Category: Terrorism

Interfaith Meeting to condemn the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka

Lord Sheikh, in conjunction with the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, hosted an interfaith meeting in the River Room in the House of Lords to condemn the atrocities of the East Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka and show solidarity with all the communities.

The meeting allowed the members and leaders of various communities to unite and join hands to face evil and establish solidarity against bigotry, extremism and terrorism of any sort wherever it may occur.

Attendees of the meeting all stood together to condemn the actions of the perpetrators as ‘not in our name’. Guests and speakers alike expressed the view that what they have done should not result in any division or animosity within the communities in the UK, Sri Lanka and in fact, throughout the world.

Lord Sheikh spoke of the support lent to Sri Lanka by the UK government by the dispatch of a Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command specialist team and Family Liaison Officers. Lord Sheikh also emphasised that the actions of the perpetrators were go against the teachings in the Holy Quran and are un-Islamic.

Her Excellency, Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner Sri Lanka also spoke at the meeting. The High Commissioner stressed that Sri Lanka is fundamentally multi-faith and commended the Sri Lankan community for standing in solidarity in the aftermath of the attacks.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Faith and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales also spoke and emphasised that all faiths and communities across the world should unite against such attacks.

Other speakers at the meeting included:

Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, former Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) Afzal Khan MP, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration). Catherine West MP Seema Malhotra MP Virender Sharma MP The Lord Dholokia, Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers The Rt Hon. the Lord Paul Bishop of Westminster, Bishop John Wilson Reverend Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker House of Commons Venerable Seelawimala Bogoda Rabbi David Mason, on behalf of the Chief Rabbi Reverend Father Sudham Perera Dr Richard Sudworth, Advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury Krishan Kant Attri Hindu Chaplain (Army) Dr Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque Trust and The Islamic Cultural Centre Imam Qasim, founder and chairman of Al-Khair, Foundation.


Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill

My Lords, I welcome the Bill as there is a general consensus that greater measures are needed to assist in the fight against global terrorism. Terrorism is one of the greatest threats that we face in the 21st century. This legislation will make an important contribution to our national security by helping to ensure that funds are not used to perpetrate terrorist activities. I also welcome the Government’s strategic defence and security review, as stated in the coalition agreement. We have a duty to our citizens and Armed Forces to shoulder the collective task of formulating a robust security strategy for an increasingly dangerous world. I am confident that this legislation will contribute to achieving this goal.

In overcoming the threat of terrorism, we need clear understanding and constant vigilance. I congratulate the Government on the recent announcement of a successful conclusion to negotiations between the European Union and the United States Treasury on the exchange of information on terrorist finance tracking. One part of frustrating the evil intentions of those who inflict terrorism across the world is to starve them of resources-and this lies at the core of the Bill.

It is timely that we should be considering our approach to the terrorist threat just a few weeks after the fifth anniversary of the 7/7 suicide bombing attacks in London, which resulted in the deaths of 52 people. Thankfully, there has been no other major successful terrorist assault in this country since that day. That has not been because the threat has dissipated, and we should not allow complacency to creep into our considerations.

We should not allow a debate to take place on terrorism-and counterterrorism-without spending a moment reflecting on some of the issues that cause terrorism: alienation, grievance, demonisation, a sense of injustice, whether real or perceived, exclusion and political issues. We cannot expect to overcome the terrorist threat without acknowledging the role that these factors play in motivating the disaffected to move towards violence and terrorist atrocities. We need to examine and find remedies relating to the root causes of extremism and terrorism. Community cohesion and counterterrorism are not the same thing and they should not be confused. They are complementary and there are links. We must therefore regard the two issues in the appropriate manner.

Similarly, we need to recognise that the threat from terrorists arises from a multitude of different areas and groups. Those who are radicalised with terrorist sympathies are not restricted to one particular group, religion or region. At this stage, I should like to follow up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, said and make the point that nearly all Muslims are law-abiding and good citizens who are against any form of extremism and terrorism. However, I appreciate that there is a problem with a tiny minority of people who do not follow the true principles of Islam. Islam forbids any form of suicide bombing. It is, indeed, a religion of peace. For example, when we greet each other, we say “As salaam alaikum”, which means “The peace of God be upon you”. As a Peer, I have a coat of arms, and on it I have two doves because I want to give the message that Islam is indeed a religion of peace.

