The horrific events that took place at the Manchester Arena on 22 May last year were an attack on the people of Manchester and further afield. All terrorist attacks are cowardly, but this was an appalling attack that deliberately targeted innocent people, many of them young, in which 22 people were killed and many more were injured. As a north-west MP, I feel the pain personally, as do many of us in this House who represent that region and who will have had friends and constituents there on that night.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester commissioned this independent review following the attack, focusing on the response to the attack and the nine days that followed it. The report rightly highlights the acts of bravery and compassion on the night of 22 May and in the following days. As Lord Kerslake noted yesterday, the response was overwhelmingly positive. He said that the investment that had been made locally and nationally on collaborative partnership and on planning and testing, including an exercise in the preceding months at the Trafford Centre, was demonstrated to the full, enabling a fast response to the attacks. We are indebted to the emergency services. As Lord Kerslake said later, there is a lot to be proud of in the response, both from the city region of Greater Manchester and from its emergency services. The benefits of investing in collaborative partnership and emergency planning were demonstrated to the full. He said that we should reflect that at critical points in the evening, key emergency personnel exercised sound judgment in an extremely stressful, chaotic and dangerous environment.
The report also shows the need for improvement in some areas, however. It is right that all those involved acknowledge where the report has identified the need for improvement. The review is extensive and makes many recommendations, which the Home Office and all other agencies concerned will consider carefully. Lord Kerslake puts the experience of the bereaved families, the injured and the others who were directly affected at the centre of the review, where they should be. We will ensure that, across Government, those recommendations concerning victims are fully considered. We continue to stand with the people of Manchester as they recover and rebuild following the horrendous attack last year, and our thoughts remain with those who were injured and with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.
I thank the Minister for his response. We all remember the horrific events at the Manchester Arena last May and, as ever, our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with the heroic emergency services who responded with courage and bravery. The Kerslake review, set up by Mayor Andy Burnham to ensure that lessons could be learned, was published yesterday. The desire to put the families at the centre of the review sets a new precedent, and we thank each one of them for contributing to the report.
The review makes hard reading in parts, but it is heart-warming in others. There are clear lessons for Greater Manchester, and particularly for the fire service, which have all been accepted and are being acted on. There are also questions for the Government. The report makes it clear that national protocols in relation to terrorist incidents fail to recognise the fact that every incident is different, and that flexibility and judgment are needed. Indeed, had those in charge on the night not broken with protocol, we would be facing more challenging questions today. In part, this explains the serious failings of the fire service. Will the Government take those recommendations on board?
The emergency family hotline run by Vodafone on a Home Office contract completely failed the families. How will the Home Office ensure that this will not happen again? The review was scathing about the media intrusion faced by families in the immediate aftermath, despite the great work of our local media. Anyone watching last night’s “Newsnight” will have been appalled by the story of Martyn Hett’s family. Will the Government look again at the role of the media in such events and ensure that there is proper redress? Finally, it is clear that there is insufficient national support for the victims of such atrocities. Had it not been for unprecedented charitable giving by the public, many of the victims would have been left with little. Will the Government look into establishing a fund for the victims of such attacks? I hope that they will recognise the wider lessons of this review and that they will act on them.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for raising this important topic and giving Members on both sides of the House this opportunity to examine Lord Kerslake’s findings. Operation Plato is effectively the definition of the type of incident that we saw on that terrible night, and I understand her concern about whether it was followed too rigidly. Operation Plato is predominantly a response to a marauding terrorist firearms attack, but it has never been solely and uniquely about that; it has also covered broader areas. It has always been about using pragmatism in responding, but unfortunately, on that night, one or two individuals were too rigid about the definition. We will of course look at that again. However, in the exercising and in the following events, such as London Bridge, which did not involve marauding terrorist firearms, Plato was still called. Furthermore, many Members will remember that Westminster Bridge was also a Plato call, even though no firearms were involved. So part of this is about the ability of leaders on the ground to take a pragmatic view and, as Lord Kerslake spotted in his report, many of the leaders on the night did the right things and made sure that they addressed the issues as they came about.
