Mr Ben Wallace debates with Home Office

There have been 48 exchanges between Mr Ben Wallace and Home Office

Mon 15th July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 20 interactions (563 words)
Mon 10th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 13 interactions (378 words)
Tue 9th April 2019 Rwandan Genocide: Alleged Perpetrators (Urgent Question) 48 interactions (2,624 words)
Mon 1st April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (379 words)
Mon 18th March 2019 Far-right Violence and Online Extremism (Urgent Question) 89 interactions (6,084 words)
Fri 15th March 2019 Speaker’s Statement: New Zealand Terror Attacks 3 interactions (165 words)
Fri 15th March 2019 Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 4 interactions (920 words)
Mon 25th February 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 17 interactions (507 words)
Wed 30th January 2019 Points of Order 3 interactions (62 words)
Wed 30th January 2019 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords] 60 interactions (6,866 words)
Tue 22nd January 2019 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 54 interactions (6,537 words)
Mon 21st January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 13 interactions (375 words)
Tue 18th December 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 72 interactions (9,680 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (76 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill [Lords] 18 interactions (3,307 words)
Mon 29th October 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 10 interactions (204 words)
Wed 17th October 2018 Petition 3 interactions (148 words)
Wed 17th October 2018 Drug Trafficking: County Lines 6 interactions (1,961 words)
Thu 11th October 2018 Foreign Fighters and the Death Penalty (Urgent Question) 26 interactions (2,683 words)
Wed 12th September 2018 Salisbury Incident 85 interactions (10,235 words)
Tue 11th September 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 73 interactions (7,896 words)
Wed 5th September 2018 Organised Crime: Young People’s Safety (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (2,604 words)
Mon 23rd July 2018 Foreign Fighters and the Death Penalty (Urgent Question) 66 interactions (3,632 words)
Tue 17th July 2018 Non-EEA Visas: Inshore Fishing (Westminster Hall) 15 interactions (1,692 words)
Mon 16th July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 21 interactions (435 words)
Tue 10th July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 45 interactions (6,310 words)
Thu 5th July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 61 interactions (7,170 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 50 interactions (8,671 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 66 interactions (8,409 words)
Thu 28th June 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 29 interactions (3,397 words)
Tue 26th June 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 54 interactions (4,794 words)
Tue 26th June 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 44 interactions (3,755 words)
Mon 11th June 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 13 interactions (3,279 words)
Mon 4th June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 13 interactions (435 words)
Wed 23rd May 2018 BAME Communities: Stop and Search (Westminster Hall) 10 interactions (2,875 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Serious Violence Strategy 44 interactions (4,595 words)
Thu 19th April 2018 Home Department (Ministerial Corrections) 6 interactions (277 words)
Mon 16th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 33 interactions (1,046 words)
Wed 28th March 2018 Kerslake Arena Attack Review (Urgent Question) 52 interactions (4,840 words)
Wed 28th March 2018 Police Funding 15 interactions (1,063 words)
Mon 19th March 2018 Money Laundering (Urgent Question) 85 interactions (4,614 words)
Mon 26th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 21 interactions (601 words)
Thu 25th January 2018 Proscription of Hezbollah 23 interactions (2,908 words)
Mon 8th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 34 interactions (984 words)
Tue 19th December 2017 Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism 16 interactions (3,457 words)
Mon 20th November 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 33 interactions (876 words)
Mon 16th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 25 interactions (672 words)
Mon 3rd July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 23 interactions (785 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Mr Ben Wallace Excerpts
Monday 15th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con) - Hansard

2. What steps the Government are taking to tackle economic crime. [911918]

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:37 p.m.

Last week, the Government published a new economic crime plan in partnership with the private sector to create a whole-system approach to economic crime. Her Majesty’s Government are investing at least £48 million this year to bolster capabilities to tackle economic crime, including with the establishment of the National Economic Crime Centre, to increase the number of financial investigators and to recover more assets.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:38 p.m.

I welcome the new economic crime plan, and I agree we need more resources to finance people to tackle these various crimes. What more will be done under that new plan to strengthen our protections against fraud?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:38 p.m.

The new economic crime plan brings together all the different actors on the stage the Government have invested in and identifies all those areas that need to be solved. It is a better analysis of economic crime. We have set up the NECC to bring together all the assets of government—everything from UK Visas and Immigration and the Home Office to the intelligence services—to focus on some of the biggest money launderers and to implement the new powers in the Criminal Finances Act 2017, to deal with criminals and money launderers and to take the money back from them.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

17. Given that the Government are constantly telling us how much more money they are putting into funding the police forces across the UK, can the Minister tell us how many detectives were assigned to serious organised crime in 2010, and how many there were in the latest available data? [911933]

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

Including of an economic character.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Given the economic character of that question, the best thing is for me to write to the hon. Lady with the detail of the number of financial investigators—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady has not been particularly specific. Does she mean the number of detectives within the National Crime Agency, within the Met’s serious organised crime command, within the regional organised crime units or within the local forces? I will send her the details so that she can analyse and discuss them.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:39 p.m.

I welcome the economic crime plan, but I do not see any mention of extending the “failure to prevent” offence to include economic crime. Is the Minister still keen to do that?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Absolutely. Building “failure to prevent” offences such as bribery and tax evasion into statute makes a real difference. It is important for us to give our law enforcement agencies powers to deal with, for instance, corporations that engage in conspiracies, because in the past that has been very hard to prove.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:40 p.m.

Poor pension transfer advice can amount to fraud, but in my experience local police officers often refer such cases to the Financial Conduct Authority, which often focuses on administrative penalties rather than criminal prosecutions. Will the Minister agree to meet me, and to review economic crimes against pensioners, so that justice can be done?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:40 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. While large sectors are regulated under the FCA, we have seen fraudsters exploiting marketing as a guise to escape that regulation. When we identify them, there are criminal investigations, but I should be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman and hear more about his views.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:40 p.m.

How will the forthcoming legislation requiring the registration of overseas entities prevent money generated through crime and corruption overseas from being invested in the London property market?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:41 p.m.

Transparency is the best disinfectant in such cases, and the Government are working hard to improve the operation of Companies House to ensure that we get to the bottom of some of these spurious companies. We are also fully committed to the establishment of a public register of property ownership in the UK, and are working with overseas territories to ensure that similar registers are established to cover ownership there.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 2:41 p.m.

As capital moves ever more easily, it is imperative that we look again at the very limited circumstances in which large financial actors can at present be held accountable before the law. The Minister mentioned corporations a moment ago, but the Government’s economic crime plan totally fails to take on the issue of corporate criminal liability, which we must consider. Here is a very simple question: what are the Government afraid of?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard

As the hon. Gentleman will know, I have been talking about that issue for a long time, and we have been working hard on it. “Failure to prevent” in relation to tax evasion is now being rolled out, and the National Security Council discussed the issue more than a year ago. The hon. Gentleman will, I hope, wait to see what happens, but we are determined to try to deal with it.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP) - Hansard

3. What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the EU settlement scheme application process. [911919]

Break in Debate

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

T8. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to get the message to those across the world who gain wealth from grotesque crimes involving hideous human rights abuses and fraud that they are not welcome here is to have more unexplained wealth orders and a robust UK sanctions regime up and running? [911949]

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 3:32 p.m.

My right hon. Friend has led a long campaign against such people. He will be glad to know that in the last few years, with our new impetus on economic crime, we have found that a number have already had their collars felt, some have had to explain their wealth—the latest case being £100 million of London property—£112 million of assets have been frozen, and some have found it very hard to visit the country altogether.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Jul 2019, 3:33 p.m.

My constituent, Bibi Rahima, said that

“my life is just a prison”

after she was accused of cheating in the test of English for international communication. She was overjoyed when she won her appeal in May, but I have written to the Home Secretary on her behalf again today to plead against a further appeal now being taken against her. I am certain she did not cheat, and the judge in her appeal in May said that

“there is no specific evidence in relation to this Appellant at all.”

