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Maintain and develop counter-terrorism strategy

Last updated: 11:05am 8 October 2019

We will […] maintain and develop our counter- terrorism strategy to protect us from terrorism at home and abroad.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.44

Our verdict

The threat to UK citizens from terrorist acts was tragically underlined in 2017 with deadly attacks in London and the bombing of a pop concert at Manchester Arena. The UK has had a long-term strategy for countering international terrorism since 2003.  The strategy, known as CONTEST, has developed since then to deal with new and emerging terrorist threats.

Following the terror attack at London Bridge on 3 June 2017, the Prime Minister said:

“…in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy…”

That intention is restated in this policy pledge to “maintain and develop” the strategy.

The result of the subsequent review process was the launch on 4 June 2018 of the new counter-terrorism strategy, which introduced significant changes in approach to counter the shifting threats.

Alongside the updated CONTEST strategy, the government is seeking to pass a new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill which, among other things, proposes increased powers of stop and search for border guards. The bill is progressing through Parliament, although both the Constitution Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have raised serious concerns about the legitimacy of its contents.

Furthering upon the promise to “develop” counter-terrorism strategy, the government has signed an agreement that will allow British law enforcement agencies to demand electronic data relating to terrorists and other serious criminals from US tech firms. This is the world’s first UK-US Bilateral Data Access Agreement and it promises to speed up investigations and hence prosecutions.

So there is certainly evidence of the government fulfilling this promise to “maintain and develop our counter terrorism strategy”. The efficacy and legitimacy of the CONTEST strategy in protecting us “from terrorism at home and abroad” is a debate to be had elsewhere, not least in the ongoing discussions in Parliament around the new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill. For our purposes, though, this policy is ‘done’.

‘Maintain and develop’ your fact file!

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