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Will Retaliatory Airstikes against Isis reduce or exacerbate terrorism?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Cameron says case for Syria airstrikes strengthened by Paris attacks – Politics live” was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 17th November 2015 16.39 UTC

4.39pm GMT

Afternoon summary

  • Corbyn used his reply to Cameron’s statement to say the prime minister should not “feed a cycle of violence and hatred” when responding to the Paris attacks. Addressing Cameron, the Labour leader said:

It’s vital at a time of such tragedy and outrage not to be drawn into responses which feed a cycle of violence and hatred. President Obama has said Isis grew out of our invasion of Iraq and it’s one of its unintended consequences. Will you consider this as one of the very careful responses that President Obama has made recently on this matter?

  • Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, has said migrants are “extraordinarily well informed” about which countries have the most generous welfare systems. Giving evidence to the Commons European scrutiny committee, he said:

The anecdotal research is that migrants coming into the EU from outside, as we have recently seen, and migrants within the EU, are extraordinarily well informed about the systems operating in different countries and how they will be able to interact with them – and will make calculations about their own net position at the end of the week or the month.

I think it would be counter-intuitive to suggest that removing an average of around £6/700 a month of benefits from the pay packet would not be a factor in people’s calculation when they look at possibly higher wages in a country like Germany but less generous in-work benefits.

He also said leaving the EU would have a “very negative impact” in the short term.

The exit of a major country, the second-largest economy in the European Union, would have potentially very serious ramifications for the European Union and what its future looked like. But a British exit would also have a very significant impact on the UK.

It would require us to undo decades of thinking about how we drive and power the UK economy, how we ensure the standard of living of British people, how we protect national security.

I am sure, certainly in the short term, it would have some very negative impact on the UK.

How we would be able to regroup and move forward would be something the history books will ultimately determine.

But at the moment it looks like a very big set of challenges that the UK would face.

That’s all from me for today.

Thanks for the comments.

3.57pm GMT

The Labour MP Ann Coffey was reportedly one of those who criticised Jeremy Corbyn at last night’s PLP.

She is getting retribution on Twitter.

A Twitter account called Momentum Stockport (Momentum is the grassroots organisation set up by Corbynites) has told her to stay loyal to Corbyn or go.

Coffey has hit back.

There is more evidence of the criticism she is getting on her Twitter feed.

3.44pm GMT

In its recent report, The extension of offensive British military operations to Syria, the Conservative-dominated Commons foreign affairs committee stuck a very sceptical note about extending British air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) to Syria. Here’s an extract from the summary of the report.

We believe that there should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there is a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIL and of ending the civil war in Syria. We consider that the focus on the extension of airstrikes against ISIL in Syria is a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to the conflict in Syria and thereby removing one of the main facilitators of ISIL’s rise.

But today Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, is sounding much more amenable to air strikes. In the Commons he said he hoped the government would come up with a plan that would allow the British armed forces to play a role that would “lead to the defeat of [Isis] in both Syria and Iraq sooner rather than later”. (See 1.30pm.)

And on the World at One he suggested this plan was taking shape. He told the programme:

The objective is the comprehensive, military defeat of Isis [where] it no longer has territory to administer. Simply widening the scope of a British aircraft doesn’t do that. What you actually need is international agreement and a coherent plan so you’ve worked out who’s going to be the ground troops, who is going to provide the air forces, and who’s going to administer the territory once it’s taken.

I think we’re beginning to work towards the kind of international plan that will mean we’ve got a military task that we can achieve, and the military task is defeating [Isis] in Syria and Iraq and that means taking that territory and finding someone to administer it once we’ve taken it off [Isis].

I’ve taken the quote from PoliticsHome.

Crispin Blunt
Crispin Blunt Photograph: Tom Hevezi/PA

3.15pm GMT

Corbyn clarifies his views on ‘shoot to kill’ and says he backs proportionate use of force to save life

Jeremy Corbyn has now issued a statement clarifying his position on “shoot to kill”. According to Labour, this is what he will tell a meeting of Labour’s national executive committee this afternoon.

As we have seen in the recent past, there are clear dangers to us all in any kind of shoot to kill policy. And we must ensure that terrorist attacks are not used to undermine the very freedoms and legal protections we are determined to defend.

But of course I support the use of whatever proportionate and strictly necessary force is required to save life in response to attacks of the kind we saw in Paris.

Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons earlier today.
Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons earlier today. Photograph: PA

3.09pm GMT

Every wondered what it looks like inside GCHQ’s operations room? Now we know, because George Osborne had a photographer with him when he toured it earlier. This is the 24-hours operations room.

