The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on counter-terrorism is a timely contribution to the debate around what continues to be the most serious and immediate threat to the United Kingdom. Terrorism is a complex security challenge and the report makes a number of recommendations that warrant serious consideration by the Government.
HJS has consistently highlighted a number of UK Counter-terrorism challenges examined by the Committee:
- The report explicitly references evidence from the Henry Jackson Society on the effectiveness of the Charity Commission in countering terrorist groups’ abuse of charities. The Charity Commission’s leadership is making serious efforts to address the Commission’s inadequate capabilities to limit, vet and disqualify charities suspected of associating with terrorism. As such, we strongly support the report’s call for more resources for the Commission to advance this important aspect of its remit.
- HJS strongly echoes the report’s assertion that the Government needs a “clear strategy” to deal with those vulnerable to further radicalisation and violent action upon their return to the UK from Syria and other potential similar conflicts. We agree such a strategy could be akin to the current Channel programme, which aims to support individuals vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists.
- HJS welcomes the report’s observation that terror suspects placed under a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure (TPIM) should be given a pathway out of radicalism. More opportunities for terror suspects to engage with those who can challenge their ideology and theological outlook must be afforded. However, the report does not pay sufficient attention to the government’s inability to relocate terror suspects, a key difference between TPIMs and Control Orders, the legislation that was scrapped in 2012 as part of a political compromise within the Coalition Government. We note that the loss of this power has coincided with a rise in the number of terror suspects absconding, which is a national security threat of significant concern.
- HJS strongly supports the principle that credible oversight of intelligence and security agencies is of vital importance in any democracy, this being all the more so given the acute current challenge of new technologies and wider public concern over the relationship between liberty and security. While we welcome sensible initiatives to increase appropriate oversight capabilities, we are concerned that the Committee’s proposed solutions fail to adequately appreciate the potential for overt politicisation of the relevant mechanisms.
Davis Lewin, Political Director of the Henry Jackson Society, has stated in response to the report: “The Home Affairs Committee’s Report is a welcome addition to the debate on an issue that goes to the core of keeping Britons safe.
“The recognition that the Charity Commission must be resourced properly to make headway in its efforts to stop the system being abused in support of terrorism is paramount. The recommendations on dealing with fighters returning from Syria are also sensible and urgent.
“However, I am wary of the potential politicisation of the crucial issue of oversight of the intelligence community that some of the report’s recommendations risk.”