Will Ministers now withdraw that cruel and pointless action?

Oral Answers to Questions

Mr Ben Wallace Excerpts
Monday 10th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con) - Hansard

11. What steps he is taking to provide security and law enforcement organisations with the tools that they need to counter terrorism. [911218]

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard

A review of powers was undertaken as part of our updated comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST, and the lessons learned from the attacks of 2016 and 2017 were incorporated. Following the review, the Government launched the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which received Royal Assent on 12 February 2019.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti - Parliament Live - Hansard

Our security services are world class, but we know that co-ordination is key, so does my right hon. Friend agree that negotiating security co-operation with our European partners and neighbours and strengthening our alliances around the world should be top post-Brexit priorities?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:10 p.m.

Yes, I can reassure the House that intelligence sharing will go on unchanged. The relationship between intelligence services under national security, irrespective of our status within Europe, will not diminish, and the same goes for our status within the Five Eyes community—a strong partnership for intelligence. In addition, when it comes to law enforcement tools, our relationships are also underpinned by the 1957 Council of Europe convention on extradition and the 1959 European convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters, and those will continue no matter what the settlement is.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

This weekend, the Home Secretary announced as part of his leadership bid a £500 million investment in border security in Northern Ireland, plus ongoing costs. Will the Minister agree to publish the proposals as soon as possible, so that they can be open to public and private scrutiny?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:11 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about investment in our border. However, I had a quick discussion with the Home Secretary, who does not have the same recollection of what he announced at the weekend. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman writes to the Home Secretary, the Home Secretary will set out the position.

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Change UK) Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:12 p.m.

I was horrified to read that a Hezbollah bomb factory storing three tonnes of explosive materials was discovered in north-west London in 2015—three and a half years before the Home Secretary fully proscribed the antisemitic terror group. Why did the Government wait so long to act? Why were the public and MPs not informed, given the debates that we have had on this issue?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard

The right hon. Lady will know, as a former Home Office Minister, that we do not comment on intelligence operations for obvious reasons. In addition, if Hezbollah was behaving in that manner at that time, that would have been under its military wing, as it was classified, and that would have been an act of terrorism and, indeed, would have been subject to the proscription provisions. I therefore do not think that anything different would have happened. However, as the right hon. Lady knows, the Home Secretary recently moved to proscribe the entirety of Hezbollah, partly because of such cases.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP) - Hansard

13. What steps his Department is taking to promote the EU settlement scheme. [911221]

Break in Debate

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:34 p.m.

Can I give the Minister a brief message from my constituents? They say that perpetrators of organised crime are constantly improving their ability to use new technologies to defraud them, and they have no resistance to having the best and most modern technology possible in the fight against crime.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:35 p.m.

One of the biggest challenges is how to get ahead of organised crime. Organised crime uses technology to organise better, and we need to organise better to counter it. The hon. Gentleman will have heard the different views in this House about technology and surveillance, and it is important to get the balance right. Members should be under no illusion that technology is giving the very baddest people in our society a real advantage, and that takes long-term investment to address.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 3:35 p.m.

Last Thursday, I travelled to the Netherlands with Teagan Appleby’s mother, Emma, to pick up the medical cannabis that has reduced Teagan’s seizures from 300 to four a day. In the absence of NHS prescribing, parents like Emma are having to go abroad, or pay exorbitant import and pharmacy charges. Emma had a UK prescription, so met the criteria presented to her at border control to the letter. Why, then, did the Home Office make UK Border Force detain the medicinal cannabis that Teagan so desperately needs?

Rwandan Genocide: Alleged Perpetrators

Mr Ben Wallace Excerpts
Tuesday 9th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mr Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:42 p.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if he will make a statement on the handling of the cases of the five alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in the United Kingdom.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:42 p.m.

None of us can forget the horrendous scenes of the Rwandan genocide 25 years ago. My colleague the Minister for Africa visited Rwanda only this week to share in the international recognition and remembrance of those horrific events.

I can confirm that the Metropolitan police’s war crimes unit, within the counter-terrorism command, received a referral from the Rwandan authorities in January 2018 relating to five individuals in the UK and allegations of genocide offences in Rwanda dating back from around 1994. Relevant documentation was assessed by the war crimes unit and officers were deployed to Rwanda as part of our initial work to scope out the allegations. We subsequently commenced an investigation, which will initially involve a review of all the documentation transferred from Rwanda. Given the complexities involved, it is expected to be a protracted and lengthy process. Inquiries continue.

Mr Andrew Mitchell Portrait Mr Mitchell - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:43 p.m.

As the Minister said, Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) and I represented this House, along with the Minister for Africa, at ceremonies in Kigali, which were dignified and profoundly moving.

The House will recall that nearly a million Rwandans were murdered in frenzied killing over a 90-day period while the international community effectively did nothing to stop it. Once the killing was ended, those leaders who were responsible for the genocide fled. Over the intervening years, many have returned voluntarily to Rwanda to be processed through the Gacaca court system. Others have been extradited to Rwanda from the United States, Canada, France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. Britain, sadly, is a glaring exception.

Proceedings started here in the UK more than a decade ago in respect of five alleged genocide perpetrators, but in spite of ruling that there was a prima facie case of genocide made out against all five, the British courts declined to extradite. The British taxpayer has already forked out more than £3 million in legal costs, and four of the five are living on benefits, including housing benefit. The Rwandan authorities, having failed to secure extradition in Britain in the lower courts, have declined to proceed to the Supreme Court and have asked that the UK undertake the trial here. In spite of all the evidence already being available here in the United Kingdom, the Metropolitan police have indicated that it could take a further 10 years to process these cases.

The souls of those who were murdered in the genocide cry out for justice, but from Britain justice has at least been delayed and at worst denied. The Nuremberg trials commenced a mere seven months after the end of the war and were concluded within 10 months. In the interests of those facing these dreadful allegations, as well as of the reputation of British justice, we should surely expect these five alleged génocidaires to be on trial at the Old Bailey by the end of this year. I end with the words spoken last weekend by the distinguished Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Johnston Busingye, who, when he came here to Britain, our Director of Public Prosecutions could not even find the time to see. He said this:

“Anyone who cares about British values and justice should be ashamed. The UK will go down in history as the only country in Europe that knowingly shielded alleged Rwandan génocidaires from justice.”

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:46 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is a strong supporter of Rwanda and knows the country incredibly well. I respect many of his views on the country and on the need for action, but I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with his last point. The United Kingdom has not shielded these people. He will know that on 28 July 2017 the High Court ruled that they could not be extradited, for fear of not facing a fair trial. He will know and respect the difference between the Government, the police and the judiciary. He will know that we have to follow the rule of law and that ruling.

This Government, and previous Governments, have been committed to bringing people to trial, which is why he has raised this issue. We have spent £3 million trying to get the right outcome, but when the Court ruled that these individuals could not be extradited, the United Kingdom, under its genocide convention obligations and after requests from the Rwandan Government, took on the investigation itself. We went out to meet officials in Rwanda and to gather evidence there, and there is a live police investigation into a number of individuals in relation to potential war crimes. My right hon. Friend will also understand that, as this is a live police investigation, there is no more I can say on this matter, for fear of prejudicing a fair trial here or anywhere else, and that is where we have to leave it. Those are the facts we find before us.

The Government are not shielding any war criminals, and nor should we. We would not do that. We are doing our best. I have raised the issue with the counter-terrorism police, and they say that the timescale for these investigations is not 10 years but more like between three and five years. I can assure my right hon. Friend that if the police require more resource or if they come up against an obstacle relating to international relations, the Government are standing by to help, to expedite and to ensure that those suspected of war crimes face full justice, but there is absolutely no case that this Government or any previous Government have shielded them from any war crimes trials that they might face.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:49 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) for applying for this urgent question on such an important matter, and I am grateful to you for granting it, Mr Speaker. The Rwandan genocide took place in 1994, and its recent 25-year anniversary was a haunting reminder of what happened. It was an atrocious act of violence, with hundreds of thousands of people being killed in just 100 days. That such a heinous act took place while the world stood by is a stain on the international community.

