Labour revolts against Brown

34 votes needed to defeat detention Bill
38 MPs will stand against Government
Desperate PM appoints 'fixer'

Gordon Brown faces a humiliating parliamentary defeat over plans to allow police to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

A survey of Labour MPs by The Independent has uncovered a growing insurrection. Only 34 votes are needed to defeat the detention plans and at least 38 MPs enough to wipe out Mr Brown's Commons majority of 67 are vowing to oppose controversial moves to extend the existing 28-day maximum detention period.

The scale of the rebellion will alarm Labour whips determined to hit the ground running next year after the Prime Minister's disastrous end to 2007.

It emerged as Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, delivered a damning verdict on Mr Brown's 42-day plans. He argued that the 28-day limit was working well, accusing ministers of wanting to pass laws based on a theoretical threat. "I think the basic point is whether you want to legislate on the basis of hypotheticals or whether you want to legislate on the basis of the evidence that we have acquired through practice," Sir Ken told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. "It seems to me that if you are legislating in an area which is going to curtail civil liberties to a significant extent, it is better to proceed by way of the evidence and the evidence of experience."

The struggle over 42-day detention, which ministers say is necessary because of the increasing complexity of terrorist conspiracies, is due to come to a head within two months. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and minor parties have already vowed to oppose the moves, which means that Mr Brown risks losing his first Commons vote since taking the reins.

Earlier government suggestions of a 56-day limit have been dropped and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has launched a campaign to win support for the new proposal. She has stressed that there would be tough judicial and parliamentary safeguards on each occasion that the existing 28-day limit was exceeded.

But, although MPs praise her efforts to consult them, there is no sign of the rebellion abating.

MPs on the Labour-controlled Commons Home Affairs Select Committee spoke for many last week when they complained that ministers had failed to provide evidence that an extension of pre-charge detention was needed.

Potential rebels include a string of former ministers and senior backbenchers that goes beyond the "usual suspects" of Labour refuseniks.

Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairman of the Commons Transport Committee, said she could not support the proposals. She said: "Even the most stupid of us would like to see a bit of evidence."

Rebel MPs argue that the Home Office's attempts to consult over the measure have rebounded by producing a wave of criticism of the move from senior figures including Sir Ken, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former lord chancellor, and Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general.

Just 8 per cent of respondents to a Home Office consultation exercise backed an extension.

The Liverpool MP Peter Kilfoyle, a former armed forces minister, said: "There's no evidence that more than 28 days is needed by police and the security services. All the key people are all quite satisfied with 28 days and that's where we should stick."

Chris Mullin, the MP for Sunderland South and a former foreign office minister, said: "In my time the number of days has gone from three to seven and 14 to 28 and I think that's quite enough."

Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Highgate and a former transport minister, said: "The Government's position seems to me absolutely illogical. It's not more time that is needed, it is more efficiency."

Fabian Hamilton, the Leeds North East MP, said he voted in 2005 for a 90-day maximum out of loyalty to the Government but would oppose 42 days. He warned: "We are eroding the liberties we hold so dear and that is what the terrorists want and we must resist that at all costs."

Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, branded the proposal "crap". He said: "This could be part of a catalogue of self inflicted wounds by the Government."

If the proposals scrape through the Commons, a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives threatens to shred them in the House of Lords.

Ms Smith has said she will "continue to seek parliamentary consensus on the Government's proposal", adding: "As Home Secretary I am not willing to leave this potential risk to the security of the British people unaddressed."

The rebellion echoes Tony Blair's failed attempt in November 2005 to increase the pre-charge detention period from 14 to 90 days. It resulted in his first Commons defeat when 49 Labour MPs defied the Government, forcing ministersto compromise on the current 28-day limit.

The Independent's survey suggests the new revolt is on the same scale, presenting Labour whips with the daunting task of trying to talk round the critics. Alternatively the Home Office may have to produce further concessions, although attempts to highlight planned parliamentary and judicial safeguards have not so far won over many Labour MPs.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights pressure group Liberty, said: "The Government must recognise that more and more MPs believe that extended pre-charge detention periods are divisive, counter-productive and simply will not wash in a democratic society."

Labour critics also warned that Mr Brown faces a tough new year battle with his own side over the Bill to ratify the European reform treaty, while legislation to promote social housing could reopening the bitter internal battle in the party over the future of council housing.

PM suffers more rebellions than any other leader

Gordon Brown was hit by a record number of revolts from his own backbenchers even in the first days of his premiership, new research has revealed.

Academics at Nottingham University found that more Labour MPs defied the government whips in the Prime Minister's first month than any other post-war premier.

Labour backbenchers defied the whips 43 times, with the first rebellion coming less than an hour after Mr Brown took over the reins of power. By contrast Harold Wilson enjoyed 16 months of unity before a lone Labour member rebelled over pensions policy.

Even John Major, whose premiership was marred by repeated backbench rebellions, lasted six days before his MPs defied the whips.

Professor Philip Cowley, an expert on parliamentary voting, said Mr Brown had suffered the largest single rebellion in the first month of any post-war premier.

The previous record was seven votes against John Major over Europe. Mr Brown suffered rebellions of 17 and 16 over pensions.

He said: "In itself these figures are not that alarming for the new Government. The number of rebels has not spread far beyond the list of the usual suspects. But they are proof that the rebellious behaviour seen under the Blair governments, which itself set a whole batch of records that the whips would have rather seen left alone, has not gone away."

He added: "The evidence is clear enough; Brown needs to treat his backbenchers with care."

Ben Russell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect