Developments since our last briefing
In our briefing of 20 March (read here) we pointed out that despite the issue of statutory guidance by the Home Office the new Prevent duty in s.26 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 was not then in force, although we expected it to come into effect in the final week of the Parliamentary session following approval of the necessary regulations by both Houses of Parliament. The last week of Parliamentary business, however, saw the position change.
While both Houses approved the regulations, government spokesmen indicated that they accepted that the issued guidance was incomplete in that further guidance (on the management of external speakers and the holding of events) had not yet been issued. The duty could not be implemented until this further guidance had been issued and the necessary further regulations approved by Parliament. The outgoing government intended that this should be done and the duty implemented on 1 July 2015 but this was subject to the outcome of the general election – one government could not bind its successors.
What institutions should be doing
Some institutions are already well advanced in their planning of strategies and procedures to address the Prevent duty. In the case of schools and academies there is unlikely to be further statutory guidance so these preparations can continue.
In the case of colleges and universities final preparations are made by more difficult by the delay in the issue of the further guidance on managing external speakers and events. The drafting of this guidance will bring into sharp focus the potential clash of the s.26 duty with the duties on further and higher education institutions to ensure freedom of speech within the law and to protect academic freedom – existing statutory duties to which institutions are now required to have particular regard as the result of amendments to the 2015 Act made by the House of Lords. Such institutions should, however, be considering what other aspects of their operation may need to be reviewed in the light of the duty and be ready to address the issues raised by meetings and events later in the year when - subject to the general election - further guidance is available. As the duty had the support of the three main political parties (subject to concerns strongly expressed by the Liberal Democrats) it would be unwise to assume that the duty will not be implemented.