Statement to Parliament: Statement on the security of elected representatives

Home Office

February 29
15:04 2024

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the security of elected representatives.

Now, this House brings together our nation. People from every part of the United Kingdom, from every background, are represented here to debate, to argue, to challenge, and to find the best course for our country to take.

Now, thats the way it should be. Because this House doesnt belong to any one community or interest group. It belongs to every citizen from every corner of the kingdom.

The decisions we take dont just affect the lives of our friends, our neighbours and our community.

They affect every community. And every communitys voice even those we disagree with must be properly represented.

That principle is at the heart of who we are as a country, and as a democracy.

Our democracy only works if those who elect us are free to choose the individual they wish and if that individual, the one that they have chosen, has the freedom to say what they think.

In recent days weve seen those principles waiver and the strain of rising community tensions is beginning to show. Instead of debate and accountability, weve seen intimidation and threats.

Members of this House have told me that they feel they have to vote a certain way not because its the right thing for their communities, or even because the majority in their community wishes it, but because a few, a threatening few, have made their voices heard and made them fear for their safety, and the safety of their families.

Even this House the House that has persevered through fire and through war has been pressured into changing the way that we debate.

And we all understand why. The assassinations of our friends Jo Cox and Sir David Amess have affected us all. We know that there are extremists out there, and the truth is clear the danger is real.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we also know that bending to the threat of violence and intimidation is wrong. It doesnt just betray those who sent us, it encourages those who, through us, are bullying them.

Last Wednesday, demonstrators threatened to force Parliament to lock its doors.

What these thugs were actually asking us to do was to put our constituents second, and to bow to those who are shouting loudest.

Now thats more than a threat to us. It is a threat to the very democratic principles and values that define who we are as a country.

Madam Deputy Speaker, let me be absolutely clear, they must fail. If we were to stumble or to succumb to these pressures, we would not just see this House diminished, but our communities across the country would suffer.

Some things are more important than any of us as individuals.

Pressures have always existed but since the 7 October attacks on Israel they have spiked along with a dramatic rise in antisemitism, accompanied by demonstrations, which have caused profound distress and fear in the Jewish community and beyond. We are seeing a darkness return to our streets.

British Muslims also face threats. Islamist extremists call other Muslims apostates unless they are willing to destroy the society that has given everyone including many, many expressions of Islam practised here today the freedom to worship as they choose. And far right extremists are joining them in claiming that Islam has no place in Britain.

Both claim that Britain is a divided nation, not a United Kingdom. Both are wrong.

And this government rejects that agenda of isolation and fear.

We will ensure that all voices in our democracy are heard.

We are ensuring that those who have been elected to serve their community are able to do so without fear.

Thats why were committing an additional 31 million to protect the democratic process and our elected representatives.

This funding will primarily support MPs, councillors, Police and Crime Commissioners and Mayors.

The Operation BRIDGER network, which already provides police support to MPs, will be expanded so all elected representatives and candidates have a dedicated, named, police officer contact on security matters where needed.

Forces around the country will be able to draw on a new fund to deliver additional patrols, so they will be better able to respond to heightened community tensions.

And, working closely with Parliament and the police, we will provide access to private security for Members who face the highest risk.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Policing Minister and I met senior policing leaders to discuss these issues.

Together, the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the College of Policing, with input from the Crown Prosecution Service, have agreed a new Defending Democracy Policing Protocol.

It contains 7 key commitments to implement minimum standards of policing at events, to prevent intimidatory protest at homes, and to ensure protests at party offices, town halls, Parliament or other democratic venues do not inhibit democratic the process.

PCCs and Chief Constables have been asked to report back on implementation of these measures by April.

Before I finish, may I pay tribute to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, who keep us safe at all times. This additional funding will help them support us in undertaking our democratic duty.

Now I take the safety and security of all members of this House extremely seriously, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I know do you and I know Mr Speaker does as well.

The truth is, Madam Deputy Speaker, that there are some things that transcend political dividing lines.

There are principles that are so fundamental, so sacred even, that we must all guard them, all of us, against all threats, regardless of party allegiance.

Defending our democracy is at the core of who we are as a nation. It is the living expression of the concepts of freedom of thought and freedom of speech.

As we legislate, and debate. As we argue and criticise, we must be robust. We must continue to test ideas and each other in order to serve the British people best.

And as we challenge each other, we must remember that this isnt just about us. We are only the temporary guardians of liberties that we have inherited.

Today it is our turn to defend them. This is our watch. And it is for us to rise above the fray and to say, with total clarity: we will not be cowed. We will not be silenced. We will not be bullied.

The people we are privileged to represent deserve nothing less.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Published 29 February 2024

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