Allegations have been made against five individuals whose extradition to Rwanda was not granted by the High Court in 2017. I will not comment specifically on the individuals themselves. It has, however, been reported in the past couple of days that Scotland Yard received a referral from the Rwandan authorities in January 2018, and that Scotland Yard officers were sent to help with the investigation regarding those individuals, as the Minister has confirmed today.

It is right that these allegations are investigated in this country. We believe in a rules-based international order. If that is to mean anything, a crime against humanity must be considered as a crime against us all; no matter where in the world it takes place, all efforts must be made to pursue justice for victims. Although the Minister must be circumspect about what he says with an investigation ongoing, can he reassure the House that all necessary resources will be put at the disposal of the investigation, that all possible efforts to gather evidence will be made and that, although it will of course be complex, the investigation will be carried out carefully and as speedily as possible?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:51 p.m.

I can give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance. At the beginning of this year, I got an update from the counter-terrorism police about the conduct of any investigations relating to people from Rwanda. In fact, I briefed my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on that at about the same time to make sure he realised we are not forgetting this. We are not going to forget the genocide, and nor are we going to forget bringing those people to justice. I am very happy to keep the House posted, as we are allowed to. Nevertheless, with respect, we have to remember that this is a live police investigation and therefore all the safeguards apply.

Mr David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:51 p.m.

Other countries with very strong records of protecting asylum and the rights of individuals under criminal investigation, such as Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, have seen fit to extradite suspects back to Rwanda. Why have we not?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:52 p.m.

If my right hon. Friend has a problem with the judiciary, I suggest he takes that up with the Lord Chief Justice. We have to respect the ruling of the High Court, which took the view in July 2017 that these people would not face a fair trial if extradited. We fought the case, we took it to the Court, the Court decided otherwise, and we have to respect that ruling.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:52 p.m.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on securing this urgent question, and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting it, as the 100 days of commemoration of the 25th anniversary begin. I was part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation to Rwanda last year—I think it was the first ever CPA delegation to Rwanda—and saw at first hand the efforts that are being made to achieve justice and build peace. However, the question of alleged perpetrators remaining overseas leaves a cloud hanging over those efforts. It is not fair either to those who are accused or to the victims that these accusations are left untested.

Building on some of the questions that have already been asked, and accepting the role of the judiciary, what discussions have been had with other countries about why they felt able to allow extraditions? If the justice system here has concluded that a fair trial cannot be conducted in Rwanda, a way has to be found to achieve justice here. Is the Minister confident that the Met police has enough resources to complete its inquiries? What is the planned timescale for the next steps once those inquiries are concluded? Can he assure us that those steps will be taken as quickly as possible so that justice is both done and seen to be done?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:54 p.m.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I meet the head of counter-terrorism policing at least once a week, and we discuss a wide range of issues. If there is an issue with resource pressure in this particular case, or in other cases, we will no doubt discuss it and do what we can to solve it. Other courts and other countries have different statute books and different legislative arrangements. We go by our courts, and our courts made that ruling. That is regrettable. I am frustrated, and not just in this case; any Home Office Minister will often see their decisions and their attempts to extradite sometimes very dangerous people struck down. However, that is the rule of law—that is the rules-based system we are in—and, whether I like it or not, it is quite right that we follow it.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:54 p.m.

With chain gangs labouring in uniforms of magnificent pink, like that worn by my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), is there not much we can learn from the Gacaca court system?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:55 p.m.

Well, I am not going to comment on that, but it is very clear that successive Governments have tried to extradite these people to face justice in Rwanda. The courts took a different view. We then stepped up to the plate, and the police, in an operational decision, had to investigate. I am not a learned gentleman with the ability to compare different legal systems, and nor will I attempt to.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:55 p.m.

I will not ask the Minister to comment on these particular cases, but given the decision of the High Court in 2017, can he assure the House that there is no obstacle in principle to anyone who is accused of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity facing justice in this country, provided the evidential test is met?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:55 p.m.

I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. When it comes to war crimes, under our obligations in the convention there is no barrier at all.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:56 p.m.

Twelve years ago, I sat in on one of those Gacaca courts and saw some of these genocide suspects being put on trial. It was a rough and ready process, but does the Minister agree that a huge amount of work has been done over the years by the international community, including by British lawyers and experts, to help Rwanda improve its justice system? It has abolished the death penalty. Does he agree that there is no problem in principle with extraditing suspects to Rwanda to face trial?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:56 p.m.

It is our view—it was the Government’s view—and that is why we contested the case. Unfortunately, it was not the view of the UK courts.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op) Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:56 p.m.

May I plead with the Minister for a greater sense of urgency in this case? The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), whom I congratulate on securing the urgent question, talked about a 10-year delay. The Minister said there was a three to five-year delay. Three to five years is still too long. It is 25 years since the genocide in Rwanda. May we please have a sense of urgency from the Government?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:57 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say that it was not until 2017 that we started the investigation here at the request of the Rwandans, so it is not that we have not been doing it for 20-odd years. If there is a requirement for resources, that will be discussed every week with the counter-terrorism police, and I stand by ready to help with that. However, the hon. Gentleman will also want us to ensure that if these people come before a court, they are convicted and that we present the best case possible to ensure that the charges they face are upheld and stick.

Mrs Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:57 p.m.

I have spent time in Rwanda with Project Umubano and with the Select Committee on International Development. I have met people whose families were slaughtered. I have met people who have reconciled themselves to the fact that they no longer have families. They have gone a long way. I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) that it has been too long. These people have waited 25 years. Perhaps we have not been doing this for 25 years, but we should have been. We should have moved it on. People cannot come to peace until this is reconciled.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:58 p.m.

I hear what my hon. Friend says, and I understand that not only victims but supporters of the country want this matter to be closed and justice to be administered to the people responsible for the genocide. However, a police investigation is a matter for the police. How they conduct it is a matter for them, and how it is prosecuted is a matter for the CPS. We stand by ready to support them in doing that, but, at the end of the day, the police are operationally independent and the CPS is independent on many of these issues.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:58 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on asking it. As he mentioned, it was very important for us to attend the Kwibuka 25 remembrance ceremonies in Kigali on Sunday. I must tell the House that the bravery of survivors was humbling. Our duty to them is to pursue justice.

I know the Minister knows that, so may I ask him a broader question? What conclusions has he drawn about the UK’s current ability to act on crimes against humanity, and what discussions has he had with the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development about that? That matters not just to Rwandans but to other victims of grave injustices, such as those from Syria, and not just to direct victims of these heinous crimes but to every one of us in this world, all of whom rely on the rule of law.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:59 p.m.

While I recognise the understandable impatience of many colleagues on these particular cases, we should not lose sight of the fact that the United Kingdom, under successive Governments, has been a proud supporter of administering justice for war crimes around the world—in Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and other places. We should be proud of that.

We have not only often put our money where our mouth is, but we have used all diplomatic tools—the former Yugoslavia is a good example—to bring to trial people who thought they were always out of reach of justice. We continue with that enthusiasm and support. If it is a case of resources, the Department and I are standing by to continue the support. We are determined to see justice, and there is no resistance on this side of the House to doing so. We will continue to pursue the case to make sure that these people face the justice they deserve.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1 p.m.

Having been on several trips to Rwanda with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), I entirely share their comments. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that this case is prosecuted with the utmost vigour? If the 2017 High Court judgment leads people to think that the UK is a soft touch, people who commit these atrocious crimes will see the UK as a natural refuge. That should not be the case, and they should know they will face the full force of the law, whatever the views of the court system in the country from which they have come.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:01 p.m.

I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to send a strong message. I do not like, any more than he does, seeing in the newspapers that people are living freely in this country having had their extradition effectively turned down, which is why I would like to see, in general—I will not comment on this case—people in this country who have potentially perpetrated a war crime to be persecuted and prosecuted themselves.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:02 p.m.

