With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about our work to counter the threat we face from terrorism in light of the latest propaganda video from Daesh.
This weekend Daesh released a video depicting the sickening murder of five men who they had accused of spying for Britain. The video also featured a young boy.
I would like to echo the Prime Minister’s words that this is a barbaric and appalling video. Daesh seek to intimidate and spread hateful propaganda, but in doing so they only expose their own depravity and the emptiness of their proposition.
The House will understand that this is an ongoing police investigation and I cannot comment further while that investigation continues. To do so could prejudice the outcome of any future judicial process. And for the same reason, I cannot comment on the alleged identities of the man or the child in the video.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 800 people from the UK who are of national security concern are thought to have travelled to the region, and we believe that around half of those have returned. Those who have travelled include young women and families.
We have seen deadly Daesh-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe and other countries including the attacks last year in Paris, Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait and Tunisia, where 30 British nationals along with others were murdered at a tourist resort.
Mr Speaker, it is imperative that the police and security services have the resources and the powers they need to keep us safe.
Since 2010, we have protected the counter-terrorism policing budget. As we announced in November, through the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we have made new funding available to the security and intelligence agencies. This will provide for an additional 1,900 officers – an increase of 15% - at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to better respond to the threat we face from international terrorism, cyber-attacks and other global risks.
We have also strengthened the powers available to the police and security and intelligence agencies.
In 2013, I updated the criteria governing the use of the Royal Prerogative, which allows the Government to cancel the passports of those planning to travel to engage in terrorist-related activity overseas. And in 2014, I removed 24 passports from people intending to travel for terrorism-related activity.
Last year, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act provided new powers to deal specifically with the problem of foreign fighters, and prevent radicalisation. This included a new power to temporarily seize the passports of those suspected of intending to leave the UK in connection with terrorism-related activity. These powers have been used on more than 20 occasions and in some cases have led to longer-term disruptive action such as use of the Royal Prerogative to permanently cancel a British passport.
And in November, we published the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.
Since April last year, exit checks have been in place on all international commercial scheduled air, sea and rail services using the UK. The information this provides is already supporting our intelligence work, enabling us to make appropriate interventions. In addition, the UK has joined the European watchlist system – so-called SIS II – meaning we are now alerted when any individual is stopped at a border checkpoint or by police anywhere in Europe and is checked against the system.
And through our Prevent and Channel programmes we are working to protect people from being drawn into terrorism. In partnership with industry we are working to secure the removal of extremist videos through the police Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit. They are currently securing the removal of around 1,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content every week.
It is clear Daesh will continue to try and poison minds, and to hurt people in Europe and other parts of the world. We must not let that happen and we stand with all those who want to stop them.
Time and again we have seen people of all faiths and backgrounds join together and demonstrate their opposition to terror, and to stand for democracy and freedom.
Britain will not be intimidated by Daesh, and together, we will defeat them.