http://www.publications.parliament.uk/p ... 511-10.htm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the 7 July bombings.
I am today publishing the official account on the bombings in London on 7 July last year. Also today the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee into intelligence aspects of the bombings has been published, together with the Government's response. I very much regret the sombre nature of my first statement to the House as Home Secretary. I send my condolences, as the new Home Secretary, to all those who suffered in those events and I pay tribute to the work done by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke).
The official account published today summarises what we know about the bombers and how and why they did what they did. It is not yet a complete picture, both because we have had to withhold some information for legal and security reasons and because the police investigation is continuing and we may discover more. It will be for the legal process to confirm formally what happened, but as is now well known, there were four suicide attacks carried out by four British citizens. Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain. Those attacks killed 52 people over and above the bombers themselves and injured over 700.
The first three bombs went off simultaneously at 8.50 am on the underground. The first, in a Circle line tunnel between Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations, was carried out by Tanweer and killed seven people and injured 171. The second, on the Circle line just outside Edgware Road, was carried out by Khan and killed six people and injured 163. The third, on the Piccadilly line between King's Cross and Russell Square, was carried out by Lindsay and killed 26 and injured over 340.
Just under an hour later at 9.47 am, Hussain detonated the fourth device on a No. 30 bus in Tavistock square. This killed 13 and injured over 110. It remains unclear why Hussain did not detonate his bomb at the same time as the others. It may be that he was frustrated by delays on the underground heading north from King's Cross. However, it now appears that he bought a battery after coming out of the underground system, which could mean that he had difficulty detonating the device earlier. But I stress that this remains speculation at this point.
We now know from CCTV footage and witness statements that Khan, Tanweer, and Hussain travelled down from Leeds in a hire car that morning and met up with Lindsay in Luton station car park. Further devices were found in one of the cars which may have been for self-defence or diversion in case of interception during the journey down. They do not appear to indicate a fifth bomber and there is no evidence to suggest this elsewhere. The four then travelled from Luton to King's Cross, leaving at 7.40 am and arriving at 8.23 am.
Owing to some outstanding police and security service work in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the police were able publicly to confirm the identities of Tanweer and Hussain on 14 July and Khan
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and Lindsay on 16 July. The key factors leading them to this were finding credit and other cards in the names of the four at the sites—in Khan's case his cards were found at more than one site—Hussain's family calling the police emergency hotline reporting him missing, and subsequently discovering that he had travelled to London with Khan and Tanweer; the discovery by the security service that Khan, and subsequently Tanweer, had been picked up on the periphery of another investigation; the CCTV images of four men with rucksacks matching their descriptions at King's Cross and Luton; and the discovery of the two cars in Luton car park.
Khan, Tanweer and Hussain were all second-generation British citizens of Pakistani origin from the same small area of Leeds. Lindsay was a British citizen of Jamaican origin who had grown up in Huddersfield and moved to Aylesbury after his marriage. Khan was a well-respected teaching assistant and youth worker, aged 30 at the time of the bombings. Tanweer, who was just 22, had recently left university. Hussain was only 18 and had just completed sixth form college, and Lindsay, who was 19, had left school and had a series of odd jobs thereafter.
The account which is published today sets out what we know about their early lives and how they may have been radicalised. The picture remains incomplete at this stage, but, with the partial exception of Lindsay, there is little that marks them out as particularly vulnerable to radicalisation and little in their subsequent behaviour which could have given much indication to those around them of their intentions. It is not yet known whether others in the UK were involved in indoctrinating the group or helping them to plan, but Lindsay appears to have been influenced by an extremist preacher who is now serving a prison sentence. Their motivation appears to have been a mixture of anger at perceived injustices by the west against Muslims and a desire for martyrdom.
The account that we publish today also details what we know about influence from abroad. Khan is known to have made a number of trips to Pakistan, including one in July 2003 when he is believed to have had some relevant training. Khan and Tanweer travelled together to Pakistan between November 2004 and February 2005 and are assessed as likely to have met al-Qaeda figures during this visit. There were a series of suspicious contacts from an unknown individual or individuals in Pakistan in the immediate run-up to the bombings. We do not know their content. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for launching the attacks, but the extent of its involvement is unclear.
Shortly after the second Pakistan trip—the trip from November 2004 to February 2005—the group appear to have begun planning in earnest. They appear to have assembled the devices at 18 Alexandra grove, a flat in another part of Leeds. As far as experts can establish, the bombs were made with ingredients that are readily commercially available, and to have required only limited expertise to assemble. The operation appears to have been self-financed and the cash raised by methods that would be extremely difficult to identify as related to terrorism or other serious criminality. Our best estimate is that the operation cost less than £8,000 overall.
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The account published today does not address the emergency response, but it is right that I should place on record my thanks and admiration for the bravery of so many—the police, those working on the underground, buses and trains, medical staff, firefighters, disaster recovery teams, volunteers and ordinary people, including and perhaps especially the survivors. The Government have separately conducted a lessons learned exercise addressing many aspects of the emergency response, and we will publish the results shortly. The London Assembly's inquiry, due to report soon, is also considering this.
I now turn to the Intelligence and Security Committee report. The Committee is, of course, independent of Government, but it has had access to a wide range of highly classified documents. Its report assesses what was known prior to July, how the threat level and alert state systems operated, how the threat was assessed, and issues of coverage, resources and co-operation between the security and intelligence agencies and between the agencies and the police. The House will obviously wish to give it serious consideration. The Prime Minister has presented to Parliament today the Government's response to the report, which generally welcomes its conclusions.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), as Chairman of the Committee, has spoken in more detail about the report this morning, but I note first that the report sets out that the security service had come across two of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, on the margins of other investigations. On the basis of what was then known, the security service made the judgement that they were peripheral to the main investigation and there was no intelligence to suggest that they were separately interested in planning an attack against the UK. Although limited attempts were made at that stage to identify the two men, the security service decided to concentrate its resources on higher priorities, including plots known at that time to attack the UK. The ISC report concludes that this decision was understandable.
Secondly, the report concludes that it was not unreasonable to reduce the country threat level from "severe general" to "substantial" in May last year on the grounds that there was no intelligence of a current credible plot to attack the UK at that time. The term "substantial" still represented a high level of threat, and the report concludes that that reduction was unlikely to have altered the alertness of the responders or to have affected the chances of preventing the 7 July attacks. None the less, the Committee recommends changes to the system. The Government have reviewed it and will be making changes to create a simpler, more flexible and more proportionate system.
The report makes a number of other useful recommendations, which we have addressed in the Government response. It also covers the issue of resourcing, which I will address in a moment. I am grateful to the Committee for its very thorough and constructive approach.
What the official account and the ISC report demonstrate is the very real challenge that the police and the agencies face in combating this new kind of terrorism. The bombers were ordinary British citizens
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with little known history of extremist views, far less of violent intention. At least three were apparently as well integrated as anyone else. Their radicalisation, to the extent that we know how and where it happened, appears to have been conducted away from places with any obvious association with extremism.
The willingness of the men to use suicide bombing as their method and to attack vulnerable, civilian targets—as is familiar from previous attacks—made them doubly difficult to defend against. That is not a comfortable message, but it is important that we are honest about it if we are to defend ourselves against the threat effectively.
The key lesson—this is at the heart of the Government's counter-terrorist strategy—is that the response needs to be collective, with Government, Parliament, police, agencies, local communities, faith leaders and international co-operation all playing their part, and that it needs to be completely comprehensive.
We have a counter-terrorism strategy for achieving that, known as "Contest", which aims to reduce the risk from international terrorism. As part of the strategy, we are seeking to prevent terrorism by stopping young people being indoctrinated into extremist violence. In that, we need the help of Muslim leaders and the community to fight the distortion of Islam that turns young people into terrorists. We have taken new powers to criminalise encouragement to terrorism. We need to work together to show that democracy is the only legitimate means of changing policies, and to ensure that all young people in all communities can see how engagement in British society can bring about change for the better. I know that my predecessor as Home Secretary led an extensive round of consultations with all sections of the Muslim community, and I intend to develop that.
Secondly, we need an effective and adequately resourced law enforcement and intelligence effort. The ISC report suggests that we might have had a better chance of preventing the July attacks if more resources had been in place sooner. Even that, of course, would have been no guarantee of preventing the attack. The Government have put in substantially increased resources, particularly since 9/11. Further resources were provided last autumn. The Security Service is expanding as fast as its top management believes is organisationally possible.
The specific police budget for counter-terrorism will have grown fourfold between the financial years 2002–03 and 2007–08—that is, in the period after 9/11. We have allocated £30 million extra next year and £60 million the year after to expand special branch and other specialist counter-terrorism capacity outside London. Indeed, the total cross-Government budget for counter terrorism and resilience has more than doubled, from less than £1 billion to more than £2 billion in the same period.
In addition, general policing makes a significant contribution to the counter-terrorist effort. We will implement neighbourhood policing in all forces by next April and will expand the number of community support officers from around 6,500 to 16,000 in that period. That will improve our capacity to gather local intelligence to support the counter-terrorist element.
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In that context, I want to put it on the record that the police and agencies have disrupted many attacks against the UK since 9/11, including three since last July alone. However, the reality is that difficult choices have to be made between priorities in intelligence-led operations, whatever the level of resources.
Thirdly, we need effective international co-operation. This is both a local and a global threat. We are a long way from being the only targets. As the House will know, there have been appalling attacks in the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Indonesia, to name but a few. We need to have the closest possible law enforcement and intelligence links with our many allies in the war against global terrorism.
We also need rapidly to develop European co-operation. The former Home Secretary made that his key priority for the UK presidency last year. He achieved important concrete outcomes, including common provisions on the retention of telecommunications data that will make it more difficult for terrorists to communicate across borders to plan their crimes. I will make it a major priority of mine to develop that co-operation further.
The bombings were despicable attacks on ordinary people going about their normal daily business. It is a tribute to Londoners—the people of our capital city—that the city recovered with such remarkable speed. The victims have shown tremendous courage in rebuilding their lives, but I know that many victims, and particularly bereaved families, are still trying to find their own way to come to terms with what, for them, was a terrible personal tragedy. I think that it is right that we try to explain what the Government know about what happened that day, and I hope that many of the victims will find the account that we have published today helpful.
I know that some will find it painful to relive those terrible events again, and that some will continue to feel that there should be a public inquiry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for supporting victims. In the short period that I have been Home Secretary, and before that, she has explained to me the strong views that some of the families hold on that subject. I find that perfectly understandable, but the House will know that my predecessor as Home Secretary explained last year why the Government had decided that it was not right to hold such an inquiry, a decision with which I concur. However, I should like to offer some further explanation to those most directly affected.
I shall therefore be writing to all those who were bereaved by the 7 July attacks to offer them the chance to come and talk the issue through. I and my right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary will convene a series of meetings, at which families will be able to ask detailed questions about the documents that have been published today. At those meetings, I hope that I will be able to explain to them why I do not think a public inquiry would be the best step to take. Not least among the reasons is that such an inquiry would involve diverting very precious resources needed for the security and protection of everyone, at a critical time.
As Home Secretary, my principal duty is to protect the public. I am determined that we will learn the lessons from the official account and ISC report, and strengthen
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our defences against the terrorist threat, but international terrorism will not be defeated by the security services, the police or the Government acting alone. It will be beaten only by all of us in this country working together to defeat what is a threat to us all. That is what all of us must achieve together.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I welcome the Home Secretary to his new post and am sorry that his first outing is on such a tragic subject. I join him in offering our condolences to those who suffered in the attacks and our thanks to and admiration for those whose bravery and commitment on the day and afterwards saved so many lives.
The issue before us is, as the Home Secretary implied, of great importance. The attacks in London on 7 July and 21 July were attacks on our people, our country and our way of life. Accordingly, our ability to deal with such attacks and to learn from our errors is critical to the defence of the realm, our people and our way of life.
