Prevent Strategy — Question for Short Debate

– in the House of Lords at 7:41 pm on 30th November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Noon Lord Noon Labour 7:41 pm, 30th November 2011

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the implications for integration and extremism in the United Kingdom of their Prevent strategy.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I hope noble Lords will find it helpful if I remind the House that the next debate is a time-limited debate and, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Noon and my noble friend the Minister, speeches are limited to four minutes. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford has also requested to speak in the gap.

Photo of Lord Noon Lord Noon Labour

My Lords, the Government's revised Prevent strategy was presented to Parliament in June this year. It is an integral part of the broader fight against terrorism and I welcome the opportunity to have this short debate about the implications of this strategy, and of extremism and integration. The thinking behind Prevent was that there needed to be a proactive response to the threat of so-called home-grown terrorists. I do not want to speak about the merits or failure of the original strategy. Other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Carlile, who provided the important independent oversight for the review of Prevent, are much more of an authority on this issue than me.

I am not a policy man, I am a businessman and I like to speak my mind in a straightforward way, which, in business as in life, is usually the best way. You may be aware that I have been a victim of deadly terrorist attack not once but twice. The extreme fear that I and my family experienced, the shocking uncertainty of being sandwiched between life and death, brought home forcefully the grief and devastation of the families who suddenly, unexpectedly lose loved ones. We have seen this horror here in the UK with the 7 July terrorist attacks in London. What is worse is that the 7/7 attack was carried out by young men born and brought up in the UK. The Prevent strategy is supposed to stop people from ever going down this path. It is about confronting people at an early point so that they do not become extremists.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists all have the right to practise their religion freely in Great Britain. The strong civil rights movement here ensures that we can express our religious and political beliefs freely. At the same time, there is a thousand years of tradition of the supremacy of the law-we must abide by the law even as we practise in private the faith of our choice. What has gone wrong is that a tiny minority refuse to accept that. Instead they wish to impose their beliefs on the majority. Noble Lords will agree with me that the majority of Muslims are law-abiding, peaceful and patriotic citizens, as was reported in the Sunday Times on 20 November. I see no conflict between practising Islam and abiding by the rules of the law of this country, and I speak as a Muslim.

I have expressed my views many times, in speech as well as in print. People who do not accept the British way of life should find another acceptable country where they can live happily, and leave us alone. Often they come here as economic migrants and then oppose our common values. In many cases, they are running away from harsh regimes that do not permit dissent. I am a staunch supporter of the British values of democracy, decency, fairness and integration. I say, live and let live. We should give a robust retort to those who oppose integration: we cannot have small, independent enclaves within our country that are a law unto themselves. I agree with the Prime Minister's words in Munich earlier this year that we have not done enough in standing up to those who oppose our way of life.

I find it confusing that the Prevent strategy makes a distinction between two things. On one hand, the strategy says that having a strong sense of belonging and citizenship makes people more resilient to extremism. Then, on the other hand, it states:

"Policy and programmes to deal with extremism and with extremist organisations more widely are not part of Prevent and will be co-ordinated from the Department for Communities and Local Government".

Could the Minister tell me what these wider policies and programmes are that are not part of Prevent? Surely these are things that promote cohesion, interfaith dialogue and citizenship. If the success of the programme depends on our sense of belonging-which is what I call integration-then how could this not be a part of Prevent? By separating integration and extremism, the Prevent strategy will create its own pitfalls. How do local councillors know what to do? Where is the guidance that explains how to know the difference between an extremist acting against our country and others who need support and direction to become more integrated? Where is the line drawn between dealing with extremists and promoting integration? Surely these are two sides of the same coin.

What about young people? How will the youth worker or the teacher know what to do? We need a strong initiative for the youth; after all, it is the youth who get lured into extremism at youth clubs and universities. The hunting field for fresh recruits to terrorism are the stamping grounds of young people. That is where we need to be: to reorient them into a life of decency; to give them a sense of belonging; to make them proud to be British; and to make them see that using religion as an excuse for violence goes against its very tenets.

What about the police? I often speak to them on this issue. I ask them why individuals or groups who are violently opposed to our way of life and the laws of this country are allowed to be here. The police say that their hands are tied; they often have no case. It seems that the human rights of criminals outweigh those of the rest of us law-abiding citizens. Even when they manage to bring such a person to court, the Crown Prosecution Service tells the police that the criminal is the one who needs protection. It strikes me that in trying to make Prevent more focused, the Government have risked making it less effective. Even more seriously, I believe that this fudge makes things much worse. It risks further alienating those communities that feel the most stigmatised and targeted by Prevent, especially the Muslim community.

