New law could require businesses to put terror attack measures in place

Businesses and local authorities could be required to put in place measures to keep the public safe from a terrorist attack under new proposals.

Plans have been unveiled by the Home Office to introduce legislation which would mean the owners and operators of public spaces must consider the risks of a terror attack and what measures they will take to prepare for such an event.

Such measures, which would need to be “proportionate and reasonable”, could include increasing physical security and developing response plans for staff on what to do during an incident.

It follows the bomb attack at the Manchester Arena in 2017, as well as incidents at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham in the last six months.

A new “Protect Duty” will be consulted on by the Government in spring, following discussions with victims’ groups such as the Martyn’s Law campaign – established by Figen Murray, whose son was killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Ms Murray said: “As Martyn’s mum I want to thank the Government. Today’s consultation is the start of making us all that bit safer. Public venues already have all sorts of obligations from fire prevention to health and safety – but until now there has been no duty to protect their customers.

“Martyn’s law will change that. Most of us already thought such a law existed, it’s a common sense step that will save lives in the future.”

Security Minister James Brokenshire said the consultation will ensure the legislation protects the public while not putting pressure on businesses.

“Our first priority is keeping the public safe and preventing more families from suffering the heartbreak of losing a loved one,” said Mr Brokenshire.

“The devastating attacks in 2017, and more recently at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham, are stark reminders of the current threat we face.

“We are in complete agreement with campaigners such as Figen Murray on the importance of venues and public spaces having effective and proportionate protective security and preparedness measures to keep people safe.

“Of course, it is important that this new law is proportionate. This public consultation will ensure we put in place a law that will help protect the public while not putting undue pressure on businesses.”

Labour’s shadow security minister Nick Thomas-Symonds paid tribute to the campaigners who have lobbied for the change and said there can be “no objection to a proper consultation”.

“However, a duty to protect is no substitute for professional policing. Combating the terrorists requires everything from community policing through to counter-terrorism,” he added.

“Unfortunately, successive Tory governments axed police numbers and the current Government does not have plans to fully restore them any time soon.”

Graham Williams, chairman of industry body Revo’s safety and security committee, welcomed the opportunity to collaborate on the initiative.

Manchester Arena incident
Hundreds were injured and 22 people were killed in the Manchester attack in 2017 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He said: “As owners of retail spaces, we take our responsibility for ensuring the safety of our customers and retailers very seriously, and therefore welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Home Office on this initiative.

“We look forward to contributing to this consultation on behalf of our industry.”

Matt Maer, director for security and resilience at Canary Wharf Group, added: “This legislation has the potential to make a significant impact on public security, improving the situation for people as they go about their daily lives.

“Canary Wharf Group supports this initiative and look forward to assisting where we can in shaping this work.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “Too many lives have been tragically cut short by terrorist attacks in recent years. It is therefore welcome that the work of campaigners such as Figen Murray have been recognised.

“And to make sure this law is effective and we can properly assess what improvements are needed, the Government must urgently publish the latest annual report on existing counter-terror laws from the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, now months overdue.

“The Government has the ultimate responsibility for keeping people safe, so this new law needs to be backed up with the money and resources to prevent terrorism.

“Boris Johnson must also therefore use the upcoming Budget to address the unnecessary Conservative cuts to the police, prisons, probation and rehabilitation.”

Blackpool councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Safer and Stronger Communities Board, added: “Councils stand ready to work with the Government to make public spaces safer. Faced with ongoing funding and demand pressures, they will need adequate resources to meet any new responsibilities.”

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