George Osborne in the 24-hour operations room at GCHQ.
George Osborne in the 24-hour operations room at GCHQ. Photograph: Ben Birchall/AFP/Getty Images

There are more pictures here.

Updated at 3.47pm GMT

2.55pm GMT

Here are two more lines from the Cameron statement that I missed earlier.

  • Cameron suggested the government might tighten restrictions on Britons who return home after going to Syria. In response to a question from the Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash, Cameron said the government had already taken various measures, including giving itself the temporary power to exclude Britons who have been in Syria from returning home. But he went on:

I am all for looking at options for going further on these measures to make sure we keep ourselves safe. It was very contentious at the time and I think this is demonstrating we were right to stick to our guns.

  • Liam Fox, the Conservative former defence secretary, suggested the government should be willing to commit ground troops to the fight against Islamic State. In a question to Cameron, Fox said that military campaigns were not won from the air alone and that Cameron should “rule nothing out”. Cameron said the Iraqi government were best placed to defeat Isis on the ground.

2.19pm GMT

Cameron says those who ‘excuse’ terrorism risk encouraging extremism

Another Labour MP has used his question to take a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn. It was Ian Austin (who was tweeting earlier – see 10.30am.) He said:

I agree with everything the prime minister said about Syria and about terrorism. But does he agree with me that those that say that Paris is reaping the whirwind of Western policy [ie, Stop the War] or who want to say that Britain’s foreign policy has increased not diminished the threats to our own nation security [ie, Corbyn – see below] are not just absolving the terrorists of responsibility, but risk fuelling the sense of grievance and resentment which can develop into extremism and terrorism.

Cameron said he agreed with Austin. He went on:

We have to be very clear to those people who are at risk of being radicalised that this sort of excuse culture is wrong. It’s not only wrong for anyone to argue that Paris was brought about by Western policy. It is also very damaging for young Muslims growing up in Britain to think that any reasonable person could have this view. So I agree with [Austin] 100%.

Austin was referring to something Corbyn was planning to say in a speech on Saturday. The speech was never delivered, but extracts were released in advance, including this one. Corbyn was planning to say:

For the past 14 years, Britain has been at the centre of a succession of disastrous wars that have brought devastation to large parts of the wider Middle East. They have increased, not diminished, the threats to our own national security in the process.

  • Cameron says those who “excuse” terrorism risk encouraging extremism.

In fairness to the Stop the War Coalition, it is worth stressing that, having deleted the controversial “whirlwind” tweet, it put out a full statement about the Paris attacks saying there was “absolutely no justification for the horrific shooting and bombing of very large numbers of innocent people”.

1.56pm GMT

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and former shadow business secretary, says the police should have the power to use lethal force where necessary. But he asks Cameron to publish the advice that governs when it is used.

Cameron says he will asks the Home Office to write to Umunna about this.

1.51pm GMT

David Nuttall, a Conservative, asks Cameron if he will speed up introduction of the investigatory powers bill in the light of the Paris attacks.

Cameron says he will look at the timing. But most of the elements in the bill tidy up powers that are already available to the authorities, he says, implying there is no urgency. The only key new powers in it are the ones relating to internet addresses, he says.

1.47pm GMT

The first MP to ask Cameron about “shoot to kill” was the Conservative Angela Watkinson. According to the Press Association, she said:

Given the extreme circumstances of a Paris-type attack in London, do you think that depriving the police of the right to shoot to kill would make the public safer?

And Cameron replied:

No I absolutely don’t. And I hope that the leader of the opposition will review his remarks because, frankly, when you are combating a terrorist attack and if you look at what happened in Paris, it was an attack, it wasn’t a siege, it wasn’t taking hostages and setting out demands, it was an attempt to kill as many people as possible.

When the police are confronted by that they must be absolutely clear that if they have to take out a terrorist to save lives they should go right ahead and do so.

1.43pm GMT

Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, also attacked the Stop the War claim about French policy being partly to blame for the Paris attacks. He urged Cameron to reject the view that what terrorists do is always a reaction to what the West has done.

Does [Cameron] agree with me that that approach risks infantilising the terrorists and treating them as children when the truth is that they are adults and entirely responsible for what they do?

Cameron praised McFadden for his “moral and intellectual clarity” and said that sort of clarity was necessary when dealing with terrorists. He said there was a deep instinct in all of us to find excuses for behaviour. But sometimes the truth was obvious and staring us in the face, he said.

