Diane Abbott blasts ‘tainted’ Prevent policy during terror bill debate

Sajid Javid Diane Abbott Terrorism debate
Support us and go ad-free

On 11 June, parliament discussed the counter-terrorism and border security bill in a Commons chamber that was almost entirely empty. The Canary counted approximately 33 MPs present during the second reading (and first debate) of the latest terror bill.

33 MPs during 2nd reading of counter terror bill

Home secretary Sajid Javid said the bill offers:

powers to tackle the evolving threat to the UK from terrorism and from hostile state activity and powers to keep the public safe and protect our national security

The only real pushback came from shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who slammed the ineffectiveness of the government’s ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy, known as Prevent.

The Canary has previously detailed how this bill expands on the draconian powers given by legislation such as the Terrorism Act 2000. This point was also raised by Abbott.

Expanding the law without creating new offences

Max Hill, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, offered a “cautious welcome” writing:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The CT Bill does not contain a single new terrorist offence… we have sufficient offences and do not need any more.

But the criminalisation of once perfectly lawful speech and activity is further expanded by this bill.

A growing DNA database of innocent people?

Abbott warned that the bill:

allows the retention of biometric data on anyone arrested, including DNA and fingerprints, even if they are mistakenly or even unlawfully arrested. There are already abuses of the national police database, which ​the Government have failed to correct. The state has no business keeping records on people who are not criminals.

It is an essential part of our liberty that we can go about our day-to-day lives unhindered by state agencies. That is not the case if the state can retain data on all of us. It is an even greater breach of our civil liberties if the retention is done without our knowledge.

These concerns were partially dismissed by Conservative MP Kevin Foster who said:

We would not say that details should be destroyed immediately merely because an offence was not proceeded with. I accept that this needs to be balanced with the fact that those who are wholly innocent should not think that their data will always be on a database. … Clearly, it would not be sensible to throw away potentially valuable evidence that might at a later stage allow us to proceed on an offence.

Conservative MP Eddie Hughes said:

We should celebrate …because DNA profiling is now used by 120 countries around the world, and 54 of them have DNA databases.

Prevent is a ‘tainted brand’

Successive governments have pushed the Prevent surveillance and ‘counter-radicalisation’ programme.

Abbott said the bill:

proposes extending the Prevent strategy by allowing local authorities, as well as the police, to refer people to the Prevent programme. Let me be clear that there will always be a need for a programme that does what Prevent purports to do.

I have no doubt that there is some good work being done in the name of Prevent, but Prevent as a whole is a tainted brand

Abbott then dropped a bombshell that has yet to be publicly discussed:

From a recent study by the Behavioural Insights Team, commissioned by the Home Office itself, we also know that more than 95% of deradicalisation programmes are ineffective. I suggest that those two facts—that Prevent is a tainted brand and that so many of the deradicalisation programmes are ineffective—are not unrelated.

Labour is committed to a thorough review of the Prevent programme, which we believe is currently not fit for purpose. In the interests of transparency and accurate evidence-based policy making, I call on the Home Secretary today to publish the research by the Behavioural Insights Team, which has been so widely reported and seems to run counter to the claims made for the success of these programmes.

Foster responded by saying:

We have debated Prevent. Ultimately, the motivation behind this type of behaviour does not matter.


Research by the Transnational Institute suggests that counter-terrorism programmes may be harming efforts to build peace:

There is a growing consensus that laws prohibiting support to listed entities [“terrorist” groups] have contributed to a ‘shrinking space’ for those seeking to establish the conditions conducive to peace.

Furthermore, the government’s self-proclaimed ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy – Prevent – has been repeatedly debunked even before Abbott’s bombshell revelations.

Given the rather lacklustre showing in parliament and the nearly non-existent critique in the press, any real opposition to this latest bill will have to come from the public at large.

Disclosure: The author of this article volunteers with the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities.

Get Involved!

Write to your MP and demand they oppose the 2018 terrorism bill.

Support independent journalism at The Canary.

Read about the opposition to anti-democratic terrorism legislation.

Featured image and image in article via screenshots

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed