Skip to main content

Terrorist Attack: Response

Volume 779: debated on Thursday 23 February 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote the work of charities such as citizenAID which seek to educate schools, universities, businesses and the general public on how to help the seriously injured in the event of a terrorist attack.

My Lords, initiatives such as citizenAID are welcomed. Its work has been promoted by the police, who lead on communicating counterterrorism advice to the public. The Government continue strongly to support the established police guidance, which is “Run, Hide, Tell” during a terrorist incident.

I thank the Minister for her reply, but more must be done. The country’s Security Service tells us that the question about the next terrorist attack is when, not if. Experience tells us that when it happens, the chaos and the programmed caution of the emergency services result in delayed treatment of people whose lives could be saved. Will the Government work with organisations such as citizenAID, which has brought together military and medical expertise and experience and drawn up guidance on what to do in a terror attack? If it were taught in schools’ citizenship programmes and promoted widely through other means, it would enable people caught up in the tragedy of terror to make a crucial life-saving difference.

As I said in my initial Answer, the Government welcome the work that citizenAID does. As the noble Lord said, it is made up of military and civilian doctors and gives very good advice on what the public can do, once they are safe, to help other people. I understand it has an app, which is readily available. In terms of PSHE, schools can decide in their areas what is important and a priority. For example, schools in rural Sussex may make decisions which are different from those made by schools in central London about what is important for their children in the lives they lead. We leave it up to schools. The Government certainly welcome the work that citizenAID is doing.

My Lords, in expressing the hope that the police will become even more involved, would it be appropriate for us to send congratulations and good wishes to Cressida Dick on her appointment?

My Lords, I am certainly very happy to send congratulations to Cressida Dick. I do not think I am the first Minister to do so, but perhaps I am the first Minister in your Lordships’ House to do so. It is a very good appointment, and, of course, she is the first female Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Does the Minister agree that confidence that they know what they are doing enables people to step forward in these situations, rather like the rugby player who recently stepped forward to give first aid to a member of the opposing team? Does she therefore agree that it is in response not just to terrorism but to the ordinary traumas of everyday life that we should all have a look at the citizensAID training?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. It is about the simple things, and the benefit of the citizenAID app is that there are very simple things that people can do, once they are in a safe place themselves, to help people and potentially save lives.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that these responsibilities should be carried not by NGOs alone but also by government? I speak as the Minister who led the humanitarian assistance after 9/11 and after 7/7, during which an enormous amount was learned about how to provide the right level of support for bereaved families and survivors. It is vital that that capacity and capability exists within government, working with NGOs, if those bereaved and those who survived are to have a chance of recovering their lives.

The noble Baroness makes a vital point. In any disaster that I can think of, whether flooding, a terrorist attack or anything else, it is through everyone working together, and that mutual assistance from agencies working together, that we get the best outcomes for our citizens in such awful situations. The noble Baroness is absolutely right.

My Lords, as we are talking about terrorism, may I take this opportunity to ask the Government when they expect to stop allowing themselves to be blackmailed by terrorists and their advisers into paying out large sums in order to protect our security services?

I think my noble friend knows he is completely off the scope of the Question. I cannot talk about specific incidents because of course they are matters of national security.

My Lords, of course prevention is always better than aid, assistance or cure. In view of the recent revelations about the threat posed by some of the people who came back from Guantanamo, do the Government now regret having watered down control orders and other supervisory measures immediately on coming to power in 2010?

My Lords, some of the work that the Government have done in terms of disrupting journeys through the Prevent programme has been very effective, both in preventing people going to Syria and in preventing people’s minds being poisoned by certain ideologies which run contrary to our rule of law.

The Question is about the Government promoting and supporting charities which give guidance to the public on how to react in the event of a terrorist attack, but we also need to support those trying to prevent terrorist attacks in the first place, and we too extend our congratulations to Cressida Dick on her appointment as the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Could the Government say whether they have had any concerns raised with them, other than in Parliament, about the actual or potential impact of cuts in police budgets—whether already implemented or now being required to be made in police budgets—in real terms on the effectiveness and thoroughness with which the police will be able to play their part in preventing and combating acts of terrorism in the future? If so, from what sources have those concerns come and what has been the Government’s response to them?

I can tell the noble Lord that £144 million over five years has been put into armed policing capability, which is obviously vital in situations such as this, to allow them, as he says, to respond more quickly in such eventualities. The number of armed police will increase by more than 1,000 over two years, and additional round-the-clock specialist teams will be deployed outside of London. In addition, there will be 40 extra armed police response vehicles on the street.