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 Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 12:31 pm, 22nd January 2020

I congratulate the shadow Home Secretary on securing this urgent question.

The suggestion that campaigning for peace, and for environmental and human rights, should be regarded as an extremist activity is ludicrous, but it is also a threat to civil liberties. Freedom of speech is essential in a democracy, and it is under attack like never before in our society. I want to be assured that the Government will condemn all attacks on freedom of speech, and will also support freedom of assembly.

Last year we saw a striking contrast between the way in which protests outside this House by Extinction Rebellion were policed, and the way other protests were. Extinction Rebellion was kept very far back from Parliament; others—including some leave protesters—were allowed right up close to Parliament, and to shout in the face of female MPs without any interference. Will the Minister look into that?

Scotland takes a very different approach to the Prevent strategy, placing it in the context of Safer Communities, and relying on the traditionally stronger relationships between the community and police in Scotland. Will the Minister consider adopting that approach in England? Does he see that doing so might prevent the sort of problems we saw with this mistake last week, and make the Prevent strategy more effective in England?