MI5 on recruitment drive to cope with new control orders

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MI5 needs to recruit and train more surveillance officers before the control order regime for terrorism suspects can be relaxed, the Government has said.
6:31PM GMT 09 Mar 2011


Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, the security minister, said sufficient surveillance needed to be in place “to give the necessary security to the public” before the system could be replaced at the beginning of next year.

“That surveillance doesn’t exist at the moment,” the minister told peers. “Individuals have to be recruited. People have to be trained. We need extra capacity and capability.”

MI5 has launched an online recruitment game in which potential recruits can try out their observation skills before applying.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year that the security service is to be given an extra £20m a year to cope with the extra work of keeping an eye on terrorist suspects under shorter curfews.

Control orders are due to be replaced with less restrictive Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure (TPIM) which will allow suspects greater freedom of movement and access to the internet and mobile phones.

But Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, said after the debate: “The security minister has let slip what we feared. The government’s political fudge on control orders has left our surveillance capability stretched.”

She said Labour had warned that the deal between the Tories and Lib Dems to relax counter-terrorism laws meant “putting more pressure on our security services when they are already working flat out” and said there was a “troubling level of incompetence” at a time when the counter terrorism budget cut by ten per cent.

Lady Neville-Jones was responding to calls from Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and a Lib Dem peer who oversaw the review of control orders.

He argued that restrictions on the eight people currently subject to control orders to be relaxed as soon as possible to increase the chances of “gathering incriminating evidence” to allow them to be prosecuted.

As peers debated the temporary extension of control orders until the end of the year, Lady Neville-Jones acknowledged: “There is, I think, some light between us on the subject of the balance to be struck between protection and prosecution.

“I can’t conceal from the House that the protective element in TPIMs is a primary objective.”

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in Force of Sections 1 to 9) Order, which MPs approved last week, was approved by the Lords without a vote.

It will take effect on Friday, when the existing powers had been due to expire.

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