Chris Grayling should resign over rail chaos, says Labour – Politics live

Chris Grayling should resign over rail chaos, says Labour – Politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

Chris Grayling is the head of Network Rail at the end of the day … He should resign. But this prime minister is so enfeebled that she cannot dismiss him, so he’s not going to resign. She can’t dismiss him. So we’re stuck with the status quo in terms of the DfT. But he should accept that this is yet another complete failure on his part. And in ordinary times any self-respecting secretary of state would resign today, I have no doubt about it.

I’d want to know why on earth this wasn’t red flagged weeks and weeks ago, and somebody pressing the pause button. If I had been secretary of state, I’d be saying, ‘Could you guarantee me that these services will take place in accordance with the new timetable?’ And in the absence of those guarantees I’d be saying, if we’re not ready, we pause it. It’s as simple as that. And I’m aghast that Chris Grayling has been so far removed from this, and seeks to blame all and sundry, rather than accepting his responsibility as secretary of state.

You literally could not make this up. Chris Grayling is having to rearrange or cancel meetings with MPs about Northern today because he underestimated demand and cannot make the timetable work

The DfT did not foresee the large numbers of MPs who would want a meeting, or that they might need to make a statement. Is there any understanding of the scale of this crisis in Whitehall?

The real divide in the UK is not between the people of the four nations. It is between the richest and the rest of us. 1 in 4 Scottish children are living in poverty at a time when the richest one per cent in Scotland own more personal wealth than the poorest 50 per cent.

That won’t change by redrawing lines on a map, it will only change with a rebalanced economy and a redistribution of wealth, power and opportunity.

Liberty, the human rights group, has criticised the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy. Its advocacy director, Corey Stoughton, issued this statement.

Terrorism is a serious issue deserving serious thought. Sadly this ‘strategy’ is a regurgitation of failed thinking – heavy on soundbites, light on substance.

The government continues to use dangerously vague definitions of extremism to tarnish communities, encourage policing by prejudice and press service providers and local authorities into becoming unwilling and untrained agents of the security services.

There is one urgent question in the Commons today, then three statements, then an application for an emergency debate on the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

UQ at 3.30: 1 @Debbie_abrahams to @EstherMcVey1 on withdrawal of her appeal re: PIP. 3 statements:
1 US steel & aluminium tariffs – Fox
2 Rail timetabling – Grayling
3 Nuclear Power – Clark Then SO24 application @stellacreasy abortion in NI

Here is a round-up of some Brexit news around today.

Forget June as a key #Brexit summit – says Germany’s Brexit co-ordinator 1

In a letter seen by the Financial Times from Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, to Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover, the minister also says: “The government aims to keep VAT processes after EU exit as close as possible to what they are now.”

If Britain seeks to remain inside the EU VAT area, it will continue to be bound by rules set in Brussels that are ultimately policed by the European Court of Justice, breaking one of Theresa May’s negotiating red lines.

European officials have told the government that they will not ask the EU’s trading partners to allow Britain to benefit from current trade deals with key countries such as Japan or South Korea until Theresa May signs the final legal text of a Brexit deal.

The decision means that Liam Fox, the trade secretary, will have less than three months between the conclusion of withdrawal negotiations at an EU summit in December and Brexit day, March 29, 2019, to negotiate the continuation of Britain’s current free trade agreements. Without the trade deals Britain faces a cliff edge of tariffs and economic disruption despite having agreed a transition period covering membership of the single market and customs union until the end of 2020.

According to a survey of Conservative party members for ConservativeHome, almost 70% of party members think Theresa Ma should either resign now (24%) or before the next general election (45%). As the ConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman says in his write-up, there are only two other months since the general election when May’s standing on this measure was worse.

This figure stood at seven out of ten party members last June, in the immediate aftermath of the calamitous general election campaign. It peaked again in January in the wake of the bungled Cabinet reshuffle.