It is important to start by acknowledging the real strengths of our security services, which have thwarted a significant number of attacks. For that, the whole House thanks and congratulates them. However, it will not serve them or the safety of the British public if we do not learn from the mistakes made in these cases, the better to prevent them in the future.
During the attack and in the immediate aftermath, the Government claimed that the bombers were previously unknown to the authorities, because they had no record of previous criminal or terrorist activity. We now know that that is untrue. Both Sidique Khan and Shezad Tanweer were known to the authorities in connection with another very serious terrorist bomb plot. On the basis of accounts in the newspapers, rather than the reports, it appears that Shezad Tanweer was picked up by a foreign intelligence agency one month before the attack, but that that information was never acted on by the UK security services, so I ask the Home Secretary whether that is true. Again on the basis of documentation given to newspapers rather than these reports, it seems that MI5 taped Mohammad Sidique Khan talking about his wish to fight in the jihad and saying his goodbyes to his family—a clear indication that he was intending a suicide mission. The newspapers also tell us that he was known to have attended late-stage discussions on planning another major terror attack that was subsequently thwarted. Again, I ask the Home Secretary whether that is true.
Despite all that, the surveillance on Khan was called off months before the attack. Why? Was it, as intimated in the Intelligence and Security Committee report, because of a shortage of resources? Is it true that there were not enough MI5 agents to cover possible suspects and that that led to surveillance on dangerous terrorists being terminated on that occasion? The ISC report states that
"better appreciation of the speed and scale with which the threat against the UK could develop might have led the Services to achieve a step change in capacity earlier".
Did that occur because the resources for MI5 were not increased to meet the necessary step change until 2004, some three years after 9/11? And, because it takes three years to recruit, screen and train agents, the expansion will not take full effect until 2008.
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Two of the bombers went to terrorist training camps in Pakistan and undertook weapons training, as the Home Secretary mentioned in his statement. Paragraph 75(e) of the official account is very vague on that matter. It is said that the British intelligence agencies did not obtain any usable information on these people's activities from the Pakistani intelligence services. Why did that happen?
We are also told—the Home Secretary alluded to it—that Khan and Tanweer met al-Qaeda leaders and discussed jihad with them. How, then, can the Government represent these people as members of an independent freelance group? If they are, how did al-Qaeda get a copy of Khan's suicide video in order to splice on to it its own propaganda, which involved its second most important member, before it was broadcast in September?
I take the opportunity of paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who has done a remarkable job with his Committee, which produced an extremely insightful report, as the Home Secretary recognised. Having said that, although the Intelligence and Security Committee is impartial, wise and of the highest integrity, it is constitutionally limited in what it can achieve. That is partly because of the limitation on its investigative resources, partly because of its remit and partly because it is constituted in such a way as to be entirely dependent on the intelligence agencies for its information and on their willingness to disclose such information.
The process has, frankly, raised more questions than answers. After the 9/11 tragedy, the United States Senate had a very well resourced and independent report with very hard-hitting conclusions. After Madrid, the Spanish Government had an independent report and learned serious lessons from it. In this country, after the Falklands war, even though secret intelligence issues were at stake, we had the independent Franks report. Almost every previous major intelligence failure was dealt with by an independent inquiry, but I am afraid that that is not what we have today in the official account, which expresses the Government's view rather than an independent view. As a result, the process has left too many questions unresolved.
In the interests of people who have lost their lives and of protecting those who have not, can we now have what we should have had from the start—a fully resourced independent inquiry into what was clearly a major failure of our intelligence systems?
John Reid: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generous welcome. I, too, regret the fact that we are dealing with such a sombre subject on my first outing as Home Secretary. May I assure him of our willingness to learn? I do not regard this as a party political issue: it is one that unites the nation in the desire to protect ourselves and our citizens and to learn. If necessary, we shall learn from each other, and I stand ready to do that.
Let me deal with the matter of process first. The right hon. Gentleman somewhat underestimates the scope, integrity and intrusiveness of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
David Davis indicated dissent.
John Reid: No, not the integrity; the right hon. Gentleman did not question that, but he felt that the ISC was limited by statute and so forth.
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I merely point out, in the same spirit of generosity with which he welcomed me, that the scope, remit and statute under which the ISC was established was defined not by this Government, but by the Conservative Government in which the right hon. Gentleman served. Secondly, the reason for public inquiries, including the Franks inquiry, prior to the establishment of the ISC, was precisely because of the absence of such a scrutiny Committee. It was appropriate for the ISC to be given the task. It is independent of the Government and values its independence. To the best of my knowledge, it has been given as much assistance, aid and leeway as possible, and I believe that it has produced a very useful report.
Let me turn to some of the hon. Gentleman's specific points. It was legitimate for him to raise them, and I will answer insofar as I can, without intruding into areas that affect operational matters. His first point was about several newspaper stories on the four bombers. As to the Tanweer story, relating to what happened a month before 7/7, I am told by the Security Service that it has no record of that allegation, so I do not think that there is a factual basis to it.
What is known is that there was some peripheral intelligence of two of the bombers in connection with another investigation. So far as I can understand from paragraph 45, on page 14, from all the relevant intelligence material and the from independent scrutiny of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a judgment was made on whether the actions and assessments of the Security Service were understandable and correct at the time. The report confirms that the Security Service came across two individuals, who were subsequently identified as Khan and Tanweer, on the peripheries of another investigation. However, I should mention three heavy caveats.
First, it was only after 7 July that the Security Service was able fully to identify the two men, given the massive concentration of resources then transferred. Secondly, there was no intelligence at the time that these men were interested in planning an attack on the UK in the UK. That is specifically alluded to on page 13, in paragraph 43 of the ISC report. Thirdly, the intelligence at the time did indeed suggest a focus, but either on training and insurgency operations outside the country in Pakistan, in which the men might be interested, or on fraud. In relation to the investigation at the time, it was peripheral to what was regarded as a bigger and more important operation. It is in that light, on that important subject—I accept that it is an important and legitimate one for the right hon. Gentleman to raise—that the ISC says
"we conclude that, in the light of the other priority investigations being conducted and the limitations on Security Service resources, the decisions not to give greater investigative priority to these two individuals were understandable".
