Speech: Home Secretary announces new counter-terrorism strategy

Home Office Building - London - by .Martin. via Flickr

Speech: Home Secretary announces new counter-terrorism strategy

Good morning.

In my first public interview as Home Secretary – it was an hour after being appointed – I said that my priority will always be to keep our country safe.

The threat from terrorism is one of the starkest that we face.

Last year, sickening acts of terrorism in the UK claimed the lives of 36 people and of course changed the lives of many more.

One of the attacks took place a year ago yesterday, not far from here at London Bridge and Borough Market.

Three terrorists drove a van at pedestrians enjoying their evening, before attacking people with knives.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for those who died in that attack.

I was particularly struck by the words of Adele Morris, a local councillor, resident and mother. She said, and I quote, “the terror attack changed this neighbourhood forever but not in the way the terrorists had planned. This community is going to carry on being diverse, inclusive and welcoming.”

The service was an opportunity to remember the 8 people who were killed and the many more who were injured.

But it was also an opportunity to remember the brave and determined response of our police and security services, and all those who work hard to keep us safe.

Armed police were on the scene in just 8 minutes and they ran straight into the heart of the danger.

The London Bridge attack came after the terrorist attacks in Westminster and Manchester and this was followed by attacks in Finsbury Park and Parsons Green.

These attacks showed us that something needed to change.

That’s why exactly a year ago today, the Prime Minister commissioned a root and branch review of our counter-terrorism strategy.

And that is what we are publishing today.

The aim of this is to ensure that our response to terrorism is second to none and that we are doing everything within our power to prevent terror on our streets.

As Home Secretary, I’m regularly briefed on the current terrorist threat by the UK intelligence community and by our counter-terrorist police.

I see the very latest intelligence.

And it’s very clear that there has been a step change in the threat from terrorism.

Every day I sign warrants authorising operations to investigate and disrupt terrorist plots.

Last year, the threat to the UK was raised twice to the highest level, critical.

The threat to the UK today remains at severe – meaning an attack is highly likely.

Our security and intelligence agencies are, right now, handling over 500 live operations, they have 3,000 ‘subjects of interest’.

And there are a further 20,000 people who have previously been investigated, so they may still pose a threat.

The biggest threat is from Islamist terrorism – including Al Qa’ida, but particularly from Daesh.

While the so-called caliphate is a thing of the past, Daesh continues to plan and inspire attacks both here and abroad as well as recruiting British citizens to fight.

Over the past 5 years, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have foiled as many as 25 Islamist-linked plots.

That would mean without their vigilance and hard work, we could have seen one attack every 2 months.

But the threat doesn’t only come from Daesh.

Extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat.

This was tragically demonstrated by the Finsbury Park attack and by the shocking murder of Jo Cox. Four extreme right wing plots have been foiled since the Westminster attack.

Daesh and the extreme right wing are more similar than they might like to think.

They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.

And they don’t hesitate to learn lessons from each other.

In Finsbury Park, the method of attack – a van driven into a crowd of innocent people – had all the hallmarks of earlier Islamist terrorism including Westminster and London Bridge.

Hours after the Finsbury Park attack, I met Runa Leila Begum at the scene.

She was a local resident who described herself to me as a “normal, everyday Muslim” who was understandably scared for her family.

It’s Runa and others like her – decent, brave people who just want to get on with their lives in peace – these are the people we have a duty to protect.

That’s why in 2016, we proscribed the extreme right wing terrorist group National Action.

A year later, we banned their aliases Scottish Dawn and the National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action group.

As we look across the UK, we must never forget that Northern Ireland-related terrorism does pose a continuing danger too.

Five attacks against national security targets were carried out there last year. And another 9 attacks were aborted or disrupted as a result of action by our police and intelligence agencies.

Nor are we immune from attacks by hostile states.

The attempted murders in Salisbury were an outrageous attack on our soil, using military-grade nerve agent that was in itself a brazen message from the Russian state.

We also know that the way terrorist attacks are now planned and conducted has changed.

People are increasingly being radicalised via their computers and smartphones.

They’re using everyday objects like knives and cars as weapons and the length of time between radicalisation and the attack is getting shorter.

The threats are evolving.

We must evolve too.

In our revised counter-terrorism strategy – known as CONTEST – I am outlining today how everyone can help.

CONTEST incorporates the lessons learnt from the attacks in 2017 and our responses to them.

It has been informed by the latest research and secret intelligence.

Ultimately, our approach is about ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists.

No safe spaces internationally in which terrorist ideology can develop and from where complex attacks can be launched.

No safe spaces in the UK for terrorists to spread their vile views, or for them to plan and carry out attacks.

