Tens of thousands of people fled Iraq's city of Mosul after it was overrun by IS. Photo: Getty
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Conservatives are pushing for stronger laws to face the threat from Islamic State

How the Communications Data Bill is intended to tackle Islamic State.

There can't be much doubt left for Brits. The threat of evil terrorist group Islamic State (IS) is closer to home than we thought.

Only a few days ago, we read about a chilling plot to carry out a gruesome beheading. Not in Syria, and not in Iraq, where we have witnessed with horror in bloody detail what this involves. No, this was a terror plot to attack Londoners, here on British soil. And it was foiled by Britain's Police and security services at the last minute. Our Home Secretary Theresa May could not have been clearer, when she told us this week: the threat to the UK is perhaps greater than it has ever been.

Millions of families will be reassured, therefore, to hear about the government's new laws to tackle these evil extremists. Incredibly, more than 500 Brits have already travelled to Syria and Iraq: many of them to fight for IS. They have made a choice to join that evil organisation. And their choice must have consequences. This is why Conservative ministers are bringing in new rules:
 

1)      Tough new powers to control our borders, to confiscate passports from suspected terrorists, preventing them from travelling to fight for IS.

2)     New exclusion orders, to ensure that British terrorists in Syria and Iraq are only allowed home on our terms - rather than just being nodded through automatically.
 

Schools and universities will play their part too. New "counter-radicalisation" measures are in our Bill. These will help to protect our children from corruption and brainwashing tactics – helping to keep them at home, safe, where they belong.

IS cannot be ignored. It will not disappear with time. It is a threat that must be confronted: or it will surely reach our shores. That is why we need these new laws, to ensure police and security agencies have all the powers they need, and access to all the data they need to disrupt terrorist plots.

Our police and security services have done a nerve-wracking job this year, wiping out numerous terrorist plots and arresting 271 potential killers. But, because we all communicate more online, they are losing access to the vital communications data – the "who, where, when and how" – that they need to keep us safe. That is why Conservatives want to strengthen the law, giving our police access to this critical information. We want to act. But we need a majority in parliament to do it. That's why the Home Secretary has made it crystal clear: this will be a priority for us in the next parliament.

To sum up: we are determined to keep you and your children safe. We are committed to civil liberties, but your security must come first. It is your fundamental right as a British citizen. Everyone in this country has the basic right to walk our streets, take their children to school, and travel to work feeling safe. We will never put this at risk.

Grant Shapps is the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Conservative party chairman

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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