The Government’s review of counter-terrorism powers should be about keeping people safe in their homes, “not keeping Nick Clegg safe in his job”, according to shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.
Speaking as Home Secretary Theresa May prepares to outline controversial plans to reform the system of control orders for suspected terrorists, Ms Cooper said national security was too important to be dogged by “chaos and horse-trading” in Government.
The issue is particularly fraught for the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg, who campaigned at the general election on a pledge to abolish control orders completely.
The orders, which have been described as being akin to house arrest by critics, are likely to be replaced with “surveillance orders”. The system of curfews will be eased, along with restrictions on the use of mobile phones and computers, but some controls are likely to be kept for a small number of individuals.
It is understood the revised form of control orders could include concessions over pastoral care, education and work.
There was “broad agreement” among ministers over the proposals at a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago and the issue was not discussed at yesterday’s meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Ms Cooper said the findings of the counter-terrorism review, which will be outlined in the Commons, “should be a chance for the Home Secretary to lead a serious debate and build a new consensus”.
“We must update policies and powers in response to ever-changing threats, looking too at new risks, prevention of radicalisation, handling intelligence and the framework of accountability,” she said. “It should also be the moment for serious reflection on difficult measures that have been in place for years.
“These are exceptional powers and no government would use them in an ideal world. But we have to face the uncomfortable problem of a small number of individuals who cannot be deported or charged, but where the police and security services want to prevent further terrorist activity.”
Ms Cooper said the Home Secretary must show that she has put the national interest above party political squabbling after a review process “characterised by delays, disarray and a politicised public debate between different parts of the government”.