…By Henry George for TDPel Media.
A minister has insisted that the government’s position on requiring a license for drug testing at festivals remains unchanged, despite criticism from a Labour MP who described it as a “screeching U-turn.”
The issue was raised in the House of Commons during a session related to the business of the House.
It was highlighted that the Home Office’s requirement for a license had prevented the Parklife music festival in Manchester from conducting drug testing for public safety messaging, a practice that had been allowed since 2014.
Labour MP Calls for Debate on Home Office U-turn
Labour MP Sam Tarry voiced his concerns about the recent changes in drug testing policy, emphasizing the importance of harm reduction at music festivals.
He expressed the need for a debate in government to understand the reasons behind the Home Office’s decision and to ensure that festival attendees can make informed choices in a safe environment.
Tarry mentioned the previous sanctioning of drug testing by the Home Office itself and the involvement of police forces in allowing the practice at festivals.
Government Maintains Licensing Requirement for Controlled Drug Testing
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt responded to the concerns raised by stating that the government’s position has not changed.
She emphasized that drug-testing providers must possess a license to test for controlled substances, including at festivals.
Mordaunt clarified that no applications for drug testing at major festivals had been received this summer but assured an open dialogue with potential applicants.
Previous Positions and Recommendations
In 2018, the Home Office had indicated that drug testing at festivals was a decision for local forces, suggesting that further guidance could be issued.
However, a parliamentary committee report in 2021 called for greater legal clarity around drug testing, highlighting the limitations of licenses for fixed sites and the reliance on police discretion.
The government responded by stating that back-of-house testing on confiscated substances would be supported to gather intelligence and implement harm-reduction measures.
Current Situation and Licensing Scheme
This year, the Home Office clarified that the testing of confiscated drugs could proceed at festivals if the drugs were taken to a licensed site.
The government continues to provide a licensing scheme for those wishing to conduct such testing.
The focus remains on back-of-house testing, which enables the collection of useful intelligence and the implementation of harm-reduction measures by festival organizers and partners.