Proposed Westminster Holocaust memorial will be ‘sitting target for terrorists’

Proposed Westminster Holocaust memorial will be ‘sitting target for terrorists’

Peers told that the proposed site next to the Houses of Parliament may be a 'security risk' for 'jihadi-inspired' attacks

Proposed design of Westminster Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens
Proposed design of Westminster Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens

A new Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament would be a “sitting target for terrorists”, peers have heard.

Lord Carlile of Berriew expressed concerns over the potential location of a new Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Peers heard the park may not have the space to safely accommodate the memorial and people who may want to visit it, and that it could pose a “security risk” by becoming a target for “jihadi-inspired terrorists”

Peers were discussing the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill and whether planned buildings near Parliament, like the proposed memorial, should be considered in case they impact on the restoration work.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Deech said tourists, protesters, and the public all gather in the area.

She said: “Above all, we are painfully aware of the vulnerability and magnetic attraction of this area to terrorists.”

Baroness Deech added: “The principle threat comes from jihadi-inspired terrorists, as evidenced by the atrocities that have occurred in Europe targeted against Jews and Jewish associated buildings recently.

“The proximity of the planned memorial to parliament, with national and international news media constantly in attendance will make it a high value target for those who wish to promote their evil aims with publicity.”

Lord Carlile said: “It would be a sitting target for terrorists and would not be difficult to access. It would not be able to create a ring of steel around it, which can be done on a big site.”

Lord Polack, however, said: “What does it say about our society that a Holocaust memorial is deemed as a security risk?

“That is the sort of society that we are now living in, and it is very concerning to me.”

Lord Cormack said those critical of the location are not holocaust deniers or an anti-Semites.

He said he supported the idea of a new Holocaust memorial, but said the proposed location in Victoria Tower Gardens is not suitable.

He said putting the memorial next to Parliament would mean those visiting it may be “inconvenienced” by additional security measures.

He said a better location might be near London’s Imperial War Museum.

Lord Cormack added: “please remember that those of us who have reservations are not against having a memorial, we are not Holocaust deniers.

“We are not in any sense opposed to the Jewish community which has given so much to our country over the last three and a half centuries since the Jews were re-admitted by Oliver Cromwell in 1652.”

Tory former minister Baroness Altmann said the memorial was about democracy and the “horrible consequences of the disintegration of democratic values”, and the site was specifically chosen for its historical, emotional and political significance.

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles, co-chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation, defended the siting of the memorial, saying people leaving it could look to Parliament as the “final protection against tyranny”.

He said it would also help MPs and peers to understand that they “always have a choice – that they can protect or they can oppress” and that it was a “compliant legislature that introduced the Nuremberg Laws”.

Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said the location had been carefully considered and Victoria Tower Gardens identified as the site capable of meeting the Government’s aspirations.

A key factor was the visibility it gave to the memorial, she said.

“In the shadow of Parliament, it will encourage visitors to learn about the challenging decisions our leaders had to take in the lead-up to, during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust.”

Lady Evans said that after holding talks with the Metropolitan Police and parliamentary security department, ministers were confident that the proposed site would be secure.

Work on the memorial was expected to begin in 2020, with the memorial opening in late 2022, well before the Palace of Westminster improvements would start, she added.

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