Incidentally, officers followed up a report on the third bomber, Jermaine Lindsay, because again there was a peripheral connection to another case—of aggravated burglary—but it was only established later that the contact telephone number was on file.
I dealt with that matter in some measure, because the right hon. Gentleman raised an important point. I shall turn to resources, which he also mentioned. I covered them earlier, but in the period after 9/11 until 2007–08,
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there has been a quadrupling of the resources available to the police and counter-terrorism. In the same period, across Government, there has been a doubling of resources for counter-terrorism and resilience, from less than £1 billion to more than £2 billion. At any given stage, there are physical limitations on what can be achieved, because of difficulties in recruitment, skills identification, training and so on. It is not merely a matter of applying resources and bringing in lots of people without relevant skills.
Let me give two quotes. The director general of the Security Service told the ISC:
"What we are trying to do is the maximum we think we can bear in terms of recruitment, training, vetting, expansion, scale, new officers, a big northern operations centre . . . it is a very challenging programme."
In other words, according to the director general, the limitations are not the resources being allocated but the fact that the service cannot expand any faster.
At paragraph 140 of the report, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, C, said:
"If you try to bring in more than a certain number of new people every year you can literally bust the system . . . you can only tolerate a certain number of inexperienced people dealing with very sensitive subjects."
On al-Qaeda, there are circumstantial links, some of which the right hon. Gentleman pointed out: the recording of the video, the Khan reference to al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda's claim of responsibility and so on. There are assumptions and speculations about contacts. The ISC report says:
"The extent to which the 7 July attacks were externally planned directed or controlled by contacts in Pakistan or elsewhere remains unclear."
That is what I said at the beginning. The matter is still under investigation. Yes, there is circumstantial evidence, but I do not think there is anything that would merit my saying at this stage that there is conclusive evidence that the attack was planned in advance rather than being claimed as a success afterwards, ex post facto, by al-Qaeda.
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Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I, too, welcome the Home Secretary to his new position. As the gravity of the events being discussed shows, he occupies a position of enormous importance to the security and welfare of the country. I share, of course, in his and the other expressions of condolence extended to the victims and the families of victims of the horrific attack on 7 July last year. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for advance sight of his statement.
We welcome the Intelligence and Security Committee report. As has been said, it is a thorough, insightful and highly professional report and raises crucial questions about the resourcing and organisation of our security services. Its scrutiny of the system of threat level warnings must in particular be responded to swiftly in order to safeguard public confidence, as the Home Secretary acknowledged.
The report raises queries about the increase in resources demanded by and made available to the security services. It is always easy to be wise with hindsight, and I acknowledge what the Home Secretary has just said about the practical limitation of increasing resources too fast in too short a period. Notwithstanding those caveats, there
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seems to be some lingering reasonable doubt about whether resources were increased with sufficient speed before the events of last July, not least because we now know that the real step change in the increase of resources did not really kick in until late 2004.
Notwithstanding the quality of the ISC report, does the Home Secretary agree that it and the Home Office narrative on the events of 7 July that he set out today are by definition limited in scope and leave some of the most important questions unanswered? To deal with the new threat of home-grown terrorism, we need to do more to try to understand the nature of that threat. Surely, there is no logical reason why the right hon. Gentleman should resist calls for a public inquiry when such an inquiry could deal with issues not covered by the reports. It could help to foster public understanding about the evolution of home-grown terrorism in our cities and towns and thus help our intelligence services to target resources effectively in those cities and towns.
We strongly welcome the Government's organisation of seven working groups under the aegis of the preventing extremism together initiative, which reported last November. That was an important first step in helping to assess, analyse and tackle, in a collaborative approach with members of our Muslim communities, the complexity of home-grown fundamentalism in some of those communities. Would not a public inquiry help to pick up from where the initiative left off to promote the collective anti-terrorism effort that the Home Secretary rightly emphasised in his statement?
Finally, may I urge the Home Secretary to consider carefully the emphasis in the ISC report, at paragraph 137, on the crucial role of effective local policing in gathering intelligence to identify individuals and communities susceptible to the kind of fundamentalism that can lead to such horrific terrorist atrocities? Does not he accept that the headlong rush towards the regional merger of police authorities, more often than not against their will, risks uprooting the foundations of our local police exactly when we should be strengthening, not weakening, the value of local policing in our counter-terrorism strategy?
John Reid: I thank the hon. Gentleman. On his last point, yes, local intelligence is obviously important. That is why we have about 13,000 more police officers on the beat and the number of community support officers is increasing to 16,000. The hon. Gentleman will understand if I decline his invitation to comment on another major issue, police restructuring, which I have not had the chance to look at—it has been a rather busy five days—but I accept the need for local intelligence.
The hon. Gentleman raised three other matters, the first of which was resources. He appeared to indicate that there was little increase in resources in the years after 2002 and that it was slanted towards the end of the period. Actually, if we consider counter-terrorist and resilience spending since 2001 by Department, across Government, the amounts are £923 million and £988 million, with £1,257 million immediately afterwards; the next figures are £1,479 million, £1.665 billion and £2.045 billion, so there has in fact been a steady cross-Government increase.
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Although I fully accept that there will always be a demand for greater resources, Members should be cautious, as was the ISC, when talking about them. The paragraph in the report referring to resources begins with the following words:
"It could be argued (but it would be largely with hindsight)"—
the only exact science known to men and women is hindsight. The Committee phrased that paragraph very carefully; before saying that perhaps more resources could have helped, it noted that the observation was made "largely with hindsight".
