(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on her conduct regarding the Government’s action on preventing extremism.
The Government take the threat of extremism—non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism—very seriously. That is why, in line with the Prime Minister’s Munich speech in 2011, I reformed the Prevent strategy that year, and it is why, in response to the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, the Prime Minister established the extremism taskforce last year.
The Prevent strategy we inherited was deeply flawed. It confused Government policy to promote integration with Government policy to prevent terrorism. It failed to tackle the extremist ideology that undermines the cohesion of our society and inspires would-be terrorists to murder. In trying to reach those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes reached the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting. Ministers and officials sometimes engaged with, and therefore leant legitimacy to, organisations and people with extremist agendas.
Unlike the old strategy, this Government’s Prevent strategy recognises and tackles the danger of non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism. Unlike the old strategy, the new strategy addresses all forms of extremism. Unlike the old strategy, there is now a clear demarcation between counter-terrorism work, which is run out of the Home Office, and the Government’s wider counter-extremist and integration work, which is co-ordinated by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Unlike the old strategy, the new strategy introduced explicit controls to make sure that public money must not be provided to extremist organisations. If organisations do not support the values of democracy, human rights, equality before the law and participation in society, we should not work with them and we should not fund them.
Turning to the issue of the unauthorised comments to the media about the Government’s approach to tackling extremism and the improper release of correspondence between Ministers, the Cabinet Secretary undertook a review to establish the facts of what happened last week. As the Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister concluded, I did not authorise the release of my letter to the Education Secretary. Following the Cabinet Secretary’s review, the Education Secretary apologised to the Prime Minister and to Charles Farr, the director general of the office for security and counter-terrorism. In addition, in relation to further comments to The Times, my special adviser Fiona Cunningham resigned on Saturday.
The Education Secretary will shortly make a statement about Birmingham schools, but last week the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary turned this instead into a public blame game about the Government’s approach to tackling extremism. There are important questions about the oversight and management of these schools, which the House will debate shortly. There are also real and separate concerns about the Government’s failure to work with communities on preventing extremism and about the narrowness of the Home Secretary’s approach.
Both issues are complex and require a thoughtful, sensitive approach and for Ministers to work together, just as Departments, communities, parents, local councils and the police need to do. Instead of showing leadership on working together, the Home Secretary and Education Secretary chose to let rip at each other in public, making it harder to get the sensible joint working we need. That is why the Home Secretary needs to answer specific questions about her conduct in this process, particularly about the letter she wrote to the Education Secretary, which the Home Office released and which has made it harder to get that joint working in place.
The Home Secretary has said that she did not authorise the publication of the letter on the Home Office website, but why did she not insist that it be removed, rather than leaving it in place on the website for three days? She wrote that letter and sent it after she had been advised that The Times newspaper had briefing from the Education Secretary. Did she write that letter in order for it to be leaked, and did she authorise its release to the media? Section 2.1 of the “Ministerial Code” makes it clear that
“the privacy of opinions expressed in Cabinet and Ministerial Committees, including in correspondence, should be maintained.”
Did she and her Department breach the “Ministerial Code”?
Secondly, the Home Secretary made it clear in her letter that she disagreed with the Education Secretary’s approach. She said:
“The allegations relating to schools in Birmingham raise serious questions about the quality of school governance and oversight arrangements in the maintained sector”.
Does she stand by her claim that the oversight arrangements for Birmingham schools under the Education Secretary were not adequate?
Thirdly, the Home Secretary’s strategy on preventing extremism has been criticised from all sides—not just by the Education Secretary—for failing to engage with local communities and for having become too narrow, leaving gaps. She now needs to focus on getting those policies back on track, because it matters to communities across the country that there is a serious and sensible approach to these issues and joint working at the very top of the Government.
The reason why the Home Secretary needs to answer these questions about her decisions last week is to assure us that she and the Education Secretary will not put their personal reputations and ambitions ahead of making the right decisions for the country. We cannot have a repeat of the experiences of last week. It is shambolic for the Government, but it is much worse for everyone else.
On the specific allegations of extremism in schools in Birmingham and the wider question of how we confront extremism more generally, there are very important issues that I will come on to, but I should perhaps first remind the shadow Home Secretary of a few facts.
