There have been 4 exchanges between Lord Rosser and Leader of the House
|Mon 3rd December 2018||Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Lords Chamber)||14 interactions (2,245 words)|
|Wed 31st October 2018||Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Lords Chamber)||23 interactions (1,122 words)|
|Mon 29th October 2018||Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Lords Chamber)||5 interactions (551 words)|
|Tue 5th December 2017||Terrorist Attacks (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (849 words)|
Sadly, I do not have the legislation in front of me, so I cannot comment. No, I will not accept the noble Lord’s offer of taking his iPad to look at the legislation. I do not think that that is reasonable in all the circumstances.
If we accept that this is a reasonable way to approach the issue—that someone does not commit an offence if they have a reasonable excuse—what, then, is the difference between that and a journalist or academic being able to access material on the internet? They would be safe in the knowledge that, provided the purpose for visiting a website containing information that might be of use to a terrorist was reasonable and legitimate, they would not commit an offence.
I argue that the only difference is that here someone is entering into or remaining on a designated website rather than a designated area. Websites that contain information that might be of use to a terrorist are, if you will, designated areas of the internet, so that entering or remaining on that website is an offence. Our Amendment 4 would ensure that it would be an offence only if a person collected, made a record of, possessed a document relating to, viewed or otherwise accessed by means of the internet information of use to a terrorist and they did not have a reasonable excuse for having or accessing that information.
Amendment 5 is consequential in that it would remove the “defence if charged” provision, which would be redundant were Amendment 4 accepted.
Turning to Amendment 3, similar arguments apply to the innocent or inadvertent publication of an image of a uniform or a flag. The ISIS flag on a friend’s bedroom wall that goes unnoticed when a selfie is posted on Facebook, which may well arouse reasonable suspicion that those in the picture support a proscribed organisation, could very well be an innocent or stupid mistake. Should the young person responsible be able to provide a simple and compelling excuse for his actions to the police officer on the doorstep rather than in an interview under caution, would that not be a better outcome?
There is nothing to be lost in having offences that are only offences if there is no reasonable excuse for the suspect’s actions. Police officers who fail to be convinced that the excuse is reasonable at the time they decide to make the arrest or who feel that the excuse might sound reasonable but needs to be verified would still have reasonable cause to suspect that the person might have committed an offence and arrest the person if it is necessary and proportionate to do so. However, it also provides the person accused of committing the offence with a legal remedy, and the police with a good reason to act reasonably, if there is clearly a reasonable excuse that is blatantly obvious and easily verifiable at the time of the arrest, yet the person is still deprived of their liberty.
I admit that the designated area offence and the obtaining or viewing of material offences have a more compelling claim for a “reasonable excuse means no offence” modification but there are circumstances where there might be a reasonable excuse for publishing an image in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation when they are neither of those things, and this will be immediately apparent to the officer sent to investigate. In my view, it is too late in the chain of events that could ensue for the reasonable excuse to be available only as a defence once charged.
No doubt the Government will say that the police can be trusted not to arrest in circumstances where a reasonable excuse is immediately apparent. With over 30 years of police experience and having witnessed at first hand the devastating consequences of innocent people being arrested and detained on the flimsiest of evidence, I am very concerned about the potential for abuse that this legislation as currently drafted provides.
Unless the Government can provide compelling reasons as to why the reasonable excuse defence should not engage at the beginning of the investigative process rather than at the end, I suggest that they might want to consider these arguments and undertake to discuss them further with interested Peers before Third Reading. If, however, when we come to debate his amendment in the fifth group, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, decides that in the case of designated areas the arguments are compelling and the Minister’s response is inadequate, we will support him if he decides to divide the House on that issue. I beg to move.
My Lords, I declare an interest because of my professional and voluntary past, as recorded in the register. We are touching on immensely significant issues. I have great respect for those responsible for the grouping of amendments, and have seen its effectiveness over many years, but there are occasions when the overlap between two different groups becomes particularly significant.
I note that the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which deals with the matter that I am about to raise in specific terms, is equally significant and perhaps more controversial in this area. I am talking about the invaluable and courageous contribution made by dedicated people to the long-term task of peacebuilding. They go into an area for a long period of time and become what might be referred to in other spheres as embedded—they become part of the local population by the very nature of their work. They are trying to build the reconciliation and understanding which is necessary for a long-term solution.