1.37pm GMT

Another Labour MP has used had a go at Corbyn. Emma Reynolds asked Cameron if he agreed that “any attempt, by any organisation, somehow to blame the West or France’s military intervention [for Paris] is not only wrong, disgraceful, but should be condemned”.

That was a clear reference to the Stop the War tweet on Saturday (subsequently deleted) saying Paris was “reaping [the] whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East”. When Corbyn was asked about this yesterday he said he did not agree with the language, but he did not condemn the tweet.

There was quite a lot of cheering when Reynolds said this. Cameron said this showed that MPs from all sides agreed with her.

1.30pm GMT

Earlier Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said he hoped that Cameron would come forward with a plan for Syria that would show how British forces could play a part in the defeat of Isis. Blunt has been one of the most sceptical Tory MPs on the subject of military intervention in Syria, but the wording of his question suggested that Cameron might be able to find some formula that would allow him to vote in favour.

UPDATE: Here is his quote.

Can I thank you for your commitment to a personal reply to the foreign affairs committee report and your acknowledgement that the defeat of Isil requires a transition out of the Syrian civil war? And the progress made at Vienna is therefore beginning to clear the path towards an international plan that would enable that full conventional military defeat of so-called Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.

Will you continue to put our full diplomatic effort into making that plan sufficiently clear – politically, militarily and legally – so you can come to the House to seek an endorsement of a role for our armed forces that will lead to the defeat of Isil in both Syria and Iraq sooner rather than later?

Updated at 2.41pm GMT

1.26pm GMT

Chris Leslie, the Labour MP and former shadow chancellor, has also had a go at Corbyn over “shoot to kill”. In a question to Cameron, Leslie said it should be “obvious to everyone” that the police need the right to use lethal force in some circumstances. Cameron said he agreed, and he repeated his call for Corbyn to reflect on what he said yesterday.

1.23pm GMT

In the Commons two MPs have now raised Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about “shoot to kill” (see 9.10am) with David Cameron. Cameron said that he hoped Corbyn would reflect on what he said. He said the police needed to have the powers to stop terrorists.

1.13pm GMT

Cameron says case for Syria air strikes strengthened by Paris attacks

Cameron’s statement on the Paris attacks – Snap summary: David Cameron is getting closer than ever to calling a Commons vote on extending military action against Islamic State in Syria. That’s the key thing we learnt from his opening statement.

He did not formally commit himself to a vote, and the problems remains substantial (namely, a substantial number of Tories are sceptical, and if Labour MPs follow Jeremy Corbyn and vote against, he cannot be sure there will be enough Labour “rebels” voting for military action to outnumber those voting against). But Cameron sounded more determined than ever to get a vote. And he said the Paris attacks had made the case for military action stronger.

It is in Syria, in Raqqa, that Isil has its headquarters and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threat against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa, if you like, is the head of the snake. Over Syria we are supporting our allies the US, France, Jordan and the Gulf countries with intelligence, with surveillance and with refuelling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country and we need to deal with it not just in Iraq but in Syria too …

The case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot expect, we should not expect, others to carry the burdens and risks of protecting our country.

He also said he would be placing his personal authority behind the government response to the recent foreign affairs committee report (pdf) on this. That response will come very son and it will effectively set out his case to the Commons for bombing Isis in Syria.

I can therefore announce that … I will respond personally to the report of the foreign affairs select committee, I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with [Isis], our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East.

This strategy in my view should include taking the action in Syria I have spoken about and I hope in setting out the arguments in this way I can help build support right across this House for the action I believe is necessary to take.

That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days and I hope colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make clear their views so we can have a strong vote in this House of Commons and do the right thing for our country.

Updated at 1.24pm GMT

1.00pm GMT

Some Labour MPs were nodding as David Cameron implicitly accused Jeremy Corbyn of making “excuses” for Islamic State. (See 12.59am.)

Updated at 1.02pm GMT

12.59pm GMT

Cameron tells Corbyn not to seek “excuses” for Islamic State

Cameron is responding to Corbyn.

He says counter-terrorism policing budgets have been protected. The government will do what is necessary to keep the country safe, he says.

He says he agrees with Corbyn about the need to counter anti-semitism.

He says Britain is taking refugees from the Syrian camps. That enables refugees to be carefully screened, by UNHCR and by the Home Office.

He says Isis is one of the branches of violent Islamist extremism that we have seen in our world for more than 20 years. He says 9/11 happened before the invasion of Iraq. We should not seek “excuses” for a death cult, he says.

  • Cameron tells Corbyn not to seek “excuses” for Islamic State.

