Home Secretary delivers an update on Prevent – 7 September 2023

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The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, made a statement to the House of Commons updating on delivery of the recommendations by the Independent Review of Prevent.

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the Prevent programme.

The terrorist threat to the UK is unrelenting and evolving, and as I noted earlier this year announcing our refresh of CONTEST, it is rising.

To combat this, the tools to counter-terrorism must evolve.

CONTEST, our counter-terrorism strategy, has 4 pillars: prevent, pursue, protect, and prepare.

Prevent aims to stop people becoming involved in terrorism by tackling radicalising ideologies at their root.

It is an early intervention programme that relies on frontline public services across society – including healthcare, education, local authorities, the police, and civil society.

I am delivering wide-ranging reforms, following the reappraisal of its effectiveness by the Independent Reviewer of Prevent, Sir William Shawcross.

Prevent needs to better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them.

Ideology is the lens through which terrorists see the world.

Our agencies work closely with leading experts, practitioners, and former extremists. They all say that ideology is pivotal.

Terrorism is fundamentally an attack on our ideas and freedoms.

We must attack the threat at its source and disrupt those who seed and spread extremist ideology.

Non-violent extremism can certainly lead to violence, but it’s a problem even where it does not.

It undermines our values and divides communities by diluting our sense of shared belonging.

That is why I’ve been so disturbed by the sorts of incidents we’ve seen recently in Batley, Wakefield, and elsewhere.

We do not have blasphemy laws in Great Britain.

And we must never succumb to their de facto imposition by a mob.

Individuals under the Prevent duty must challenge those who enable ‘permissive environments’ for radicalisation – where grievances, identity politics and disinformation are used to whip up fear and division.

Six months on from the publication of the Independent Review of Prevent, I am pleased to report significant progress to the House.

We are on track to deliver our commitment to implement each of the independent review’s recommendations in full. So far, working closely with the Security Minister, we have completed 10 out of 34 recommendations, and 68 of the 120 tasks.

I expect to have implemented at least 29 of the 34 recommendations a year on from the review’s publication, and the rest shortly thereafter.

Today I am publishing the first major revision of the Prevent duty guidance since its introduction in 2015. Subject to the approval of Parliament it will come into force on the 31st of December this year.

The guidance is the key text underpinning how Prevent is delivered by the range of partners most central to its success. The changes reflect the spirit and detail of Sir William’s recommendations.

I accepted the IRP’s recommendation to reset thresholds to ensure proportionality across all extremist ideologies.

RICU, the Research Information and Communications Unit, which produces analytical and analysis products on behalf of the Home Office, was identified by Sir William as a concern. In the past, RICU had failed to draw clear distinctions between mainstream conservative commentary and the extreme right.

People like my Rt Hon Friend the Member for North East Somerset and Douglas Murray express mainstream, insightful and perfectly decent political views. People may disagree with them, but in no way are they extremists.

Prevent must not risk any perception of disparaging them as such again.

From now on, all RICU products which report on extremist trends and in future themes will clearly state the purpose of such reporting and be proportionate.

Our new Prevent duty training, available on GOV.UK, will highlight the importance of ideology and enhance understanding of the drivers of Islamist and extreme rightwing terrorism.

We will pilot and roll out new face-to-face training alongside this new guidance so that organisations across the sector have the appropriate skills to spot genuine radicalisation.

And a new security threat check ensures that strategic decision-making related to Prevent is informed by the current threat landscape, local threats, and that activity is directed accordingly.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the independent review recommended great care over terminology.

The term ‘susceptibility to radicalisation’ should be used where appropriate – and ‘vulnerability’ only where necessary.

Many people who embrace extremism are affected by a range of complicating factors in their lives, but there is almost always an element of personal decision-making in the choices they make.

They must not be absolved of responsibility when they choose this path.

I have also strengthened the operational delivery of Prevent, by switching to a regional delivery model that provides support for all local authorities across England and Wales.

The top 20 areas in England and Wales with the highest risk ratings will receive multi-year funding.

And I have also provided Home Office Prevent expertise to Scotland.

It is vital that Prevent does nothing actively to undermine its mission, such as by supporting groups which work against the freedom and values that we stand for.

Due diligence checks on partners delivering Prevent in local communities have been strengthened, following input from the Commission for Countering Extremism and the Department for Levelling Up.

Prevent, and public authorities like the police, should not fund or work with those who legitimise extremism, such as CAGE or MEND.

That is completely at odds with Prevent objectives.

Extremist and anti-Prevent groups have waged mendacious and malicious campaigns to try and discredit Prevent as anti-Muslim to undermine its work.

Through the work of a new specialist unit rapid rebuttal unit, we are now working to rapidly rebut and counter inaccurate information about Prevent when it appears.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the independent review found that Prevent had not taken antisemitism seriously enough.

Specialist intervention providers have now been recruited to better address the prevalence of antisemitism within those referred to Prevent.

They will work directly with those susceptible to radicalisation to deconstruct their extremist mindset and tackle it head on.

This approach is complemented by new research allowing Prevent to explain the pernicious and often subtle indicators of antisemitism.

Like any public service, Prevent needs independent oversight, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I expect the new Standards and Compliance Unit to be operational and publicised online in early 2024. It will process complaints from both the public and practitioners and take instruction from ministers to conduct investigations and publish findings.

The unit will be delivered by the Commission for Countering Extremism, and be answerable to ministers on the Prevent oversight board, chaired by my Rt Hon Friend the Security Minister.

Madam Deputy Speaker, extremists of whatever disposition, be they neo-Nazis or Islamists, must know that in our fight against them, we will never be hampered by doubt or cowed by fear.

Ensuring that Prevent is fit for purpose is critical to delivering that message, and to winning that fight.

I commend this statement to the House.

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