Unfortunately, we are limited by the grouping of the amendments. I have had a certain amount of discussion with those responsible and very much value, as I always do, their advice. However, it is fair to say that I am uneasy. It seems to me that by the very nature of the work of peacebuilding—sometimes having to get close to people who are not necessarily very attractive or who are controversial—people could give a police officer grounds for arrest on the basis that we have heard explained.
It is therefore absolutely essential that at every moment in our relevant discussion of this part of the Bill, the Minister is at pains to spell out that bona fide peacebuilders are exempt and protected. Otherwise, this could have terrible dumbing-down effects on those who would be anxious to do such work. It would put great strain on them in terms of what could happen to them and would therefore hamper their work considerably. If that were to happen, it would be a great loss. No matter how important the humanitarian dimensions—humanitarian aid and the rest, to which I will take second place to nobody in terms of my support—it is very often in this area of peacebuilding that the really significant work for the future is undertaken. I therefore hope that the Minister will take this point seriously and perhaps take the opportunity to pay tribute to those who sometimes undertake this work, and that we can be sure that exemptions in any other sphere, in all aspects of the operation of the Bill, apply in this case.
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My Lords, the burden of proof should be on the prosecution and should be seen to be on the prosecution. Lawyers who know where to find Section 118 of the Terrorism Act 2000 may be untroubled by the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. However, the existence of that section is not widely known. Indeed, only last week I found myself in that great deliberative assembly, Twitter, correcting the damaging and widespread misapprehension, advanced in good faith, that the Terrorism Acts reverse the burden of proof. I support the idea behind the amendment, although—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would accept—if it is to produce clarity, it would have to be applied a little more widely to a variety of existing offences under the Terrorism Act, including Sections 57 and 58.
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My Lords, I support Amendment 19. I cannot think of anything I can say that would improve on what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has said, so I shall not say it. However, when the Government look at their own amendment and the very helpful way in which they have reconsidered this rather urgently introduced provision in the House of Commons, they should consider whether new subsections (1), (2) and (3) run in the right order. New Section 58B(1) sets outs the offence; new subsection (3), or proposed new subsections (3A), (3B), (3C) and (3D) are not offences; and new subsection (2) sets out the defence. Logically, it might be better and easier—and it might deal with the sui generis point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—if the order ran new subsection (1), the current new subsection (3) and then new subsection (2).
My Lords, very briefly, I completely agree with my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who has addressed all the amendments in this group other than Amendment 15. I have added my name to Amendment 15 and made clear my reasons for supporting it during our debate on the second group of amendments. I do not wish to add further to my comments.
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I should notify the Committee that, if Amendment 31 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 32 by reason of pre-emption.
My Lords, I am somewhat shocked by the implication that there is anything illiberal about the proposed extension of the law in this clause. In November 2017, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies, included in his speech the following sentence:
“While terrorism often starts in conflict zones, it reaches far beyond them, organizing and inspiring attacks and radicalizing people across borders and continents”.
The clause recognises exactly what the Secretary-General described. Those who have been interested in terrorism law for as long as the period since 9/11 will recall that the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a speech in Barcelona shortly after 9/11, made the point that the United Nations agrees in principle that terrorism should be prosecuted wherever the defendant is irrespective of where the terrorist act was committed.
If this Bill, as we are told by the Government, is intended at least in major part to modernise the law so that it faces up to the changes that have occurred at an exponential rate in electronic communications since 2001, this is exactly one of those measures that achieves just that. Let us imagine that somebody was in this country with impunity having committed an act somewhere else that is a terrorism offence in this country. We prosecute those who committed the act in this country, but not those who committed exactly the same act, which appeared on exactly the same postings on the internet and in exactly the same YouTube videos, in another country. That makes absolutely no sense.
I say to the noble Baroness—whom I much admire—who proposed the amendments that there is a danger of us losing touch also with the public view on these matters. A set of opinion polls appeared two days ago in which it was revealed that changes in the law of this kind are broadly supported by more than 80% the public. While I do not believe in legislating on the grounds of public opinion, in this instance I regard the public as being right and I urge your Lordships to reject the amendments and not to reject the principle in the clause.