Cameron says Isis gets much of its money from selling oil to the Syrian regime. He says that is another reason for getting involved in the military action against Isis in Syria.

12.54pm GMT

Corbyn says the government should protect the police budget.

Does Cameron agree with what Lord Blair, the former Met police chief, has said about the importance of community policing? Corbyn says he has seen for himself, as an inner city MP, how important this is?

Corbyn says Muslims are as appalled by the attacks as everyone else. What is being done to ensure community cohesion?

He says it is important to keep meeting our obligations to refugees.

He says Isis grew out of the invasion of Iraq. Will Cameron consider this point?

Corbyn says a few bombs and missiles more in Syria won’t transform the situation.

Will Cameron confirm that, before he pushes for a vote on further military action, he will provide answers to the seven questions in the foreign affairs committee’s report on this (pdf)?

Corbyn asks what is being asked to stop the supply of weapons to repressive regimes in the region that allow weapons to get into the hands of Isis?

And what is being done to stop Isis’s funding? And what is being done to stop them selling oil

12.47pm GMT

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is responding to David Cameron.

He thanks him for the measured and careful tone of his comments since Paris.

He agrees on the need to get consensus in tackling Isis, he says.

The attacks in Paris were “contemptible”, he says. They will fail to divide us, he says.

And he pays special tribute to the work of the emergency services. It is not easy to drive an ambulance not know what you will find, he says.

12.44pm GMT

Cameron says the England/France match is going ahead.

Together we will prevail, he says.

12.42pm GMT

Cameron says he will take the unusual step of responding personally to the recent report from the foreign affairs committee calling for a plan for a wider peace in Syria.

12.41pm GMT

Cameron says that Britain “should be doing more” against Isis in Syria

Turning to the G20, he says the Syria crisis was discussed. He sets out how much Britain has contributed to the aid effort there, and he says more will be done when a donors conference is held in the UK next year.

He says he met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He says there are still big differences between them, but they made some progress.

But Britain must ask itself if it should be doing more militarily to confront Isis in Syria.

  • Cameron says that Britain “should be doing more” against Isis in Syria and that the case for action has grown stronger since Paris.

Updated at 12.43pm GMT

12.38pm GMT

Cameron says the extremist ideology is not true Islam. But we should not deny that there is a connection between the extremists and Islam, not least because the extremists self-identify as Muslim.

He says Muslim scholars are playing an important role in saying that they do not represent Islam. He commends them for what they have done.

Updated at 12.39pm GMT

12.36pm GMT

He defends the drone attack on Mohammed Emwazi. Given where he is, there is no alternative way of tackling the threat he poses, he says.

(This is a clear dig at Jeremy Corbyn, who said it would have been better if Emwazi could have been brought to trial.)

12.35pm GMT

He says coalition forces have attacked 13,500 Islamic State (Isis, or Isil) targets.

And Isis have lost 30% of their territory in Iraq, he says.

12.34pm GMT

David Cameron is making his statement now.

He says a Briton was among those killed in the attacks.

After horror and anger must come resolve to ride the world of this evil.

The Paris attacks justify the “full spectrum approach” he has described previously. That means military power, counter-terrorism action, and countering the extremist narrative.

12.27pm GMT

David Cameron’s statement on the Paris attacks and the G20 summit

David Cameron will shortly be making a statement to the Commons about the Paris attacks and the G20 summit.

Here is the text of the statement he made at the start of his press conference at the G20 in Turkey.

12.25pm GMT

Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick thinks at some point in the future Lord Rennard will stand for the Lib Dem’s federal executive again.

12.23pm GMT

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and former shadow business secretary, has said that he does not want Jeremy Corbyn to attend a Stop the War event planned for later this year. This was one of the issues that came up at the PLP last night. See 10.04am.

12.20pm GMT

David Cameron will attend the England/France match tonight at Wembley, Number 10 has said.

11.43am GMT

Rennard resigns from Lib Dem federal executive following pressure from Farron

Lord Rennard, the Lib Dem peer who was accused of sexual harassment by four women, has announced he is resigning from the party’s federal executive. He was elected to serve on it last week by fellow members of the House of Lords. Rennard always denied wrong-doing and his colleagues in the Lords were clearly happy to draw a line under the controversy. But others in the party were not, and only this morning Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, urged Rennard to stand down.

Rennard announced he would do so in a statement that has been posted on the Lib Dem Voice website. Here’s an extract.

