The Paris Attacks

You may be interested in the article I have written for the Mail on Sunday (11th January edition). We will only be able to sort out our spending priorities and keep this country safe if we sort out our relationship with the EU. That means voting to leave the EU to force a renegotiation in a referendum. Only a majority Conservative government will guarantee that we have the referendum.

Utter madness of paying MORE cash to Brussels... and LESS on spooks who can stop murderers, says Tory MP BERNARD JENKIN

The terrorist atrocity in Paris has shocked the world. 

It has particularly shocked people who work for newspapers. They already knew that publishing material offensive to Muslim fundamentalists could result in reprisals, but this has brought home the reality.

The terrorists strike without warning. Isolated individuals or small groups can blindside the best counter-terrorism plans and capabilities. 

They pick on soft targets, kill indiscriminately and are professionally trained. They are careless of their own lives and safety.

But this is nothing new. It is utterly shocking and new for Paris, which has seen nothing like it. 

Paris perhaps thought they could be immune from this. They took part in no ‘illegal’ invasion of Iraq. 

They stayed out of the worst conflict areas in Afghanistan.

They have a much more pro-Arab/less pro-Israel foreign policy than the UK or the US.

But London’s 7/7 attack, the bloody assassination of Fusilier Lee Rigby, the pointless murder of hostages: this is the new normal. 

But I hazard a guess that most people would be even more shocked to learn that the UK has cut its intelligence and Security Services, despite knowing all this.

After the shock of a new attack, we want to ask: how effective are governments at protecting the public from future attacks? 

How much counter-terrorist operations anticipate and disrupt terrorist activity is the big challenge.

In the UK, you are entitled to feel safe. Unlike France, the UK became practised at living with terrorism throughout the IRA attacks of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 

Through this experience, we have developed and built upon effective counter-terrorism strategy, plans and capabilities. 

Our capability to respond to attacks is envied. The British Security Services and police are internationally respected as ‘best in class’ in this.

They are coping with huge increases in the number of threats, disrupting terrorist plans, and catching and prosecuting those responsible. 


The most spectacular success was thwarting the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, in which terrorists planned to detonate bottles of liquid peroxide bombs carried on board at least ten airliners travelling from the UK to the US and Canada. 

But most such work goes unreported.

But how can we keep up with the growth of the threat? 

MI5 Director General Andrew Parker stated last week that terror-related arrests are up 35 per cent in the last four years and a major terrorist plot has been prevented every year since 2007.

It’s worth reminding ourselves: the suicide terrorists, like the Paris gunmen, are not ‘the enemy’. 

They are merely a delivery system. They are being operated by people with a strategy, who intend to win their grotesque campaign, and to achieve their objectives, not to get killed themselves.

So we need the intelligence services to provide the knowledge of who these people are, how they operate, who their friends are and what they are thinking. 

The paucity of this kind of human intelligence in Syria became apparent when the Cabinet was trying to decide what to do about the civil war there in 2013.

The terror leaders’ capability is greatly enhanced by exploiting the ‘dark internet’ and social media. 

This is one of the reasons the Security Services must have the encryption codes used by Google or Microsoft.

Historically, the State has always been able to steam open your letters, so why not today? 

Or we are living in a new age where the most evil forces can operate immune from even the most judicious scrutiny. The radicalised ‘lone wolf’ or small, isolated cells are needles in the haystack – and they are multiplying.

The West decided, wrongly in my view, that stalemate in the Syrian civil war was preferable to intervention and resolution. 

As a result, Islamic State has turned large swathes of Syria and Northern Iraq, including many towns and cities, into safe havens for terrorism.

Like Hamas in Palestine, or the Taliban, they appeal to a population desperate for someone to take control, but also create exactly the kind of ungoverned spaces as in Afghanistan in 2001, from which Al Qaeda launched this new era of international terrorism.

It is impossible to track precisely, but MI6 estimates at least 250 British jihadists have returned from Syria so far – fully trained and radicalised. 

There are some 15,000 foreign fighters in the Middle East, of which about 500 are from the UK.

Yet it is an astonishing fact that the Government has been reducing what we spend on the Security Services. 

In 2010, the budget was £2 billion, but has declined to £1.88 billion since then.

Yes, money has been diverted to the new Cyber Security and Critical Capability Pool (now £123 million) but there is a widely held view this still leaves a serious gap and does not address the expanding accelerating cyber security threat.

In the case of both the 7/7 bombings and the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, the terrorists that would go on to commit these atrocities were known to authorities, but they were not tracking them.

After the Rigby murder, MI5 told the Intelligence and Security Committee, ‘MI5 has limited resources, and must continuously prioritise its investigations in order to allocate those resources’.

This was a point backed up last week by Andrew Parker who said there is a ‘growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the growing availability of capabilities to address it’. 

Monitoring potential terrorists is very resource intensive, requiring three shifts of eight agents to watch one suspect. 

Alternatives are house arrest, or longer periods of detention without trial, or control orders.

These are all rejected by politicians more concerned about civil liberties than terrorism. 

That is a dilemma: how do you protect society from terrorism, without compromising the principles of freedom and democracy we are defending?

I support the Government’s commitment to increase overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of our GDP. If we can afford that, surely we can afford security too. 

Since 2010, the UK’s net – note, NET – contribution to the EU has rocketed from £7.2 billion to £11.3 billion.

Why on earth have we agreed that, and then agreed to the latest Brussels raid of a further £1.5 billion if we cannot fund counter-terrorism and security fully?

We also need to fund defence, in line with the NATO requirement of two per cent of GDP, but no commitment from any political party is forthcoming.

If we want to maximise our chances of preventing a Paris-type terrorist attack in Britain, we must get our priorities right. 

On Tuesday, my Committee will be asking Treasury mandarins how we set our spending priorities.

Right now it makes no sense at all for us to be spending more on other things and less on defence and security.

Bernard Jenkin is Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex. He is chairman of both the Commons Public Administration Committee and of the All Party Parliamentary Homeland Security Group.

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