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My Lords, I oppose this amendment and, in doing so, I will seek to explain why the issues are rather different from those considered under the previous group. If Amendment 32 is passed then Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, as supercharged by Clause 1, will apply to any person anywhere in the world who expresses an opinion or belief that is supportive of an organisation proscribed in the UK and who is reckless as to the consequences. The deficiencies of our deproscription regime, with which I have already wearied your Lordships, are multiplied when coupled with the indiscriminate grant of extraterritorial jurisdiction in this context.
To illustrate the point, I invite your Lordships to look to the Republic of Ireland, whose citizens would be criminalised by a law of this Parliament for expressing supportive opinions about organisations now committed to peace but in which their grandfathers or grandmothers once fought for freedom. I shall give one example: Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s organisation. It was once aligned with the IRA and is still proscribed in this country, despite no evidence of which I am aware that it has been concerned in terrorism during this century at least. The commemoration of its centenary in 2014 in Dublin was a significant national event. The speakers included President Higgins of Ireland, who spoke stirringly and approvingly of the vision that animated the women of Cumann na mBan. The Minister will of course assure us that no one is going to seek extradition of Irish citizens who expressed opinions supportive of this proscribed group but, as noble Lords have done in relation to other clauses of the Bill, I must question whether this repeated heavy reliance on the discretion of our authorities is an adequate substitute for crafting a properly defined law.
This amendment comes in very late and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, without the benefit of JCHR scrutiny. Whatever view noble Lords may take of Amendments 31 and 33, I strongly question the wisdom of extending extraterritorial jurisdiction unqualified by limitations of citizenship or residence to countries where conduct caught by the expanded Section 12 is not a crime. However it is applied in practice, this amendment might be thought to have a regrettably colonial flavour, not just in Ireland but in other parts of the world. I have no doubt that it is unintended, but it is no less unfortunate for that. This amendment seems to have been an afterthought. I suggest that this is one of those occasions where the first thoughts were the best. I invite the Minister to withdraw the amendment or, at the very least, to qualify it in the ways suggested in Amendment 33.
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have responded to this proposed amendment. We are very conscious that it is less than ideal to bring in an amendment of this kind at this stage of the Bill’s passage. If we had been able to do so at an earlier stage, it would have been much better.
Having said that, we felt that it was, on balance, right to introduce this change rather than not introduce it. I recognise the reservation expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, on that score. He also expressed the reservation that we heard on the previous group of amendments about applying extraterritorial jurisdiction to those who are not UK citizens or UK residents. I have already said that as a general rule I respect that point of principle. However, I put it to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that what we are seeking to do here is not any different in concept from what we sought to do at the beginning of the Bill.
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My Lords, Ministers will know that the equivalent sentences in other European countries for the type of offences that we are talking about tend to be much lower than they are here. Perhaps that is no bad thing.
In light of these issues and the proposed very substantial increases to which the noble Lord has referred, will the Minister say what steps will be taken to address—or at any rate, given the sensitivities, to research—the disparities that have been observed by informed observers between sentencing levels for terrorism offences in England and those in Northern Ireland, where sentences imposed appear to be a great deal lower for conduct that on the face of it looks quite similar?
My Lords, Clause 7 increases the maximum sentences for a number of terrorism offences to ensure that the available punishment properly reflects the seriousness of the crime. That is the point that I urge noble Lords to focus on in this debate. A key aspect of the review of our terrorism laws announced by the Prime Minister following last year’s attacks, of which the Bill is the product, was looking again at the courts’ sentencing powers to ensure that they are sufficient to respond to the threat and keep the public safe. The clear conclusion was that sentencing needs to be updated and strengthened, and the Bill contains a package of measures to deliver that, including Clause 7. However, I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, have queried whether these changes need to be made and have suggested that such changes are unnecessary and disproportionate. However, I sincerely hope that in responding to such concerns I can explain why the Government believe that Clause 7 as drafted is a necessary, proportionate and timely response to the contemporary terrorist threat.
Since the offences in question were first introduced, in some cases 12 years ago and in others 18 years ago, the terrorist threat has evolved significantly. Its source has shifted and diversified, its methods have developed and it has been quick to exploit modern online technology. Both its extent and its severity have maintained an upwards trajectory, and the intelligence services consider that in recent years there has been an enduring shift in the nature of the threat, rather than just a spike. We can be under no illusion: the scale of the threat we face today is unprecedented and, sadly, more attacks are likely.
