Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 6:39 pm ar 24 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 6:39, 24 Ebrill 2024

I thank the Minister for his statement and I thank civil servants at the Home Office for briefing me in advance of the debate.

Today’s proscription order for the Terrorgram collective, also known as just Terrorgram, is brought about by the exceptional men and women who serve in our intelligence and security services, in government and in our police. They perform a vital public service, and I thank them for it. We on the Opposition Benches will always work with the Government on these crucial matters of national security in order to stop the malign forces that seek to harm us, divide us or undermine our way of life.

Let me say at the outset that the Opposition support the proscription of Terrorgram as a terrorist organisation. Terrorgram takes the form of an online network of neo-fascist terrorists, who produce and share violent material that incites violent, extreme right-wing activity here in the UK and abroad. Even after our nation’s existential fight and victory over fascists almost 80 years ago, their threat to our security and our way of life has never completely gone away. We must always defeat fascism wherever we find it. That is why it is important that the order before us will amend schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 to add Terrorgram to the list of proscribed organisations. Doing so will make it a criminal offence to engage with the Terrorgram group, to promote support for it or to display its logo.

Terrorgram’s name derives from it being a group on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, so we very much welcome the innovative approach to proscription outlined by the Minister. Even though Terrorgram is without a physical presence in the UK, its online presence, which glorifies terrorist acts and shares bomb-making materials, is a threat to our national security. The Minister cited a number of examples. I will refer to the attack in Slovakia in 2022, where the threat posed by Terrorgram became a deadly and tragic reality, when a 19-year-old assailant killed two people in an LGBT nightclub. He later took his own life but left a manifesto that thanked Terrorgram for

“building the future of the white revolution one publication at a time”.

We approve of the Government’s innovative action that will lead to the rightful proscription of Terrorgram. Within legal frameworks, there must be an approach that is relentless, agile and cunning to defeat all terrorist groups. Regardless of whatever warped ideology they peddle, violent extremists across the spectrum continue to use online platforms to radicalise their support base and organise their activities. We must prepare to proscribe more online groups, if that is necessary.

These online groups—online cesspits—regularly feature violent misogyny, an abhorrent trait that is a common feature in all terrorist ideologies, including extreme right-wing terrorism. As the Minister will know very well, the Prevent programme currently does not recognise violent misogyny and incel ideology as extremist ideologies. Will the Minister provide an assurance that the appropriate frameworks are in place to bridge the gap between violent misogyny and recognised extremist ideologies?

Today’s proscription of Terrorgram comes after the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published the Government’s definition of extremism in March. Although long overdue, we believe this definition of extremism is welcome and will lead us towards better countering some of the causes of terrorist threats to our country. As the Minister would acknowledge, the new definition was always intended to be the beginning of a process to better counter extremism, not the process in its entirety. What progress has been made between the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on publishing a list of organisations designated as extremist?

Terrorgram’s corrosive influence must also be viewed in the wider context of rising hate crime across the UK.

Since 2018, police forces in England and Wales have recorded increases in reports in four out of the five hate crime strands—race, sexual orientation, disability and transgender. Furthermore, since 7 October, the Community Security Trust has recorded a 147% increase in antisemitic incidents compared with 2022, and Tell MAMA has recorded a 335% increase in anti-Muslim hate cases in the past four months alone.

The Minister will know that the last hate crime action plan was published eight years ago. He knows more than others that proscription is an incredibly important means to counter extremist activity, but it is not the only means. A new hate crime action plan could be part of the arsenal to disrupt and defeat violent extremism. Can the Minister say what plans the Home Office has to publish an updated one?

To conclude, proscribing Terrorgram is the right thing to do for our national security. It was no longer tolerable or safe for the poison of Terrorgram’s violent ideology and terrorist material to be in reach of malign actors in our country. It had to be treated with the strongest and most robust antidote: proscription. We welcome that the UK is the first country to do so. No Government can ever relent in their determination to ensure that, as a country, we are always one step ahead of those who seek to harm us, to divide us or to undermine our way of life. This House must always stand united in protecting the public whom we strive to serve and protect. That is why we strongly support this proscription order.