'PM was hesitant as we shook hands on Martyn's Law', Manchester Arena bombing victim's mother says

Figen Murray said she sensed 'hesitation' in Rishi Sunak as he vowed to introduce Martyn's Law, hours before calling a snap general election.

File photo dated 22/05/24 of Figen Murray, mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, arriving in Downing Street, London. Figen Murray has said she felt
Figen Murray met with Rishi Sunak at No 10 hours before he called a snap general election. (Alamy)

The mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett has told Yahoo News how she sensed "hesitation" in Rishi Sunak as he vowed to introduce a law in her son's name – hours before calling a snap election.

Figen Murray, whose son was among the 22 killed in the 2017 blast at the Ariana Grande concert, has said she felt "let down" after the prime minister told her on Wednesday that he would introduce the legislation before the parliamentary summer break.

Sunak couldn't get Martyn's Law – more formally known as the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill – introduced if he lost the 4 July vote and was no longer PM, leaving Murray feeling "misled" after the Tory leader's surprise announcement.

Recalling her meeting with the prime minister at Downing Street on Wednesday morning, she told Yahoo News: "Rishi Sunak promised he would introduce the bill into parliament before the summer recess. I asked him to shake hands on it, and there was a slight hesitation that I clocked and could not understand, but he then shook my hand.

"He said that whilst he will introduce the bill before the summer recess, he couldn't promise that it would be passed before the next general election. Then, later that day, he called the election. Suddenly the hesitation for the handshake made sense."

Read more

Right after speaking with Sunak, Murray says she met home secretary James Cleverly, who told her Martyn's Law couldn't be passed during the "wash up" – a period where any outstanding legislation is either dropped or rushed through Parliament before an election.

The bill had only just undergone a first reading in the Commons, and the legislation can only be moved on after the results of a second public consultation, Murray says.

Appearing on Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme, the home secretary said: “Of course, we’re sorry that not all the legislation has passed, and I’m particularly sorry that we weren’t able to get Martyn’s Law on the statute books before the General Election.

“But when I discussed with the family and the campaign group that it might straddle a general election, I said that if we re-entered government, we would prioritise this to get it on because it has taken longer than we would have wanted.

“And I said there is cross-party support, and I said I cannot envisage a world where this is not enacted, even if it is delayed because of a general election."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his his wife Akshata Murty leave after a campaign event in Stanmore in north west London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Sunday May 26, 2024.
Rishi Sunak, pictured with wife Akshata Murty, appeared 'hesitant' as he shook hands on Martyn's Law, according to Figen Murray. (Alamy)

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill aims to enhance public safety by ensuring there is better preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks.

It would place requirements on those responsible for certain premises, such as venues with a capacity of over 100, and event organisers to "fulfil necessary, but proportionate, steps", according to a consultation document.

Measures that these venues would be required by law to have in place include procedures for evacuation, getting people back into safe parts of the building, locking down the venue and communication to move people away from danger.

As well as meeting Sunak, Murray and other campaigners met Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, shadow security minister Dan Jarvis, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and other key Labour figures.

On Sunday, Starmer said the prime minister was not “straight” with Murray and promised that Labour would introduce the law “as a priority”.

However, the Labour leader avoided making a guarantee that his party would bring it to Parliament ahead of the summer recess – which is scheduled for 23 July – if he replaced the prime minister in No 10.

After meeting with Murray on Wednesday, Starmer wrote to Sunak, telling him the Labour Party "wholeheartedly" supports her campaign and that the Tory leader should work with him to "deliver on that promise without further delay".

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks to to a local resident about the cost of living, while on the General Election campaign trail in Satfford, in the West Midlands. Picture date: Saturday May 25, 2024.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he will treat Martyn's Law as a 'priority', but avoided committing to introducing the bill before summer recess. (Alamy)

“Like Figen and her family, the Labour Party wants to see Martyn’s Law on the statute book as soon as possible," he said.

"To that end, I am writing to confirm that we are happy to work with you and your government, through the usual channels, to agree this as a standalone bill and ensure it is given parliamentary time as a priority.

“If time is allocated after the upcoming recess, we will work constructively with the Government to ensure this bill is passed swiftly.

“You will recall the promise you made to Figen Murray in December 2022 to put this legislation into place. I urge you to work with us to deliver on that promise without further delay. The victims and their families deserve nothing less.”

While Labour's words will provide some encouragement to Murray, she is still determined to keep fighting until she is sure the law will be passed.

"I have no doubt that this legislation will be passed very quickly if Labour gets in," she said. "But whoever gets into power - this is not a political hot potato; it did not receive any major objections from politicians, and the draft bill is ready to go.

"I will be continuing talking about it, working on it, being on social media about it and will continue working with the government until this is done."