A leading Parliamentary committee is “none the wiser” about Government efforts to crack down on extremism, after a Home Officer minister appeared in front of MPs and Peers.
Karen Bradley was facing the Joint Committee on Human Rights as the Government prepares a consultation on its plans.
The Christian Institute and others in the Defend Free Speech campaign have previously warned that Whitehall’s anti-extremism plans threaten free speech.
‘None the wiser’
Bradley, a counter-extremism minister, appeared before parliamentarians but failed to give any specific details on multiple issues.
Harriet Harman, who chairs the Committee, concluded, “we don’t know what civil orders are being talked about, we don’t know what the sanctions are likely to be, we don’t know what the definitions are, we have no specificity about the timetable in terms of when the consultation will start, how long it will be.
“We know there won’t be a draft Bill, but we really are none the wiser about anything else”.
When questioned about whether Extremism Disruption Orders would be included in legislation, Bradley said that would be determined by the consultation.
She gave the Committee a number of different definitions of extremism including:
• “the public promotion of an ideology which can lead to greater harms”
• “the preaching of an ideology that does lead to some sort of crime, or hatred or division in society”
• “the public promotion of an ideology that leads to harmful criminal behaviour”.
She also said that the Government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy needed to have broad definitions in order to anticipate future forms of extremism.
Bradley did, however, confirm that the Government wants to push ahead with combatting extremism in out-of-school settings.
She stated that under the plans it would be up to Ofsted to inspect any settings that have been reported to them, which could include Sunday schools.
She did acknowledge that the Government needed to get its efforts right, “because we do not want to be impinging on people’s civil rights, we do not want to be impinging on religious freedom”.
The Committee’s Karen Buck MP suggested that a lack of definitions would make the consultation meaningless, and said the Government’s intentions are “broad, nebulous and subjective”.