Yvette Cooper MP

Working hard for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford & Knottingley

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Statement in response to Government reaction to terror attack in Paris last week

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Wednesday 14th January 2015

Mr Speaker.

The attacks last week demonstrated the savagery with which terrorists seek to divide us.

The murderous intolerance and bigotry they pursue aims to spread fear, but also to sow the division they believe exists. Us against them.

Paris has not let the terrorists win.

The French police have been praised for the action they took.

Charlie Hebdo is being published today.

Faiths have united, abhorring the Anti-Semitism and grieving for the victims of the attack at the Kosher supermarket.

Muslims across the world have, of course, condemned an attack which is not Islamic and is not in the name of their religion.

The brother of the French Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet has said, “my brother was killed by people who pretend to be muslims, they are terrorists, that’s it.”

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition attended the Unity Rally in Paris along with the Prime Minister.

I joined people in Trafalgar Square on Saturday raising pens in solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie cause.

In the attack the terrorists targeted other peaceful religions.

They targeted writers.

They targeted those whose job it is to keep us safe.

In other words they attacked both our liberty and our security.

The response of democratic governments everywhere to these sorts of attacks should be to defend both. Government need to keep people safe so we can enjoy our freedoms.

Let me turn to the specific issues in the Home Secretaries statement.

I am concerned by the rushed way in which the Home Secretary has made the statement today. I did not see the statement before coming to the House.

I welcome the action taken by our intelligence agencies and police to support the authorities in Paris and pay tribute to the work they do to keep us safe.

As the Home Secretary has said, the Government has a Counter Terrorism Bill going through Parliament right now, which we have supported and will continue to support.

Which restores the relocation powers for serious terror suspects that she abolished four years ago as we called for.
 

Questions

The agencies have pointed to the threat posed by the estimated 300 returning from conflict in Syria.

Can she tell us whether any of those estimated 300 have been prosecuted?

Can she confirm that none of them are currently subject to TPIMs, even though these powers are supposed to be for dangerous suspects whose activity needs to be restricted to keep us safe.

Can she tell us whether the security service and police are reviewing all those cases to see whether TPIMs could help – especially with relocation powers restored.

What is also being done about other known extremists who were previously on TPIMs?

Can she tell us how many of the estimated 300 have engaged with the Channel programme and does she agree that we should now make that compulsory for everyone returning – something the current Counter Terrorism Bill does not do.

On the issue of access to dangerous weapons and firearms she will know that there has been concern about reduced customs and border checks. What action is she taking to increase border checks for weapons?

On Communications data technology is changing all the time. And that means the law needs to keep up – both in terms of the capabilities of the agencies to get the vital intelligence we need, and in terms of the oversight we need

In July Parliament supported emergency legislation to ensure the agencies and police could maintain vital capabilities

This month the Commons supported extending those powers to ensure IP addresses are covered not just phone numbers

And in July all parties agreed to support a review by David Anderson, the independent counter terror reviewer, into the oversight and powers needed to keep up with changing technology.

The previous Communications Data Bill was rejected three years ago by the joint committee established by the Government to scrutinise it because it was too vague, too widely drawn and put too much power directly into the hands of the Home Secretary. They recommended that new legislation be needed to be drawn up in a far more limited way, and that the Government needed to provide more clarity and evidence about what changes they needed.

Since then the Home Secretary has not come forward with any revised proposals to me or anyone else in this House, she has not attempted to get agreement in Parliament to revised proposals, even though we have said we were happy to discuss details with her. Given the urgency she now says there is can she tell us why she has not done so?

In July she was happy to agree to the review by David Anderson which is due to report before the election, now she doesn’t even mention it. This is an extremely important issue where the detail matters. Detail on the powers that are needed, details on the safeguards and the oversight that are needed.

We believe the agencies and the police do need to get intelligence to keep us safe and so need safeguards and strong oversight to prevent abuse.

I would strongly caution her and the liberal democrats against setting up a caricatured argument between them about security on the one hand and liberty on the other.

We need to protect both in our democracy.

The terrorists on that first day in Paris targeted both writers and police officers – the embodiment of free expression and the embodiment of state protection. We need to protect both and we can do both and we should have a responsible debate about the precise proposals they need.

Most important though is to stop people being drawn into hatred in the first place. In the end the best defence against hatred is strong and cohesive communities. She will know our long standing concern however that community led programmes within Prevent have been reduced from £17m to £3m – yet it is more important than ever that community organisations are actively working to prevent young people being drawn into extremism, supporting parents, challenging the spread of hatred, and challenging on social media too. Will she now work with local government to strengthen community activities to challenge extremism.

Can she also tell us what action is being taken to challenge all forms of extremism in Britain, including working with the Community Safety Trust on challenging anti-semitism.

Terrorists try to silence us, to cow us, and to divide us. Paris has shown as millions marched and as we stood in solidarity with them, we will not be silenced, we will not give into fear, and must not give in to division. We will defend our democracy.

And we know that we are stronger if we do so together.

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