Politics

MPs ‘likely’ to be offered private security after David Amess killing, says Raab

MPs are set to be offered more private security guards for when meeting their constituents at surgery events following the murder of Sir David Amess, the justice secretary has signalled.

Dominic Raab said an increase in private security is the most “likely” option to boost safety, rather than putting more police officers outside MPs’ surgeries.

Home secretary Priti Patel said on Sunday that MPs could be given police protection while they carry out constituency meetings as part of a “range of measures” under consideration.

But the justice secretary raised concerns that having police officers could have a “chilling effect”, as constituents look to engage with their elected representative.

Asked if he would welcome plainclothes officers at his surgeries, Raab told Sky News: “I probably wouldn’t choose to have them outside a surgery that I had. I would worry about the chilling effect, I’m not sure it’s necessary to have that.”

The cabinet minister added: “I think we’re more likely to look at things like private security guards – there’s already I believe money available for that.”

Raab said he would not stand in the way of colleagues who wished to have a police presence while meeting the public. “It depends on the individual,” he said.

But the minister added: “We don’t let the terrorists win by creating wedges or walls between us and those who vote us in.”

Patel has ordered a police review of MPs’ security following the killing at a constituency surgery in Sir David’s Southend West seat, and is expected to address the House of Commons on Monday.

The home secretary said police protection was part of a “spectrum” of options – saying the government was looking “when you hold your surgeries could you have officers or some kind of protection while you’re holding your surgery”.

She also said there was a need to “close any gaps” on security – citing measures like “booking appointments in advance, checking the details of the individuals that you are seeing, checking the locations in advance that you are going to”.

Stephen Roberts, former deputy assistant commissioner to the Met Police, said each MPs’ security protection would need to be “tailored” to what they were comfortable with.

“I heard Dominic Raab say he would be very unhappy having police outside a surgery he was running … so there’s going to be proportionate protection for each MPs’ circumstances,” Roberts told Sky News.

Meanwhile, Raab signalled he could support closing anonymous social media accounts to tackle online hatred – but also warned of the potential impact on freedom of speech.

He raised concerns that he did not want to “send a message to tyrants all over the world that they can expose” campaigners who need anonymity.

“On balance I think there is a case for really looking very carefully at this … I don’t see why people should be able to abuse the position on social media from a veil of anonymity.”

Speaking on Sunday, Patel did not rule out a new push to restrict anonymity on social media in a bid to crackdown “relentless” online abuse, adding: “We can’t carry on like this.”

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