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Largan column: 'The lessons of the Manchester Arena attack must be learnt'

High Peak MP Robert Largan.

In his latest column, High Peak MP Robert Largan gives his thoughts after the publication of a report following the first part of the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack in 2017.

On 22 May 2017, 22 people were murdered and hundreds more injured in a vile act of cowardice by an Islamist terrorist at the Manchester Arena.

In the wake of the attack, I joined thousands in Albert Square in the centre of Manchester for a deeply moving vigil to show solidarity with the attack’s victims and to show that we would not let hate destroy our way of life. I also wanted to express my thanks to the brave first responders, who put their lives on the line to help others.

Growing up in Manchester, the attack was deeply personal to me. Friends of mine worked as stewards at Manchester Arena at the time. I used to walk past the Arena every day on my way to work and I regularly went to events there as a teenager. I’ve also met families of victims and been struck by their strength and dignity, after experiencing a loss I cannot even begin to imagine.

I am very proud of the way we responded to that awful event, pulling together and standing against hatred.

Clearly, however, the attack raises serious questions about our security services and the opportunities that were missed to prevent it from happening.

I am pleased that the first part of the inquiry into these failings has now been published and I have studied Sir John Saunders’ report carefully.

Several serious failings led to the attack and worsened its impact. In particular, the arena’s operators and security providers failed to identify Salman Abedi as a threat. CCTV blinds spots were also exploited.

Mistakes on the night by the incident commander, in addition to errors in Greater Manchester Police’s planning for a terrorist attack, meant that their response was botched.

The lessons of this attack must be learnt to make certain that similar incidents cannot take place in future. In the unfortunate event that they do, we need the right tools in place to respond quickly and decisively.

I warmly welcome the new Protect Duty announced by the Government. This will place a legal duty on large venues, like the Manchester Arena, to have plans in place to prepare for and prevent terrorist attacks.

Longer-term, however, we need to urgently review the Prevent Strategy.

The Manchester inquiry found that despite Abedi being known by MI5 as an extremist with multiple terrorist connections, he was not questioned when returning from Libya shortly before the attack. Abedi’s brother was then been able to leave the country before being questioned by the inquiry.

Since then, a series of similar failures have followed. In Southend, Sir David Amess’ killer had previously been referred to Prevent. The following month, in Liverpool, the terrorist who set off a bomb outside the Women’s Hospital arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker, he was then sectioned, after which authorities did not keep track of him.

This cannot continue. Parliament and the security services need to urgently review the Prevent Strategy, as it is clearly not fit for purpose. We need to better monitor those who arrive in this country, or who are at risk of radicalisation to prevent them from turning their toxic propaganda into hateful acts of terror.

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