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Home Affairs Select Committee says Martyn’s Law “Not fit for purpose”

Cross-Party Report expresses concerns about draft Terrorism Bill

IMPORTANT 2024 UPDATE: Following the dissolution of Parliament for the General Election the introduction of Martyn’s Law (officially known as the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill ) has been delayed. However, both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have committed, should they lead the next Government, to bringing the draft Bill before Parliament for debate as a matter of priority.

Earlier today the Home Affairs Select Committee published its Report on the Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, otherwise known as Martyn’s Law.

As readers may know the Draft Bill aims to place a duty on qualifying public premises or events to take certain steps to reduce the threat of terrorism to the public. Those qualifying premises will be either Standard duty tier (public premises with a capacity of 100 – 799) or Enhanced duty tier (public premises with a capacity of over 800 individuals).

The Security Minister asked the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft bill. Oral evidence was taken by the Committee on the 6th and 20th June 2023, as well as over 50 written evidence submissions from a range of stakeholders.

The Introduction to the Report states as follows:

“We welcome the Government’s overall intention behind the Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, but have serious concerns about its proportionality, especially in relation to its impact on smaller premises, within the standard tier, where there is a lack of evidence that the risk of terrorist threat justifies the measures proposed or that the Bill will have any effect on reducing terrorist threats. We also have some concerns around the regulator. The whole thrust of the Draft Bill seems to be aimed at bricks and mortar rather than the real target which is a concentration of people or use of buildings by individuals or groups at higher risk of attack.

We agree with the Regulatory Policy Committee’s (RPC) rating of the Government’s impact assessment of the Draft Bill as “not fit for purpose”. We draw this conclusion as the RPC does, because of the absence of evidence “that the proposal would reduce terrorism for small venues.”

Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, one of 22 people murdered in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017, and Nick Aldworth, former National Coordinator of Protect and Prepare Counter Terrorism policing, both regarded as champions of Martyn’s law and supporters of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft bill have criticised some of the Committee’s findings.

Nick Aldworth states, “I know that the committee did its work in a rush, but its conclusions don’t reflect the universal and unpredictable nature of the terrorist threat that was described to them by other witnesses…” On one of the Committee’s recommendations, that the Bill should be implemented in stages, beginning with Enhanced Tier premises, Nick says, “Recommending a single tier and phased implementation will only signpost terrorists to smaller locations and increase the risk to them.”

Figen Murray states, “Having lost my son to terrorism along with so many others in the Manchester Arena attack, I find it hard to understand the argument that a few hours of training each year is a disproportionate step for businesses to take. Martyn’s Law is a proportionate response that will keep millions of us safer and the Government must now press ahead.”

In the midst of intense and ongoing debate about this crucial public safety legislation the nature and direction of Martyn’s Law now of course lies with the Government.

We will provide you with more in depth analysis in the coming days.

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