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Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

I am today informing Parliament of an ongoing police operation to locate a foreign national who is believed to have absconded from his control order on the night of 18 June. This individual was placed under a control order in November 2005.

Public safety is the top priority for the Government and the police. Locating this individual is an operational matter for the police, and an active investigation is underway. An anonymity order is in place and, on the operational advice of the police, the Government is not currently seeking to overturn it. This will be kept under review.

The Government have consistently made clear its view that control orders are less than 100 per cent. effective in countering terrorism. As we have repeatedly made clear to the House, there are limitations and problems with the legal framework under which we must operate. The Government must operate under the constraints imposed by Parliament, the courts and the law. Control orders are not even our second—or third—best option for dealing with suspected terrorists. But under our existing laws they are as far as we can go.

In this case, the obligations included a tag, 14-hour curfew, a requirement to remain within a restricted area, reside at a specified address and restrictions on finance and communications. They are the most stringent obligations we could impose in this individual's case. He was previously subject to stricter controls but these had to be revised in light of last year’s Court of Appeal judgment in this and other cases.

Unfortunately, within these limits, it is very difficult to prevent determined individuals from absconding. I am already appealing to the House of Lords this and several other control order cases, concerning the interpretation of article 5 ECHR (deprivation of liberty). We will consider other options—including derogation—if we have exhausted ways of overturning previous judgments on this issue.