On the issue of Vodafone, following the publication of the report I have asked for a full understanding of Vodafone’s responses and services. Before and after the event, the Vodafone contract has provided what has been required, but it failed on that night. The Home Secretary and others have sought direct assurances from the chief executive of Vodafone that it will take responsibility, and it has apologised. I have asked that, in future, Vodafone’s service is always exercised alongside the other services when we plan for these events.
On the subject of media intrusion, the hon. Lady is absolutely right. I find it odd that some of the media that are today discussing the weaknesses in the response are the very organisations that were hounding my constituents and those of other Members, sometimes at the very moment of their bereavement. They should reflect strongly on that, and I support the recommendation in Lord Kerslake’s report about what can be done to prevent that from happening again. It is simply unacceptable.
The hon. Lady raised the question of a victims’ fund. We had a request for £1.1 million for the We Love Manchester appeal, and the Government have put in £1 million. I have visited the victims’ liaison officer in Manchester about four times since the attack. Across all the attacks that we have unfortunately had in the past year, the response by Manchester to the victims—and the decision to have a much broader classification of who was a victim—has been second to none and should absolutely be commended. They are dealing with hundreds of people who have self-identified as being a victim either mentally or physically, and the work that they have put into liaising with them has been absolutely brilliant. That has been part of why the Government have helped to respond to Manchester’s central request.
I hear the hon. Lady’s call about the generality of a policy to recognise victims, and I shall take that away and reflect on it. I can assure her, however, that I know from talking to the Mayor of Manchester, to the police liaison and to her colleagues that we are very much involved in ensuring that the victims are central to all of this. I have a great deal of respect for the Mayor of Manchester, whose experience in representing victims across the board in this House is second to none. I am keen to learn from him, and I talk to him as much as I can. We are here to help with the victims.
A key issue is that the victims of this attack were, regrettably, spread far and wide across the north of England, and indeed the highlands of Scotland. One of the challenges has been that engaging mental health help has involved people not only in Manchester but throughout Lancashire and in the highlands and islands of Scotland. That has now been done successfully but perhaps not as quickly as it could have been. That is one of the lessons to be learned. We have also needed to raise awareness in the schools of the teenagers who were targeted, by getting further into the detail and getting headteachers to understand that some of their teenagers had been there that night. The incredible importance of Manchester and Liverpool in my region of the north-west is part of our culture, and what happens in Manchester and in Merseyside is felt in Lancashire. That is why we are determined to learn the lessons from Lord Kerslake’s report, and I am always happy to meet the hon. Lady and her colleagues from Manchester if any more help is required.
Lord Kerslake’s report makes several compelling and important recommendations after this appalling atrocity. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the joint emergency services interoperability programme, which is designed to bring together the work of our emergency services to deal with precisely these sorts of incidents. As part of his ongoing work, will he look at what lessons can be applied here and at how the JESIP principles can be extended, so that we can ensure that our blue-light emergency services are best able to work together and respond in a positive and effective way when dealing with such appalling events?
I pay respect to my right hon. Friend, a former Security Minister, who knows too well what goes on and the complexities for which we plan. One of the failings identified in the Kerslake report is that the national inter-agency liaison officer in this event was too much involved in command and control of the fire service, rather than providing advice to the fire service. When I look back over many other incidents, that officer has been there as an adviser, not a gold or silver commander at the time, and that is one of the lessons to be learned. It is important that we in the Home Office and those in fire authorities around the country consider how we are deploying that key individual to ensure that they are doing what they are supposed to, rather having lots of other responsibilities lumped on to them, meaning that we do not necessarily get the best results when they are tested in such environments.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for requesting this urgent question and that it was granted. It was sobering for us all to read the names of the victims at the start of the Kerslake report. Today, we think of them and of all those affected by the terrible attack in Manchester on 22 May 2017.
