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Prime Minister David Cameron: police will be given temporary powers to seize passports

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 01, 2014

  • Police on the Severn Bridge Crossing near Bristol ahead of the NATO conference being held in Newport this week.

  • Police on the Severn Bridge Crossing near Bristol ahead of the NATO conference being held in Newport this week.

  • Police on the Severn Bridge Crossing near Bristol ahead of the NATO conference being held in Newport this week.

  • Prime Minister David Cameron: police will be given temporary powers to seize passports

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Police will be given temporary powers to seize passports at UK borders of Britons they suspect are travelling abroad to fight with terror groups, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

The plans to extend anti-terrorism powers come after a weekend of Coalition negotiations following an increase in the terrorist threat to the UK from substantial to severe.

Mr Cameron said: “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.”

The Prime Minister dismissed suggestions by London mayor Boris Johnson that travel to certain countries should be criminalised as “wrong” but said measures were needed to stop some Britons returning.

Mr Cameron added: “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.”

Airlines will also be hit by tougher rules, including providing information on passenger lists, or their flights will be blocked from landing in the UK.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said relocation powers were a central part of the control order system that the coalition scrapped and replaced with Tpims.

“With regards to the most serious high risk cases where convictions in the courts cannot be achieved I welcome your recognition that the Independent Reviewer on terrorism had made clear the inadequacies of Tpims,” he said.

“In particular the inability to relocate suspects away from their communities.

“Relocation was indeed a central part of control orders and it was a mistake to get rid of them in the first place.”

Mr Miliband also said Mr Cameron’s proposals to exclude British nationals involved in terrorism abroad from entering the country were “unclear”.

Mr Cameron and and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg were in ``constant communication'' over the last few days to find a compromise over the Government's response to dealing with the threat posed by Islamic State (IS) extremists.

Liberal Democrats were fiercely opposed to the control orders and while negotiations continued former leader Lord Ashdown warned that politicians should not act as “cheerleaders” for the demands of the intelligence and security services.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said today’s announcement meant Tpims are now identical to control orders.

She said: “Sabre-rattling and thinly-veiled threats to the courts, but little detail from the Prime Minister.

“Why demand that the police seize passports on a discriminatory, dangerous basis rather than arrest those intent on committing murder and terror overseas?

“Control orders and Tpims become identical via internal exile at home, while the threat of external exile remains with the dangerous and innocent alike dumped like toxic waste on the international community.”

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said it would be ``probably impossible'' for the Government to prevent Britons suspected of fighting for IS returning to the UK.

The Conservative MP told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “Whilst the person who goes abroad fighting in Syria may technically commit treason, and indeed should be put on trial perhaps for treason when they come back, nevertheless they are British nationals and excluding them unconvicted from coming to this country I think raises some very severe difficulties.

“At the moment excluding them is not possible but I think we are likely to find that excluding them would be very difficult indeed.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted discussions on the measures had not ``divided the coalition''.

“What we’ve done is targeted, proportionate and effective. We have continued to discuss and examined the way in which you can stop travelling from that crucible of violence in that region to come back here and do us harm,” he said.

“We will take people’s passport away for a temporary period of time if they try and leave the UK and it is clear they want to go elsewhere to do us harm.

“We will draft legislation in order to ensure that we retain existing powers to confiscate people’s passports where we think that is necessary.

“We are looking at the recommendation of the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism measures to ensure the protections we have in place for people who cannot be prosecuted but nonetheless pose a threat, that those powers are effectively applied.

“And crucially... we are going to work with the aviation industry, the airlines, to make sure that we introduce American style powers so they have to give us information on passengers so we can stop them boarding planes in the first place to come back here.

He said other proposals were still being considered amid “all sorts of procedural, legislative, legal complexities”.

The Lib Dem leader added: “This was not an argument that divided the coalition. Both the PM and myself want to get the right balance between plugging the gaps wehere they need to be plugged to make sure that we keep people in this country safe, but doing so in a way that is in keeping with our finest traditions of due process and upholding the rule of law.”

Downing Street said the plans for seizing passports, excluding British nationals and toughening Tpims would all require legislation.

The PM’s spokesman said the changes would be brought forward “as swiftly as possible” although he declined to speculate on whether it would be after the conference season.

The spokesman said work would be done to check the practicality of excluding Britons from the country – denying that a coalition split was to blame for failure to bring forward a solid proposal.

He also rejected the idea that the government was U-turning by re-introducing locational restriction to Tpims. There are still significant differences from the old control order regime, which he argued had “crumbled” under legal challenges.

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