Stephen challenges PM over extremist travel – and says serious questions must be answered

Stephen this week challenged the Prime Minister, on how a young man at risk was apparently able to obtain a passport and travel using commercial means to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State extremists.

The Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday (September 1), after David Cameron announced plans to give police the power to confiscate passports of terror suspects, said:

“The Prime Minister will be aware that a number of individuals from Cardiff, including two from my constituency, have travelled to join and fight with IS in Iraq and Syria. Will he explain to me how a young man believed to be at risk has apparently been able to obtain and use a UK passport to travel using commercial means from the UK through the EU to fight for IS?

“Does the Prime Minister have full confidence in Her Majesty’s Passport Office and the UK Border Force and will he assure us that there have been no serious lapses in their existing checking procedures, particularly given the numbers that we have seen going to fight?”

The Prime Minister replied that he would ‘look at the individual case’, and added: “A number of passports have been confiscated and a number of people have been prosecuted, but we obviously need to do all we can and more to stop this happening.”

Speaking afterwards to BBC and ITV, Stephen said he was concerned that many of the new measures, while welcome, are in effect ‘closing the door after the horse has bolted’.

“We’ve known of hundreds of people, possibly thousands, travelling abroad to these conflicts for some time,” he said.

“Sadly a number of those have been from the Cardiff area, and I do have to ask serious questions about whether the government has responded quickly or sufficiently enough to this direct threat not only to our national security, but to already volatile and unstable states in the Middle East.

“Serious questions have to be asked about how so many young people have been able to travel, especially if and when known to the security services.

“Local police and community leaders are working hard to tackle the root causes of these problems and deal with specific incidents, but we need to ask whether they are being supported by enough action from central government,” added Stephen.

“The Tory-Lib Dem government made a massive mistake in abolishing control orders and cutting funding for the Prevent programme, and it appears it is failing to adequately co-ordinate between key government agencies.

“At the same time we have seen highly concerning and visible activity by extremist-supporting groups in the local area, and an increase in the amount of extremist material available on the internet and social media. We need to see a continued urgent and robust crackdown on both these groups and these materials.

“Those who seek to radicalise our young people have rightly been condemned by Muslim and other religious and community leaders across our area. People across Cardiff and the Vale need answers and reassurance from the government that they are taking a belt and braces approach to this problem.”

To read the debate in full, click here.


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