The Libdem ‘miserable little compromise’ on Control Orders

11:30 am - January 27th 2011

by Septicisle    

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Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises: be more demanding. So intones Nick Clegg in his introduction to the ever increasing barrel of laughs which is the Liberal Democrat manifesto of 2010.

Hidden away, appropriately enough on page 94, is another of those promises which has since become a miserable little compromise: the proposed abolition of control orders.

Control orders are entirely a construct of the security services being more dedicated to the protection of their own sources and themselves should a suspect go on to commit an atrocity than they are the protection of the public.

Meant to cover the very few that either can’t be prosecuted or deported and on whom there is compelling “intelligence” of their criminal intentions, they’re also an insight into just how we’ve been frightened by the powers that be over the past few years.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were told of how around 2,000 separate individuals were involved in plotting terrorist attacks, although that figure was never properly clarified and broken down. How many people are considered so dangerous that they have to be all but permanently monitored and subject to a form of house arrest? 8, currently.

Those 8 were doubtless eagerly awaiting the long trailed changes to the control order regime, finally announced yesterday after supposedly months of in-fighting and battles between the coalition partners, with David Cameron wailing at one point about how it was turning into a “fucking car crash”.

Instead the government, apparently to save the Liberal Democrats some face as everything else falls down around around them, has embarked on one of their periodic rebranding exercises.

Control orders will become Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, which if anything sounds even more Orwellian than the current misnomer.

The up to 16 hour curfews currently in place will transform into “overnight residence requirements”.

The other hardly encouraging change is that rather than being a temporary measure, as control orders always had been, the proposed legislation will make the TPIMs permanently available as an option. The orders themselves will be able to be imposed for up to two years, rather than a slightly more amenable 12 months, albeit an improvement on the current indefinite time limit.

It therefore takes quite some chutzpah for Tim Farron to call it a “proud day” as the party completely fails to even begin to implement its promise to prosecute terrorist suspects, but the Liberal Democrats as we have seen are nothing if not shameless.

The security services have once again won against those trying to bring their judgement calls even slightly into the open, and liberty itself is the loser.

A longer version is at Obsolete

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at on politics and general media mendacity.
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Reader comments

This is hardly a return to a golden age of liberty but, if that’s what you actually want, how about you support and applau. the significant improvements that have been made, thanks to the lib dems, which would make it easier for them to get further concessions in the future.

It isn’t a “proud day”, but it is a step in the right direction (of course we could do with a few more).

It falls way short of their election promisses but congratulations on rewriting history by attributing the origin of control orders to the security services rather than New Labour.

Doesn’t this also mean that, as the current system stay in place until the end of the year, LibDem MPs will be obliged to vote for the renewal of the current control order system, when it comes before parliament, next month?

The Lie Dems have no credibility left on anything. They have shown themselves to be the most cynical of the political parties. Quite rotten to the core.

Or maybe Clegg just realised control orders are unpalatable but necessary, changed his mind and tweaked to save face with his ever dwindling supporters.

Wait, we’ve scrapped a temporary measure which has to be re-authorised every year for a permanent measure which is virtually identical in all other respects, and that’s hailed as “a step in the right direction”? In precisely what sense is this an improvement? What “significant improvements” have been made?

What practical difference do sunset clauses make, when they are usually nodded through Parliament (28 days being a recent exception)? A Government wishing to retain legislation will have it nodded through; a Government wishing to repeal legislation without a sunset clause will have it repealed.

Perhaps someone – a Labour MP! – will be decent enough to amend with a sunset clause. I must say, though, that the Tories did make a fuss in favour of a sunset clause in 2005.


The two year limit seems an improvement on “indefinite”.

8 hours seems an improvement on 16 hours (although I thought 16 was ruled unlawful).

Adding the opportunity to stay somewhere overnight that isn’t the controlee’s main residence seems an improvement.

Improving the opportunity of access to acquaintances, friends and relatives seems an improvement.

