CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

FOREIGN AFFAIRS – BALI BOMBINGS – 3 March 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: The problem is the terminology. The use of the word “significant” does not make it clear enough, to those who have to decide whether they wish to take the risk of going to a place with that threat-level, that it means – as the Foreign Secretary has just said and as the Committee's report confirms – that the place is

"a priority target of terrorist activity".

Surely the problem is not the grading that the Security Service gave to the level of threat but the fact that the word used for that level did not sufficiently convey the seriousness of the accurate threat assessment that had been made?

[Jack Straw: The hon. Gentleman is on to something, but we do not include the Security Service's raw threat assessment in the published travel advice, which reflects the intelligence assessments. Including the raw threat assessment would, on occasions, compromise the source of the intelligence – if it changed suddenly, for example, it could send a signal to the terrorists – and would be more likely to cause confusion in the minds of the public. … At present we use the threat assessment as one input, and set it against other inputs, including the capacity of the local law enforcement and intelligence agencies to cope with a threat, to come to a description of the threat that the tourist, business person or British resident is likely to encounter in that country. In certain circumstances, we also offer advice about whether people should travel there at all, or in qualified circumstances.]

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Dr Lewis: I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has just said about the availability of a rapid deployment team in the future. May I point out to him that the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth East in the next election, Mr. Tobias Ellwood, featured prominently in the aftermath of Bali? He and his sister went out there and had to search by themselves, without any significant support whatever, for the body of their brother. Something like that should never have to happen again.

Mr Straw: I accept that. I have met Mr. Ellwood and his sister, who are very courageous people. I discussed what had happened to them, and this is the first time that I have had any idea of their political affiliations. It was not of remote interest to me –]

Dr Lewis: Mr Ellwood was selected later.

Mr Straw: Mr Ellwood is a free citizen. I would not have minded if he had been selected before. It is entirely a matter for him. I do not think that he would mind me saying that, notwithstanding the terrible grief that he and his family have suffered, he has been extremely helpful in offering us advice on how we should improve the service in the future. Of course, what happened to him, his sister and their parents should never have happened.