Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

– in the House of Commons am 3:14 pm ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 3:14, 22 Mai 2024

I beg to move,

That the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Revised Guidance) Regulations 2024, which were laid before this House on 7 May, be approved.

This instrument, which was laid before Parliament on 7 May 2024, relates to Prevent in Scotland. After the approval of both Chambers last year, the Prevent duty guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales came into effect on 31 December 2023.

As many Members will know, Prevent is one of the pillars of the Contest strategy, the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy which has been replicated around the world. The aim of Prevent is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It also extends to supporting the rehabilitation and disengagement of those already involved in terrorism. Put simply, Prevent is an early intervention programme to help keep all of us safe. To do so effectively, it requires frontline sectors across society, including education, healthcare, local authorities, criminal justice agencies and the police, to support this mission.

That is why we have the Prevent duty set out in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. It sits alongside long-established duties on professionals to protect people from a range of other harms, such as involvement in gangs or physical and sexual exploitation. The Prevent duty helps to ensure people susceptible to radicalisation are offered timely interventions before it is too late.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Ceidwadwyr, South Holland and The Deepings

My right hon. Friend will know that I was the security Minister who introduced the Prevent duty he has just set out, the first time there was a legislative requirement on the organisations he described to participate in that programme. He will also know there has been a review of Prevent by Mr Shawcross and that that has made some useful suggestions about how it can be refined. My right hon. Friend may well speak about that in his speech, but I would like him to focus particularly on how that affects the Prevent duty.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Perhaps the best way for me to start this response is by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend, who was instrumental in ensuring we got the Contest strategy through and in holding the Department to account to make sure that it not only delivered when it began but that it continued to deliver. It is a hugely important part of our protection and I will indeed be coming on to Sir William’s work. It is worth saying that Sir William is a fantastic public servant who has done brilliant work for our country in many ways, and his recent review was one of those many areas in which he has contributed. It is a great pleasure for me to be able to put on record my tribute and thanks to him for all his work.

As I have said, the Prevent duty helps ensure people who are susceptible to radicalisation are offered timely interventions before it is too late. None of this is easy because, as there is no single track to a person being radicalised, there are many factors which can, either alone or combined, lead to someone subscribing to an extremist ideology, which in some cases can lead to terrorism. These factors often include exposure to radicalising influences, real and perceived grievances, and an individual’s own susceptibility. The Prevent duty guidance exists to help those working in frontline sectors to navigate these challenging situations. The 2015 Act requires specified authorities to have regard to this guidance.

It is challenging but we must always strive for excellence. The Government are committed to ensuring that Prevent is effective. The report of the independent review of Prevent—the IRP—was published on 8 February 2023 and set out Sir William Shawcross’s 34 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Government in response. Last year, we implemented the Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales, responding to several of Sir William’s recommendations. The updated guidance for Scotland, which is the subject of this statutory instrument, was issued on 7 May, and it will ensure that Scotland too can benefit from updated guidance and best practice. The Home Office worked quickly with the Scottish Government to ensure that the updated Prevent duty guidance for Scotland is closely tailored to the Scottish context.

It is worth saying that all parts of the United Kingdom face slightly different challenges on Prevent, because different political views and ideologies affect different communities in all parts of the United Kingdom, and that is as true of Scotland as it is of anywhere else. The guidance has updated Prevent’s objectives to make it clear that Prevent should tackle the ideological causes of terrorism. It sets out requirements more clearly, articulating the need for high-quality training so that risk can be identified and managed. It provides an updated threat picture, and gives details of the strategic security threat check, which helps Prevent recognise and respond to the greatest threats. This will ensure that Prevent is well-equipped to counter the threats we face and the ideologies underpinning them.

