Tories promise to improve security for areas 'too vulnerable' to attack

4 December 2019, 06:33

Boris Johnson will try to keep the election focus on security
Boris Johnson will try to keep the election focus on security. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Protecting the public from terrorist attacks feature at the forefront of Tory election pledges as the party attempt to keep the focus on security.

Public venues would be compelled to ramp up security against the threat of terrorism if the Conservatives win a majority at the election, Boris Johnson has announced.

The party cited the 2017 terror attack, stating they demonstrated that a "wide variety of public spaces are too vulnerable to attack," adding the trend of" low-sophistication attacks, from rapidly radicalised lone actors, makes preventing an attack against those sites increasingly difficult."

The Prime Minister says his government would require venues to assess the threat of a terrorist attack and take steps to prepare as part of their health and safety strategy.

Mr Johnson will spend much of Wednesday at a Nato conference
Mr Johnson will spend much of Wednesday at a Nato conference. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson will be holed up for much of the day in a hotel near Watford in an attempt to build bridges between a fracturing Nato, with US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at loggerheads over the role of the international defence alliance.

While Mr Johnson is expected to find time amid the talks at The Grove hotel to hit the campaign trail, he has attempted to make sure the Tory agenda on security will continue to be pushed, issuing a promise to increase safety measures at public venues.

The announcement comes after Tory Party leader has faced scorn from the family of Jack Merritt - the 25-year-old, who, along with 23-year-old Saskia Jones, was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event on Friday.

Mr Johnson was criticised for allegedly politicising Mr Merritt's death by calling for tougher sentences for people plotting terror atrocities.

But his vow to review the safety of public buildings in the wake of a rise in lone-wolf attacks, such as that at Fishmongers' Hall last week, has been welcomed by Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett.

The family of Martyn Hett, a victim of the 2017 Manchester attack, has been campaigning for change that would include venues like the Manchester Arena being better prepared to evacuate their premises in the event of a similar attack.

Tory plans would improve security on a range of buildings and public spaces
Tory plans would improve security on a range of buildings and public spaces. Picture: PA

Pledging to ensure building owners and operators ramp up security, Mr Johnson said: "It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire.

"They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too."

The fresh policy announcement looks to reflect Mr Johnson's view that he is currently embroiled in a "very, very tight election", as he told reporters in Salisbury on Tuesday.

The party said they will also consult on a Survivors’ Charter to ensure fast access to mental health support and compensation.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “The nature of threats faced by British citizens has changed in the evolution of modern extremism. It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire. They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too.

“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. Already we are increasing the budget for counter-terrorism policing, including an extra £160 million a year, and we are developing a new counter-extremism strategy to reflect the changing face of extremism.

“There is more we can do but first we must break the gridlock in Parliament and get Brexit done. Until Brexit is done, our politics will be mired in more arguments, dither and delay. Only the Conservatives will break the deadlock and move this country forward. A vote for any other party is a vote for a hung parliament led by a Jeremy Corbyn government, propped up by the SNP.

“Corbyn and the SNP would plunge the country into two more divisive and costly referendums, one on Brexit and another on breaking up our union. We need a majority Conservative government to get Brexit done and focus on the people’s priorities like cracking down on crime, toughening prison sentences and routing out extremism in all its forms.”

Away from defence and security, a rift looked to have opened up last night between the US and Britain on the subject of a digital tax targeting American internet giants.

Mr Trump had threatened to slap import tariffs of up to 100 per cent - worth almost £2bn annually - on French goods, including cheese, champagne and handbags, following the introduction of a digital services tax on the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Mr Johnson said he deplored such threats, with the UK set to bring in its own digital services levy on the revenues of search engines, social media and online marketplaces that profit from British users.

"I do think we need to look at the operations of the big digital companies and the huge revenues they make in the UK and the amount of tax they pay," he said while hitting out at attempts to start "trade wars."

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