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Grave terrorist threat needs urgent solutions

9 May 2014

The Home Affairs Committee publishes report on counter-terrorism.


The Committee concluded that:

Foreign fighters

  • The Government's response must encompass dissuading and preventing those who wish to go to fight from going; helping countries who are key to intercepting those entering Syria; and ensuring those who return do not present a danger to the UK.
  • There should be engagement with Communities through peer led schemes to prevent radicalisation, such as the Abdullah X programme.
  • The Committee recommends that the Government implement a programme, similar to Channel, for everyone returning to Britain where there is evidence that they have fought in Syria.

UK response to the terrorist threat

  • There should be increased oversight of the vital power to withdraw passports and we suggest that the power to make individuals stateless ought not to be employed while the individual is in the UK.
  • The responsibility for counter-terrorism policing should be moved from the Metropolitan Police to the NCA.
  • All police forces should ensure that local shopping centres have received the British Council of Shopping Centres guidance and put in place and test a Response Plan.

Oversight of the security and intelligence agencies

  • The Committee raises concern over the weak nature of the oversight system which has an impact upon the credibility of the agencies accountability, and to the credibility of Parliament itself.
  • The Commissioners who scrutinise the intelligence services should be full time and properly resourced.
  • The scrutiny of the work of the security and intelligence agencies should be not the exclusive preserve of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
  • The Commons membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee should be elected.
  • The Chair, who should always be a member of the Commons, ought to be subject to election of the whole House and should always be a member of the largest opposition party.

International Emergency Terrorist Platform and Capacity Building

  • The UK should lead in the establishment of an international terrorism platform, using existing resources and knowledge at Interpol, which will allow nations access to advice, intelligence and expertise in dealing with terrorist threats.
  • Overseas Development Aid money could be used to increase resource for capacity building abroad.

Chair's comments

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:

"Recent events involving Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and Al Qaeda show that the terrorist threat to the UK is as grave as at any point in the past thirteen years. The international community must act as one to tackle this global problem. Interpol have the resources and experience to build a platform and the UK must take the lead in bringing others to the table. However, ensuring public safety cannot be the sole purview of the counterterrorism command and the security service, it is a responsibility in which all UK citizens and companies take a share.

Stopping British men and women going to become foreign fighters, in Syria and other theatres of conflict, and engaging with them when they return is vital to avoid endangering the security of the UK for many years to come. Whether in classrooms, local community centres, or through the global reach of the internet and social media, a clear message needs to be sent to those at risk. Fighting in Syria is not the answer and without the Government helping peer led projects to tackle this problem many more may be lost to radicalisation.

The current system of oversight is designed to scrutinise the work of George Smiley not the 21st Century reality of the security and intelligence services. The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in Parliament. The Intelligence and Security Committee should be given a democratic mandate in the same way as other Select Committees. We will then be able to robustly defend our methods of scrutiny and better serve those who protect us, and the public."

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