Government failed to act on past recommendations ahead of last year’s terror attacks, say MPs

Posted On: 
22nd November 2018

The Government failed to learn the lessons from past terror incidents ahead of the attacks which hit the UK last year, MPs have said.

Police officers in the London Bridge and Borough area following the attack in June last year
PA Images

In a damning report, parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said it was “striking” how many of the issues which it probed relating to 2017 had been raised more than a decade before.

The report looked at attacks on Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green, which, combined, saw the killing of dozens by terrorists and extremists.

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But MPs said its reports into the 7/7 bombing and the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 had made recommendations, but that ministers had “failed to act on them”.

“The lessons from last year’s tragic events must now result in real action,” they added.

The Home Office came under particular criticism over its response to the Parson’s Green incident, in which a bomb detonated on a tube train at the south-west London station, injuring 30.

The committee said it had “failed to provide full evidence” in time for it to be included in the inquiry “despite multiple requests”.

“This is unacceptable: from what we have seen to date, there were fundamental failings in the handling of this case by the Home Office, the police and Surrey County Council," the report said.

“This litany of errors will require a separate comprehensive review, to which the Home Office must be directly answerable.”

Elsewhere the group criticised MI5 over its failure to place travel monitoring or restrictions on Manchester bomber Salman Abedi which allowed him to return undetected to the UK in the days immediately before he carried out his attack.

The security service has admitted since that it should have done so, they say.

The group also called on ministers to encourage business to pull financial backing from communication service providers (CSPs) over their failures to stop their systems from being used as a “safe haven for terrorists”,

They said hitting the profits of social media giants – who were first warned by the committee four years ago – will “hit home harder” than an appeal to “do the right thing”.

“We have seen that appeals to these companies’ sense of corporate and social responsibility have not resulted in them making the changes required - and again these loopholes were used by the perpetrators of the 2017 attacks," they continued.

“In this report we recommend that pressure is instead put on the CSPs by the business community, following the example of companies such as Unilever.

“We strongly consider that action which affects the CSPs’ profits will hit home harder than an appeal to them to ‘do the right thing’ and could force them to take action on this crucial issue – Government efforts should now be directed towards the business community, to encourage them to use the leverage they have with the CSPs."

Responding to the report, Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “It’s shocking to learn the terrible terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena could have been prevented.

“This raises serious questions for the entire policing and security system, not simply MI5 alone. These questions include the proper identification, prioritisation and prevention of terrorists, which is an increasingly integrated process, involving multiple agencies, or at least it should be.

“But this government has undermined policing with cuts of 21,000 officers. And community policing, the frontline ears and eyes on the ground in the fight against terror, has been hardest hit.

“This report is additional evidence that the imposition of austerity on the police is undermining public safety and security.”