I got back from China over the weekend and I’ll do a post on it very soon - but due to recent security events I wanted to mention something that concerns me so much I tackled the prime minster about it.
Today in the Commons I quizzed the prime minister on an important aspect of keeping those of us who live in Hove and Portslade safe in these times of heightened security challenges. Last week he announced additional funding to MI6 and the SAS and today came more investment into adapting our defences to the challenges we currently face. This included a new multi-billion pound fund for reconstruction in post-conflict countries and for global governance too. I welcome all of these measures.
However I was keen to point out to the PM that the very frontline in intelligence gathering and the frontline of any response to a terrorist attack is our local police services. In the last few days I have gathered further insight into the challenges they face. Quite regularly now there are only seven armed officers on duty in the whole of East and West Sussex excluding Gatwick airport. Secondly there has been a 43% increase in requests to neighbouring Forces for assistance. These are further signs that our own Force is having its equipment, personnel, and resources cut to an alarming level.
Our city has suffered terrorism in the past and whilst I hope we never will again I will do everything I can to make sure we are able to cope if it does. My worry is that if we are struck again the request for assistance from the Metropolitan Police and other Force’s will not be met because they will move to the highest level of alert and concentrate on securing their own areas, potentially leaving us without the people and equipment we would need. This is why I asked the prime minister if he will promise you, Hove and Portslade residents, that our Force will be able to cope with the initial stages of an attack without the need for outside assistance.
I was thoroughly disheartened by the prime minister’s response. He did not give you the guarantee I sought on your behalf and he seemed not to appreciate that sharing services is fine during periods of normality but not in an emergency. I will continue to press my case as forcefully as I can.
These are grim subjects to be dealing with but you elected me to tackle the big issues and not duck them. In the coming weeks there will be more and I will do separate posts on Syria and Trident because I want to hear your views on them separately ahead of any Commons debate - as always I will not duck the debate with you. But for now I would love to hear your thoughts on local policing and how we can make sure our local Force has what it takes to cope should something similar to Paris ever strike our own communities. I hope with all my heart that it does’t, but we must be prepared.