Newly-appointed security minister James Brokenshire has announced Home Office plans to introduce a law which will require owners and operators of public spaces and venues to put in place measures designed to keep the public safe from a terrorist attack.
Delivering on the Conservative Government’s Manifesto commitment to improve the safety and security of public venues and spaces, the new ‘Protect Duty’ will reflect lessons learned following the terrorist attacks in 2017, as well as more recent attacks. The proposals also follow discussions with victims’ groups such as the Martyn’s Law campaign established by Figen Murray, whose son was killed in the Manchester Arena attack.
To be consulted on in the spring, the new law would require venue operators to consider the risk of a terrorist attack and take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare for and protect the public from such an attack. Those measures could include increased physical security, having training in place and formulating incident response plans and exercises for staff on what to do during an attack.
Brokenshire said: “Our first priority is keeping the public safe and preventing more families from suffering the heartbreak of losing a loved one. The devastating attacks in 2017, and more recently at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham, are stark reminders of the current threat we face. We’re in complete agreement with campaigners such as Figen Murray on the importance of venues and public spaces having effective and proportionate protective security and preparedness measures to keep people safe. Of course, it’s important that this new law is proportionate. This public consultation will ensure that we put in place a law which will help to protect the public, while not putting undue pressure on businesses.”
Graham Williams, chairman of industry body Revo’s Safety and Security Committee, added: “As owners of retail spaces, we take our responsibility for ensuring the safety of our customers and retailers very seriously indeed. That being so, we welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Home Office on this initiative. We look forward to contributing to this consultation on behalf of our industry.”
Matt Maer, director of security and resilience for the Canary Wharf Group, explained: “This legislation has the potential to make a significant impact on public security, improving the situation for people as they go about their daily lives. Canary Wharf Group supports this initiative and looks forward to assisting where we can in shaping this work going forward.”
The public consultation will seek views from a broad range of organisations including business, public authorities, the security industry and campaign groups to ensure the proposals remain proportionate for publicly accessible spaces and venues across the country.
The consultation will ask for views from business and the public sector on the proportionality and scope of the duty as well as how it should be enforced.
The Government also continues to engage with a range of organisations from business and industry to encourage them to adopt Best Practice, as well as working alongside Counter-Terrorism Policing and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure to extend the reach of advice, guidance and training across all sectors.
Proscribing right-wing terror groups
In parallel, Home Secretary Priti Patel has laid orders in Parliament to make membership of two right-wing terrorist groups illegal in the UK. The orders will proscribe Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) and will recognise the System Resistance Network as an alias of the already proscribed group National Action.
Proscription renders membership of a group illegal in the UK. Anyone found to be a member of or offering support to the groups could now face up to ten years behind bars.
Patel commented: “Recent attacks here and in Germany have highlighted the threat we continue to face from violent extremism. We are working to keep the public safe by increasing funding for Counter-Terror Policing and strengthening the law to keep terrorists locked up for longer. By proscribing these groups, we’re making it much harder for them to spread their hateful rhetoric.”
This decision follows a meeting of the Proscription Review Group, which brings together representatives from the police service and other partners to assess the risk posed by groups who may be considered for proscription.
As part of the order to proscribe SKD, the entry for Partiya Karkeren Kurdistani (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK) will be amended to include Teyre Azadiye Kurdistan (TAK) and Hêzên Parastina Gel (HPG) as aliases.
The PKK has long been considered to be involved in terrorism and these orders will prevent individuals circumventing efforts to counter its activity.