A week ago, I was elected by the votes of the Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords to be their representative on the party’s Federal Executive. Any Lib Dem peer could have stood, all of them could vote, and I was elected by 44 votes to 25. Since then a number of party members have objected to that outcome and sought to effectively overturn it by removing the right of the Lib Dem peers to have a representative on it.

I was disappointed that in a party called the Liberal Democrats there should be such a challenge to the result of a democratic election. I recognise, however, that there has been much controversy in the party and this has continued partly because it has been very poor in communicating to its members the outcomes of all the various processes investigating allegations made against me. In particular, many members have remained unaware of the key conclusion concerning me in the final report of the independent businesswoman, Helena Morrissey, who reviewed these processes …

In the interests of party unity, and on the basis that the party will over time implement in full all of the proposals in Helena Morrissey’s final report, I have agreed to withdraw from the Federal Executive. It is with sadness that I do so, because I enjoy the support of my parliamentary colleagues, and very many party members at all levels. Many of them value my relevant experience in a party to which I have belonged since my teens, and for which I ran many of our most successful election campaigns under the leaderships of Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell (taking us up to 63 MPs by 2006 and therefore able to enter government in 2010).

Lord Rennard
Lord Rennard Photograph: REX Shutterstock

11.28am GMT

Q: Is the Home Office going to get more leeway in the spending review as a result of this new focus on security?

Osborne says national security was at the heart of the spending review before the Paris attacks. He had already announced that he would spend 2% of national income on defence, and that he would increase funding for the intelligence agencies. What happened on Friday just reinforced the case for these decisions.

If you don’t have sound public finances, you do not have national security, he says.

And that’s it. The Q&A is over. I will post a summary soon.

11.23am GMT

Q: What evidence is there that Islamic State (Isis, or Isil) are mounting cyber attacks? And what do they want to attack?

Osborne says we know that Isis use the internet for propaganda purposes, and for organising account. He says they have also said they want to mount cyber attacks. They do not have that capability now, but it would be “naive” to think they will not develop it, he says.

11.21am GMT

Q: How can you justify doubling the spending on cyber security when the police face severe cuts?

Osborne says the government is committed to keeping the nation safe. Police reforms have led to more officers on the beat, even though police numbers have fallen. You do not have to choose between security and economic responsibility, he says.

11.19am GMT

Osborne’s Q&A

Osborne is now taking questions.

Q: [From a businesswoman] Hackers see our business not as a business, but as an IP address to attack. Is the government committed to cyber defence schemes?

Osborne says cyber attacks are an economic threat and a national security threat too.

The cyber essentials programme has been a certification process, recognising firms that install a level of cyber protection. He wants more firms to take part in it.

11.17am GMT

Osborne says his national cyber plan is bold and far-reaching.

It won’t stop Britain being attacked every minute of every day.

But it will make Britain one of the best-protected countries in the world, he says.

And that’s it. Osborne has finished.

11.15am GMT

Osborne says international norms must be established to deal with the cyber security threat.

That requires a community of like-minded countries, he says.

11.13am GMT

Osborne says the capacity to attack is also an aspect of defence.

We need to dissuade people and states from targeting us in the first place, he says.

This is an issue of deterrence.

Whoever attacks us must know that we are able to hit back.

We must destroy the idea that there is impunity in cyber space.

Osborne says the UK reserves the right to respond to a cyber attack in any way that we can.

He says the UK is building an offensive cyber capability. (See 10.49am.)

11.10am GMT

Osborne says the TalkTalk experience shows how cyber attack can go from a theoretical risk to a massive business cost.

11.10am GMT

Osborne says he wants to encourage cyber start-ups.

He says he wants to create an arch of cyber excellence.

One of his new centres of cyber excellence will be in Cheltenham, he says.

And he says he will create a £160m defence cyber innovation fund to foster innovative procurement in defence.

11.07am GMT

Osborne says it is also important to ensure that people with the right skills are available.

He is launching a competition to set up a higher education institute of coding, he says.

There will also be retraining for high-skilled workers who want to move into cyber.

And he will set up a scheme for 14 to 17-year-old to discover teenagers with an aptitude for cyber.

11.04am GMT

In 2016 there will be a single national cyber centre, Osborne says. It will report to the head of GCHQ.

This will make it easier for industry to get the support it needs.

It will draw on GCHQ expertise. But it will have a strong public face too, he says.

It will develop new capabilities.

And it will build teams with expertise in specific areas.

This will be a hugely important and ambitious undertaking, he says.

11.02am GMT

Osborne is talking about aspects of the government’s cyber security programme.