Now it is at its third highest rating on record. The only credible explanation is that May’s policy of delay over the Brexit negotiation is damaging her position, and further procrastination is likely to do so even further.

Here are the main points from Sajid Javid’s speech on the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy (pdf) and Q&A afterwards.

Responding to the recommendations of MI5 and the counter-terrorism police’s Operational Improvement Review into the 2017 terrorist attacks, which was overseen by David Anderson, new multi-agency approaches – initially in London, Manchester and the West Midlands – involve MI5 and the police using and sharing information more widely, working with partners such as local authorities to improve our understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions.

Through Prevent, the government, local authorities, police and communities will continue to safeguard and support vulnerable people from the risk of being drawn into terrorism, working with a wide network of partners to prevent radicalisation and build resilience.

Of that 20,000, there will always be a few hundred that, although they are closed subjects, at a local level these agencies might be able to help with them and maybe come up with an intervention programme of some sort. When we start with the pilots, it won’t be in the hundreds. We’re going to start with one to 100 or so. They are pilots. We want to see what kind of interventions work best.

We do understand and accept that one of the lessons from 2017 was that we need to work more broadly and share that data more locally.

When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they were not voting for us to stop working with our European allies to keep everyone safe.

So it would be wrong and reckless for anyone to advocate any unnecessary reduction in this co-operation.

One thing that was a lesson from the 2017 attacks was that we need to be better at disrupting potential attacks earlier on. And at the moment we don’t feel that there are enough offences on the statute book, maybe less serious offences, that would give the police or the CPS [the ability] to charge someone or prosecute someone early on.

I’ll give you an example. Today if someone is encouraging terrorism online, they are sharing information clearly, they are sharing images, there’s a certain threshold that needs to be reached before the police or CPS can act. And we want to lower that threshold because it would allow us to intervene and bring that person in a lot earlier. And I think that’s sensible.

Days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, I recall being at a vigil in Trafalgar Square with my eleven year old daughter. She’d heard that something truly terrible had taken place in Paris, but she wasn’t entirely clear on the details or the context. She saw people in the crowd holding pens and pencils in the air, and she asked me why.

I told her that the men who were murdered at Charlie Hebdo had been targeted because they’d drawn cartoons. When you say it in such stark terms you realise just how absurd it sounds. And my daughter, with the innocence of a child, was troubled by this. She loves drawing, she wants to be an artist herself one day. So she looked at me and she said something that is seared into my memory. “Daddy … if I draw a cartoon, will they kill me too?” So I had to explain why not, and what the issues were, and why it had happened …

Here is the full text of Sajid Javid’s speech.

Alan Travis, who until recently was the Guardian’s home affairs editor, has been looking at the new counter-terrorism strategy published today.

Today’s refreshed counter-terrorism plans which see MI5 sharing intelligence on ‘suspected terrorist sympathisers’ with local govt, headteachers,etc appear to echo Theresa May’s 2015 plans to blacklist extremists across the public sector.

Revised counter-terror strategy confirms (p.42) that security services are to identify people “who are vulnerable to radicalisation” are/have been “of interest to the police/MI5” because of possible terror links but aren’t currently being investigated. Human rights issues here.

Home secretary Sajid Javid launching revised policy has said “a few hundred” of the 20,000 terror suspects who have been investigated by the police/MI5 in the past “will be of particular interest”. Their names, addresses and other details will be shared in the new pilots.

This is what Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said in his Q&A when asked about EU plans to stop full security cooperation with the UK after Brexit.

Javid said that there was a lot of cooperation at the moment and that the UK wanted this to continue. Then he went on:

Actually, the European Union is not speaking with one voice on this. Nothing unusual about that. The commission has got its hardline on so many things. It’s negotiating, you would expect a bit of that.

But one thing that is absolutely clear, although I’ve been in this role [five weeks], I’ve met with a number of European interior ministers, who are my equivalents, and every single one that I’ve met, they’ve absolutely agreed, they not only want the cooperation to continue as it is, but they also are open to how can we make it even deeper.