As well as responding to the independent review of Prevent’s recommendations, the guidance reflects current best practice. It supports and exemplifies the excellent work that we know takes place across the country to keep us safe and help prevent people from becoming terrorists or from supporting terrorism. The guidance will assist specified authorities in Scotland to understand how best to comply with the duty. It includes details of the capabilities they should have to be able to identify and manage risk. It also advises on how they can help create an environment where the ideologies that are used to radicalise people into terrorism are challenged, not permitted to flourish.

People with responsibilities relevant to the delivery of Prevent were consulted on the guidance. A range of key Scottish governmental partners were engaged throughout the development of the updated guidance, and their feedback has been positive. The Government have been working closely with these partners to roll out the guidance and support its implementation. Subject to the approval of this House, this statutory instrument will bring the new guidance into effect on 19 August, replacing the 2015 guidance. It will strengthen the Prevent system and help to keep us all safe, which is why I commend it to the House.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 3:22, 22 Mai 2024

I thank the Minister for his remarks. It is always good to see him in his place. At the outset, I want to put on record that we on the Opposition Benches believe national security—the defence of our homeland—is an issue that as much as possible should rise above the political fray and unite us in common cause.

Given that this statutory instrument relates to Scotland, I think it is right that we take the opportunity to pay tribute to the extraordinary Scottish men and women serving in government, our intelligence services, our police and our armed forces who work tirelessly from Land’s End to John O’Groats to keep Scotland and all of the United Kingdom safe. These men and women protecting our country must of course work within legislative frameworks. Today, we are debating the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Revised Guidance) Regulations 2024 in the Chamber, some seven months, as the Minister said, after we debated a fairly similar statutory instrument to update the Prevent duty guidance in England and Wales.

Before I turn to the details of the statutory instrument before the House on the updated Scottish Prevent duty guidance, I want—with your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker—to very briefly put on record my great affection for Scotland. Home to beautiful highland countryside from Glen Affric to Glen Urquhart, breathtaking coastline from the Mull of Galloway right the way round to St Abb’s Head, and bustling cities on the Clyde, the Forth, the Dee and the Tay, Scotland is a truly special place. Add to that the fact that Scottish people are some of the most warm-hearted and generous people anyone could wish to meet, and I am so proud that Scotland stands shoulder to shoulder with the rest of our United Kingdom to counter the threats of an increasingly more volatile and polarised world.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Ceidwadwyr, South Holland and The Deepings

I am slightly hesitant about interrupting this eulogy to all things Scots, but has the hon. Gentleman noted that a Scot has just taken the Chair?

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

I had made that observation, and that in part gave me the confidence to continue going perhaps longer than otherwise might have been the case. I sense, given the beady eye you have on me, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I should probably—

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

Madam Deputy Speaker says it is fine to keep saying nice things about Scotland, but I am slightly conscious that the Minister may have somewhere to go in the not-too-distant future. I do not want to detain him for too much longer, given that there is apparently quite an important meeting taking place at 14.15—

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

At 16.15—the Minister has admitted it—but although I would like the opportunity to spend even longer talking about what a fantastic place Scotland is, I should probably begin to turn to the substance of these matters. I do so by saying that we on the Opposition Benches support the update to the Scottish Prevent duty guidance, although there are some questions about how it sits within broader efforts to counter extremism and terrorism, which I will come to in a moment.

Regardless of where in the UK extremism rears its ugly head, it is fuelled by fear and hate, and stoked by malign individuals whose motives are abhorrent to the vast majority of decent people in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. We have felt the devastation that extremism can cause through terrorist attacks around the world and in our country. With every act of terror, there was a path starting with radicalisation and ending with lives lost and lives changed forever.

At this point, I want to take the opportunity, and I am sure the Minister will join me in doing so, of paying tribute to Figen Murray. She is the mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, and she is a campaigner for Martyn’s law. Just today, she has completed her walk down from Manchester to London to meet the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The dignity and tenacity shown by Figen reminds us all of the painful legacies left by terrorism that are faced by too many people in our country.

