London Bridge attack: Tories pledge review of venue security in U-turn after refusing mother's plea

The Conservatives have vowed to review security at venues across Britain after years of campaigning by terror victims, who are questioning why the move was not taken before a new attack claimed more lives. Figen Murray, the mother of Manchester bombing victim Martyn Hett, has long been calling for a law in her son’s name that would requiring the introduction of scanners and other protective measures. Earlier this year, the government formally rejected a petition signed by more than 23,000 people backing the change, saying there were “no plans to mandate specific security measures”.

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There was an apparent U-turn in June, when security minister Ben Wallace said the government would consider new laws on minimum levels of protection, but the pledge was absent from the Conservatives Party’s election manifesto.

Now, days after a new terror attack in London, the Conservatives have announced a consultation on reducing the vulnerability of venues to terror attacks, “using existing or new legislation if necessary”.

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Bystanders and police surrounding a person at the scene of an incident on London Bridge

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Boats from the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit patrol near the scene

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Members of the police and emergency services arriving at Monument tube station

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A person is assisted after falling when Police evacuated people from Borough Market

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A Police Officer cordons off London Bridge Station

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Members of staff are ushered into a Fitness First gym

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People head away from the vicinity of Borough Market

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Office workers look out of a window at a scene

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Men in forensics suits walk away from the site

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People are evacuated from London Bridge

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Armed police on the scene

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Buses on London Bridge during the incident

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Police on the scene

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Bystanders and police surrounding a person at the scene of an incident on London Bridge

HLOBlog/PA

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Police and emergency services

PA

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Armed police on London Bridge

Twitter

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A bystander holding a knife after police surrounded a person at the scene

HLOBlog/PA

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People fleeing from Borough Market

PA

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Police during the incident

Twitter

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A white truck across part of London Bridge

SophK05/PA

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A British Transport Police officer runs after reports of an incident

Getty

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Boats from the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit patrol near the scene

Getty Images

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A lorry on the bridge crosses over lanes

Luke Poulton via Reuters

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Members of the police and emergency services arriving at Monument tube station

AFP via Getty Images

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Members of the public held behind a police cordon

Getty Images

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Police at the scene

PA

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Police evacuate people from Borough Market

AP

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Police surrond a part of the bridge

Timothy Johnson/Twitter

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A person is assisted after falling when Police evacuated people from Borough Market

AP

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A Police Officer cordons off London Bridge Station

Getty Images

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Members of staff are ushered into a Fitness First gym

Getty Images

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PA

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People head away from the vicinity of Borough Market

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Office workers look out of a window at a scene

EPA

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Men in forensics suits walk away from the site

REUTERS

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People are evacuated from London Bridge

PA

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ArrowontheHill/Twitter

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Police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge

PA

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Armed police on the scene

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Buses on London Bridge during the incident

AFP via Getty Images

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Police on the scene

@joebxggs /SWNS.COM

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said: “We must not let the terrorists alter our way of life. In our open and tolerant society, the freedom for citizens to enjoy markets, concerts, gigs and restaurants must continue as before. 

“But there are steps we can and will take to make public spaces as secure as possible.”

Members of the Survivors Against Terror campaign group welcomed the move, but questioned why the Conservatives did not launch the review while in government.

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In a “prevention of future deaths” report issued after the 2017 London Bridge attack, the chief coroner of England and Wales called for the government to consider a review of protective security. Ms Murray called on Tuesday for politicians to commit to backing “Martyn’s Law”, adding: “I know for a fact it will save lives, and families will be saved the heartache we have gone through.”

She said authorities must “apply common sense” and put safety considerations above budgets.

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“It’s ridiculous that there are regulations for venues on how hot the food needs to be and how many toilets there need to be, but nothing to do with planning for terrorist attacks,” Ms Murray said.

“Terrorism is still on the menu.

It’s happening. It will happen again.

“It isn’t something that’s just going to go away, whether we like it or not.”

Boris Johnson denies Tory cuts played role in London Bridge terror attack

Brendan Cox, who co-founded Survivors Against Terror after the murder of his wife, Jo Cox, said there should have been a “more sustained focus” on the issue. He told The Independent that the delays were “deeply depressing”, adding: “This is something that Figen launched in the aftermath of Martyn’s death, at the time of the last general election.

“She’s been pushing all of that time and frankly it’s not been easy to engage politicians. 

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“There was a breakthrough when we launched it in the Tory leadership race and a lot of them committed, then it’s taken [Friday’s attack] to get it closer to being over the line.”

Nick Aldworth, who led the “protect and prepare” strand of national counterterrorism policing until earlier this year, said senior officers had been pushing government ministers to create a new legal duty.

“I’ve long wanted the duty to protect enshrined in law,” he said on Wednesday. “This is a major step forward and I hope every political party will support it.”

Amid claims that parties are using the latest attack for political gain in the run-up to the election, Ms Murray said she hoped politicians were not exploiting it for “point scoring”, adding: “It’s not appropriate, it’s disrespectful if they did.”

Mr Cox said politicians should take a step back and “not make snap decisions”.

“I don’t think anybody is saying politicians have an obligation to grapple with the issues, but it’s about doing it with the seriousness it deserves,” he said.

More than 70 members of the Survivors Against Terror group had penned an open letter calling for parties to back both “Martyn’s Law” and a proposed charter guaranteeing terror-attack victims a minimum level of support.

Martyn Hett was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 (Twitter/@danhett)

Several victims have been refused compensation or faced long waiting lists for mental-health treatment, leaving some suicidal. Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe, whose partner David was killed in the Brussels bombings in 2016, said: “Too many survivors of attacks have found that promises of help never materialise, or that they end up on long waiting lists for the most basic of services.

“Terror attacks are an attack on the state and therefore the state has a particular responsibility to help victims and survivors. We hope today is the beginning of them stepping up to that responsibility. ”

The Labour Party backed the charter on Monday, but the Conservatives did not announce their support until Wednesday.

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A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour welcomes and supports this plan to provide support and dignity for survivors caught up in terrorist attacks.

In government we will ensure public services have the funding and protocols in place to respond effectively and compassionately.”

The Conservatives said the consultation on improving security at public venues would be completed by summer 2020, and aims to “require or incentivise” owners, operators and insurers to introduce set protections and preparations. Friday’s attack, which left two victims dead at a prison rehabilitation event in Fishmongers’ Hall, sparked tit-for-tat accusations over the policies that saw the perpetrator, Usman Khan, released from jail.

The 28-year-old had been imprisoned for his part in a 2010 plot to bomb targets including the London Stock Exchange, and is said to have taken part in deradicalisation schemes before being released last year. Despite being constrained by more than 20 licence conditions, and being monitored by police and MI5, he was still able to launch the attack.

The government launched a review of more than 70 terror offenders currently out on licence, including Anjem Choudary, and two have so far been recalled to prison.

In a short statement issued through the Metropolitan Police, Khan’s family said they were “saddened and shocked” by last Friday’s attack.

They added: “We totally condemn his actions and we wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims that have died and wish a speedy recovery to all of the injured.”

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