On 17th & 20th September 2018 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received written answers from Government to three questions on countering extremism policy:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:
(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the joint statement published by Prevent Watch on 27 July about the Commission for Countering Extremism’s “evidence drive”; and how they intend to respond to the concerns raised in the statement.
(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what weight will be given to academic evidence reviewed as part of the Commission for Countering Extremism’s evidence drive compared to evidence from other sources.
(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will conduct an independent review of how the Prevent programme is currently operating before placing any additional responsibilities on local authorities as recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report, Counter-Extremism, published on 20 July 2016 (HL Paper 39), and since; and if not, why not.
(i) & (ii) Baroness Williams of Trafford: The Government has made no assessment of the statement by Prevent Watch and has no plans to.
The Government’s 2015 Counter-Extremism Strategy sets out its commitment to protect communities from the wider social harms, beyond terrorism, caused by extremism. Extremists use their twisted narratives to justify hatred and division, spread intolerance, isolate communities and erode the rights of women and minorities. If left unchallenged these narratives fragment and divide our communities.
The Government launched the independent Commission for Countering Extremism in March 2018 alongside a Charter setting out the Commission’s purpose and early outputs. The Charter confirms both that the Commission will have no remit on counter-terrorism policies, including Prevent, and its status as a transparent organisation operating independently from Government.
The Commission’s weighting of the evidence it has gathered is a matter for the Commission.
(iii) Baroness Williams of Trafford: The Government’s work to counter extremism is distinct from, but complementary to, its work to counter terrorism, which includes work that aims to prevent people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
Prevent is implemented in a proportionate manner that takes into account the level of risk in any given area or institution. The Prevent programme is continually reviewed and updated to reflect the current threat level and it has taken account of other recent reviews, both internal and independent, across the breadth of our counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST.
As committed to in CONTEST we will increase the transparency of Prevent delivery and open it to public scrutiny. For example, last November, we published data on Prevent and Channel referrals for the first time to increase transparency of the programme, and we published further data on Prevent and Channel this March. We will continue to publish data on an annual
We do not believe that an independent review of Prevent is necessary.