Clause 1 of the Bill defines individuals who have been labelled “designated persons” by the Treasury. This clause is also of extreme importance in ensuring that we fulfil our obligations in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. This provision ensures that asset-freezing measures are applied to groups and individuals who engage in or financially support terrorist activities.

Designated persons can be defined only by competent authorities. However, I feel it is important that all competent authorities in United Nations member states act in harmony to make sure that the necessary procedures are followed to combat terrorism on a global basis. It is important to achieve a degree of consistency in tackling cross-border terrorism. I should be grateful if the Minister could advise your Lordships’ House whether bodies in addition to the Treasury will gain status as competent authorities in the near future for the purposes of this legislation.

Clause 2 covers the Treasury’s power to designate persons. This includes instances when the Treasury has reasonable grounds to suspect an individual or group of engaging in terrorist activities. I am concerned by this requirement, as Resolution 1373 expressly states that the assets of those who commit, or attempt to commit, acts of terrorism should be frozen. The resolution does not extend to those whom competent authorities suspect of terrorist activity. Therefore, the burden of proof is not satisfied under this clause.

Furthermore, we must be mindful that whatever we enact could not be construed as a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that all individuals are entitled to respect for their family and private life in accordance with the law.

Our criminal justice system is based on the principle that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Any attempt to interfere with this principle would be to the detriment of our society. Even if a person is proven innocent, there may be a possibility that the person will be branded a terrorist. This could be damaging to a person’s future prospects. Is there any scope for awarding compensation to those who have had their assets frozen prior to acquittal?

Clause 4 states that a designation issued by the Treasury expires within one year unless renewed. The clause gives the Treasury authority to renew a designation at any time before it expires if there are reasonable grounds for doing so. I fear that this clause may encounter the same difficulties as Clause 2. The clause states that a designation may be renewed more than once. However, there is no specification as to how many times a designation can be renewed. I would welcome greater clarification as to the powers of the Treasury concerning the duration. If these powers are wrongly used by those in authority, it could have long-lasting and devastating consequences for individuals and the integrity of this department.

Clause 20 makes reference to the need for co-operation with internal and international investigations. I strongly support this clause; it is in our best interests to work with our European and wider partners to achieve this aim. Foreign policy and national security are intertwined and should be treated as such.

The success of our foreign policy will work to promote our national interests and security both at home and abroad. The question of national security covers a multitude of areas, which is why a narrow approach to this issue has a limited chance of success. Co-operation with our neighbours in the European Union, our partners in the Commonwealth, transatlantic allies and other international organisations is vital to ensuring that we successfully combat terrorism. This threat is not just limited to one continent and therefore requires a multilateral solution. Counterterrorism is dependent on international co-operation, and a vigilance to identify the emerging and constantly altering threats to our security.

I welcome Clauses 33 and 34 as they clearly define the meaning of “funds”, “economic resources” and “financial services”. These are key terms for the purposes of the prohibition stated in Clauses 8 and 9. These two clauses make it an offence for funds and financial services to be made available to designated persons.

At this stage, I would like to declare an interest as I am the chairman of an organisation which provides insurances and financial services. I feel that companies which offer financial services as stated in this clause should be given the appropriate assistance in understanding the requirements of this legislation.

I would be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to whether any guidance and information will be made available to companies which provide financial services. I wholeheartedly endorse the principles that these measures are seeking to embody in law. We need to maintain our defences and be vigilant in tackling the threat posed by terrorism. We should be robust in seeking to prevent those who cause actual terrorism drawing on the resources that they need to inflict the injury of their design.

