The UK has suffered a number of tragic terrorist attacks in recent weeks and months. The first duty of government is to protect people from this kind of violence, and Liberal Democrats will always work to ensure that our security services have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.
But we must also ensure that any new powers and legislation will be necessary, effective and proportionate to the threats we face.
This Bill would massively expand the Home Secretary’s power to impose Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures.
That’s not the case when it comes to the Government’s new Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill.
It would massively expand the Home Secretary’s power to impose Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, or ‘TPIMs’, which can include curfews and electronic tagging.
Under existing powers, TPIMs can be imposed if the Home Secretary “is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity”.
However, the Government’s Bill would lower the standard of proof so she only needs to have “reasonable grounds for suspecting” such involvement.
Currently, a TPIM is imposed for one year and can only be extended once, so there is a two-year limit. But this Bill would allow the Home Secretary to extend TPIMs indefinitely, without any judicial oversight.
These changes would essentially mean a return to Control Orders, which were heavily criticised for getting the balance wrong between national security and civil liberties, and were replaced with TPIMs by the Coalition Government in 2011.
These changes have been heavily criticised for getting the balance wrong between national security and civil liberties.
Putting power in the hands of a single Minister to impose curfews and tagging with minimal evidence will do nothing to keep people safe, but will put the rights and freedoms of innocent people at risk.
That’s why the Liberal Democrats are opposing these changes when the Bill comes before the House of Commons today. We have tabled amendments to remove them from the Bill and keep the existing safeguards in place.
Liberal Democrats will always oppose unnecessary, authoritarian power-grabs like this and demand an effective, evidence-based approach to combating terrorism.