I have one more point about resources. There has been a substantial increase, but even if resources were infinite, the truth of the matter in respect of intelligence is, as we must say constantly—and as the Butler inquiry pointed out—that even with unlimited resources we can never be 100 per cent. certain. We cannot predict the future. There is not 100 per cent. security, nor 100 per cent. predictability. Intelligence is, by its nature, a collection of fragmentary, partial, sometimes subjective and sometimes mistaken pieces of information, which must be put together by human judgment. So there is a matter of resources, but we should not pretend that, if then or in the future, we supplied infinite resources, we would have infinite wisdom about the future.
More briefly, on two things that the hon. Gentleman mentioned—the first was an inquiry, which is very important—I fully understand the concerns of the families of victims and those caught up in the attacks. I fully understand the questions that they have to ask about the trauma and the whos and whys of how this happened. All of us would understand that—it is a natural human reaction—and this week I have therefore carefully considered the call for a public inquiry, as did my predecessor, but it would mean a pretty massive reallocation and diversion of resources over an extended period if it was done. That is not just an inconvenience and an expense; it is a serious matter.
It would mean a reallocation of resources away from those needing protection at a critical time, when our security forces and security agencies are carrying out an absolutely essential job—the protection of people in this country—and in my judgment that diversion of resources would truly put others at risk to achieve an objective that can be achieved largely in other ways, which is why I am offering these meetings and reports. Of course, the Home Affairs Committee, the ISC, the London Assembly, the coroners and the ongoing criminal investigations, as well as our account, contribute towards that.
I agree entirely, however, with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the need to engage the Muslim community. We need to work together in this country—every single one of us—because the threat is against every single one of us. In the aftermath of 7/7, we set in train both a short-term working programme of ministerial visits and then the longer-term actions in the Government's prevention delivery plan. I do not pretend that that is perfect, but it is the start of serious, prolonged and, I believe, in-depth engagement with the Muslim community in this country, because we need that.
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Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his statement and for the narrative that he has provided, and the ISC for the report that it has provided; and we all look forward to the London Assembly's report on the response to the horrors of 7 July. Speaking as someone who represents the area in which the two worst atrocities took place, I think that it is necessary for us to accept that the activities of the security services will always be imperfect. It looks as though they had been geared largely to trying to trace connections to centrally organised atrocities, and we may have been caught out a little in the response to what might be described as semi-spontaneous local groups, which may have had vague connections—but that is a very difficult task.
We should remember in all this that the object of the people who support terrorism is to try to divide us one from another. When we are considering all the evidence that becomes available, we should remember that, whatever shortcomings may be revealed, it was not the security services, it was not the police, it was not Ministers and it was not the Opposition who actually exploded four suicide bombs; it was four suicide bombers who did the killing and maiming. What we must do is to concentrate on trying to ensure that we do not have any more of them. We should not spend our time pointing fingers at one another, when we did not do it.
John Reid: I agree entirely with every word that my right hon. Friend has just said.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): I start by welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his position. We are old friends and counterparts, and I genuinely wish him the best of luck in what are difficult circumstances.
I simply refer the Home Secretary back to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). I am of the opinion that, on balance, following the right hon. Gentleman's statement, we need a more independent inquiry. I recommend the report from the Committee, chaired by the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), because it illustrates some of the weaknesses. Yes, the bombers are to blame absolutely, but we need to understand what has gone wrong, so that we can rectify it. In that spirit, I refer the Home Secretary to paragraphs 103 and 108, which suggest a complete misreading of some major issues internally in the UK; that of whether suicide bombings were every likely to take place in the UK or Europe, when there was already evidence of the shoe bombers and others in Tel Aviv, and also the idea that home-grown terrorists were not a major issue for the UK. Again, the Committee quite rightly points out that there was a great deal of evidence to suggest that that was not the case and that we should have been concerned.
I am one who genuinely believes that we do this in the interests of the United Kingdom, our citizens and our friends, and of course, as a London MP, I include those who were devastated in the bombings. I urge the Home Secretary to think again about the inquiry, not because
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we want to point fingers, but because we desperately need to show the public that we have learned the lessons and that their security is paramount.
John Reid: Of course, over the years, I have grown to respect the right hon. Gentleman's views on these matters. There are two different aspects. One of them is the natural, legitimate questions of the families themselves, and I am trying in consultation and co-operation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to address some of them in meetings or through the account that we are giving today. The other one—the right hon. Gentleman points it out, and I accept it—is that we can always learn to improve the efficacy of our security services. I am not instantly persuaded that the best way to do that is with a public inquiry, but I will obviously want to talk, having read and reread the report, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who is Chairman of the ISC, in the first instance. It is important to stress that the ISC is independent of the Government. There are people on it who would not sympathise with the Government on a range of issues but, on this one, share the same patriotic commitment—we would all do so—to protect our country. So I will undertake to hold discussions with my right hon. Friend to find out whether there are areas where we ought to ask his Committee perhaps to protrude a little further in intrusiveness to advise us.
Several hon. Members rose—
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Obviously, these are very important and complicated matters, and a number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. We have not got an unlimited amount of time. If we can now, please, have brief questions and perhaps reasonably brief answers from the Home Secretary, although it is a complicated matter, we can get as many Members in as possible.
Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position. I also welcome his report and the meeting that he is suggesting we have to deal with the difficult issues about these tragic events. The thrust of his report is very similar to the Committee's report in that it talks about the new and considerable challenge that our country faces. The Committee recognised the substantial increase in resources that came to the intelligence service over the past number of years, but it also recognised that translating money into people and human resources was quite another matter. Finally, may I ask him to reflect on the points in the ISC's report that refer to the lessons that we can learn from the events of the past months and, indeed, the conclusions of his Committee's report, so that we can ensure that, in years to come, we can at least help to prevent such terrible attacks on our people?
John Reid: Yes, indeed, and I thank my right hon. Friend for his work and that of his Committee. I assure him that I have already considered, and will continue to dwell on, some of the critical points that he has offered to us for consideration. There are points about the system of threat levels and alert states being confusing, the underplaying in the assessment of home-grown
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terrorism, the degree of failure to understand and apply strategic thinking to that, the limitations of intelligence not included in a sufficiently systematic way in intelligence assessments, and so on. I am well aware that we are talking about something that neither in its intention, nor in its outcome, reflects carte blanche agreement with everything that was done or with a whitewash. There are critical elements. That makes the general conclusions and the general commendations of what was done by the security services all the more pertinent and substantial.
