The region’s police chief has raised serious concerns about proposals to shift responsibility for stopping terror plots away from West Midlands Police control.
Police and crime commissioner Bob Jones said local knowledge and expertise was crucial – as well as achieving support withing local communities, which is essential for information gathering.
West Midlands Counter Terrorism officers have been instrumental in foiling a series of planned attacks by Islamic extremists which potentially could have caused huge loss of life.
But the Home Affairs Select Committee report suggested sweeping changes, including moving responsibility for investigations to the six-month-old National Crime Agency.
The committee said one key reason was that intelligence agencies required better oversight and accountability.
But Mr Jones said: “I do not agree with the committee’s recommendation that responsibility for counter-terrorism policing should be moved to the National Crime Agency.
“The proposal is flawed not only because the report’s commentary suggests the committee does not fully understand how the national counter-terrorism network works, but because the report does not recognise the significant operational impact that could follow if counter-terrorism is detached from local policing.
“Had the committee taken evidence from West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit for example, they would have learned about how we are effectively responding to the largest threat from violent extremism outside London, and how the work of the CTU is fused with the rest of our policing effort.
“The report’s description of the role of counter terrorism units as gathering of intelligence and evidence is inaccurate in that it fails to capture how the regional CTUs respond to threats in their areas, leading investigations both in our force area and across the country.”
Mr Jones said the current method of embedding the counter terrorism units in forces, including the West Midlands was working perfectly well and had been crucial when Pavlo Lapshyn plotted a string of explosions near mosques in the region.
The Ukrainian far right student was jailed last October for at least 40 years for murdering 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem and plotting explosions near mosques in racist attacks.
Mr Jones said: “The national network of Counter Terrorism Units and Counter Terrorism Intelligence Units embedded in forces across the country, including one here in the West Midlands, are integral to the full range of counter-terrorism policing.
“This approach has been hugely effective in building links between local communities and the police, despite the sensitivities that can exist in this area of policing business.
“As a result, when last year our area faced the threat of a bombing campaign against local mosques, and a series of high profile trials of local people involved in Al-Qaeda influenced plots, the police and public worked together effectively and co-operatively to make a very successful response. Effective counter-terrorism policing relies on community support.
“The committee’s recommendation, which would see these local counter terrorism policing links severed and a wholesale transfer of resource to a remote national body, accountable only to the Home Secretary, would be a massive backward step.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said MPs had misunderstood the Met’s role.
The Home Affairs Select Committee report attacked the “weak nature” of oversight of the intelligence and security agencies.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, said: “The current system of oversight is designed to scrutinise the work of George Smiley not the 21st century reality of the security and intelligence services.
“The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny.”
However, in a statement, Acpo said it was “concerned” at the prospect of the move, which was “a decision that does not appear to supported by the evidence and is based on an apparent misunderstanding of the role played by the Metropolitan Police Service”.
“Counter-terrorism policing is not directed through a single lead force but rather has responsibility vested in nine chief constables across the UK in areas where the threat is considered to be the greatest.
“These chief constables act collaboratively and effectively on behalf of all forces while at the same time maintaining close and critical links into local policing.”
It said the current system was “admired and respected by other countries”.