Tories leaders prepare to oppose terror Bill

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The Independent Online
SENIOR TORIES are poised to oppose "draconian'' emergency legislation by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, to impose control orders without charge or trial on suspected terrorists.

Ministers appeared divided yesterday over plans to use the new powers to put animal rights extremists under house arrest. The Home Office minister Hazel Blears said last week that control orders being drawn up to deal with terror suspects could apply to animal activists.

But Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said that was a "completely separate issue". Ms Hewitt made clear the powers were still being debated inside the Government.

Mr Clarke is also facing a serious Labour backbench rebellion over the Bill to allow suspected terrorists to be put under house arrest and extend the restrictions to British subjects.

Despite the risk of being portrayed as the "terrorists' friends", senior Tories are opposing the Bill. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, is ready to oppose the legislation, if he can gain the support of Michael Howard, the Conservative leader. The Tories want Mr Howard to call for phone taps to be made admissible in court so suspected terrorists can face trial.

Mr Clarke caused deep unrest in the Cabinet last week by announcing plans for house-arrest powers to answer law lords who said detention of foreign suspects without charge breached their human rights.

A member of the Shadow Cabinet said: "I cannot see us supporting this draconian legislation. We cannot support a Bill which says the Englishman's home is his prison."

Mr Howard, a former home secretary, is expected to be wary of opposing legislation aimed at protecting Britain from terrorism. Senior Tories said he was worried about being accused of being "soft on terrorism''.

Mr Howard is being warned that he threatens to split the party if he supports the Bill. Leading Tory MPs think he made a mistake by supporting ID cards, which they believe robbed them of their natural battleground as a libertarian party.