Preventing Violent Extremism - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Prevent is a cross-cutting policy led across Government by the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office and delivered by a number of departments and agencies which all have specific policy interests in the Prevent strategy. Its aim is to stop radicalisation, reduce support for terrorism and violent extremism and discourage people from becoming terrorists.[1] CLG contributes to the delivery of all elements of the strategy and leads the community-based response to violent extremism.[2]

2. Since 2000, the UK has enacted five main pieces of legislation to deal with terrorism.[3] However, the Government also recognised that in the years following the events of 11 September 2001, legislation and security measures were not sufficient to deal with all of the consequential issues raised by terrorism. These issues included:

  • Finding practical ways to foil an attack rather than securing a conviction after the event when fatalities have occurred[4]
  • Understanding why people become involved in terrorism[5]
  • Working out how the UK can best protect its infrastructure[6]
  • Understanding how the Government can assist the general public and the business community in being more resilient to the threat of terrorism[7].

3. Prevent is aimed at the group of people who are vulnerable to persuasion to provide tacit or silent support to terrorists in certain circumstances and possibly "reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion".[8] However, they are not necessarily breaking the law and to this extent, legislation can be ineffective.

4. In 2003, the government launched CONTEST as its new multidimensional counter-terrorism strategy. It contained four priorities: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. In March 2009 the Government launched a revised strategy, popularly known as 'CONTEST II' "to take account of the evolution of the threat and of our understanding of the factors which are driving it".[9] In particular, the Government acknowledged that in 2003, Prevent was the least developed strand of CONTEST as the previous focus had been on protecting the public from the "immediate threat to life […] rather than understand[ing] the factors driving radicalisation".[10] Under CONTEST II, Prevent is at the forefront of counter-terrorism work. The aim of CONTEST II is "to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence".[11]

5. The current objectives of Prevent are:

  • To challenge the ideology behind violent extremism and support mainstream voices
  • To disrupt those who promote violent extremism and support people living in the communities where they may operate
  • To support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, or have already been recruited by violent extremists
  • To increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism
  • To address grievances which ideologues are exploiting
  • To develop supporting intelligence, analysis and information
  • To improve strategic communications.[12]

6. In the UK, there has been an increasing emphasis on involving people and grassroots organisations in political decisions and in managing local environments. This is reflected within Government policy and governance. Formal responsibilities for policy implementation and service delivery are being shared across statutory agencies and community groups in the form of partnership work. In line with this shift of emphasis, in 2006 the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) took responsibility for the Preventing Extremism campaign (re-named Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in 2007), under the Prevent strand of CONTEST. New guidance on Prevent (including revisions) was released in 2007,[13] 2008[14] and 2009.[15] Prior to this and following the terror attacks in July 2005, the Preventing Extremism Together workgroups were convened by the Home Office, with significant community engagement. The PET workgroups published their report in October 2005[16] and when CLG was created following cabinet re-shuffle in 2006, this agenda was passed from the Home Office to the Department.

7. CLG's contribution to Prevent is measured against Public Service Agreement (PSA) 26: "Reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism". At a local authority level, one of the key performance indicators for Prevent is National Indicator 35—"Building Communities Resilient to Violent Extremism", which emphasises:

  • Understanding of, and engagement with, Muslim communities
  • Knowledge and understanding of the drivers and causes of violent extremism and the Prevent objectives
  • Development of a risk-based preventing violent extremism action plan, in support of delivery of the Prevent objectives
  • Effective oversight, delivery and evaluation of projects and actions

8. Our inquiry set out to consider the effectiveness of the Prevent programme to date and its likely effectiveness in the future. Our terms of reference covered a wide range of issues including the Government's current analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism, the appropriateness and effectiveness of community engagement within the programme, and specific issues for local authorities in delivering Prevent locally. We also looked at the interface between Prevent and other related policy frameworks such as cohesion and integration.

9. Our call for evidence received a good response, with over seventy memoranda submitted. In addition to written evidence, we held five oral evidence sessions and also paid a visit to Birmingham to meet local front-line Prevent workers, academics and religious leaders. Our thanks go to all our witnesses and particularly to Yusuf Desai of Forward Thinking who organised a most worthwhile visit to the Amana Centre in Birmingham.

10. Finally, we would like to thank our two specialist advisers, Alveena Malik and Dilwar Hussain, whose insights throughout our inquiry have been invaluable.[17]

1   HM Government, Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare: The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, March 2009, p 14. Back

2   Ibid., p 15. Back

3   The Terrorism Act 2000; Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005; The Terrorism Act 2006; The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008. Back

4   HM Government, Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare: The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, March 2009, p 62. Back

5   Ibid., p 82. Back

6   Ibid., p 104. Back

7   Ibid., p 118. Back

8   HM Government, Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare: The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, March 2009, p 15. Back

9   Ibid., p 8. Back

10   HM Government, Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare: The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, March 2009, p 82 Back

11   Ibid., p 8. Back

12   Ibid., p 14. Back

13   Communities and Local Government, Preventing Violent Extremism: Winning Hearts and Minds, April 2007. Back

14   Communities and Local Government, Preventing Violent Extremism, Next Steps for Communities, July 2008. Back

15   Communities and Local Government, Delivering the Prevent Strategy: An updated guide for Local Partners, August 2009. Back

16   Preventing Extremism Together, Working Group Report, August-October 2005, available at Back

17   Both specialist advisers were appointed on 20 July 2009. Alveena Malik declared the following interests: a freelance consultant working on cohesion, equality and human rights issues; contracted to work 2 days a week with the Institute for Community Cohesion (iCoCo) as Principal Associate with lead responsibility for Education and Cohesion; contracted to work one day a week for the Young Foundation as adviser on the Maslaha Project (start up Muslim web based organisation) providing strategic advice on business planning, fundraising and stakeholder engagement; and from time to time undertakes short pieces of work for other organisations and might be undertaking research work on Visual Arts and Cohesion commissioned by the Arts Council in the autumn. On 18 January 2010, Ms Malik submitted a further declaration of interests: a Ministerial appointment to the CLG Faith expert panel, chaired by the Secretary of State John Denham. The Faith panel may cover issues related to the Prevent agenda and in the event that this occurs Ms Malik has agreed to withdraw from the discussion to avoid any conflict of interest with the role of Special Advisor to the Prevent Inquiry.

Dilwar Hussain declared the following interests: Head of Policy Research Centre; Advisor to Weidenfeld Institute for Strategic Dialogue on their Islam in Europe programme of research; advising on a short-term Prevent related research project run by the Royal United Services Institute; on a review panel for HM Prison Service looking at literature in prisons; occasionally undertakes research and training projects related to identity, cohesion and preventing extremism for a variety of sources (including the Association of Local Government, the Communities and Local Government Department of HMG, the Change Institute, St Philips Centre in Leicester and the Apex Partnership).


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