Security Minister: What is real is reasonable

John Hayes on the powers we need to keep Britain safe in the digital age

The title of my speech this morning is taken from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

It is perhaps his best known, and most contentious, observation: “What is reasonable is real; and what is real is reasonable.”

The remark is contentious principally because some believe that Hegel was making a normative claim for what is actual: that what is real must be right.

But of course that is not the case.

Rather, Hegel, was arguing that ultimately philosophy must be a rational enterprise, concerned with understanding the world as it actually is.

What was true of Hegel’s philosophy then is equally true of public policy today, particularly in relation to the fundamental issue of security.

It is all too tempting to view the threat we face as abstract, as theoretical. To believe that we have always faced threats.

That the threats we now face are essentially the same as those in the past.

This is all too tempting because – as T.S. Eliot wrote in his four quartets – humankind cannot bear very much reality.

I want to speak this morning about security and keeping people safe.

The threat we face now is changing, ferocious and flexible.

That threat is evolving rapidly.

Responding to it is a testing challenge.

That requires us, now more than ever, to review, revise and rejuvenate what we do and how we do it.

And most of all what we need to do now and to do next.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, which we published in draft in November, is crucial to these efforts.

Fundamentally, our approach brings together work at home to build cohesive communities and root out extremism with cooperation and dialogue with nations worldwide.


Success requires realism.

The terrorist threat we face here in the UK is unprecedented and growing.

And that’s not only my view.

Andrew Parker, the Director-General of MI5, has said: “The threat we are facing today is on a scale and at a tempo that I have never seen before in my career.”

In the 12 months to September last year, our police and security services arrested 315 people for terrorism-related offences.

That’s an increase of a third on the previous year and from just 121 five years ago.

And we have stopped at least seven different attempts to attack the UK in the last 18 months alone.

There have been 16 attacks in Europe over the past two years, most of them inspired or directed by Daesh.

And the attacks in Paris in November 2015, in which 130 people died, showed what can happen when terrorists are successful.

The terrorist threat now is not confined to Europe, or even just to the West.

It is more sophisticated and more widely distributed.

It could be a marauding terrorist firearms attack, as we saw in Paris.

It might be an attack on transport, as we saw on the Russian MetroJet flight from Sharm El Sheikh or the attempted attack on the train travelling from Brussels to Paris.

It could be a co-ordinated attack on a tourist site, as we saw at Sousse in Tunisia, or more recently at Bamako in Mali.

Or it might be a knife attack, as we saw in Marseilles recently.

The diversity of the threat, as well as its volume, is a serious challenge to us here, and to our allies around the world.

The essential change in terrorism is the increasing adaptability of terrorists, and of Daesh in particular.

It uses new technology, new methods.

It is adaptable. And it revels in its own depravity.

It has murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children – the vast majority of them practicing Muslims, the very people it claims to speak for.

It operates in a way we have never seen before.

We have never seen this number, demographic or range of ages of people travelling to take part in conflict.

Daesh is responsible, directly or indirectly, for many of the attacks and attempted attacks that I have already mentioned.

And far from being isolated in Syria and Iraq, its influence is spreading to groups worldwide – in Libya, in West Africa, in Afghanistan and beyond.

But the other thing is that Daesh is not the only threat we face.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to pose a very real and very present danger.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took credit for the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in January last year, in which 12 people died.

It holds territory in ungoverned spaces in the Middle East.

The Al-Nusrah Front, its affiliate in Syria, has combined success on the battlefield with an effective online media campaign and a presence on the ground in Syria.

And AQ-M, its Africa-based affiliate, recently claimed responsibility for the attack on a Radisson hotel in Mali in November, in which 21 guests were killed.

JTAC, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre – experts who have access to the latest intelligence – assess that the threat to the UK is SEVERE, that means that an attack in the UK is highly likely.

And they don’t take that judgment lightly.

People should be alert, but not alarmed; watchful but absolutely sure of our resolve.

So the threat is growing.

More complex.

And more diverse.

It is for this reason that we should heed Hegel’s warning – to understand the world as it really is.

I know there is no complete solution to the problem I describe.

This is not a project.

You can’t ascribe a specific timescale to it.

These are unpalatable truths.

But if we are to succeed, we need to confront that reality.


Which is what this Government has done.

Facing reality means disrupting terrorist attacks and those who help to support them.

And we have.

We have proscribed terrorists groups – 15, including 11 linked to Syria and Iraq.

We have revoked British citizenship from individuals.

Since May 2010, we have excluded over 100 hate preachers.

In 2014, we withdrew or refused a British Passport 24 times under the Royal Prerogative.

And, last year, we extended Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, TPIMs, to include relocation powers to allow the police and Security Services to manage the risk from individuals we cannot prosecute or deport.

Facing reality means being prepared to respond to attacks in the national interest.