The government already diverts government departments from websites and addresses that are known to be suspect. A £1m investment has saved HMRC £40m, he says.

He says he wants internet providers to divert users from known bad addresses as a matter of routine.

11.00am GMT

Osborne says number of cyber attacks to national security has doubled in the last year

Osborne says GCHQ is not winning as often as it needs to against those attacking the UK in cyber space.

We need to run just to keep up, he says.

And there is an asymmetry between attack and defence; it is easier and cheaper to mount an attack, then to conduct a defence.

He says last summer GCHQ dealt with 100 cyber attacks to national security a month. This summer it was 200, he says.

  • Osborne says number of cyber attacks to national security has doubled in the last year.

10.57am GMT

Osborne says GCHQ helping to defend 450 companies from cyber attacks from powerful adversaries

Osborne says the American ambassador is in the audience for the speech.

He says GCHQ has an unmatched ability to police the internet.

He says malware aimed at Britain has cost companies millions of pounds. If the police had not stopped these attacks with the help of GCHQ, they would have cost many more millions.

He says GCHQ is currently working to protect 450 companies from attacks from “high-end adversaries”.

  • Osborne says GCHQ helping to defend 450 companies from cyber attacks from powerful adversaries.

10.54am GMT

Back at GCHQ Osborne is saying government has a unique ability to protect people in cyber space. It has sovereign capability.

As the first chancellor to give a speech at GCHQ, he is conscious of its young history.

Churchill established it, he said. Originally it was “room 40” in the Admiralty during the first world war.

Churchill later became chancellor. Actually, he was “a pretty lousy” chancellor, Osborne says.

But he quotes Churchill writing to Baldwin saying that he attached more importance to the “flimsies” (briefings) from “room 40” than other government briefings. But Churchill complained that, as chancellor, he did not get access to them.

10.49am GMT

Osborne says UK developing power to counter-attack terrorists in cyber space

Osborne’s speech was released to journalists in advance. My colleagues Rowena Mason and Nicholas Watt have filed this story about what he’s saying.

Britain is developing an offensive capability to counter-attack terrorists in cyber space when they try to sabotage national infrastructure, George Osborne, the chancellor, has confirmed.

Speaking from the headquarters of GCHQ in Cheltenham, he acknowledged that the UK is using its own digital powers to attack hackers, terrorist groups, criminal gangs and rogue states.

Osborne warned that whoever hits the UK should know “we are able to hit back”?, and highlighted the fact that Isis’s “murderous brutality has a strong digital element” in which they are seeking to kill through attacks on cyber infrastructure.”

At a time when so many others are using the internet to enhance freedom and give expression to liberal values and creativity, they are using it for evil,” he said.

“Let’s be clear. Isil are already using the internet for hideous propaganda purposes; for radicalisation, for operational planning too. They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attack. They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it.

“So when we talk about tackling Isil, that means tackling their cyber threat as well as the threat of their guns, bombs and knives.”

In September 2013, Philip Hammond, then the defence secretary, was the first to suggest the UK was starting to attack terrorists in cyber space, saying the country was “developing a full spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability”.

During the speech, the chancellor also announced the creation of a new National Cyber Centre as he says the government is to double investment in online security to £1.9bn.

Ministers will also lobby internet service providers to work with the government to divert more malware attacks and to block “bad addresses”, the Treasury said.

Osborne is the first chancellor ever to have spoken at GCHQ, the intelligence agency responsible for communications.

10.45am GMT

Osborne says the public will not see the faces of those working at GCHQ.

But they are unsung heroes, he says.

Normally they foil one terrorist plot a year. But in the last year they have foiled seven plots against the UK.

10.44am GMT

George Osborne’s speech to GCHQ

George Osborne is speaking to GCHQ now.

He says Britain is making GCHQ resources available to France to help in the light of the terror attacks.

Before Paris, he had already indicated that he was going to increase spending on the intelligence agencies.

Now the prime minister has also announced that the amount spent on aviation security will be doubled, he says.

George Osborne speaking at GCHQ
George Osborne speaking at GCHQ Photograph: Reuters/REUTERS

10.38am GMT

Here’s George Osborne, the chancellor, on the inflation figures. (See 10.36am.)

With inflation unchanged at -0.1%, employment at an all-time high and pay growth across our economy remaining strong, today’s news continues to mean household budgets are going further.

Of course, in an uncertain global economy we continue to be alert to all risks and that’s why in the spending review we will set out the next steps in our plan to build a resilient economy: delivering the economic security of a country that lives within its means, enhancing our national security and extending opportunity for all.

