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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Stunell Lord Stunell Liberal Democrat 6:00 pm, 12th November 2018

My Lords, I support the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, and I see it as being on behalf of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. That committee’s report set this out very clearly. For most of the last 45 years the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and I have been on the same side of the enterprises we were jointly engaged on, but on this occasion, not so much. I very much prefer the evidence provided to the Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, to that of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on this occasion. We have the evidence of concern and I personally, if challenged, cannot say that I have seen a project which was not successful or which was delivered with distorted priorities, but the debate in the Committee so far has been about much more than individual projects and how well an individual project does or does not deliver, just as a debate about education in this House is not about how one particular school does or does not deliver. It is about the quality of the product overall, and that is surely what this review should be aiming to assess.

I note that at Second Reading the Minister said in winding up that there was evidence that Prevent was working well, and she cited the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. At the same time, the Government’s Explanatory Note says that the specific changes in Amendment 19 will save police resources. Clearly, there is a need to save police resources, and therefore we had the discussion earlier about whether the amount of effort the police are putting in, capturing fish that are then thrown back into the sea, is the right strategy or tactic to follow. It is clearly appropriate to ask that question in relation to other referring agencies as well.

The fact is that at the moment we do not know the answer. Statistics will be part of the answer, but we also need to look at outcomes. What we have at the moment is not an annual evaluation but an annual tabulation, which is not very useful, in some ways. It is as though an Ofsted report were produced in which the only information was the attendance register, with no attempt to evaluate the curriculum or the attainment level. There is nothing so far available to the Committee or to policymakers about the choices, the content or the outcomes of the programme as a whole and I believe that there certainly should be. I entered the search term “Prevent strategy evaluation” into the GOV.UK website and it brought up two documents. The first was the annual statistical review, which as I pointed out is not actually doing that job, and the second and only other document was a Youth Justice Board report, Preventing Religious Radicalisation and Violent Extremism, published under the imprimatur of the DCLG back in 2010. There may be other evaluations—there may, indeed, be very useful reports drawn up by various other people—but the Government have not seen fit to reference them on the website and in that sense they have certainly failed the transparency test, even if stuff has been going on.

It might be worth while quoting a couple of paragraphs from that Youth Justice Board report of 2012:

“The review found that the evidence base for effective preventing violent extremism interventions is very limited. Despite a prolific output of research, few studies contained empirical data or systematic data analysis”.

Then, after some examination of overseas projects, and the tos and fros of that:

“These programmes provide some potential learning points for future UK programmes, chiefly around the need for those engaging with radicalised individuals to carry authority and legitimacy, and to be equipped with profound ideological knowledge”.

An immediate question arises as to whether, in the subsequent six years, that paragraph’s lessons have been carried through, making sure that those who are delivering the programme or, indeed, carrying out the filtering process that we have been discussing this afternoon are in fact,

“equipped with profound ideological knowledge”.

I have a sense that that may not be true in all cases, although no doubt it is in some.

When one starts a process which, as the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and at Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, very eloquently explained, arouses the concerns of the community that it is supposed to safeguard, and at the other end we see the inability of the Government to demonstrate that they are producing results at the far end of the project, the time for an independent review is clearly now.