That is why Prevent practitioners in Scotland and across the UK need confidence and clarity in Prevent duty guidance, as this guidance should ensure that the right interventions are taking place at the right time to detect, disrupt and defeat extremism wherever it presents itself. These interventions save lives, and we should not understate the crucial role played by Prevent practitioners. We therefore welcome changes in the guidance to improve the quality of Prevent referrals to multi-agency panels in Scotland by giving clearer advice on how to understand and manage risk, including through training and risk assessments and reducing permissive environments as a key theme to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism and broader radicalising influences. These are important steps, as there can never be any excuse for extremist violence anywhere on Britain’s streets or the glorification of any violence linked to any ideological cause. As the extremist threat landscape continues to shift across the UK, there must be full confidence in Prevent’s work in Scotland.

I would be grateful if the Minister could answer the following questions. First, since we debated the Prevent duty guidance regulations for England and Wales, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published the UK Government’s new definition of extremism—an update from their 2011 definition that the Scottish Government did not adopt. Can the Minister outline what discussions he has had with colleagues in the Scottish Government about adopting the new definition? To what extent can he say whether it was discussed as part of a wider discussion on community cohesion at the inter-ministerial standing committee meeting on 12 March?

Secondly, and still touching on the intergovernmental work, Sir William Shawcross stated in his review his concern about the lack of oversight and support for Prevent delivery in the Scottish education sector. He recommended that the Scottish Government restructure Prevent in line with the wider UK model. Although guidance for higher education institutions in Scotland was published alongside the updated Scottish Prevent duty guidance, it would be helpful if the Minister could explain what feedback was received from the Scottish education sector ahead of publication. What will the next steps be with the Scottish Government regarding Prevent and the Scottish education sector? Furthermore, Sir William said in February this year that Ministers had ignored some of his key recommendations. Has the Minister discussed those concerns with Sir William?

Thirdly, in his review, Sir William challenged the perceived extremist threat landscape in Scotland as identified by Scottish officials and recommended that more frequent assessments be made to enhance understanding among practitioners and officials alike. It was not clear in the UK Government’s response to this recommendation that they would work with the Scottish Government and Police Scotland on increasing the frequency. Can the Minister outline what is being done to improve this vital intelligence-gathering work in Scotland?

To conclude, the Opposition will work constructively with the Government as much as possible on these important matters, and I know that the Minister will take my points and questions in that spirit. All of us on the Opposition Benches want to ensure that the Scottish public and the wider UK are spared the terrors of extremism and shielded from the depravity of terrorist violence. We will work closely with the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that they succeed in that vital task.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:31, 22 Mai 2024

I thank the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson, Dan Jarvis, for his kind words about Scotland. I was rather worried, given the lengths he was going to, that I might not get back to Scotland this evening.

In responding to this statutory instrument today, I very much welcome the engagement that the Home Office has had with the Scottish Government and partners and organisations in Scotland. We have been able to tailor Prevent to the Scottish context, and it is important that we do so, because some of the threats we face are not quite the same, as has been acknowledged.

I will also take this opportunity to thank Figen Murray for all the work and advocacy she has done following the Manchester Arena bombing. I ask the Minister for any update he can give on the status of the proposed legislation. We would all like to know what exactly the Government are planning for that. In that light, I also pay tribute to Eilidh MacLeod from Barra, who also lost her life in that bombing, and remark on the wonderful work that the trust in her memory does to develop youth music as a lovely legacy from something so terrible.

The Scottish Government have tailored Prevent to emphasise early intervention, safeguarding and preventing people from becoming alienated or isolated, with the aim of reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to toxic extremist narratives. According to the review, “Understanding extremism in Scotland”—those research findings were published in July last year—stakeholders, public sector practitioners and members of the public often found it difficult to articulate a precise definition of the concept of extremism when asked. Extremism is often depicted as views or behaviours in opposition to societal and cultural norms, values and morals. The use of advocacy of violence to promote a viewpoint or in pursuit of a particular aim is also a common feature of the definitions found in that research.

