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Protect Duty Bill Mentioned in the Queen’s Speech: What it Means for the UK

On May 10th, 2022, the Protect Duty bill was mentioned in the Queen’s speech, which set out the Government plans for next year, moving the bill ahead another step in the legislative process.

In the beginning of 2022, the Government of the United Kingdom published its response to the Protect Duty public consultation, which gathered views from a variety of stakeholders on how the incoming legislation could make publicly accessible locations safer. There were two important elements to the draft bill: (I) initiating a new requirements framework, which would require those in control of public locations and venues to consider terrorism threats and implement appropriate and proportionate mitigation measures. And (II), enforcing an inspection and enforcement regime, which would properly advise, educate, and ensure compliance with the Protect Duty. Under the proposal, venues would be legally obligated to provide a security plan in light of a terror attack. Currently, both private and public owners of venues do not have an obligation to enforce regulations based on advice given from specialist counterterrorism advisers. The announcement has established that the legislation would introduce new requirements for specific venues and public locations to draft plans in response to a terror threat. You can read more about the Protect Duty and its implications here. 


The Queen’s Speech  

On May 10th, 2022, the Protect Duty bill was mentioned in the Queen’s speech, which set out the Government plans for next year, moving the bill ahead another step in the legislative process. The draft Protect Duty Bill was one of 38 bills announced in the package. Although the bill was not referenced by name in the speech, Prince Charles mentioned that measures would be introduced “to support the security services and ensure the safety of the people,” noting that the “Government will protect the integrity of the United Kingdom’s borders and ensure the safety of its people,” while it was later confirmed in the full document (pg. 89). 


The Protect Duty is expected to apply across the entire UK and is set to go through the various stages of the legislative process. This includes readings in the House of Commons and House of Lords before it becomes law. Coming ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Manchester bombing in 2017, this promising development is a result of Figen Murray’s long and respected campaign. After attending the unveiling by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge of the Glade of Light memorial in Manchester city centre to the victims of the bombing, Figen Murray spoke to the Manchester Evening News. “Today is a very special day as the Protect Duty legislation was mentioned in the Queen’s speech, which is a massive step forward in the right direction. We can now see the end in sight…This is very significant. The memorial being opened, put together with that news, was really quite fitting. Sadly, the legislation has not quite been passed by the fifth anniversary but hopefully by the net anniversary everybody when out and about will be safer than they were before.” Brendan Cox, who worked with Figen on the proposals added, “it’s gone from an idea to a proposal to a manifesto commitment. And now finally an intention to table a new law during this parliament. Important this came ahead of the five-year anniversary of the attack.” 


Implications of the Protect Duty 

According to an article by Dac Beachcroft, a leading international legal business firm, since the consultation is moving into the legislative process it is important to take a look at how it might affect different stakeholders. It is especially important to consider the implications for businesses and the insurance industry. Put simply, underwriters will need to become familiar with the new exposures that businesses will face – especially the retail and entertainment sectors. It is likely that this will require a more expansive proposal form which will ask about the carrying out of risk assessments and whether the recommendations have been successfully implemented. Until now, terrorism risks have been the preserve of first party property programmed for property damage and business interruption and the insurance industry is supported by its ability to offer terrorism cover through Pool Reinsurance. Yet, it is not guaranteed (and there have been no signs) that the scheme is intended to be expanded further to cover liability exposures that would be introduced by the Protect Duty. Finally, brokers may need to draw their attention towards terrorism risk and reinsurers will be more interested in the accumulation of risk. According to the article, “Responses may include increased premiums, policy drafting that restricts or excludes cover and review of indemnity limits. Improvements made to security are however likely to have wider benefits, potentially reducing other crime and antisocial behaviour, thereby reducing insurers’ exposure.” It is suggested that industries and businesses that are not directly affected by the Protect Duty, should still participate in risk assessments and review the safety of the public who use their facilities.  


Questions Remain  

A draft bill proposal for The Protect Duty Bill unfortunately does not guarantee a law being passed. As pointed out in a LinkedIn post written by Nick Aldworth, founder and director at Risk to Resolution Limited, “A draft bill is effectively a proposal for MPs and Lords to consider and develop, usually through a committee. Unfortunately, it doesn’t guarantee a law being passed, but it is one step closer.”