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 Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 7:03 pm, 7th May 2019

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. She repeated the Home Secretary’s four specific items. I thought that the third, which was,

“consulting religious communities on what more can and should be done to help them”,

might have been the first one in the list. The amounts of money which are mentioned are welcome, but they are very small when one compares them to the cost to the community of an attack—any sort of attack, but particularly a major attack. The aim must be to eliminate religious hatred.

The focus of this Statement—I do not think it pretends to be otherwise—seems to be on relatively low-level physical security. I believe that the maximum grant, if that is the right term, that has been made is £56,000. Will the Minister tell the House the average, more or less, level of grant that has been given recently—it will be 80% of the total cost of the work proposed—and what can be achieved by that sort of money? I do not know how much CCTV costs; that may be the best of the physical arrangements.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister about the application form on the Home Office website. There are questions about the building, asking whether:

“The exterior and interior … is in a good state of repair and look well maintained”,

whether there is “natural surveillance”—I am not sure what that means—and whether it is in a conservation area. What is the relevance of some of these questions? There are questions about security measures, such as whether personal injury or assault has been experienced in the past 12 months and whether the building is,

“visible and identifiable as a place of worship? e.g. Symbolism/description on exterior of building, building dominate town or hidden away etc”.

My reaction on reading that is that we should be loud and proud about faiths which are practised. Again, will the Minister tell the House the purpose of such questions?

Five million pounds is proposed over three years for training. I appreciate that the Community Security Trust is outside this scheme, but I mention it because I was struck by an email circulated to members of my synagogue asking for volunteers to come forward for specific levels of training, and I realised how much these groups depend on volunteers. Is the Home Office satisfied that all communities that need training will be able to access this funding?

Like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I want to ask about the Prevent programme, which is mentioned. What progress is there with the review that is to be undertaken? Will the Minister assure the House that it will be independent and that community organisations and civil society, including of course faith organisations and faith communities, will be given every opportunity to contribute evidence?