10.36am GMT

Inflation remains at -0.1%

Inflation is still negative. This is from the Press Association.

Inflation remained in negative territory last month, marking the longest run of flat or falling prices since records began.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) was unchanged at minus 0.1% in October as households continue to benefit from lower food and drink prices amid a supermarket price war, as well as sharply easing energy and fuel costs.

October’s rate of inflation means the UK has now been in mild deflation for two months in a row, while CPI also briefly dipped into negative territory in April.

Inflation has been at or close to zero for nine months and is at the lowest level since March 1960.

Low inflation eases pressure on the Bank of England to increase interest rates, as CPI has now been significantly below its 2% target for nearly a year.

The Bank’s latest forecast earlier this month signalled that a hike in the cost of borrowing may not come for at least year despite governor Mark Carney previously saying the decision would come into “sharper relief” at the turn of the year.

10.34am GMT

George Osborne will soon be giving his speech at GCHQ. There is a live Reuters feed, so I will be able to cover it in detail.

Journalists are in the audience, but they are not able to tweet. Because they’re in GCHQ, they have all had to hand in their phones.

10.30am GMT

The Labour MP Ian Austin has also used Twitter to condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on “shoot to kill”.

But my friends at Media Lens remind me that three days ago, in a Mirror article, the former deputy prime minister John Prescott said that further military intervention in the Middle East would be a mistake. Prescott also condemned the killing of Mohammed Emwazi in a drone strike, saying “it will be seen in the Middle East as a state-sponsored execution”.

10.12am GMT

Met police chief says he wants to double number of armed officers on patrol in London

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, has said he wants to double the number of armed officers on duty on the streets of London. Speaking on LBC, he said he expected to have to cut 5,000 officers from his 32,000-strong force to cope with austerity cuts likely to total £800m over four years following George Osborne’s spending review later this month. He said:

I think what Paris showed us, with so many attackers with so many scenes, moving around at speed, we need to have a mobile reserve. And I’ve got a good idea how that can be achieved.

Hogan-Howe said he would be announcing the exact details of the plan in coming weeks, but it would involve changes to the number of armed officers. As the Press Association reports, currently, only about 2,000 of London’s 32,000 officers are armed.
When asked whether that was enough, Hogan-Howe replied:

What I’ve said is we’re working on plans now so that in the short period of time we’ve got an extra third on top of the core provision. The armed response vehicle element we’re increasing by a third straight away. But then the overall pool I want to increase by a third overall and also at any one time, on duty, probably double.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe Photograph: Screen Grab/BBC

10.04am GMT

The most detailed account of last night’s angry PLP meeting seem to Paul Waugh’s at Huffingon Post. Here’s an extract. The full article is much longer.

An angry John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, revealed that his niece – a Labour party member – had been in a bar next to one of the restaurants that was attacked by terrorists in Paris.

She had locked herself in a toilet with eight other terrified friends for three hours “thinking she was going to be murdered”, Mr Mann said.

He asked Mr Corbyn if he believed that terrorists wielding Kalashnikovs shouldn’t be shot by security forces in circumstances like those in France, but received no answer, one MP said. “Are you telling Labour party members if somebody’s outside with a Kalashnikov, you are not going to shoot them?” Mr Mann is said to have asked.

MPs asked Mr Corbyn if he agreed with the Stop The War Coalition article that had this weekend claimed that Paris had ‘reaped the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in the Middle East’.

Mr Corbyn described the article as ‘inappropriate’ and insisted that Stop the War Coalition had pulled it from its website, but when faced with jeers of ‘condemn it! condemn it!” refused to answer, other than to say ‘I didn’t write it’.

He was then asked why he was guest speaker at a Christmas fundraiser for the peace group, of which he has long been a supporter, but again did not answer, according to one MP present.

9.40am GMT

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary, has joined those attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his response to the Paris terror attacks.

9.38am GMT

Seven more departments agree spending cuts worth 21% with the Treasury

Another seven government departments, including Iain Duncan Smith’s Work and Pensions Department, have reached an agreement with the Treasury about spending cuts over the next four years. On average their budgets will be cut by 21% over the period. But the Home Office, where Theresa May is haggling over the extent of the planned cuts to police, is still holding out. The Treasury has another eight days to finalise the cuts because George Osborne, the chancellor, will announce the results of the spending review in his autumn statement a week tomorrow.

This is from the Press Association.

Iain Duncan Smith has settled his bitter dispute with George Osborne over cuts to the welfare budget.