In particular, we have seen increases in the scale of radicalisation and changes in its methodology and patterns. The growth of the internet has brought new and powerful ways for people to connect with each other, and to share ideas and information, which have brought great benefits to the vast majority of the public. But they have also brought new opportunities to those who would do us harm, increasing the ability of terrorists both to access and to disseminate unlawful terrorist information and training material, propaganda, and incitement to hatred and violence—and to do so, potentially, to a wide audience. Indeed, those who seek to recruit and to inspire or direct individuals to carry out attacks have never found it easier to identify and connect with would-be terrorists, often across international borders, and those who are embarking on the path of radicalisation have never found it easier to access material, to communicate with terrorist individuals and organisations, and to receive encouragement or direction which will move them further and more quickly along that path.
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My Lords, the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines for terrorism offences came into force, as the noble Lord rightly says, on 27 April. In its consultation on the draft guidelines, the council was able to anticipate the proposed increases. Consequently, we believe it will not be a difficult task for the council to modify the guidelines once the Bill is enacted, and the Government will of course work with the council on those increases. Any changes to sentencing will only be made following parliamentary debate and approval.
That is exactly the position. I sense no resistance from the Sentencing Council to that approach and I think it is eminently practicable. To answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, about the review, it was announced by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in June 2017. It is an internal government review and as such was not published, but I have informed the Committee today of some of the conclusions that it reached.
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My Lords, as I have added my name to this amendment, I should like to say briefly that we support the principle that there should be the possibility of a review to ensure that these provisions are necessary and proportionate. The appeal process appears to get round any possible issues with matters that cannot be placed in the public domain.
My Lords, as noble Lords have said, Clause 12 strengthens the notification requirements under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 which apply to individuals convicted of terrorism offences, or offences with a terrorist connection, to enable the police to better manage the risk posed by such individuals. It does so by increasing the amount of information that registered terrorist offenders must notify to the police, in many respects bringing the requirements into line with those already in place for registered sex offenders.
The length of time that a terrorist offender is subject to the notification requirements varies depending on the length of sentence they receive, up to a maximum of 30 years for a person sentenced to 10 years’ or more imprisonment. The notification requirements are not onerous and do not place restrictions on an offender’s activities, but they do provide a proportionate means for the police to monitor the ongoing risk posed by a person who has been convicted of a terrorism offence and, where appropriate, to take action to mitigate any increased risk that they might pose.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has explained that her amendment is motivated by a concern that it is not appropriate for a convicted terrorist to be subject to the requirements for this length of time without the ongoing necessity and proportionality of this being reviewed. I understand the sentiment behind her amendment but I disagree. As I have said, the notification requirements are not disproportionately onerous, and they flow as a direct consequence of a conviction for a terrorism offence—a category of offence which is of a particular level of seriousness. The notification measures provide a real benefit to the police in providing a quite light-touch but effective means of monitoring the ongoing risk posed by such a person over an extended period of time.
There is benefit in this, as individuals who are of a sufficiently terrorist mindset that they have been convicted of a terrorism offence, particularly one serious enough to merit a lengthy sentence of 10 or more years, can retain that mindset and can disengage and then re-engage over such an extended period of time. As such, the notification requirements in their current duration are, I suggest, clearly both necessary and proportionate.
The noble Baroness has suggested that, to ensure proportionality, we should follow the approach taken for registered sex offenders, which, following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of R (F) vs Secretary of State for the Home Department, includes a review scheme along the lines that she has proposed. However, it is crucial to note that the Supreme Court ruled only that a review scheme was necessary in order to comply with Article 8 of the ECHR for registered sex offenders who are subject to the requirements indefinitely.
Of course, the terrorism notification requirements can apply only for a finite period. The Supreme Court did not find that the sex offender notification scheme, as it applied to individuals subject to the requirements for a finite period, was incompatible with Article 8. As a result, for registered sex offenders subject to the notification requirements for a fixed period, there is no review scheme. Furthermore, and in any event, we should also note that the Court of Appeal found in the case of Irfan that terrorism offending is in a different category to sex offending in terms of ongoing risk. Notwithstanding the particularly serious nature of sex offending, terrorism offences have, in the words of the Court of Appeal,
“unique features which compound concern. A single act can cause untold damage, including loss of life, to a large number of people, by someone motivated by extreme political or religious fanaticism”.
