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Prevent review

The Prevent programme, part of UK Government counter-terrorism, for stopping radicalisation, is to be reviewed. That came from the Home Office security minister ben Wallace before the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2017-19 passed Parliament. It’s now awaiting Royal Assent.

During the final considering in the House of Commons of amendments to the Bill from the Lords, Ben Wallace suggested it was ‘simply a question of good governance’ to review regularly whether policies and programmes such Prevent are working as intended, and are as effective as they can be. “Essentially, that is the purpose of the post-legislative reviews that have now been in place for some years. The review of part 5 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which provides the legislative foundation for the Prevent programme, is in any event due to take place early in 2020, just 12 months away. Given that, I have decided that the time is now right to initiate a review of Prevent. Communities across the country are behind the policy and are contributing to it because, like us, they want to protect their young people from being groomed and exploited by extremists.”

After the debate, for Labour, Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Minister for Security, said: “Prevent is supposed to keep our people safe, yet it isn’t working. While nobody can question the commitment of those who work to try and deliver the policy on the frontline since it became statutory duty – we know from ground-level reports, Prevent is causing a massive strain and rift with key stakeholders and is often dubbed draconian.

“This review is surely an acceptance that many have lost faith in Prevent: various communities, academics and senior officials have all criticised the government for its poor implementation of the strategy.

“The aims of safeguarding, gathering information, and community cohesion have not always sat easily together. Nor can we expect local services, continually cut back by Tory austerity, to deliver the welfare community facilities we need without appropriate funding. It is now crucial that this review is wide-ranging and robust.”

During, Ben Wallace replied to Labour with the point that Prevent began under Labour. He described the programme as not perfect. It’s only for volunteers and not everyone responds: “It has diverted hundreds of people, both on the right and Islamist extremists, from the Channel programme back into the mainstream.”

He made the point that half the ‘Channel’ cases (in the official jargon, the ‘multi-agency approach to identify and provide support to individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism’) involve the far right. “The work that has been done over the last two years clearly shows that Prevent is not about a particular group or ideology, but is similar to other forms of safeguarding that are carried out every day by our social workers, teachers and police.” He denied Prevent is ‘a mass spying operation’; pointing to 7,000 Prevent referrals compared with 621,000 for safeguarding, child abuse and domestic abuse.

As for the online part of extremism, Wallace called it ‘incredibly frustrating’ to proscribe a far-right organisation ‘only to find that its ​hateful website or its allies are spouting rubbish and bigotry from, for example, the United States’. He described the internet as the ‘method of delivery of grievance and grooming’.


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