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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To b e published as HC 1446-iii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
ROOTS OF VIOLENT RADICALISATION
Tuesday 1 November 2011
Dr Matthew Goodwin and Mike Whine
Sir Norman Bettison and Assistant Chief Constable John Wright
Evidence heard in Public Questions 182 - 237
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 1 November 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Dr Matthew Goodwin, University of Nottingham, and Mike Whine, Community Security Trust, gave evidence.
Q182 Chair: This is the fourth session of the Committee’s inquiry into the roots of radicalism. Could I refer all those present to the Register of Members’ Interests so the interests of all members of this Committee are noted.
Good morning, Mr Whine and Dr Goodwin. Can I start with a question to both of you about the extent of far right extremism. Do you think it is on the increase?
Dr Goodwin: Thank you, Mr Chairman, thank you to the Committee for inviting me along. I think when we talk about far right extremism we need to acknowledge that there are quite different types. At broad level we can identify three types. We can talk about the organised far right political parties, for example the British National party. They contest elections; they are registered with the Electoral Commission. We can talk about a second type of nonelectoral forms of mobilisation such as the English Defence League, which does not contest elections. Then we can talk about the ultra far right, which is more prone to violence; groups, for example, like the Aryan Strike Force that do not contest elections, have very small memberships and pursue direct action tactics.
When you look collectively at this movement, then we have seen a growth in membership particularly over the last 10 years-parties like the BNP recruiting approximately 12,000 to 14,000 members, the second and third types having markedly smaller memberships. So we have certainly seen a growth in membership. We have also seen a growth in terms of public support at elections, so when seen as a whole I think this movement is becoming far more significant in British politics, but it is also becoming far more diversified. Ten years ago the majority of far right groups focused explicitly on elections. Today we now have a varied far right with groups actively avoiding elections and pursuing more confrontational and provocative tactics. I think that is something as well to be noted.
Q183 Chair: Do you think that there is an organised threat from the far right or are these individuals acting alone?
Mike Whine: Can I just add a comment to what Dr Goodwin said, which is that there is a shift away from formally constituted organisations like the National Front or the BNP to social networks-those that use cyberspace to organise. So that is another aspect to be considered. There is certainly a shift towards violence that is only coming from a small number of people, but it is a very severe threat and it is not just in the UK. It is Europe-wide and European police forces and their security services are reporting on this on an annual basis. So the threat is coming from organisations and also from individuals, who may not be connected to organisations in a formal sense.
Q184 Chair: Is this a terrorist threat?
Mike Whine: Yes, there is indeed a terrorist threat. As you may have read in the latest Prevent report, Britain currently holds 17 far right activists in prison for terrorist offences, and in some of those cases, the plots-of course they were all foiled-were very serious. In one case the chap was preparing a ricin bomb, which is advanced technology. In another case, the chap who was convicted had access to an enormous, in fact one of the largest, collections of firearms and explosives ever found. One should not belittle the far right’s capacity to engage in really serious terrorism and, if you look within Europe generally, then there have been even more serious cases. You may want to talk about Breivik later on.
Chair: Yes, we will be coming on to that.
Mike Whine: In 2005 there was a plot to blow up the Swedish Parliament and kill Swedish youth, which was foiled by the police. Another plot in Munich would have decapitated the German Government.
Q185 Michael Ellis: Good morning, Mr Whine and Dr Goodwin. Further to those answers, do you feel that far right extremism should be treated as a terrorist matter or do you feel that it could be treated as a criminal matter-a public order type situation-and do you think that distinction makes any difference when one is discussing preventative strategies?
Dr Goodwin: I think I would go back to my first point that within this very broad, diverse movement there are very different types. Terrorist activity is terrorist activity, and we could not consider an organisation like the British National party or an organisation like the English Defence League necessarily terrorist organisations, even though individuals who have been associated with both of those movements have been imprisoned and associated with violence. So I think we need to take account of the varied nature of this movement, but also the fact that these different types of far right extremism that we now have in Britain are pursuing very different strategies.
The EDL at the moment is primarily seen as a public order issue, primarily because of its march and grow strategy. What is less studied at the moment, I think, is the political challenge that the English Defence League is attempting to mobilise; that it is mobilising support on antiIslam, antiMuslim platforms. By simply branding, in this case the EDL, as a public order issue, it might be that we are missing the political dynamic to this. At the moment I don’t feel that we are getting to grips with the grievances on which the EDL explicitly are mobilising. The BNP, on the other hand, is a formal political party that contests elections and is losing support, both in elections and among its own members, and can really only be treated as an elected party.
Q186 Michael Ellis: So do you think the scale of the threat is sufficient from far right extremism to justify a special radicalisation strategy, a specific strategy?
Mike Whine: The issues that they are complaining about are not necessarily the same as those that concern other extremist groups, so they have to be treated each as a separate case, I think. The EDL is a public order issue at the moment. Electoral support for the BNP and the National Front has declined enormously in the last couple of years. But the threat of terrorism is something that has to be treated as a terrorist threat and therefore policing has to be proportionate and focused on those different types of threat. So to characterise it all as a terror threat or a public order threat I think is not necessarily accurate.
