Skip to main content

Violent Extremism

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

1. What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the preventing violent extremism programme; and if she will make a statement. (178383)

Over the past nine months, through the pathfinder fund, we have supported more than 200 projects in 70 local authorities. During the course of this year we will carry out a formal evaluation of these projects, but so far it is already clear that more women and young people are involved in helping to build stronger and more resilient communities.

The Home Office has estimated that thousands of British Muslims in this country support both the means and the ends of various Islamic terror groups. Can the Minister give a solemn assurance to this House that not one single penny of the money that she has allocated under this scheme has gone to any individual or organisation with any links whatsoever to Islamic terrorism?

Let me first make it absolutely clear that the vast, overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country abhor violence, abhor terrorism and do not support the tiny minority of people involved in violent extremism. The work that my Department is funding, and will be funding in a substantially greater way over the next three years, is directed at building the resilience and strength of local communities to resist that extremism. We will monitor very carefully indeed the groups to which this money is allocated, and I will certainly ensure that we fund groups who absolutely stand up and condemn terrorism and want to participate in tackling it.

When I go to the mosques in my constituency, the red carpet is rolled out, so to speak, and I am sure that the same applies to many other hon. Members. What happens there is that I meet imams and elders of the Muslim community, and perhaps that means that we are not engaging enough with younger members of the Muslim community. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that we open a dialogue with young men and young women from the Muslim community in order to ensure the success of the Government’s programme?

Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am very grateful to hon. Members in all parts of the House who take this responsibility seriously in their constituencies and are involved in that dialogue. Part of the work of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, which is the national organisation from the community itself that is looking at governance in mosques, concerns how we get more young people and women involved in the mosques; that will take us a considerable way forward.

May I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s remarks? I entirely agree that that is what is happening in Rochdale. Does she agree that a key priority needs to be ensuring that we have more imams who are trained and brought up in Rochdale—[Interruption] I mean brought up in Britain; in Rochdale would be even better—and what steps is she taking to assist in that development?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s kind offer, but I know that there are some extremely good imams in Rochdale. Irfan Chisti works very closely with our Department and makes a great contribution. I agree that we need to have more imams who are trained in this country and who have not only English language skills but community leadership skills. That is why we are funding a programme for imams. In Dudley in the west midlands, 23 imams are currently involved in a leadership development programme that will help them to really engage with Islam in the modern context of living in the 21st century in Britain.

The preventing violent extremism programme is clearly important, and I have seen some of the good work myself, including the work in Dudley to which the Secretary of State referred. However, she really must clear up the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies). In November, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda), wrote to me about the programme, saying:

“The details we hold”—

that is, the Department—

“are…no longer a completely accurate reflection of all the work taking place at a local level.”

If the Department does not have fully accurate details, how can it be sure that none of the money—not a penny, as my hon. Friend said—is falling into the hands of separatists and extremists?

It is important that we monitor very carefully the way in which these funds are being used. At the same time, however, it is essential that local authorities see this as part of their core business and integrate it into their mainstream activities, because local authorities, whether they are in Luton, Leeds or Birmingham, know the situation on the ground and what can work. As the hon. Gentleman knows from our correspondence, we are currently considering all 200 projects. I am ensuring that information about all those projects and the work that is going on will be placed in the Library next week. Monitoring is absolutely essential. We must also allow local authorities to do the things that work in their local neighbourhoods.