Under this Government, foreign hate preachers such as Zakir Naik and Yusuf al-Qaradawi are banned from coming to Britain. Under her Government, they were allowed to come here to give lectures and sermons, and to spread their hateful beliefs. In the case of al-Qaradawi, he was not just allowed to come here; he was literally embraced on stage by Labour’s London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.
I have excluded more foreign hate preachers than any Home Secretary before me. I have got rid of the likes of Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada. The Government do not give a public platform to groups that condone, or fail to distance themselves from, extremism. For the first time, we are mapping out extremists and extremist groups in the United Kingdom. We make sure that the groups we work with and fund adhere to British values, and where they do not, we do not fund them and we do not work with them. None of these things was true when the Labour party was in power.
The shadow Home Secretary asked about the “Ministerial Code”. I can tell her that, as the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister concluded, I did not break the code. As she has no evidence for suggesting I did, she should withdraw any allegation of that sort.
The right hon. Lady asked about the letter, its presence on the website and why action was not taken, but action was taken immediately, because the Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Secretary to investigate, and he did.
The right hon. Lady referred to schools in Birmingham. I am afraid she will have to wait for my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary to make his statement; he will do so shortly, and answer questions about school inspections and oversight arrangements.
I would just say this to the right hon. Lady: I am responsible for the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy and, within that, the Prevent strategy, but she seems to misunderstand how the Prevent strategy works, so I think I should perhaps explain it to her. The Home Office sets the Prevent strategy and it is up to the rest of Whitehall, including the Home Office, as well as the wider public sector and civil society, to deliver it. There is always more to be done, things we can improve and lessons we can learn, but we have made good progress under this Government. Yes, we need to get to the bottom of what has happened in schools in Birmingham, but it is thanks to this Education Secretary that the Department for Education has, for the first time, a dedicated extremism unit to try to stop this sort of thing happening.
The shadow Home Secretary repeated her complaint that Prevent has become too narrowly drawn under this Government, but she does not seem to realise that we took a very clear decision back in 2011 to split Prevent into the bit that tackles non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism and counter-terrorism, and the Government’s integration strategy, which is quite consciously run out of the Department for Communities and Local Government. If what she is suggesting is that Prevent and integration work should go back to being together and being confused, she needs to think again because her Government’s approach was damaging and caused a lot of resentment among many British Muslims.
As the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), the former Home Secretary, said at the time we made that change, it follows
“the eminently sensible objective of keeping the ‘prevent’ strand of counter-terrorism separate from the ‘integration’ initiatives of DCLG.”
“I completely agree with what the Home Secretary has said about Prevent.”—[Official Report, 14 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 1011.]
The shadow Home Secretary should listen to her right honourable colleague.
What has happened in Birmingham is very serious indeed, and the Education Secretary will set out his response in due course. We need to do everything we can to protect children from extremism and, more generally, to confront extremism in all its forms. The Government are determined to do that. However, it is quite clear from what the shadow Home Secretary has said today that on extremism, like on so many other things, the Labour party would take us backwards, not forwards.
I am very pleased that the Home Secretary focused on the substance, rather than on the pointless process questions that the shadow Home Secretary focused on. I welcome what the Home Secretary said about the changes to Prevent. Is it not better to have our approach, rather than the last Government’s? The Communities and Local Government Committee said that the Labour Government’s Prevent strategy was wasting money
“on unfocused or irrelevant projects”.
I agree completely with my hon. Friend. That was an early decision by this Government. It was absolutely right to separate the two strands of work of the Prevent strategy: the counter-terrorism work and the integration work. It is right that the integration work is now under the remit of the DCLG. I repeat what I said in my response to the shadow Home Secretary: I suggest that Labour Members listen to the words of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle in this respect. He agreed absolutely with what the Government have done.
The Home Secretary is at her worst when she seeks to patronise. These are extraordinarily difficult and sensitive issues, and they are certainly not funny. Whether we agree or disagree about the previous Prevent strategy, what measures do she and the Education Secretary together intend to take to reach out to the Muslim community in Britain and engage them in a positive dialogue, to ensure that we do not sink into a strategy of “They did it, we did it, other people have done it and therefore we are against you,” which can only lead to divisions in our urban communities and great dangers for our country?
