The Prevent duty's legacy is division and discrimination - it needs to go

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 23 January 2017

This week, in both Houses of Parliament, the Government will be taken to task on the most discredited and divisive element of its counter-terror strategy – Prevent.  

In the Lords on Wednesday, Labour peer Alf Dubs will seek repeal of the Prevent duty in universities through an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill. He will be joined by prominent Green, Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers united in defence of free speech on campus.

Meanwhile in the Commons on Friday, Conservative MP Lucy Allan will use a Private Members Bill to argue that primary schools and nurseries are no place for Prevent.

Discrimination and distrust

The Prevent duty – together with the Government’s guidance - requires teachers, nursery workers, lecturers and others to monitor speech and behaviour for conduct deemed contrary to British values. There are severe consequences for failing to do so, but none for improper reports.

Since its inception, it has left a trail of discrimination and distrust in its wake. By forcing teachers and lecturers to police their classrooms using clumsy definitions of the “extreme”, it has undermined not only trust, but also the free and frank exchange of ideas in schools and universities.

It has seen children interviewed by police for the pictures they draw and the toys they play with. It has seen students targeted for reading course material. Young people have been singled out because of their religion and the colour of their skin.

Repeal, review and rethink

Rather than addressing and reforming a failing strategy, in 2015 the Government pushed through legislation which put Prevent on a statutory footing.

This week, parliamentarians will condemn that statutory duty.

Liberty is calling for repeal of the Prevent duty and for an independent review of the broader strategy – a call supported by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), campaigners, faith groups, cross-party MPs and the Government’s own reviewer of terrorism legislation. 

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Policy and Advocacy Manager