Dr Goodwin: If I could just quickly come in there. The issue, particularly over the last 10 years, is that we have focused greatly on Al-Qaeda or AQ-inspired terrorism and the Prevent agenda, and attempts to counter radicalisation have focused mainly on Muslim communities and this openly violent form of extremism. I think that has left a noticeable gap and something that needs to be addressed far more sufficiently than it is at present, the simple reason being that we have seen, not only in Norway but also in the cases that Mike has just mentioned, the potential for violence within the far right. I think even though far right parties and movements like the EDL are not overtly violent in their ambitions to the same extent that AQ-inspired groups are, I would make a case that this movement contains the potential for violence. It gives its followers a specific set of narratives that under certain conditions validate the use of violence.
Mike Whine: If I can just add, I think you could see the far right as, if you like, a recruitment pool from which terrorism might emerge in much the same way that extremist Islamist groups provide that reservoir and provide the conveyor belt process that may lead to terrorism if somebody is not diverted in one way or another.
Q187 Steve McCabe: Dr Goodwin, you have described supporters of the far right as being largely less educated, working class men living in the north and Midlands towns. Do far right extremists share the same characteristics as those people you have described as supporters of far right political groups?
Dr Goodwin: What we have done over the last five years at the universities of Manchester and Nottingham is run a series of surveys of far right voters, for example, people who vote for the British National party or the National Front. You have picked up on some of the key findings, which include the ageing base of support for these traditional far right parties. The base of support for the BNP, for example, is much older than the base of support for the National Front in the 1970s. However those traditional parties are quite different from what we might loosely term the new far right movement, with the English Defence League. We now know that that is drawing on a very young, predominantly working class demographic, which would suggest that it has more potential over the longer term than the British National party, which is struggling to recruit support.
However, when you look across those supporters, they are united through a heavy preoccupation with immigration, profound levels of concern over the effects of immigration on British society, high levels of dissatisfaction with all of the mainstream parties and anxiety over the role of Islam and British Muslims in wider society. So there are a set of motivations that unite those supporters even if their demographics are quite different.
In terms of far right extremists-the guys on the real ultra end of the spectrum-not enough systematic, longitudinal research has been done to paint an accurate picture of who they are, how they come to be radicalised, to what extent those pathways compare to radicalisation into AQ-inspired groups, and to what extent their social profile is similar to those who become recruited into AQ groups. There simply is not enough research in that area, either in Britain or elsewhere in Europe.
Q188 Steve McCabe: Would that be the same in terms of trying to understand what motivates these people? Is there insufficient research to know the motivation? Some of the interests are the same, as you have said, but the motivations of extremist groups may be different from far right, quasi political groups. Is that fair?
Dr Goodwin: Yes. I would warn against attempting to create a model or explanation that encompasses both AQ-inspired terrorism and far right extremism. I would warn against that for the simple reason that comparing members of two very different organisations who seem to have recruited quite different types of supporters, in terms of their demographics and attitudes, would lead us up an unproductive path.
Q189 Alun Michael: You referred a moment ago to unaddressed grievances in the radicalisation programme. That is something that has been referred to in relation to Islam-related terrorism and you referred to it in terms of right-wing radicalisation. Could you explain that a little further?
Dr Goodwin: In terms of the unresolved grievances?
Alun Michael: Yes.
Dr Goodwin: In terms of the supporters that we have looked at, at least, they are primarily concerned about immigration, rising ethnic and cultural diversity in British society and in particular the role of Islam and the presence of Muslims in British society. Clearly, a lot of legislative action has been taken on those issues and a lot of work has been done in Westminster on those issues. I think the problem is that the vast majority of far right supporters are so dissatisfied with mainstream parties, and so distrustful of the political system generally that they either refuse to believe anything is being done or they simply take the view that what is being done is insufficient.
The reason why that is potentially significant over the longer term is that, when we look through the accounts of individuals like Anders Breivik, for example, or when we interview far-right extremists, having done so over the course of about five years, you get a sense from a lot of these supporters that when they perceive that mainstream parties are not doing enough on these specific issues they start to search for alternative actions and strategies. In Breivik’s case it was a sense that the radical right wing Norwegian Progress party was not making sufficient progress on immigration and the presence of Islam in Norwegian society. Also in the British case we can similarly see very high levels of dissatisfaction among far right supporters. So it is not the case that these grievances are unresolved. It is also a sense that they just don’t have enough faith in extreme politicians and parties.
Q190 Alun Michael: I am sorry, perhaps I was not clear enough. I thought you were referring to grievances. There are three separate things, aren’t there? There are grievances that may relate to something genuine-poverty, social exclusion, for instance. There is what I would describe as opinion not shared, if the majority view in the country does not share the opinion. The third thing is ideology. Could you separate out the extent to which each of those is important in the categories that you refer to?
Dr Goodwin: Sure, yes. Mike wants to come in as well. It is very difficult because I would also add into that mix perceived grievances, that the supporters of the far right may not necessarily-
Alun Michael: I thought that came into the second category, an opinion that is not shared.
Dr Goodwin: Right. It is not a typology that is familiar to me. It is not something that I would like to try and pigeonhole some of my research into, but the thing I would focus on is that, for supporters of the far right, it is not only direct grievances that are motivating their commitment to this movement, it is also perceived grievances. They might not be shared by sections of the mainstream, if we want to call it the mainstream, but these perceived grievances, particularly around the perceived threat from immigration and the perceived threat from Islam, are consistently emerging as the most powerful predictors of who supports this movement.
Q191 Alun Michael: Yes, I am sorry, but what I am trying to get at is that, if somebody is poor or unemployed or whatever there are specific measurements that can indicate whether there is a problem. If there is a perception of things, which might not be shared by wider-it is not pigeonholing, it is trying to get to some sort of definition of what you are saying. Those are both different things to ideology, aren’t they?
Mike Whine: They are, but I am not sure that the factors you mentioned such as poverty are really important within these two sets-far right extremism and-
Q192 Alun Michael: If I may, I was picking up the word "grievance" that was used by both of you and trying to ask what was behind that.
Mike Whine: Well, certainly both sets promote a grievance strand very strongly and, as you have heard, the grievance within the far right, and particularly among these populist, extremist parties like the EDL, is that Government is failing by allowing mass immigration and so on. That is a different sort of grievance from that promoted by Islamists and by Jihadi terrorists, which is that Muslims are oppressed, that the West or Christians or Jews are out to defeat Islam. In this way they oblige and legitimise violence, but the grievance strand is really quite strong there and possibly even stronger. I would suggest, although it is just a feeling rather than having direct evidence, that it is possibly even a stronger element within their radicalisation than it is within the far right.
Q193 Nicola Blackwood: You mentioned, Dr Goodwin, that there has not been sufficient research to identify exactly who is being radicalised within the far right. Mr Whine, you recognise that perhaps there is a move towards social media as a location for recruitment. In our evidence so far there has been a suggestion that the prime fora for Islamist recruitment are the internet and prisons, with perhaps universities also being a location. So I wonder if you have found any specific fora that are locations for radicalisation in the far right.
Mike Whine: Facebook is one, but there are any number of far right sites that tend to be transEuropean rather than just UK, associated with Blood & Honour and groups like that, through which events are organised and people exchange ideas. So, yes, there are specific ones pertaining to the far right just as there are to Jihadi terrorists.
Dr Goodwin: I would also add that the internet is absolutely key but not the complete story. Referring back to those different types of far right extremism, I would, again, warn against trying to describe this movement as a movement. It is very varied, but parties like the BNP would focus heavily around physical meetings. Groups like the English Defence League would focus heavily around demonstrations and rallies and also online activity, in particular where you have their supporters going only to a small number of websites for their news and information, so-called narrow casting, and not having any other sources of news and information to dilute that. But then with the ultra extreme right wing and the smaller groups that I mentioned, you might put more emphasis on, for example, music concerts, across Europe with the panEuropean skinhead music scene. So, different fora across different movements.
Q194 Nicola Blackwood: Are you of the view that attempts to control online radicalisation would be realistic, given the nature of the networks that are available?
Mike Whine: No, it is totally unrealistic. The internet is just too big. What you can do, of course, is monitor it and issue takedown notices if material is broadcast that contravenes legislation or incites hatred, and that happens and it happens regularly. It can be monitored and there are Government agencies and police units that deal with this so that they can use it for intelligence gathering. But to control it, no, the internet is just too big to control.
Q195 Nicola Blackwood: What about specific institutions? You have mentioned the music scene, but with our evidence on Islamism we have had specific comments about universities, mosques and prisons being particular locations for recruitment. Are there equivalent institutions for the far right?
Dr Goodwin: Again, there is not really enough research that has been done in Britain or elsewhere in Europe. Having done the vast majority of research on individual recruitment to the far right myself, I am painfully aware of the inadequacy of that literature and that evidence base.
It is also quite difficult to compare these two types of movements. On the university campus, for example, Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism among some sections, a small section of a particular population within a university, may be seen as more legitimate than far right extremism that, on the whole, particularly in its white supremacist forms, is heavily stigmatised in wider society and is not really seen as something that is necessarily latched on to a legitimate grievance.
I would warn against trying to find a location where radicalisation takes place on the far right. What I would focus on is the extent to which, unlike in previous years, far right organisations are more actively attempting to connect with citizens, whether online or offline. Compared to in the 1990s and 1980s, they are now far more active. They have a far more developed internet presence than many mainstream political parties. So that supply side is something that deserves greater attention.
Mike Whine: If I could add, there is lots of evidence that Schengen, which has allowed free movement within Europe, and the internet combined have facilitated co-operation and liaison across Europe by far right small extremist groups. They meet continuously and some of the rock concerts are a venue for them to meet and plan, and there are reports by European Security Services that talk very specifically about these venues being used to exchange ideas and to plan activity. So you have seen events organised by small far right groups in Europe that have transferred from one country to another because of that facility.
In terms of Islamist recruitment, then certainly the internet is very important, and universities are important. Prisons, well, certainly there is evidence of radicalisation in prisons, but when you move on to terrorism you have to have human intervention. There is perhaps one case, that of Roshanara Choudhry, someone who was completely radicalised on the internet, and there doesn’t appear to have been human intervention. In all other cases, somebody intervened to say, "You’ve been radicalised, now let’s take you on and this is how you make a bomb" or "This is your target". Normally you need human intervention as well.
Q196 Nicola Blackwood: You are not aware of far right radicalisation within prisons specifically.
Mike Whine: I’m not aware of it, no.
Dr Goodwin: I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes place but I wouldn’t identify it as a major arena of radicalisation.
Q197 Nicola Blackwood: Is it just that we haven’t been looking into it?
Dr Goodwin: Possibly.
Q198 Chair: Your league table would be No. 1, the internet; No. 2, events, rock concerts; No. 3-
Dr Goodwin: For the far right, yes.
