HOME OFFICE – INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM – 24 March 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: Is there any particular reason why the Pursue strand in the document is being moved up ahead of the Prevent strand, which is normally the first named? Has the right hon. Lady made any progress in her dealings with university staff in reminding them that, while the preservation of academic freedom is absolutely vital, they also have duties as citizens of this country to report to the appropriate authorities any incipient criminal activities that they detect on campus?

[The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): I think that the order has always been Pursue and then Prevent. Of course the short-term task is to pursue those who are plotting terrorist attacks and to bring them to justice, and the long-term aim is to prevent people from turning to terrorism or violent extremism in the first place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not read too much into the placing of those elements in the list. It is a wide-ranging and comprehensive strategy that requires all four Ps to be successful.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about higher education institutions. We have made considerable progress, not least through the work of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, in providing more guidance on what happens in higher education institutions. It is now recognised that while academic freedom and the right of discussion is absolutely fundamentally part of university life, so is the protection of young people from potential radicalisation, which may lead them to tragic consequences, and the right of everyone to have freedom to live on university campuses without being subject to some of the radicalising influences and violent extremism that there is a risk of being perpetrated in some of our higher education institutions.]

[NOTE: In point of fact, the Prevent strand was normally the first listed. See, for example, the entry on the Security Service website here.]