HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
Last week’s attempted terrorist attack in New York was, thankfully, foiled, but this latest outrage is yet another reminder of the unprecedented scale of the threat we face from terrorism.
Chillingly, the perpetrator had been granted his ‘Green Card’ – giving him permanent residency in the United States, highlighting the particularly insidious problem of so-called ‘home grown’ terrorists.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict, some 850 individuals with links to the United Kingdom have travelled to the region to join forces with our Islamist enemies.
Roughly half are believed to have returned. In that context, the new defence secretary Gavin Williamson was absolutely right when he said: “A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain. I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country.”
Those who so cravenly choose to make themselves our enemies will face the overwhelming might of our Armed Forces and – as many foreign aggressors of the past have found to their cost – the Queen’s soldiers, sailors and airmen should not be underestimated.
Under international law, a State is required to allow its citizens entry. But given that those who have travelled to Syria or Iraq have betrayed our country, any suggestion that they should be returning to a welcome home is patently absurd.
Instead, they will be subject to the full force of British law and brought to justice for their offences. The Treason Act of 1351 is still in force, making it a crime of high treason to “adhere to the Sovereign’s enemies…in the realm or elsewhere.” Convictions under the Act carry a life sentence, with the option for the judge to deny all possibility of parole.
Our resolve in the face of evil must be unwavering, so the police, security and intelligence services should have the powers and resources they need to keep us safe. Counter-terrorism spending has been protected, with particular investment in policing to bolster key capabilities. £144 million, for instance, will increase armed policing capability over the next five years.
A security minister, I was proud to steer the Investigatory Powers Bill though Parliament... now, as an Act, it provides the means to anticipate and count terrorist plots and the plans of other serious criminals
Doing all we can to unite in the fight against Islamism, we can take heart from the fact that, throughout our history, we have been in the vanguard of facing down tyranny and evil. We shall not be intimidated by this latest threat, to whom our message – like Churchill’s to the Nazis – is clear: “We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst – and we will do our best.”