And no safe spaces online for terrorist propaganda and technical expertise to be shared, and for people to be radicalised in a matter of weeks.

We are publishing the full strategy so you can see it for yourself, but I would like to briefly highlight 6 key areas.

First, we will work to disrupt threats earlier and we are bringing forward new legislation to enable us to do that.

We’ll intervene earlier in investigations.

There will be longer prison sentences and better management of terrorist offenders on release.

I’m grateful to the work of MI5 and the police in learning operational lessons from the 2017 attacks and also for the thoughtful independent oversight of David Anderson QC.

Second, we will continue to make sure counter-terrorism policing and our security and intelligence services have the support they need.

In the 2015 Spending Review, this government committed to spending more than £2 billion on counter-terrorism each year.

We’re giving counter-terrorism policing a £50 million increase in funding this year – to over three quarters of a billion pounds.

And we’re recruiting over 1,900 additional staff across the security and intelligence agencies to improve our response still further.

Third, we will work more closely with our international partners.

Because the UK cannot tackle terrorism alone.

Our co-operation with our Five Eyes partners, the EU, and other allies, will remain essential.

The UK is widely seen as a world leader in counter-terrorism strategy.

Many other countries around the world look to CONTEST, and to emulate our evolving approach.

Deepening our strong security alliances around the world will also be a major part of my job.

I’ve already had a number of meetings in Washington, Brussels and The Hague.

Tonight, I will be heading off to Luxembourg to discuss security issues with my European counterparts.

We have always been absolutely clear that although we voted to leave the European Union, we are as committed as ever to European security.

We want, and we need, a deep and special security partnership with the EU after we leave.

And the EU needs it too.

There is not a single European interior minister who wants to reduce the level of co-operation on security that we have now.

When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they were not voting for us to stop working with our European allies to keep everyone safe.

So it would be wrong and reckless for anyone to advocate any unnecessary reduction in this co-operation.

Fourth, we will work more closely with key partners outside of central government.

We are piloting new multi-agency centres in London, Manchester and the West Midlands, to bring together the widest range of partners and improve our understanding of those at risk of becoming involved in terrorism.

We will also increase our co-operation with the private sector.

As someone with a private sector background myself, I understand that government cannot deal with these kinds of challenges alone.

I’m committed to improving how we work with businesses across a range of issues.

That includes faster alerts for suspicious packages, improving security at crowded places across the UK and reducing the vulnerability of our critical national infrastructure. And we must also get better at harnessing private sector and academic innovation.

New detection techniques, data analytics and machine learning all have the potential to dramatically enhance our counter-terrorism capabilities.

Fifth, we must work together to get terrorist material off the internet.

Terrorists exploit the online world in many different ways.

They use it to spread their poisonous message, and to radicalise and recruit others.

To share expertise on harmful materials.

And even to plan and facilitate attacks.

Under the former Home Secretary, we established the first Global Internet Forum for Counter-Terrorism – an international, industry-led group to fight terrorist use of the internet.

This brings together some of the biggest technology companies, and has brought about the removal of terrorist online material at a far greater scale and speed.

As just one example, in the first quarter of this year, Facebook took action against 1.9 million pieces of Daesh and Al-Qa’ida content.

But there is of course much more to do particularly as terrorists move to exploit smaller platforms.

We must continue to deepen and strengthen our collaboration with these key partners, and to encourage them to do more.

It is one of the reasons I will be travelling to Silicon Valley later this week to do just that.

The sixth and final approach is to do more to prevent people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

The Prevent strategy will remain a vital part of our counter-terrorism work.

Yes, I recognise the criticisms, but I absolutely support it.

Misapprehensions around Prevent are often based on distortions.

They are based on a lack of understanding about the grassroots work that is involved, and the efforts by civil society groups and public-sector workers to protect vulnerable people.

We have a moral and social obligation to safeguard vulnerable people from the twisted propaganda of those seeking to radicalise them.

And Prevent is about doing just that.

I’ll give you one example of a thirteen year old. He witnessed domestic abuse at home and suffered from racist bullying at school.

He started to watch violent propaganda online and to show an interest in fighting for Daesh.

But he was given the mentoring and support that he needed to stop him from going down that wrong path.

Now his mum says, and I quote, “he’s no longer on the path to radicalisation and all he wants to be is a car salesman.”

Extremists can be very effective at grooming young people.

And I know that if one of my children was being led astray, I would want someone to tell me, and help me do something about it.

Anything we can do, we should do, to stop terrorism.

Not just as government, but as citizens and communities too – especially those that are most affected.

