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MS-13: Norwegian Escape
Mr Speaker, I beg leave to make a statement to the House.
Days ago an explosion occurred onboard the cruise ship Norwegian Escape during a transatlantic voyage from Southampton to Miami, Florida. Immediately following the explosion, the crew of the vessel followed standard emergency procedures and the government established contact with the vessel and with the parent company, Norwegian Cruise Lines. Upon assessing the information provided, the Government made the decision to activate COBR and establish a joint crisis management response with the United States.
We readily established the protocols were being followed and that the crew maintained control of the ship. Moreover, we established that a successful evacuation of the vessel was ongoing. As the vessel was in the vicinity of Bermuda, we dispatched the RFA Lyme Bay from Bermuda to assist in rescue operations. These operations were augmented by the United States Navy operating out of Newport News, Virginia.
The rescue operation was largely successful and the only confirmed loss of life were ten deaths that were directly linked to the initial explosion.
Upon confirming that there were no hostile elements onboard the ship, the Government approved taking the Norwegian Escape under tow to a secure berth in Bermuda where an investigation could be launched into the cause of the explosion. The investigation was conducted by British intelligence and law enforcement personnel. Further investigation is being completed with the support of American naval investigators.
I am afraid that I must report to the House that the Government has confirmed the explosion onboard the Norwegian Escape to be an act of terrorism.
The explosion was a simple, homegrown mixture of aluminum and iron oxide, producing a reaction similar to that caused by thermite. It was detonated in a cabin occupied by a Turkish family. The Government is withholding the name of the family until its investigation into the family is complete. This investigation is being completed in cooperation with American and Turkish authorities.
Mr Speaker, shortly following the initial investigation intelligence services identified a video from the self-proclaimed leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claiming responsibility for the attack. In this video he further referenced the “Turkish martyrs”, a reference that the intelligence services estimate is to the family onboard the cruise ship.
This, Mr Speaker, is without a doubt an attack on Britain, an attack on the West, and an attack on the free peoples of the world. It will absolutely be responded to in a manner fitting of the act. And for the act of terrorism, the only reasonable response is one of destruction. A lasting defeat of Daesh is the only policy which this government will accept on this front. Those who lost their lives onboard the Norwegian Escape will be mourned and remembered. The cowards that orchestrated their deaths will be brought to a harsh justice.
We have elevated the activities of Government in response to this action, Mr Speaker. To the best of our knowledge, the family in question had no known links to Daesh or other extremist groups. There was nothing that the security services of any nation would pick up on. However, there are steps we can take. We are working to increase security around our ports. We will be working in the coming days to identify ways to more thoroughly identify those that may have links to Daesh, those who are not coming from Syria and can slip through established detection mechanisms. Announcements on these matters will be made to the House in due course. Likewise, the Government is engaging in consultations regarding strengthening security measures at our ports of entry, establishing new counter-terrorism protocols, and examining whether the current suite of investigatory powers are fit for purposes. We aim to report draft legislation on these matters to the House in due course.
For now, Mr Speaker, we must work to intensify our actions against Daesh. We must work to defeat those that see to cause us harm. And we must work to improve the security of our island home. Government shall do these things and we shall deliver on our commitment to keep the British people safe.
MP for Hammersmith
Parliamentary: Unknown (13)
Media: Unknown (17)
Policy: Unknown (18)
Allow me to first express my deepest condolences to the families of all the victims of this horrendous terrorist attack. My mind of course goes to Catherine and Barrett Ellsworth, two British citizens and a lovely couple who leave behind a family that cared for them deeply. They are the victims of an act of pure evil, a violent act of terrorism that has no place in our world. As I have said before, and as I will continue to say, their death is an affront to all of Britain. To their family, please know that the whole of The United Kingdom mourns with you. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the House join me in a moment of silence out of respect to the Ellsworth's.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before moving forward, I would be remiss if I did not thank our incredible airmen in the RAF, everyone responsible for assisting in the rescue operation, and the British intelligence officials who ensured the rescuers had all of the necessary information available. They represent the best of Great Britain, and we are all better off because of their immaculate service to the nation.
I thank the Rt. Hon Prime Minister for taking this time to update the House on these ongoing matters. I can imagine this is an incredibly busy time for her, and I appreciate her desire to ensure the Commons is fully brief on these matters as they occur. It is vital that the House of Commons is informed of matters of national security, so in turn the British people can be made aware of the threat and what their Government is doing to combat it. Her willingness to ensure the House plays an active role in this conflict is not lost on me, and is truly appreciated.
Now, Mr. Speaker, all of us are tasked with one solemn duty: to ensure those who were killed in this vile terrorist attack were not killed in vain. We have a responsibility to speak up for the free people everywhere, to defend democracy and the Western values we hold dear, and most critically, to ensure the world knows that an attack on British citizens will be met with the full might and fury of this great country. This is not a political matter, rather it is a fundamental matter of the national interest. All of us, from every part of this House, is called on to act as one as we present a unified front in our resolve to annihilate ISIL and all who seek to aid them.
The Opposition has already committed to supporting the Government in their proposed multinational response to confronting ISIL, something those of us on this side of the House have long championed. We believe the Prime Minister is right to put Britain at the lead of this international coalition, and will continue to support efforts to make sure The United Kingdom plays an active role in the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL. While the Government and those on this side of the House may disagree on much, our shared commitment to eliminate all those who seek to cause the British people harm could not be stronger. We will always be resolutely determined to work alongside the Government on this matter, as that is wha the British people deserve.
