HC Deb 28 April 2003 vol 404 cc9-11
5. Mr. John MacDougall (Central Fife)

What extra resources he has committed to combat terrorism in the UK in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [109759]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett)

The Budget last year allocated £87 million for counter-terrorism. That was supplemented by votes from individual Government Departments. In April this year, I announced a further £330 million, which was allocated from this year's Budget.

Mr. MacDougall

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. There are much welcomed improvements in Northern Ireland, including the peace treaty, and we hope for longer-term peace following the post-Iraq situation. However, global terrorism remains a threat to the world. There is public concern and concern in the House. Can he give us some reassurance? What are the Government doing to inform the public about counterterrorism activities?

Mr. Blunkett

I accept entirely the international action against rogue states. The tremendous efforts of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland continue to build on the progress that has been made in peace in Northern Ireland. There is still a major and outstanding threat from cells and networks that have been accepted throughout the House as being a risk to us. That is why we all have a part to play, and why we set up the website on 19 March: 275,000 pages have been accessed by individuals since then. That indicates that people wish to have information and to be part of the solution.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

I welcome the additional money and pay tribute to the work of the intelligence services, the police and other law enforcement agencies in combating a real and extremely serious threat. Does the Home Secretary agree that the threat is not just terrorism from Ireland, and Northern Ireland, but particularly from elsewhere in the world, and that it is a bubbling problem, especially in some of our metropolitan areas? Does he agree that it is important that we regain a handle on who leaves the country, as well as on those who come into it? What plans does he have to deal with that problem?

Mr. Blunkett

First, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the nature of terrorism has shifted, so a real threat remains. Secondly, successive Governments have struggled with how best to monitor those who depart, in circumstances where we do not have identity cards, although we have invested quite heavily in the past two years in appropriate surveillance equipment at ports. Unlike many places in the world, we have fluidity in terms of people coming in and out of the country. In the United States, for example, a tiny fraction of the population has a passport, but more than 30 million of our population regularly move in and out of the country, while 90 million travel through our airports. This is a real challenge, and one that we need to examine.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

After many weeks of an obvious gap in combating terrorism, will the Home Secretary tell us when he proposes to announce a new Minister of State with responsibilities for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack? If not, why not?

Mr. Blunkett

Until my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister determines a comprehensive reshuffle, the post that was occupied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has been occupied by Lord Falconer, who has been working directly to me. I have taken on further responsibilities in addition to the counter-terrorism measures that I already held, including all the work that we do with MI5.