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MPs and musicians urge Home Office to change position on festival drug testing

By | Published on Monday 26 June 2023

UK Parliament

A stack of MPs have joined with artists Billy Bragg, Norman Cook and Metronomy in calling for the Home Office to change its position regarding the testing of drugs on festival sites around the UK. The MPs and music-makers say that the government department’s current position is “short-sighted and dangerous”.

A number of festivals now have drug testing operations at their events. Experts test drugs confiscated by police and security to assess whether there are any substances in circulation that could pose heightened risk to those consuming them. That information is then pushed out through social media, and provided to police and on-site medical personnel.

The Parklife festival in Manchester has undertaken such work for a number of years, working with drug testing charity The Loop and in liaison with Greater Manchester Police.

However, that couldn’t happen this year after the Home Office told organisers that a specific licence was required to test any drugs on site. Getting a licence increases costs and can take three months, which means – with that requirement now in force – many festivals, especially smaller events, will not be able to do any drug testing this year.

The letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman – organised by Sam Tarry MP and also signed by Parklife co-founder Sacha Lord – states: “Regardless of your position or personal beliefs on drug usage, the simple fact remains that people will take them, and especially so at festivals this summer. The decision to prevent this testing from going ahead is short-sighted and dangerous. We urge you to reconsider this decision and allow this vital testing to continue”.

For its part, the Home Office says that it hasn’t actually changed its position, and that licences have always been required to do on site drug testing at festivals. It remains to be seen if, under pressure from MPs, it now agrees to be more flexible to ensure drug testing can still go ahead at festivals this summer.