Counter terror preparedness

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 12th July 2021.

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Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

You have stated that you are to commission an update of the Harris review into London’s counter terror preparedness. Have all the recommendations of the original review been implemented by the relevant agencies, and have there been any failures that have led you to seek to commission this update?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Nothing is more important to me than keeping Londoners safe. Londoners have a right to expect us to be prepared for any potential attack on our city. That is why on taking office I asked Lord Harris [of Haringey] to undertake a review into London’s preparedness. Now, five years on, given the evolving threat of terrorism, I am commissioning an update to make sure London remains as prepared as it can be.

The Harris Review made more than 100 recommendations, the vast majority of which have been implemented, resulting in numerous improvements to safety for our city. There is now better communication with Londoners during and after an attack. For example, the deployment of the military following an attack has been accompanied by significant communications activity by the military, the police and others to reassure Londoners about their presence. Advice to owners of crowded places and businesses has been improved and updated, including the Cross-sector Safety & Security Communications hub London Protect newsletter. The rollout of Project Servitor, in which specially trained armed officers undertake engagement and prevention work has been crucial in gathering the intelligence to assist counterterrorism units across the UK and disrupting a range of criminal activity.

A refresh of the Harris Review is important at a time when we are due to receive the findings of both the Manchester Arena Inquiry and the Fishmongers Hall Inquests. The review will consider to what extent the MPS, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and other London organisations have acted on the relevant recommendations and what gaps remain. Work on starting the review is underway. As London recovers from the pandemic, our work is more important than ever.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. You mentioned the Fishmongers Hall attack and the inquiry. The inquest identified the Multi-Agency Public Partnership Arrangements (MAPPA) as having failed in effectively monitoring the offender following his release from prison. The original Harris Review - and I did speak to [Lord] Toby Harris and give him my views back in 2016 - failed to mention MAPPA as an issue. Considering the work of organisations around the country clearly impact on London’s preparedness for a terror attack, will you be advising that the scope of the updated review takes into account the work of the agencies involved in MAPPA meetings, such as the Probation Service?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, good question. Lord Harris will be looking at what the terms of the review are. Just to reassure you, the Government commissioned Jonathan Hall, a very experienced Queen’s Counsel (QC), to review the work and the effectiveness of MAPPA. We will be looking at what Hall says and I am sure Lord Harris will.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Thank you. Neil Basu [QPM, Assistant Commissioner, MPS] has also said that the pandemic has created a “perfect storm” that has left individuals more vulnerable to radicalisation and online grooming, and there have been concerns around a drop in Prevent referrals due to the closure of schools. How has your Countering Violent Extremism programme been working to address this? Given the heightened sense of risk, will you be investing more in this area over the coming term?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We are worried, our counterterror information is also that the pandemic has led to more people using the internet and more vulnerable people being radicalised through the internet. It is really important we understand that. As lockdown restrictions are lifted, the concern is that their radicalisation could lead to violent acts. We are doing a number of things to address that in relation to the work we are doing around countering violent extremism. We had a fund, as you know, the Shared Endeavour Fund, working with community groups on 30 projects with more than 25,000 participants. You praised the app we started, the #iREPORTit app. We have had a large number of referrals from the app as well. We are going to continue to occupy this space.

Just a final point. We have launched a second round of funding for the Countering Violent Extremism programme because we are keen to make sure we do work around resilience as well as enforcement.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Finally, Mr Mayor, last week marked the fifth anniversary of Jo Cox’s murder at the hands of a far-right terrorist. The charity Hope Not Hate - I know you are familiar with its work - in its State of Hate 2021 report, which was published earlier this year, specifically talks about Nazi terrorism remaining a threat and increasingly involving teenagers. Twelve people were convicted last year, of whom six were teenagers, and 11 are currently awaiting trial. I understand there have been significant arrests as well relating to far-right terrorism made in the past few months across the country. How will your work from City Hall seek to address this issue in particular?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The work we are doing around countering violent extremism also includes the extreme far right. The caseload of the counterterror team in this area is increasing and [Assistant Commissioner] Neil Basu is on record expressing his concern about this. There are also similarities in relation to vulnerable people, radicalisation, charismatic orators and so on. The work we are doing will help, but it is really important that we do not allow a situation that fosters division, which can be a breeding ground for radicalisation.