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Prevent Strategy

Volume 777: debated on Tuesday 20 December 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are assessing and evaluating the success of the Prevent Strategy deradicalisation programme following the referral of approximately 4,000 people last year.

My Lords, since 2012 over 1,000 people have received support through Channel, the voluntary and confidential programme which provides support for people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. The vast majority of those people went on to leave the programme with no further terrorist-related concerns.

I thank the Minister for her response. I extend my condolences and those of these Benches to the victims of the atrocities that happened in Berlin and Zurich last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families. After a terrible year of terrorist attacks around the world, the people of this country want to feel confident that the Government’s counter-radicalisation strategy is making us safer. Is the Minister confident that, despite the concerns of many professionals—some of whom claim that it is counterproductive—it is working, is the correct strategy and carries public support?

I add my condolences to those of the noble Baroness to all the victims in Zurich, in Turkey and, of course, recently in Jordan. Those—

Sorry, my Lords—Berlin. It must be a terrible time for those families coming up to Christmas. As to public confidence in whether the programme is working, we are confident that it is. This country remains a tolerant and inclusive society for people to live in and we must not be poisoned by the words and actions of those who seek to disrupt it.

My Lords, every day one can see on the web a mass of efforts by Daesh to recruit people in the West, telling them to kill people—by gun, knife, lorry, car, whatever. We have some of the best people in the world working in the web environment. Does the Minister believe that we are doing as much as we should to stop this, to take down these sites, to get attribution of those who are doing some of these things and to make actual attacks—taking down main servers and hard drives, which we are able to do, getting in among them and indeed spreading separate propaganda, dissention, worry and concern?

My Lords, not only are we doing enough but we are leading the way in all that the noble Lord has talked about: disruption of some of the online activity and the counternarrative that will speak to people who sometimes feel very isolated from society. We can never stand still on this. We have to keep up with some of the stuff that is happening multiple times in an hour, never mind in a day. Yes, I think that we can be very proud of what we are doing.

My Lords, can the Minister explain how the recent banning of two Syrian Orthodox bishops from coming to the United Kingdom conforms to the Prevent strategy, while at the weekend it was reported that Syed Qadri is to be allowed to come into the United Kingdom? He is a radical Islamist hate preacher who has been banned from preaching in Pakistan. He spoke out in favour of those who assassinated Salmaan Taseer and is said to have been one of the influences on the murderer of the Ahmadi shopkeeper in Glasgow. Why is he being permitted to speak at public venues throughout the United Kingdom?

My Lords, I cannot speak about individual cases, but the point is that Syed Qadri and others like him—I am sorry but I have forgotten the second part of the noble Lord’s question.

My Lords, why is he being allowed to come into the United Kingdom and to speak at public venues when we recently banned two Syrian Orthodox bishops from coming into the United Kingdom?

My Lords, when people speak in public it is important to ensure that what they say does not incite racial or terrorist hatred in this country. I cannot comment on the individual cases of the Syrian bishops.

My Lords, a group of Christian leaders in Luton in my diocese are working closely with people of other faiths on the Prevent strategy. I have to say that I hear a very different narrative from the grass roots which is profoundly worrying. There is growing discontent at the rollout of the Prevent strategy due to a number of things such as religious illiteracy and some very heavy-handed actions. Would the Minister be willing to come and meet a group of leaders to hear about these concerns? These are people who want to try to make this work so that we can think about how to get it back on course and improve the situation.

I certainly take the point made by the right reverend Prelate about religious illiteracy, which all sectors have to be very mindful of. I am happy to come and meet him and I pay tribute to the work of the Church on promoting integration in society.

My Lords, obviously we on this side also wish to express our shock and horror at the latest atrocities. As I understand it, in certain areas of the UK the number of far-right referrals now outnumbers cases involving Islamic extremism. Does this not suggest that the Prevent strategy has not been sufficiently focused on challenging far-right attitudes and that it has been caught napping by what is now happening?

The noble Lord is absolutely right to point out that far-right cases are on the increase, but Prevent does not preclude tackling them. As he will know, because we debated this last week, we have for the first time proscribed a far-right organisation.