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UK minister: Events at the “vanguard” of counter-terror

The Rt Hon. Ben Wallace MP, British minister of state for security, opened the inaugural Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) this morning with a welcome address stressing the importance of communication between promoters and the public sector in order to make events safer.

Wallace – a former army officer who said his first job was in “a burger van at Glastonbury, or Pilton Festival as it was called then” – explained his role entails monitoring all kinds of threats, right the way up to nuclear, chemical and biological attacks. While an attack on the UK with a WMD is “very unlikely”, he said, the terror threat level remains at ‘severe’, meaning an attack is likely – and that threat is “pointing in your direction”, he told delegates, saying in light of recent attacks in Manchester and Las Vegas, event staff are at the “vanguard” of counter-terrorism (CT).

The aim of the terror groups that pose a threat to Britain – namely the New IRA, Isis and al Qaeda – is to spread fear, Wallace continued, and in that respect are assisted by the wealth of information available in the 21st century. “When I was a young CT officer,” he explained, “if there was an attack, it would make the six o’clock news, but it wouldn’t be replayed over and over on 24-hour news channels, on Twitter or be live streamed, so the ability to reach and terrorise people away from the immediate area was that much harder.”

He used the example of Manchester Arena, where the attacker knew the attack would achieve notoriety and be a fixture in news broadcasts for days to come.

“It’s about coming together, sharing the threat and sharing best practice”

Key to responding to this new security paradigm, said Wallace, is effective cooperation between event organisers and government. “Good CT is about an aligned response,” he explained. “It’s not just about the government trying to deradicalise, it’s not just about MI5 [the Security Service] monitoring threats, it’s not just about private sector focusing on their own front door and putting on a good event – it’s about coming together, sharing the threat and sharing best practice.”

“It’s important that we collectively face these threats,” he concluded, stressing again the importance of open channels of communication between event organisers and authorities. “We all have a role to play – be it your customers or my constituents sharing information upwards to the police and security services, or them sharing with you as much as they can about threats and issues.

“The best way for us to help you is to give you the most information we can on the day and help you think through what you can do to keep people safer.”

Taking place at the InterContinental London hotel near The O2, E3S is a new one-day meeting bringing together leading international venues, touring/sports professionals and security experts to discuss best practice in security for live events.


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