Labour MPs in revolt over terrorism Bill

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Tony Blair last night suffered the biggest backbench revolt since he became leader of the Labour Party when 30 Labour MPs rebelled over the Government's decision to rush through Parliament emergency measures to combat terrorism.

The Labour MPs defied an appeal by Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, to abstain over giving police new powers to stop and search for terrorist devices. "There are no civil rights which can be exercised from the graveyard," he said.

After registering their protest at the speed with which the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Bill was being whipped through Parliament, the Labour MPs threatened to delay the passage of the legislation with a series of 21 amendments.

Mr Straw assured his backbenchers that the Labour leadership's decision to give the legislation a fair wind through the threatened all-night sitting was based on security briefings with Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.

The revolt diminished through the night, but 18 Labour MPs stayed late in the chamber to vote against the Government on the crucial Second Reading of the Bill.

David Veness, an Assistant Commissioner with Scotland Yard, met Mr Straw on Monday to warn him of the likely threat of further IRA attacks. The Security Service is understood to have warned that the Easter period could be used by the IRA to mark the 80th anniversary of the the Easter Uprising in Dublin, the rebellion against British rule.

Aides of Mr Blair last night played down the Labour rebellion as a protest against the Government for its decision to rush the legislation through without consultation. But there were rumblings of discontent from some Labour MPs about the Blair leadership bowing to the Government. Many of the MPs were among the 25 who last month broke ranks by voting against the renewal of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The rebel MPs were led by Max Madden, the MP for Bradford West, and Kevin McNamara, the former Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland.

Leading article, page 16

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