendment facilitates better awareness of the package and helps build resilience in the pool through greater coverage and protection for more businesses. The amendment would obviously work most easily in terms of direct sales with firms and drawing up new contracts, but it goes further.

In discussions with insurers and brokers’ representatives, I am aware that a lot of insurance is bought online in standard packages. The amendment would not alter that. Firms offering those deals would simply need to consider adding terror insurance to those them, or to add an automated trigger system to ensure follow-up correspondence advising on terror insurance and its benefits. That’s it—it’s simple.

Under existing packages and arrangements, insurers and brokers could also go back to customers to flag up their new requirement to offer terror insurance—a responsibility that is on them and not on customers, who have only to consider their advice. I acknowledge that there are costs to put that in place, and those are costs for the insurers, who have overseen the very low record of take-up, which puts more firms, jobs and revenue for the Treasury at risk in the event of further terror atrocities. Ignoring the massive gap should not be an option. It is not in UK plc’s interest to perpetuate the current lack of take-up.

Borough market is an example of where, even when terror insurance was offered, it was so basic that some firms declined to take it up because it was limited to physical damage only. Traders felt they were unlikely to have their stalls blown up. However, they have lost considerably because of the attack last June—£2 million, as discussed on Tuesday. They needed to have better coverage in place and to have been made better aware of what coverage was possible. If terror insurance had—the Bill addresses this—covered business interruption, and they had been advised on it, more take-up would have occurred. It should not be an either/or scenario. The Government are making the business interruption changes, but they are not focusing enough on how to drive up the coverage, which is also essential.

This amendment comes from the practical experience of Borough market and a desire to ensure that other areas are not so badly affected in the event of future attacks. I hope that it will receive Government support as our consideration of the Bill progresses. I would welcome discussion of it now and an indication of the Minister’s position.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:45 a.m.

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—

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard

On that specific point about increasing take-up, will the Minister explain how take-up is being encouraged and what level he expects it to be at within, say, three years of implementation of the Bill?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:49 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:52 a.m.

I think the Minister has slightly misinterpreted my suggestion. I did not suggest placing an obligation on customers to purchase insurance—merely that insurers advise on its availability. On Tuesday the Minister talked about insurance market failure in some areas, and this will be a missed opportunity to correct that failure. However, on the basis that the Minister will outline the awareness-raising activities that the Government will undertake, and in the hope that doing so will allow a discussion before the Bill goes to the Lords, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Break in Debate

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:54 a.m.

I rise to speak to new clause 4. I have nicknamed this “the resilience clause”, and I hope it will be adopted to protect UK firms. I will speak as briefly as possible, but I will touch more generally on clause 19, for which I have been campaigning for the last year, and I am grateful to see it emerge now. Had it been in place before last year, it would have made a huge difference to those affected by the terror attacks at Borough market and London Bridge last June. I have been seeking this through Westminster Hall debates, so I am pleased to see it. I am disappointed that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen just said, the Government are yet to offer any form of compensation—a single penny—for the damage felt and caused at Borough market and London Bridge last year. I will keep campaigning for that.

New clause 4 would ensure that terrorism reinsurance arrangements are kept under annual review by Pool Reinsurance, and would require the Secretary of State to respond to Pool Reinsurance recommendations in relation to terrorism reinsurance. The clause is designed to prevent the Government-backed system from falling behind terrorist methods and their future impact. It would help to build resilience in our anti-terror structures overall. The clause would require Pool Reinsurance to provide an annual report on the nature of terrorism and any need to improve the systems designed to protect UK citizens and businesses from the form of terrorism we currently face, and to advise on how it is changing and what we might expect in future.

If that system had been in place from the introduction of Pool Reinsurance in the 1990s, it could have ensured that as the Provisional IRA threat of physical damage to economic infrastructure diminished and as terrorism morphed into the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians with knives and vehicles, the pool would have adapted accordingly over time, or at least have had the potential to do so. The Provisional IRA targeted buildings—physical economic infrastructure—not civilians. The pool was designed for that early 1990s threat, after the devastating Canary Wharf and Manchester Arndale attacks. Sadly, the system has not been updated properly over time as the nature of the threat has changed and, with it, the impact on businesses and employers’ insurance needs.

