£31m security package unveiled to bolster protection for MPs facing increased threats

There has been growing concern over the safety of MPs in the wake of the outbreak of war in Gaza, as ITV News Political Reporter Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe explains

Security measures for MPs will be bolstered with a £31 million package that will include providing elected politicians with a dedicated police contact to liaise with over safety issues.

The package will fund enhanced police capabilities, increase private sector security provisions for those facing a higher risk and expand cyber security advice to locally elected representatives.

It will also ensure all elected representatives and candidates have a dedicated named police contact to liaise with on security matters.

The extra funding follows fears about MPs being targeted and intimidated by demonstrators in recent months, particularly by those demanding action to bring an end to the fighting in Gaza.

Conservative backbencher Tobias Ellwood’s home was targeted earlier this month by pro-Palestine protesters, with the police warning his family to “stay away” from the property as “arriving through that crowd would’ve antagonised the situation”.

Tory MP Mike Freer announced he was stepping down earlier this month because of safety fears, after an arson attack on his office.

He revealed he and his staff had decided to wear stab vests when attending scheduled public events in his constitutency, after learning that Ali Harbi Ali had watched his Finchley office before going on to knife Sir David Amess to death during a constituency surgery in 2021.

Last Friday there were also four arrests in Stoke-on-Trent after pro-Palestine demonstrators disrupted a Conservative fundraising event.

The family homes of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have also been set upon by environmental protesters in past months.

Two serving MPs - Labour’s Jo Cox and Conservative Sir David Amess - have been murdered in the past eight years, with reforms to the security of parliamentarians having been introduced as a result.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said MPs should not have to accept security threats as part of doing their job Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle welcomed the new security funding: "This represents a significant step forward and should provide much-needed reassurance for everyone involved in the democratic process", he said.

Sir Lindsay cited security concerns as a reason for his decision to overturn parliamentary convention by granting a vote on a Labour amendment to an SNP Gaza ceasefire motion.

Labour's James Murray said: "It's really important to get the balance right between protecting the legitimate right to protest.. alongside making sure we're keeping MPs and their staff and their families safe."

Mr Murray says he's seen "something of an increase" in threats to his security in his constituency since the October 7 Hamas attack.

Home Secretary James Cleverly will meet police chiefs on Wednesday to discuss what more can be done to improve the safety of MPs.

He said no MP should have to accept that threats or harassment are “part of the job”.

Announcing the new funding, Mr Cleverly said: “The government will take every possible step to safeguard the people, processes and institutions upon which our democracy relies.

“I take the safety and security of all members of the House with the utmost seriousness.

Mr Cleverly also criticised pro-Palestinian protestors in an interview with The Times newspaper, saying they have "made their point" and should stop the regular protests.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s constituency home was targeted by environmental protesters last year Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman suggested a return to Covid-era remote working could be needed to ensure the protection of politicians in the face of threats and intimidation.

The comments by the Mother of the House, the longest-serving female MP, came after the chaotic scenes in Westminster last week over the vote on a ceasefire in Gaza.

In an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain she said: "It's mostly women that get the threats, it's mostly black younger women".

But a No 10 spokesperson said the prime minister would resist any change that could “stifle” the role of Parliament.

They said Mr Sunak acknowledged the threats faced by MPs.

“Some of the behaviour and the intimidation has been completely unacceptable. I don’t think anyone listening to MPs talking about their experiences in the house could fail to be moved by that."

They added: “He’s incredibly aware of that."

Dr Alice Lilly, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government warned that these security fears will "put a lot of people off becoming MPs in the future, because they look at this as a job where they could be serving the public... but it just feels like too much of a risk for them and their loved ones".

She warned that with women and people from minorities ethnic backgrounds being more vulnerable to threats, there's a risk parliament could become "not as reflective of society as it should be" at the next election.

A report from the home affairs committee on Tuesday said regular protests in central London are placing too much pressure on police resources and putting other policing priorities at risk.

The committee found more than £25 million has been spent on policing pro-Palestinian protests since the October 7 attacks and December 17, recommending the government consider increasing the minimum notice period for a protest to six days to enable police to better prepare.

Wednesday's announcement includes the establishment of a communities fund to support the deployment of additional police patrols each week in England and Wales to help deal with “increased community tensions”, the Home Office said.

It is designed to increase support available to vulnerable communities, increase police visibility and boost public confidence, the department added.

Changes have included improvements to existing security measures at MPs’ homes and offices, and the bringing in of additional private sector-delivered protective security where necessary.

On Tuesday, Mr Sunak rejected a suggestion that MPs should be able to speak and vote from their constituencies because of concerns about security at Westminster.

Downing Street said the prime minister believed it was “really important that we maintain Parliament as a place for free debate and expression of views”.

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