As part of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review, the SDSR, we have done just that.

We will continue to invest in capabilities to protect ourselves against terrorist attack.

We will invest £1.9bn over the next five years in protecting the UK from cyber attack.

More than double our spending on aviation security around the world.

An additional 1,900 personnel for the security and intelligence agencies.

Facing reality means reviewing, in the light of the attacks in Paris last year, our response to a marauding firearms attack by terrorists.

Those attacks highlighted the challenges any country would face in managing multiple, concurrent incidents.

But since then, working with other nations, we have pressed for stronger protective security, crisis response and border management, to stop the movement of people and weapons, to increase information sharing, to improve controls on firearms and to enhance aviation security.

Investigatory Powers Bill

Facing reality also means ensuring that the police and security services have the legislation they need to keep us safe.

Powers that are necessary and proportionate.

Having passed the Counter Terrorism and Security Act last year, we published in November a draft Investigatory Powers Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Communications and modern technology are at the heart of the threat we face, and so the heart of our response.

Facing reality means knowing that these days terrorists, paedophiles, serious fraudsters scheme in cyber space.

The web enables individuals the world over to communicate quickly, easily, often using encryption.

It works across borders and across jurisdictions, just as the extremists who use it do.

Difficult to detect and even more difficult to disrupt.

Of course its global nature makes regulation problematic.

Crucially, terrorists in Syria and Iraq can use the web to reach out using online communications to direct, enable and inspire individuals the world over to contemplate attempting, at least, murder and violence.

Communications data matters – that is the who, where, when and how of a communication but not its content.

It is a vital tool to investigate crime and protect the public.

It has been used by every major Security Service counter-terrorism investigation over the last year.

It is used in 95 per cent of serious and organised crime investigations handled by the CPS.

It might be used to find a missing person, to establish a link between a suspect and a victim.

It is used to investigate crime, to keep children safe, to check alibis and to tie a suspect to a crime scene.

When offences such as fraud are committed online, it is sometimes the only possible way of identifying the offenders.

It has been used in the investigation of many of the most serious and widely reported crimes against children, including the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, as well as the Oxford and Rochdale child grooming cases.

Law enforcement capabilities are degrading due to rapid technological change and because more and more communications are taking place online.

So, while this is important for our counter-terrorism efforts, that is by no means the only reason it is important and it is by no means the only reason why we are bringing forward legislation.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police commissioner, has said that communications data is regularly used to tackle criminals whose activities affect the wider community, such as repeat burglars, robbers, drugs dealers. Put simply, the police need access to this information to keep up with the criminals who bring so much harm to victims and our society.

But it is important that we appreciate why this legislation is itself important – and in particular how far we have come in ensuring that we have a legal regime that serves the interests of both privacy and security.

We have provided more information than ever before about some of the most sensitive powers available to the security and intelligence agencies – including the use of bulk personal datasets and the acquisition of bulk communications data to thwart terrorist attacks.

The draft Bill puts these capabilities on a clear statutory footing and makes them subject to robust, world-leading safeguards.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee which looked into these matters in such very great detail – and I can see members of that committee in the audience here today - along with two other parliamentary committees who scrutinised the Bill, have made valuable recommendations about how the Bill could be improved and our proposals clarified. We are committed to ensuring the Bill receives maximum scrutiny.

We remain committed to having new legislation on the statute books by the end of the year – a result of existing legislation falling away on 31 December.

We will return to Parliament with a revised Bill.

The draft Bill goes further than the current oversight regime.

A double lock on ministerial authorisation of intercept warrant means that both judges and ministers will consider the evidence supporting warrants.

For trust is the golden thread running through the viability of the new legislation.

Which is why necessity and proportionality are the lodestars of the draft Bill.


We cannot confront the reality of the threat we face without confronting the poisonous ideologies and extremist messages that underpin it.

As we have seen time and time again in cases of young people radicalised here in the UK, it is also more insidious than ever.

It is easy to assume the threat is elsewhere – is there - but in fact the threat is here and the threat is now.

Daesh’s propaganda combines extreme violence and extremist messages with modern technology, using social media to reach out to young and vulnerable over the whole world.

From their bedrooms they can access images of murder and brutality, messages of death and destruction.

The Police Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit is currently removing 100 pieces of Daesh or Syria-related content every day.

And we have seen the impact that such material can have time and time again.

To appreciate the impact of Daesh’s propaganda, take the case of a 14-year-old boy who, from his bedroom, plotted an attack on a parade in Melbourne.

That plot, developed over the internet, sought to behead police officers.

The child was recruited online by a known Daesh recruiter.

He himself had reached out in turn online to a 16-year-old girl, who was subsequently found to possess extremist literature, bomb-making instructions and violent imagery.

Had we not detected that young man’s plot, many would have been killed.