My colleague Simon Jenkins has written a ‘First thoughts’ column on Sajid Javid’s plans to share information about potential terror suspects more widely. He is horrified.

Here is his article.

Related: Sajid Javid’s counter-terrorism plans risk Britain’s freedom | Simon Jenkins

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has made an astonishing proposal among his raft of strategies to be unveiled today. It is that personal information possessed by MI5 on some 20,000 British “suspected” citizens be declassified and shared with local authorities, police “and others”. This is in order to “counter terrorism”. There is no way such material can possibly stay secret.

Since no one knows if they are on this list, they have no way of countering or correcting false identification or information. No one giving information to the state, including possibly the identity of the giver, will be able to trust its secrecy …

Here is the news release from the Home Office about the new counter-terrorism strategy.

Q: [From the Telegraph’s Kate McCann] What will your new policy mean for consumers? If I buy a lot of fertiliser for my roses, will I get a visit from the police?

Javid says, when people buy dual use products, if those purchasers have been flagged up before as a person of concern, then action should be taken. That is a sensible approach, he says.

Q: [From the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn] Who do you think in the private sector is not doing enough? And, in Brussels, who is blocking a security deal?

Javid says he would like to commend those are are starting to do a lot more. Google, Facebook and Twitter were not doing enough in the past. But, largely because of what Amber Rudd did in terms of setting up a global initiative on counter-terrorism, they are doing a lot more.

Q: [From the BBC’s Frank Gardner] You are putting money into counter-terrorism. But community policing is being starved of funds. Won’t this cut of the supply of intelligence?

Javid says since 2015 police budgets have been protected.

Q: [From 5 News’s Andy Bell] Potentially you are talking about councils and others being told that people not guilty of anything are suspects. Doesn’t this breach people’s human rights?

Javid says the agencies is talking about already get access to some of these names.

Q: How will you develop security relationships with the EU after Brexit? And how will you get them to collaborate with the UK when it is no longer a member?

Javid says, at the moment, there is a lot of security cooperation.

Javid is now taking questions.

Q: As you spread out classified intelligence to bodies that do not normally see this information, how will you retain public support for the process?

Javid, who is of Muslim heritage, said the fact that he is home secretary is a rebuke to the terrorists.

We need to offer compelling alternatives to the narrative of hate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Islamist extremists, with their claims that our shared values are incompatible with the religion of Islam.

Or the hateful extremists of the far right, who feed off the narratives of Islamists to attack our multi-ethnic society. These people want to destroy the values we hold dear, and undermine the freedoms that make us who we are.

Javid recalls taking his 11-year-old daughter to a demonstration in London to express support for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. He had to explain that people were killed for drawing cartoons, he says. He says this was particular difficult because his daughter likes cartoons and wants to be an artist. She asked him, if she became an artist, whether people would want to kill her, he says. He says it was harrowing having to explain to her what had happened.

Javid confirms that he will bring forward new counter-terrorism legislation.

The Home Office has just sent out a new news release with some details. It says:

This legislation will:

amend existing terrorism offences to update them for the digital age and to reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation and to close gaps in their scope, including making it an offence to repeatedly view streamed video content online;

Javid says an extra £50m will be spent on counter-terrorism policing this year. That will take the budget for counter-terrorism policing to around £750m, he says.

Javid says there are six key elements in the new counter-terrorism strategy.

This is how the Home Office summed them up in its briefing. It said the government –

will work to disrupt threats earlier and we are bringing forward new legislation to enable us to do that.

will continue to make sure counter-terrorism policing and our security and intelligence services have the support they need.

The Home Office has now published its revised counter-terrorism strategy (Contest) on its website. The 98-page document is here (pdf).

Javid sums up the state of the current terror threat.

See 9.26am for a summary.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is delivering his speech on the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy now.

