1 Sep 2014

New powers for police to seize terror suspects’ passports

David Cameron tells parliament that police will have temporary new powers to seize passports of terror suspects at the UK border and to stop British-born suspected extremists from returning to the UK.

In a statement to the Commons on the government’s plans to tackle the heightened threat of terrorism from Islamic State militants, the prime minister announced new temporary powers for police to stop terror suspects trying to cross the border and seize passports.

Regarding British-born suspected extremists, David Cameron said he was planning to introduce “specific and discretionary powers” to exclude them, but did not elaborate. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have reportedly been in tense talks over the weekend about proposed new laws brought in to deal with the terror threat.

“We are clear in principle that what we need is a targeted discretionary power to allow us to exclude British nationals from the UK and we’ll work proposals on this basis with our agencies in line with our international obligations and discuss the details on a cross-party basis,” the prime minister said.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the proposals to exclude British nationals involved in terrorism abroad from entering the country were “unclear”.

Mr Cameron also said that airlines would be forced to hand over passenger lists, and that failure to comply would mean they cannot land in Britain.

His statement to the Commons, followed by questions from MPs, follows the move last week to raise the UK’s terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”.

Extended ‘TPims’

Mr Cameron said the government was planning to extend the measures placed on terror suspects at home – Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims) – so that they have “stronger locational powers” and would include “locational constraints” on suspected extremists in Britain.

The change is suggestive of the previous “control orders”, introduced in 2005 and replaced by TPims in January 2012, which allowed terror suspects to be under curfew for 16 hours, to be relocated to a different town or area and, similarly to TPims, to wear electronic tags.

“We will introduce new powers to add to our existing terrorism prevention and investigation measures including stronger locational constraints on suspects under Tpims either through enhanced use of exclusions zones or through relocation powers,” he said.

In response, Mr Miliband said that relocation powers were central to control orders that the coalition had scrapped in 2011, “and it was a mistake to get rid of them in the first place”.

Mr Cameron also added: “Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice. It is a duty for all those who live in these islands so we will stand up for our values, we will in the end defeat this extremism and we will secure our way of life for generations to come.”

And he dismissed a suggestion from London Mayor Boris Johnson that travelling to certain countries should be criminalised, but admitted that measures were needed to stop some British-born suspected extremists from returning to the UK.