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Volume 671: debated on Monday 10 February 2020

14. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that (a) law enforcement bodies, (b) police officers and (c) intelligence agencies have the tools they need to tackle terrorism. (900687)

Terrorists are a persistent menace to our security and way of life. The nature of the terrorist threat is constantly changing, so our response must evolve as well. The safety and security of the UK is obviously our No. 1 priority, and we are committed to ensuring that our security and law enforcement organisations have the powers and tools they need to keep us safe. To do that, we have provided an additional £160 million for counter-terrorism policing this year, taking counter-terrorism police funding to over £800 million. The counter-terrorism and sentencing Bill, and our emergency legislation, will close further gaps in our ability to combat terrorism.

Reports suggest that the perpetrator of the recent London terror attack was on automatic early release. Does the Minister agree that we need a robust and tough approach to sentencing for those convicted of terror offences, to prevent them from being able to carry out further atrocities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why the Government will be introducing emergency legislation in Parliament tomorrow that will end the automatic early release of terrorist offenders without there first being a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. Those still considered a threat to public safety will be forced to spend the rest of their time in prison. The changes will mean that about 50 terrorist prisoners already serving effected sentences will see their automatic release halted. We will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure that we do all we can to protect the public and keep our streets safe.

Can my right hon. Friend update the House on the steps his Department is taking to ensure that those who are released from prison after terrorism-related offences face the most stringent monitoring and reporting requirements?

Absolutely. I am pleased to say that in the last week we have announced that we are considering whether new legislation is required to provide additional reassurance when terrorist offenders are released from prison. A range of measures are available, including stringent conditions during post-release licence periods and notification requirements for terrorist offenders, which the Government strengthened only last year. Serious crime prevention orders were extended to terrorist offenders last year. Alongside terrorism prevention and investigation measures, these orders provide the police with strengthened powers to manage terrorists on their release. We will continue to review everything to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep the public safe.

Countering terrorism is not just about London and the big cities; it is across the whole country. I welcome the extra £8.6 million of funding for Lincolnshire police. What can be done to prevent people in rural areas from being drawn into terrorist activity?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Overall funding for CT policing will grow to £906 million in 2020-21. That is a £90 million year-on-year increase. The money will support and maintain the record high numbers of ongoing counter-terrorism policing investigations, allowing us to respond swiftly and decisively to incidents, no matter where they take place—and we have to be clear that they could happen anywhere in the UK. It is a significant additional investment that builds on the work we are doing to ensure that we are protecting our communities with 20,000 extra police officers around the country, and the work we do in all communities around the country with the Prevent programme to keep people safe and prevent people from being taken into extremism in the first place.

The Minister has just referred to the Prevent programme. This week, it is a year since the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 received Royal Assent. Of course, that Act provided for an independent review of the Prevent programme. In the last year, the Government have appointed one reviewer, who has had to resign from post given previous views that he had expressed about Prevent, and we are left today—a year later—without a reviewer in place. The Minister is talking about decisive action. When will that reviewer be appointed?

As I have outlined at the Dispatch Box previously, the review will go ahead, and it is still the case that it will be completed in the timeframe that the Government outlined—that is, before the end of August this year. We are also introducing emergency legislation tomorrow.

We face a growing threat from extreme right-wing organisations in this country. The Minister will be aware of incidents in my own community relating to some extreme right-wing groups. Why have the Government not yet proscribed organisations such as the System Resistance Network, the Sonnenkrieg Division and others who are linked to the banned National Action organisation, and what steps will they take to review the situation urgently?

These issues are always under review. The hon. Gentleman is right that we have to be alert to and aware of extremism from any direction, including the growth in right-wing extremism. That is why Prevent is focused on protecting people who are targeted by terrorist recruiters, regardless of their reasoning or where they come from.

Surely we should have a programme giving young people who might be attracted into terrorism other creative things to do in the community. Would the Minister think about diverting some of the tens of millions of pounds flowing from the plastic bag charge into community action that would involve young people and replace some of the dreadful cuts in youth services that we have seen in recent years?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about engaging with people from communities across the country, particularly young people. We do have funds specifically focused on young people. The Prevent training has already been completed some 1.1 million times. One of the areas where Prevent is so successful is in enabling frontline practitioners, including teachers, to recognise the signs of radicalisation. That is why this programme is so important, as well as the bespoke programmes that we support.