The review makes it clear that there is a lot to be proud of in the responses of the city region of Greater Manchester and of its emergency services. At the same time, however, it is entirely right that we learn lessons for the future. I agree with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, who said clearly that bereaved families must be at the heart of the process. Does the Minister agree that communication and procedures are central to those lessons? There was no shared communication across the agencies of the declaration of Operation Plato, and Greater Manchester fire and rescue service was left, in the words of the review, “outside the loop” and could not play a meaningful role in the response for nearly two hours. The first meeting of the strategic co-ordinating group could, the review said, have been held “earlier than 04:15 hrs”. The set-up of the casualty bureau was severely hampered by what is described as a
“the complete failure of the National Mutual Aid Telephony system provided by Vodafone.”
Vodafone has a national contract with the Home Office, so will the Minister examine that contract and the guarantees that can be secured from Vodafone to ensure that such a situation does not happen again—
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. As for this last point, we always review such things. We have a new Contest process, which involves examining where we can learn lessons all the way through, and there are many lessons to be learned from all the tragic attacks we had last year. He is absolutely right about Vodafone, and I am determined to ensure that we find out what went wrong. On the plus side, it has not happened before or after, but that is not an excuse and we must ensure that we receive guarantees, and exercising can help with that.
I want to highlight one important point. I have read some of the media over the past few days, and one would not be blamed for thinking that no one was there on the scene, but that was not the case. Within one minute of the explosion, which was targeted at women and children, British Transport police, police community support officers and paramedics were there. Within 12 minutes, ambulances were on the scene. It is regretful that the fire service was not there, but that was not key to whether people were getting treatment. The other blue-light emergency services did a fantastic job. They set up a casualty station, and they improvised. I know that the Labour party fully understands that and supports that view, and it is something that we should reflect on when the media picks on the worst, not the best, of the event.
We will continue to keep things under review, and I have always said to the shadow Minister that if he would like to visit some of the response units to see how things are being worked through, I would be delighted to host him—or any other Member—to ensure that the complexity of the situation is understood.
The biggest point in relation to the report and all terrorist actions is that we often start by not knowing what the situation is. All Members will remember the day of the Westminster Bridge attack: we were locked in our offices and shut off from one another because we did not know whether it involved firearms or a bomb or whether another person was in the House or not. That is the biggest challenge that our blue-light services face—“Is it a single explosion?” If lots of protocols had been broken in Manchester and there had been a second device—there are lots of examples of where second devices or attacks have been employed—I would hate to have been standing here for another reason, saying that we exposed our emergency services to too much danger because we rushed in or did not do something. It is a difficult balance to make, but I think the right calls were made on the night. Yes, there were some failures, but my constituents and those of the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) can be confident that help was there and that the blue-light emergency services did a fantastic and brave job.
This was a barbaric act of terrorism, and I welcome my right hon. Friend’s measured tone in response to the report. In an ideal world, we would always work to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place, so what more are the Government willing to do to put additional resources into counter-terrorism to ensure that we do not see these awful events on our streets?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. We are always open to more requests, and the Home Office will take the case to the Chancellor. After last year’s attacks, the police and the security services requested more funding, so we went to the Treasury and got £71 million more than was marked to be spent, including £51 million of new money, and we will continue to invest.
In Manchester, we have met nearly all requests for funds, but there are some still to work through. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has asked my Department to speak to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about business rate relief for the businesses that may face bills, but not the council, which will not receive so much in business rates. There is always more to do, but we are in listening mode, and we do our best to get the money to help.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) on securing this urgent question and commend the Minister for his full responses so far. As others have said, the attack was a terrible atrocity, and our thoughts today must be with the dead, their families, the injured and all those who have suffered terribly. The authors of the report should be commended on a full report and a prompt response.
