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 Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench 5:30 pm, 12th November 2018

My Lords, with great respect to the noble Baroness who has just spoken, we should put the record straight about what happened in the London Assembly. Its report, Preventing Extremism in London, published in December 2015, at which time I was chairman of the London Policing Ethics Panel, was broadly very supportive of Prevent. I gave evidence to the panel, including to the noble Baroness, who was its deputy chairman at the time. I gave my opinions and the panel took evidence from various sources. The noble Baroness produced a dissenting report, which is to be found on page 38 of the document. It excoriated Prevent, but she was in a minority of one. Since then the new Mayor of London—new since 2015—has produced statements broadly very supportive of Prevent, albeit of course seeking to secure improvements.

My second point concerns something I raised when I interrupted the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I have been involved in many debates in which it has been said as a general proposition that Prevent is dangerous, that it is alienating communities and so on. If you say it often enough, people will start to believe it. But every single time I have challenged in such a setting, as I have this evening—I say this with great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—with the argument that Prevent programmes should be named so as to provide evidence for such criticism, evidence there is none.

I heard the reference to the Muslim Council of Britain; I respect it greatly, although not on this subject, I am afraid, where it generalises as badly as anyone else. If individual programmes in Prevent cause real concern, I urge those who have identified them to take their evidence to the Prevent group at the Home Office, which will deal with their concerns. The Home Office does not want to waste its precious money on Prevent programmes that prove not only unproductive but counterproductive. It is an absurdity to suggest that the Government, or anyone involved in this complicated field, wish to see money wasted in that way.

As somebody who has followed Prevent since it started—as was said, I wrote the review of the coalition Government’s policy on Prevent in 2010-11—I have been approached by people from government sources all over the world saying, “How do you do this? We wish to adopt this kind of policy”. Indeed, at one stage the United States placed in its embassy in London a very distinguished legal academic, Quintan Wiktorowicz, who worked with Waltham Forest London Borough Council in particular on its Prevent strategy. On a couple of occasions, I was present at discussions in Waltham Forest founded on the work done by Professor Wiktorowicz, who was placed in the London embassy to try to create a Prevent policy for the United States of America; he was sent there by the Obama Government. The reason he failed—if he will forgive my using that word—when he went back to America had nothing to do with what he found out in the UK; it was because of the extremely devolved nature of US government, which made it impossible to produce the sort of Prevent policy that exists in Great Britain.

I am not saying that Prevent is perfect, of course. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Those of us who spent our time buried in Prevent and going to see Prevent programmes all over the country—some of which were unbelievably successful—are always prepared to listen to criticism and lobby the Government to change some of the Prevent strategy. However, in this debate, as in many others, I have heard no evidence for that so far. We need to ensure that there is a proper review of Prevent. In my view, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation is perfectly capable of spending a few extra days, for which he or she will be paid, carrying out such a review. That would make it part of a holistic review process, which would certainly meet the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and most other noble Lords who have put their names to these amendments.