Conservative MPs have warned Home Secretary Theresa May against cuts to frontline police officers as it would undermine efforts to tackle “homegrown terror” following the Paris attacks.
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston and the Tory London mayoral candidate, told the House of Commons there needed to be “sufficient funding” in the capital against fears force budgets are to be slashed.
Current London mayor Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said the Metropolitan Police is "literally on the front line of the war on terror" as he revealed he is lobbying the Chancellor to stop the force's budget being cut.
But Mrs May suggested "training and preparation" was more important than headcount.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- 129 dead in co-ordinated shootings and bombings
- Seven attackers killed with eight suspect on the run
- France bombs Islamic State capital after terror group claims responsibility
- Major police operation in Brussels in pursuit of further suspects
- Brother of suicide attacker released without charge
Following the weekend terror attacks in Paris, the Government announced funding for spies via the MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to pay for 1,900 new officers.
But the pledge comes against fears from police chiefs that cuts to the Home Office’s £10 billion budget - which could be as much as 30% - in George Osborne’s November spending round could put public safety at risk.
Meanwhile, Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has called for an "urgent review" of the policing budget, warning of the neighbourhood policing playing a "vital" role in "ensuring the safety of our people".
This morning, Lord Blair, the former head of the Metropolitan Police, said he was “very worried” about the implications of policing budget cuts to Britain’s ability to fight terrorism.
“I think it would be a disaster, an absolute disaster (if more community support officers were cut) because in the end it’s intelligence from the community that will lead us to stop attacks happening,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
After Mrs May gave a statement to the House of Commons in response to the attacks, Mr Goldsmith made a plea to protect officers.
He said: “In light of the appalling events in Paris and heightened risk here in London may I echo the cause for sufficient funding to ensure comprehensive neighbourhood policing here in London which is a crucial tool in tackling homegrown terror.”
Mrs May responded said: “I can assure him that in looking at all of these matters we look at the capabilities required by our police, and when looking at counter-terrorism work we look across the board at the capability required to make sure we maintain our national security.”
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, warned warned beat officers were needed “to put (anti-terror policies) into practice”, but Mrs May was dismissive: “Quite often he and some his (Labour) colleagues think in terms of money and numbers. Often this is about training and preparation about the type of attacks that might take place.”
Mr Johnson told the Evening Standard: “I think the Home Secretary and the Chancellor understand that the Met have done a superb job of keeping us safe,” he said. “They are literally on the front line of the war on terror."
In his letter to the Chancellor, Mr McDonnell writes: "The Prime Minister is correct in drawing attention to the risk our communities now face and the resources we will need to invest to strengthen our security services, including increased aviation security.
"Therefore, if it would help you, I would support that the enhanced expenditure needed to meet the increased threat to our security be excluded from the parameters of the Charter for Budget Responsibility.
"This would include an urgent review of the Policing budget to protect policing services that clearly will be playing a vital role on the ground and in our communities in ensuring the safety of our people.
"When it comes to national security and keeping the public safe, I can assure you that you will always have the support of the Labour Party; and I hope you will welcome this suggestion as a helpful and constructive proposal in the spirit of goodwill that it is intended."
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