Home Secretary's speech at the Jewish News BICOM policy conference

Home Secretary Amber Rudd's speech on security and counter-terrorism.

The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP

It is a privilege to be here today at the second BICOM Jewish News conference. I would like to talk to you today about security and counter-terrorism and what this government is doing to protect all of its citizens.

It is the first duty of government to protect our people, at home and overseas and terrorism is unfortunately a significant threat to us all, both within the UK and internationally.

Since 2011, UK citizens have been killed in terrorist attacks in countries including Algeria, Afghanistan, Belgium, France, Israel, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tunisia and Yemen.

The murder of 30 British nationals, at Sousse, in Tunisia, in June 2015 represented the greatest loss of British life in a terrorist incident since the London bombings in 2005.

The threat to Europe has grown and developed. In November last year, several simultaneous attacks in Paris killed 130 innocent people, and injured over 350 others. In March, coordinated attacks in Belgium killed 32 people and injured more than 300. In July, a truck was deliberately driven into the crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, resulting in the deaths of 86 people, and injuring hundreds more.

When the previous Home Secretary, Theresa May published the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST in 2011, the main threat was from Al Qaida. What we now face is a growing, far-reaching and direct threat from Daesh.

From its base in Syria and Iraq, Daesh has committed vile atrocities against innocent civilians, taken and murdered hostages of all nationalities - including British nationals Alan Henning and David Haines – and has contributed directly to a global humanitarian crisis on an almost unimaginable scale.

Last year, it carried out almost 60 external terror attacks - from Paris to Sydney – as well as many hundreds more through its affiliates in Egypt and Libya and across the Middle East and North Africa.

Events in Paris a year ago highlighted the particular risks faced by the Jewish community from Islamist extremists as have attacks in Brussels, Copenhagen, Paris, Toulouse and elsewhere. And we have reviewed and increased our protective security arrangements at synagogues, at schools, and other key sites in the UK.

And whilst Daesh is currently the predominant threat to the UK and our interests overseas, it is by no means the only one.

The UK threat level remains at SEVERE, meaning that a terrorist attack remains highly likely. Al Qaida might have been weakened, but the threat has not gone away. Its affiliates in Yemen and in North Africa remain a serious concern.

But let me make this very clear, you should feel reassured that this government has a successful counter-terrorism strategy in place.

Our strategy - CONTEST, has proven to be successful for some years now.

Through our comprehensive approach to countering terrorism through our four main areas of work – which we call Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare, we have made the UK a hostile environment for terrorists to recruit, to associate in groups, to plan or execute attacks, and to acquire powerful weapons and dangerous materials.

The commitments announced in the UK’s National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review in November last year included an increase in counter-terrorism resources to ensure that the police and the security and intelligence agencies continue to have what they need to defeat and disrupt terrorism.

In recent times, we have seen how terrorist groups have been able to exploit social media, and how their use of the internet has enabled them to recruit and radicalise individuals, and to coordinate, plan and carry out dangerous attacks. As the threat from terrorism continues to adapt and change, so must our approach to it as well.

That is why we have reviewed the CONTEST strategy this year, to ensure that the threat is fully understood, that we have the right resources in place. And I will be providing more detail on this early in the New Year. And our counter-terrorism work overseas is essential too, which is why in April, we established a new Joint International Counter Terrorism Unit which has become the strategic centre for UK counter-terrorism work internationally, and will oversee our increased investment from £23 million in 2016 to 2017 to over £31 million in 2019 to 2020 - in support and capacity-building overseas.

After all, we live in a world where events which take place in other countries nonetheless have real resonance, real impact, and real effects on communities here.

We must continue to develop a common approach with our international partners, promote better flows of intelligence and the sharing of information, enhance our technological capabilities, and work together to carry out effective counter-terrorism investigations and disruptions overseas, and close the gaps which terrorists would seek to exploit.

In 2015, in response to the scale of the terrorist threat, we strengthened our Prevent programme to respond to the ideologies of extremism, reduce the risk of radicalisation, and prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

We have significantly increased our activity online, working with industry to remove more terrorist material than ever before.

We have supported civil society groups to reject and counter terrorist and extremist narratives, and have introduced the Prevent statutory duty to ensure more consistent delivery of our safeguarding work across the country.

We have placed Channel, our successful voluntary programme for people at risk of being drawn into terrorism, on a statutory footing. The Channel programme supported several hundred people in 2015, and we continue to improve it through bespoke training and guidance for practitioners.

We have improved our systems and programmes to prevent those attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq, and have helped safeguard those who might be vulnerable to and at risk of radicalisation.

Earlier this year we saw the shocking and senseless murder of my parliamentary colleague Jo Cox in her own constituency by the far-right extremist Thomas Mair. This demonstrated the evil of far-right extremism and acts of terrorism.

And we know that far right and extreme right wing groups have become increasingly sophisticated in the use of social media for promotion and for recruitment.

And we are seeing that currently around a quarter of the cases getting support through Channel, part of our prevent programme, are for extreme right wing radicalisation.

As Home Secretary, I am absolutely determined that we challenge extremism in all its forms and the terrible damage it can cause to individuals, families and communities.

I published our Action Plan on hate crime earlier this year, and I am clear that we can only effectively challenge hatred and division by working together – not just internationally but at home – government, police, local people and organisations.

And sadly the Jewish community knows all too well what it’s like to live with the threat from terrorism and hate crime.

Last year, the Community Security Trust received 924 reports of anti-semitic incidents, including 86 violent assaults. Let me be clear, any attack of that kind is one attack too many.

We are providing £13.4 million for guarding at all Jewish state, free and independent schools, colleges, and nurseries, and at synagogues, and to support the continuing efforts of the police to provide security and reassurance to the Jewish community.

We take the security of the Jewish community seriously, and we will continue to put in place the strongest possible measures to ensure the safety of this community – and all other communities too.

In a Britain that works for everyone, there is no place for hatred, no place for racist or religious hate crimes, and we will not ignore the threat to any community in this country.

We are the sum of our parts – a proud, diverse society and we must come together and stand united against those who would use hate to divide us. Thank you.

Published 30 November 2016