Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

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

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

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.