Below is the text of the speech made by Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, in the House of Commons on 18 July 2016.
I start by welcoming the Home Secretary to her new position and welcoming her well-judged and heartfelt words to the House today. She spoke for us all in condemning this nauseating attack, and in sending our sympathy and solidarity to the families affected and to the French people. From the very outset of the right hon. Lady’s tenure, let me assure her of my ongoing support in presenting a united front from this House to those who plan and perpetrate these brutal acts.
It is a sad reflection of the dark times in which we live that this is the third time in the last nine months that we have gathered to discuss a major terrorist incident in mainland Europe. Each new incident brings new factors and changes perceptions on the nature of the threat posed by modern terrorism—and this one was no different. This was an act of indiscriminate and sickening brutality, made all the more abhorrent by the targeting of families and children. Ten children and babies were killed, 50 are still being treated, and many more have been orphaned and left with lasting psychological scars. Unlike other attacks, this was not planned by a cell with sophisticated tactics and weapons. A similar attack could be launched anywhere at any time, and that is what makes it so frightening and so difficult to predict and prevent.
Let me start with the question of whether there are any immediate implications for the United Kingdom. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said that UK police were “reviewing” security plans for “large public events” taking place this week. What conclusions were reached as part of that review, and were any changes made in the light of it? Will the Home Secretary be issuing any updated security advice to the organisers of the numerous large public gatherings and festivals that will take place throughout the country over the rest of the summer? We welcome the Mayor of London’s confirmation that the Metropolitan police were reviewing safety measures in the capital. Can the Home Secretary confirm that similar reviews are taking place in large cities throughout the United Kingdom?
After the attacks in Paris, the Home Secretary’s predecessor committed herself to an urgent review of our response to firearms attacks. It has been suggested in the French media that if armed officers had been on the scene more quickly in Nice, they could have prevented the lorry from travelling as far as it did. Has the review that was commissioned been completed, and if so, what changes in firearms capability are proposed as a result? In the wake of Paris, the Home Secretary’s predecessor also promised to protect police budgets, but that has not been honoured, and there are real-terms cuts this year. Will the new Home Secretary pledge today to protect police budgets in real terms?
The Home Secretary mentioned the Prevent programme. I have to say that I do not share her complacent view of what it is achieving. In fact, some would say that it is counter-productive, creating a climate of suspicion and mistrust and, far from tackling extremism, creating the very conditions for it to flourish. The Government’s own Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has said that the whole programme
“could benefit from independent review.”
Will the Home Secretary accept Labour’s call for a cross-party review of how the statutory Prevent duty is working?
Immediately after the attack, it was described in the media as an act of Islamic terrorism, but it is now clear that the lifestyle of the individual had absolutely nothing to do with the Islamic faith, and the French authorities have cast doubt on whether there was any link between him and Daesh. Does the Home Secretary agree that promptly labelling this attack Islamic terrorism hands a propaganda coup to the terrorists, whose whole purpose is to deepen the rift between the Muslim community and the rest of society? Does she agree that more care should be taken with how such atrocities are labelled in future?
This was, of course, the first attack in Europe since the European Union referendum. Can the Home Secretary assure the House that, in these times, she and the wider Government are making every effort to maintain strong collaboration with the French and the European authorities, and to send them the clear message that, whatever our differences, Britain will always be by their side and ready to help?