Incident in Salisbury - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:36 pm on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 12:36 pm, 8th March 2018

First, I echo the words of the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Paddick, in praising our emergency services in the highest possible terms for what they risked to help these two individuals, which of course led to one of the policemen being taken ill. He is still in hospital. It brings into play the question of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the danger to our emergency services and whether all risk assessments are done to mitigate such injury to the police.

Certainly I can say that in the CBRN area these procedures are constantly reviewed and people are trained to the highest possible level—but in an emergency like this we can all appreciate that sometimes people’s lives will be at risk. People are put in danger, and that is why we have the highest regard for the police. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about police budgets. The police told us last year the number of additional police officers needed to do their job. We feel that in the budget they can attain this year they will have those police numbers—and more—to do the job that they do. That does not detract from the fact that the injury to this police officer, and indeed the death of PC Palmer some months, ago bring into sharp focus the dangers that police put themselves into.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked me to reiterate the Government’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice. I said that in my Answer to the Question earlier and I repeat it now: we are absolutely determined to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether I could confirm that one of the individuals was a Russian spy. I am not in a position to comment further on the victims, other than in the Statement where I confirmed their names.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also asked about borders, how the substance came into the country and how sure we are of effective border control. I am not prepared to comment on an ongoing operation; I know that the House got slightly exasperated with me earlier, but I cannot. We adopt a rigorous approach to border security, and agencies work together at the border to manage a range of threats, including those posed by terrorism and serious and organised crime. This includes carrying out 100% immigration and security checks at the primary control point, advanced checks where available and intelligence-led targeting at ports. Border Force has at its disposal a range of capability to detect, target and identify substances and materials that could cause harm.