Chair: Yes. No. 3 would be universities. Is that No. 3?
Dr Goodwin: Not the universities for the far right, no.
Mike Whine: It’s meetings, international meetings.
Q199 Chair: If we were to go on to try and find some of these websites, what key words would you type in to find them?
Dr Goodwin: If I was doing some research on exploring links and things I would be looking at-would you like specific websites?
Dr Goodwin: I would be looking at forums like Stormfront. I would be looking, if I was interested in the European scene, at Gates of Vienna. I might be looking at the Brussels Journal. These were both visited by Anders Breivik, for example. I might be looking at Four Freedoms.
Mike Whine: There was, a few weeks ago, an international far right rock concert to which people were going from all over Europe and that had a website. It was passed on to the police because it was thought that people from Britain might be going to that. Whether they did or not, I don’t know, that is not my area. But certainly that was a website that advertised those and I can pass it on to the Committee in due course. I have not brought it with me.
Q200 Chair: Yes, that would be very helpful. But this sounds a little esoteric. You need to know somebody who knows that these websites exist, but if I was typing in a keyword and I had just started to get involved in this area, what would the words be?
Mike Whine: No, I think you wouldn’t get very far. Some of these are passworded sites as well. So just googling rock concert would not get you very far.
Chair: Is not enough.
Mike Whine: As you heard, Stormfront and similar far right internet websites might provide an introduction, but often this goes on a much narrower basis, one-to-one or one-to-several passage of information.
Q201 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can I ask, have you done any research into the gang culture in the far right recruitment process and how much that plays a part in it?
Mike Whine: Something that is common to both types of extremism and terrorism is what the American academic, Marc Sageman, called the "bunch of guys" paradigm, which is the socialisation process within a small group that can produce sort of terrorism. In other words, a small group of people sort of egg each other on and it is not really gang culture, it is social interaction within a small arena.
Dr Goodwin: But those arenas can be incredibly varied. I can remember interviewing some of the most active supporters of the far right who were heavily involved in their residents’ association. This is by no means something that is anchored in youth gangs; perhaps more so maybe in the United States, where that is more of an issue, and particularly among sections of the militia right, where that perhaps is more at play. But in Britain of all the people I have interviewed over the years I have not met one who was open about being a member of a gang or made a reference to being a gang member.
Q202 Mr Winnick: Mass murders were carried out in Norway. There have been reports that far right extremists in Britain had links with the mass murderer. Can you give us any information whether such links existed?
Mike Whine: The links seem to have been mostly in Breivik’s head rather than in any other way. He was a Facebook friend of EDL, it is believed. He said he had come to Britain to an EDL demonstration, but there is no hard evidence.
Mr Winnick: He had come to Britain?
Mike Whine: Yes, but there is no hard evidence he actually did. Others may have it but I have not seen it. Breivik was shunned by Norwegian and Swedish far right groups because they thought the things he was saying were going too far. He was very much a one-off, a lone wolf, if you like.
Q203 Mr Winnick: Do you consider that there could be in other European countries, including our own, almost a repeat of extreme right wing elements like him?
Mike Whine: Absolutely, much more so. I mentioned earlier that Breivik’s case was a copycat of a plot in Sweden, where a small group of Nazis planned to bomb the Swedish Parliament and kill young people. Their plot was foiled by the Swedish police. A German plot to blow up the re-opening of the Munich synagogue, which was attended by Johannes Rau, the Federal President, and half the German Cabinet, would have decapitated the German Government. The European Security Services’ annual reports and the Europol annual report, which looks at terrorism, report all of these on an annual basis. There are any number of plots that are far more serious than we have seen in this country.
Q204 Mr Winnick: You have already referred to the 17 people in prison for far right activities, who clearly were a great danger to the country.
Q205 Dr Goodwin: If I could add just two quick points. Prior to Norway, both the London Metropolitan Police and also the Department for Homeland Security had warned of an increasingly violent turn within their respective far right cultures. If we go back to the Copeland bombings in London or if we think about Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, the far right has consistently demonstrated an ability to enact mass violence. But one point I would like to add is the need to take more seriously the potential for a spiral of violence between different forms of extremism. What I mean by that is something that we have not seen since Northern Ireland, which is the potential for far right extremisms to enact violence or confrontation against, for example, an AQ-inspired group, to bomb a mosque or something of that nature and then for that action to be retaliated. It wouldn’t really take too long for a spiral of violence to emerge.
Before Norway I think that would have been dismissed as alarmist and speculative, but having seen a noticeable shift in far right blogs over the last five years, a shift towards more confrontation, more provocation and the cases that Mike mentioned of individuals who have been arrested planning acts of terrorism, I think these all point towards the conclusion that the far right is becoming far more confrontational and willing to engage in violence.
Q206 Mr Winnick: Mr Whine, I wonder if I could ask you this question in light of your involvement over many years, including at present, with the Jewish community. When one passes synagogues and Jewish schools and the rest, it is quite obvious that security measures are taken-there are guards and the rest-which I wouldn’t have thought would have occurred from, say, 1945 to the 1960s or the early 1970s, though I could be wrong. Do you believe there is a particular danger to the Jewish community and from where?