Mr. Michael Mates (East Hampshire) (Con): May I particularly welcome the Government's response to the specific recommendations of the Committee that the threat level and alert state system arrangements need clarity, transparency and simplicity? When will the review that the Government say have been completed be published, and, more importantly, when will the recommendations be implemented? Does the Home Secretary agree that part of the confusion that arose between threat levels and alert states was due to the fact that, although the threat level was reduced, the alert states were not? The alert states are the ones that matter to the people on the ground. In particular, as far as London Transport was concerned, that alert state remained very high and was not reduced. Finally, there have been reports in the press over the past few days that, had different decisions been made about the priorities, this atrocity might have been avoided. Is not the other side of that coin that, had the resources been put into trying to prevent this atrocity, one of the other atrocities that was prevented could equally well have happened?
John Reid: That is precisely the point. The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. That is also my worry about allocating and diverting resources towards a public inquiry. On his question about the threat level, I accept the recommendations of the Committee. As he will know, the difference between the two threat levels reflected whether there was knowledge of a specific threat at that time. "Substantial" is still a very high level of threat, but it meant that there was not specific knowledge at that time. As he said, that can be confusing. The response or readiness level was not automatically reduced, although the threat level came down. The reduced threat level indicated to experts that there was not a specific threat. However, to the man in the street, it could be taken to mean a reduction in operational capability. It did not mean that—thank goodness—on this occasion. I will undertake to review that and implement things as soon as possible, and to publish what I can, although I do not pretend that I can give a carte blanche that we will publish everything to do with threat levels.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend may know, I have been raising in this House for many years—long before 9/11—the activities of fundamentalist extremists. Although it is true that we should lay the blame for what happened fair and square on the four bombers, the extremists who indoctrinated four young, apparently decent men bear heavy responsibility for the hatred that they brought to them, which ultimately led to these terrible tragedies. We have to learn from experience. That is true not just of the
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security services, but in terms of how we approach the victims and the families of those who died and how we provide support after the event. When my right hon. Friend meets the victims and the bereaved families, will he make sure that hon. Members in whose constituencies those people live are invited to attend? Will he also ensure that the discussions consider not just whether there should be a public inquiry, but the reservations and concerns of those victims about the immediate support that they received after the event and the compensation arrangements?
John Reid: On the compensation arrangements, I am aware of a potential contradiction. The events acted as a catalyst to a reconsideration of how to improve the compensation scheme, but, by precedent, compensation schemes are not retrospective. I know that that represents an incongruity and an apparent unfairness and so I am looking at the case of the July victims. It is an exceptional case, in my view, and I am considering whether something can be done exceptionally and what that might be. As I said, five days into the job I have not been able to fix every little issue that is in front of us, but I intend to do that.
On the meetings with the victims' families, I want to be as open as possible with them. I am open to all suggestions, but I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate that the ultimate decision will rest with the families themselves. Some of them may or may not want to have others present. Some may want to ask some pretty pertinent questions. I have to take into account the wishes of the families, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
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Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): In his statement, the Home Secretary said that, prior to the bombings, capacity was being expanded as fast as the top management believed was organisationally possible. However, with hindsight the Committee was able to discover—from what had been done after the bombings—that there had been room to do more and to do it more quickly. Perhaps the caution was understandable, but more could have been done. Will he indicate that he and his colleagues will continue to support the current expansion and will he reflect on the very odd judgement of the Joint Intelligence Committee that suicide bombing would not become the norm in European attacks?
John Reid: I will reflect on both those points.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend accept that no restrictions were placed on the access of the Intelligence and Security Committee to information, whether in the form of reports from the joint terrorism analysis centre or the Joint Intelligence Committee? That was also true of access to the heads of the agencies. It is a little unfortunate that, although the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) did not cast any doubt on the integrity of the members of the Committee, he sought to undermine the credibility of the conclusions that we arrived at and the material that we used. We had no restrictions placed on us. There were no no-go areas. I think that my right hon. Friend
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would acknowledge that that is why we were able to produce the conclusions that we did. They were closely related to the evidence that we examined.
John Reid: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reassurance and I am sure that the House will be reassured, as well, because we are talking about something that complements and fortifies the independent status of the ISC.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): The British security services do a difficult and dangerous job and, for obvious reasons, their courage and occasional sacrifices are not always publicly recognised. Will the Home Secretary join me in saying that, despite the fact that some modest details about the bombers were known to the Security Service, no blame whatsoever for what happened on the streets of London last year should be attached to that magnificent service?
John Reid: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. I suppose that, for the country, what is more important is that the independent scrutiny of the Intelligence and Security Committee has led to the same conclusions. I remind the House, as I did earlier, that, in extremely difficult circumstances, working against hugely difficult technological networks and a high level of threat, the security agencies and the police have not just protected us in general, but have specifically prevented quite a number of potential terrorist attacks. As I said earlier, I know of three since July last year. For that, we should be eternally grateful.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the tremendous police work that was undertaken in west Yorkshire following the atrocities. The Home Office has already made available an extra £1.6 million to cover some of the costs incurred. Will he view with equal favour the bid that has been submitted by west Yorkshire to establish a dedicated anti-terrorist unit and also the case for designating Leeds Bradford airport for security purposes?
John Reid: I am not aware of the particular proposals that my hon. Friend refers to, but I undertake to have a look at them.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): The Home Secretary has spoken of the challenge of understanding radicalisation. May I draw his attention to the ISC report and the admission by the Met that it was working on an out-of-date script when it came to understanding radicalisation? Does he agree that that is now a top priority? It is the most complex subject and there is no easy answer.
