A national consultation over proposed new counter-terrorism legislation was being launched today after a campaign in memory of Manchester Arena bomb victim Martyn Hett.

Maryn's mother, Figen Murray, hailed the breakthrough as a 'major stride towards making our country safer' - and saving lives.

Ministers announced the proposed new 'Protect Duty' legislation last February, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit the start of public consultation, which begins now for 18 weeks.

The Government said the new law would bring a legal requirement for public places and venues to ensure preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks.

A police chief told the ongoing public inquiry into the Manchester Arena atrocity that the 'transformational' legislation would be 'as impactive to protective security as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has been for data handling'.

The consultation document can be viewed in full here.

Campaigning Figen Murray

Much-loved PR manager Martyn was 29 and from Stockport - one of 22 murdered in the suicide bombing at the Arena after an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Although subject to consultation, the duty is likely to apply to specified owners and operators of public venues, large organisations and those with responsibility for public spaces.

That would include private businesses, the public sector and councils.

Publicly accessible locations are defined within the consultation as sports stadiums; festivals and music venues; hotels; pubs; clubs; bars and casinos; high streets; parks; beaches and public squares - among a long list of others.

Since March 2017 UK police and security services have foiled 27 plots.

But security minister James Brokenshire said: "In the absence of a legislative requirement, there is no certainty that considerations of security are undertaken by those operating the wide variety of sites and places open to the public, or, where they are undertaken, what outcomes are achieved."

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The Government said the legislation would place a legal duty on owners, and those with responsibility for a venue, to consider terrorist threats, and consider and implement 'appropriate and proportionate protective security and organisational preparedness measures'.

The Arena inquiry heard it would be 'primary legislation to impose a duty upon those who ought to be responsible for the safety of the public when they are in a publicly accessible location'.

The consultation takes the form of a questionnaire and is aimed at all those who own or operate publicly accessible locations.

It considers whether a duty should apply to owners or operators of publicly accessible venues with a capacity of 100 or more, organisations employing 250 staff or more operating in a publicly accessible location, and how it could be used to improve security at open public spaces.

Announcing it's launch Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I have heard first hand from those who have sadly lost loved ones in horrific terror attacks, and thank them for their tireless work to ensure others do not share their tragedy.

The Arena attack claimed 22 lives

"This Government has already taken significant steps to amend our powers and strengthen the tools for dealing with the developing terrorist threats we face, and we will always take the strongest possible action to protect our national security.

"That is why we want all organisations responsible for public venues and spaces to put public safety and security first."

The Government said the consultation would seek views on who the duty should apply to, what it will require stakeholders to do, how compliance should work and how the Government can offer support.

Publicly accessible locations are expected to be split into sectors including health, education, retail and leisure - faiths, zones and individual sites, the public inquiry was told in what was the first real explanation of what exactly the 'Protect Duty' would entail.

There would be tailored training for key sectors, groups and localities, and a new online platform to share information is likely to be launched.

Much-loved Martyn

Enforcement is expected, with financial penalties for those who repeatedly do not comply.

The consultation 'envisages' an enforcement model with inspectors, with a new offence proposed for 'non-compliant organisations who persistently fail to take reasonable steps to reduce the potential impact of attacks'.

Risk assessments would have to be recorded, retained and reviewed.

The consultation document says for most organisations, carrying out and implementing measures would be 'straightforward, quick and incur minimal cost'.

Mrs Murray launched her campaign for 'Martyn's Law' - backed by the Manchester Evening News - after she was left shocked by security measures at a venue she attended following the bomb.

It began as a simple online petition. Now it's set to shape a new law.

Mrs Murray said she wanted public venues to be compelled to undergo counter-terror training and implement specific security policies.

At a launch event in June 2019, Mrs Murray spoke alongside Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, and retired chief superintendent Nick Aldworth, who was the country's national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism.

The 22 murdered at the Arena

The launch heard there was legislation for seat-belts and fire sprinklers, but not terrorism.

Mrs Murray told the Manchester Evening News she wanted the legislation to apply to ALL public venues.

She said: "Today is a major stride towards making our country safer from terror attacks. I want to thank the Government for taking this step.

"To make Martyn's Law a reality is of huge relief and I look forward to making a lasting difference with all of those who have supported it.

"It's crucial this law is brought in and applies to all public venues because protecting the public from terror attacks is a priority and there cannot be exceptions. My focus will always be to stop such violent acts from happening again because Martyn and the other 21 victims cannot have lost their lives for nothing."

Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said Mrs Murray's 'courageous campaigning and tireless work' has helped make the legislation a 'reality'.

She told the Manchester Evening News: "The people of Manchester have seen first-hand the agonising impact that a terrorist attack has on families and communities.

"It was truly humbling to witness the way in which the city came together in the face of such a terrible atrocity, demonstrating incredible compassion and resilience. I was especially moved joining the crowds in St Ann's Square to pay our respects."

Baroness William said security remained a priority, adding: "That is why today, we have set out our proposals for a new Protect Duty, which will ensure that organisations take the necessary steps to assess the risk from terrorism and put in place effective protective security and preparedness measures to keep people safe."

The UK's terror threat level is currently rated as 'substantial'.