Mike Whine: It is not me, it is Governments who know that there is a particular danger to Jewish communities and their institutions. I published a book recently on terrorism against Jewish communities around the world and we were able to find 427 cases of terrorist plots against Jewish communities, many of which had been foiled, but a lot of which had not been. The threat comes from different directions and-
Mr Winnick: That is what I mean, not just from one.
Mike Whine: It is not just from one. Probably the greatest threat is from the global Jihad movement, that is AQ and its followers and affiliates, and a number of plots have been foiled in Europe in the last 12 months by Al-Qaeda against synagogues, and also in America. That is the biggest threat, and they have bombed synagogues in Tunisia and in Morocco and carried out any number of successful terrorist attacks around the world against Jewish institutions. That is the first area of threat.
The second is from Iran and its surrogates, and again a number of successful terrorist attacks against synagogues and Jewish institutions by Hezbollah, several by Iran itself-by the Government, who have a history of carrying out acts of terrorism against their perceived enemies. The third is from the far right. In the 1960s and 1970s there were also attacks from the far left. One thinks of Action Directe in France and the fighting communist cells in Belgium. They attacked synagogues.
Q207 Steve McCabe: I wondered, if we go back to that for a second, in the case of attacks by Jihadists or Hezbollah, how much are those attacks really directed at the State of Israel and Jewish synagogues or whatever used as a proxy, whereas in the case of the far right it must be a different type of attack? Is that fair?
Mike Whine: No, it is not. Let me explain. In the minds of certainly the Islamist groups and Iran, there is no difference between Israel and its institutions and Jews and their institutions. There are any number of quotes I could give, which are published in this book, from leading Al-Qaeda ideologues where they talk specifically about attacking Jewish institutions and Jews. It is not for them an attack against Israel, it is an attack against Jews and their institutions.
The far right is much less subtle. It is against Jews or Muslims or, in the case of some recent cases of far right terrorism, it is against the State and the institutions of the State. But certainly the threat is very real from these different directions against Jewish communities and it is understood by Governments and that is why Governments encourage security against synagogues and indeed assist Jewish communities to organise that security.
Q208 Mr Clappison: The attacks can come out of the blue and they are indiscriminate against Jewish individuals, Jewish groups, Jewish communities.
Mike Whine: Indeed, and in fact I would add something else, which is that when there is tension in the Middle East, either between Israel and its neighbours or tension generally, you see the overspill against Jewish communities, and that is measurable. When, for example, Israel went into Gaza a couple of years ago there was a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK.
Q209 Mr Clappison: Yes, and there was an attack as well, a few years ago now, against a Jewish community centre in Argentina. Is that not right?
Mike Whine: It was a devastating attack against the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which killed 95 people. That came directly from the Iranian Government, but they used local surrogates.
Chair: Dr Goodwin, Mr Whine, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Obviously our inquiry is ongoing. We have a major conference in Leicester on 13 December.
Mike Whine: We are aware, yes.
Chair: If you are able to come along and join us that would be wonderful, but also if you have other information that is going to be helpful to the Committee that we haven’t raised today with you, please do let us have it and your books would be gratefully received. Thank you very much.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Sir Norman Bettison, ACPO Lead for Prevent Policing, and Assistant Chief Constable John Wright, ACPO National Prevent Coordinator, gave evidence.
Q210 Chair: Sir Norman and Mr Wright, first of all my apologies for keeping you waiting to give evidence. Can I start, Sir Norman, with the deep condolences of this Committee to the family of Mark Goodlad, and indeed to your police force, for the tragedy that occurred on 24 October. For this young police officer to die on the hard shoulder in Wakefield must have been a terrible tragedy and it shows the huge amount of work and sacrifice that our police officers do on a daily basis on behalf of the people of this country.
Sir Norman Bettison: I appreciate that. It shows the dangers, not just in dealing with criminality and terrorism but also in providing general support to the public and keeping them safe.
Chair: Indeed. Please pass on our condolences to his family.
Sir Norman Bettison: Thank you very much indeed.
Q211 Chair: There is probably no other policeman in the country who has as much experience on these matters as you have. I think that when you last spoke about the threat of Al-Qaeda you said that the big bad wolf was still Al-Qaeda but that the police were knocking over right wing extremists quite regularly. If you were to weigh up where the threat is coming from at the moment, what would the balance be?
Sir Norman Bettison: The truthful answer is that the threat can arise from either end of the spectrum. I will speak in greater shorthand about issues that the previous witnesses have much more experience than me to comment on, but it seems to me that the right wing terrorist-if I can focus on that person rather than the EDL affiliate or BNP supporter-still operates as a lone wolf and beneath the radar, to some extent, whereas the Al-Qaeda-inspired threat usually has, but does not exclusively have, some third-party intervention in terms of encouragement or a supply line of material or know-how. As I said, not exclusively because we remember Nicky Reilly and Andrew Ibrahim, who were pretty much self-starters.
The reason why I talk about it in those terms is that to apportion the threat is a fool’s errand because today or tomorrow it could be from either end of the spectrum and then that end of the spectrum, would seem to have some ascendancy. Actually the threat is there at both ends of the spectrum, but they are different in structural terms and in terms of their connectivity to a wider cause.
Q212 Chair: In February 2010 you said that the Government’s plan to tackle violent extremism would take 20 years to bear fruit. I think your words were these, "I think it is a generation of treatment to prevent the infection spreading and I think that it will take us 20 years". That is a very long time. Why is it going to take so long?