As has been said by others, the revelations about press intrusion into the grieving families of the dead are utterly shocking. Does the Minister agree that those findings underline that the attitude of some in the press that everyone should be investigated, held to account and regulated apart from them needs to be challenged? Does he agree that regulation of the press needs to be considered again and that Leveson 2 should be reopened, as was promised?
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. I am not going to go down the path of Leveson 2, but I totally agree that no one is above the law. Whether a journalist, a police officer or an ordinary member of the public, no is one is above the law. That means that journalists should follow the correct procedures and the rules about respecting victims, and the media should, as they are sometimes requested to by the police and hospital staff, hold back. The need for sensationalism does not trump the rights of victims. The media should behave sensibly.
I thank the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for her urgent question, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for his statement. What are the Government doing through the Prevent strategy in schools and colleges? Obviously, Prevent is the thing that stops the conveyor belt to extremism.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. If we are really to reduce the risk to our people, we need to invest in prevention. Although some people have issues with the Prevent scheme, we published the first lot of figures last week showing yet again that more than 200 people have been diverted away from following a path of violent extremism, and schools play one part of that role.[Official Report, 19 April 2018, Vol. 639, c. 3MC.]
This is about safeguarding, and it is key that people remember young people are being preyed upon right now—I am afraid that I see it in ongoing operations—by people who choose to groom them. Whether young people are being groomed sexually, being groomed for violent extremism or being groomed by the extreme right wing, the methods are exactly the same. We have to invest in Prevent, and we hope to see more investment in Prevent with the Contest review. If we do not deal with it effectively upstream, we will still be here having this debate in many years’ time.
I support the urgent question and powerful words of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), and I welcome both Front-Bench responses. I join the report in paying tribute to the hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of individual bravery and selflessness and to the work of the emergency services and their support for the victims.
Does the Minister agree that the seriousness of the failure of the Vodafone contract is compounded by the fact that the contract is drawn on only in such extreme circumstances? Also, in his reflections on the importance of such a report, will he look further at commissioning an independent report on the Parsons Green attack and on the implementation of the Prevent programme in that case, so that lessons can also be learned from that attack?
The right hon. Lady will know there is still some way to run in the coroner’s inquest and other inquiries, certainly on Manchester, when it comes to attribution and the avoidability of death, etc. We should not forget that a live police investigation of the event in Manchester is still ongoing, with an extradition request outstanding that we are working to help the Libyans to fulfil so we can see justice be done—that is another plank in this process.
On Prevent and the case of the Parsons Green bomber, there has been an internal review by the police with the local Prevent organisation. I am happy to brief the right hon. Lady on some of that on Privy Council terms, if she would like to come. There are definitely issues there that need to be sorted, but Prevent, as a policy, is not guaranteed. We have to try, as a society, to deradicalise and divert people. There are people who are determined to commit acts of murder and brutality, but we would be totally wrong if we did not try to deradicalise them because we cannot give a 100% guarantee. We will continue to try to make sure we are safe.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister has already mentioned, this tragedy went beyond Manchester and into Lancashire. Indeed, the first two victims to be named—indeed, the youngest victim—were from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy) who, as a mum of two young children, asked me to mention it today. Georgina Callander and Saffie Rose Roussos were two young people whose lives were tragically taken. As has been touched on, it is important that the review also looks at the counselling services that are available in schools and that are available to younger people not just in Manchester but beyond, because young people’s lives were touched in a way that should never have happened at such a young age.
My daughter was at the arena not that night but a few weeks before. The arena is a hub for many teenagers in that part of the world. Being a north-west MP, I attended the first Cobra meeting in the morning not down in the Cabinet Office but from Manchester. The point my hon. Friend makes is the very point I made, which is that these teenagers will go back to their schools and their communities, which are not necessarily in the city centre or near the seat of the explosion. Have we put in place the messaging to our education authorities and so on to pick up on that? I was assured that the answer is yes. I asked them to go back and redouble the messaging, and we hope that was done. If it was not, I would be happy to hear from colleagues on both sides of the House to ensure that we follow up on those assurances. One lesson to remember is that people come to big cities from all over the country, and they will disperse back and take their injuries, whether mental or physical, with them.