Broadly, in that research, public sector practitioners felt that because there are smaller ethnic minority populations in Scotland, as compared with England, the response is slightly different. People may feel less marginalised in Scotland, less susceptible to some of those messages and less vulnerable to radicalisation.

It would be negligent of me not to mention the wider concerns about Prevent. A few months ago I met Amnesty, which has concerns about Prevent and has produced a report. It was worried by some of the extreme examples where Prevent had gone horribly wrong and people had ended up stigmatised. People with neurodiversity or learning disabilities have sometimes been caught up in Prevent, for example. What safeguards are the Government putting in place to prevent the awful things that have happened to people, and the impact that can have on their day-to-day lives? People who are no threat should not end up in Prevent because of a misunderstanding by someone who has the right to report them.

Let me reflect on my wider concerns about the Walney report and some of the comments of the Levelling Up Secretary earlier this year. Some in the community felt that they were being stigmatised undeservedly. I worry that their involvement in groups may push them towards radicalisation and Prevent when they should not be. We should try to draw people away from being stigmatised. I repeat what I said earlier—we should think about the far right in our definition of extremism, because it is a serious worry for me and many others. We should also be concerned about extreme British nationalism. Many of the people who come after me on social media have Union flags in their profiles. They are not any other kind of extremist but definitely British nationalists who come at me because I believe in independence for my country. Those people should be acknowledged in the report.

I encourage the Minister to go further on misogyny and incel extremism, because that is a clear and definite threat to women. Our young people are at severe risk of radicalisation, and are already being radicalised. As the mother of a teenage boy, I am deeply worried by the kinds of things that teenage boys see on their social media feeds. Will the Minister to do more about that within the Prevent strategy?

The Scottish Government will continue to work with the UK Government on Prevent, developing the necessary guidelines, co-operating with anti-terror police and tackling extremist violent threats wherever they reside. The numbers of people referred to Prevent in Scotland have been small. I do not want the number of reports to increase greatly, because that would cause wider concerns about where we are going as a society. I urge caution and the need for community cohesion, because that is the very best defence against people being drawn into extremism—if the community stands around them and they do not feel isolated and excluded but part of something, rather than feeling marginalised and driven apart.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 3:37, 22 Mai 2024

Let me start with some of the points that Alison Thewliss made. I want to make it absolutely clear that incel violence is a form of extremism that draws on an ideology based on the hatred of women. It is completely unacceptable and, sadly, it has led to terrorism not just here but in other parts. It is utterly vile, and it is as serious and pernicious as any other form of terrorism or extremism. It is not quite as prevalent as some other forms—that is to be welcomed—but it can be kept down only if, as she said, we include people in our community and cut off the routes to hatred before they emerge and become passages.

Dan Jarvis, as usual, has approached this in a calm and professional manner. It has been a pleasure to work with him on this, as it has been in many other areas. It has been an absolute joy to work with Figen Murray on another area. She has been a remarkable advocate for individuals across our country who have been victims of terror. Seven years ago, almost to the day, she lost her son Martyn. I know we all pay enormous tribute to her for the dignity and professionalism with which she has approached her campaign—one that has led to an awful lot of support, including from the Prime Minister and others. I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his approach to this. Sadly, I cannot offer any updates at this stage. As he knows, we are going through the necessary consultation process. I will bring forward further updates as soon as I can, but that will be in due course, I am afraid.

The hon. Gentleman raised an interesting question about DLUHC’s conversation with the Scottish Government. Forgive me, but I will have to leave the DLUHC Secretary to speak for himself on that, as I am not aware of his conversations. I speak regularly to the Scottish Government on these areas, some of which are reserved matters. As he knows, national security is a reserved matter and therefore the responsibility of the UK Government. That said, there is an awful lot of co-operation not just with the Scottish Government but with other administrations in Scotland, including different councils in different counties.

