Prime Minister David Cameron launched a robust defence of the government’s counterterrorism strategies in a speech in the City last night, vowing that British “resolve” would defeat Islamist terrorism.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet at Guildhall, an annual white-tie formal dinner, Cameron said, “Britain, France and our allies around the world will never be cowed by terrorism. We will only redouble our resolve to defeat it.”
Cameron returned to London earlier today following a two-day G20 leaders’ summit in Antalya, Turkey, where heads of government from some of the world’s largest economies said they would further coordinate their efforts to combat the so-called Islamic State (IS).
IS has claimed responsibility for simultaneous attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris on Friday.
Cameron told attendees at the Lord Mayor’s banquet that Britain’s “economic security and national security go hand-in-hand”.
“You cannot have one without the other,” he said, adding, “It is only because we have a strong economy that we can afford the resources to invest in our national security.”
Cameron repeated the government’s commitment to spend two per cent of national GDP on defence every year for the rest of the parliament, and said the government would back a new £2bn investment program for special forces, maintaining Trident and expanding cybersecurity capabilities.
He also said the government would hire over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff and put more money behind expanding Britain’s network of counter-terrorism experts in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and more than double its spending on aviation security, promises he also made on BBC’s Radio 4 earlier today.
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Cameron also defended the proposed investigatory powers bill, which would give the government more power to monitor individuals’ communications, saying while there are “those who criticise these measures as an infringement of civil liberties”, he disagrees.
“[The measures] are about protecting those liberties from terrorists who want to take them away,” Cameron said, adding, “These are powers that have been used in every major recent counter terrorism investigation by MI5 and the police.
“And they have played an important part in thwarting many attacks from a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange in 2010 to a sickening attempt to imitate the killers of Lee Rigby by murdering a soldier with a knife and a hammer in August last year.
“Our legislation will get the balance right – with powers matched by strong safeguards and judicial oversight to make us world leaders on transparency and accountability.”
Cameron also called out critics who questioned the government's foreign aid spending and targeted drone strikes, saying both policies were part of a strategy to ensure Britain's security.