I am, however, of the opinion that we must ensure that the provisions of the Bill do not compromise the human rights of law-abiding citizens. This country has a proud history of promoting democratic values around the world and in our local communities. Although we are in a heightened state of security in terms of domestic and external threats, legislation must not be allowed to compromise our civil liberties. It is important to strike a balance to ensure that no ethnic or social group feels as though it is the constant target of discrimination. We must co-operate internationally and focus on marginalising those who idolise or endorse terrorism. We are bound to ensure that we approach the matter in a proportionate, measured and effective manner. It is only through detailed scrutiny that this House can content itself that the Bill meets those tests.

Terrorism Act 2000 – Statement

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I note that the Government will introduce interim guidelines and that a review of counterterrorism legislation will be undertaken. I have spoken in your Lordships’ House about the use of Section 44 powers and the fact that a very high number of people from ethnic minority communities have been stopped and searched. Can the Minister assure me that under the interim powers, people from ethnic minority backgrounds will not be targeted? Can this point be looked into when the review of counterterrorism legislation is undertaken? Can the Minister also clarify why it is necessary for Section 44 powers to continue to be applied to searches of vehicles?

Baroness Neville-Jones (Minister of State, Home Office): Let me take my noble friend’s second point first. Section 43 does not contain any powers to stop vehicles. I think that the House will understand that it would not be very sensible not to have any powers at all to stop vehicles. In many respects, the greater danger may lie in someone, or persons, trying to do something in a vehicle. So it is necessary to be able to stop vehicles. Therefore, Section 44, as a matter of law, has to remain available for vehicles. In practice, however, it will be interpreted by using reasonable suspicion, as if it were a Section 43 power. I very much take the noble Lord’s point about the need for there not to be discrimination and disproportionality in the stopping of different groups in society. I think that that is a concern to the whole House, and it is being watched very carefully.

Terrorism: Aviation and Border Security

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, as a Muslim I totally condemn any form of terrorist activity. We must appreciate that nearly all Muslims are law-abiding citizens, but I accept that we have a problem with a tiny minority. With regard to profiling, I would like to hear from the Secretary of State that Muslims are not going to be targeted with regard to profiling, about which there has been some talk recently in the press.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport): My Lords, as I said a moment ago, there will be no racial stereotyping, so the noble Lord has that assurance.

Islam, Terror & the Communities

After the bombings in Madrid, Kenya, Bali, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, New York and London, one of the threats to National and International Security is a possible terrorist act by a handful of misled extremists who think that they have committed an act of Jihad, killing themselves and others.

We also had the situation that a number of young Muslims have been arrested relating to the alleged plots to bring down Trans Atlantic airlines, some of those arrested have now been charged. Furthermore, there have been arrests at a restaurant in South London and in Manchester.

Islam is a religion of peace and totally forbids, in its strongest terms, any act of extremism and terrorism. Furthermore, Islam forbids suicide bombing and such an act is not Jihad. The extremists have sought to link their evil ideology by using religion that Muslims believe to be one of mercy to mankind.

The term Jihad is misunderstood and I feel that I need to clarify and explain what it exactly means. Jihad is an Arabic word which means to try one’s utmost. It means that a Muslim must control his bad desires and intent and carry out good deeds. It also refers to take action and remove evil in ones life and the society. In a nutshell Jihad refers to doing good and preventing evil deeds.

This country is a land of opportunity and the British people, for all their faults, are generally tolerant.

There are about 1.8million Muslims, which represent about 3% of the population.

There are over 5,000 Muslims who are multi millionaires and whose net assets exceed £4Billion. In London alone, the total turnover of Asian owned businesses is over £60Billion and a significant number of businesses are owned by Muslims.

I have offices in the City of London and Bromley and we transact business nationwide and I meet and see a number of Muslims who have done exceptionally well in businesses, professions and in the academic world.

A significant number of young Muslims are successful in many fields and these are the role models which we need to project. For example, it was announced recently that a Muslim has been appointed to the rank of Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy and there are a number of successes in businesses, professions, sports and in the academic fields.

We Muslims are proud of the fact that we have made a contribution to the advancement and well being of this country. This is our home, for example, I have a daughter who was born here and this is the only country she knows.