A failed or foiled plot can also still serve to inspire many. If anything calls for a precautionary approach, it is terrorism. I hope that, in the light of this explanation, the noble Baroness feels that she can withdraw her amendment.
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My Lords, perhaps I may add my name to the long list of noble Lords concerned about the width of the provision in the Bill. I too hope that the Minister will say to the Committee that she and the Government will take this matter away, think about it and come back to it on Report.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. On the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about reflecting on what the Committee said, I should make the point that the Government do reflect on what is said—that is the importance of the legislative process—and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, we always have to balance these matters.
I shall deal with the amendments and explain why, for the moment, the Government do not support them.
Clause 13 confers on the police the power to enter and search the home address of a registered terrorist offender under the authority of a warrant issued by a justice for the purpose of assessing the risk that the offender poses. We have already debated the underlying purpose of the terrorism notification requirements and their importance in helping the police to manage the risk posed by those convicted of serious terrorism offences, so I will not go over that ground again.
However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, these amendments would have a number of effects. Amendment 39 would narrow the purpose for which the power of entry and search may be operated and confine it to assessing whether the offender is in breach of the notification requirements rather than, as is currently drafted, to assess the risk that they pose.
Amendment 40 would introduce a requirement for the grant of a warrant that the justice must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the registered offender is in breach of his or her notification requirements. Amendment 41 would provide, in addition to the current requirement, that the justice must be satisfied that it is “necessary” for the officer to enter and search the premises for the purpose of assessing the risk posed by the offender. The justice must also be satisfied that entry and search is “proportionate” to that purpose.
It may assist your Lordships if I begin by setting out the purpose of this power and why it is needed in its current form. The purpose of the power is to assess the risk posed by the offender. The police consider that home visits are an important tool in managing and risk-assessing registered terrorist offenders during their time subject to the notification regime. This power allows them to ascertain whether the offender does in fact reside at the address they have notified to the police and to check their compliance with other aspects of the notification regime. This is, of course, the purpose that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, envisages in Amendment 39.
However, home visits are also helpful as they allow a broader assessment of risk to be made beyond monitoring compliance with the notification obligations. They allow the police to identify any other factors that might contribute to the overall risk an offender poses to themselves or their community and their risk of reoffending. This might include their general living conditions, as well as any signs of mental health decline or drug or alcohol misuse. They can also allow the police to identify any potential risk that the offender may cease to comply with the notification requirements and, in particular, that they may abscond from their registered address.
It is not an inappropriate purpose for the police to wish to keep in touch with a registered terrorist offender. That actually strikes me as quite responsible, given that the police are charged with protecting us all from such serious offenders. Amendment 39 would mean that the new power could not be used for that purpose, so the police may become aware of an increase in risk and potentially harmful activity only at a later stage when the opportunity to take mitigated action may have been missed.
Perhaps I can ask both the noble Lord and the Minister a question: first, one to the Minister. Is the requirement for proof found in any other provision for reasonable excuse? I have been looking during the past few minutes; I could not find an example, but I did not get my iPad out to start reading through the whole of the Terrorism Act.
Secondly, I see the attraction of the term “state”. On who has to show what and in what order, we have been referred to Section 118 of the Terrorism Act. The terminology of that is “adducing evidence”. I am not sure whether the term “state” used by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is intended to be the equivalent of “adduce evidence”.
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My Lords, if I misspoke or misread, I apologise. I was seeking to say that, as long as a defendant puts forward sufficient evidence to reasonably support whatever suggestion he is making—that he has a reasonable excuse—then the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to disprove that to the criminal standard.
My Lords, I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary entitled “Report on Recent Terrorist Attacks”. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on David Anderson’s report published today on recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
The attacks which took place this year shocked us all. Our thoughts remain with the victims of the attacks and all those affected by them. I am conscious that many will still be suffering acutely. However painful, it is essential that we examine what happened so that we can maximise the chances of preventing further attacks in the future.
