Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 17 December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench 5:15, 17 December 2018

My Lords, first, I draw the noble Lord’s attention to the existence of the Prevent oversight board, which last met a few days ago. It has not been meeting as often as it should, but I heard the Home Secretary personally giving an undertaking that it would meet again in six months’ time. The board was established during the coalition Government, and was accepted by the coalition Government, in response to the review that I conducted —on behalf of the coalition Government—of the Prevent strand of counterterrorism policy. Its purpose was to do exactly the sorts of things set out in this amendment, which I regard as unnecessary.

Secondly, the noble Lord referred, in what I suppose was an argumentum ad maiorem, to the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi. I note with regret that she is not here in her place; indeed, as I recall, she has not been in her place for any part of the Committee or Report stages of the Bill. I draw his attention to the fact that she is not a unifying force in dealing with extremism and Prevent. She has accused the excellent new counter- extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, of being,

“neither connected to, nor listened to, nor respected by, nor trusted by, nor considered independent by most British Muslims—so”,

the extremism commission,

“has no ability to influence and affect change in its ‘target audience’”,

despite Ms Khan’s efforts to deal with the problem of attaining a range for a definition of extremism. I say to the noble Baroness, who I now see approaching the Chamber for the first time in these Committee and Report debates, that I regret that she takes a somewhat monolithic view of Islam in this country, whereas Islam is—if I can use my Welsh experience from being a Member of the other place—as diverse as Christianity in Wales, which is about as diverse as it comes.

With great respect to the noble Lord, if he is to criticise Prevent then he should be specific about which of its programmes he is criticising. I have spent a great deal of time watching Prevent; going to programmes in its field, listening to those who conduct them and talking to people in the communities in which they operate. I have observed that Prevent is, on the whole, regarded pretty positively, as achieving a great deal. Above all, it achieves the deradicalisation of children who might otherwise spend most of their lives in prison if they were to fulfil the ideation which led them into Prevent.

I know that there are figures, which I accept completely, showing that many—even the majority—of those who are referred into Prevent are not, in the end, shown to be appropriate for its programmes. But what do the police do? They stop people in the street; they arrest them; they question them in an aggressive way; and they are often wrong in their suspicions. Finding the people who commit offences involves talking to an awful lot of other people. Prevent actually does achieve considerable success in finding those young people who are being radicalised, often in private, in their rooms, over the internet—a very difficult area in which to operate.

It is unfair to criticise Prevent in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, did. It has been suggested that it could be replaced by something else, but that would look awfully like Prevent, whatever you called it. If you called it “Cuddles” it would still receive exactly the criticisms which are made of it as Prevent. It would achieve nothing. If we abandoned Prevent, then terrorist acts which we have been able to avoid as a result of that policy would happen. I admit I played a part in it, so I may be somewhat biased towards it. Noble Lords have been talking about bias this afternoon and I accept the accusation of apparent bias as a possibility. However, I believe that Prevent has demonstrated that it has been successful, since it was adopted by the Government in which the noble Lord was a Minister. If it had not been, why did they not abandon it before 2015?