Theresa May's measures to tackle radicalisation come under fire
Minister plans to clamp down on extremism in wake of Woolwich attack criticised for failing to push integration at local level
Patrick Wintour and Sam Jones
guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 May 2013 11.41 BST
Theresa May said she was prepared to do battle with Nick Clegg over his veto of the so-called snooper’s charter. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
A battery of measures to prevent the radicalisation of British Muslims has been outlined by the home secretary, Theresa May, including tougher pre-emptive censorship of internet sites, a lower threshold for banning extremist groups and renewed pressure on universities and mosques to reject "hate preachers".
May also signalled on Sunday that she was prepared to do battle with Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, over his veto of the communications data bill – the so-called snooper's charter.
After four days in which ministers have been praised in some quarters for avoiding a knee-jerk response to the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby outside his Woolwich barracks in south London, Whitehall swung into action.
It has promised a new taskforce, chaired by the prime minister, and a root and branch review of Prevent, the government strategy to combat radicalisation.
However, Labour's former counter-terrorism minister Hazel Blears has criticised the government for failing to tackle radicalisation at a local level.
Blears, who as communities secretary helped lead the Prevent strategy, warned that too much of the coalition's focus had been on policing and security measures rather than supporting integration.
She backed the creation of a taskforce to crack down on extremism but said there was "much more to be done".
Blears – a member of the intelligence and security committee – told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the government had been right to review the Prevent strategy in 2011.
"What I am concerned about now is that the Prevent programme work that was being done in local communities with local authorities appears to have been abandoned and the Prevent programme now is purely run by the Home Office, who are doing everything they can through the police. But there's a whole range of other work that needs to be done, particularly with young people, with women, getting that sense of British values and working very much at a local level where these problems are."
Blears said it was "far too simplistic a view to say that integration and trying to prevent extremism are two entirely separate things".
"It's really important for young people in communities to feel that this is their community and that way you stop the next generation being groomed into extremism. I think the two things do have a connection."
She said that simply banning extremist preachers from television screens or blocking their websites would not be enough.
MI5 will deliver a preliminary report to the intelligence and security committee on how it failed to identify Michael Adebolajo, one of the Woolwich suspects, as a serious threat to national security, even though it had been tracking him for years and, according to reports, at one point sought to recruit him.
The government confirmed Adebolajo had been arrested and deported from Kenya in November 2010. He had allegedly been trying to reach neighbouring Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group.
Police investigating Rigby's murder made a ninth arrest on Sunday when armed officers in balaclavas seized a 22-year-old man on a north London street.
The man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, by detectives from the Met's counter-terrorism command and specialist firearms officers near Highbury Corner at around 2.45pm. No shots were fired during the arrest and the suspect was taken to a south London police station.
Earlier on Sunday, the family of the murdered soldier visited the Woolwich street where he died to lay flowers and keepsakes and to see the hundreds of tributes that had been left at the scene.
May, giving her first considered policy response to the killing, said she was concerned thousands were under threat of radicalisation.
She said there was a case for strengthening the powers of the media regulator, Ofcom, as well as blocking or taking down extremist messages on the internet, proposals that may alarm internet service providers.
She said: "There is no doubt that people are able to watch things through the internet which can lead to radicalisation."
May said that since 2010, 5,500 items had been taken down from the internet.
A government source said: "We cannot stand by and let people whip up violent hatred of Britain and its values and culture with the appalling consequences we have seen."
In addition, ministers are considering:
• Using orders to ban organisations that don't meet the threshold for proscription.
• Tightening the duties on universities to take action against extremist preachers.
• Closing unregulated schools and madrasas, as well as requiring mosque committees to be accountable for the imams they invite to speak.
• Protecting the budgets of the counter-terrorist police and the intelligence services in next month's spending review.
• Reviewing the focus and budget of the Prevent programme, set up by the last Labour government and already reviewed once by the coalition.
May also challenged the BBC for interviewing the radical preacher Anjem Choudary in the wake of the Woolwich attack.
She said he held "disgusting views and I think it is right that we look at how those views are being presented, and I think there were many people who did indeed say, what is the BBC doing interviewing Anjem Choudary?"
Mark Reckless, the Conservative member of the home affairs select committee, also criticised the corporation for interviewing Choudary, who was also interviewed by Channel 4.
May called for a revival of the communications bill, currently blocked in its fuller form by Clegg.
The former Labour home secretary, Alan Johnson, suggested May should resign if she could not win cabinet support for the proposals, but Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, sprung to the defence of Clegg, saying: "What is being argued for by some is that all of us should be subject to scrutiny of every telephone call we make, every text we send and every internet site we visit. That is a very, very substantial intrusion into people's lives."
Lord Howard, the former Conservative leader, said if the Lib Dems would not change their minds, "I think the Conservative part of the government should explore the possibility of getting this legislation through with the co-operation of the Labour party".
In practice, Labour has yet to see in detail what revised proposals May is seeking to reintroduce, and certainly believes the original proposals were disproportionate.
The Muslim Council of Britain expressed reservations at some of May's proposals. In a statement, it said: "We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give into the demands of all extremists: making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other. Lessons from the past indicate that policies and measures taken in haste can exacerbate extremism.
"We acknowledge that there is a difficult conversation to be had about extremism and the role of our mosques and religious institutions. We have been here before."