While we are on this matter, the hon. Gentleman’s paean to Scotland would not have anything to do with his desire to get in campaigning mode, would it?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I appreciate what he said, but for somebody who decided to throw himself out of aeroplanes in the south of England rather than join our great and glorious core training in Arbroath—that is just a very strange thing to have done, for who claims to have that unbelievable love for the north! It is a huge privilege to tease the hon. Gentleman—we have been friends for far too long for me to miss the opportunity.

It is always a pleasure to be in Scotland and to see the extraordinary achievements made by the Scottish people, not just in this area but in many others. This is one of those areas where I just want to pick up on something. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the way in which Scotland is dealing with these cases. I want to pay enormous tribute to those who are gathered together in Gartcosh: over 20 different agencies, including everybody from Police Scotland, MI5 to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and various environmental agencies. It is absolutely extraordinary to see what they have brought together. It is a real power centre not just for keeping Scotland safe, but for fighting crime and disorder all across the United Kingdom. It is a fantastic resource and really impressive.

If we are giving this paean to Scotland, I should also say that the head of MI5, whose Scottish tones have informed me of some of the worst abuses of humanity in this country, demonstrates the level of commitment that many have. I place on record my extreme gratitude to all MI5 officers, counter-terrorism police and the National Crime Agency, who do a huge amount to keep us safe, alongside the territorial forces, whose work is absolutely essential.

None of that would work unless there was the underpinning, and the underpinning is making sure that society does not breed more extremists. The way we avoid that is by making sure that people are part of our community. The Prevent programme is absolutely essential to making sure that when somebody strays, they are assisted to come back into the fold. This is the work, as was said, of the good shepherd. That is what is so important today: making sure that we keep people in our society and within the fold, able to contribute and able to feel part of a wider whole. That is absolutely essential.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth East

I apologise for missing the Minister’s opening remarks. As someone who takes a huge personal interest in our counter-terrorism capabilities, I want to put on record the fact that we are working cross-party. That is very welcome indeed. Does the Security Minister agree that while state-on-state aggression is back at a scale that we are now having to advance our defence posture, the threat of non-state actors and extremism is very much there? In particular, we are seeing the rise of ISIS-K and potentially overtaking the scale of threat that al-Qaeda posed. It is now out of control, taking advantage of recruitment, indoctrinating and tasking in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Does he agree that we should all be concerned about ISIS-K?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that ISIS-K—naming that area of Afghanistan after the older Arabic name, Khorasan, for that region—is a pernicious threat and it has been spreading in Afghanistan. Sadly, we have seen it act, including most recently in Moscow. It is a deeply pernicious force and one that we are acutely aware of. The agencies I cited earlier are extremely cautious to keep a very close eye on it. The tragedy is that these organisations have the ability to form and organise under the Taliban, that hateful organisation which has taken over the territory of Afghanistan and is not only bringing violence, pain and suffering to millions of Afghans, but ensuring that women and girls do not enjoy the liberties that they should—that they are denied education, prevented from work, and prevented from seeing the progress and opportunity that we would all hope for others around the world.

Scotland now has a Prevent adviser, which brings it into line with England and Wales. The adviser’s work is extremely important to ensuring that we are all working together. As I have said, while it is certainly true that extremism has a local characteristic, it is not the same extremism that we see in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, or any other place where we might be campaigning in the second half of the year—to answer the point made by the hon. Member for Barnsley Central. The efforts we are making in all parts of the United Kingdom are essential, because keeping the United Kingdom safe, together and whole is this Government's priority, and one that we will never stop working on. I say that as a passionate Unionist/ I am sure that Alison Thewliss will understand that we may disagree on that, even though we work together in this regard.

I am grateful for the contributions made today, and I am grateful for the support of Members in all parts of the House for this statutory instrument. Let me just reassert that the core objective is to strengthen the Prevent system, which is a vital component of our counter-terrorism operations.

Question put and agreed to.