Statutory Prevent Guidance gets Commons approval

The statutory Prevent guidance, including the guidance for Scotland, laid before Parliament on 12 March was approved by the House of Commons on Tuesday 24 March. No Scottish MP spoke in the debate. SNP MPs were not present for the debate.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015 were approved by MPs without a vote. The regulations give effect to the Prevent duty guidance laid before Parliament on 12 March.

Opening the Commons debate, James Brokenshire (Minister of State for Security and Immigration) said:

"The purpose of the regulations is threefold. First, they amend schedules 6 and 7 to the 2015 Act to add Scottish bodies to the list of authorities that are subject to the Prevent duty and to those that are listed as partners to local authority panels, which are required to be in place by section 36. Those panels form part of the Channel programme—the deradicalisation programme—in England and Wales, and Prevent Professional Concerns in Scotland, which are programmes designed to provide support to those who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

Secondly, the regulations make a number of amendments to the Act that are consequential on adding those Scottish bodies. In particular they ensure that Scottish further and higher education institutions will have the same requirement to have particular regard to the need to ensure freedom of speech and the importance of academic freedom while complying with the Prevent duty as their counterparts in England and Wales. It has always been the Government’s intention that provisions in part 5 of the Act would apply to bodies in Scotland. We have consulted Scottish Ministers, and they are supportive of adding Scottish bodies to the duty."

In a reference to regulations on the vetting by universities of external speakers, removed from the Prevent Duty Guidance following pressure from the Lib Dems, James Brokenshire said:

"We shall use the time before the duty commences to produce further guidance on managing speakers and events in further and higher education institutions, and it will be for the next Government to bring that to Parliament early in the next Session for the approval of both Houses."

Diana Johnson (Shadow Minister for Home Affairs) said later in the debate:

"Let me briefly mention Scotland. It is good to see the inclusion of the Scottish organisations. I listened carefully to what the Minister said about the consultation with the Scottish Government and the inclusion of the various Scottish organisations, but I should like to ask him a question. There is separate guidance for the Scottish organisations, but I understand that it was not issued for full consultation. The Minister said earlier that there was a targeted process for the consultation. Will he explain what he meant by that?"

William Cash (Conservative) then said:

"Would the hon. Lady be good enough to tell us to what extent, if any, she has taken the opportunity to discover the views of the Scottish nationalists on this question? Has she had any indication of their views? They are not even here, but I am sure that she can provide us with a fairly good guess as to what they might think. We did hear Alex Salmond suggest the other day that they would be putting their foot down on matters that they thought were important to Scotland, in their own terms."

Diana Johnson responded:

"During the Bill’s passage, as the hon. Gentleman will know, members of the Scottish National party made a great deal of fuss about the involvement of the Scottish Government in consultation about the public institutions in Scotland that would be affected by the Prevent agenda. I was pleased to hear the Minister refer to the level of consultation that had taken place with the Scottish Government. I may be presuming too much, but perhaps the absence of members of the Scottish National party this afternoon means that they are fully content with what is being proposed. Obviously we must wait and see, but there is no one here to put an alternative case."

Diana Johnson - having a few minutes earlier criticised the new Prevent guidance for not going "as far as it should in meeting the pledges the Home Secretary made yesterday" - then went on to make some points that touch on fundamental flaws in the Prevent programme. She said:

"The definition of Islamic extremism is limited: an Islamic extremist is described as someone who is angry with the west and resents western intervention in wars in Muslim countries. The guidance talks of a 'them and us' rhetoric."

Full Transcript of the debate.