Sir Norman Bettison: I still believe that. I see it as not a threat from an organisation. At international conferences, there are other states under other jurisdictions who believe that the assassination of Osama bin Laden and al-Awlaki is the way of defeating the threat that we face. My belief is that the Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism has created an atmosphere. If I follow the sort of infection theme through, it has created a set of germs that spread and that morph into other things and infect the minds and the culture. What is required is not a new law enforcement effort to defeat those who represent the current threat but a sort of all-Government approach, including education, local authority, and youth outreach workers, to challenge the prevailing messages of hatred that might infect people for many more years to come.
What I was trying to do was call to arms a whole-Government approach to deal with someone who might be a terrorist 10 years from now by challenging views, challenging attitudes, challenging ideas at a school level. I have to say that is not a job for the police. What I am not proposing is that the police ought to go around policing ideology, but somebody ought to be challenging inappropriate attitudes and behaviour.
Q213 Chair: Three of the 7/7 London bombers came from West Yorkshire.
Sir Norman Bettison: All four were born there and three still lived there.
Q214 Chair: You obviously looked at the reports and you have considered what happened and presumably the mistakes that were made in not preventing them from doing what they were doing. Do you think that we now know what action to take in order to prevent such activity? Have we learnt the mistakes?
Sir Norman Bettison: I think we have learned good practice. That is not the same as could it ever happen again, could the person go beneath the radar or go unchallenged in the way that the four 7/7 bombers were. I think that could still happen, but we have learned good practice. Let me just take one of those, Hasib Hussain, an 18-year-old who blew up the number 30 bus that we all remember the graphic images of. There were questions about poverty and deprivation being at the root of radicalisation. He came from a very successful family. He was third generation, British born, his brothers were very successful in business. He was very integrated, played sport to a high standard with multi-race and multi-faith teams, he was a model pupil at his secondary school and had no previous convictions, so nothing really for the police to get a handle on-
Chair: But he had been writing in his exercise books that-
Sir Norman Bettison: I was just coming to that point. He’d been writing in his exercise books for a number of years about the glory of Al-Qaeda. What we have learned since that time is that if there is a challenge, if there is an intervention-and in a formal sense that is done through the work of the Channel scheme, but intervention has informal manifestations as well as formal ones-if people are challenged, if the school, if parents, if other interveners are employed and go to work, the challenge can cause people to step back from the edge of extremism that might become violent extremism that might become terrorism.
Q215 Michael Ellis: Good afternoon, Sir Norman and Mr Wright. We have heard of some conflicting evidence about the impact of Prevent policing on relations between the police and the Muslim communities, so I would like to ask your view on the impact of policing on the relations between the police and Muslim communities.
Sir Norman Bettison: My view is it has been more positive than harmful. The person I would lean on to make that case in a more objective way than I could is Professor Martin Innes of Cardiff university, who was commissioned by the Government in 2010 to revisit a piece of work that he did immediately after the 7/7 bombings. He looked at the level of community engagement, the sense of belonging that Muslim communities felt and the impact that the 7/7 bombings had had on the relationship between police and communities and Government and communities.
He returned to that work in 2010-2011 and I was just looking for one of the quotes from that. He said: "Compared to the first study, new research found that Prevent policing has matured and evolved in terms of processes and practices. A greater awareness of risks and vulnerabilities and increased capacity and capability to respond proactively, reactively to the risks, threats and vulnerabilities and the community reactions to Prevent policing are much more complex and much more positive than much media and political rhetoric would suggest."
Q216 Michael Ellis: So you are generally happy with the situation as far as the Prevent policing strategy is concerned?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes.
Q217 Michael Ellis: Thank you. Have you employed any lessons learned from British experience in Northern Ireland to inform Prevent policing strategies?
Sir Norman Bettison: We are working with our colleagues in PSNI on the development of the Prevent agenda because they have a great deal of experience of community engagement and community intervention. I will give one example of an informal link. Before I do that I ought to say, in direct answer to your question, that while we have compared notes neither side believes that there is much to learn about the nature and the manifestation of the problems that we face. They are different in nature.
Q218 Michael Ellis: Are you referring to the sectarianism?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes. What we did very locally is that when EDL were due to visit Bradford, which had the potential of being inflammatory and possibly leading to disorder, we had two lines of preparation. One was to prepare for the event and the consequences that might flow from it; the other was to prepare the community. We went to our colleagues in Northern Ireland to learn about the work that they have done in the marching season, in terms of working with the community and giving information and reassurance. We employed some of the tactics that we brought back from Northern Ireland. So there are specific opportunities, but generically they don’t mesh.
Q219 Michael Ellis: Just briefly, there has been a decision to discontinue some funding, in light of the economic situation, of counter-terrorism intelligence officers from the Prevent budget. What do you have to say about that? Do you support the Government in that?
Sir Norman Bettison: What I have always said is that we will be successful in Prevent policing only when it is mainstreamed. Currently 258 specific posts are funded around the police forces of England and Wales, compared to 132,000, so it is not significant.
Michael Ellis: No.
Sir Norman Bettison: Counter-terrorism intelligence was a specific label that we gave to a type of work. Actually the label got in the way because it sounded as though counter-terrorism intelligence officers, who wore a uniform and worked in the community, were somehow spying. So we dropped the term and morphed and merged the activity. But does Prevent policing rely on those 258 funded posts? I don’t think it does. It is a handy pump-priming, but we have to mainstream the business of prevention.