In extreme adversity, this may well have been Manchester’s finest hour. Andy Burnham, Richard Leese and Eddy Newman were a model of civic leadership during that period. The people of Manchester behaved heroically, as did the first responders to this terrible event. The force duty officer, in ignoring protocol and using his judgment, gave support and possibly saved lives in the immediate aftermath of the bomb.
Having paid those tributes, I would like to ask the Minister whether, if such a tragic event happens again in Manchester or anywhere else in the country—we all hope it does not—the Vodafone system, as of today, is up and working. We cannot afford another catastrophic failure of the communications system.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Not only have I sought and been given assurances about the Vodafone system, I have also asked that we explore a back-up system or contingency plan if something like this does not work in future. There is always the potential for something to go wrong with technology, which is why we need to exercise it, but we also need to consider alternatives should the technology fail on the night.
The one thing on which I can give the hon. Gentleman some assurance is that, before and after, the technology worked successfully at, for example, London Bridge and Westminster and elsewhere, but it is not good enough that the technology did not work on the night when it was needed in Manchester.
I was in Manchester that day and the following morning. Although there are lessons to be learned, and the Kerslake review highlights those lessons, the strength of the Manchester people was striking—resilient, implacable and determined to continue their lives. We should pay tribute to them for their incredibly British response and to Ariana Grande and the other artists who took part in the later musical event, which I thought was just tremendous.
My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. I might say it was a northern response, but it was a solid British response. I have to pay tribute to the Members of Parliament for Greater Manchester. The hon. Member for Manchester Central has been constantly supportive of the city and of the Mayor in getting these things done, and I pay tribute to all those who have made sure that we are learning the lessons and that we have not forgotten. In this day and age, things move so quickly that the media sometimes have the memory of a goldfish and move on to the next story very quickly. Thanks to the likes of the hon. Lady, we have not forgotten.
I pay tribute to Lisa Lees and Alison Howe, two Royton mums who went to collect their 15-year-old daughters who went to the Manchester arena but did not return home. The response from the community and from our emergency services was inspiring. Although faults have been found with the fire service, I place on record that the fire service is not outside our community; the fire service is our community. How we learn from this, and how we build and go forward from it, will be the test.
Although some of the national media were very intrusive, there was also some outstanding journalism, particularly by the Manchester Evening News, which was compassionate, told the human story and brought the community together at a very difficult time.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. People should understand that the response by the emergency services was not just about the city of Manchester. One of the proudest things for me is that, when I walked into Manchester police headquarters at about 8.30 am, the counter-terrorism commander on duty came from the Lancashire force. It was a collective effort, whether from the local fire service or ambulances sent from all over the north-west to help. It shows the strength of the Contest strategy that the response is about pulling together.
Only last week, I went to visit the Salisbury investigation, where I found officers from the midlands and the north of England responding in both the chemical and decontamination space and in the investigation. The fire service is absolutely important; I understand the frustration of many of those brave men and women who feel that they did not have access to helping people, although I want the public to understand that it was not that people were therefore left alone. We will work together to put this right, so that it does not happen in the future, but I must say that the judgments that were made were as much about the safety of officers and crew as they were about the victims.
I welcome the opportunity to highlight the Kerslake report that this urgent question has given. In talking about the emergency services, will the Minister join me in ensuring that the high esteem in which our firefighters are held is not in any way tarnished by this report and in acknowledging the brave service they give, day in, day out, putting their lives on the line to protect ours?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Nothing in this report is about a failure of the services that were deployed that night. There were failures relating to some individual decisions, including on interpretations. There was a failure of technology in respect of the Vodafone response. To some extent, as we have discussed earlier, there was a failure of interpretation—whether or not it was too rigid—but this was not about the failure of the fire service and the police to do their job, about their ability to do their job or about the people who make up both services.
