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Published 18 septiembre 2023
Following the publication of the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill in May 2023, the Government invited the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny before a Bill is formally introduced to Parliament later this year. Evidence was taken and a report was published on 27 July. While welcoming the overall intention behind the draft Bill, the report highlights the need for more detail and makes a number of recommendations, focusing on:
The committee also requested that all draft guidance to accompany the Bill be ready by the end of August 2023.
Purpose, proportionality and costs
There is a concern the draft Bill lacks clarity of purpose. While the rhetoric addresses prevention of terrorism, the committee felt that the content of the draft Bill instead appears to a large extent to address the consequences of such an attack. It is recommended that the Bill itself, the explanatory notes and supporting guidance should clearly and consistently set out the true purpose.
The committee also noted that the provisions in the draft Bill would not have made a difference to the vast majority of the terrorist attacks that have happened in the UK in recent years, albeit they heard evidence from the Met Police that confirmed that of the 37 late-stage plots prevented since 2017, 10 were aimed at premises that were in scope under the proposed new law. The committee recommended the Government must therefore also consider changes to make the Bill more effective as a preventative measure.
The report expresses "serious concerns about the proportionality of the Bill, especially in relation to the impact on smaller businesses, voluntary and community-run organisations in standard-tier premises, where there is a lack of evidence that the Bill will adequately reduce the threat of terrorism".
It may be recalled that the Home Office's impact assessment on the draft Bill estimated implementation costs of just over £2,000 for standard-tier premises and £80,000 for enhanced premises, over a ten-year period. These are noted as disproportionate to the level of threat. In addition, with the basis for such estimates unclear, clarification is requested on how they were reached. Alongside this, concerns were raised in evidence about the real danger that costs will in fact escalate.
Capacity, community facilities and outdoor events
The determination of capacity remains a live issue. One witness advises: "If you have your village hall, if you set the seats out in a certain way, you might be able to get 200 people in there, but the reality is perhaps it never hosts more than 50, so should this come within the scope of the legislation or not?"
The Government acknowledges that a Bill of this nature is capable of unintended consequences, for example the burden on community venues such as village halls might be such that they decide it is no longer worth offering their premises to community organisations.
Agreeing with the Local Government Association, the recommendation is that the Bill should be implemented in stages, starting with enhanced-tier premises.
One area that appears to be excluded from the draft Bill is open-air events such as Christmas markets and mass participation sporting events such as marathons. This is flagged as a gap that needs rectifying, in particular when recalling the terrorist attack in Berlin in 2016 where a terrorist drove a truck into a Christmas market, killing twelve people and injuring many others. The proposal is to extend the scope of the Bill to outdoor events with a capacity of 800 or more, regardless of the need for permission and payment.
One of the most recurrent concerns we have heard relates to the regulator, including around its identity, how it will operate and how it will be held to account. The report notes that its role will be vital in the months immediately after the Bill receives Royal Assent. As a result, it is recommended that the Government should develop concrete proposals by the end of September and supplement the draft Bill before it is resubmitted as a Bill. We understand that the Home Office is committed to identifying the regulator either on the face of the Bill when it is published or in advance of this.
Figen Murray called for a provision on mandatory life-saving training to be included in the Bill. This is picked up by the report, together with a suggestion that the Home Office should also consider providing for mandatory bandage kits on the premises. The report's recommendation is that the Bill includes a provision to provide mandatory life-saving training "to staff" to the premises captured by the Bill. This is potentially wider than the scope of the terrorism protection training currently contained in the draft Bill, which should be provided to "relevant workers" and therefore will need to be clarified.
A further suggestion is the incorporation of provisions around the education and procurement of security staff at enhanced-tier premises and venues.
There is also an issue raised elsewhere in the report about training, notably to ensure that any terrorism protection training should be of a prescribed standard and able to be rolled out across all activities, including hospitality (where there is a high staff turnover) and volunteer-run premises. It is also unclear what is meant by training (ie whether it should be hands-on training or e-learning.)
In addition, it is recommended that there should be a standard for risk assessments.
Finally, the Government is also advised to include a provision requiring new publicly-accessible buildings that would fall within enhanced-tier premises to have security considered in the design of the buildings.
We await the guidance to accompany the Bill, along with concrete details on the regulator.
In light of the report, it is still possible that the 100 and 800 capacity figures will be revised and the scope of the Bill extended.
A key takeaway for us is the suggestion that the legislation should be implemented on a stage-by-stage basis, enabling lessons to be learnt from the experiences of enhanced-tier premises.
Until all the further information is available, it is difficult to feed back comprehensively with any concerns or recommendations. There is, however, still an opportunity for voices to be heard before the King's Speech on 7 November 2023, when the Government will lay out its fresh legislative agenda.
It can also safely be anticipated that the Bill will be subject to considerable, detailed scrutiny, in both Houses of Parliament, with amendments suggested and Government concessions distinctly possible.
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