Across the Government, we are absolutely clear that we need to reach out to and work with people in Muslim communities in the United Kingdom to ensure that we address the real issues of potential radicalisation and extremism, which many people in those communities are as concerned about as we are. That work is led by the DCLG through its work on integration at a local level. It is also work that we, as constituency Members of Parliament, can take forward. Last Friday, I was talking with a group of Asian women from my constituency about their experiences, what they wanted to do and how they wanted to work with the local council and others to ensure that people in Muslim communities feel able to be true to their Islamic faith and play a full part in British society.
There are many issues on which the Home Office has to work with the Department for Education: extremism, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, gangs, drugs and many more. Will the Home Secretary be able to work with the Education Secretary to ensure that there is compulsory personal, social, health and economic education for everybody, including sex and relationships education?
The hon. Gentleman has worked hard to get that issue into a statement about extremism in our schools. The Education Secretary and I talk about those issues, and our Departments work together on them. We are constantly looking to ensure that what we do in our schools provides the right education for our children, and one that helps them to tackle a range of issues that might make them feel pressurised, including the important one—extremism—we are talking about today.
The Home Secretary is right to remind the House that she alone has overall responsibility for counter-terrorism in the Cabinet. In the past three years, the Home Affairs Committee has conducted two major inquiries into extremism, but no Minister from any Department has given us written or oral evidence to suggest that there was a problem with Birmingham schools. She was correct in writing to the Education Secretary, and she raised four important, indeed critical questions. Has she received a reply to the questions in the letter she sent last Tuesday, and does she agree that the Prevent strategy is always capable of improvement? We do not need just to prevent; we need to engage with communities to rid ourselves of extremism.
The right hon. Gentleman is right, in that, of course, there is a spectrum of activity that we need to be involved in. At one end, some of that is about actively working to prevent people who want to undertake or plan terrorist acts against us from doing so. But at the other end there is obviously the wider integration work with communities, and in many cases helping to support communities to address issues of extremism and radicalisation, should they see them in their streets and local institutions. On the first point, the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary will make a statement at the end of this urgent question on what has been happening in schools in Birmingham, and I suggest he waits for that.
In danger of being lost among the regrettable froth over this issue is that for four years, my right hon. Friend has presided over a team of officials who deal with these issues and who have worked extremely well in developing a globally leading policy, and in adjusting in a dynamic policy environment. We as a nation should be grateful for how well we are served, and for the leadership the Home Secretary has given.
I thank my hon. Friend, and he is right to point out that the strategies we have adopted are looked to with respect around the world. Of course there is always more for us to do, which is why we look constantly at the work we are undertaking to ensure that we are doing as much as possible and learning any lessons from the past. We have a good record on the strategies we have put in place. Yes, we can look to do more, as I have said, but we should not lose sight of the fact that Contest and Prevent are looked at with respect around the world.
I spoke last week to Muslim leaders in my constituency, and I recognise that the vast majority of the Muslim community are extremely concerned about the activity of extremists, not least because they know that their sons and daughters are some of those most at risk. They want to know that they are being backed to keep their families and communities safe. Will the Home Secretary therefore explain why she cut the anti-extremism programmes’ support for community action from £17 million for 93 local authorities to £1 million for 30 local authorities?
First, it is indeed important to reach out to and work with communities, as I have said in response to a number of questions this afternoon. I am sorry to repeat the point I made to the shadow Home Secretary, but we have changed the way that various parts of what was the last Government’s Prevent strategy are delivered. We therefore cannot look at Home Office figures and say that there has been a cut in funding, because the Home Office has changed, and we are funding activity that is much more focused than it was. Two Departments are responsible for the different elements of the Prevent strategy, and the reason for that is simple: it is precisely Muslim communities who were getting concerned about the way the strategy operated under the last Government, and its mixing of the counter-terrorism strategy with communities integration work. We responded to that.
Does the Home Secretary agree that combating extremism and building trust in communities will work only if there is action in communities consistent with the rhetoric in this place? Denouncing organisations from the Dispatch Box is not good enough; we also have to end funding to extremist organisations in communities.
