Blair gives ground to rebels on Terror Bill

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Indy Politics

The Government has privately recognised it must compromise over the 90-day detention "to get the Terror Bill through".

The Prime Minister will address backbench MPs personally and try to shore up support at a press conference ahead of a crucial vote this week on the Bill.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will meet the Tories and Liberal Democrats to try to find a consensus on the detention plan, which both parties have pledged to block. He will also address the Parliamentary Labour Party and hold private meetings with rebel MPs to gauge their views on a possible compromise on the Bill.

Backbench Labour MPs, the Liberal Democrats and Tories have renewed their threats to quash the Bill unless the Government gives in on its plans to keep suspects behind bars for three months without charge.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "They are not going to get this Bill unless the Home Secretary moves significantly on 90 days. I can guarantee this Bill will be defeated without that. There has to be give and take."

The Government faces defeat over the terror proposals in the Commons this week, unless it can find a compromise that will satisfy its critics. It is braced for further losses in the Lords, where opposition is likely to be even more vociferous. Yesterday Downing Street issued a challenge to MPs who oppose the 90-day detention plan to come up with a viable alternative. " We are going in there ready to listen but we are not backing off the view that no one has come up with an alternative," said a senior Downing Street source.

Mr Blair was criticised yesterday for pressing ahead with policies on education, health and security despite MPs' concerns. The vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Angela Eagle, told BBC Radio 4: "I think he has to be willing to listen to legitimate worries and problems about the extent to which markets should be injected into public services. I know that there is a great deal of disquiet about that." In an interview in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Blair warned rebel MPs to support his reforms or risk helping the Tories gain ground. He accused those who opposed his 90 day detention plans of "woeful complacency".

The Government survived a rebellion on terror by one vote last week. This weekend, MPs who voted against the Government's Terror Bill have come under direct pressure from their local police to back the proposals.