John Reid: Yes, I will agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is important that we understand and empathise with the culture, background, feelings and emotions of many in the Muslim community. We thus rely on British citizens who are Muslims to assist us in that aim, as well as making it plain to all of them, in common with everyone else in this country, that the only way to make progress in a civilised, democratic society is through democracy.
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Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): In what I hope will be a completely non-polemical way, may I say to my right hon. Friend that in recognising that there will undoubtedly be further attempts at carrying out such mass murder and atrocities in our country, would it not be better to concentrate all our resources on security and policing—I know what he said in answer to several hon. Members—rather than going ahead at the moment with identity cards? The Government have said repeatedly that identity cards would not have prevented the atrocities of 7 July.
John Reid: I know that my hon. Friend has taken a huge and detailed interest in the matter over a long period. There is nothing—no degree of intelligence, or infinity of resources—that will allow human beings, however intelligent, with absolute certainty to predict or prevent attempts to commit atrocities of this nature. The question is whether some resources and instruments will help us better to prevent such atrocities. I must say to him that in the five days in which I have been in the Home Office, it has occurred to me, when going through the several big issues that I have looked at, that ID cards would indeed have prevented some of the problems that we face over deportations, in this case and in other areas. However, nothing will give an absolute guarantee that we can prevent such atrocities.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): I welcome the Home Secretary's statement and, especially, the increase to the budgets, with a doubling for resilience and a specific increase to the police counter-intelligence budget, both inside and outside London. I note that the right hon. Gentleman says that the intelligence community is growing as fast as the senior management believes is organisationally possible, and we have heard several comments about resources. Will he continue to urge the senior management in the intelligence community to identify new and innovative ways to use the additional resources that I know will be made available, which we on these Benches would very much welcome?
John Reid: Yes, I will. I know that both C and the director general are prepared to examine innovative ways of expanding quickly and so on. They are progressive and open in their flexibility to do so. However, just as it is impossible for me to guarantee that no other terrorist attack will ever get through, it would be wrong of me to suggest that there can be some form of infinite expansion of our security and intelligence services when I know that the skills, training, aptitude, vetting and experience required to carry out the jobs is considerable. The process thus takes time, and without having the almighty prescience of knowing what might come in the next generation, we will always be up against those physical constraints. It is true to say that the security services and agencies have been given anything that they have asked for as a priority. However, of course, if there are other areas that they feel are absolutely essential, I will look at them.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Like most Londoners, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the 7/7 bombings and how frightened I was until I knew that
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the people closest to me were safe. The news was especially shattering coming, as it did, the day after our triumph in the Olympics. Does the Home Secretary agree that any successful long-term counter-terrorism strategy must have a community cohesion strand? Will he give the House an assurance that the round table meetings and work with the Muslim community that came after 7/7 will be followed through and that many of the important recommendations will be implemented?
John Reid: Yes. I not only agree with my hon. Friend, but agree strongly with her. The idea that the problems will be solved only by instruments of the state, or, internationally, by military power, is a sad delusion; worse, indeed, it is a terribly mistaken attitude. Domestically, the important thing will be to get a degree of understanding and mutual solidarity throughout the whole of our community in this country, including everyone who is British, from whatever background—including Scots, Welsh, Irish, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Muslim, Christian and non-religious people—because the dividing line is not between ethnic groups or civilisations, but between terrorism as an evil and every other set of values that has developed in the civilised world. I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I am sure that the Home Secretary will do well in his new position, although he probably regrets having to leave his job at Defence, which, I know, it was his lifetime's ambition to obtain. May I ask him to pay some attention to the question of the recruiters and indoctrinators in this country? They have the multiplier effect. He referred in his statement to the role of one of them, who is in jail. We know the difficulties of putting such people in jail, so when they are in jail, can they be excluded from being released halfway through their sentences?
John Reid: As a general response to what the hon. Gentleman says, I agree very much. Just as important as operational terrorists are those who train, inspire and guide operational terrorists. That is the mixed threat. I cannot, with my limited experience in the Home Office, give him any guarantees on sentencing policy—I think that I will be turning my mind to that next Monday afternoon—but I take the point that he makes.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): It is quite clear that home-grown terrorists were operating in an international framework. Does the Home Secretary have any specific proposals to increase measures against terrorism internationally and to improve the scrutiny of what is happening in this country? Does he agree that no section of the community can use its opposition to British foreign policy, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, to come anywhere near to justifying mass murder?
John Reid: I very much agree, as I am sure that the whole House does, with my hon. Friend's second point. On her first point, international solidarity and action on borders, the transfer of intelligence and working together operationally are of increasing necessity not only inside the European Union, but with countries that
but with countries that
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are geographically far apart from the European Union. Those actions are especially important with countries that are largely composed of people of the Muslim religion or culture. In my previous job, in which, as the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) pointed out, I took interest and enjoyed, I had a great deal of discussions with some of those countries and formed operational partnerships with them. I am sure that such work will benefit greatly those countries and us because the threat is common to us all. The threat starts off as justifying attacks on foreign soldiers and ends up, in attack theory, as blowing apart innocent Muslim women and children in the streets of Jordan or Iraq. The whole of civilisation is challenged by the threat and should unite against it.
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): May I thank the Secretary of State for his dignified and informative statement? He will be aware from the ISC report that the tragic events of 7/7 followed years of failure, going back to before 1997, to appreciate the scale of the Islamist threat. In particular, this country operated a system—the covenant of security—under which terror propagandists were left at liberty, so that they and their potential recruits could be kept under watch. Given that one key terror propagandist under observation could abscond from his known home address, where he received housing benefit, and remain on the run for 10 months, does the Home Secretary not agree that a full public inquiry could do a great deal to address deep and systemic failings?
John Reid: I am not sure that the answer to what the hon. Gentleman calls systemic failure, which he illustrated with one case, is a public inquiry. Rather than willing the ends and not being prepared to will the means, the House needs the will to will the means. He urged us to take action against people who glorify terrorism, to undertake more competent operational investigations and to let people know about the threat, but I hope that as we do all those things, rather than accuse us of tub-thumping, over-egging the pudding or taking draconian measures against a threat, he and his colleagues will support us as we take the necessary measures to achieve the ends that he identified.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement that the ISC report is factual and detailed, and is not a whitewash. It is important for the Committee that that statement is recorded, but it is even more important that the agencies back his statement. The report expressed concern that Special Branch is underfunded and does not have the capacity or capabilities required to deliver the right security and the investigatory responses required. Does his Department acknowledge that and, if so, what is it going to do about it?
