The UK Home Office’s withdrawal of support for drug safety testing at festivals has been labelled “dangerously irresponsible”.
Sacha Lord, the co-founder of Parklife festival, and Melvin Benn, the managing director of Festival Republic, are among those to speak out after Home Office officials blocked testing organisation The Loop from carrying out its on-site work at Parklife unless it obtained a special licence.
Lord, who is also Manchester’s nightlife economy adviser to Mayor Andy Burnham, said the tests, which have been carried out since 2014, enable organisers to warn attendees of any specific dangers. Lord believes the change in the Home Office’s stance will put people at risk throughout the festival season.
According to festival organisers, it can take more than three months to arrange for a Home Office licence to be granted, and it can cost over £3,000.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), called for the Home Office decision to be reversed.
He said: “The directive from the Home Office to withdraw back of house drug safety testing at Parklife festival on one of the hottest days of the year was dangerously irresponsible.
“In 2018 the Home Office was clear that it “would not stand in the way of drug testing at festivals and clubs” as part of the proactive harm reduction strategy, witnessed by MP’s and supported by several Police forces including Avon & Somerset and Greater Manchester.
“Recent communication would suggest an unexplained U turn, setting a dangerous precedent, which will have considerable ramifications for the current festival season, and a potential to put people’s lives at risk.
“We are calling for the Home Office to reverse its move to block on site back of house drug testing at festivals this season and to give clarity on the legislative framework around testing.”
In a statement, the Home Office said that it would advise drug testing organisations to seek licences.
According to The Guardian, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Anyone interested in undertaking lawful activities involving the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including those who wish to provide drug testing services, need to apply for a Home Office licence.
“Festival organisers in consultation with local partners are responsible for decisions relating to drug testing at festivals. We will continue an open dialogue with prospective licensees throughout the festival season.”