The danger of focusing only on a certain religious group was made clearer to us by the terrible events in Norway in July this year, when a right-wing extremist not only set off a bomb in the city, killing eight people, but then went on to shoot and kill 69 innocent children and young people who were taking part in a summer school. Such acts of extreme violence are not restricted to ideology, whether religious or political. Rather, these terrible acts are born of hatred, racism and ignorance. We ignore these risks at our peril.

In summary, I have a very simple bottom line, which is that preventing terrorism depends on strengthening integration. In my straightforward way of looking at things, there is definitely a problem because the strategy actually causes confusion about this issue. I welcome the idea that we need to confront people more when they express extreme ideas such as threatening to burn poppies, abusing our brave soldiers returning home from the front line in Basra or asking for Sharia law in this country. Let us not forget honour killing, although I do not know what honour there is in killing. Surely this is not acceptable. We need to go further. We need to ensure that we not only confront these people but that we actually deal with them in order to protect the citizens of this country. We need to be clear that this is about anyone who opposes our way of life, anyone who does not clearly stand up for democracy and freedom of choice. Integration is our greatest strength and we must not allow our resolve to protect it to be weakened by a muddled approach to extremism.

I am sure that noble Lords will have many further issues that they wish to bring to this debate, and I look forward to hearing them.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Conservative 7:51 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Noon, for initiating this debate.

9/11 and 7/7 changed Britain and the world. From London to Lahore, from New York to New Delhi, terrorism cannot be ignored. A new kind of terror emerged with 9/11, as we saw on 7/7, attacking the very basis and basics of British society-a society enriched by its secular democracy, multitude of faiths and diversity of communities. The terrorists used the ultimate weapon, destroying their own lives to take the lives of others. They sought legitimacy then, as they do now, 10 years on, by cloaking their vile and heinous acts in the name of religion-of Islam. Yet these criminal acts are far removed from the principles of Islam which, not only in its teachings but in the essence of its very name, stands for peace. Islam unreservedly and totally rejects all forms of terrorism and violence. Islam-indeed, all religions-cannot sanction violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children in the name of God. However, the reality is that there are some who seek to hijack noble religions and principles, to perversely interpret them and through their misguided actions, often fuelled by extremist preachers, seek to bring about terror. As 9/11 and 7/7 demonstrated, they succeed in carrying out such acts.

Against this backdrop of real and present danger which surfaced 10 years ago and continues to this day, we need to take action on prevention and, more importantly, a permanent and lasting solution to eradicating this evil from our society. Therefore, I welcome the new Prevent strategy, for it recognises the need to tackle the ideological challenge and the threat from those who promote terror and extremism. It is not aimed at those with legitimate religious beliefs. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, to be devout in faith should not be equated to extremism; indeed, if you are truly devout about faith you are anything but an extremist.

Prevent deals with all forms of terrorism, but I seek my noble friend the Minister's assurance that, while wider programmes dealing with extremism and its implications do not fall under the regime of Prevent-they are co-ordinated by the Department for Communities and Local Government-there is no disconnect between the two, as the noble Lord, Lord Noon, has said. I would further ask that educational programmes aimed at curbing the rise of extremism in our future generations-such as the excellent 9/11 Education Programme, launched nationally in September this year and already rolled out to 20 schools, supported by many, including my noble friend Lord Fink-are also co-ordinated with a more cohesive programme. I would also seek the Minister's assurance that stringent steps are taken to eradicate these extremist preachers who come to our shores to preach hate. There should be a simple message sent to them: they are not welcome.

Prevention of terrorism, integration of communities -as the noble Lord, Lord Noon has said-and education of our future generations are all part of the same equation. They are three essential components which form the basis of eradicating extremism, protecting the deep-rooted and long-established traditions of our country and providing the lasting solution we all greatly desire.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat 7:55 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Noon, has asked a most important question. In the short time available I want to focus on integration and make one point. I wonder whether the answer to the noble Lord's question is partly characterised by the speakers list that we have tonight-10 speakers. How many of us are what my late noble friend Lord Jenkins termed "ancient Britons"? I think it is a fair bet that the eighth Baron Henley is. I do not want to make assumptions about the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, but excluding the Government and Opposition Front Benches, look at our names. Mine is because my family, not very long ago, came from Hama in Syria-a place where I am very glad not to be.

Is it that our speakers tonight feel a particular responsibility to take part, and should it rest only on their shoulders? Beyond this House, have we made assumptions about who should integrate with whom, about who needs to take active steps and who can sit back and dissociate themselves from the issue? Have we made assumptions about "us" and "them"? Have we made assumptions about what Britain today is or should be? It is not the same as when I was born. It is not the same as when Victorians ruled the world-and on that subject I have said before in the context of immigration that I find the term, "the brightest and the best", whom we are seeking to attract, very difficult because of its implications. It takes us to the question of what we think is the Britain into which we are seeking integration. Integration, of itself, does not secure loyalty to a set of values or instil patriotism; they are more than learnt behaviours. It is about a view of society and one's place in it, and perhaps we should be talking more about social cohesion in a wider sense.

I know that far more is going on than just the Prevent strategy. Both noble Lords who have spoken have referred to this, but I think it is important not to do anything to consolidate the widespread view that a particular ethnic background or a particular faith and terrorism are in any way synonymous.

Photo of Baroness Prashar Baroness Prashar Crossbench 7:57 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, I, too, want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Noon, for initiating this debate. The new Prevent strategy states that a clear distinction between counterterrorism work and integration strategy is necessary if it is to succeed and that the two must not be confused but, as has already been said, there is a fundamental link between fighting home-grown terrorism and creating a more integrated society. While the government strategy recognises that, we do not have a clearly understood and clearly articulated policy on how to develop a sense of belonging, how to create support for our core values or how to encourage integration. If anything, it is rather muddled.

Britishness was seized upon as a way of building a cohesive society, and multiculturalism was seen as divisive, but cultural diversity and pluralism do not threaten cohesiveness; inequality does. They are in fact the essence of Britishness. For a plural society to be successful, we need shared respect for and loyalty to the law of the land. In seeking to promote diversity, we must not stifle robust discussion or debate on issues that are of legitimate public concern, no matter how unpalatable they are. We need more, not less, freedom of speech to combat the propaganda promoted by extremism. We need open, frank dialogue and debate to enhance understanding between different communities and religious groups. We need to cherish diversity without undermining our common bonds of citizenship and respect for the law, thus helping what I call the evolution of a plural society through democratic processes. We need to work to inculcate this in our citizens, particularly the young. The Prevent strategy recognises the need to work with sectors and institutions where there is a risk of verticalisation. Universities are such institutions, not just as informers, though that may be necessary, but as promoters of free speech. Universities are reluctant, for they fear to be seen as curbing freedom of speech. Propaganda machinery must not be allowed to hide behind the pretence of freedom of speech and claims of human rights. Distorted and loaded messages that manipulate the young must not go unchallenged. Universities are well placed both to challenge propaganda designed to radicalise students, and also to provide experience of rational debate in safe spaces. As John Ruskin said,

"Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know-it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave", as members of the family, of the community, of the nation and of the world. To succeed in the long run we need to challenge and deal with those promoting extreme ideology, but also to provide safe spaces like universities and other educational institutions, where learning about citizenship can take place. We also need to develop a consistent narrative about what a vibrant, diverse and integrated society is. I hope the Government will promote that.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative 8:01 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, this coalition Government spent over a year reviewing the Prevent strategy and produced a clear, focused strategy on tackling extremism, as well as focusing resources on key institutions like universities, prisons, schools and colleges. This strategy looks at countering the ideology rather than just the violent action of extremists. This is the fundamental difference between the previous Government and this one.

People who espouse extremist views may be more prone and susceptible to being primed and moulded towards extremism, especially if they live in segregated communities and have little interaction with other communities. Extremism is also based on people being excluded and separated, and these are ideas that we should not allow in our communities whether they are al-Qaeda inspired, or whether they are far right or EDL-inspired. Separation and segregation have no part to play in our modern state. These phenomena have been rejected globally and they must equally be rejected here. There is a link between extremism and a lack of integration, and we need to acknowledge this.

However we must be more nuanced in our understanding and approach towards communities. We must acknowledge that there are groups of individuals who are integrated in every sense of the word. They work, they speak English, and they are living quiet and happy lives in different parts of our country. Yet they choose not to engage with other communities and they may also feel aggrieved and angry at what is taking place regarding international or domestic issues that affect their fellow brothers and sisters. These people cannot be viewed as being non-integrationist, but they may hold extreme views. They may, however, not be patriotic about this country, though that is different from not being integrated. The link between extremism and a lack of integration is not clear in these cases, and we must be aware that there are a set of competing circumstances affecting different communities. I firmly believe that we have moved in the right direction in terms of the Prevent work, which is now being undertaken, which is much more focused on interventions and countering extremist ideology. There is no simple solution around integration, and we need to look at situations in different parts of the country and with different generational groups, through multiple lenses and not through one single lens of understanding. Yet a lack of integration may leave some persons more susceptible to manipulation and thereby be used to promote extremist ideology. Sometimes the lack of integration can be self-imposed and the individual concerned may be completely devoid of extremist narratives and ideologies. Yet we can all agree that communities need to celebrate being part of their local areas and do all they can to make these areas places where they feel that they have a future.

At the very least this is the healthiest option we can take. I would like to end by saying there was a survey published in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago which found that Muslims are more patriotic than the rest of the population. This shows Muslims have gone a long way towards integrating with society and shows Muslims in a different light compared with what is being portrayed in the media. Islam is a religion of peace and this philosophy is shown visually in my coat of arms.

Photo of Lord Patel of Bradford Lord Patel of Bradford Labour 8:05 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend, Lord Noon, for having introduced this debate. Prevent is a very important strategy and one that I am very familiar with, having been asked by the previous Secretary of State for the Department of Committees and Local Government to undertake a rapid review of the original Prevent strategy. Over a period of several weeks, I visited 12 local authority areas and spoke to more than 700 people about their experiences of and attitudes to the Prevent strategy. The confidential report that I produced for the Secretary of State outlined a number of areas where I thought there needed to be improvements. Some of these issues have been addressed in the current revised strategy, which on the whole I welcome, but there are two particular issues which I believe need further clarification. Firstly, how are people, especially young people, engaged in Prevent? Secondly, how are professionals and elected officials being given the skills and confidence they need to challenge extremism and the way in which this causes further segregation between communities?

I shall speak first about the engagement of young people, and as the chairman of an organisation called the International Forum for Community Innovations, otherwise known as TIFCI. TIFCI works with a wide range of community groups across the country and has just finished a piece of work on extremism and the risks for young people from radicalisation. The work explored the issues for young people and the particular risks they face from radicalisation and extremism. During the course of the work TIFCI spoke directly to over 130 young people and children of both sexes, from a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. In the first place, the risk they most strongly identified was that from the far right, particularly the EDL, which they perceived to be causing disruption and harm to their sense of belonging and community cohesion. We very clearly should not take our focus off the threats posed by the far right. But what struck me even more strongly was the near universal view that, as young people-a key group who are identified as being most at risk-they were not actively consulted or involved in finding solutions and strategies to deal with the problems. Many of them said, when commenting on the work programme of TIFCI, that it was the first time anyone had even asked them about this issue. Does the Minister agree that young people, especially those at risk, should, wherever possible, be involved in and actively engaged with any work undertaken in this area and could he say something about what is being done to encourage this?

From my experience, including the work that I did reviewing the previous Prevent strategy, I believe that the second key issue concerns the skills and confidence among professionals and elected officials on the ground and their ability to challenge people and to address some of the issues that divide our communities. I strongly believe that they have not been adequately equipped to do this. Sadly-I have seen evidence of this many times in my work on community engagement -there remain deep divisions in our society and too many communities live separate lives, having little or no contact with their neighbouring communities even within their same town or ward. I agree with my noble friend Lord Noon that it is this division, the lack of community cohesion integration that is the greatest threat to our security. It is in this failure to have people meeting and interacting with each other outside their immediate family and community networks that this greatest risks of extremism and radicalisation take hold. If we recognise this then we can start to move away from thinking simply about one religious group or another and begin to work with whole communities and finding solutions that truly promote integration and challenge extremism. This is going to take high quality training for professionals and elected officials and at local levels we need to see clear implementation plans that provide direction and leadership. I would be very grateful if the Minister in his closing remarks could explain what plans are being developed to implement training and capacity building for professionals, youth workers, social workers, and very importantly, elected officials, to ensure that they can take the leadership on addressing these important issues at a local level.

Photo of Lord Hameed Lord Hameed Crossbench 8:09 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, I convey my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Noon, for introducing this subject this evening. In 2011 we live in a world of extraordinary progress and opportunity and yet it is a world in which 1 in 5 people lives in abject poverty. One in 6 children never reaches their fifth birthday and 115 million children worldwide do not even go to primary school; and with poverty comes a multitude of other bad things. And yet, it is nothing like the only reason why one group resents another, but it is a big reason.

Poverty is also a reason for our concern about terror, and the real and perceived threat of violence, locally, nationally and internationally from radicalised or marginalised people. Their route to terrorism can be found in many things: in fate, ethnicity, culture, nationality, poverty, economic and political causes, and more. A lot of people readily associate terror with religious fundamentalism. Any religion can be vilified, and indeed in this country we have known militant Christianity and militant Islam. The great contradiction of fundamental politics-its epic flow-is that it cannot deliver on the greatest problem that provokes its rise, which is economic deprivation.

Rage is not an economic policy. Violence is not the antidote to economic progress. It can succeed at moments of high social stress, or public rage. Ordinary people hunger for bread, not guns. This is what keeps the overwhelming majority away from fundamentalism. The bad news is that it takes less than 1 per cent to wreak havoc upon us.

We have here in the United Kingdom a multi-religious and multiethnic society. Here dialogue is the only way forward for addressing our differences. We ought to celebrate our commonality and discuss our differences based on mutual respect and trust in each other. It is imperative that we engage in a continuing dialogue. This dialogue is no longer the luxury of a few well-meaning individuals. It has become a necessity, demanding action, without which only catastrophe stares us in the face.

The other message that should go out from us is that Islam, like other faiths, prohibits not only the killing of innocent people, but is most severe on the act of suicide. There is a clear Koranic instruction against taking one's own life. Therefore, let me state clearly, for all to hear, that exploding bombs and firing bullets in an act of suicide, with the intent to kill, and is totally un-Islamic and against the teachings of the Koran. All Muslims must therefore do everything to stop this evil depravity.

The 1.5 billion Muslims who live in this world are peaceful and law-abiding. They also make good neighbours and exercise responsible citizenship, and resent being stigmatised with negative religious profiling, which is inflammatory.

Finally, many Muslims believe that the savage cruelty and cynicism mirrored in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo Bay and at Bagram in Afghanistan, as well as rendition flights, waterboarding, and other methods of interrogation are not helpful in our pursuit to harmonise the radicalisation of young people because, more than anything, they are the best recruitment ground for the terrorists.

Photo of Baroness Flather Baroness Flather Crossbench 8:14 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, may I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Noon, for giving us this opportunity to say how we feel about this issue? It is a very important issue, and I have given it much thought, over a long period of time. There are now cities in this country with areas where no white people live and no white people go, and usually they are Muslim areas. It is very sad, because in fact the people who live there have no desire to mix with the white people. There is of course a reason for it, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hameed, has very properly touched on it.

They feel they are disliked by us. The Muslims now feel that people of this country think of every Muslim as a terrorist. That has had a very important and negative effect on relationships. We all know, of course, what Islam is like, but do they know what Islam is like? I am surprised that none of your Lordships has mentioned what happens in mosques, which are the crucial areas where recruitment and "extremisation" of people takes place.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative

You have made a statement about mosques. Where is your evidence?

Photo of Baroness Flather Baroness Flather Crossbench

I will get you evidence, but I do not have it to hand at the moment. I hope you realise that it is happening. Schoolchildren go to mosques every day; they have no time to do their homework and they are falling behind in education. What is wrong with seeing that the imams are properly educated, that they can speak English and that they know what Islam teaches? One of the most important aspects of starting integration is making sure that people who go to a mosque are taught Islam in the proper way, as has been spoken about in this Chamber. I am sorry to say this is not happening.

The second point, which I am very keen on, is that the young-young men in particular-are not skilled in anything. It is time we started programmes for skilling them. Education is important, and they are lagging behind in it, but if we can give them a skill to earn their living, we might see a change in their lives. We do not want young people to not get jobs, to live on benefits all their lives and then start the trend again. Their fathers may be on benefits, they are going to be on benefits, their children will be on benefits. This is what happened in Northern Ireland. We must stop this somewhere. We have to start doing programmes, we have to skill them, and we have to make sure that they are capable of holding proper jobs. This will give them self-respect and respect from other people as well, which is very important. I repeat that we must make sure the imams in the mosques are properly educated and are teaching the people proper Islam, not what they think is Islam. If you talk to young Muslim people, they do not think like that. They do not say "Islam is a religion of peace". They say that they want this country to become Islamic; they want to change this country into an Islamic country.

I am also very concerned about the advent of Sharia, particularly because it is discriminatory against women. That is not the way we live in this country. We have an Equality Act, yet we allow Sharia, which is totally discriminatory to women, to deal with family situations. No boy over seven is given to the mother-he automatically goes to the father. Property rights are not respected. I hope that your Lordships, especially those of you who are Muslims, will do your best to change these things.

Photo of The Bishop of Hereford The Bishop of Hereford Bishop 8:18 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. The first objective in the Prevent strategy is,

"challenging the ideology that supports terrorism and those who promote it".

It slightly surprised me that the word "ideology" is used in the singular, when, as other noble Lords have said, there are-sadly and tragically-many ideologies that, in their own different ways, support terrorism. The counter to any bad ideology, whichever it may be, is not no ideology but good ideology. The report refers to core values. The counter to bad core values is not no core values but good core values. The counter to bad religion is not no religion but good religion.

This begs questions for us: how do we learn our good ideologies and our good religion? As we know, these things are not just taught but caught. Therefore, the approach has to be surely one that covers the areas that the report refers to: education, and all the aspects of that to which reference has already been made, but I would also love to see a greater emphasis on the sense of relationship, community-building and integration to which the noble Lord, Lord Noon, and others have referred. There is the need for us to make sure that not only are good ideology and good vision is caught, but there are plenty of examples and that people have the opportunity to catch them because they see them and hear them. I also endorse the truth in the report that this is about process. The catching and the teaching are always about the process, not single steps or single actions. This therefore also emphasises to me the need for integration and cohesion, to which reference has been made by many noble Lords.

Isolation in all its forms needs to be countered. Where individuals or small groups of people are cut off from others, it can help contribute to and provide a soil in which extremism, and the distorted thinking that goes with any kind of extremism, whether it leads to terrorism or in any other way, can more easily flourish and grow. Again I would totally endorse the comments that have been made about the way in which poverty, among other social ills, provides that isolation.

One strategy does not stand alone. I would be delighted to hear the Minister talk about the way in which this strategy sits alongside other strategies and work on community cohesion, the development, building -up and strengthening of our communities and the avoidance of those social ills that cause the very divisions that can further isolate. A strategy like this has to be put within a total context that helps us to strengthen the relationships within communities. As others will know, a research project was undertaken by Vivien Lowndes and Leila Thorp on the Prevent strategy. They identified a community safety focus, a community cohesion focus and a community development focus in three different cities. All of these are about developing community.

Again, the Minister may wish to comment on those insights and help us to understand more about how the Government are working to overcome people's isolation, identify those most at risk to stop them being isolated and stop the unemployment and the other things that help fuel the isolation so that the integration-the interfaith and Muslim forums and so on-can all play their stronger part in helping stronger communities and cohesion and therefore community safety for us all.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 8:23 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Noon on securing this debate and for speaking in such a forthright way about his personal experiences and his strong concerns and reservations. Following the bombings in London in July 2005, much work was done on the development of Prevent-work which was largely breaking new ground since it was needed to disrupt the process of radicalisation when there was no previous experience to draw on. The strategy was launched in 2007 and its objective was to seek to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism both in the UK and overseas. It was the preventative strand of the then Government's counter-terrorism strategy.

In view of the fact that it was breaking new ground, there was clearly going to be a need to review and update the Prevent strategy in the light of experience, including experience of the different approaches adopted. This Government have undertaken such a review as part of their wider review of counterterrorism. An independent oversight of the Prevent review was provided by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew. In his preface to the Government's Prevent strategy, the noble Lord said, among other things, that generally, Prevent had been productive.

The Government have said that their Prevent strategy will involve work with sectors and institutions where there are perceived to be risks of radicalisation which need to be addressed. On this point, perhaps the Minister could say what has happened since the review was published in June. We know that the Secretary of State has healthcare providers and universities in mind, so what is she expecting the NHS and universities to do that they have not previously been doing? What has been their response, bearing in mind previously expressed views by Universities UK and the BMA on this issue?

Last June, the Secretary of State said that Prevent was about acting on information from the police, security and intelligence agencies, local authorities and community organisations to help those specifically at risk of turning towards terrorism. Since it involves the security and intelligence agencies, can the Minister say whether the Intelligence and Security Committee will be involved in evaluating the effectiveness of the Prevent strategy? Could he also say against what criteria and objectives will the Government assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the Prevent strategy?

The Government have said that Prevent depends on a successful integration strategy, which will be the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government. What kind of financial resources will be available next year and in future years, since there have already been significant cuts from the Prevent funding for local councils this year and there appear to be further cuts to come? Police budgets and numbers are also being cut. What kind of priority have police forces committed themselves to give to the Government's Prevent strategy, since the Government have said that Prevent is about acting on information from the police?

The Government have also said that public funding for Prevent must be rigorously prioritised and comprehensively audited. What does that statement mean in terms of the amount of funding for Prevent-not least on training and personnel-that will be provided in future from the Home Office and other departments? Will funding be going up or will it go down? What link-up will there be between the Home Office initiatives and the DCLG integration strategy to ensure that they complement each other? In the House of Commons on 7 June, the Home Secretary said that the Government's Prevent strategy,

"will stop the radicalisation of vulnerable people. Above all, it will tackle the threat from home-grown terrorism".-[Hansard; Commons, 7/6/11; col. 54.]

Note that the Home Secretary did not say that the strategy was designed to achieve those objectives, or that it would make an important contribution to achieving them. She said it would achieve those objectives. If it remains the Government's view that their Prevent strategy will single-handedly and without doubt achieve those objectives in full, then I fear that the Government have underestimated the complexity and difficulty of what they are quite rightly seeking to achieve, or that they are as interested in rhetoric as they are in seeking to build on, develop and update in a consensual way the work that has already been done under the Prevent strategy.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley The Minister of State, Home Department 8:28 pm, 30th November 2011

My Lords, before I deal with the major part of this debate, there are three points I want to make. The first is that my noble friend Lady Hamwee, looking at the names on the list of speakers, possibly said that I was a very ancient Briton. The important thing to explain at this stage is not that I am an ancient Briton, but I am about as Anglo-Saxon as you can get. I will go on to say that I live in a village which I think has a Norse name; my nearest town, the county town of Carlisle, has an old British name; and I live in the county of Cumbria. As the late Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos-a great friend of mine and of noble Lords opposite-always reminded me, Cumbria is exactly the same word as Cymru. They are of the same etymological origin.

I make this point not for any flippant reasons, but to point out that in the United Kingdom we have experienced immigration of one sort or another for many, many years. We have adapted and have place names that reflect the vast array of different people who have come here at different stages and different times. We have gone on accepting immigrants from year to year and over the years. This is something that we should be proud of: the Huguenots who came here, the Jews who had been expelled, and others such as the Normans who came here under rather different circumstances. Possibly we objected to that at the time, but we got used to it later on. These things have been going on for some time. We are all mongrels in this country, and it is something that possibly we should all be proud of. I hope that we can all continue to integrate in the best possible way.

The second point that I want to make before I get on to the substance of the debate relates to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, about the need for more freedom of speech, particularly in universities. This touched me particularly as a former spokesman for higher education in this House, both quite recently and before 1997. I certainly agree with her that at times the universities should be faintly embarrassed by what they have or have not allowed to happen in terms of freedom of speech. We should all take note of that point, and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for reminding us of it.

The third introductory point that I want to make refers to the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Noon, when he talked about that 1,000-year tradition of the rule of law. Whether it is a 1,000-year tradition I am not sure. Sometimes that has wavered a bit, and there have been weaknesses here and errors there. However, I think that he is right to point out that there is something that we can be proud of, something that we should sing about and shout about, and something that, certainly in promoting this country and everything that goes with it, we should talk about and be proud about.

The substance of the debate from the noble Lord, Lord Noon, is on integration and extremism and how they will be affected by the Prevent strategy. There is good evidence that, by international standards, the United Kingdom has a relatively well integrated strategy. That is why I wanted to start with what might have seemed flippant remarks about where I lived in Cumbria and the mixed nature of that over the last 1,000 years; that will happen again in the future. We are told that 92 per cent of people across all ethnic groups say that they feel part of British society; 86 per cent feel that people from different backgrounds get on well in their area; 88 per cent say that they get on well with their neighbours; and 97 per cent agree that it is everybody's responsibility to obey the law. These figures show that we have much to be thankful for and that the Government's approach to integration is building on solid foundations that, again, we can be proud of in the citizenship of this country.