Having said this unfortunately there are a number of Muslims who live in deprived areas. The unemployment rate amongst Muslims is high, generally there is under achievement of Muslim children at schools and the health of Muslims is below par. The home ownership amongst Muslims is low. There is lack of inter-action between Muslims and other communities.

There are problems regarding Imams who are brought here from overseas, problems relating to isolation and a very tiny minority of extremists who are involved in criminal and terrorist activities.

First generation Muslim immigrants arrived here and settled in places where work was readily available, which was mainly in urban areas. Many such areas have completely lost their industry and many young Muslims are struggling to compete in the job market with few qualifications. Unfortunately then some Muslims fall into the trap of indulging in criminal activities. Many areas are suffering from a high level of deprivation and these and other aspects need to be looked into and ways thought to address issues of unemployment, education, health and social services.

50% of Muslims are born here and are therefore under the age of 30. Some Muslims are facing an identity crisis. Most regard themselves as British but sometimes there is limited communication between them and the older generation or with the wider British public. The Muslim community must accept that there are problems amongst their midst and in addition to condemnation, the community needs to take positive steps to tackle the issues.

I do not have any problems with my identity. I am a British Muslim. I am proud of being British and also proud of my religion.

Local community associations and mosques have tended to cater for the needs of the older generations, with many young Muslims feeling distanced from the activities of the mosques.

In a number of mosques the sermons are in the vernacular language and the Imams knowledge of English is rather limited.

Encouragement and resources need to be provided for the training of Mowlans in the United Kingdom and the mosques should actively engage and set up activities which would involve the younger generation.

Some of the proposals put forward by the Government to tackle radicalism and radical elements have sent mixed messages to the Muslim community. Care needs to be taken to ensure that all proposals are carefully thought out and relevant communities are consulted to ensure an inclusive approach to difficult issues. The police must only arrest people on very sound intelligence. We need to avoid the Forest Gate debacle when over 250 police officers raided a house and arrested 2 brothers, one of whom was shot.

The academic achievements of Muslim children are below par and their performance is generally low. Ways must be found to improve their performance, which needs support and participation from a number of organizations, agencies and the Muslim community itself.

The answer to tackling the problems is not to rely entirely on policing or an enactment of legislations by the Government.

To combat crime, extremism and terrorist activities we need a holistic solution and approach.

To take this holistic approach it needs active support of the Government, Police, Local Authorities, the community itself and various organizations.

The Muslim community does suffer from Islam phobia. Muslim fear that the media uses phrases such as ‘Muslim Terrorist’ and refers to the name of Islam in a detrimental manner. There are indeed very successful Muslims who have done very well in every field in this country but their achievements are not highlighted often enough.

I am very pleased that David Cameron in his recent speech did not use the words Islamic terrorist but the terrorists. During the IRA campaign we did not refer to the people committing terrorism as Catholic terrorist and it is inappropriate to use the expression Islamic terrorist, these persons who are miss guided should be referred to as terrorist or international terrorist. David Cameron further said that these miss guided persons had a deformed vision of Islam.

Further more he said that he was a liberal conservative rather than neo-conservative.

The media needs to be more restraint in choice of their words and attitude towards the Muslim community. I must say that the British media was extremely understanding regarding the cartoons which appeared in the Danish press and the
British press did not print the cartoons.

We are indeed very proud of our democracy and freedom of press in the United Kingdom. We applaud our freedom of press which is part of our democracy but I feel this freedom needs to be exercised with care and responsibility and the press must be mindful of the religious beliefs of all the communities. We do not make fun of the holocaust .

The other point about the media is that it highlights and reports widely bad actions of the minority but does not give enough coverage to the good points. For example during the demonstration outside the Danish Embassy it widely reported on the placards carried by a handful of persons but failed to report on thousands of persons who demonstrated twice at Trafalgar Square who wanted peace, harmony and moderation.

I also believe that there needs to be inter-action and inter-faith activity between various religious groups and there are projects which help to achieve this. I personally support one such project in Bradford.