The Minister is hearing from both sides of the House that we want action and that we want this investigation to happen promptly. We all know that he is not in charge of the courts and that the police are independent, but he does have the power to give extra money to the Met war crimes unit now, rather than waiting for a request. Will he not do that and send a signal from this House that we want the police to have the resources to get this investigation done soon?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:03 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that if the police require more money, for this or any other issue, they can come to the Home Office—either they internally prioritise or they come to us to see what we can do. We stand ready to do that. I know from my discussions with the police on this issue that this is not about resource; it is about the complexity of the case itself. Some of these cases are incredibly complex, and the challenge of untangling them is one of the reasons it takes time.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:03 p.m.

Along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), I have talked to some of the families who witnessed some of these dreadful crimes. In the Minister’s meetings with the Metropolitan police, he should urge it to proceed on this as urgently as possible. Three to five years is too long. If it were a terrorist outrage in this country, the public would be rightly outraged that it is taking so long. May I urge him to urge the Metropolitan police to get on with this? After all, most of the evidence has already been collected by the earlier court cases.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:03 p.m.

My hon. Friend may like to reflect that some of the terrorist trials we are awaiting here in the United Kingdom have taken years. They take a long time. In cases that stretch across countries, it is often highly complex to get evidence that reaches the evidential bar in order that a case can be submitted to a court.

Under our system, as under the Rwandan system, the accused has a right of disclosure and defence, and we have to make sure we get that right. I hear the urgency of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members. I will continue to press this when I meet the head of counter-terrorism policing on Thursday. I will make sure the police are aware of the urgency, and we will have a further discussion about whether more resource is needed or whether it is the complexity that is taking time.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:04 p.m.

I, too, met survivors of the Rwandan genocide when I visited Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006. I know this subject is very close to your heart, Mr Speaker. I thank you for granting the urgent question, and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on asking it.

Mr Speaker, you will remember 10 years ago, when we were joint vice-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on genocide prevention, sitting in a meeting with Jack Straw on closing the impunity gap in the law and making sure that alleged war criminals could be prosecuted in this country. People will look at us today and say that our judicial system and our asylum system are supposed to give sanctuary to those fleeing human rights oppressors and atrocities, and that they should not be abused by the alleged perpetrators of war crimes. There is no time limit on justice, so why did the police not investigate these crimes in parallel with the extradition process? Will the Minister report to this House on a six-monthly basis so that we are not here still demanding justice for the survivors on the 30th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:06 p.m.

On the hon. Lady’s last question, of course I can update the House on the progress of war crimes investigations in general, and maybe specifically around Rwanda, but not on individual cases—I cannot come to the House on those cases, one by one. I spoke earlier about commenting on live police investigations.

It is obviously a matter for the police when they start an investigation, but it is clear from the chronology of this case that the Rwandan Government requested an extradition and we complied with that request. We were keen to see these people extradited to face justice in Rwanda. We had safeguards, and we were confident that Rwanda would be able to deliver a fair trial. Regrettably, that was not the view taken by the High Court in 2017. Almost as soon as that decision was made, we took up the baton and started the investigation here. We will continue with that investigation, and hopefully we will get to a resolution sooner rather than later.

Mr Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:07 p.m.

When I visited Rwanda in 2002 I had the misfortune to see some horrific scenes as a result of the genocide, and it was made very clear to me then that justice has to be part of the reconciliation process. A lot of progress has been made in Rwanda—I visited again last year and saw some of that progress—but will the Government continue to work with Rwanda to ensure it can continue making progress while, at the same time, recognising that justice is an important part of that recovery process?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:07 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Africa Minister visited Rwanda not only to remember the horrors of the genocide and to say, “You are not forgotten,” but to continue to commit Britain’s support for that country and the amazing progress it has made since 1994.

Dame Margaret Hodge Portrait Dame Margaret Hodge (Barking) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:08 p.m.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on raising this issue. Were we talking about people who were allegedly involved in the Nazi holocaust, there would be a much stronger sense of urgency on the action that needs to be taken. In that context, I believe the Minister is defending the indefensible. During the extradition proceedings, there have been 10 years in which I assume information has been gathered by the authorities. To say that it will take a further three to five years, or probably closer to 10 years, to bring the matter to trial is just unbelievable. Complexity and thoroughness do not justify this level of delay, and I urge him to listen to the unanimous voices on both sides of the House and do all in his power—it is not about resources but about a will to act—to ensure that the police pursue this and that these people are brought to justice much more swiftly.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:30 a.m.

I hope the right hon. Lady does not think that because I have upheld the rule of law about the courts, there is no urgency. I would like to see those people off our streets. I do not want war criminals walking around this country. I do not want them here on a day-to-day basis. My strong view is that they should face justice, but police investigations are complex, and there is no magic wand that we can wave to force these things to happen at a quicker pace. We can allocate resource, offer to remove any barriers, whether international or not, and go to court—as we did—on behalf of the victims and the people of Rwanda to try to get this dealt with, but I can do no more than ensure the police know of the urgency. I can continue to monitor the situation and press them, weekly if necessary, to ensure we get a resolution. There is a determination on all sides of the House to bring war criminals to justice, and we will continue to press that.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:10 p.m.

I accept the Minister’s good faith, and I recognise this country’s good record on dealing with its international obligations. I welcome the fact that neither he nor anyone else in this House is seeking to go behind the decisions of this country’s independent judiciary, but does he recognise that it is important in such cases to ensure that too much time does not pass and that the testimony of witnesses does not fade? We are often dependent on eyewitness testimony in such cases, and those of us who appear in the courts know that the longer it is since the incident, the harder it is to ensure a fair trial and fair testing of the evidence.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:11 p.m.

My hon. Friend knows better than anybody else about the judiciary and its relationship with the Executive. I absolutely understand the importance of urgency when it comes to evidence. It is important that we produce trials that are successful. All I can say is what I have said to many hon. Members: I will impress the need for urgency on the counter-terrorism police when I next see them. I promise to update the House on the progress of war crimes prosecutions. My hon. Friend and I know that we must respect the rulings of the judiciary. There has been too much bashing of the judiciary in the past 20 years, and that does not help our society. They made that decision, and we abide by it. We must now prosecute in this country, and we will do so urgently.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:12 p.m.

Not long after my election, I met a constituent who had seen their family members brutally killed during the Rwandan genocide. Her story was heartbreaking. It is unbearable for her that one of the alleged perpetrators of those horrific acts of violence now lives in her town and is free to continue with his family life without fear of extradition. She is asking when she will see justice for her brothers.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:12 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will have heard my earlier answers. As the police progress whatever cases they have, we stand ready to support them. Subject to the complexities and the courts, I hope we will see prosecutions sooner rather than later.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:13 p.m.

Anybody visiting Rwanda will recognise a spirit of reconciliation and a real desire to move on from the absolutely horrific events of 1994. That is backed up by a sense of justice, often through the specially arranged local courts. If Rwanda has done the right thing, why cannot we?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:13 p.m.

Rwanda’s doing the right thing has meant ensuring the rule of law, separation of powers, respect for the judiciary, successful prosecutions and fair trials. Those are the same principles that we believe in in this country. We must respect the judiciary and its rulings if we are to set an example around the world. The Rwandan courts seem to manage that. We will respect our judiciary’s ruling and will seek to prosecute in this country.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:14 p.m.