At the outset, I would like to remind honourable Members of the context. Andrew Parker, the director-general of MI5, recently said that we are facing ‘a dramatic upshift’ in terrorist threats, and as the so-called caliphate has weakened, Daesh has increasingly turned its attention to encouraging people to launch attacks in their home countries. Indeed, there is simply more terrorist activity, partly inspired and also enabled by terrorist propaganda and instructional videos online. Plots are developing more quickly from radicalisation to attack, and threats are becoming harder to detect, partly due to the challenge of accessing communications that are increasingly end-to-end encrypted.
MI5 and Counter Terrorism Policing are currently running well over 500 live operations—a third up since the beginning of the year—involving roughly 3,000 active subjects of interest. In addition, there are more than 20,000 further individuals—or closed subjects of interest—who have previously been investigated and may again pose a threat. I would like to pay tribute to MI5 and the police, who work tirelessly to keep us safe. I can announce today that they have now disrupted 22 Islamist terrorist plots since the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013, including nine since the Westminster attack in March this year.
I now turn to the reviews. Counter Terrorism Policing and MI5 have conducted a thorough review process. I received from them 10 highly classified documents which analyse the attacks and potential improvements to operational practices. In June, I commissioned David Anderson QC to provide independent assurance of, and external challenge to, the reviews. I am today placing a copy of his unclassified assessment of the reviews in the House Library, and copies will also be made available in the Vote Office.
David Anderson concludes that the reviews have been carried out in an ‘impressively thorough and fair’ manner, and he endorses, so far as he feels qualified to do so, the conclusions and recommendations. Based on the MI5 and police reviews, David Anderson explains that:
‘In the case of the Westminster attack, Khalid Masood was a closed subject of interest at the time of the attack. Neither MI5 nor the police had any reason to anticipate the attack’.
Regarding the Manchester Arena attack, Salman Abedi was also a closed subject of interest at the time of the attack, and so not under active investigation. In early 2017, MI5 none the less received intelligence on him, which was assessed as not being related to terrorism. In retrospect, the intelligence can be seen to be highly relevant. Had an investigation been reopened at the time, it cannot be known whether Abedi’s plans could have been stopped. MI5 assesses that it would have been unlikely. Across the attacks, including Manchester Arena, David Anderson notes that MI5 and CT Policing got a great deal right. However, in relation to Manchester, he also commented that,
‘it is conceivable that the attack … might have been averted had the cards fallen differently’.
In the case of London Bridge, Khuram Butt was an active subject of interest who had been under investigation since mid-2015. A number of different investigative means were deployed against him, but they did not reveal his plans. His two conspirators had never been investigated by MI5 or CT Policing. In regards to Finsbury Park, neither MI5 nor the police had any intelligence about this attack. Taken as a whole, MI5 and CT Policing conclude that they could not,
‘find any key moments where different decisions would have made it likely that they could have stopped any of the attacks’.
None the less, they go on to make a total of 126 recommendations.
The recommendations made in the MI5 and police operational review fall into four broad categories. First, there needs to be a concerted effort to enhance MI5 and the police’s ability to use data to detect activity of concern, and to test new approaches in the acquisition, sharing and analysis of data.
Secondly, MI5 should share its intelligence more widely and work with partners such as local authorities on how best to manage the risk posed by closed subjects of interest in particular. We are considering undertaking multiagency pilots in a number of areas, including Greater Manchester, and I have already started discussing how to take this forward with Andy Burnham.
Thirdly, there should be a new approach to managing domestic extremism, particularly extreme right-wing groups, where their activity meets the definition of terrorism. Fourthly, there are a large number of detailed and technical changes which could be made to improve existing operational counterterrorism processes.
David Anderson ends his report with several reflections. First, intelligence is imperfect and investigators are making tough judgments based on incomplete information. This unfortunately means that not every attack can be stopped. As we do not live in a surveillance state, it will always be a challenge to law enforcement to stop determined attackers getting through. Despite this, we should remember that most attacks continue to be successfully disrupted. Lastly, David Anderson concludes that even marginal improvements are capable of paying dividends that could tip the balance in favour of the security forces in future cases.
I have discussed these reviews at length with David Anderson, and separately with Andrew Parker and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, as well as their senior teams. I am grateful for all their work and am confident that they have asked the right questions and drawn the right conclusions. I am clear, as are they, that the implementation of the recommendations is crucial.
