Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:18 pm on 7th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 7:18 pm, 7th May 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating this Statement. Three years ago, I reviewed London’s preparedness for a major terrorist incident and had some consultation meetings with faith communities. Complacency may be the wrong word, but I was concerned about the sense that came across from so many of the faith communities that “this would not happen to us because we are good people”, and therefore their unwillingness even to contemplate it. As the right reverend Prelate just said, anyone can be a target. Every faith has been a target somewhere in the world—many in this country.

I was slightly concerned that this is a Statement made by the Home Office as much for show as for reality. This is not new money—the Minister has told us that. Spending £1.6 million between the country’s 60,000 places of worship equals £26 each, which does not buy much in the way of CCTV or physical preventions. If it was just applied to one community, maybe it would be a little bit more. The Minister could not tell us what the average sum spent in the previous round was. According to the Statement, £1.5 million was spent on 134 places of worship, so that was £11,000 per place of worship. Spreading this amount of money and saying that it will target all communities and all places of worship is ambitious, and I therefore wonder what the purpose of this Statement has been, other than to demonstrate that the Home Secretary is doing something.

One of my report’s specific recommendations was that advice and encouragement should be given to every place of worship. If a parochial church, a mosque or a temple has a committee, one member of that committee should be designated to take responsibility for security, to look at the arrangements, to do some general planning and to liaise with the police about what could be done in the event of an attack on that place of worship. Will the Minister pick that up?