Tory leader David Cameron's plans to overhaul human rights laws will not resolve the issue of how to deal with foreign terror suspects who could face torture if they are deported, the Government warned last night.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said that Mr Cameron's proposal to scrap the existing Human Rights Act and replace it with a new Bill of Rights would simply complicate the legal position.
And the civil rights group, Liberty, said that Mr Cameron's plan would still leave Britain subject to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which bars the return of individuals to countries where they risk torture or abuse.
In a heavily-trailed speech to the Centre for Policy S tudies, Mr Cameron warned that Britain would become a safe haven for terrorists if the current law was not reformed.
"It is practically an invitation for terrorists and would-be terrorists to come to Britain, safe in the knowledge that whatever crime they may have committed in their home country and whatever suspicion there may be that they might be planning a terrorist attack in the UK or elsewhere they won't be sent back to their country of origin and may not even be detained, because the process is so complicated and time-consuming for the Government," he said.
"I believe it is wrong to undermine public safety - and indeed public confidence in the concept of human rights - by allowing highly dangerous criminals and terrorists to trump the rights of the people of Britain to live in security and peace."
Repealing the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR in British law, and replacing it with a "home-grown" Bill of Rights would, he said, enable the authorities to weigh the rights of suspects against those of British citizens who could be threatened by their presence in the UK.
However he stopped short of calling for Britain to pull out of the ECHR altogether, as some Tories such has former party chairman, Lord Tebbit, have been demanding.
Opponents said that it would still leave the issue of how to deal with foreign terrorists unresolved.
"It won't solve the problems that he identified in relation to the fight against crime and terrorism," said Lord Falconer.
"What I don't follow in Mr Cameron's argument is how having two parallel sets of rights legislation helps deal with the problem. You have got the Convention, which he accepts is going to stay, and this new, unspecified Bill of Rights. That is not going to take the lawyers out of the equation. It is going to bring more of them in."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said t hat the Tory leader appeared "confused" in his thinking.
"I think this argument that the European Convention has stood in the way of dealing with terrorism is frankly unfounded," he said.
And Liberty accused Mr Cameron of a series of "misunderstandings" concerning human rights law.
"Liberty welcomes any constructive conversation about how best to protect our rights and freedoms," said Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti.
"But those who want to tear up the protections we already have must have a far clearer vision of what would replace them than what we've seen today."
In a surprise move, Mr Cameron said that the was prepared to take up an offer by veteran Labour leftwinger Tony Benn to debate his proposals in a televised discussion.
In a letter to the former MP, he said: "I very much welcome your idea of a public debate in London on this important subject and look forward to working with you as to how such an event might be set up".