May I echo the congratulations given to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) on ensuring that we can have this discussion? As the Minister is aware, we remain immensely proud of the response of the people of Manchester, the political leadership of Greater Manchester and frontline emergency service workers, the vast majority of whom did an excellent job. We are also proud of the fact that we came together as a community and said that there would be zero tolerance of Islamophobia in the aftermath of this incident. Will he agree to meet the people leading the review on radicalisation policy in Greater Manchester, the leaders of Oldham Council and of Bury Council, to learn lessons about whether the Prevent programme is in fact working? There are massive differences of opinion on that. Will the Government agree to learn from the review that Greater Manchester is undertaking on radicalisation policy?
I am very happy to meet the people undertaking that review, but I must point out that the figures published yesterday and those published earlier in the month show that Prevent is working in many areas.[Official Report, 19 April 2018, Vol. 639, c. 4MC.] Prevent is not perfect. I listened carefully to the discussion on the BBC’s “Question Time” not long after the event, when Andy Burnham and the representative from the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west gave their views on Prevent at the time. Prevent could be better applied sometimes; but ultimately, if we are saying that it is about safeguarding and delivering a space so that people are not radicalised, the people who are against Prevent have to come up with an alternative. Every alternative I have heard articulated is Prevent with a different name. I do not think that when dealing with really important issues about young people being groomed and exploited we should be too hung up on the semantics of the name—we should be looking at the results and the processes. Again, I say to Members that I am happy to take them to meet Prevent providers, to understand communities. I met a family whose children were diverted from going off to fight in Syria, and if we were to look that lady in the eye and say, “Sorry, Prevent is not working,” she will give us a rather robust answer about whether it is or not.
The whole country was shocked by the severity of this atrocity, particularly as it was aimed at young people who were going out for a night of fun with their friends. All our thoughts must be with the victims and their families, and our thanks must go to the emergency services. As we are learning the lessons from this terrible atrocity, will the Minister update the House on how many attacks have been disrupted in this country since this terrible atrocity and which groups are responsible for trying to perpetrate such attacks?
The best and latest figures I can give my hon. Friend are that since the first attack last year at Westminster Bridge 10 plots were disrupted and there were four extreme right-wing plots. The plots we face are broad, coming from people ranging from neo-Nazis— that is why we proscribed National Action earlier in the year—to followers of Daesh, followers of al-Qaeda and other extremists who do not follow anything other than seeking to cause harm and to murder on our streets. No one has a copyright on terrorism in this country; a number of groups of people are trying to prosecute it. Again, that is why Prevent is important. Prevent is not just about Islamist terrorism; it is also about extreme right-wing terrorism, and in some parts of the country referrals to Prevent are greater in the extreme right-wing space than they are in the Islamist space.
Thank you again, Mr Speaker, for your solidarity with the people of Manchester in the aftermath of the attack. We owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Kerslake and Andy Burnham for an excellent piece of work; this is a very good report. Although it is right that we learn lessons, we should take pride in the actions of the first responders and the people of Manchester. I am also proud of the way our local paper, the Manchester Evening News, reported the incident and the aftermath, but sadly the same cannot be said of a lot of the media. What steps can the Government take to help the Independent Press Standards Organisation develop a new code of conduct to cover incidents such as the one at Manchester Arena, given that victims spoke of the “intrusive and overbearing” treatment from some of the media?
Both local papers, the Lancashire Evening Post and the Manchester Evening News, did the right thing: they got behind the community and understood what had happened in the middle of them. I go back to a point I made earlier: sometimes it is important that the media understand that sensationalism is not the trump card that means they can ignore all the other rules of accuracy and of being sensitive to people’s issues. The media have a strong role to play in communicating the facts in the immediate aftermath of events such as this, because when we do not have facts people get scared. This is why I have tried to work on this, as we all have. The reason people sometimes get frustrated with the police and the intelligence services not being as quick as they could to inform them of things is that if we get the facts wrong, people get scared. We have to make sure that the terrorists do not win by scaring us. We win by showing that we are controlled and by responding. The media have a really important and responsible role to play in that.