My hon. Friend is right and that is why, as part of the revised Prevent strategy, we put in place explicit procedures to try to ensure that funding does not go to organisations that have extremists within them or that do not respect the values we all hold dear. This Government put that new strand into the Prevent strategy because we saw the importance of not funding extremism.
If the Home Secretary’s case is so convincing, why did she not manage to convince the Secretary of State for Education? Is it because there is an alternative agenda in the Tory party, which is that, post-election, the nasty party is getting ready for a succession battle and the Home Secretary is battling with the Secretary of State for Education? That is what is really happening—that is the truth. She might not like it, but that is what the people out there think.
May I remind my right hon. Friend that, after the general election, practically the first meeting the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government attended was at Lambeth palace, where all the nation’s faith leaders were present? He committed the Government to fund and support the Near Neighbours programme, which enables faith communities throughout the country to work together to promote integration and tackle extremism. If this “duff up the Home Secretary” urgent question has achieved nothing else this afternoon, it will at least, hopefully, better explain to the Opposition and others where the division of responsibilities lie in government for counter-terrorism on the one hand and community integration on the other.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is right to draw attention to the excellent work the Department for Communities and Local Government has been doing under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State. Indeed, my right hon. Friend, the noble Baroness Warsi has been doing very important work to bring communities together, particularly faith communities, to share their experiences and increase understanding between them. That is a vital part of the integration work that I would have hoped we all, across the Chamber, accept is necessary. We should support it wherever we see it.
While we are on the subject of extremism, will the Home Secretary update the House on the whereabouts of the two control order suspects who escaped following her decision, and the Prime Minister’s decision, to remove the relocation power in the previous regime, which had prevented abscondences for many years? Does she know where those suspects are, and do they still pose a threat to the public?
Does the Home Secretary agree that one of the best ways to prevent the development of extremist views is through the work of interfaith groups, such as the Bury Muslim Christian Forum in my constituency, which provides a platform to explain the implementation of the Prevent strategy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is right to promote and recognise in this House the good work being done by the Bury Muslim Christian Forum in his constituency. It is exactly that sort of work at community level—people coming together to increase their understanding of each other—that is so valuable in the work of integration of our communities.
In December 2009, when I was Minister with responsibility for higher education, a young man, Abdulmutallab, boarded a plane between Amsterdam and Detroit intent on bombing that plane. There were, as the Home Secretary would imagine, intense conversations between the Department with responsibility for universities and the then Home Secretary. Those conversations never made their way into the public domain. Given the seriousness of what has happened, and with the attack in Pakistan just yesterday, should the Home Secretary not come to this House and apologise, like the Secretary of State for Education, for what has happened in the past few days?
First, the right hon. Gentleman does well to remind us of the terrible incident that has taken place in Pakistan. Our thoughts should go out to all those who have been victims of that terrible attack. Pakistan has suffered more loss of life through terrorist acts than anywhere else. That is a fact I have recognised on a number of my visits to Pakistan and it is a fact we should recognise in this House. As to other matters, the question of those who go and preach, and attend and speak at universities is important, and is one that I discuss with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We ensure that Prevent co-ordinators are there to be able to support universities in the necessary work they are doing to help to support those on their campuses.
My hon. Friend is right in that this issue is one where we would hope that people would work across the House to ensure that we provide the support that communities need to carry out the necessary work referred to by a number of Members today. This is an important issue. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education will make that clear in the statement he is about to give. This Government take seriously the issues about what has been happening in Birmingham schools, just as they take seriously issues relating to extremism in any form wherever it appears.
Given the Home Secretary’s very punchy response about this Government’s commitment to combating radicalism, engaging with communities and supporting and integrating our communities so that they can tackle extremism in their midst, will she confirm, following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), that she has only £1 million left from the £17 million budget to do that?
I have to say to the hon. Lady that the Opposition’s assumption that they can look at figures relating to the Prevent strategy, which has been split, and quote them as somehow indicating what this Government are doing wrong is a path that she should not be going down.
