Labour MPs attack Smith over 42-day detention

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Indy Politics

MPs from all parties rounded on Jacqui Smith yesterday as she defended plans to give police the power to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

Arguing that there was "not a shred of evidence" to support extending the current 28-day detention limit, Labour rebels joined Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in criticising the Counter-Terrorism Bill.

The Bill gained a second reading without a vote in the Commons last night but Labour rebels are planning a showdown over detention without charge when they hold a detailed debate on the legislation next month.

Yesterday, Ms Smith insisted that 42-day detention would be used only temporarily and in exceptional circumstances. "I do not anticipate that even in these circumstance we shall often need to invoke this reserve power," the Home Secretary added. "Indeed, it is my sincere hope that we do not need to use these powers.

"But in view of the nature and scale of the terrorist threat ... I would rather have necessary powers on the statute book, there for use if we need them, than face the prospect of terrorist suspects walking free because the police have not been given the time they need to gather evidence and charge them."

But Chris Mullin, a former Foreign Office minister, said the Director of Public Prosecutions had not called for the measure that Ms Smith was "determined to thrust upon us".

David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, added: "The Government has chosen 42 days because they believe they can get it through this House ... but there is absolutely no evidence that that is needed."