Theresa May rejuvenates the Prevent element of the CONTEST Strategy

“Osama bin Laden may be dead, but the threat from al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism is not. Indeed, the threat level from international terrorism remains at “Severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely. That threat comes both from foreign nationals and from terrorists born and bred in Britain” said the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Theresa May, whilst making a statement on the review of the Government’s strategy to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, in parliament yesterday, writes Editor, Bobby Logue.

Theresa May then went on to say that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, made clear in his speech in Munich earlier this year that those who break the law must be arrested and prosecuted and in addition those who are drawn into terrorist-related activity should be stopped. This required a new approach to integrating this country’s divided communities, led by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and delivered by Ministers across the whole of Government. In counter-terrorism policy, an effective strategy to tackle radicalisation in this country and overseas is required. “That is why, last year, I launched a review of the existing counter-radicalisation strategy known as Prevent. That review found that the Prevent programme that we inherited from the previous Government was flawed. It confused Government policy to promote integration with Government policy to prevent terrorism. It failed to tackle the extremist ideology that not only undermines the cohesion of our society, but inspires would-be terrorists to seek to bring death and destruction to our towns and cities. In trying to reach out to those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes even reached the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting. We will not make the same mistakes.” Continued Theresa May.

The Government’s  new strategy will be guided by some key principles. The Prevent element of the UK  counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, which is being updated later this year, will remain as an integral part of this strategy.  Theresa May went on to drill down on the Prevent element: “Its aim should be to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Prevent should address all forms of terrorism, including the extreme right wing. That is only right and proper and will also provide a more flexible basis to adapt to emerging threats in the future. In a world of scarce resources, it is clear that Prevent work must be targeted against those forms of terrorism that pose the greatest risk to our national security. Currently, the greatest threat comes from al-Qaeda and those it inspires. The majority of Prevent resources and efforts will therefore be devoted to stopping people joining or supporting al-Qaeda, its affiliates or like-minded groups. But Prevent must also recognise and tackle the insidious impact of non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views that terrorists exploit.

“Prevent depends on a successful integration strategy, but integration alone will not meet our counter-terrorism objectives, and our integration programme should go much wider than just security and counter-terrorism. This was a fundamental failing of the last Government’s approach. They failed to promote integration, and where they did promote it, they did so through the narrow prism of counter-terrorism. So we will do more than any Government before us to promote integration, including through teaching our history and values in our schools, through the national citizen service, and through other policies, but we will do so separately and differently from Prevent. The combined effect of this work and of the new Prevent strategy will be an unyielding fight against extremism, violent extremism and radicalisation.

“It is critical that agencies, Departments and local authorities work to a common set of Prevent objectives to deliver the outcomes that we want. Public funding for Prevent must be rigorously prioritised and comprehensively audited. The previous Government were far too lax in spending in this area, as they were in so many others. Let me reiterate that under this Government, public money will not be provided to extremist organisations. If organisations do not support the values of democracy, human rights, equality before the law, participation in society—if they do not accept these fundamental and universal values—we will not work with them and we will not fund them.

“Within this overall framework, the new Prevent strategy will have three objectives. First, Prevent will respond to the ideological challenge and the threat from those who promote it. As the Deputy Prime Minister said in his speech in Luton, we must be much more assertive about our values. Let me be clear: the ideology of extremism and terrorism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not. Tackling that ideology will mean working with mainstream individuals and organisations to make sure moderate voices are heard. It will mean robustly defending our institutions and our way of life. So where propagandists break the law in encouraging or approving terrorism, it will mean arrest and prosecution, and where people seek to enter this country from overseas to engage in activity in support of extremist or terrorist groups, we will exclude them. Since coming to power, I have already excluded 44 individuals from the UK either because of unacceptable behaviour or for national security reasons.

“Secondly, Prevent will stop individuals being drawn into terrorism and will ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support. Radicalisation is a process, not a one-off event. During that process it is possible to intervene to stop vulnerable people gravitating towards terrorism. We will do this by building on the successful multi-agency “Channel” programme, which identifies and provides support for people at risk of radicalisation. I want to use this opportunity to make one thing clear—Prevent is not about spying on communities, as some have alleged. It is about acting on information from the police, the security and intelligence agencies, local authorities and community organisations to help those specifically at risk of turning towards terrorism. It is incumbent on everyone in this country to play their part in helping them do so.

“Thirdly, we will work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation. It is right to acknowledge that progress has been made in this area, but that progress has been patchy and it must be improved. So we will work with education and health care providers, universities, faith groups, charities, prisons and the wider criminal justice system. We will also work to tackle the particular challenge of radicalisation on the internet, and to make better use ourselves of social media and other modern communications technologies.”

The review was independently overseen by Lord Carlile of Berriew, who has said “it provides a template for challenging the extremist ideas and terrorist actions which seek to undermine the rule of law and fundamental British political values and institutions. Its tone is clear, and its policy compelling. It offers a positive message for mutual respect, tolerance and liberty.”

Theresa May commented that Prevent has not been without controversy and it has been falsely accused that it was a cover for spying. Prevent was also muddled up with integration and operated to confused and contradictory objectives, including funding finding its way into extremist organisations that were  a threat to the society and the security of the UK. Theresa May said this would not happen under the current Government.

Commending her statement to the House, Theresa May concluded; “Let me be clear. We will not fund or work with organisations that do not subscribe to the core values of our society. Our new Prevent strategy will challenge the extremist ideology, it will help protect sectors and institutions from extremists, and it will stop the radicalisation of vulnerable people. Above all, it will tackle the threat from home-grown terrorism.”

Home Office CONTEST website