Home Office warns Smith on detention

Jacqui Smith has been warned by her department, the Home Office, that moves to lock up terror suspects for up to 42 days could provoke a backlash among Muslims.

The Home Secretary pressed ahead yesterday with moves to increase the detention period from 28 days – the longest in the West – despite opposition among MPs of all parties and civil liberties groups. She faces a struggle to force the legislation on to the statute book.

Publishing a new counter terrorism Bill, Ms Smith insisted the extra powers were essential in the light of the increasing complexity of terror plots against Britain. But research for the Home Office acknowledged that ministers would face problems in persuading Muslims that the move was justified.

An equality-impact assessment, published by the department, said that Muslims felt that the anti-terror legislation already in force discriminated against them. It noted: "Muslim groups said that pre-charge detention may risk information being forthcoming from members of the community in the future."

The research echoed the conclusions of focus groups of young Muslim men conducted on behalf of Liberty, a civil liberties group. The polling company ComRes found that most Muslims believed the 28-day maximum was already too long. They said: "There is a strong consensus that extending the limit would only serve to promote the extremists' cause, that it would do little to help tackle terrorism, that it would damage the UK's international reputation and that it would further erode community relations."

Ms Smith is mounting a concerted drive to win over Labour MPs hostile to the proposed 42-day limit, which is also strongly opposed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Party whips admit they face the prospect of defeat.

A survey by The Independent last month found that 38 Labour MPs – enough to overturn the Government's majority – were prepared to defy the Home Secretary. The issue of pre-charge detention led to Tony Blair's first defeat in the Commons in November 2005, when he sought a 90-day limit.

Ms Smith has promised that the 42-day power would only be used in "exceptional circumstances" and would be subject to judicial oversight and a parliamentary vote. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Her fixation with extending pre-charge detention risks serving as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism."

He added: "The Government has not been able to present a shred of evidence to justify extending pre-charge detention, and there is now a range of evidence pointing the other way."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "The obsession with 42 days is undermining, not supporting, the battle against terrorism."

The Bill also proposes a criminal offence of "communicating, publishing or eliciting" information about service personnel. Gathering details about members of the armed forces will carry up to 10 years' imprisonment if there is suspicion of a plot to place them in danger.

Other moves include allowing police to question terror suspects after they have been charged and closing a loophole which stops police from sharing fingerprints or DNA samples taken from terrorist suspects held under control orders.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...

Recruitment Genius: Buyer

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Buyer is required to join thi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen