Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 5:30 pm, 12th November 2018

My Lords, I cannot cite schemes but I do not think that undermines my argument because Prevent is wider than individual schemes. As it happens, I agree with the noble Lord on his first point. My amendment does not propose a separate independent reviewer and I have noticed some frustration among past reviewers at their having to be somewhat at arm’s length, or slightly detached, from Prevent because it does not fall within their terms of reference. Perhaps I may say that I hope an appointment is made soon so that there is not too much of a gap in the process.

Where was I? I quoted the noble Lord and I think he still supports the proposition. I have mentioned the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, about the lack of transparency and we have just debated an amendment on that. Whether it is on individual schemes or as a result of demonisation—if that happens, that is a problem too—there is clearly mistrust of the regime; perhaps I can put it as widely as that. On sensitive issues such as this, in my view, perceptions are fundamentally important.

In evidence to the Joint Committee, the Muslim Council of Britain—I am choosing to quote the council only because it is a convenient quotation; I know it has its fans and its critics—referred to,

“an undermining of trust and human rights and civil liberties in Muslim communities. The resulting self-censorship”— something I have heard about from others as well—

“the lack of transparency and expansion of ‘Prevent’ risk being a threat to cohesive societies that can effectively respond to terrorism”.

In oral evidence to the committee, Liberty said:

“The Government have ignored calls”— for an independent review—

“and seek to extend and reinforce the Prevent strategy without looking back at questions like what its interaction is with other legal duties in the criminal law … How is personal information being dealt with in the Prevent programme?”.

Keeping the strategy under review internally, to anticipate what we may hear from the Dispatch Box, or by anyone seen to be close to the programme, is not enough. It needs to be someone who is accepted as being independent. A challenge—that does not mean opposition—to the Government on this is important. We need to know what is working and what is not working. Who knows? The Government could gain a great deal of credit not just from the process of review but from its outcome. However, we do not have the review to reassure us. I beg to move.