The chancellor is set to announce that the Department for Work and Pensions is one of seven more government departments to have reached agreements with the Treasury ahead of next week’s spending review.

Duncan Smith had been engaged in a highly public battle with Osborne, warning through friends that he was ready to resign if the chancellor insisted on cuts which undermined his universal credit reforms.

The expected announcement by the chancellor – in a speech on cyber security at GCHQ – will take the number of Whitehall departments to have settled with the Treasury to 11.

The others in the latest batch to have signed up are the Department of Energy and Climate Change, HM Revenue and Customs, the Cabinet Office, the Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate General, the Wales Office and the Northern Ireland Office.

That still leaves a number of big spending departments which have yet to reach agreements, including the Home Office where Theresa May is under intense pressure over expected cuts to police numbers.

The latest departments to settle will face average cuts in day-to-day spending of 21% over the spending review period – the equivalent of 6% a year – resulting in savings worth more than £2.5bn by 2019-20.

Osborne is expected to say that the savings will be achieved through a combination of further efficiency cuts – in HMRC’s case through the digital transformation of the tax system – closing low-value programmes, and focusing on “our priorities as a country”.

9.31am GMT

Benn defends decision to order drone strike killing Mohammed Emwazi

In his Today interview Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, also defended the decision to use a drone strike to kill Mohammed Emwazi. Jeremy Corbyn questioned this decision in an interview with ITV yesterday. But Benn said:

There is no doubt that [Emwazi] took part in the killing of a number of hostages, including David Haines and Allan Henning. He presented a real threat and therefore it was right in those circumstances to take the action that was taken by the Americans with British support, because there was no realistic prospect of him being apprehended to face justice. Of course if someone can be arrested, then you want to bring them before a court of law; that is what some of the relatives of his victims would have wanted, I think we all would have wanted that. But there is no prospect of going into the middle of Raqqa and trying to arrest him in order for that to happen. The threat he presented was real.

I’ve taken the quote from PoliticsHome.

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Hilary Benn
Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Hilary Benn Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

9.10am GMT

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is facing a backlash from MPs in his party over his response to the Paris terror attacks. He was criticised at what seems to have been a particularly angry meeting of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) last night and this morning Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, struggled to defend Corbyn when asked about some of the things Corbyn has said in a Today interview.

Corbyn gave various interviews yesterday, but the most important ones are his interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg (written up in full here) and with ITV. To the alarm of some MPs, in his interviews he said he was opposed to a “shoot to kill” policy against terrorists on British streets, questioned the decision to kill the Islamic State (Isis) fighter and executioner Mohammed Emwazi in a drone strike, seemed to rule out a free vote for Labour MPs on extending air strikes against Isisi in Syria and refused to say if he would ever support military action against Islamist jihadists.

In his Today interview, Benn twice said he was unable to explain what Corbyn meant when he appeared to reject a “shoot to kill” policy in relation to armed terrorists. Benn said that Labour supported the “long-standing procedure” that allowed the police to use lethal force where there was an imminent threat to life.

I can’t answer for Jeremy. All I can say is what is the position of the party, the long standing position, in the United Kingdom, there are procedures; it’s got to be reasonable, it’s got to be proportionate, but you’ve got to protect human life.

After Corbyn’s interviews, a Labour aide clarified Corbyn’s remarks, saying Corbyn was also committed to this.

(As the BBC’s Dominic Casciani explains here, “shoot to kill” is not an accurate description of the policy that applies now anyway, although it is clear from the interview what Kuenssberg was talking about.)

Benn also refused to say whether or not he would resign if Corbyn attended a Stop the War event later this year. The organisation, which Corbyn chaired until shortly after his election as Labour leader, was strongly criticised on Saturday for sending out a tweet (subsequently deleted) saying Paris was “reaping [the] whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East”. Asked about this by the BBC yesterday, Corbyn said he would not use that language, but he suggested he agreed with the analysis. Benn was much more critical, describing the tweet as “shocking”. He went on:

It was wholly wrong to say that. This is not the fault of the French. I’m glad that tweet was deleted.

I will post more from Benn’s interview soon.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Inflation figures are published.

Around 10.30am: George Osborne, the chancellor, gives his speech at GCHQ.

11.30am: Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, gives evidence on the EU renegotiation to the Commons European scrutiny committee.

12.30pm: David Cameron gives a statement to MPs on the Paris attacks and the G20.

I will be covering the British political reaction to the Paris attacks here, but if you want to follow all the global developments, do read our separate Paris attacks live blog.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m at @AndrewSparrow.

Updated at 9.14am GMT

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