There will be those who seek to apportion blame for the attacks. We should be united in our clarity that it lies squarely with those whose cowardly acts killed 36 innocent people this year, and with those who encouraged them. At the same time, we must learn all that we can from these attacks, and make sure that our overall counterterrorism response is equal to the shift we have seen in the threat.
I turn now to the next steps. Bringing those responsible to justice is our priority. We must not do anything that jeopardises the criminal prosecutions that are being pursued in relation to Manchester and Finsbury Park. The coroners’ investigations will probe the matter further and independently assess the circumstances of the deaths. Inquests have already been opened into the attacks and suspended where criminal investigations are continuing. It is right that those inquests proceed wherever they can. If the coroners consider that they cannot fully deal with the relevant issues, that is the point at which to decide whether an inquiry is needed. We are ruling nothing out.
I welcome the Intelligence and Security Committee’s intention to make these attacks its top priority, and I have already discussed this with my right honourable friend the Member for Beaconsfield. As I outlined, implementation of the recommendations will be crucial. I have asked David Anderson to provide an independent stock-take of progress in a year’s time, but linked to implementation are resources. We will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing for 2018-19. I am clear that we must ensure that counterterrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats we face.
Finally, these recommendations need to fit into the broader government review of our counterterrorism strategy. That review reaches well beyond MI5 and CT Policing to look at the whole-of-government response and at how we can work better with communities, the private sector and international partners. I conclude by thanking David Anderson for his independent assurance of these reviews. I again pay tribute to the excellent work of the police and MI5.
I end as I started. The thoughts of everyone in this House and the other place are with the victims, their families and all those affected by the attacks. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and associate these Benches with the Home Secretary’s sentiments concerning those affected by the terrorist outrages. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has just reiterated, there is no doubt that the blame for the suffering that was inflicted remains with those who carried out these criminal acts and those who supported them. As far as I am concerned, we have the best intelligence and policing services in the world.
It is important to explain what a “dramatic upshift” in terrorist threats actually means. Having been briefed by those at the highest level, my understanding is that the number of people being influenced by extremist propaganda, particularly online, who are then tempted to conduct unsophisticated attacks such as those at Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, is increasing. Can the Minister confirm that it is the volume rather than the degree of sophistication, the amount of strategic planning or the co-ordination that is seeing a “dramatic upshift” in the threat?
In the case of the Westminster, Manchester and Finsbury Park attacks, which were apparently carried out by so-called “lone wolf” attackers, can the Minister explain how end-to-end encryption mentioned by the Home Secretary would have made any difference to the likelihood of those attacks being prevented? Bearing in mind that in all these attacks, except the London Bridge attack, none of the murderers was under active investigation, how would their communications have been monitored, whether end-to-end encrypted or not? In the case of the one attacker who was an active subject of interest, can the Minister confirm that the investigative means that were deployed against him could have overcome end-to-end encryption? Is it not the fact that end-to-end encryption is a global issue that cannot be banned, and that we should be focused on what we can do something about, rather than on what we can do nothing about?
Can the noble Earl confirm that David Anderson agrees with MI5 and Counter Terrorism Policing’s conclusion that they could not,
“find any key moments where different decisions would have made it likely that they could have stopped any of the attacks”?
The Home Secretary reflects David Anderson’s conclusion that intelligence is imperfect and investigators are making tough judgments based on incomplete information, and she promises to deliver the resources Counter Terrorism Policing needs to deal with the threats we face. Does the Minister agree that a vital part of the intelligence picture is provided by community policing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, alluded? The day after the London Bridge attack, a neighbour of one of the attackers told journalists how he thought that the man was being overfriendly and was asking about hiring a van without using a credit card on the day of the attack. Despite, as the Home Secretary said, a “number of” investigative means being deployed against him, this intelligence, which might have been discovered by a community policing team to whom the neighbour may have had links, did not surface until afterwards.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, among many others, have warned about the erosion of police resources and the demise of community policing. Despite assurances from Ministers to the contrary, the facts are that police budgets continue to fall in real terms. For example, the Metropolitan Police has already had to make savings of £600 million, with £400 million of cuts in the pipeline. Does the Minister agree that effective community policing is as important, if not more important, against the current unsophisticated threat, as Counter Terrorism Policing, and that community policing must also have the resources needed to deal with these threats?