As discussed on Tuesday, Pool Reinsurance, despite warnings dating back to at least February 2016, has not been updated swiftly enough by the Government to cover the brutal attacks against innocent people, such as those enjoying Borough market on Saturday 3 June last year. That should have been possible, and the new clause will ensure that it will be going forward. The pool should never be left to slip behind again. The duty would ensure an annual appraisal of the nature of terror threats and their potential impact on businesses in particular, and would ensure that advice and recommendations are provided on how to adapt to better protect under-insurance systems from contemporary systems, and who or what terrorists target.

The duty would be on Pool Reinsurance, but the clause is not prescriptive regarding how it would work in practice. The pool could involve a range of stakeholders, including Government Departments, ABI, BIBA and business representatives. The wording is kept simple enough to prevent too onerous a system, or too rigid a structure, from developing. The duty is on Pool, because Pool is obviously in a strong position to provide overview from a tactically strategic position, and at no new cost. Pool already provides a quarterly terrorism frequency report, which could form the basis of any future annual reporting of risks and the UK’s ability both to prevent companies from losing out and to protect employers and employees from job losses as a result of insufficient coverage.

I believe that Pool would welcome the role. It has already sought to improve its insurance coverage in terms of packaged costs, awareness of cover and extending the support offered after different forms of attack, including both cyber and business interruption. However, Pool’s work has not always been swiftly acted on by Ministers, creating the gap that so badly affected London Bridge and Borough market in my constituency last year, and that the Bill is aimed at addressing.

Pool Reinsurance would report, and make recommendations, to the Secretary of State, who would be obliged to reply. That obligation is not massively onerous, especially given the huge range of responsibilities, and the clause suggests an ample three-month timeframe. I hope that the proposed new clause will have the backing of the Minister, and I would welcome an indication of whether the Government will pursue it in the Bill’s later stages.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 11:59 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:01 p.m.

Is the Minister suggesting that Pool Re is seeking to extend its role beyond where it should? Is he suggesting that the Government and Ministers are in a better position to judge the impact—bearing in mind that the overall clause is about terror insurance—and to advise on what should be covered than Pool Re, which is already there doing the job and has sought to have cyber-attacks, and the kind of non-physical damage we have seen mentioned in this clause, brought into coverage? I would slightly disagree.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:02 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:04 p.m.

My concern is that an expert body already exists specifically with this focus of terrorism reinsurance—a body that could do this job and in part does it already through the advice it offers. The new clause would formalise that role. Instead of taking that approach, the Minister seems to want to take on an even bigger Government, a bigger state and more civil servants. I thought we were meant to be the party of big Government, not the Conservatives, so I am confused.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:05 p.m.

Has Pool Reinsurance ever asked the Government to cover something that is not now covered—be it business interruption or cyber? Has that ever happened? That is what the Minister seems to be suggesting. Under the new clause the Minister would respond to recommendations. That is where the points that he makes would come in.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:07 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:06 p.m.

That was not my question.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:06 p.m.

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

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:09 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:12 p.m.

I will certainly take the Minister up on that offer. Those who have been affected and are trying to rebuild their businesses—some are still in combat with insurance companies—have put further effort, while their businesses have suffered, into a request. That was put to a BEIS Minister, who came to the Borough Market Trust and met those directly affected. It was also put to a Treasury Minister here in Westminster when traders came to talk about their experience and ask for help. Those requests for support have been made, but to date they have not been acknowledged.

The Prime Minister visited the site and came back for the commemorative service. She was obviously welcome to do so, but she was aware of what had happened, its direct impact, the lack of insurance cover and costs involved for some, including microbusinesses, who could have gone under without public support. It is a little unfair to suggest that a request has not been made, but I will look to draw up something more comprehensive with the leader of the council, Peter John, and the Mayor of London and come back to the Minister with that. I thank him for the offer.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20

Border security

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
5 Jul 2018, 12:13 p.m.