Following the robust and clear answer from the Home Secretary, the only urgent question for the House to consider today is the misjudgment of the shadow Home Secretary. As part of the Prevent and counter-terrorism strategy for which my right hon. Friend and her Department are responsible, will she reinforce the importance of the work that the National Crime Agency is doing in countries in west and north Africa, which, as I see with my own eyes, is having a significant effect, albeit with quite small resource, to help prevent further terrorism taking place in this country as well as abroad?
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. In looking at the work done against terrorism, we increasingly see across the world linkages between organised crime and terrorism. It is exactly in this way that the National Crime Agency, with its work on organised crime and how it feeds into terrorism, is so important. The NCA takes this issue very seriously, and I am pleased to say that, since it was set up, it has done some real and important work, as my right hon. Friend says, particularly in a number of countries in north and west Africa, with which he is familiar through the work he has done for the Prime Minister.
Order. Mr Lucas, I understand your frustration, but I have told you before that your apprenticeship to become a statesman still has some distance to travel. You must not holler from a sedentary position. Allow the Home Secretary to respond, and others will have their opportunity.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s track record on actions speaking louder than words, as she has excluded more hate preachers than any predecessor and has achieved successfully the legal deportation of Abu Hamza and the review of the Prevent strategy—a strategy that the former Chairman of the Select Committee referred to, as my right hon. Friend may be aware, as lacking
“clear-sighted and consistent ministerial leadership”—[Official Report, 10 July 2006; Vol. 448, c. 1123.]
under the last Government.
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding us of that quotation from the Chairman of the Select Committee. It would appear that Opposition Members have forgotten what was said by a Committee of this House about the strategy that applied under the last Government. We have changed that strategy and made it more effective. We in the Home Office are focusing more clearly on the counter-terrorism aspects, and, as we have heard, the communities integration aspects are being dealt with by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It appears that the Home Secretary has just blamed her special adviser for the unauthorised publication of her letter to the Education Secretary. Given that she said in her statement that she had acted immediately, why did it take a whole three days for that letter to be removed from the website? Does she not need to get a grip on her Department?
The hon. Gentleman is getting his quotations mixed up. I made it absolutely clear in my statement, and in my response to the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas), that the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister concluded that I did not authorise the release of the letter. Following the review, certain things took place in relation to the Education Secretary, and in relation to further comments that were made to The Times, my special adviser Fiona Cunningham resigned on Saturday.
Does the Home Secretary share my surprise, indeed astonishment, that it had to fall to her to impose bans on hate preachers and to set up an extremism unit, and that those things were not done under the last Labour Government?
My hon. Friend has attributed to me an action to which I referred earlier and which was actually taken by the Education Secretary, namely the setting up of an extremism unit in the Department for Education. However, as I said earlier, I have banned more hate preachers than any other Home Secretary. That is because this Government take the clear view that we want to deal with not just violent but non-violent extremism, which is clear from the actions that we have taken.
The Home Secretary seems to be using the word “immediately” instead of the words “after three days”. No wonder my constituents are panicking about getting their passports on time. Can she explain why she allowed her letter to remain on the website for three days? Did she not know about it? Was it with her authorisation? Has she any sense that three days is far too long in relation to something that was supposed to have been removed immediately?
I have answered that question on a number of occasions. I did make reference to immediate action that was taken. I made reference to that in response to the shadow Home Secretary. The Prime Minister initiated an investigation by the Cabinet Secretary, and that investigation was concluded at the end of last week.
I am very concerned about some of the language that has been used today. We are here to listen to statements which, I remind the House, have been prompted by what has been deemed to be the inappropriate behaviour of governors in some schools in Birmingham, yet the Home Secretary’s statement began with a reference to Lee Rigby. Is it right to use the same word, “extremism”, to cover both forms of activity, and, if so, are we going to replace the term “devout Catholics” with “extremist Catholics”, or change the term “committed Christians” to “extremist Christians”? How can we have a sense of proportion if we are using the same word to cover such a vast range of behaviour?
I think that when my hon. Friend looks at the record of what he has said in Hansard, he may regret the tone and approach that he has taken. I did make reference to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. That murder was a terrorist attack. It took place just over a year ago in this country. It was one of two terrorist attacks that took place in this country last year. I referred to it because I wanted to refer to the extremism taskforce, which the Prime Minister set up following that murder. The taskforce reported at the end of last year, and the Government are acting on its recommendations.