John Reid: I undertake to look carefully at the points made by my hon. Friend, as we take these issues very seriously indeed. As an indication of that, and because of our feelings for the victims of 7 July, we have made a small but symbolic gesture, and every single Home Office Minister is present on the Front Bench today. I will continue to make sure that we look at the problem.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): The Foreign Secretary spoke about the need for
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effective international co-operation. Is he happy with the co-operation that we have received from other countries? If not, which countries require further work? And what is the Foreign Office doing to try to make communications much better?
John Reid: I thank the hon. Gentleman. I have not yet occupied the post of Foreign Secretary—the Foreign Office is one of the few Departments about which I can make that categoric statement. On the serious point that the hon. Gentleman makes, I am not yet in a position to assess in which areas we wish to develop friendships and the exchange of information and intelligence, but my experience in the past few years, particularly in defence, is that there is an increasing awareness among all countries of all backgrounds of the common threat that we all face. I have had useful discussions with many countries in the Gulf, and I have had the pleasure and privilege of long conversations with President Musharraf of Pakistan and others. There is a growing awareness, as I said earlier, that there is a threat not just to one of us but to all of us. It is not a clash between civilisations—it is a threat to civilisation.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and the candour he has displayed in more than an hour of answering questions. May I draw his attention to the Intelligence and Security Committee's conclusion that the radicalisation of British citizens was still not fully understood or properly taken into consideration by the intelligence community? Does he accept that criticism, and what do the Government intend to do to address that shortcoming?
John Reid: I can tell my hon. Friend that I accept that we have a great deal more to do. May I make the general point that part the motivation of the four suicide bombers was a sense of injustice about the treatment of Islam throughout the world by the west? That is the starting point, but we need to go much further and appreciate what underlies that strength of feeling. None of that justifies suicide bombing—neither my hon. Friend nor anyone in the House is suggesting that it does—but the more that we understand one another and understand what motivates those people, including what shapes their development and the context of their beliefs, the better we can cope with the problem. That is why, in the aftermath of 7/7, we set in train, as I said earlier, short-term work, including a programme of ministerial visits to engage local communities. Many Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, are actively engaged in dialogue and action with faith communities. Whether we have reached the parts that we ought to reach is an open question, and that is something that I want to look at. I think, too, that it will be high on the agenda of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who places a strong emphasis on the matter. We shall try to make sure that that is an important aspect of the work that she carries out.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The Home Secretary rightly talked about the victims' families and the agony that they are going through, particularly
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given the publication of the report and the forthcoming anniversary. He will be aware that some of their anguish stems from their difficulty finding the injured on 7/7 and discovering which hospital they had been sent to. They tried to identify and reach their relatives, but they did not want to disrupt the emergency services in the process. I have previously raised the issue on the Floor of the House, and I have spoken about the campaign for Emily's boards, which provide a mechanism for communication. I have met officials from the Department of Health, but Home Office involvement is required. Our efforts to introduce that procedure are moving forward at a snail's pace. Can my right hon. Friend provide me with a point of contact in the Home Office so that we can try to progress a solution? I hope that there is not another atrocity in London or anywhere else in the UK but, if there is, families should not be exposed to that experience again.
John Reid: I thank the hon. Lady, and I urge her to pass on her thanks to her constituents, including the parents of a young victim who I believe, from discussions with my right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary, is called Emily. I thank her for her proposal, as that is one of the lessons that we must learn. As I have said, I do not regard this as the exclusive preserve of any particular party. I shall give what support I can to identify someone to develop the proposal. The matter is not within the ambit of the Home Office, as it is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, but I undertake to look into it and to contact her.
Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): Post-incident analysis and learning from our mistakes is a vital part of intelligence work. The House should not hold back from scrutinising the Government and the Committee's report on the event. Will the Home Secretary clarify something that remains unclear in the report and his previous answers? Were the two bombers, Tanweer and Khan, under surveillance at any stage in the lead-up to the incident and, if so, was that for years or months? I am not just talking about tracing their telephone calls. As a result of the report, will he undertake to consider whether we have the right balance between human intelligence—informers and people working with the community—and intelligence gathered purely from surveillance? A lack of human intelligence often results in our missing threats, as has been the case both at home and abroad in the past.
John Reid: I am asking for clarification of the details. My understanding was that there was not a sustained surveillance operation. Rather, the men were picked up as contacts of a primary target who was under surveillance. The answer that I have been given partly corrects me and is partly indecipherable. It has obviously been written by one of our intelligence agencies! The reply that I gave the hon. Gentleman was my original understanding. If it transpires that there was systemic surveillance of the men for any prolonged period, I will write to him.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I particularly welcome the part of the Home Secretary's statement in which he said how important it is that we engage all communities in British society. Does he agree that it is crucial that we
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all do much more to integrate all communities, particularly Muslims in west Yorkshire and the rest of the country, into the British culture and the British way of life, so that they do not feel such hatred towards us as a nation, and that we do much more to tackle the people who preach hatred about our country, and perhaps kick some of them out of the country? All of us need to tackle the culture of political correctness, which has done so much harm to the integration of people into British society.
John Reid: I agree strongly with the first point that the hon. Gentleman made. One of the great things about Britishness is the strength of unity that we get from our diversity. That has been true for centuries, and I speak as a Scot and a Brit. I want everyone to understand that that is part of being British, as is tolerance of the views of others. I therefore strongly support the positive side of the hon. Gentleman's comments, but if we are to be tolerant of the views of others, we must be rather less tolerant of those who are intolerant of others. That is the other side. As regards political correctness, I do not think I am qualified to pass judgment.