The Daily Telegraph

Alex Carlile

New laws may be needed to compel internet providers to remove extremist websites quickly

- ALEX CARLILE LE Lord Carlile QC was the independen­t reviewer of terrorism legislatio­n at READ MORE

Amid the disagreeme­nts of party politics, parliament­arians are fiercely loyal to each other in sorrow and crises. Keith Palmer was our friend as well as our guardian. Toby Ellwood rightly is praised for his presence of mind and his courage. Both Houses have sat in grief and memorial. Now we move on to the harder questions posed by Wednesday’s terrorist outrage.

Important facts are emerging. The perpetrato­r was known to MI5 some time ago, but was judged to fall below surveillan­ce priority. Isil is claiming responsibi­lity: attrition in the war in Syria has shifted its targeting to terrorism in the West. Should factors change our tactics and thinking?

The adequacy of counter-terrorism law will be examined after this event as carefully as the security of Parliament. Obtaining new and proportion­ate law has been a struggle since 2005, impeded by some media and civil liberties groups. Already there has been a change of media mood. Some opponents of the unfairly dubbed “snooper’s charter” (enacted in the Investigat­ory Powers Act 2016) yesterday changed their tune. I await some clarity as to the current views of Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow attorney general on these issues.

The temptation to say “something more needs to be done” should be treated with caution in terms of changes in the law. The 2016 Act has been crafted to enable the authoritie­s to act against suspects, with careful protection­s for the innocent. The range of terrorism-related offences is already wide. The important questions are not about the law itself, but rather its enforcemen­t and effect.

At the root of the problem lies online radicalisa­tion. To my generation it long seemed almost incredible that an intelligen­t person could be turned from diligent student to terrorist by what they saw on a screen in the privacy of their bedroom. However, the evidence is overwhelmi­ng: it is happening all the time. So, how do we meet this ever more urgent challenge?

First, we need to reinforce the attack on internet radicalisa­tion. Government activity is strong in this area: in the past half-year they have contribute­d to the removal of tens of thousands of extremist sites on the internet. This is an effort that should be resourced as much as needed – the long-term benefit is plain. If a new law is necessary to compel internet service providers to cooperate with these efforts, it must be made – though signs of cooperatio­n are increasing.

Second, we need to develop the Prevent programme which, though maligned by its enemies and a gullible political minority, is achieving a high level of success. I am confident that the Home Secretary, who plainly has a solid understand­ing of the subject, will press for increased funding. The programme is admired in other comparable countries.

Third, we must develop conciliati­on programmes. The private sector, including internet service providers, is participat­ing across Europe in community engagement against radicalisa­tion. Yesterday in Belgium thousands of people attended a ‘‘flash mob’’ event opposed to radicalisa­tion. It was a huge success, organised and sponsored by the private sector. UK charitable and interfaith organisati­ons have achieved much. We need the commitment of the Government to partner fund more of these programmes over an extended period.

Fourth, and crucially, I turn to the funding of the security services and counter-terrorism policing. They have grown exponentia­lly, but so has the threat. We must ensure that they have the resources and staffing to do their job in the public interest. The cost to the public purse of Wednesday’s crimes will be huge and long-lasting. The ability to interdict a future, similar event would represent obvious value for money. The public servants involved are unsung heroes whose analytical and active skills have prevented over a dozen dangerous plots in the last three years, and protected us from ambitious terrorist planning prior to and during the 2012 Olympic Games.

In addition, we should examine whether more police officers should be armed. Whether this would have saved the unarmed Pc Palmer is speculatio­n. Neverthele­ss, the knowledge that every officer was armed would have some deterrent effect at iconic places like the Houses of Parliament.

We should examine too the planning aspects of the security of vulnerable institutio­ns like Parliament. This is for mature reflection and review. Yesterday I saw engineers strengthen­ing the stability of the barriers outside the House of Lords. Much more strategic examinatio­n may be needed. What we must include at least is a commitment to ensure that, for example, ongoing road changes near such buildings do not dilute security. The perpetrato­r’s vehicle took advantage of a wide, new cycle lane as he cut down innocent pedestrian­s, and came nearer to the vehicle gates into Parliament. We learn from events, and this may well be one of the lessons.

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