Only 10 terror suspects thrown out of Britain three years after Blair promised 'tough' crackdown

Abu Qatada

Scuppered: Efforts to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan failed earlier this year after the Appeal Court said it would breach his human rights

A handful of terror suspects have been thrown out of Britain under 'tough' powers announced by the Government in the aftermath of the July 7 bombings.

Tony Blair famously declared at the time of the attacks that 'the rules of the game are changing' and promised to deport foreign extremists who encouraged or advocated violence or fostered hatred within the UK.

But since then only one person has been deported under the 'unacceptable behaviour' rules, and just nine have been thrown out of Britain on the grounds of national security, the most recent of them a year ago.

Opposition critics claimed the Home Office figures revealed a 'feeble' use of the supposedly vital powers, especially given the Government's claims that MI5 are tracking more than 2,000 active terrorists or supporters involved in dozens of plots.

Tony Blair used a high-profile press conference to unveil the new powers to deport or exclude dangerous individuals from Britain, promising to overcome objections based on Human Rights laws, and declaring: 'Let no-one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing.'

The Home Office has tried to strengthen its powers to send dangerous extremists home to countries with dubious human rights records by signing 'Memoranda of Understanding' (MOU) deals with regimes such as Libya and Jordan, whose governments have promised not to torture anyone deported from Britain.

But in reality the UK courts have dismissed such assurances and have driven a coach and horses through the MOU system.

Efforts to send Abu Qatada - the man dubbed 'Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe' - home to Jordan were scuppered earlier this year after the Appeal Court ruled that even if he was not tortured in person, evidence used against him at a trial in his homeland may have been extracted under torture, and so to deport him would breach his human rights.

Abu Qatada is now living at his home under a control order which requires him to stay indoors 22 hours a day, and bans him from using any telephones or computers.

Britain's MOU deal with Libya has also been undermined by judicial rulings, and appeals and counter-appeals are likely to drag on for years.

Home Office figures show that just one person has been deported under the 'unacceptable behaviour' rules, in 2006, and only nine more have been thrown out on national security grounds. Officials declined to name any of them.

Powers to exclude people from Britain on the same grounds have been more successful, with 79 barred from entering the country due to unacceptable behaviour since 2005, along with 127 for reasons of national security.

Conservative MP James Clappison, who uncovered the figures in a Parliamentary written answer, said: 'It is a pretty feeble record, given the scale of the problem we are facing.

'MI5 are supposedly tracking 2,000 people and we're told that a significant number are non-UK citizens.'

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve added: 'The Government launched these measures to great fanfare.

'These figures show - three years on - that their actual record on deportations defies all the Ministerial bluff and bluster.'

A Home Office spokesman said: 'We are committed to deporting foreign nationals who threaten our national security, but we must act in a way that is consistent with our legal obligations.

'We have negotiated arrangements with a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa.

'However, it is ultimately for the courts to determine whether deportation is consistent with our international obligations, in particular those arising from the European Convention on Human Rights.'

He defended the number of exclusions under the new powers, saying: 'The policy has prevented far right extremists, animal rights extremists, and those advocating violence in support of their religious beliefs from entering the UK.'

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