I, too, have visited Rwanda, although it was with the all-party group on agriculture and food for development, so I saw a far more positive vision of the country. It is shocking to go round the stunning countryside and reflect on the fact that it was once steeped in bloodshed. Has the Minister had conversations with his colleagues in the Department for International Development? The number of survivors of the genocide is dwindling as the years pass. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were deliberately targeted with rape, and many were deliberately infected with HIV. Working with the survivors can perhaps help us to gather evidence and eventually bring people to justice.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:14 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes some valid suggestions. I am obviously not the Minister for Africa or the DFID Minister, but I will write to my colleagues and ask them to write to her to explain what they are doing. I will seek any suggestions she has about how to build a better policy.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide are Rwandan citizens, are they not? The public in this country will view with disbelief the fact that we are not returning them to justice in their own country. For those people to be at large and in receipt of social security benefits just makes the situation even worse. If in 1970, 25 years on from the horrific events of the second world war, there were alleged Nazi war criminals in this country and the Government were refusing to extradite them for trial in West Germany, Poland and Israel, that would have been unacceptable, as is this.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:16 p.m.

Perhaps I can correct my hon. Friend. The Government are not refusing to extradite them; we sought to extradite them to Rwanda to face justice. The court took a different view and said that it did not feel that they would face a fair trial if we did so. We have to abide by the court’s ruling, so we will instead seek to prosecute them in the United Kingdom. We think that is the best outcome. Whether they are citizens of the United Kingdom, Rwanda or anywhere else, we must abide by our article obligations under the European convention on human rights.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:16 p.m.

In a few weeks’ time, I will join Nottingham’s Rwandan community to commemorate 25 years since the genocide. Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), does the Minister appreciate the impact on survivors who have made their home in the United Kingdom of our country not being seen to be doing everything possible to ensure that those who are guilty of crimes against humanity are brought to justice?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:16 p.m.

I understand the hon. Lady’s point. Can she communicate to her Rwandan community that the Government spent £3 million trying to extradite those people so they could face justice in Rwanda? That was not possible, so this country and the police are investing to ensure we seek justice in the United Kingdom. That is not being passive and doing nothing; it is doing something.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:17 p.m.

I was privileged to be on the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation to Rwanda last November. It truly is a glorious country. The theme across all the meetings we took part in, whether with the Foreign Minister, in reconciliation villages or with district mayors, is that no one will or wants to forget the genocide. Those people deserve justice. One of the Foreign Minister’s concerns was our apparent unwillingness to investigate the allegations against the alleged perpetrators of the genocide. The Minister knows that in 18 months’ time, Rwanda will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. How can the UK Parliament, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the UK Government sit with the Rwandans in Kigali talking about common purpose around security and safety, when it appears that we do not take their concerns and their need for reconciliation and justice seriously in the UK system?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 1:18 p.m.

I dispute the picture the hon. Gentleman is painting about the Government’s and Parliament’s commitment to Rwanda. Plenty of friends of Rwanda who care about the consequences of the genocide in 1994 have rightly stood up to ask questions. This Government, the previous Government, the previous Labour Government and this House have been great supporters of the steps that Rwanda has taken since 1994. We are not doing nothing. We tried to extradite individuals so they could face trial. The court took a different view, and then we started an investigation. We have also been running other investigations into war crimes, and we will continue to do so.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mr Ben Wallace Excerpts
Monday 1st April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Mrs Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con) - Hansard

12. What steps he is taking to provide security and law enforcement organisations with adequate resources to counter terrorism.And thank you very much, Mr Speaker. [910136]

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:16 p.m.

I add my good wishes to my hon. Friend and wish her all the best for the future.

Our security and intelligence agencies are currently conducting more than 700 live investigations, so it is crucial that they have the resources needed to keep our citizens safe. In 2015, the Government increased counter-terrorism funding by 30%, from £11.7 billion to more than £15 billion, for the spending review period.

Mrs Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Murray - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:17 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. How does he respond to the concerns raised by the security and defence chiefs about the danger posed by the withdrawal agreement to our security relationships with the US, NATO and the Five Eyes alliance?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:17 p.m.

I read with interest the article and the letters sent by the former Chief of the Defence Staff and Secret Intelligence Service—in fact, I served with the former Chief of the Defence Staff. I regret to say to my hon. Friend that I think they are completely wrong. Nothing in the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration cuts across NATO, our defence and intelligence relationships with the EU or the US, or the Five Eyes alliance. The withdrawal agreement guarantees that it is the United Kingdom’s sovereign choice to co-operate with the EU on foreign policy and intelligence matters, while protecting the UK’s national security safeguards.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard

rose—

Break in Debate

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Sheerman - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:18 p.m.

Thank you for your condolences, Mr Speaker. We live to fight another day.

There are some thoughtful people on the Government Front Bench, but listening to today’s questions I get the feeling that they live in a silo, where they are comfortable but do not join up with other Departments. I hear from senior police officers up and down the country, but particularly in West Yorkshire and Huddersfield, that there is inadequate supply of the special skills needed to combat terrorism on the internet.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am afraid that is simply not the case. I speak regularly to all the leaders of the regional counter-terrorism response and the serious organised crime response. The part of policing that currently gets increased funding around that speciality is organised crime and counter-terrorism. I am happy to visit with the hon. Gentleman the counter-terrorist unit in his part of the country, which does a first-class job. The problem is not access to that speciality but making sure that we cut off the future demand and threats. I urge him to come with me to visit his local unit, and we can discuss the Prevent programme together.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:18 p.m.

May I add the congratulations of Members on the Opposition Benches to the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray)?

The Minister has spoken about having more money for counter-terrorism, but when an appalling terrorist attack occurs it draws in officers and resources from mainstream policing as well as specialist counter-terror officers. Surely he must accept that cutting more than 21,000 police officers since 2010 has diminished the Government’s capacity to keep people safe.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Apr 2019, 3:20 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will know that when police forces come under pressure—such as when they respond to a terrorist incident, to an incident such as Salisbury or, indeed, as in my constituency, to a process such as fracking—there is an extra grant for those police forces. We have refunded extra money to police forces in Dorset, London and Manchester, and we will continue to do so. That is why we have this pot in the Home Office: to make sure that we can flex as something happens. Police respond, and they then get back the money that they need.

Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab) Hansard

14. What steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities settle the status of the children of EU nationals in their care. [910138]

Far-right Violence and Online Extremism

Mr Ben Wallace Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:43 p.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for Security and Economic Crime, in the light of the recent terrorist attacks against the Muslim community of Christchurch, New Zealand, to make a statement on the Government’s strategy to tackle far-right violence and online extremism in the United Kingdom.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait The Minister for Security and Economic Crime (Mr Ben Wallace) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:44 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for asking her question, so that the Government can put on record their position on extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi and other types of violent terrorism. The Home Secretary would have liked to respond to the question personally, but he was visiting the Regent’s Park mosque with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government today to show support for British Muslims following last week’s horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch. The attack was a sickening act of terrorism which the Government condemn, as we do the incident reported in Utrecht today and the attack in Surrey on Saturday evening.

The Government take all forms of terrorism and extremism seriously. Our counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, does not differentiate between what motivates the threat: it is designed to address all forms of terrorism whatever the ideology, whether Islamist, neo-Nazi, far-right or extreme left.

If we are to tackle terrorism in the long term, we must challenge those seeking to radicalise people. The Prevent policy is designed to safeguard our vulnerable citizens from being recruited or motivated into terrorism. That is why I always urge people to get behind the policy.

Our counter-terrorism strategy is agnostic to the threat: it is not relevant to us in what name terror strikes; it is the use of violence and hate that we seek to stop. Government and law enforcement will direct their funding wherever the threat emerges, and if we are to stay one step ahead as the threat changes so must the funding. We will continue to keep funding for protected security measures under review as that threat moves and will indeed consistently review it for places of worship and other areas that may be vulnerable.

Social media platforms should be ashamed that they have enabled a terrorist to livestream this evil massacre and spread this mantra of hate to the whole world. As the Home Secretary has made clear, enough is enough. We have been clear that tech companies need to act more quickly to remove terrorist content and ultimately prevent new content from being made available to users in the first place. This must be a wake-up call for them to do more. There can be no safe spaces for terrorists to promote and share their sick views. The online harm White Paper will be published imminently and will set out clear expectations for tech companies to keep users safe and what will happen if they fail to do so.