Chair: Thank you. Mr Wright, please feel free to chip in. I know you may feel that the questions are not being directed towards you but if you want to add anything please feel free to do so.
Q220 Mr Clappison: Do you have any contact with the EDL themselves about these marches? How do they respond to concerns that people naturally have about the inflammatory nature of their matches and the police time that is wasted as a result of them?
Sir Norman Bettison: That is their purpose. I believe their purpose is to be provocative. So, yes, we are in touch. It has absolutely no effect in terms of ameliorating their behaviour.
Q221 Alun Michael: On the Prevent element, you talked about mainstreaming and you said that the work-you have referred to Professor Innes’ work in showing its effectiveness-needs to be mainstreamed. Can I just be clear, is it being mainstreamed?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes, it is.
Q222 Alun Michael: Are you satisfied that the police forces that are involved with this activity are well in place with that mainstreaming?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes, for my part. I am in the fourth largest police force in the country, but what goes on in my police force is replicated elsewhere. Prevent policing relies upon neighbourhood policing.
Q223 Alun Michael: So the work will continue, but perhaps the label does not?
Sir Norman Bettison: Exactly.
Alun Michael: Mr Wright was nodding at that point.
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: Yes, absolutely. The work that goes on in West Yorkshire is replicated across the whole of England and Wales. I personally visit neighbourhood policing teams throughout the country. They are briefed on some of the signs they ought to be looking for, and on who to speak to within communities to make sure we have communication, and we go out and check that that is the case. Having specific, designated officers does reiterate and reinvent the issue time and time again, because neighbourhood policing officers have a whole host of concerns on their day-to-day business so it is extremely important that they get up-to-date intelligence and they also get an up-to-date route to channel their concerns back into policing organisations.
Q224 Alun Michael: Going to a less clear title, you referred to the Channel programme. When I saw that initially I was not sure whether it referred to Kent or the Bristol Channel, but there we go. Do officers have the ability and the knowledge to be able to identify those at risk of radicalisation, and is that programme working satisfactorily in your view?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes, it is. It started off as a pilot programme, rolled out to 12 police forces in the country that are at particular risk. It is about to be rolled out in January 2012 to every police force in the country. There have been, in the last three years, over 1,500 referrals to the Channel programme. Over 50% of those have come from police officers, but a large minority of about 40% have come from other areas-schools, youth outreach, health and so on. It is a phenomenally successful scheme in that what we do is consider at a multi-agency level what the most appropriate interventions are, given the behaviour that has been exhibited, and what we will do is monitor to make sure that the interventions have been successful. Thus far not one of the 1,500 people that have been intervened with have been arrested for any terrorist-related offence.
Q225 Alun Michael: This identification is not easy. The two young men from Cardiff who recently ended up on the border between Kenya and Somalia, and thank God have been returned safely, were regarded by those who knew them best, as well as by the relevant agencies, as very unlikely candidates for this sort of activity. So identification is not easy, is it?
Sir Norman Bettison: No, it is not. There are some things such as travel, particularly if it is out of the ordinary to exotic parts of the world, that trigger a suspicion. Growing isolation from family and friends or a new-found group of friends who conduct their friendship in secret are all things that we talk about with Muslim communities around the country. We undertake some very successful tabletop exercises with communities in general, to get them to understand what to look for.
Q226 Alun Michael: You referred specifically there to Muslim groups and, in the information that we were given up to the end of 2010 the faith of 67% of the Channel referrals was recorded as Muslim, with 26% "not known" and 7% as "other". To what extent does Channel then work on faith-based interventions?
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: Can I just come back to your earlier point? I think it is an important distinction. Channel is designed for those people who are at risk of crossing over to violent extremism. You gave an example. We are talking about Prevent here. There is obviously a whole host of capability when people travel abroad and pose a much more serious risk to national security. I think that is an important point. It is based on risk, so we will have people referred to us through the multi-agency panel. They are all assessed on the risk they pose. Whether that is Islamic extremism or right wing extremism, they go through that risk assessment process.
Q227 Alun Michael: Yes, I am sorry, but I was asking to what extent you used faith-based interventions. For instance, I heard one of the imams in Cardiff very recently talk in a very clear way to a large number of people about how to make the distinction between the messages of Islam and the distortion of the messages of Islam. That sort of work is a part of the solution, is it not?
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: It is.
Alun Michael: That is why I was asking whether that is an explicit part of the strategy.
Sir Norman Bettison: It is an explicit example of referral routes that can be taken.
Q228 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would like to ask you both about the future of Prevent funding, or Prevent policing. The Government has said that the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism and the police must stop funding what is termed extremist organisations. Do you share the Government’s concerns about this?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes, and we also share the Government policy. I quite understand that it is unacceptable to spend taxpayers’ money on organisations or on people who have expressed views that seem to be at odds with the values of the general populace. However, I need to say that we will work sometimes-not funding-with people who might have unpalatable and unacceptable views, so long as they are not criminal views, as a credible route to connecting with younger people.
Q229 Lorraine Fullbrook: Who would be an example in that category?
