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MPs Warn New Anti-Terror Bill Is "Not Fit For Purpose"

Relatives of the Manchester Bombings released balloons in Manchester. (Alamy)

4 min read

A scathing report by the cross party home affairs select committee of MPs has concluded the government's draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, also known as 'Martyn's Law', is "not fit for purpose" and misses its "main objectives".

The proposed legislation would place premises and venues in two tiers, with a maximum capacity of 100 to 799 people for the standard tier, and capacity of 800 and above for the enhanced tier.

For standard tier venues, requirements will include staff training to be able to warn attendees in the event of a terror attack, as well as knowing how to implement lockdown and evacuation.

For enhanced tiers, along with the above, there are a range of other requirements, including additional security measures. 

The government says the Bill – also known as 'Martyn's Law', after 29-year old Martyn Hett who was killed along with 22 others at an Ariane Grande concert terrorist bombing in 2017 – is designed to ensure the public is prepared for what to do in the event of a terrorist attack to save lives. 

But while MPs on the committee said they welcomed "the government's overall intention" behind the proposals, they warn legislation would also likely have had little impact on incidents similar ro recent terror attacks. 

The report said the Bill risks missing some of its "main objectives" – and does not take into acccount "the varying types of terror threats" in different parts of the UK, highlighting that terrorism challenges in Northern Ireland differ greatly to those in England. 

The report also says MPs have "serious concerns about the proportionality" in relation to smaller businesses, voluntary and community-run organisations.

"We are concerned that the capacity figure of 100 for standard tier premises, which will capture some small and micro-sized businesses, and community-run and voluntary groups, could be disproportionate and burdensome," said the report.

"This category is particularly troubling because it would include many smaller venues that may not have sufficient resources to cover costs of what is proposed.

"It would also cover village halls, places of worship and similar amenities that provide vital community support, often on low budgets. If such places are forced to close down, this represents a win for terrorism, rather than an effective means of combatting it."

Last month PoliticsHome reported concerns from campaigners that the legislation was “well-meaning” but “overblown”. 

Tory MP Tim Loughton, who sits on the home affairs committee, told PoliticsHome earlier this month the government's Bill "over-legislates" for small venues while simultaneously "under-legislating" large ones.

There is concern about the impact the legilsation could have on businesses. MPs on the committee have urged the government to "undertake a targeted communications campaign to raise awareness" among venues to make sure they are prepared for the consequences of the Bill – adding financial support may be necessary. 

"The cost on standard and enhanced tier premises of implementing these proposals, estimated by the government, is disproportionate to the level of threat, particularly for those small and medium-sized premises captured in the standard tier," said the report. 

It added: "The government should consider what financial assistance may be necessary to support small and micro-businesses whose premises fall within the enhanced tier before introducing the Draft Bill to Parliament."

On potential elements to add to the Bill, MPs said it could be strengthened by making it a requirement for publicly accessible new builds to consider security design of the building. 

"The government should include provision in the Bill to require new publicly accessible buildings, which would fall within the category of enhanced tier premises, to consider security in the design of the building," the report said. 

It also called for better training of UK security guard staff, stating the committee was "gravely concerned to hear that the UK security industry has one of the lowest entry thresholds in Europe for training", describing the situation as "unacceptable". 

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to improving security at public venues and the pre-legislative scrutiny process will ensure we create a strong bill that delivers on this aim whilst being proportionate.

“We will carefully review the recommendations of the report and we are committed to introducing the Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”

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