Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:03 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 7:03 pm, 7th May 2019

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the Commons. Is the money announced in the Statement new funding or funding reallocated from another budget heading? The Statement deals with a serious issue, in the light not only of the tragic and sickening events elsewhere in the world but of events on our own doorstep, with the increasing number of attacks causing damage to synagogues, temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship, with the fear that, before long, those attacks could be directed more at worshippers than at just the buildings themselves.

It is a sorry state of affairs when people of different faiths do not always feel safe simply practising their religion. The language of hate that seems increasingly to be used only ramps up the likelihood of such attacks. What is even more appalling is that that language is used by some who hold or seek to hold office in our democratic structures and intuitions, and by so doing give that language an air of respectability.

Places of worship should be open to the public as havens for quiet reflection, contemplation, prayer and worship, and as places where an understanding hearing and help may be found. But it is increasingly difficult to keep places of worship open for most of the day because of the threat of attacks in one form or another—increasingly difficult because people, often volunteers, are needed inside to ensure that nothing untoward occurs, and, even then, a single person on their own may feel too vulnerable to want to carry out that role even when they have the time.

We support making more money available for protective security measures as a means of seeking to reduce fear and apprehension for those practising their faith in places of worship. But this cannot be regarded as a solution to the problem. We need, beyond the increased security measures set out in the Statement, resources directed at those who preach or practise hatred or encourage others to do so, and in particular also at those who might find such messages seductive or compelling. That requires further resources not simply for our seriously overstretched police but for community organisations and local government and our schools, for example, which have also been denuded to the bone to the detriment of the extent and level of what they can achieve in this field.

The Government also need to press ahead with a review of the Prevent strategy, identifying and concentrating on best practice and making clear to all that it is directed at reducing and stopping hatred and extremism across the board and not by any particular group within our diverse community.

I hope that when she responds the Minister can provide reassurance—which was not spelled out in the Statement, which contained fewer than 30 words on the involvement of local communities and the Prevent strategy—that what the Government have announced today is but one aspect, albeit important, of a much wider, properly resourced programme to address the increasing trend of hatred and hostility in what appears to be becoming our more fractured society instead of a diverse society that draws its strength, unity and values from that diversity.