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LIVE welcomes parliamentary report on proposed Protect Duty law for venues and promoters

By | Published on Friday 28 July 2023


The UK’s live sector trade group LIVE has welcomed a new report from Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee that scrutinises proposed new laws that will require venues and events to take various steps to reduce the threat to the public from terrorist attacks.

MPs on the committee say that they welcome the intention of the Draft Terrorism (Protection Of Premises) Bill, but have serious concerns about the proportionality of the proposed legislation, especially in relation to smaller businesses.

LIVE likewise supports the intention of the legislation, but shares many of the concerns expressed by MPs, reckoning that in its current form the new bill won’t achieve its objective of better protecting audiences while also “placing disproportionate burdens on venues of all sizes around the country”.

The Draft Terrorism (Protection Of Premises) Bill was developed in response to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. A total of 22 people died during the terrorist attack at the Manchester venue, which occurred as an Ariana Grande concert was ending.

One area of focus following that attack was whether a new ‘Protect Duty’ should be introduced for venues and event promoters to help reduce the threat to the public from terrorist attacks. Having completed a consultation regarding such a new duty, the UK government confirmed in early 2022 that it would draft new laws to that effect.

The draft bill was then published in May this year. At the time the government explained: “Currently, private sector organisations work with police to take steps to mitigate against terrorist risk on a voluntary basis. Whilst the private sector has generally been willing to accept advice, difficulties have arisen when it is unclear where responsibility lies, or where mitigations require significant expenditure”.

“To address this issue”, it went on, “the bill would create a scheme under which publicly accessible venues and events would be required to take certain steps to reduce risk, such as terrorism protection training, risk assessment and mitigation, and maintaining security plans”.

“Venues with capacity of 100 or over would be subject to a standard duty, intended to be relatively light touch and low cost to implement. Venues with capacity of 800 or more, and qualifying public events, would be subject to an enhanced duty, entailing more onerous and costly requirements”.

“The bill would also create a new regulator with powers to inspect and enforce the scheme”, it added. “The regulator would be empowered to issue notices requiring the rectification of contraventions, or restricting the use of a venue in contravention. Compliance would be enforced through monetary and criminal penalties”.

Ministers then invited the Home Affairs Select Committee to scrutinise its draft bill and it published its report on the proposals yesterday.

That report states: “Whilst we welcome the government’s overall intention behind the draft bill, we have some serious concerns about the proportionality of the bill, especially in relation to the impact on smaller businesses, voluntary and community-run organisations in the standard tier premises, where there is a lack of evidence that the bill will adequately reduce the threat of terrorism for smaller organisations”.

In addition to that, it goes on: “We also have some concerns about the unfinished provisions in the draft bill, the purpose of the bill, the regulator and some of the duties required. There are a number of other areas in which we feel that the draft bill could be improved upon, including introducing a provision for mandatory life-saving training and statutory standards for the design of new buildings”.

Regarding the purpose of the bill, the report clarifies: “The rhetoric around the draft bill appears to suggest that the bill is more about prevention. However, our analysis of the draft bill suggests it is about the consequences of a terrorist attack. The Draft Terrorism (Protection Of Premises) Bill, the explanatory notes to the bill and all guidance related to the bill must clearly, and consistently, set out what the purpose of the bill is”.

Welcoming the committee’s report, LIVE CEO Jon Collins said yesterday: “We welcome the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report which vindicates our members’ view that the draft dill is both impractical and, through the excessive penalties it proposes, would create existential risk for live music venues, and could lead to events and festivals leaving the UK”.

“LIVE’s members fully support the original purpose of the bill to better protect audiences”, he added, “but in its current form, it will fail to do this while also placing disproportionate burdens on venues of all sizes around the country. The government must now urgently redesign the bill to ensure it is workable, allows venues to continue to put on shows, and crucially delivers greater reassurance and safety for concertgoers”.

In terms of its specific concerns, LIVE argues that ministers have yet to undertake any thorough impact assessment of the proposals in the bill, and haven’t considered the role of the existing licensing regime in preventing terrorism and protecting the public.

Also, it argues, “the powers to serve restriction notices or to impose civil penalties are not proportionate or necessary and pose existential risk to the sector, particularly for smaller venues”.

You can read the select committee’s report here.