The Home Secretary has said on more than one occasion that the last Labour Government were somehow funding extremist organisations, yet she, as Home Secretary, cut funding for the Quilliam Foundation. Is she implying that the foundation is a pro-extremist organisation?
I spent many of my early years being educated in south Birmingham. May I say to my right hon. Friend and to other hon. Members that the pressures on young people from the south Asian diaspora are intense and powerful and can come from community leaders, religious leaders and even from the extended family? The crucial issue is that, if we are to make progress, we must move away from the focus on counter-terrorism towards integration, where young people can have their own identity, but within the context of British values.
The Home Secretary’s special adviser had to resign—it was right that she did so—although, after what the right hon. Lady said, we do not know whether that is related to the letter. The Education Secretary, rightly, was disciplined for breaching the ministerial code. Does the Home Secretary feel that she bears any responsibility for “certain things” that have happened?
The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the progress of what happened in relation to the Cabinet Secretary’s investigation of last week’s events. The investigation took place at the request of the Prime Minister. The Cabinet Secretary did that swiftly and a number of actions resulted from it.
In terms of effective cross-Government working, the Home Secretary has told us that she has reformed the Prevent strategy. She has told us that the Education Secretary has set up a dedicated extremism unit and that excellent community cohesion work is being led by the Communities Secretary. Will she assure the House that that cross-Government work will continue effectively?
My hon. Friend is right. That work will continue. Indeed, other Departments are working with the Home Office under the aegis of the Prevent strategy: for example, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. That Department has responsibility for universities, and I referred earlier to the issue of speakers at universities. The Ministry of Justice is also working with the Home Office under that strategy in relation to what happens in prisons and the work of the National Offender Management Service. Other Departments are involved in the strategy with the Home Office. This is genuinely a cross-Government approach to deal with extremism in all its forms.
On the Prevent strategy and the work that the Government do on extremism, as I said earlier, there is always more work that the Government can do. It is imperative that we look constantly at what we are doing to ensure that it is delivering the results that we need. However, as I have already said, it was last year, following the appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, that the Prime Minister set up an extremism taskforce to bring all Departments involved across Government together and to look at whether more could be done. A number of recommendations came out from that and we have been working on them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the last Government completely failed to promote the integration of religious and ethnic minority groups into mainstream British society? It is within these insular and isolated communities that radicalisation and extremism can take root and prosper.
The public row between the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary is deeply disturbing when it is on a matter of national security. What will she do to restore trust among the British public, especially law-abiding British Muslims who feel targeted because of the appalling rhetoric in the media? We need to ensure that people can trust the Government to work in their interest to build cohesion and prevent extremism.
The concern about the impact that Government work has on the British Muslim community was precisely why we decided when we came into government to separate the integration strand of Prevent from the counter-terrorism strand. We felt that there was a concern about Prevent’s operation precisely because of its counter-terrorism element. Therefore, the integration elements were not looked at as positively as they should have been.
What do we need to do as a Government from this point? My right hon. Friend the Education Secretary will indicate what action he will be taking in connection with schools in Birmingham and related matters. All of us need to operate collectively at the grassroots level to make sure that we are reaching out to British Muslim communities and others and are undertaking the work that some of my hon. Friends have mentioned in Bury and elsewhere to bring faith communities in particular together.
As somebody from a Muslim background whose father was an imam, may I ask the Secretary of State whether she agrees that one of the major failings of the previous Government was that they failed fully to integrate communities? The previous Government looked at integration through the narrow prism of counter-terrorism, which led to a major breakdown with the Muslim communities around the country, and we must address that. Linked to that, does she agree that we have to address the issue of extremism and radicalisation on the internet, which poses a grave threat to our country?
On the first point, my hon. Friend is absolutely right and that is precisely why we took the decision to separate the strands of the Prevent work. On the second point, he is also right in that we need to work on addressing the material on the internet. The police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has been set up—to be fair, it was set up at the beginning of 2010, so before this Government came into office, but we have accelerated its work, and in recent months, following the extremism taskforce identifying this as a particular issue, an increased number of items have been taken down from websites because of terrorism content.
