Met chief urges MPs to act over 'mounting' terror threat

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The Independent Online

Britain's top policeman has reopened the debate on extending the pre-charge detention limit for terrorism suspects by warning that the number of plots against the UK was increasing and the current 28-day period would prove insufficient.

Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told MPs yesterday that his officers were having to deal with an ever-increasing quantity of terrorist conspiracies, which were in turn becoming more ambitious. In the face of such a challenge, Sir Ian said the 28-day period in which police can hold a suspect without charge would at some point prove "not sufficient" and a limit between 50 and 90 days was needed. He said the worst time to debate an extension would be in the wake of an atrocity.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Ian said: "The number of conspiracies... conspirators within those conspiracies and the magnitude of the ambition, in terms of destruction and loss of life, is mounting; has continued to mount [and] is increasing year by year."

The commissioner's words coincide with the Government's position that the 28-day limit needs to re-examined because of the changing nature of the threat from terrorism.

Civil liberties campaigners described the the proposals as "disastrous" and "draconian". Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "It would be disappointing if the commissioner were calling for more draconian laws while conceding they are not needed."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "In the absence of any compelling evidence, it is a mystery why Sir Ian Blair, Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith seem so determined to reopen this debate."