We also believe, Mr. Speaker, that more must be done in order to ensure the offensive against ISIL is extended on every possible front. Over the coming days we will introduce legislation to compliment the Government's existing strategy, and we will continue to propose new ideas and tactics directly to the Government. As the country's Opposition, the British people deserve to know that we will play a productive and active role in shaping and enhancing Britain's response to this terrorist threat. This is an issue that requires total participation from all corners of the House, as we will only be able to successfully confront the threat posed by ISIL if we respond with the full weight of Parliament.
The challenge that lies in front of us, that lies in front of the entire global community, is great. ISIL has spread across the Middle East with rapid speed, destroying communities and murdering innocent people as they do. But as we have done so many times in the past, I have no doubt that The United Kingdom will rise to the challenge and persevere against those who would see us defeated. We did not shy away from confronting the tyranny of Nazi Germany. We did not remain silent when the Soviet Union sought to impose their will on the whole of Europe. Now, when presented with a new existential threat that seeks to undermine our people and our way of life, our response must be no different. As we always have in that past, we will confront evil head on, and we will win.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Member of Parliament for Bracknell
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Chief Whip of the Conservative party
I thank the Rt Hon Member for Bracknell for his support. I would, however, take great care to caution him against proposing legislation without appropriate consultation.
The Government is carefully devising a strategy, in full concert with allied governments, the security and intelligence services, the armed forces, and experts within the Civil Service. Much planning is, in fact, covered by the Official Secrets Act and delegated to the Government to conduct such policies in line with existing national security and intelligence policies and procedures. To ensure Parliamentary oversight, the Intelligence and Security Committee is kept informed of Government actions and intentions regarding classified operations.
National security is not a place for political showmanship - it is not a place to insist on plans without appropriate liaison with those impacted by policies. National security is a place for cautious and careful thought and action. That is why the Government devoted a great deal of planning and work with all relevant components of the British national security apparatus to develop a strategy for combating Daesh. We will, of course, continue to inform the public of our actions where doing so would not compromise national security operations and we will act through the appropriate channels, the Intelligence and Security Committee, when necessary.
Should the Rt Hon Member wish to discuss policy, we would advise that he do so in private, in consultation with the Government, such that we can ensure that any policies or changes in strategy proposed are not contradictory with operations already under way. We have a proud tradition in this country of working through established channels, of not playing politics with the safety of our people or the conduct of military and intelligence operations. This is not the time to rush to propose legislation just to say one did something - particularly when one does not have access to actionable intelligence. It is a time to develop strategies that work. It is a time to act prudently and appropriately.
MP for Hammersmith
Parliamentary: Unknown (13)
Media: Unknown (17)
Policy: Unknown (18)
I share in the sentiment of collective loss for the Ellsworth’s, and the other eight passengers that have died on the Norwegian Escape, and wish their families, and all those that knew them, well, in what is undoubtedly a period of unimaginable sadness. I echo the comments that have been made by Members on all sides on this.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister for updating the House on this tragedy, and appreciate the detail that she has given with regards to both the events, and actions being taken going forward.
But Mr Speaker, whilst I am aware of the severity of this situation, I have been deeply shocked by the rhetoric being used around this Chamber. It is not, however, the rhetoric surrounding proposals going forward that has done this, but instead the decisions by various Members to use tragedy, and wrap it up in nationalistic sentiment to justify their own political mindsets. It is a hard indictment of this House that we allow talk of a pseudo-mythical 'Britain', that plays on the heart strings to cloud the morality and vitality of the decision that lies before us at this juncture, to go unchallenged. We have heard, for example, that calls for war serve merely as a “fundamental matter of national interest”, that those who have died should not be “killed in vain”, and that “the only reasonable response is one of destruction”. And yet, Mr Speaker, and I say this as a Member who has been in favour of genuine humanitarian intervention long before this tragedy, I am appalled that some of those who call for war now, when it is politically popular to do so, have never shown an ounce of public remorse or empathy towards the many victims of this conflict before today.
It pains me to say this, and I am surprised that I am forced to do so where nobody else has yet been willing, but this House must recognise that it has been one of the excelerators and contributors towards the mess we now find ourselves entangled in. War rhetoric and drum beating does not change that. But our bed is being made by it.
We have, I believe, an obligation to the Ellsworth’s, the eight other passengers killed in the blast, and the millions we have damned with our actions in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and the wider Middle East. Now is not the moment for Members to be suddenly surprised that Brits bleed red, and die side by side with the peoples of all these nations under the fire of Daesh. It is a poison we must rid, make no mistake, but action must be taken for everyone, not just ‘Britain’.
I believe we must be realistic, and our consciousness must be clear that people will die as a result of what happens in this House. But a failure to defend the innocent, the persecuted and the oppressed is a line we have already crossed in our failure to act swiftly at the awakening of this conflict, to the detriment of the Middle East. I warn this House, do not use this tragedy to bang the drum for a British imperial-esque conquest of ‘democracy and liberal capitalism’ as we did in 2003. Do not let us be blinded by our shortsightedness again. Instead, fight because we are bound by our common humanity to all those who are trapped and wrecked by this war, many of whom now sit either imprisoned in Daesh controlled territory, in refugee camps, or lie floating in the Medditeranean because of us. To all those, on all sides, be honest and take accountability for what has happened, and what is inevitably to come from our words. Failure on our part to defend all peoples of this Earth in the past is a lesson we have clearly fallen short of understanding, and we are going to now learn in our and their blood alike.
Mr Speaker, I have one final message, which I hope Members will hear. Do not act when it sounds good, and fail to do so when the reality sounds horrific. Act because it your, and our, duty to do so.
MP for Brighton Pavilion (2014-Present)