Birmingham city’s council and national strategies were raising concerns about these issues in Birmingham schools with the Department for Education in writing in 2010. When did the Secretary of State become aware of these concerns in relation to Birmingham schools?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the reasons why when the Home Office looked at Prevent funding and dealing with Prevent and its counter-terrorism strand, we said that we should be focusing the money not according to the number of Muslims living in a community but according to the risk of radicalisation, because that was the issue we were addressing. I am sorry to say it has been reported that the shadow Home Secretary suggests that was a false move, which implies that she thinks money should be spent just on the basis of how many Muslims are living in a particular community. I do not agree with that. I think it gives the wrong message about people in our Muslim communities. We should be focusing on where we believe there is genuine radicalisation.
The Home Secretary will be aware of the recent case of Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, a former university student in Wales who was recently held in Sudan in connection with a bombing of a bus station in Abuja by Boko Haram, which killed over 70 people. Given the serious concerns rightly raised about the co-ordination of Government policy in this instance, will the Home Secretary assure the House that there is co-ordination of policy in relation to universities, and not just schools?
Yes, we take very seriously what might be happening on university campuses. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Universities and Science has spent a lot of time looking at this issue, and we are constantly working with universities to ensure that action can be taken on their campuses to try to stop the sort of radicalisation and the extremist preachers that have been on some campuses in the past.
The Home Secretary has today repeatedly denied that she authorised the placement of the letter on the Home Office website, but equally, she has repeatedly refused to say who did authorise its placement. Do special advisers in the Home Office have free access to the Home Office website, so that they can post things on it, and to the general communications strategy of the Home Office?
The Labour party is focusing on whether the Home Secretary should personally micro-manage websites, but is not the real issue the fact that under this Government the Prevent strategy, which confuses the Labour party, has been properly split between communities and counter-terrorism? That is the way that it should be. It is one of the many areas where Labour got it wrong but we are getting it right.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At the core is the question of how we deal with extremism, which is what the Prevent strategy is about. We took the right decision on that strategy, and it is a pity that the Opposition do not seem to understand the implications of that.
I apologise—I did not quite catch the beginning of the hon. Gentleman’s question. We look closely across the board at how the Home Office budget is spent. We also look closely at the Prevent funding, and we have introduced measures, which were not there under the last Government, to ensure that we can ascertain not only how much is being spent on a particular project but the effectiveness of the spend. The last Government did not seek to find out whether they were spending public money effectively.
Does the Home Secretary share my concern that there have been too many occasions when the battle against extremism has been hampered by European human rights? Does she agree that human rights reform will enable us not only to take the battle to extremists but to promote integration and make our communities safer and more secure?
My hon. Friend returns to a topic on which he has questioned me in the past, and on which I have made a number of statements in the House. In the cases of the extradition of Abu Hamza and the deportation of Abu Qatada, there were certainly delays due to the operation of the European Court of Human Rights. I have also made it clear in the House that the Conservative party is committed to going into the election with policies relating to the reform of the Human Rights Act 1998 and of our relationship with the European Court.
Does the Home Secretary agree that the vast majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom despise hate crimes, extremism and terrorism, and that we in this House all have a duty to do what we can to promote inclusion within our own communities?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that everyone in the House has a duty to promote inclusion. He is also right that the majority of people in Muslim communities despise hate crimes. Sadly, too many people in Muslim communities are themselves the victims of hate crimes; we should not forget that.
The Home Secretary has made it clear that she herself did not authorise the publication of the letter, but she has implied that her former special adviser might have done so. Her former special adviser has lost her job, but has she apologised to the Home Secretary for the error?
Integration is not just about preventing young people from engaging in extremism; it is also about reintegrating them into their communities when they have been radicalised. What steps is my right hon. Friend’s Department taking to reintegrate people who have strayed in that way?
Within the Prevent strategy is the important Channel strand which works with people who are perhaps at risk of being radicalised—who are particularly vulnerable—to help ensure that they do not move down that path of radicalisation. Of course we also work with the National Offender Management Service on dealing with people who have been prosecuted and imprisoned under the terrorism legislation when they return to their communities.
