‘The terrorism threat is as high outside London as it is inside London’ - Foreign Secretary calls for vigilance during Peterborough visit ahead of Police Crime Commissioner election

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond with Cllr Jason Ablewhite and Maurice Cook
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond with Cllr Jason Ablewhite and Maurice Cook
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The Foreign Secretary has issued a warning that the terrorism threat is as strong in cities such as Peterborough as it is in London.

Speaking at the Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough on Thursday (March 24) Philip Hammond called for vigilance and highlighted the importance of community policing to stop any attacks.

His message comes two days after bomb attacks at the Metro Station and airport in Brussels saw more than 30 people killed and 260 people injured.

London was also attacked on July 7, 2005 after four suicide bombers with rucksacks full of explosives attacked central London, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more.

And on Wednesday, two university students were convicted of wanting to kill on London’s streets.

Mr Hammond said: “It’s a mistake to think that the threats to the UK are all in London, they are not.

“They exist outside London just as much as they exist inside London. We know from our own history people might carry out attacks in London but may come from outside London. We need to be vigilant.”

Mr Hammond was in Peterborough to support the Conservative candidate to be Cambridgeshire’s next Police And Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite.

And he stressed that “good counter-terrorism is about intelligence,” with community policing and the gossip it can bring from residents being especially important.

The election on May 5 will see a replacement chosen for Sir Graham Bright who is stepping down from the role.

Sir Graham was the first person to be elected as the county’s PCC when the idea was brought in by the last government, but the 2012 election saw a turnout of just 14.77 per cent.

However, Mr Hammond believes that figure will increase substantially this time around. He added: “It’s a new idea and it’s building. I would expect we will get a significantly higher turnout this time around than last time when people were asking what it’s about.

“Now they have had experience of what the Police Crime Commissioner is about - hiring and firing chief constables, setting the budget and council tax precept - these are things that matter to people.

“For the first time they can directly elect someone who can set policies and priorities for local policing.”

On Sir Graham Bright’s time in office, he said: “I’ve been told he’s done a great job. I think he’s done an outstanding job first of all managing police resources in the area to deliver good quality policing and community reassurance and the victim support approach here which is being looked at closely in other areas.”

Asked whether Councillor Ablewhite, the executive leader at Huntingdonshire District Council, would be a good replacement for Sir Graham, Mr Hammond replied: “I only like to back winners.”

The Foreign Secretary was all due to meet Conservative members of the North West Cambridgeshire branch of the party ahead of the local elections in May.

He added: “When you work together you get things delivered. Conservative councillors will be able to work with ministers in Whitehall.”

Cllr Ablewhite said he would target domestic violence and child sexual exploitation if elected.

He said: “I’ve got huge respect for Sir Graham and what he’s done with the police force. I’ve only just recently stepped down from the police and crime panel and we’ve been impressed with the way he’s delivered efficiencies while protecting the frontline which people feel most strongly about.

“He’s done an exceptional job. If you look at the national average for policing numbers, Cambridgeshire is four per cent above average.

“What I will do which is different, I will be a lot more visible.”

On the local response to the terrorism threat, Cllr Ablewhite added: “If you look at atrocities that have happened, it really brings together the importance of counter-terrorism. It’s important to make sure it’s well-resourced.

“Sir Graham Bright has done an excellent job to make sure counter-terrorism is well-resourced. There are 105 officers dealing with counter-terrorism.”