Islam: Tenets - Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:22 pm on 7th December 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 7:22 pm, 7th December 2017

I am saying to the noble Lord that people in this country abide by British law. It is as simple as that. Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. I think I made it very clear that we do not prevent people from regulating their lives through religious belief—for example, in the sense that a Catholic might. I hope I have made that point clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched on what the Government are doing to tackle Islamist terrorism. We are absolutely committed to tackling it, and our strategy is firmly based on strengthening our partnership with communities, civil society groups and faith organisations across the United Kingdom. As the noble Lord said, the most effective way to counter the poisonous narratives of terrorists and extremists is to give the community the capacity to resist those narratives.

In the small amount of time I have, I will touch on the various questions that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, posed. The first was on Prevent, and its outcomes rather than its aims. We have undertaken 169 community-based projects, delivered in 2016-17, reaching more than 53,000 participants; 44% of those were delivered in schools and were aimed at increasing young people’s resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies.

Around one-third of the people who are supported by Channel are linked to far-right extremism; it is very important that the noble Lord brought up that point. He asked why so few Prevent referrals become Channel cases. As I have said, one-third of the people supported by Channel are linked to far-right extremism, and the Channel process is provided only to those who genuinely need it. About 14%, and he might think that figure is low, were discussed at Channel panels in 2015-16. A further 50% of the referrals, over 3,700 people, were referred on by the assessment process to other support services. Without that rigorous assessment, the vulnerabilities that many of these individuals might have might go unsupported. Around 36% of referrals require no further action, and that is broadly similar to those found in other safeguarding mechanisms. For example, out of the 621,000 children referred to social services in 2015, 35% required no action either before or after assessment.

The noble Lord questions whether Prevent is working. We believe it is. Apart from the statistics that I have just given him, since February 2010 300,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material have been removed from the internet. The Prevent statutory duty has prompted a significant step change in the delivery of Prevent work in sectors. The number of front-line staff who have received training has increased significantly, with over 850,000 front-line staff, including NHS staff and teachers, trained in spotting signs of radicalisation, while since 2012 over 1,000 people have received support through Channel.

More than 150 attempted journeys to the Syria/Iraq conflict area were disrupted in 2015. This includes action by the family courts. The courts protected approximately 50 children from around 20 families from being taken to the conflict areas in 2015.

The noble Lord asked about the Anderson report. The Home Secretary has asked David Anderson to provide an independent stock-take of progress in a year’s time. However, as the noble Lord said, implementation is linked to resources. We will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing in 2018-19, and the Home Secretary is clear that we must ensure that counterterrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats that we face.

The noble Lord asked about providing more resources to MI5. The Government have actually increased funding for MI5. In the 2015 spending review a 30% uplift on counterterrorism spending was announced. This is equivalent to over £3 billion over the period to 2020. The additional funding was to meet the increased threat from Daesh and of marauding firearms attacks.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, asked me about the Muslim Brotherhood review. He is correct to say that a review was conducted. Having taken advice, Ministers decided against publishing the report for national security reasons, given the sources of some of the data in it. The UK has taken and will continue to take concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood very seriously. We have published a summary of the main findings of the report, and they support the conclusion that membership of, association with or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism.

We will keep under review what is promoted and activities undertaken by the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK in Arabic as well as in English. We will challenge extremists’ poisonous narratives, promote positive alternatives that steer vulnerable people to better ways to get on in life and continue to refuse visas to members and associates of the Muslim Brotherhood who are on record as having made extreme comments, where that will be conducive to the public good. In line with our existing policy guidelines and approach to extremism in all forms, we will seek to ensure that charities with links to the Muslim Brotherhood do not give support or finance to the Muslim Brotherhood instead of undertaking their lawful charitable purpose. We will strengthen liaison arrangements with international partners to ensure that allegations of illicit funding or other abuse of charities are robustly investigated and appropriate action taken. We will enforce the EU asset freeze on Hamas, and keep under review whether the views and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood meet the legal test for proscription.

I have gone over my time and missed out half my speech, but I think that I have addressed noble Lords’ points, which are important ones to address. I finish by thanking all noble Lords for taking part in the debate.

House adjourned at 7.35 pm.