Westminster turns its back on anti-terror Tpims
MPs and peers have published a report which could end up killing off the coalition's controversial terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) for good.
Parliamentarians on the joint committee for human rights declared Tpims were "withering on the vine", in a report which paves the way for a complete withdrawal of political support for the 'control order lite' measures.
Civil liberties campaigners have been outraged by Tpims because they result in individuals' freedom being curtailed even though they have not been convicted of a criminal offence.
"We are not clear that these measures continue to be as practically useful as the government claimed they would be when the Act was passed in 2011," committee chair Hywel Francis said.
"There is no evidence that they serve any investigative function and even as preventive measures they seem to be going out of favour with the agencies."
Seven of the eight people currently under the Tpims regime, which controls their movements by effectively putting them under house arrest, are about to be released as the two-year limit on their Tpims is reached on Sunday.
Today's report suggested the two terror suspects who had absconded and never been found had increased MPs and peers' disillusionment with Tpims.
"The committee notes that the home secretary's statements that the two Tpims subjects who have absconded do not pose a direct threat to the public in the UK serve as a stark reminder of the breadth of the statutory power," the report stated.
"It recommends that the breadth of the vaguely worded power to impose Tpims, 'for purposes connected with protecting the public form a risk of terrorism', be kept under careful review by the independent reviewer [of terrorism legislation]."
David Anderson, the independent reviewer, told the Today programme that Tpims were a "necessary evil" but insisted they did not present a "long-term solution" to the problem of terror suspects who cannot be charged in the courts.
"If they had been withering on the vine, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing," he said.
"It shows police and prosectors are doing their job."
Anderson said MI5 and the police had received a large amount of funding to covertly monitor the activity of "hundreds" of terror suspects.
The committee recommended that the next government looks again at Tpims.
Francis added: "In the meantime, more information needs to be put before parliament – and the public – so that well-informed judgments can be made about the necessity for and effectiveness of Tpims."
Labour has focused its criticism on national security concerns about the seven terror suspects about to be released.
"Theresa May deliberately changed the rules so that restrictions have to be stopped this month no matter how great she and the courts believe the risk might be," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.
"The independent reviewer of terror powers has confirmed that there are real problems with this arbitrary two-year time limit."
Her comments put Labour at odds with the views of the joint committee on human rights, which made clear it supported the principle of what Cooper called an "arbitrary" limit.
MPs and peers representing all parties in parliament said: "Serious restrictions on liberty, imposed outside of the criminal justice system, cannot be indefinite.
"The introduction of a statutory time limit on the duration of Tpims fulfils a requirement of human rights law.
"The expiry of the current Tpims should not, in our view, be an occasion to re-open a human rights compatability issue."