Labour rebels to be offered concessions

Click to follow

As the Counter-Terrorism Bill receives its second reading today, senior ministers are privately worried that Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will be defeated over the extension of pre-charge detention from 28 to 42 days unless further concessions are offered to buy off Labour rebels.

The rebels are being urged by leaders of the revolt against the measures not to vote against the Bill in its entirety tonight. They are trying to build up opposition for its report stage when they hope to defeat the clause on 42 days with the backing of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

"We need 35 to 50 rebels to defeat the clause on 42 days. At present there are enough rebels, but no doubt the whips will be offering "bribes" to waverers and they will get to work. But we think there are enough to defeat it," said one leading Labour rebel.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has also ordered his party not to vote against the entire Bill today. As has Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who said: "We will seek to amend the Bill in committee before we agree to sacrifice the good to get rid of the ugly. I expect the key votes to be in committee and at report stage at some point in May."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "This Bill will receive a second reading as a virtual formality, but the fight to defend British justice is just beginning. In the face of a whole range of measured alternatives, to hold someone for more than 1,000 hours without charge would be an international disgrace."

Advertisements were placed in national newspapers today by Liberty, naming senior figures in the justice system who are against extending pre-charge detention to 42 days. According to the advertisements, the opponents include Sir Kenneth Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the former Chief Constable Lord Dear.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission said that it believed the plans set out in the Bill were discriminatory. Its legal group director John Wadham said the proposals were clearly aimed at the Muslim community while the process for determining whether a suspect was detained for an extended period was "flawed".

Labour MPs also have been urged by other civil liberties groups to oppose post-charge questioning and closed inquests.