Places of Worship: Security Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:52 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 4:52 pm, 7th May 2019

I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of his statement. I join him and the shadow Home Secretary in condemning the hate-filled attacks he referred to. I echo what they both said about the sanctity of places of worship. Everybody should be able to practise and observe their religion without fear. Any sensible measure that will help to make that happen is to be welcomed. Listening to what our religious communities need is paramount, so I welcome in particular what he said about consultation. It is a tragedy that we are having to have this discussion on how to protect places of worship in 2019. One reason we are having to do so is that online space has been ruthlessly exploited by those who would peddle hate and encourage such attacks.

The SNP welcomes the fact that the Government have published a White Paper on online harms, but we cannot wait for legislative reform. It seems that we are still struggling to come up with a complete and co-ordinated response that addresses how to police online hate. It is a question partly of resourcing, partly of improving co-ordination—both internationally and among the police forces of the United Kingdom—and partly of drawing on expertise. Does the Home Secretary accept that we need more of all those things?

The ongoing review of the Prevent strategy is much needed. Some of what happens through the strategy is effective, but more can be done to build community trust and increase the strategy’s effectiveness. One criticism that has been made is that the strategy has never been fully tailored to addressing the dangers posed by the far right. Can the Home Secretary assure me that all the expertise and knowledge available are being fully exploited so that strategies to tackle the far right are having the maximum possible impact?