He starts by referring to the London Bridget attack last year. He quotes a resident saying it changed the community around London Bridge – but not in the way the attackers expected. It made residents more determined than ever to preserve its diversity, he says.

In his Today interview Ben Wallace, the security minister, was also asked about today’s Guardian splash saying a large number of convicted terrorists are due to be released by the end of this year. Here is our story.

Related: Sajid Javid to unveil revamped counter-terrorism strategy

It is a concern because what we are seeing nowadays is a large group of people who have effectively crossed the Rubicon to becoming radicalised, that is the mindset that they have now accepted or adapted.

That’s why we are piloting in the Contest [counter-terror strategy] the multi-agency approach for some of these individuals that will see us bring to bear the broader public sector and agencies and, indeed, even the private sector to try and focus on them.

The Home Office briefing about the Sajid Javid speech indicates that he will propose more sharing of information about terror suspects with local authorities, but it does not give much detail. (See 9.10am.) The Home Office will “work more with key partners outside of central government and increase our cooperation with the private sector”, it says.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, put out a statement saying local authorities should not be expected to take on the work of the police and the security services. Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said:

Information sharing could be a positive step but what is crucial is that councils are not treated as a replacement for the expertise and resources of the security services and police. Local authorities are not MI5 and it’s essential that the police and security services lead on responding to and acting on any threats.

We will continue to engage with government to ensure residents are kept safe and that local authorities can play their role in supporting and protecting communities. While we can all be on the lookout, preventing and protecting us from terrorism is a responsibility that should remain with the police and security services.

On the Today programme this morning Ben Wallace, the security minister, tried to explain how the new counter-terrorism strategy will involve those on the margins of terrorist activity being monitored more effectively. He said core suspects, or “hardened attack planners” as he put it, were investigated by the intelligence services. But these investigations threw up other names, he said.

During the course of these type of investigations people make hundreds of phone calls, thousands of text messages are sent, and people appear on the periphery of those type of investigations, either by association or indeed because they may or may not be involved in a supporting role, such as lending them some money – they might not know what it’s for, or they might know exactly what they are lending the money for. So that creates a large pool of people who are currently not active but present a real challenge because they are the ones who often appear in some of the attacks, who have been known but [have] not actually crossed that current activity that means we could do something about it. So we have to see how we can broaden the system to flag up when those people are behaving suspiciously or engaging in something more serious.

If it’s reported to use that some of these people are now buying explosive precursors, or poisons which are regulated substances already in law, if we run those people’s names pass a database and it flags them up, it gives us an early warning system that we have to do something …

If it came to car hire or van hire, and the DVLA or a car hire company washes its data to us – this is not us giving them names, this is them giving us names if they are suspicious or anything else – and we see a flag, suddenly an individual is hiring a van who isn’t involved in delivery or doesn’t use a van and has been involved in previous plots or discussions about using a vehicle as a weapon, that allows us to flag something up that previously has not been possible.

The Home Office overnight briefing about the Sajid Javid speech contained a useful overview about the state of the terror threat. Here is an excerpt.

The threat level assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) is SEVERE meaning an attack is highly likely. Twice in 2017 JTAC raised the threat level to CRITICAL.

The security and intelligence agencies and CT policing have foiled 25 Islamist plots since June 2013, 12 since March 2017.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is unveiling a new counter-terrorism strategy today. There will be a written ministerial statement to parliament (no plans for an oral statement yet, although the opposition may try to insist on one) and a speech this morning. According to extracts from the speech released overnight, Javid will say there must be “no safe spaces for terrorists”. He will say:

Ultimately, our approach is about ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists. No safe spaces internationally, in the UK or online.

I’m committed to improving how we work with businesses across a range of issues.

That includes faster alerts for suspicious purchases, improving security at crowded places across the UK, and reducing the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure.

Continue reading…

Source: Guardian Transport

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