The foiling of a terrorist plot on Friday has once more pushed the issue of national security into the headlines. Apart from the direct security risks, a worrying consequence of this is the impact it will have on counterterrorism laws that are currently being reviewed.
There has recently been cause to question the Coalition’s commitment to civil liberties, particularly in regards to the existence of control orders. When the government appointed Lord Macdonald to carry out the internal Home Office review of counter-terrorism measures, it seemed that that it was showing a commitment to civil liberties – MacDonald’s liberal views on this subject are well known in Westminster.
However, recent statements from the Home Secretary suggest that the government is only listening to the concerns of the security services instead of those of the country and Parliament. The attempted terrorist attacks may have been given control orders a stay of execution.
Since the introduction of control orders in 2005 there has been much debate about their legitimacy. Their stated purpose was to restrict the movement of any kind of suspects, including British nationals, targeted by the Home Secretary – a huge infringement on our civil liberties. This raised serious concern about the growing power of the government at the expense of our freedom.
When the Coalition was formed back in May, one of the key policy areas that united the two parties was a commitment to civil liberties and to revoke some of the authoritarian policies put in place by the Labour government, including control orders.
Unfortunately, it seems that what was said in opposition seems to count for little in power. We can only hope that the cries for the abolition of control orders from prominent MPs on both side of the Coalition – notably David Davis, who has pledged to vote against their continuation – will help to restore some of our lost civil liberties.