The Joint Committee on Human Rights launches a sharply focused inquiry into the Government’s counter extremism strategy, to inform its scrutiny of the forthcoming Counter Extremism Bill. This focuses on compatibility with religious rights and freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Committee also takes interest in the operation of the Prevent Duty in the education sector.
Upcoming evidence sessions
Monday 9 March 2016, Room TBC
- David Anderson QC and Lord Carlile QC, the current and previous Independent Reviewers of Terrorism Legislation, will be first to give evidence to the committee
Further witnesses will be announced shortly. There will be an opportunity to submit written evidence on the Counter Extremism Bill once it is published.
Letter to the Home Secretary
The Committee wrote to the Secretary of State ( PDF 115 KB) on 25 November asking a range of questions about the Bill, and received a holding response (PDF 829 KB) on 9 December, with a promise of a more detailed response upon the publication of the Bill.
The Government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy (PDF 472 KB) was launched by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on 19 October 2015. It notes that the greatest current challenge comes from the global rise of Islamist extremism, however the strategy is designed to tackle
“all forms of extremism: violent and non-violent, Islamist and neo-Nazi.”
The Prevent Duty was introduced via the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015
The Department of Education’s consultation on Out of School education settings (PDF 247 KB) is also connected with the counter-extremism strategy. The consultation paper, published by the Department for Education, confirmed the Government’s
“intention to introduce a new system to enable intervention in such settings [with]
the broad aim of keeping children safe generally from the risk of harm, including emotional harm, and promoting their welfare.”
The consultation closed on 11 January. Concerns were subsequently expressed at a Westminster Hall debate on 20 January, with some MPs unhappy with the apparent singling out of religious activity for new laws, which they argued
“implies that religious activity is inherently problematic.”
Broader concerns have also been expressed about the Prevent duty in the university and education sectors. A debate on universities and freedom of speech was held in the House of Lords on 26 November 2015.
Harriet Harman, Chair of the JCHR, said:
“Countering extremism is vitally important. We need to ensure that all efforts to counter extremism are in accordance with human rights standards, and the Committee will undertake a thorough exploration of the issues with a range of expert witnesses before commencing scrutiny of this Bill”