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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 6:00 pm, 17th December 2018

If the noble Lord will indulge me, I was about to explain how the Prevent programme is evolving and being scrutinised, including through Contest. Perhaps I may go back to the comments made by the Commissioner of the Met:

“There is an awful lot of very, very good work that has gone on under Prevent in relation to all forms of extremism, not forgetting extreme right-wing, which takes up a big part of it. There have been hundreds of people who have been turned away from violent extremism by their engagement with Channel and other aspects of Prevent, and that is all positive”.

Prevent is not about restricting debate or free speech, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, might suggest. On the contrary: as the Government have said previously, schools ought to be safe spaces in which children and young people can understand and discuss sensitive topics, including terrorism and extremist ideologies. An independent study of education professionals found that almost three-quarters of them believe that the Prevent duty has not stifled classroom discussions of extremism, intolerance and inequality.

Since it was launched in 2011, Prevent training has been completed more than 1.1 million times to enable front-line practitioners, including teachers, to recognise the signs of radicalisation so that they know what steps to take, including, where appropriate, how to make a referral to Channel. This has positively supported teachers in discussing the risks of radicalisation with those in their classes. To our knowledge, no event or speaker has ever been cancelled or banned as a result of the Prevent duty. It is about upskilling individuals, not curtailing them. The Government believe that it is imperative that young people learn how to challenge dangerous beliefs which are all too easily accessible online. Since February 2010, some 300,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material have been removed from the internet.

In addition to the examples of increased transparency that I outlined in Committee, which included the annual publication of Prevent and Channel data and increasing the number and geographical reach of community round tables, there is increased cross-party engagement, led by the security Minister. Also, as mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on 28 November the Home Secretary chaired the latest meeting of the Prevent oversight board, which brings together other Secretaries of State, operational partners and independent members to review delivery and to provide the strategic challenge noble Lords have talked about. I therefore understand the concerns of noble Lords.