This Government take the growing threat of the extreme right-wing extremely seriously, and I can assure the House and our Muslim communities that we will stand together to counter it wherever it manifests itself in our society.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:48 p.m.

Last week’s terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand killed 50 people and wounded a further 50 people. I am sure the whole House will join me in expressing our most sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones as well as our solidarity with the people of New Zealand as they come to terms with this and legislate to prevent such incidents from happening again. We have also seen this morning that a terrorist attack took place in the Netherlands, and we offer our sincere condolences to the three people who died during it.

In Lewisham, we have five mosques; two of them are in my constituency, and I have been contacted about the very real concern. This type of racial hatred and violence, whether in the UK or elsewhere in the world, must not be tolerated. It brings with it such immense fear, worry and anxiety for our Muslim communities, for families, children and young people. This should not be happening to people in this country or other countries; this should not be how people live, and the Government need to demonstrate that everything is being considered and done to keep people safe from harm and to promote respect and acceptance of difference and others. Will the Minster therefore state how his Department will deal with social media offences, including the removal of extreme content, and protect free speech, while developing an efficient strategy to tackle hate speech online? Also will he confirm he will be increasing his commitment to financing mosque security?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:51 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes some very valid points. First, on the money to protect vulnerable places—whether places of worship, schools or large public areas where people might gather—we of course continue to fund that where the threat requires it. We will continue to review the places of worship fund. The last round of ’18-19 was not oversubscribed despite efforts to advertise it to a number of mosques and other places of worship. We will continue to build on that, and if there is more requirement for it we will certainly stand ready to do that, to make sure my constituents in Preston in their mosques and the hon. Lady’s constituents in theirs get the support they need. Every single police force has a national counter-terrorism security adviser whose job is to go out and advise businesses, communities and places of worship about what they can do to mitigate any threat, even if it is threat unseen, and how they can make sure the people who use their premises are kept safe, and I urge people to do that.

On top of that, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office publishes an online manual to help places of worship, specifically, with tailor-made areas. The Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary are absolutely determined to make sure that the threat of attacks such as what we have seen in New Zealand are headed off. There are different factors at play in the United Kingdom but nevertheless, as I said this morning, it is perfectly possible that this type of thing will happen here.

We are already seeing a growing threat from people moving into the extremist mindset of the extreme right wing and neo-Nazis, and that is the pool that terrorists of the future will recruit from. We must all get together—all of us—to make sure that we teach our children about tolerance and equality and that we understand that just because someone disagrees with us, they are not lesser people. If someone comes from a different religion, they are not lesser, and if they have a different colour, they are not lesser. Until we embrace that, extremism will grow. Doing that is the best way of heading off far-right and neo-Nazi extremism.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:52 p.m.

With my New Zealand passport in my left pocket, may I thank the House and the nation who, with a very few exceptions, were extremely sympathetic? That was spread throughout the media. Although in New Zealand the armed forces and sports teams, such as the All Blacks, are fearsome in the field, as a nation the people are known for their friendliness and acceptance of different races, colours, and religions. What is most disturbing is that even with such community integration, a case such as last week’s, which “could not happen in New Zealand”, did. The All Blacks I just mentioned are a positive example, as they are of different races, colours and religions but are brilliantly effective at playing as a team.

One positive point, as I am sure the Minister will agree, is that our gun laws are much tighter at the moment than at least those of New Zealand, if not those of all nations. Does he agree that our laws are sufficient, but the difficulty is the importation of illegal weapons? Will he go for that rather than changing our gun laws?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:53 p.m.

My hon. Friend, as a New Zealander and a Brit, makes a valid point about the strength of the New Zealand nation. He makes the correct observation that the gun laws in this country make it much harder for people to acquire weapons that could wreak mass murder very quickly, as we have seen following the use of semi-automatic assault rifles in places such as New Zealand and the United States. That does not mean that we should ever stop ensuring that when such threats present themselves we put all our resource and, if necessary, our legislation behind making the restrictions that are needed.

Although many people have considered such attacks, they have been unsuccessful in this country because they have simply not been able to get their hands on the type of weapon system that we saw being deployed in New Zealand. Our law enforcement agencies will continue to target both the legal acquisition of weapons by unsuitable people and illegal acquisitions through smuggling, so that we can ensure that our places are safer.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:55 p.m.

Mr Speaker, thank you for granting this urgent question, and it is a credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) that she applied for it. I join all Members in passing on condolences to the families and friends of those murdered in this heinous act of terror against people for no other reason than that they were Muslims. We send sympathies to the people of New Zealand, and to those affected by the incident in Surrey and the ongoing situation in Utrecht.

As the Leader of the Opposition has said, an attack on anyone at worship is an attack on all peoples of faith and non-believers too, as they go about their lawful, peaceful business. The harrowing live streaming of events in Christchurch, on the other side of the world, raises questions about the role of social media platforms in facilitating a growing extremism. Although a White Paper on online harm is of course welcome, does the Minister accept that asking online platforms to act is not enough and that we need a new regulator with strong powers to penalise them if they do not curb harmful content?

We must also ensure that our laws and policies are robust and up to date. Will the Minister clarify when the new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will be appointed and in post? Will he also confirm that lessons will be learned from both domestic and international experience in the forthcoming independent review of the Prevent programme?

I am not suggesting that any political perspective has a monopoly on virtue. Does the Minister agree that such vile acts of hatred show that we must all redouble our efforts to argue for a society of tolerance and respect?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:55 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes many points with which I agree. Tolerance, respect and the underpinning of the British values of democracy and the rule of law are vital in our society, and the more we teach our children about that and the more we clamp down on those who do not believe in that, the better a place we will be.

As for the hon. Gentleman’s questions about the to-be-appointed Prevent reviewer, I cannot speak for that person—

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:55 p.m.

I referred to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:58 p.m.

I will get to that, but the hon. Gentleman did mention the Prevent review. I want the person reviewing Prevent to be as free as possible to examine people’s views, perceptions and evidence, and I would like those who criticise Prevent the most to produce evidence rather than anecdotes. The Government will, of course, listen to whatever the review produces.

I turn to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Hopefully, the appointment will happen in a matter of days or weeks. We are at an advanced stage in the selection process. Like the hon. Gentleman, I would like an appointment as soon as possible, because no Government benefit without an Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

On new regulations regarding online harm, I know that Opposition Members will be impatient, but they will have to wait for the publication of the online harms White Paper. The document will obviously examine regulation versus voluntary action, but I have said on the record several times that a voluntary system is not enough and that regulation or other methods of encouragement should be explored.

I have also been clear that many online companies are hugely profitable and global, so whatever regulation we explore will have to be deliverable. That is why I met representatives of the G7 in Toronto last year to discuss what the G7 can do collectively; why the Home Secretary attended the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, as did his predecessor, to ensure that countries around the world can get to grips with the problem; and why the European Union is taking forward plans to seek regulations in certain areas, especially the time in which content should be taken down.

If we are to deal with the problem, we must take a layered international approach to regulation—otherwise, companies will simply move their servers to escape their obligations. It is one thing to deal with the big companies that have a nexus here, but there are many tiny companies spreading hate around the world that may have servers in jurisdictions that we cannot reach. That is why we need an international consensus to deal with the challenge.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:59 p.m.

The House will welcome the calm and purposeful way in which my right hon. Friend spoke this afternoon and in his broadcast round this morning. He was matched by the Opposition spokesman, who has shown that this is a task for the community. This is not just about other faiths, but the whole community, and we must stand with the Muslims as we stand with the Jews.

Will my right hon. Friend go on encouraging the Community Security Trust—the CST—to share with our mosques and Islamic societies the basic steps that people can take, within the law, to help to raise levels of confidence and security?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes the strongest point of all, which is that we will defeat this challenge through peer group pressure and by coming together to show what is unacceptable. The CST has already offered online material to help advise other places of worship in how to make themselves safe. But the fact is that our law enforcement cannot do this on their own. The current threat is from sudden violent extremists—people who, in minutes, can step outside their front door, grab a knife or car and wreak murder on our streets. That is not going to be spotted by a police officer on every corner, or a large intelligence service, without the support of the public, who can understand their neighbours and bring any worries they have to the attention of the correct authorities, to make sure we say, “This is not acceptable.”

