Police state : UK : Parliament not sheep


Richard Moore

    The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and some Labour MPs
    oppose plans to extend the detention time limit to 90


Clarke concession on terror laws 

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has moved to head off a
further revolt over new anti-terror laws after the
government's majority was cut to just one vote.

Mr Clarke's climbdown came as he faced possible defeat on
plans to extend the time terror suspects can be held
without charge from 14 days to 90 days.

He appealed for a vote on the issue to be delayed while he
sought consensus.

Earlier, ministers won their slimmest majority since 1997
over plans to outlaw indirect incitement of terror.

'Urgent talks'

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and some Labour MPs
oppose plans to extend the detention time limit to 90

Civil liberties' campaigners say the move would
effectively bring back internment.

Mr Clarke told MPs that police and prosecutors had made a
"compelling case" for extending the limit because of the
complexity and volume of evidence in terrorism cases.

And he promised to look at new safeguards, such as a
senior judge supervising the process.

Acknowledging there was no consensus on his plans, Mr
Clarke said he hoped to return with new proposals when the
Terrorism Bill is debated in the Commons again next week.

"My proposal is that we engage in urgent discussions with
colleagues on all sides of the House to see if we can
reach consensus on a figure beyond 14 days," said Mr

Labour MP David Winnick, who led backbench opposition to
the plans, withdrew his attempt to force through a
compromise time limit of 28 days.

But he warned: "If it's a question of 90 days being
dropped to 80 days or 75 days, I believe that is totally

The Conservatives and Lib Dems welcomed the pledge of
all-party talks.

Tory shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said he
regretted the government had only moved when it appeared
to be facing defeat.

'In tatters' 

Earlier, 33 Labour MPs rebelled against the government
over plans for a new offence of indirect incitement or
glorification of terrorism.

Ministers say existing laws cover people who encourage a
specific Tube train to be bombed but do not target those
who urge attacks on the Underground network in general.

And they want people to be prosecuted if they know "or
have reasonable grounds for believing" that their words
will encourage terrorism.

I would welcome tougher laws 
Robert Neve, Newport, UK 

But critics tried to force changes so people could be
prosecuted only if they intended to incite terror.

The government, which normally has a majority of 66, won
the vote by 300 to 299 - Tony Blair's slimmest majority.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten said the terrorism
plans were now "in tatters".

"The home secretary should act now to amend this illiberal
and dangerous piece of legislation," he said.


Commons home affairs select committee chairman John Denham
said the key test for the incitement plans were whether
they would prevent young people being drawn into

"As these clauses [of the bill] are currently drafted,
they are more likely to make things worse than better,"
argued Mr Denham.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears told MPs the government
was willing to look again at the wording of the proposals.

But she insisted there were six safeguards to make sure
prosecutions only targeted the real "mischief" which
concerned the public.

And she dismissed suggestions that Cherie Blair could have
fallen foul of the new laws when she said young
Palestinians felt they had "no hope but to blow themselves
up" shortly after a suicide bomb attack.

It later emerged that Lib Dem frontbencher Vince Cable had
missed the crunch vote which the government won by just
one vote.

Mr Cable told BBC News he had wanted to vote.

But he had gone to see a large group of trade justice
protesters who could not get through Commons security and
then been unable to return to Parliament in time for the

The MP, who said he had taken part in other terror laws'
votes, said he had written to the Commons authorities to
complain about the "preposterous" security arrangements.
Story from BBC NEWS: 

Published: 2005/11/02 23:32:41 GMT 



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