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Prevent Strategy

Volume 796: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have for the review of the Prevent strategy.

My Lords, as outlined in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which received Royal Assent on 12 February, further details of the review of the Prevent strategy will be provided by 12 August.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for her reply. I am pleased that Her Majesty’s Government have agreed to undertake an independent review of the Prevent strategy; this has been very well received in the Muslim community. Will the review have sufficiently broad terms of reference, including community engagement, public consultation and full government disclosure? To what extent will Her Majesty’s Government commit to the recommendations in the review when it is completed?

I thank my noble friend for his Question. I echo the words of my right honourable friend the Security Minister in the other place, who has agreed to engage across the House on the review and ideas for the terms of reference. As I said, the review will report by August 2020, but arrangements for how it will be carried out will be made by 12 August 2019. We absolutely recognise the importance of hearing community views. Now is the opportunity for any noble Lords or members of the community who are concerned or otherwise to feed into the review, and we will welcome them.

My Lords, the internet is a hugely powerful tool: it has been a force for good but it has also been used for crime and to draw people into terrorism. Will the Minister ensure proper cross-over of the Prevent review with the Government’s White Paper on internet safety?

The noble Lord is absolutely right: we cannot discuss what is happening in this area without talking about the online sphere. I entirely agree with him that the White Paper on internet harms has to include that important element.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that “prevent” is too weak and negative a word for trying to get different communities to behave responsibly and with respect towards one another? Does she further agree that religious leaders have a particular responsibility to counter bigotry by emphasising that the one God of us all is not interested in our different religious labels but in what we do for one another and wider society?

The noble Lord is indeed right. Our gods, whoever they are, care about how we treat each other and work together. On the question of whether “prevent” is too weak or has become too divisive, what is often forgotten is that many of the referrals—in fact, almost half now—arise from concerns about the far right. I hope that the noble Lord will feed into the review when it comes.

My Lords, what lessons have the Government learned from the numerous attempts to appoint the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that will help to ensure that the independent inquiry into Prevent has the trust and confidence of the communities most affected?

My Lords, I do not think the independence of the IICSA chair was ever in doubt. Some of the concerns were around—

Process, absolutely—I thank the noble Lord. Independence was not in doubt, but for the reviewer to have confidence is of the utmost importance.

My Lords, has there been any increase in the 8.6% of tip-offs about potential terrorists to the Prevent programme and our security services that come from within our close-knit Muslim communities? What plans do the Government have to encourage greater collaboration with our Muslim friends against their radical co-religionists?

My Lords, given that Prevent is a safeguarding measure for young people—usually—who are vulnerable, “tip-offs” is not necessarily the correct term in this context. If authorities are in any way warned that somebody is vulnerable, they will take action to ensure that that person is protected. We have seen over the last two years that sometimes—in fact, oft-times—Muslim communities have been the biggest victims of terrorism and suffer the worst aftermath of its effects.

My Lords, I declare an interest, having been involved in the original conversations that started the concept of Prevent. Will the Minister make sure that those conducting this review—nothing should get in its way—recognise that, when the British came up with the idea of a system to engage with communities so that they could protect themselves, there was nothing like it in the world? There still is not. Law-enforcement communities across the world regard Prevent as the gold standard for working with communities to protect them against terrorism. I ask the Minister to make sure that that view is represented in the review.

The noble Lord is absolutely right, and I look forward to hearing his views when the review comes. If we look back at the start of the process—I am talking way back—integration and counterterrorism were sometimes muddled. I think that is what started some of the accusations that came with Prevent, but he is right: we are looked upon across the world as a model for this sort of intervention.