UK Government "endorse" festival drug testing
The British government has said that it will not block efforts to expand drug testing operations at UK music festivals.

Drug testing charity The Loop has been providing its services at an increasing number of events, so that festival-goers can find out the actual make-up of any illegal substances they have bought. The organisation has also called on the government to change its drug policies to reduce drug-related deaths.

Speaking at a debate in Parliament last week, policing minister Nick Hurd said that, while there is no plan for the government to change existing drug laws, “we can do more to reduce the risk of harm to young people at festivals”.

He added that the government would “certainly not be signing up to anything that risks endorsing illegal drug use”. However, he went on, The Loop “is very clear that that is not what it is about”. Therefore ministers wouldn’t seek to block the charity’s operations. Though ultimately, he said, the decision on whether or not to allow drug testing on festival sites lay with local police forces.

“These are local operating decisions that we are not standing in the way of”, said Hurd. “The fact that chief constables from Cumbria, Avon and Somerset and Hampshire have stepped forward and said that they do want to co-operate sends a strong signal. I spoke earlier today to Chief Constable Andy Marsh from Avon And Somerset police who is very clear that it is the right thing to do. He is also very comfortable about his legal position in doing so. Those are important signals”.

The minister added that he would explore whether there could be more clarity in the legal guidance on this matter, to ensure that police were aware that such services could be permitted.

The debate was raised in the House Of Commons by Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, who subsequently said: “Giving everyone clear information about the substances they intend to consume helps reduce risk and prevent harm – we can do it for alcohol and we can do it for other drugs within the current legal frameworks”.

Stating that she would hold the minister to the commitments already made, she went on: “Clarity from the government is a win, but we can go even further. Let’s make it a requirement that festivals and, if possible, nightclubs, have to ensure there is drug safety testing available for every event they run. Let’s save more lives and protect more people from harm”.

Research published by The Loop earlier this year found that, while drug use has remained fairly static, drug-related deaths and hospital admissions have risen sharply in recent years. This is in part down to the increased strength of certain drugs being sold and an ignorance of that fact among users, which is why testing of the kind The Loop offers can save lives. As well as expanding its presence at UK festivals, the charity aims to provide drug testing facilities in town and city centres.