I would now like to talk about international issues. Britain sent troops to Iraq with America. Britain also with America tacitly supported the Israeli action in Lebanon. Israel has destroyed Lebanon and its infrastructure. Israel has undertaken wholesale punishment of Lebanon and its people. Nearly a million have been displaced and hundred of cilvilians including a number of children have been killed. We need to ask ourselves what effect such actions of Britain has in radicalizing some Muslims and perhaps driving them to take extreme actions.

The Israelis have used cluster bombs supplies by America which has caused considerable damage and loss of life and the damage to human lives will be continuous. We have allowed American planes carrying bombs for Israel to be refueled in this country. Britain, with America did not call for an immediate ceasefire following the Israeli invasion.

During the Israel invasion of Lebanon William Hague made three basic comments
1) Israel retaliation was disproportionate
2) We should not be afraid to disagree with Israel
3) We should not always mirror the polices of America.

Personally I fully agree that Israel has a right to exit and protect their country and people. My best friend is married to Jewish lady. I have visited Israel twice. I keen on inter faith dialogue and have held joint meetings with Conservative friends of Israel. Kemal Butt is our inter faith officer.

I did see an interview given by Peter Taylor, who recently made the programme on extremism and the Iraq crisis, which was shown on BBC2. According to Peter Taylor one of the reasons for terrorist activities in the United Kingdom and abroad is because of American and British action in Iraq.

An intelligence report prepared by the Americans has clearly stated that the American invasion of Iraq and its occupation has increased terrorism and its future threat. It has also fuelled radical ideas. The report further states that the Iraq war has the made the terrorist problem much worse in the Muslim world and globally.

I think that American and Britain should seriously question their foreign policies. Having said this we should always take action to protect and its interest.

We also have a situation with the nuclear programmes undertaken by Iran. I believe that the problem can best be resolved by dialogue and talking to the Iranian Government. Any sanction or drastic action should be the last resort

I would now like to talk about myself and explain my own background to you.

I was brought up in Uganda in a multi faith and multi cultural environment. I respect all religions and have visited placed of worship of various denominations.

I am a practicing Muslim and my faith is very dear to my heart.

I became actively involved in politics in August 2003 and in September 2005 my name was submitted for a peerage by Michael Howard. Prior to my involvement in politics, I was President of the Chartered Insurance Institute and Chairman of the British Insurance Brokers Association. In both these positions I was the first foreigner to be elected for this honour. I have also held a number of positions in other organizations and associations.

I have always believed that one must become part of the establishment but retain ones own identity.

In January 2005 I established the Conservative Muslim Forum and on my Executive Committee I have a cross section of members from various denominations of the Muslim community. William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Minister; Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Attorney General and David Lidington the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland are also members of the Executive Committee.

The Forum now has a full time secretariat and we have drawn a plan to take forward a number of proposals which include setting up our Youth Wing, a section for Muslim ladies and the establishment of a think tank to look at issues which concern the Muslims in this country. The think tank will address various issues which will include the education of Muslim children, the health of the Muslim community and the criminal activities of some Muslims.

I am very pleased that Conservative Muslim Forum has set up a women’s section and we have a number of ladies who will undertake work on regular basis. The activists will include ladies of various ages and the person who will head the women’s section is a young person aged 27. We will closely with Lady Fiona Hodgson who is the chair person of the Conservative Women’s Organization. My wife Lady Shaida Sheikh who is here is one of the activists. We intent to visit different parts of the country and meet women as well as hold meetings. During the local election recently the women’s section undertook tele-campaigning which we feel was worth while.

I believe that this country is a country of opportunity. In 1972 my family was expelled from Uganda and we came to Britain penniless. We were given refuge in this country and have been allowed to flourish. I started with my company as an employee and today I own most of it and I am its Chairman and Chief Executive. Over a period of three years we won 12 major insurance awards, which is a record, and no other company has achieved this.

I feel that the main reasons for our achievements have been because this country has provided me with the environment and circumstances where my hard work and initiative has paid off.