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5 p.m.

No one who has ever visited New Zealand can fail to have been struck by not only the beauty of the country, but the warm welcome one gets from its diverse people, as the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) has said. On behalf of the Scottish National party, I wish to condemn the terrible evil we saw in New Zealand last week, and to send our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved and injured.

In Scotland, our Muslim community are a valued part of our society, as they are across the whole of the United Kingdom, but we must always be aware of the particular threat posed to them from far-right extremists. I am sure the Minister will agree that Islamophobia must be combated and condemned wherever it raises its head. Does he also agree that politicians, journalists and those in the public eye should always be cautious never to cross the line on free speech and fair comment to risk stirring up the sort of hatred and “othering” that can feed into the narrative of the far right?

There have been a growing number of incidents across the UK in recent years, and it was good to hear the Minister on the radio this morning and this afternoon saying that he is alive to that threat and will put resources into tackling it. I noticed that on the radio this morning the Muslim Council of Britain was very concerned to ensure that its community should get the same sort of funding as the Jewish community has received to protect its places of worship against attack, and I was pleased to hear the Minister say on the radio that protective security tacks with the threat present. It seems that he does recognise the threat, but will he confirm that he will be meeting the MCB to discuss its requests and to look at directing funds where needed?

Finally, we have seen incidents where far-right extremists have tried to intimidate and silence Members of this House who have called them out for their hate. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald), in particular, has suffered at the hands of far-right extremists recently. I know that the Government have been very sympathetic about that, but does the Minister agree that all of us, across this House, must stand united with our colleagues against the threat from the far right?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:03 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady makes some good points. On her point about Islamophobia, I have publicly spoken out for many years about the fact that Islamophobia exists. It exists across our communities, in all our political parties and in the communities we represent; it exists throughout Europe, not just in the UK, and we have to tackle it.

If you want a good lesson on how to tackle intolerance, Mr Speaker, I should say that one of the early successful policies of the SNP was on dealing with anti-sectarianism. The SNP recognised in Scotland that this starts with anti-sectarianism and it grows into violent extremism. I have to commend the SNP for what it did all those years ago on that, taking strong steps, certainly among the football community, to stamp it out. That is why, in the end, we have to focus upstream. We must focus in the communities and say what is not acceptable. We must embrace policies such as Prevent to make sure that everyone realises that this is ultimately about safeguarding.

On the issue relating to the community trust, the hon. and learned Lady is right. We will direct our funds as the threat changes, and we are completely open to learning every day from the attacks and plots we see, either here or abroad. We shall direct this in that way. My colleagues in government regularly speak to a range of Muslim communities, and many of us in this House will speak to our own communities in our own constituencies.

We will sense the fear that there currently is in some of those communities as a response to the attack in New Zealand and that there was even before that, given the growing rise of Islamophobia, spread through the evils of some of these chatrooms on the internet. We must, all of us, say that that is not acceptable, and neither is intolerance aimed at other people in other discourse around the world, be it in respect of Unionism and nationalism, or Brexit and remain. Intolerance is where this starts as a small seed, and it grows into hate.

Mr John Whittingdale Portrait Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:04 p.m.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, and I strongly agree that the tech companies need to do more to stop the spread of hate and incitement to violence. However, does he also recognise that the internet is a force for good and that many authoritarian countries—China and, now, particularly Russia—are attempting to impose censorship on it for their own repressive political purposes? Does he therefore agree that any measures we take need to be proportionate and targeted, and must not allow other countries, such as Russia, to claim somehow that they are acting for reasons similar to ours?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:05 p.m.

It is tempting to say that my right hon. Friend is asking the wrong person. As Security Minister, I see daily how paedophiles, organised crime, groomers and terrorist recruiters use the internet as not a force for good. As we speak, the internet is being used to undermine our own democracy.

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point that, in places where there is no democracy and no rule of law, the internet is sometimes people’s only hope to engage with free thought and the outside world. We have to be very careful about how we balance that but, nevertheless, we know these companies can remove extremist content very quickly when they put their minds to it.

There are certain areas on which we all agree. I cannot find anyone in the world who would support allowing child sexual exploitation images to exist on our internet. Violent extremism, beheading videos and bullying online cannot be acceptable in any society. We can all agree that a number of activities should not be allowed or available on the internet without someone taking responsibility for preventing the broadcast or spreading of it. All of us in this House have to try to navigate that fine line, and we will debate it when the online White Paper comes before us.

Ms Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:04 p.m.

Will the Minister admit that the internet has allowed the formation of chatrooms such as 4chan and 8chan, online communities such as the “incels”—the involuntary celibates—who are misogynistic and who blame women for their lack of access to sex, and the bubbles in which both ISIS and, now, neo-Nazi, far-right white supremacist groups gather their followers? Does he acknowledge, and does he have a plan for dealing with, the grooming and the escalation of evil and violence that is growing in these unregulated spaces?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:07 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes the right point. Many characteristics are shared across the spectrum of violent extremism. Whether it is Islamist/Daesh/ISIL extremism or far-right extremism, they often use the same methods. They often appeal to the same type of people.

Both the Government and the Opposition Front Bench have been grappling with how to deal with safe spaces, either in the material world or, indeed, online. This concept of safe spaces either in failed states or on the internet, where these people are reinforcing their prejudices and joining up, is characteristic of the 21st century. It could be argued that 10 years ago people sat on their own in their bedroom and spoke to no one, but now they can speak to thousands. That is being used to seduce people, to groom people and to twist people.

We must start in our schools, which is why I am pleased that the state, local education authorities and primary schools have started to teach children about using the internet safely. Some of the big communications service providers, such as Google and Facebook, also go out to schools and teach young children about how to behave on the internet and what to be careful of.

The challenge is growing. Hopefully, the online White Paper will be a doorway we can all go through and will start a big debate about how to tackle this. But there is also the simple issue that we all have to think about what we, our children and our friends are looking at. We have to ask ourselves, “How are we going to stop it in this day and age?” How many people in this Chamber, at any one time, are on their telephone? An awful lot.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:09 p.m.

On Saturday morning, I met Muslim families from all over Essex who had come to Chelmsford to meet each other. I spoke to many leaders of the community, but also to young teenage girls and other younger members of the community, and it is clear that they are very fearful and worried. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that our Muslim constituents are our friends, neighbours and colleagues; that they are vital to British society today; and that we as parliamentarians and Government Members will do everything to stand by them and keep them safe?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:10 p.m.

British Muslims are part of Britain. That is it. They are no lesser than any one of us; we are all the same. We all share different politics and different views. We all have views of the north and the south—living in Lancashire, I have an entirely different view of the south, and my Muslim communities in Lancashire will have a different view of the south as well. We stand shoulder to shoulder. We are not going to let these people spread their hate and we will put in all the resource we need to put in to counter it. It is very much incumbent on us all, from all parties, to do it together, because if we do not do it together, the bad people will exploit that difference and make it worse.

Stella Creasy Portrait Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:11 p.m.

On Friday night, hundreds of local residents in Walthamstow joined together in a vigil for the people of Christchurch. We heard from both our Muslim community and our New Zealand residents, and many were clear with me that they recognise that far-right extremism does not come along talking about Hitler and wearing jackboots; it comes from those people who slowly drip, online and offline, poison into our politics and discussions. It behoves us all in this place, therefore, to stand up to the people who lead that charge. What does the Minister intend to do, when he recognises this twisted mindset, to make sure that nobody in this place gives a platform and a veneer of respectability to people like Steve Bannon, Candace Owens and Fraser Anning? Let us say that they are not welcome here in this Chamber and here in this country.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:12 p.m.

The hon. Lady presents one of the biggest challenges of today—

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:11 p.m.