Days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, I recall being at a vigil in Trafalgar Square with my eleven year old daughter.

She’d heard that something truly terrible had taken place in Paris, but she wasn’t entirely clear on the details or the context.

She saw people in the crowd holding pens and pencils in the air, and she asked me why.

I told her that the men who were murdered at Charlie Hebdo had been targeted because they’d drawn cartoons.

When you say it in such stark terms you realise just how absurd it sounds.

And my daughter, with the innocence of a child, was troubled by this.

She loves drawing, she wants to be an artist herself one day.

So she looked at me and she said something that is seared into my memory.

“Daddy… if I draw a cartoon, will they kill me too?”

So I had to explain why not, and what the issues were, and why it had happened …

And that crash-course in religious bigotry and hatred was a pretty heartbreaking conversation.

One that I do not think any father wants to have with his young daughter.

I had to explain that these murderers called themselves Muslims.

That they were invoking our religion, the religion of my parents, and my grandparents, and countless generations of Javids before them.

After any attack like this, a lot of well-meaning people will line up to say it has nothing to do with Islam.

That the perpetrators are not true Muslims.

I understand this reaction.

I know they are not true Muslims.

But there’s no avoiding the fact that these people they self-identify as Muslims.

Let me be very clear. Muslims are in no way responsible for the acts of a tiny minority who twist their faith.

And I know that there is no such thing as a single, homogenous Muslim community.

Muslims live and thrive in all walks of British life and society.

Globally, Muslims are by far the biggest victims of Islamist terrorism.

And Muslims are fighting and dying on the frontline of the battle against terrorism everyday.

It would be absurd to say that the actions of a tiny handful in any way represent a peaceful, wonderful religion shared by a billion people worldwide.

That’s exactly why, although we all share the responsibility for tackling terrorism, there’s a unique role for Muslims to play in countering this threat.

British Muslims up and down the country are leading the fight against Islamist extremists by throwing them out of their mosques and by countering poison online and on the streets.

It is incredibly powerful when a young Muslim man turns their back on the preachers of hate, and say:

“Your bigotry and bloodlust have no place in the modern world.”

I want to say to all those who stand up against all forms of extremism that this government stands with you.

I stand with them.

I want to thank communities for their continued vigilance and support that they provide and for the police in these difficult times.

But we cannot be complacent.

Last year the Prime Minister spoke about there being too much tolerance in the UK of extremism.

There is still more that all of us can and must do to confront extremism and the extremists within our communities.

We need to offer compelling alternatives to the narrative of hate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Islamist extremists, with their claims that our shared values are incompatible with the religion of Islam.

Or the hateful extremists of the far right, who feed off the narratives of Islamists to attack our multi-ethnic society.

These people, they want to destroy the values we hold dear, and undermine the freedoms that make us who we are.

And there’s one other thing that Islamists and the far right have in common …

As a Home Secretary with a name like Sajid Javid – I’m everything that they despise.

So the way I see it, I must be doing something right.

There’s an ongoing battle.

A battle for hearts and minds.

It will be won in the schools.

It will be won in the mosques.

And on our social media.

And we must all play our role.

No terrorist or terrorist group can possibly bring the people of the United Kingdom to their knees.

They know this.

Yet they still try and undermine our sense of security, and they sow divisions among our communities.

But they have failed in the past and they will fail again in the future.

2017 was the worst year for attacks on the island of Great Britain in a long while.

But does it feel like we have changed as a country as a result? No.

As I look out behind me, I see Londoners still going about their lives in just the same way as they did before those terrible attacks last year.

We need to remember that when the worst of human nature is expressed in an attack, we always see the best of human behaviour in response.

The heroism of people like PC Charlie Guenigault and PC Wayne Marques, who both suffered serious injuries while protecting the public in the London Bridge attacks.

Or the visible public response – the blood donations, the concerts after Manchester, the multi-faith shows of support I saw in Finsbury Park.

Or even the smaller moments or gestures which remind us that daily life goes on, such as the shops reopening in Salisbury last week.

This government is absolutely committed to doing everything possible to tackle terrorism.

It is my first priority every day on this job. But it’s also my job to be honest with you.

No matter what we do.

No matter how well we prepare.

No government can say it will be possible to stop every single attack before it happens.

This is the reality.

But we will be robust and we will be vigilant.

Most importantly, we must be unflinching in our values and in our way of life.

We must refuse to be divided, and we must respect each other – regardless of race or faith.

It was hard enough for me to have that talk with my daughter following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

30 years from now, I don’t want to have that same conversation with my grandchildren.

That’s why I will do everything in my power to protect this country and our great United Kingdom.

Thank you.