The way to change any organisation is from within and I always urge the ethnic minorities to join a political party of their choice. We would of course like them to join the Conservative Party and we are at the moment actively looking to recruit new members.

I may add that there is no fee to join the Conservative Muslim Forum but it is necessary for a person who wishes to join the Conservative Muslim Forum to be a member of the Conservative Party or join the party at the time of applying for membership of the Conservative Muslim Forum.

The membership of the Conservative Muslim Forum is open to everyone irrespective of race or religion. In fact there are a number of non Muslims and British persons who are members of the Conservative Muslim Forum. The forum like the Conservative Party is an inclusive organization and welcomes everyone. If you would like to join the forum and like to promote it we would welcome this very much.

David Cameron and the party now like to promote candidates who are women and from ethnic backgrounds and the party has therefore prepared The List A which has a number of women and ethnic candidates.

There are now a number of ethnic councilors including Kemal Butt who won with a handsome majority.

During the last council election we won three additional London Boroughs which has mixed communities. These are Harrow, Croydon and Ealing.

The total number of people of ethnic extraction are about 4.9 million and they are normally clustered in towns and cities where our support is weak. It is therefore important we reach out to the ethnic communities and engage with them and win their support which will enable to win the local and off course the general election.

The Party is changing and one of the changes is to effect measures whereby we win the support of all the communities. We are indeed a one Nation Party and it should be a reality.

Thank you

Written Answers | Terrorism Funding

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What representations they are making to petrol companies in the light of allegations in recent press reports that some of their staff in the United Kingdom have been committing credit and debit card fraud in order to fund terrorism. [HL3441]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The police are investigating all aspects of the allegations to which the noble Lord refers, and we would not wish to prejudge the outcome of those investigations by commenting at this stage.

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What steps they are taking against sympathisers for the Tamil Tigers terrorist cause active in the United Kingdom. [HL3442]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, was proscribed by the then Home Secretary in 2001. There are a range of offences relating to this proscription, including to have or profess membership of the organisation, to raise funds for the organisation, to invite support for it, to organise or speak at a meeting whose purpose is to encourage support for it, and to wear or display clothing or articles likely to arouse suspicions that the wearer is a member or supporter of the organisation.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service are responsible for, respectively, investigating and prosecuting offences under this legislation.

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What steps they are taking to prevent the funding from United Kingdom sources of Tamil Tigers terrorist activity in Sri Lanka. [HL3443]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, was proscribed as an organisation concerned in terrorism by the then Home Secretary in 2001. The Terrorism Act 2000 contains a number of offences relating to the funding of terrorism (which includes funding for proscribed organisations). The investigation and prosecution of these offences is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill

My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman and chief executive of an insurance broking and financial services organisation.

The Government currently provide compensation for British nationals who become victims of terror within the United Kingdom. They also provide compensation to non-British citizens of terror in this country; for example, all victims of the 7/7 bombings have been compensated. Compensation is paid by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and total payments amount to about £200 million annually.

Unfortunately, British citizens who are victims of terrorism overseas are not compensated unless they are in a country where compensation arrangements already exist. Over the past decade, British citizens have been killed or injured in a number of overseas territories. There is considerable hardship in these cases and there is therefore a need to set up a scheme whereby payments are made.

Although I am very sympathetic to the intention behind the Bill, I should like to raise a number of points relating to the proposals in it.

Insurers who provide travel cover are committed to paying claims as quickly as possible, but it must be pointed out that travel insurance is not primarily designed to cover personal injury or death claims. A travel insurance policy is a package-type of insurance providing cover under various sections, including personal accident, medical expenses, baggage, cancellation and curtailment benefits, loss of personal money and personal liability. Cover in regard to death, injury and long-term care are more appropriately provided under personal accident, life insurance and income protection policies.

Travel insurance is very competitively priced, but the more you add on, the more it will cost. We believe that one-third of travellers who go abroad from the United Kingdom do not effect travel insurance and they therefore expose themselves to considerable risks if things go wrong. Insurers would like to provide as much cover as possible at a competitive price to encourage people to effect cover. Unfortunately, however, only about 66 per cent of people take out policies, which is not satisfactory.