Building on the previous question and the Minister’s answer, does he agree that the real-time reporting of incidents and of their aftermath needs to be more carefully thought about by some elements of the media? Would he welcome a constructive industry-led approach to looking at that?
I would welcome any initiative that does that. This is a real challenge in the 21st century: in real time, people are eyewitnesses and people tweet, having immediately got on their phone. That is not going to go away. What is important is that the producers, the people churning out the programmes and the editors are employed, partly, to be able to sift gossip from reality, and sensationalism from impacting stories. The message is that there is a strong role for the editors and producers in this day and age of live reporting. They must be able to say, “It might be sensational, but we are not going to report it because it is not true or factual, and I would not be responsible if I did.”
I join colleagues in once again sending condolences to all the victims of this terrible attack in our city and in paying tribute to all in our emergency services and in the wider community who served to support and care for them. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, many people and faith groups right across the faith spectrum rushed to offer help and hospitality to those who were frightened and alone that night. Shamefully, in the aftermath of the attacks attempts were also made by the far right to drive a wedge between different faith communities. Will the Minister join me in utterly condemning such shameful conduct? Will he confirm the Government’s intent always to crack down on the promotion of division and hatred?
The hon. Lady makes a powerful and important point. Like her, I represent Muslim communities, doing so in Preston. Let me say in response to an earlier point that there is Islamophobia and we have to deal with that. We have to stand up to Islamophobia as strongly as we stand up to anti-Semitism and all the other issues that are about dividing our communities. The terrorists, be they neo-Nazis or from Daesh, want to divide our communities; they want us to hate each other and to weaken the society we belong to. I am absolutely determined, as I know all of us in this House are, to stand up against that and to give those people no quarter. We should double our efforts, both through other programmes such as Prevent and in our counter-extremism work on getting children, certainly in school, to understand what this is about. We must also be strong enough to have a debate about extremism without shutting down freedom of speech.
I welcome the report’s findings and congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) on bringing this issue to the House. Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister has already said he does not want to go down the Leveson route, in his comments and his replies to several Members, most notably the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), he expressed exactly the concerns that those of us who believe that Leveson 2 must go ahead feel very strongly. Will he please take those comments to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and point out to him the failure of a system that did not protect the innocent victims of that explosion from press intrusion?
I understand the point, which was strongly made by the hon. Lady, and will of course reflect that to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. There is a real challenge and it is easier said than done. I remember the cack-handed banning of the voice of Sinn Féin all those years ago and how badly that went down. No one is suggesting that that is how far people go, but we have to be careful in how we restrict the media in a space that is about freedom of speech, getting across messages and so on. I will absolutely work to make sure that the media are more responsible and face the consequences of bad or untrue reporting, but I must also recognise and uphold the principle of freedom of speech.
It is difficult to read parts of the report, because it requires us to relive that evening and the days after it, but there is much to be proud of in terms of the response and the incredible sense of solidarity across Greater Manchester and throughout the whole country in the days afterwards. A report such as this should never be about scapegoating—it is about learning lessons—but I have been asked by constituents of mine who are firefighters to place on record their sense of frustration at not being able to help sooner. Having acknowledged that, let us learn the lesson from it. Let us all, from all parts of the House, reiterate our tremendous admiration for and pride in all our emergency services.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The reliving of that horrendous night is done by our police officers and ambulance crews every day of their lives. One of the most disturbing parts of my job was to see a lot of the footage that was captured before, during and after the attack. That will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I was not even on the scene. Our emergency services will relive it. I passionately feel the frustration of those firefighters who wanted to help on that day. They do not deserve to have to deal with that, which is why we have to put some of those things right through the recommendations in Lord Kerslake’s report. I will make sure that we do that, and the only thing I would say is, “Rest assured, others were there to treat the victims and help the bereaved.”