Sir Norman Bettison: There are people who have been to the edge of terrorism and violent extremism. I think the Committee has already heard from the Quilliam organisation. Quilliam makes no secret of the fact that the people who lead that foundation are people who have gone through Hizb ut - Tahrir and other experiences to the edges of terrorism and have come back. People like that, and for Quilliam read a dozen other people who volunteer their services, who have made that journey and come back, are very powerful intermediaries. We use similar people in the drugs arena. We have even used similar people in child exploitation arenas. People who have made the journey but come back seem to have more to offer in stopping people making the journey in the first place. But we do accept the Government policy that there must be no funding of organisations that either are extremist or have leaders who have expressed extremist views.
Q230 Lorraine Fullbrook: Mr Wright, would you share the Government’s stand?
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: I totally support what Sir Norman has had to say, so I don’t think there is anything additional to offer. We have conveyed that message to all forces throughout the country.
Q231 Mr Clappison: We have taken evidence already that the main fora for Islamic radicalisation are the internet and prisons; that a significant amount of radicalisation is taking place through universities, but less than on the internet and in prisons. Would you agree with that general broad-brush categorisation?
Sir Norman Bettison: I would agree that they are all relevant. I think it would be a mistake to see them as being the exclusive or predominant domains that you have to examine.
Q232 Mr Clappison: You mean there is some interaction between them and other sources as well?
Sir Norman Bettison: There are. The internet does seem to feature in most, if not all, of the route to radicalisation.
Q233 Mr Clappison: You have the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, which has been making progress. Can you give us an idea of what further progress remains to be made in this area?
Sir Norman Bettison: It is a pebble thrown into the World Wide Web ocean, frankly. It consists of a dozen or so officers. It has only been in operation since 2010. There have been 2,025 referrals to date. About 10% of those, just shy of 200, have led to websites or web pages being taken down, almost exclusively voluntarily once we have pointed out that they have come pretty close to a section 58 or section 2 offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. So it is successful.
Interestingly, you were talking about Breivik with the previous witnesses. We have looked at Breivik’s manifesto. He is a Norwegian national, but a UK national putting that manifesto out in the UK, would come very close to crossing, probably cross, the threshold of committing a criminal offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. So if that had been referred into us as part of the 2,025 we would have investigated who was posting these things and whether we could take it down so it was not an influence on others. I think that the referral site needs greater publicity and, of course, the greater the publicity about the site and what the unit can achieve, the more the capability and the capacity to respond.
Mr Clappison: To inform about what is going on. That is very helpful.
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: Can I just add a couple of points?
Mr Clappison: Yes, please do.
Assistant Chief Con stable Wright: On your first point, I think it is unhelpful to try and prioritise all of those routes into radicalisation because they do vary over time and some are much more influential at certain times. In relation to the internet, as Sir Norman has said, we see the use of the internet in most of our investigations and it is an area that I have no doubt will feature more and more. You asked what more we can do. I think there is a need for greater collaboration with academia to learn best practice, and with internet companies because they tend to have the most up-to-date technology, and also for international co-operation. Most of these websites are hosted outside the UK jurisdiction so international co-operation is extremely important. So if there are areas this Committee would like to recommend, particularly with the internet taking it forward, they will be the three key priorities.
Q234 Mr Clappison: On a slightly different point, we also had a memorandum from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies talking about the effect of activities on campus and the effect of relationships with the police and the security services. What are your feelings on that? Do you think there is room for improvement in working with them?
Sir Norman Bettison: That concern does not match my personal experience. In Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield, we have uniformed officers who are permanently attached to each campus and they speak at Freshers’ Fair; they have a broad remit. They talk about dangers generally-safeguarding-but they also build relationships with student unions and with the faculty to ensure that they are in a position to spot radical extremism in any guise, wherever it happens.
Q235 Mr Clappison: I am only putting to you the evidence we have received from them by way of a memorandum. That suggests to me perhaps they need to get in touch with you and have a discussion with you. Have you had an approach from them? It is the Federation of Student Islamic Societies.
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: Yes, we tend to go through the National Union of Students, but we have got very strong relationships with a lot of universities. It is not a universal picture throughout the country, but I could give you some very good examples. The Universities of Derby and Northampton recently have been very engaged, and have taken products that we have produced to have discussions with students.
Q236 Mr Clappison: If a representative of a students’ society came to you and wanted to have a discussion, you would be willing?
Sir Norman Bettison: Yes, absolutely.
Assistant Chief Constable Wright: Yes.
Q237 Chair: Before you go, Sir Norman, as you know there is a proposed new landscape of policing. I am not sure whether you have had the opportunity of seeing the Committee’s last report into the new landscape when we suggested that counter-terrorism should be something that should be taken out of the Met’s jurisdiction and placed in the new National Crime Agency. You talked about the need to make sure that these issues were mainstreamed. What is your view on that?
Sir Norman Bettison: My general view is that the current infrastructure and network that has been built since 2005 is very robust and very effective. It has the advantage of local ownership and a local focus, coupled with national co-ordination. So what I would like to say, dodging the question, is that whatever we come up with must enhance national co-ordination. I think that is the whole purpose behind the question raised by the Committee, but it also must keep, in my professional view, some local ownership. For example, at the moment the Met is significant in terms of the national co-ordination and yet there are four CTUs-counter-terrorism units-in key parts of the country that maintain in their own way, through their own tentacles, a connection with every individual police force and local authority district. I think that that is important and I worry about a shift to the Met or to the National Crime Agency damaging that.
Chair: Sir Norman, thank you very much. Mr Wright, thank you very much. I am sorry to have delayed you. We will no doubt be in touch with you again.