Terrorist Attacks - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:18 pm on 5th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 3:18 pm, 5th December 2017

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the House of Commons. We share the view expressed that responsibility for these awful incidents rests solely on the shoulders of the perpetrators. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our intelligence and security services and the police for the work they do seeking to protect us from acts of terrorism. Without their commitment and dedication, this country would not feel like a safe place to live. We know only too well from an act of terrorism here on our doorstep that their commitment and dedication can result in loss of life—in this instance, of a police officer doing his duty to the full. We should all be grateful to David Anderson QC for his report, although our first thoughts must be with the families and loved ones of those who died or suffered life-changing injuries in these awful incidents.

Those who have the burden of responsibility of protecting us are entitled to expect our full support. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has recently reported that policing is under significant stress. Officer numbers have declined significantly since 2010 and further reductions in numbers of officers and police staff are on the way. A government claim that reserves totalling £1.6 billion are available to the police has been dismissed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, which said that not only was the figure £200 million less than the Government had claimed but also that two-thirds was already earmarked to be spent.

The chair of the National Police Chiefs Council has been quoted as saying, “We’ve made £1.6 billion efficiency savings in the last five years and predict we’ll save another £0.9 billion in the next five. This at a time when HMIC recognises policing is under significant stress from rising demand and reported crime that is increasingly complex with … budgets due to fall in real terms over the next three years”. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has warned of cuts to officer numbers if her force has to make a further £400 million in savings because of budget pressures. The indicative profile of the counterterrorism police’s grant allocation over the next three years sees a reduction of 7.2% in its budgets. Can the Minister say what the Government now intend to do to address that situation in the light of the Anderson report and the continuing, indeed increased, terrorist threat?

The Anderson report refers to the work of M15 and counterterrorism police in improving their co-ordination and reliance on community policing, even though the Government have previously attempted to maintain, in the face of reductions in community and neighbourhood policing numbers, that counterterrorism and community policing are unrelated activities. What do the Government intend to do to bolster community policing, now that they have been told, not for the first time, that it is a vital part of counterterrorism activity, building confidence and trust among communities and securing crucial intelligence?

David Anderson has said that, in the case of the Manchester terrorist attack, MI5 and counterterrorism police,

“could have succeeded had the cards fallen differently”.

How do the Government interpret that? We know that the police and security and intelligence services have more people who should be monitored than they can properly cope with. Do the Government intend to increase the resources available to address that reality?

Another area that is important in countering terrorism is the effectiveness or otherwise of border controls. Currently, scarce resources are available to be spent on telling people who have lived in this country for over 50 years that they face deportation before bundling them off to an immigration detention centre. On the other hand, resources are not available to prevent 11 people in a lorry from apparently being smuggled into this country undetected by border controls and found in a layby in Wiltshire only when they start banging on the side of the vehicle—11 people who could have constituted a terrorist threat. Is it not time that the Government had a hard look at not only whether they are providing sufficient resources to our hard-pressed security and police services to counterterrorist threats but whether they have their priorities right in how the resources available should be used?

The Statement refers to the fact that the Government will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing for 2018-19. The Home Secretary has said that she is clear that we must ensure that counterterrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats that we face. In the Statement, the Home Secretary also said:

“I would like to remind honourable Members of the context. Andrew Parker, the director-general of MI5 recently said that we are facing ‘a dramatic upshift’ in terrorist threats”.

If the Home Secretary is to deliver on what she has said, and the Government with her, about the need to ensure that counterterrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats that we face, it has to be very clear in announcing the budgets for policing for 2018-19 that no one will have any grounds for saying that the police and counterterrorism activity are being left underresourced.