A school friend of mine, Roddy MacLeod, and his wife Marion lost their daughter Eilidh in the attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Also from the Isle of Barra was 15-year-old Laura MacIntyre, who, incidentally, was a good friend of my middle daughter. She was terribly injured but is making a good recovery. She is walking and back at school, and she is as witty as ever. Roddy and Marion welcome the recommendations in the report and wholeheartedly agree on the individual acts of heroism on that night that were praised in the report. They have said quite heroically themselves that they hope that such reports will help to inform individuals and heads of service for the future.
I echo the points that have been made about the printed newspapers in particular. I was personally asked by a relative to rush to the house of a distraught grandmother, who felt further panicked by a journalist at the doorstep. Fortunately, the journalist had gone, and was probably only doing the bidding of the editor quite reluctantly. On the whole, the media were good that week—we have to acknowledge that—but can we please encourage the ending of the practice of door-stepping, particularly of the terribly bereaved? It is not pleasant and it is very distressing.
The Fire Brigades Union has commented that Greater Manchester fire and rescue services is
“the only emergency service in Manchester without its own dedicated service control room.”
In the light of the communication problems identified in the report, will the Minister review this situation?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but think I need to check her assertion. I have been to the Merseyside joint control room, where they do incredible amounts of good work. The north-west fire control is a regional control room. The report does not point to that as the failure; the point was the failure in the inter-agency liaison officer not being able necessarily to take the right decisions, and their being involved in almost too many of the decisions; it was not about the location or organisation of the control room. Before we suddenly seek to change that in the north-west, we should look at the report’s findings, which were very much about the roles of a few individuals and the decisions that they took on the night.
May I put on record the fact that after the attack, many people volunteered their services, whether they were cab drivers, or restaurant owners who opened their restaurants to the victims and everyone around?
My constituent Rebecca Ridgeway is a disabled person who uses a wheelchair. When she went into the arena, she had to be taken out of her wheelchair and placed on a seat. When the incident occurred, there was nobody there to look after her. In fact, somebody came in, put her in her wheelchair and she was taken out—not by the arena staff or the security staff, but by a member of the public. As a result of the incident, she has not been able to leave her house, so I visited her in her home. She told me that there has been no counselling, psychiatric services or psychologists available in sufficient numbers to deal with her and many other people who suffered trauma from the incident. Will the Minister provide proper funding for that?
I am sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituent’s experience. First, I am absolutely happy to take the detail of that case to event organisers throughout the country, whom I meet regularly, to make sure that they think about disability. Secondly, with regard to her particular constituent, I have met the victims liaison team and many of the health trusts in the region, and they are delivering services, so if she is not getting that, will the hon. Lady please tell me the details? I will take that, either with her or on my own, to the relevant health trust to make sure that her constituent is given counselling and support. Many others are getting it and it is wrong that she is not.
The Minister has comported himself really well at the Dispatch Box today, and I think the House agrees on that.
May I follow on from the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) and praise you, Mr Speaker? You stood shoulder to shoulder with us on 23 May last year, when the Bishop of Manchester led us in prayers. We will never forget Tony Walsh doing the poem “This is the place”. In respect of what the right hon. and learned Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) said about civic leadership, we put on record our thanks to the Bishop of Manchester and all the faith leaders who have shown such solidarity together. We have had no subsequent trouble in our city because of that strong leadership.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We should put it on record that the civic leadership of Manchester—including Andy Burnham, the chief executive of the council and the leader of the council—has been exemplary. Because of that, the terrorists have not been successful in dividing our communities, and nor will they be. Manchester is a perfect example, and I used it recently when talking to Salisbury’s local civic leadership. I said, “If you want an example of how to do it, albeit on a different scale—making sure that your communities return to normal and being prepared to ask central Government for funding—look at the way they did it in Manchester.” We should all be proud of it.