Practice among insurers regarding terrorism varies and can be summarised as follows: first, no cover at all; secondly, only medical expenses and repatriation cover following a terrorist attack; thirdly, medical, repatriation and personal accident cover for terrorism except in cases of nuclear, chemical or biological attacks; fourthly, personal accident medical expenses sections which apply unless people travel to a country or specific area where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised them not to go.

Those standard covers are available to all policyholders, but insurance is available for both travel and personal accident to people who wish to travel to countries where there is a danger of terrorism or hostilities. Insurers underwrite that separately and the premiums are high. There is therefore special insurance to cover terrorism abroad, which provides appropriate benefits.

I feel that proposals to provide insurance generally to everyone would be difficult to implement. There are several factors in this regard, which can be summarised as follows: first, there is a question of cost and how the premiums are to be assessed; and, secondly, for a scheme to be meaningful, it needs to be made compulsory. The only compulsory insurances in the United Kingdom are employer’s liability and motor insurance for third-party risks; in other words, cover is mandatory where there is a possibility of death or injury to other people. A number of drivers do not effect motor insurance, despite road traffic legislation, and payments for their liabilities are paid by the Motor Insurance Bureau, an organisation set up by insurance companies and funded by levies on the insurers.

I have already pointed out that at present one-third of people who go abroad do not take out travel insurance, and compulsory insurance requirements would therefore be difficult to implement and difficult to police. Arrangements for insuring property damage and business interruption caused by terrorism in the UK came into force in 1993. Prior to that, insurers were unwilling to provide full cover for terrorism and cover was granted with limited indemnity liability.

The Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 was enacted to address the provision of full cover, and Pool Re was set up as a response to the Act. HM Treasury is the reinsurer of last resort for Pool Re, protecting it in the event that it exhausts all its financial resources following payments.

Since 1993, Pool Re has made payments of £612 million and has reserves of £1.664 billion. Insurance cover for policyholders provided under the Pool Re arrangement is optional, and policies are taken out by property owners who can afford the premiums. Therefore, the insurance is not compulsory. However, there would be a problem of affordability with regard to overseas travel cover for the general public, and, as I said earlier, to be meaningful, it would need to be mandatory.

I have heard people say that reserves built up by Pool Re could perhaps be released to pay for injuries to people who travel abroad. As I have said, Pool Re has reserves of more than £1.6 billion, but I believe that the release of these funds would be unwise as the reserves are necessary to pay large claims following a major incident or incidents occurring in future. I may add that the damage at Canary Wharf, Baltic Exchange and the Arndale centre was in excess of £1 billion each. Furthermore, it could be argued that the premiums have been paid by policyholders who have insured their properties, and to use them for any other purpose would not be appropriate.

There is another option regarding funding, which is to apply a levy of some sort, which could be considered. If such a levy were applied, it would be considered as a tax on holidays and travel. A levy would therefore cause difficulties and not be very popular. I therefore feel that compensation for injuries for terrorism overseas can be considered as an extension of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority arrangements. The existing scheme is successful; matters are investigated fully and fraudulent claims are resisted. At present, payments under the compensation scheme are made under the Home Office budget, which may have been frozen by the Chancellor.

In October 2005 the Prime Minster announced that the Government were looking at setting up a separate compensation scheme to cover British victims of terrorism overseas, and perhaps this matter can be pursued further. I understand that there are compensation schemes operating in other countries, which are funded by their governments. It remains to be seen if there is the political will to arrange state-run schemes in the United Kingdom and whether funds can be made available to implement the scheme. The mechanism is, however, here to process the claims.

The cost of the scheme will, of course, depend on the scale of benefits, who will be the beneficiaries and the number of incidents involved. I understand that a figure of £3 million has been suggested, and I am not sure if this will be sufficient. I add a note of warning that, if consideration is given to extend the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority scheme to pay for terrorism overseas, there could be a demand that the scheme should be extended further to pay for victims of all violent crimes overseas.