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Volume 598: debated on Monday 6 July 2015

The terrible events in Tunisia show the importance of our work to defeat terrorism and extremism at home and overseas. We have already increased counter-terrorism funding, and last week a new duty came into effect on public servants to tackle radicalisation. We are determined to go further, and our counter-extremism strategy will set out a wide-ranging response, part of which will be implemented by the forthcoming counter-extremism Bill. Together, we must defeat these pernicious and poisonous ideologies.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that Islamic extremism does not filter into other existing criminal groups such as street gangs, particularly in prisons?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. The counter-extremism strategy will introduce comprehensive measures to stop extremism spreading. Extremism disruption orders were announced in the Queen’s Speech, and we will also tackle extremist ideology head on in a number of ways, promoting opportunities that life offers to people living in our pluralistic society in Britain, and confronting the extremists’ twisted narrative. We will work with others across the Government, including my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor in the Ministry of Justice, to consider what actions can be taken in prisons to tackle extremism.

Notwithstanding the dreadful events of the past two weeks, does my right hon. Friend agree that we must tackle extremism across the board, and not focus only on Islamist extremism?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue, and she is absolutely right. Our counter-extremism strategy will tackle extremism in all its forms, not just Islamist extremism but, for example, neo-Nazi extremism. I am sure we are all of one view that the anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred that neo-Nazis perpetrate is evil and wicked, and that we must do something about it.

Preachers of hate want to foster a victim mentality in our community that they can then exploit. What is the Secretary of State doing to remove their platform?

There is not a simple answer to that issue, which is why the counter-extremism strategy will be comprehensive and will work across various aspects of Government. This is not just about government; we want to work with communities and society to ensure that we develop more support for, and understanding of, the values that we share. We need to promote those values and ensure that those who seek to divide us are not able to do so.

22. The Home Secretary will be aware that this month marks the 20th anniversary of the horrific genocide in Srebrenica in Bosnia, when more than 8,000 mainly Muslim men and boys were brutally murdered. Will she join me in welcoming the work of the Remembering Srebrenica organisation that promotes faith and tolerance between people in this country, and more widely? That is exactly the sort of message that we should learn from such a terrible tragedy and when fighting extremism here at home. (900762)

The hon. Gentleman does well to remind us of the appalling events in Srebrenica, and I remember the shock we all felt when we saw what had happened. I applaud all organisations that aim to work among faiths to encourage tolerance and understanding, so that we all respect each other’s faiths while being able to continue to worship as each individual wishes.

We have all been appalled by the terrible attack in Tunisia and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the 30 British nationals who have lost their lives. We know that tomorrow will also be a painful day for the families of the 52 people who died and the hundreds who were injured in the terrorist attacks in London 10 years ago. It is a day that none of us can forget, and tomorrow we will remember those who lost their lives. It is testament too to the hard work of our intelligence services and police that so many plots and attacks have been prevented since 7/7.

We all agree that action must be taken to prevent both violent and non-violent extremism here in Britain and that public sector organisations need to do more. I raised with the Home Secretary several times in the last Parliament my concern that the Government are still not doing enough to support community-led prevention programmes on extremism. May I urge her to look again at that and to make sure that it is a central part of her next strategy on extremism?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments and I intend to refer later to the 10th anniversary of 7/7. As she says, no one will ever forget that terrible day, and our thoughts are with all of those who suffered as a result of those terrible attacks.

We have delivered a significant number of community-based projects through the Prevent agenda. It is right that we want to work with communities, and that will be part of our counter-extremism strategy, especially looking at those communities that are perhaps more isolated than others and working with them, as I was saying earlier, to help to ensure that we see across our society a valuing and a sharing of the values that we all hold, so that we do not allow those people who wish to radicalise youngsters and others to divide us.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s comments because I have seen some very good community-led projects, in Cardiff, Bradford and online, which so far have lived hand to mouth and have not had Government support or backing from the Department for Communities and Local Government or the Home Office. If she is able to offer that support in future, it would be hugely welcome.

May I also ask the Home Secretary about support for policing? She has rightly worked hard to prevent the counter-terror budget from being reduced and to ensure that it was supported, but she will know the concern from various senior police officers involved in counter-terrorism that neighbourhood police should also play a central role, working with communities in the prevention of extremism. Can she assure us that in the next spending round and in her Home Office budget decisions she will also ensure that neighbourhood policing and the wider policing work are properly protected so that they can play an important part in protecting the national security of our nation?

I can assure the right hon. Lady that in looking at the policing budget I will consider all aspects of policing, and I recognise the role that neighbourhood officers play. We do have Prevent officers working in local communities and doing an excellent job identifying issues there. They are working with local authorities, community groups, schools and others to ensure that we provide support and do what we all want to do—as she suggests—which is to eradicate extremism and the poisonous ideology that leads people to seek to do us harm.

21. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is imperative that the Government give the security agencies and law enforcement the powers they need to root out extremism and keep our country safe? (900761)

My hon. Friend makes a very important point and I am sure he will recognise the excellent work that is done by GCHQ in his constituency. We will publish a draft investigatory powers Bill in the autumn, which will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by both Houses, and we will bring forward the Bill in the new year. It will do exactly what he suggests is necessary—ensure that our law enforcement and security agencies have the powers they need to tackle this issue.

What steps are the Secretary of State’s Department taking to join up the work done here in the UK with international work in this area? Does the Home Secretary agree that we need a consistent and joined-up approach if we are to tackle this issue effectively at home and abroad?

I can assure the hon. Lady that we do a great deal of work with colleagues across the international environment on this issue. Indeed, the UK has been at the forefront of two particular issues in Europe: encouraging the development, by Europol, of an internet referral unit similar to the counter-terrorism internet referral unit run here in the United Kingdom; and supporting the SSCAT project, the Syria strategic communication advisory team, a group funded by the European Union and based in Belgium that provides support for a number of countries around the EU to ensure that a counter-narrative message is given across Europe to defeat extremism.