Cases such as this demonstrate Daesh’s insidious, sinister, seductive appeal; its ability to inspire, as well as to direct, attacks; and the extraordinary difficulty in detecting what they plan.

Because these two children were not battle-hardened foreign fighters; they were not individuals who had travelled to Syria; they were not career criminals.

They were young people, in their homes, using the internet – like my children, like so many of our children.

It is stories like this which make me so determined to counter Daesh and safeguard those at risk of being corrupted by it.

We cannot afford to ignore what lies behind radicalisation and terrorism.

We must identify, anticipate and counter the doctrine of our enemies and how it is proselytized.

Through our Prevent strategy, we have built a unique model of partnership between Government, civil society and industry.

It supports people who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. And it works with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.

Last year, we supported 130 community projects, reaching over 25,000 participants.

Over half of these were delivered in schools, aimed at increasing young people’s resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies.

Since April 2015 we have engaged in Prevent with over 285 mosques, 200 community organisations, 100 faith organisations, 800 schools and colleges and 40 universities. The Prevent duty, of course, has cemented all of this.

Nurturing the common good in the national interest.

Much has also been made of Channel, our voluntary programme to support those at risk of radicalisation. Contrary to what some have alleged, this is, as I said, a voluntary programme.

And hundreds of people have been provided with support.

I can tell you today that the vast majority of those who choose to participate in Channel leave with no further concerns about their vulnerability of being drawn into terrorism.

Channel works.

Take the teenager reported to the police for considering travelling to Syria. She had a difficult family life – domestic violence; a broken home; isolated, few or no friends.

She had been subject to a serious assault. And perhaps unsurprisingly, she turned to the internet for religious guidance.

That so-called guidance led to her supporting Daesh and advocating hatred for non-believers.

Through Channel, however, she was able to rebuild her relationship with her mother, to address her religious concerns and build her self-esteem and self-confidence.

Let me be clear.

Prevent is about radicalisation. Prevent is about safeguarding.

The most significant of these threats is currently from Islamist terrorist organisations such as Daesh.

They are trying specifically to incite and recruit people of Muslim background, partly by distorting religion for their own ends.

Clearly, we need to respond to that.

We must protect those most at risk of radicalisation. But let me be equally clear - Prevent covers all forms of such activity, whatever its source.

This is about safeguarding; about protecting the common good.

Global response

I said earlier that the threats we faced are global.

A global threat necessitates a global response.

It is for that reason that we are playing a leading role in the global coalition of more than 60 countries committed to defeating Daesh.

The Coalition includes Iraq, partners in the Arab world, European nations and the United States.

We are working to defeat Daesh on all fronts – not just military, but cutting off its finances, sharing counter-terrorism expertise and working to defeat its poisonous narrative.

At the heart of our work is the need for a political solution in Syria that brings peace to the country and enables millions of refugees to return home.

We are working with the UN and international community to bring this about.

Daesh has a worldwide influence that reaches across states and reaches across borders.

So our response also needs to be global, not just in the UK, not just in Europe, not just in Syria and Iraq. In particular, Daesh has a footprint in Libya.

It is important that we continue to support efforts to establish a unified national government there.

It is only when one is established can begin the difficult work of establishing in turn effective, legitimate governance, restoring stability and tackling the threat posed by Daesh.

Defeating Daesh’s values

I spoke at the start about understanding the world as it really is.

And that, as I have said, means understanding the threat we face.

It means recognising the changing reality that makes the Investigatory Powers Bill so essential.

It means ensuring that we deal with the poisonous ideas that underpins Daesh’s appeal.

That is what drives all we do.

Not only does that mean keeping the UK safe, dealing with the severe threat.

It also means ensuring we are winning hearts and minds.

It means defeating Daesh’s purported values.

Daesh claims to offer clarity and certainty.

That we have little or nothing to offer.

If we are to counter that claim, to succeed, we must be realistic about the challenge we face, and in response have a positive vision of the pluralistic society we value.

Out of adversity comes an opportunity – for us, for the UK, to provide real leadership and to develop a common response to terrorism that crosses social, cultural and national boundaries.

Tackling the problem at source means working with communities, through our Prevent strategy, and speaking out against those who would divide us.

It means working with industry, including with major communications service providers, to ensure we all have the tools we need and that they are fulfilling their responsibilities.

It means working at home and abroad - in Europe and beyond - to help them respond robustly to the threat.

As I have said there are those who are set on destroying our values, on radicalising our young people, on killing indiscriminately across the globe.

Out of adversity comes opportunity - for us, for the UK, to provide real leadership, to grasp that our certainty must outpace our adversaries, our commitment must out match those who want to harm us.

Sure that our confidence that we will triumph outshines those whose dark dreams and deadly intent we face. Our clear purpose is to keep our people safe from harm.

In this struggle for the national interest - our determined cause:

We will be certain.

We are committed.

And I am confident.

Thank you so much.