I have answered quite a few questions in responding to this. [Interruption.] Opposition Members can ask the question as many times as they like, but they will get the same answer. I also have to say that it is a bit rich getting so many questions about special advisers from the party of Damian McBride.
Does the Home Secretary agree that her reforms to split Prevent funding between Departments were essential, as the only result of the previous Government’s attempts to promote integration through the prism of counter-terrorism was to stigmatise law-abiding Muslim communities in constituencies such as mine and give succour to the British National party?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the problem with the way the previous Government dealt with the Prevent strategy was that the integration part—the inclusion and communities work—became, in the eyes of many people in Muslim communities, tainted by its relationship with counter-terrorism. That is why it was absolutely right to split those two parts of the strategy and have them addressed under two Departments—the Home Office on counter-terrorism and the Department for Communities and Local Government on communities and inclusion.
The reason people keep asking the Home Secretary questions along the same lines is that she is refusing to answer them: she refuses to say who authorised the publication of that letter, and she refuses to say when she first found out about extremism in Birmingham schools. Will she at least tell us when she found out that the letter had been published and what action she took at that time?
My constituents will have been reminded today of the serious errors made under the previous Government in funding extremist groups. My right hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of inclusion, but will she join me in paying tribute to the officials in the Home Office and the intelligence services who work day in, day out to keep people in this country safe?
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding us of the very important work done day in, day out, not just by officials in the Home Office but by individuals in our security services and law enforcement bodies to keep us safe. They have to work at that minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day doing the valuable work that they do. We should record our thanks to them once again—it is their work that helps to keep the public safe.
I am going to press the Home Secretary again on the nature of the unauthorised correspondence. It was on the website for three days. She said that the Cabinet Secretary launched an investigation. Did she therefore make the judgment at the start of that investigation not to take down the correspondence from the website? Did she wait for the Cabinet Secretary to tell her to take it down?
Rather than obsessing over process, the Home Secretary is right to talk about learning the lessons of the past. In trying to reach out to the groups most at risk of radicalisation, did funding from the previous Government sometimes reach groups that were extremist in their views and organisations that should not be funded in that way? What is she doing to prevent that situation from recurring?
My hon. Friend is right that what we saw, sadly, was that it was possible for funding to reach organisations that had extremists within them, that had some form of extremist intent or that had links to extremism. We have put in place a proper process within the funding arrangements that means that we look at organisations and require them to be clear about how they share British values in the way that they operate to ensure that Government are not funding extremism.
Does the Secretary of State accept that open warfare between her and the Education Secretary is completely undermining public confidence in this Government to engage with communities and to be tough on terrorism and the causes of terrorism? We need to get rid of the turf war shambles and replace this Government with a new Labour Government.
Given the advocacy by the shadow Home Secretary of an alternative, broader Prevent strategy, does the Home Secretary share my concern that we could go back to a time when public funds are used to support groups and individuals who support segregation, not integration, which does nothing to diminish the extremism that everyone, on all sides of the House, wants to see expunged from this country?
My hon. Friend has made an extremely serious point. It is important for us all to work towards inclusion, integration and full participation in society and in no way to attempt to enforce a separation of groups. Indeed, the danger of the previous Government’s Prevent strategy was that it was not able to work effectively on inclusion precisely because of the way they had set it up.
A couple of years ago, I visited a Buddhist centre in my constituency, and the Abbott told me how, before the last general election, the members of the centre were driven out of their Birmingham base by radical Muslim extremists. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, sadly, there are elements of the Muslim community who are extreme? These extremists put fire bombs and excrement through the letterbox of the Buddhist centre. Is it not right that this Government should target their efforts to ensure that that sort of extremism is stamped out?
I deplore the actions that my hon. Friend has described today. Nobody should be driven out of their home or their centre by such actions. It is absolutely right that we address extremism; we need to address it in all its forms. We have changed Prevent so that it deals not just with violent extremism but with non-violent extremism and extremism in all forms. I mentioned earlier that there were two terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom last year. I have referred to one of them, which was the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. We also saw a far right extremist murder Mohammed Saleem. We must never forget that extremism can take many forms.