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.

Schedule 3

Border security

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fourth sitting)
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Tuesday 3rd July 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 10:49 a.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 10:53 a.m.

The Minister suggests that the new power will be effective, but the Met has its lowest officer complement for more than 15 years. In the past eight years, my borough has lost more than 400 police officers and police community support officers. How will the Government keep the new power under review to ensure that it can be used by officers and, in the light of the comments by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, to ensure its efficacy?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 10:54 a.m.

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.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fifth sitting)
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Tuesday 3rd July 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:01 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 3:49 p.m.

I appreciate that the risk to the individual of being involved in an attack is minimal, but we have been here before. The reason for Pool’s existence is the astronomical costs to insurers, as we saw in the case of the Provisional IRA attacks in the early ‘90s targeting physical infrastructure and not individuals. There were huge costs that the insurance market said it could not be expected to cover. That is why Pool exists. We are seeing a similar position emerge in motor insurance potentially, and the Minster is taking a slightly complacent attitude to that. If we saw—I very much hope we do not—a Nice-style large vehicle attack on civilians, those costs would be there and the insurance market would collapse.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:04 p.m.

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

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:08 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:09 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 11, in clause 19, page 19, line 27, at end insert—

“(c) the acts of terrorism referred to in paragraph (b) occurred on or after 1 January 2017”.

This amendment would mean that the extension of terrorism reinsurance arrangements to losses that cannot be directly linked to physical damage would apply to those businesses that had financial losses due to terrorist acts occurring on or after 1 January 2017.

Key to this amendment is the backdating of extended coverage, which the Minister has just referred to, to 1 January last year, to cover business interruption rather than just physical damage. Speaking to each amendment separately gives me the chance to thank everyone involved, and I thank the Clerks for their advice and support. We should at least ensure that this amendment is watertight. I also thank the Borough Market Trust for its information and advice and the way it has held the community together with the support of United St Saviour’s in the past year, including by distributing donations to those most in need locally, in the absence of the coverage that this amendment is designed to achieve.

As I have mentioned, I never expected to be involved in terror insurance issues when I stood for election in 2015. Most of us assume we will never be affected by a terror attack. The Minister has just said there is a tiny chance of our being involved. Most of us also assume that the Government have systems in place to ensure that people and UK businesses are protected as far as possible from such events happening, and that if terrorists do get past, the efforts of our excellent security services and dedicated police support will be available.

We also assume that, whoever is in charge, the Government will act in our best interest and ensure there is adequate preparation for future attacks. Sadly that is untrue, given the nature of the attacks we now face, warnings about the types of attacks being witnessed, and inaction by the Government on having protection in place despite two and a half years of alerts about the changing nature of terror in the UK—the targeting of civilians with vehicles and knives. The attack at London Bridge and Borough market exposed the gap that has emerged, despite the Government’s awareness of the matter.

The example given on page 30 of the explanatory notes is Borough market:

“The extension of the terror threat to cover not only bomb attacks causing physical damage to commercial property but also the use of vehicles and knives targeting individuals has led to a gap developing in the cover that Pool Re offers. In the case of the June 2017 terrorist attack on Borough Market, there was limited physical damage…but traders lost business as a result of the week long closure of the market to enable the police to investigate the crime scene. As the losses incurred by Borough Market businesses were not consequential on physical damage to commercial property, any terrorism-related insurance backed by Pool Re and held by those businesses may not have covered such losses.”

So the Bill would extend coverage to provide better help to employers affected by future attacks, but it offers nothing to the 150 businesses in my constituency that were hit last year, despite the fact that the market is used as an example and justification for extending the new coverage. The amendment would helpfully backdate coverage so that the example given would also be covered by the Bill.

The 150 affected firms assumed they would have protection, because of that tiny chance. They also assumed that the language the Prime Minister used, saying that the terrorists would not win, meant that assistance would come to stop terrorists costing firms, jobs and our way of life in the area—and well beyond it, given the nature of Borough market’s suppliers across the country and internationally. We have had 13 months of ministerial visits and meetings, but nothing has been offered. My amendment is designed to change that and offer some of the affected firms extra help in the absence of Government direction or action.

