Ministers insist they will not abandon internment

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Indy Politics

Ministers will not back down over controversial parts of the anti-terror Bill despite Opposition threats to inflict as many as 10 defeats when the legislation is debated by peers next week.

Liberal Democrats said they would vote with the Conservatives to try to secure a package of "sunset clauses" to limit the powers of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. They also want to allow foreign terrorist suspects who are interned without trial to be given the right to a judicial review.

But a senior government source rejected the threat, insisting: "We are in no mood to back down."

Sources said that subjecting the Bill to a series of guillotine clauses would bring parliamentary business to a standstill, forcing ministers to pass detailed legislation time and again. Internees would have full rights of appeal without resorting to judicial review, they said.

The Government suffered its first defeat in the Lords on the Bill on Thursday, when Conservatives expressed concern that it would allow Irish republican suspects to escape the crackdown on international terrorism. Tories and some cross-benchers forced through an amendment by 149 votes to 139 to widen the Bill's scope.

Yesterday Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, predicted another series of defeats when the Bill reaches its report stage and third reading next week.

He accused ministers of trying to railroad the Bill through the Lords without proper scrutiny. "We are seeing the Government seeking to hijack emergency legislation for non-emergency things," he said, "to bear down on debate in areas which need proper debate. That arrogance of Government we are determined to do all in our power to stop."

The Government is anxious for the Bill to become law by the middle of December.