Of course, those figures do not tell the whole story. There are differences from area to area and within areas. For example, a high proportion of people in country towns are likely to say that they get on well with their neighbours, but in some inner-city boroughs the proportion can fall below half. Again, that obviously needs to be addressed. It is in those areas with a lower level of integration that the greatest challenges have to be faced.

It is also in these less well integrated areas that the advocates of extremism are often most active. Groups like the English Defence League and the recently proscribed Muslims Against Crusades seek to spread fear and mistrust in order to generate and perpetuate division and separation rather than integration. Successful policies to promote integration must also, therefore, be capable of countering extremism, in non-violent as well as violent forms.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government plans to make a Statement to Parliament and publish a document setting out the Government's approach to integration later this year. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will be able to wait for that Statement. In the mean time, the elements of that approach are beginning to take shape. It will be an approach that emphasises what we have in common rather than what is different; draws out the responsibilities that we have to each other and to society; enables people to realise their potential to get on in life; gives people opportunities to work together and to take decisions for themselves; and ensures a firm response to threats to integration like discrimination, extremism and disorder.

These objectives cannot be achieved by top-down design by the Government. Government can create the conditions which enable integration but it is for people themselves in neighbourhoods and in voluntary and community organisations to take responsibility for making it happen in their areas.

To illustrate what Government are doing to create the conditions that support integration, let me give three examples, which have also been touched on by a number of other noble Lords in this debate. First, without a common language, integration will always be constrained and so we are looking at what additional support we can offer to local areas to help isolated women in particular and other priority groups to learn English. Secondly, understanding and co-operation between people of different faiths is pivotal to integration and that is why the Government awarded £5 million to the Church Urban Fund's Near Neighbours scheme, which fosters precisely these ends. Thirdly, we have made integration one of the three objectives of the National Citizen Service. In 2012 this will enable up to 30,000 16 year-olds from different backgrounds to meet each other, to break down the misconceptions that put up barriers between them and to get on together.

As I have said, intolerance and extremism are a threat to integration and to initiatives that support it, such as those I have described. Therefore we must challenge extremism in all its forms, both violent and non-violent, and whether manifested through propaganda, public disorder or incitement to hatred and violence.

If extremists break the law they will feel the force of the law, but even if they keep within the law we shall not stand by. Extremists will be challenged if they use public spaces to promote their ideology and if they publish offensive material on the internet members of the public will be able to ask the police to investigate.

Integration and the Prevent strategy are not the same thing. They are linked but distinct. In the past the distinction between them became blurred and that is partly why the Government initiated a review of the Prevent strategy late last year. The review found that the old Prevent strategy was too far-reaching. It confused counter-terrorism with social cohesion and "securitised" social policy. It was in danger of stigmatising Muslims-a point made by various noble Lords-and reinforced a misperception that all Muslims could be extremists. It created division between Muslims and other communities. It was unfocussed and wasteful of resources. It was concerned only with Islamist terrorism and not other forms. It generated allegations of being a cover for spying on communities. It treated some extremists as allies rather than as part of the problem. It was unable to show that it was effective in preventing terrorism.

The new strategy published in June this year deals with these shortcomings by reaffirming Prevent's place within CONTEST, as part of the United Kingdom's counter-terrorism strategy. In common with the rest of CONTEST, Prevent now deals with all forms of terrorism and extremism, whether violent or non-violent, that contribute to support for terrorism. This includes extreme right-wing and Northern Ireland-related as well as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism. At the same time, the Department for Communities and Local Government has taken responsibility for integration and non-terrorist related extremism.

These changes mean that Prevent should no longer be seen as "securitising" integration. Rather than ranging far and wide, as it did previously, it is now more tightly focused, proportionate and prioritised. It is a national programme concentrated on certain localities and sectors, concerned with extremism conducive to terrorism, including non-violent forms as well as terrorism itself, is based on allocation of resources according to risk and will use law enforcement, regulation, civil challenge and support as appropriate.

I will conclude, as my Whip is beginning to kick my legs to indicate that time is running out. Although they are linked, we make it quite clear that integration and prevention of terrorism must not be conflated. With the new Prevent strategy the Government have taken decisive action to ensure that they are not. Prevent is now able to concentrate on what it is supposed to do, to stop people from becoming or supporting terrorists, while the Department for Communities and Local Government is enabled to get on with creating the conditions in which integration can grow and extremism can be challenged and reduced.