The Home Secretary must have a “reasonable belief” not a “reasonable suspicion”, which is apparently a “stronger test”.

Forced relocation is to be ended.

More tightly defined exclusion orders (i.e. streets and buildings instead of entire boroughs).

Greater access to phones and the Internet (subject to conditions).

Are these not steps in the right direction?

I did not claim there were big steps!

To be fair, I expect the “no forced relocation” bit to be amended away, given that at least one control order judgement (BX) says the judge was in satisfied a relocation was necessary to protect the public.

Shatterface: If we’re going to get really pedantic about it then they’re in fact the result of the law lords striking down indefinite detention without trial. I’m not saying that New Labour isn’t ultimately culpable, just that they were much the result of the party asking what the security services needed and instead of saying no took them at face value.

So, as Jonathan Calder points out, you are saying , “Vote Labour because the Liberal Democrats have been insufficiently successful in overturning Labour’s legislation.”

It’s dreadful of the LibDems given they have as much as…. er… 8.8% of the seats….


Since they are so keen on electoral reform, the LD’s shouldn’t accept that the % of seats they gained was in any way a “fair” way to assess their relative influence or strength within the Coalition. A scant 8 months ago they were polling in the mid-twenties in the national polls, and based on votes cast at the GE, their party got 40% of the total cast for the Coalition parties. Any Tory who tried to use the “it’s all about number of seats” line should have been warmly invited to use their number of seats to try and govern alone.

I still don’t see why the dwindling band of LD loyalists think they struck a good deal. Even if you don’t make a direct correlation between 40% of the Coalition vote = 40% of cabinet positions, or simply that it ought to result in much more LD influence on the direction of Coalition policy, many former (and current!) LD supporters, members and voters must be coming to the conclusion they were had.

The abject failure of the LD’s to deliver even on the issue of abolition of Control Orders simply demonstrates their political bankruptcy.

Galen10, if the law is along the lines of my comment @8, would you say that it is an improvement or not?

To save time I will say that,

1. it seems unreasonable to think it is not an improvement although if you don’t think it is an improvement I can see why you’d say the LibDems failed; and,

2. if you think it is an improvement, as any true Scotsman would, I can’t see how you can describe it as an abject failure.

It isn’t an unqualified success, as I said earlier. But nor is it a failure.


I didn’t say there aren’t elements of “Control Orders Lite” that represent improvement, though given my misgivings about the whole issue that honestly seems to be damning with faint praise. As you will have noted, there are also aspects of the new proposals which are worse, such as them being permanent rather than just a temporary measure.

I can be both thankful for small mercies that the existing scheme has been ameliorated somewhat, and yet still viscerally opposed to the concept AND believe that the revised plans represent an abject failure on the partt of the LD’s to make progress on an issue which should be a “no-brainer”, hence my disagreeing with your earlier post that it could be expected due to the small number of seats they gained.

I’m not sure what my nationality has to do with it?

If this is “success” we’re in deeper trouble than I thought!

I’m not sure what my nationality has to do with it?

Oh, I didn’t know you were Scottish – it was an attempt at dry humour about a logical fallacy I almost used.

Ian: The word “Labour” wasn’t used once in the piece. It’s absurd to suggest what I wrote is any way advocating a vote for the party that put control orders in place. As Galen10 has argued, the Liberal Democrats have abandoned another of their manifesto pledges when they were in an incredibly strong position to deliver.

“Ian: The word “Labour” wasn’t used once in the piece. It’s absurd to suggest what I wrote is any way advocating a vote for the party that put control orders in place.”

Well then, for whom should we vote? The Conservatives?

I voted Green while calling for a Liberal Democrat vote where they could win last year. That turned out well. In any case, I’m hardly saying you shouldn’t vote Liberal Democrat on the basis that they’ve abandoned their promise on control orders; there’s so much else they should be held to account for when the time comes.

What ever happned to innocent until proven guilty?

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