Prevent Programme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 22nd January 2020.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Minister of State, Home Department 12:31 pm, 22nd January 2020

Counter-terrorism policing in this country is operationally independent, and that is an important principle. The operational independence of our police from Government is integral to our democracy. The Home Office does, however, carry out oversight of the police on behalf of the Home Secretary.

We are clear that the right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our just society and an indispensable channel of political and social expression. Counter Terrorism Policing South East has, for example, stated categorically that it does not classify Extinction Rebellion as an extremist organisation, and that the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion in its guidance to frontline officers was an error of judgment. The police have recalled the guidance and are reviewing it.

I want to reiterate that Extinction Rebellion is in no way considered an extremist group under the 2015 definition of extremism; the Home Secretary has been clear on that point. The police have also made it clear that they regret any offence caused by the inclusion of the Ukrainian tryzub symbol in their internal educational document. That document was produced to help frontline officers and staff recognise and understand a wide range of signs and symbols that they may come across while on duty. As the police have said, the document explicitly states that many of the symbols are not of counter-terrorism interest. Unfortunately, far-right groups do have a history of misappropriating national symbols as part of their identity, and that was the reasoning behind the inclusion of several symbols. We recognise that the tryzub—Ukraine’s state coat of arms—carries constitutional importance as well as both historical and cultural significance for the people of Ukraine, and we sincerely regret any offence caused to the Ukrainian nation or its people.