Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding - Statement

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 7:03 pm, 7th May 2019

I thank both noble Lords for their comments. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked what elements of the funding are new or not new. The £1.6 million in the Statement is not new money. It will be released in July. The £5 million funding is also not a new announcement and will be released in this financial year. As the noble Lord may have heard my right honourable friend the Home Secretary say, the Ramadan package is new. A £50,000 pre-Ramadan training package has already started and an additional £7,000 will be available during Ramadan. As he heard me say, Faith Associates was chosen to do that. There will be a training package in place for communities that need it, which will be aligned with the places of worship scheme.

The noble Lord commented that this is not just about buildings. He is absolutely right—it is not just about buildings. Just securing a building will not create confidence or put the minds of communities at rest. I do not know whether he recalls it, but the reassurance that was provided by the police following the “punish a Muslim” letter was exemplary. Communities up and down the country were very grateful for that, and the police will be doing the same over Ramadan. I mentioned £5 million over three years for security training. We are most grateful for the work of Tell MAMA and CST. Touching slightly on what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, the two work together because a problem for one community often reflects itself in a problem for another community.

The noble Lord also touched upon the online world and how it is so invidious in hooking people into areas of extremism or terrorism. Of course, he will know that the online harms White Paper has now been published, and I look forward to the introduction of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, rightly pointed out that communities are at the heart of all that we do. The Building a Stronger Britain Together projects that we do with civil society groups have proved very beneficial in moving them to promote integration and cohesion within communities.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about the Prevent review. We committed to do it in 2019 and I am sure that further details of it will come forward. I do not have them at my fingertips now, so I will not pretend to know every single aspect. However, one thing that should not be forgotten in the context of Prevent is that the rise of the far right has seen almost 50% of referrals to the Channel programme being related to far-right concerns. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said that the consultation should have come first. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary did not list the four things in order of importance, but of course consultation with community groups is at the heart of what we do.

The noble Baroness asked about the size of the grants and talked about it being a relatively small fund. However, when you put together the £5 million training package and double the funding for this year, plus the Ramadan funding, it is not an insubstantial amount. I cannot give her the average size of the grant because I do not know it, but I shall try to find out for her in due course.

She also talked about some of the funny things on the application form. As she listed them, I reflected on why you would need to know whether the institution in question was in a conservation area. I surmise that it is because you would need to know what you can stick on the outside of or put around buildings. Certainly, whether a building is secluded or in full sight will influence the risk assessment. Similarly, a building in a poor state of repair is clearly more of a security risk. Basically, it allows an assessment of risk.

The noble Baroness talked about the £5 million-worth of training and asked whether all communities that need training will get it. I really hope that communities that need it will come forward. The consultation will be online very shortly. I know that organisations such as the CST and Tell MAMA are fully engaged when it comes to working with each other, so there will be community involvement and participation. I look forward to the details of the consultation coming online in due course.