Finance

Patel urges MPs to tighten security as terror threat level rises


Home secretary Priti Patel has urged MPs “to access the range of security provisions” on offer to them after she revealed that intelligence analysts had raised their estimate of the threat level facing members.

Patel was giving MPs an update on Wednesday following the killing on Friday of Sir David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West, as he held a regular session to meet constituents.

The death, over which counterterror police officers continue to question Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man arrested at the scene, has heightened concerns over MPs’ security when meeting their constituents.

Sir David’s killing came just over five years after the murder of Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, by a rightwing extremist in June 2016.

A police security operation to improve protection for MPs, known as Operation Bridger, was launched after Cox’s murder.

“I must update the House that the threat level facing members of this House is now deemed substantial,” Patel told the Commons, making it clear that the level had been raised.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which sets separate general threat levels, has never previously made public a specific level of risk facing MPs. However, the current general threat level for the UK is “substantial”, the middle of five possible levels, while the separately assessed level of threat to Northern Ireland is “severe”, the second-highest possible level.

A “substantial” threat level means an attack is likely.

“I can assure the House that our world-class security and intelligence agencies and counterterror police will now ensure that this change is properly reflected in the operational posture,” Patel said.

Patel gave no details on how security for MPs would change as a result of the raising of the threat level and cited the need to maintain secrecy over changes.

She said: “We must all take this change in risk seriously. I would like . . . to urge all members to access the range of security provisions and support available under Operation Bridger and through the parliamentary security department.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, asked the home secretary to also review security arrangements for local councillors. Some councillors have expressed concern since Friday over meeting constituents to offer advice because of the strong feelings aroused by some local issues.

The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, reassured MPs that meetings had been going on continually over the security issue since Friday and warned MPs not to give away information on how they were changing their security practices.



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