The UK Government has reaffirmed its commitment to place a duty on all venues and public premises to have a counter terrorism plan following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017. Here we set out how current proposals could impact churches and Christian conferences and explain how the advocacy team will represent our members as the Bill goes through parliament.

We recognise the importance of any government to be attentive to national security concerns and seek to protect the public from any terrorist incidents whilst balancing its responsibility to promote individual freedoms, the cornerstone of any healthy liberal democracy.

The Terrorism Protection Premise Bill, also known as Martyn’s Law, is proving to be a difficult piece of legislation for the government in balancing these two responsibilities.


What you need to know about the Terrorism Protection Premise Bill

The policy objective of this new Bill is to encourage public venue owners and operators to put in place procedures, training and policies to mitigate and reduce the impact of a terrorist incident. The scope of the Bill is UK-wide and spans a range of different public venues, from bars, schools, libraries, shops, nightclubs, entertainment venues and places of worship.

"Martyn’s law is about helping people to be better prepared so should the worst happen, we can respond better and protect more people.”"
Tom Tugendhat MP
Tom Tugendhat MP
Minister for security, Home Office

If you’re a church leader, trustee or organisation involved in organising large events, it’s important to be familiar with these two key terms in the Bill:

  • Standard duty premises – venues that are easily accessible to the public and have a capacity between 100 and 799 people.
  • Enhanced duty premises – venues that are accessible to the public with a capacity of 800 people or more.

An important exemption in the Bill regarding places of worship is that congregation sizes of 800 or more will remain a standard duty premise for the purpose of communal worship’, ie Sunday services, but would be under the enhanced régime for paid events.

The Bill sets out differing expectations for the standard and enhanced venues with regards to readiness and ability to demonstrate preparedness. But for both kinds of venues a shared expectation is that owners will have a terrorism risk assessment plan for activities on the premises and provide the necessary terrorism protection training to staff and volunteers.

In May 2023, the minister for security wrote to Dame Diana Johnson MP, chair of the home affairs select committee, requesting if the committee would begin detailed examination of the government’s draft Bill. 

Following this, a nine-week pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill began where the Evangelical Alliance submitted a written response along with other third-sector organisations. In addition the committee launched an inquiry where parliamentarians heard from counter-terrorism experts, business leaders and home office officials.

The committee have since produced a report stating, the Bill’s focus on venue capacity fails to address real risk of terror attacks” and went on to make 35 detailed recommendations to the government in how the government can strengthen the Bill.

At the time of writing this update, the government have yet to respond to the committee’s report but instead promised further consultation to resolve issues linked to the standard duty premises’ category ahead of the Bill being formally introduced in parliament.

Below we outline the Evangelical Alliance’s concerns and how we contributed to the committee’s report findings.

How the Evangelical Alliance is representing our members on this issue

The Evangelical Alliance has sought to represent the concerns of member churches and organisations in both the Home Office’s public Protect Duty consultation in 2021 and the pre-legislative scrutiny process.

In our written submission to the home affairs committee, we expressed several concerns on the workability of the Bill for churches and specifically raised three concerns we had:

  • The first is the financial burden and challenge for smaller-sized churches to ensure volunteers receive appropriate terrorism protection training.
  • The second is the lack of clarity on persons responsible for premises. Many of our member churches rent venues that fit within the scope of the Bill and have limited access to securing the venue.
  • The third is that any insistence that a church must install CCTV, security gates, and conduct bag searches for each Sunday service, would disproportionately restrict churches from their right to freedom of religion and expression.

We also wrote criticising the regulatory powers and function clauses in the Bill. It is our view that no government department or minister should be assigned a regulatory function. It is both inappropriate and ineffective. Below is a paragraph from our submission which was cited in the home affairs committee’s report and recommendations:

Inappropriate because the government would have the powers to sanction, close premises, gather data, investigate and inspect Christian and other faith-based premises without a warrant. For the state to have powers of this magnitude, the government would need to inset clauses specific on right of appeal and redress for religious organisations that believed there has been a miscarriage of justice.”

We will respond to the next consultation when published and will also contribute to the Bill when it begins its passage through both the Commons and the Lords.

Please pray that the government will consider the needs of local churches as it consults further and finalises the wording in the Bill. It is important that legislation does not incur huge costs for churches or small charitable organisations, nor restricts freedom of religion or belief.

"Evidence heard over the course of the inquiry indicated that measures in the Bill would not have made a significant difference in recent terror attacks in the UK."
UK Parliament Logo old
home affairs select committee fourth report – Terrorism (Protection of Premises) draft Bill

Background to the Terrorism Protection Premise Bill

May 201722 people were killed and thousands more were impacted by the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

From October 2019 – An independent inquiry into the Manchester Arena was launched in which chairperson Sir John and his team had to investigate the deaths that took place and propose changes going forward. Evidence was heard and proposals made on introducing a protect duty’ to all public venues, which would make venues responsible for public safety and readiness to future terrorist attack.

February 2021 – The Home Office opened a public consultation on how a protect duty on all publicly available venues could improve public safety and responsiveness to terror attacks. You can read our member consultation briefing here.

May 2023 – The home affairs select committee begin pre-legislative scrutiny of the government’s draft Terrorism Protection of Premises Bill, inviting written submissions from the public and conducting in-person evidence sessions with cross-sector business and security leaders.

July 2023 – The home affairs select committee publishes a report following its inquiry and strongly criticised the workability of such legislation, stating, the Bill could place the very future of some smaller businesses and voluntary organisations at risk.” 

November 2023 – The King’s Speech announced the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill as one of the 21 bills the government will introduce in this parliament.

TBC – We are expecting the government to announce further consultation on public venues that fit in the standard tier’ criteria. The Evangelical Alliance is monitoring this and will submit a response on behalf of our member churches and organisations.

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