The attack last year was over very quickly, thanks to police attendance, but eight minutes of attack led to a closure affecting the market and the area for 10 days. It affected 150 businesses and it cost £2 million. The consequences were colossal. In some cases there was physical damage. I have been through the accounts of some of the affected businesses. In that limited pool, which is a range of tourist attractions, traders and restaurants, physical damage was the smallest part of the damages. It included damage to doors, and the vehicle damage on the bridge. I have seen about £26,000 of damage in the accounts.

A second category was produce. The market is not just somewhere for people to pick up bits and bobs. There is tonnes of produce there, supplying the restaurant and hotel sector for miles around. Stock loss accounted for about £84,000 in the handful of accounts that I have seen. Staffing was another business interruption loss that could not have been predicted. People who witnessed the attack, or knew it had happened in their workplace, chose to leave. The recruitment costs for the employers accounted for about £86,000 in that limited sample. There were also income losses. Contracts to supply other firms and restaurants were lost, and so were bookings, including at the Golden Hinde. That amounted to about £400,000.

I read out some specific examples on Second Reading and will not go through them all, but a case in point is Turnips fruit and vegetable distributor, which lost almost £100,000. Aviva has not paid out despite repeated requests to reconsider. There are good and bad guys in the insurance world. The NFU came across well in its response to local businesses, although it did not cover all costs involved. I should add that some firms are still battling with insurers more than a year later. One small trader said “We keep trying” to secure payments; some had parts of claims paid. One tourist venue has a £40,000 shortfall, and is still seeking more. Some felt under pressure—both from insurers and because of business need and the impact of the attack—to accept what they were offered. One specialist alcohol producer and supplier stated that insurers had made an offer it was “obliged to accept”. The amendment could help to change that, ease the pressure and resolve outstanding issues.

I should add that others had extended terror insurance cover, including one tourist attraction and one restaurant with £200,000 of damages, which is now in dispute with its insurer over the full costs. The amendment would backdate coverage and act as an extra urge on both Pool and individual insurers to provide more flexibility and direct support.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:19 p.m.

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?

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:19 p.m.

As the Minister suggests, we draw the line at 1 January 2017 to acknowledge the unique circumstances faced by people who experienced terror attacks in our country last year, and the unique failure of the Government to address a gap that they knew about in advance.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:19 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:19 p.m.

But with respect, the Bill specifically deals with Pool Reinsurance and the Government’s extension to cover business interruption. That is all we are dealing with and that is why 1 January 2017 makes sense, as the amendment proposes.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:24 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:24 p.m.

Again, that comes back to the point and purpose of Pool Reinsurance. We have the system and funding in Pool Reinsurance to cover that event and others like it. Why would the Minister suggest a new compensation, a new tax, a new use of public money, a new job for the Government and new civil servants when there is an existing system that the amendment would allow to help to cover?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
3 Jul 2018, 4:24 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle - Hansard

In the debate on the last amendment, the Minister seemed to say that insurers need to up their game. On this amendment, he says that insurers must resolve again, despite there being outstanding claims. My constituents will note the Government’s muteness about their ability to help and to step in, even through this very limited amendment.

I cannot say that I am happy to withdraw my amendment at this stage, but I am hopeful that the Government will reconsider it as the Bill progresses. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Paul Maynard.)

Serious Violence Strategy
Debate between Neil Coyle and Mr Ben Wallace
Tuesday 22nd May 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Home Office
Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
22 May 2018, 2:32 p.m.

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.

Neil Coyle Portrait Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab) - Hansard
22 May 2018, 2:33 p.m.

The Minister mentioned social media. The Met police have reported more than 400 incitement to violence videos on YouTube alone that are still online today. Do the Government support police authorities across the country having the power to compel YouTube and other social media outlets to remove content that is violent or incites people to violence?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
22 May 2018, 2:35 p.m.

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.