Boris Johnson.

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:12 p.m.

That is an immature comment. The reality is that, when we talk about tolerance, we talk not about no-platforming or shutting up people with whom we disagree; we talk about a discourse in which we challenge people’s views, because only by challenging people’s views do we sometimes get to the heart of the argument and either come together or agree to disagree. If we shut people down or bully or ridicule people, we are leading down the path of intolerance. Personally, sometimes I find other people who are invited to this House unpalatable, but I do not think it is my place to shut people out of the heart of our democracy. The way we show them up is by challenging their assertions, proving them to be wrong and taking their arguments apart. That is the best way.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:13 p.m.

As the Minister is aware, I was a councillor in Tower Hamlets at a time when young schoolchildren were groomed to go to Syria and we had far-right marches going through the borough. It was clear from my time as a councillor just how important Prevent is for giving children the intellectual resilience to resist those kinds of radical, unpleasant and divisive messages. Unfortunately, we have seen too often that people try to spread misinformation about Prevent. Does the Minister share my concern that politicians should challenge that misinformation so that communities feel greater confidence in Prevent and feel confident enough to share the kind of critical information that stops people falling prey to radicalisation of this kind?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard

I feel that the best way for us to deal with Prevent is to publish the statistics about who is referred, how it works and what the outcomes are. No doubt when there is an independent review of Prevent it can examine all the evidence from both sides and take a view. The only observation I have about Prevent is this. I have listened to the critics, some of whom are my friends, over the past two and a half years, and when they explain, they often just explain the Prevent policy but worry about its name. It cannot just be about the name; it has to be about the substance as well. I see good results in Prevent. Over the past three years, I have seen hundreds of people who were really at risk of becoming terrorists being diverted from that path. I think those more than 700 people in the past three years contribute to our being a safer society.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:14 p.m.

I send, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, sincere condolences to the victims, their families and all the people of New Zealand. We stand in unity with them and with all our Muslim brothers and sisters across the world.

Will the Minister condemn without reservation Islamophobic language, whether used by individuals or in the media? The Liberal Democrats have looked at the proposed definition of Islamophobia from the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, and we think that it is a very good one and have adopted it. Will the Government do likewise?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:15 p.m.

I condemn Islamophobia. It is racism; it is like any other type of racism. We should not even subdivide it. It is what it is. It is racism, just as antisemitism is racism. I do not need to go beyond that. Anyone who is caught doing it should be called out and dealt with, whether that is in my political party or in any other political party. I have absolutely no qualms about that. They should be dealt with.

On the definition of Islamophobia, I read the all-party group report and I looked at its definition. It is an interesting and good starting point. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary chaired on, I think, 5 March, a roundtable with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and members of the Muslim community to discuss Islamophobia and what can be done on it. We will look at the definition and at what we can do to start on that process. But all of this comes back to this: if we over-define, if we start subdividing Islamophobia and antisemitism, we forget what this is really about, which is tolerance. It is really important that we accept that we are tolerant of people. That is what underlines extremism: where people choose not to be tolerant, they start to become extremists. When they think other people are lesser, that is where we are in trouble.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:17 p.m.

I express compassion and solidarity with all Muslims from New Zealand, across the world and in my constituency of Harlow. We have the wonderful Harlow Islamic Centre in my constituency. It is a small community, but a thriving one. In 2013, there was an arson attack on the Harlow Islamic Centre mosque. Will my right hon. Friend set out again what provision and support there is for the smaller mosques and thriving communities such as Harlow to ensure that these kinds of attacks do not happen?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:17 p.m.

First, in the Metropolitan police, there are counter-terrorism security advisers who will come out to any mosque, or any place, to help to advise on what steps can be taken to do that. The places of worship scheme, which has received £2.4 million over the past three years, can be applied for. The latest round was not fully subscribed. We will do all we can to advertise it and encourage it. Indeed, the Home Secretary and I have looked at different ways to remove the barriers to people applying to that scheme to make it as easy and as straightforward as possible. We hope to improve that even more. Like my right hon. Friend, I have some very small mosques in my constituency. They are just as vulnerable as some of the very big ones. We must make sure that protective security applies to us all.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 5:18 p.m.

May I add the DUP’s sympathies to all those who were killed and injured in New Zealand in that very vicious terrorist attack? Northern Ireland has experienced the unadulterated evil of people slaughtering worshippers in what should be a safe place—for example, in Gospel Hall in Darkley on 20 November 1983. In the face of evil, it is time for good people to stand with those who have been attacked. So can the Minister confirm what support has been offered to New Zealand in relation to policing, to forensic expertise and to counselling support for those victims who have lost loved ones?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend knows all too well the cost of terrorism and indeed, in the society in which he lives, the cost of division. We have offered to the New Zealand authorities any help they wish to have, either in the intelligence or the police space, and we will continue to do that, as we will with the Netherlands authorities following the attack today. Ultimately, we must make sure that, when it comes to saying what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, linking violence and politics is not acceptable. That is a good starting point. We must make it very clear across our political discourse that the first point is that that is never acceptable—it is never acceptable to invoke that and to say that people should be lynched. We should never ever invoke violence in the same breath as politics.

Dr Matthew Offord Portrait Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I feel that it is a matter of some regret that this urgent question has been framed as one of right-wing extremists, because there are also left-wing extremists; this is terrorism, pure and simple. I am proud that my first question in this House was to ask for the finances to provide security at Jewish schools in my Hendon constituency. Indeed, the Community Security Trust is based in Hendon and provides that security. Now we need to make the same call on behalf of Muslim schools and Islamic institutions in our constituencies. Will the Minister take that suggestion to the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and ask for resources to be made available to these communities, because any kind of extremism is not acceptable?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right. As I said in my statement, as the threat moves, we will tack with it. The Home Secretary’s first point of call is within the Department and then it is the Treasury. We are determined to make all our places of worship safe, and we will do what is necessary.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I too visited mosques and had contact with local Muslim leaders on Friday, and there was a palpable sense of fear. I praise South Wales police and our police and crime commissioner for responding so quickly. I was particularly disturbed to speak to young people who told me that they were watching the video of the horrific attacks in New Zealand. We have to do everything we can to prevent young people from having to see such horrific content. On that note, I have to push the Minister and the Home Secretary further. I do not doubt their sincerity in wanting to deal with these issues, but they say that we need to wait for the online harms White Paper. I have previously raised with both of them the issue of an organisation called Radio Aryan, which is available on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I have also raised this matter directly with the social media companies, and it is absolutely clear that they do not give a damn. That content is still online this morning. It advocates antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and white supremacy. Why is it still on there and what are the Government going to do to remove it?

Mr Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

As I said earlier, one of the reasons that some of these things remain online is that the servers of the companies are often abroad and out of our jurisdiction. We are seeking the powers to do something about that through the online harms White Paper. If these companies have a nexus in the UK, it gives us more power. If they do not, we have to look at other technical issues and see whether we can do this another way. The White Paper is imminent, and I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and any Member from across the House to discuss whether they think it is too soft or too hard, or what needs to be done to improve it.

The hon. Gentleman points out one of the real challenges. The United States’ first amendment protects freedom of speech. We often approach companies in America asking them to take down websites and so on, and we get a first amendment response—that is, that they are obliged to United States law and the first amendment. That is why we ultimately have to seek an international solution to go alongside whatever regulation we look at here.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con) - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I was particularly moved this afternoon to hear the Home Secretary using the Arabic words, “Bi-smi llāhi r-rahmāni r-rahīm”, meaning “In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful.” We are fundamentally talking about a compassion and a mercy that were not shown to a community—this time in New Zealand, but sometimes at home—and a justice that we now need to extend to members of our own community who feel that they do not have access to the same security as others. I welcome the views that will come forward from the Home Secretary and the Security Minister, and the work that they have done. We need to make sure that addressing these publishers—for that is what they are—who are putting up, or tolerating the publication of, online hate material is absolutely the first line of defence, not the last.