May vows to stop the internet giants showing preachers of hate

The Telegraph Online, By Gordon Rayner, Political Editor. 6 June 2017

THE Government will consider new powers to block access to extremist websites if internet companies fail to act over online radicalisation, Theresa May has made clear. The Prime Minister told The Daily Telegraph that her preferred option to combat extremism being spawned online was for internationally agreed regulation, but if that fails she is prepared to go it alone.

Mrs May also said Muslim women should be free to choose whether to wear burkas but risk being treated as “second-class citizens” if they do not learn English.

She said it was vital for Muslim women to be able to “participate fully in our society” after making a speech in which she called for better integration of minority communities as one of the solutions to combating terrorism.

Mrs May has said that the internet can provide a “safe space” for terrorist recruitment, and the perpetrators of Saturday’s attack on London are said to have become radicalised after watching videos by hate preachers online.

The Prime Minister secured an agreement at last month’s G7 summit for world leaders to put pressure on Facebook, Google and other internet companies to address the problem and stop material such as bomb-making manuals being circulated online.

Mrs May told The Telegraph: “I think it is important we do get together internationally and look at the possibility of regulating cyberspace because what has developed as generally a huge benefit for people, is being misused because it’s being used as a tool in helping to put together attacks.” However, Mrs May said she would bring in legislation to make Britain “the safest place for people online” if she did not secure the agreements she is seeking. Aides confirmed that Mrs May has not ruled out the idea of legislation that would enable the Government to block access to extremist material for UK internet users.

On the issue of burkas, she said: “I’ve always said that a woman should be able to choose how she dresses. What I think is important though is that women are able to participate fully in society and aren’t treated as secondclass citizens and of course one of the things that we do see is women who are living here but don’t speak English. If you don’t speak English it’s not possible to participate fully in our society or in our economy.”

She said one of her first priorities if she is re-elected on Thursday would be to set up a Commission on Counterextremism to review ways of preventing radicalisation.

Sitting in a tiny conference room at the back of her Battle Bus, Theresa May gives a withering response to Jeremy Corbyn’s call for her to resign over policing cuts. She is clearly in no mood to be lectured by a man whose sympathies for the IRA are notorious and who has spoken proudly of his opposition to anti-terrorism legislation.

“There is a very sharp contrast for people on Thursday,” she says. “I’ve been willing to introduce new powers for the police, I support shoot to kill, Jeremy Corbyn has been very clear that he has opposed every piece of anti-terrorism legislation, he doesn’t support shoot to kill.”

It is perhaps the most direct answer of a wide-ranging interview, conducted on a journey from Edinburgh to Kelso yesterday as the final straight of the election beckons.

Through the windows she can see the rolling pastures of the Scottish borders, exactly the sort of countryside, with sheep dotting the fields as far as the eye can see, that you might expect to see in a Conservative election broadcast. It is a comforting sight less than 48 hours after the latest terrorist outrage to hit the UK.

“No prime minister wants to have a telephone call or notice of a terrorist attack,” says Mrs May, recalling how she was alerted by one of her staff at Chequers, her official country retreat, to the breaking news of the jihadist attack on London on Saturday night.

“When the nature of the attack became clear I went immediately to No 10 and had meetings in the early hours.”

Those meetings included questions about what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the latest atrocity – a question that is never likely to be far from the Prime Minister’s thoughts if she is re-elected. The best method, of course, is to prevent young Muslims becoming radicalised in the first place, and Mrs May says schools, universities and other public bodies all need to do more to identify extremism, even if that means having “embarrassing conversations”, as she said outside Downing Street yesterday.

“You might have an area where nobody is calling it out,” she says. “It’s important to have people recognising extremism, recognising radicalisation and call it out so that these people can be challenged if they are not abiding by British values.

“If they’re not part of society, if they believe that they can’t be a full part of our society and should not be a full part of our society I think we should be prepared to stand up and say that.

“Universities have a duty of care to their students so that if somebody is being radicalised on their campus they should make sure they know about it and take appropriate action.

“It’s very important that parts of the public sector do step up and ensure that they are moving fully with that duty that we have put on them.”

Hours earlier, Cressida Dick, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had publicly called for more officers to help combat the growing threat of terrorism. Could she count on Mrs May’s support?

“Cressida said yesterday that the Met is well-resourced, she also said that it had very powerful counter-terrorism initiatives, which of course there are,” said Mrs May.

“Of course we need to adapt to the threat as it evolves, and that means particularly looking at what powers are needed by the police particularly to deal with terrorists.”

She declines to specify what those new powers might be, but gives short shrift to those who have criticised her record of presiding over a reduction of 20,000 in policing numbers in her time as home secretary and now Prime Minister.

“We have increased the number of counter-terrorism officers and protected police budgets,” she insists.

The election, of course is about far more than security or, for that matter, Brexit. Elections are often won and lost on tax policies, so does Mrs May back her Defence Secretary, Michael

‘It is important to have people recognising extremism and call it out so that these people can be challenged if they are not abiding by British values’

Fallon, who promised high earners they will face no income tax rises?

She laughs. “Michael is a Conservative, I’m a Conservative, the Conservative Party’s instinct always is to lower tax. We are a low tax party, we believe in lower taxes, we believe in people being able to keep more of their own money,” she says.

Mrs May’s manifesto commitment to raise money for social care through what critics call a “dementia tax” has been blamed for her plunging poll ratings.

She has refused to say where the cap for contributions to social care will fall, but gives an intriguing response to the suggestion that it could be a percentage of a person’s estate, rather than a fixed sum of cash.

“We are genuinely going to consult on the cap and I think that’s important because we want to hear from different people, charities and other organisations. What was important was to set out the issue – others have ducked the challenge.” She refuses to rule out a percentage cap.

The social care plan played badly with pensioners, and Mrs May knows that young people, too, are more likely to vote Labour.

So why should they reject Jeremy Corbyn when they stand in the polling booth on Thursday?

“This election is about your future,” she says, addressing them directly. “It’s about having a country which is creating good jobs for your future, which is giving you more opportunity to own your own home, which is ensuring you’ve got the education which is right for you and if that’s a technical education that it’s really good quality so you’re skilled up for the jobs of the future.

“This election is about ensuring that your future is secure. To do that we need to get the Brexit negotiations right and secure our economy, and that’s what the Conservatives have a vision and a plan to do.”

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