MPs berate Clarke for refusing to compromise on 90 days

The Debate
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MPs across the Commons launched a sustained attack on the Home Secretary over the contentious plans to give police powers to hold terror suspects for 90 days without charge.

In particular they berated him for failing to back down over the 90-day limit, despite pledging to introduce compromise proposals after talks with opposition parties earlier this week. Many complained that the Government had accepted a police request for a huge increase on the current 14-day limit without question.

As the tide turned against the Government, Mr Clarke angrily denied playing party politics with terror and insisted that his proposed sunset clause would allow MPs to assess the operation of the new detention powers after a year's trial.

He said: "There are some people who argue that this has been a politically partisan exercise. I put it to the House that that is the absolute opposite of the case.

"I believe it's the obligation of every member of the House to understand clearly the threats to national security which exist and to equip our security forces with the ability to deal with that in the best and most protected way."

In pointed comments aimed at the Tory leadership contenders, David Davis and David Cameron, he said: "I'd even say to the putative leaders of the Conservative Party: think hard about your responsibility in these matters too. Yes, they should because they've ducked their responsibilities. I don't think the House now should duck its responsibilities."

There were angry interventions from Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, and other senior figures over the Government's failure to table compromise amendments.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, told the Commons: "This party has first-hand experience of terror and so the House can draw its own conclusions when faced with silly and frantic, contemptible accusations that any party, least of all mine, is soft on security. What is at stake here is the imprisonment without trial in the country that invented habeas corpus." Mr Davis warned that detention for such a period could "wreck lives" and risk a backlash from the public.

He compared the Government's promotion of the 90-day case to its assurances that weapons of mass destruction would be discovered in Iraq.

He concluded: "This Bill would be counterproductive and ineffective. Far from being tough on terror, it may turn out to be a gift to the terrorists."

Conservatives also attacked the "scandalous" timing of yesterday's debate, which gave MPs just three hours for debate on the crucial clauses extending the power to hold suspects without charge.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, said: "We understand the consequences in human terms if we get it wrong, but we remain of the view that before we go down the route that the Government propose for us there must be solid evidence for it, and we remain of the view that up to today that evidence has not been provided."

Mr Clarke faced anger from opponents of the Terrorism Bill. David Winnick, the Labour MP who tabled an amendment calling for a maximum detention period of 28 days, said he was trying "to reach the right balance between our traditional liberties, the rule of law, habeas corpus and at the same time trying to protect this country from attack". He said 28 days was a "reasonable compromise", warning a longer period could fuel anger in the Muslim community that it was being discriminated against.

John Denham, the former home office minister and Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select committee, said: "The handling of this issue has done damage to the fight against terrorism."

Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, accused the Government of failing to listen to the concerns of its backbenchers. She said: "When you gave your undertaking in this House to find a consensus, it was not just with opposition parties that we understood that to be, but that you would seek to find a consensus of which we could become part."

Mark Fisher, a Labour former minister, said the legislation would turn innocent suspects into "martyrs". He said: "Does the Home Secretary accept that if this legislation is passed it will harden support in the communities around terrorist cells?"

Madeleine Moon, the newly elected Labour MP for Bridgend, asked: "Why do our police need powers that are not being taken in other European countries, such as Spain, which have experienced these issues?"

Michael Mates, Conservative member of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, said he could not vote against the measure, despite criticising the Government for failing to back its proposal with evidence.

Support for the Government also came from Labour backbencher Claire Curtis-Thomas, who said MPs had a duty to support the police.

The Labour rebels

The 49 Labour MPs voting against the 90-day detention period were:

* Abbott, Diane (Hackney N and Stoke Newington)

* Austin, John (Erith and Thamesmead)

* Burden, Richard (Birmingham Northfield)

* Clapham, Michael (Barnsley W and Penistone)

* Clark, Katy (Ayrshire N and Arran)

* Cohen, Harry (Leyton and Wanstead)

* Corbyn, Jeremy (Islington N)

* Cousins, Jim (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

* Cryer, Ann (Keighley)

* Dobson, Frank (Holborn and St Pancras)

* Dunwoody, Gwyneth (Crewe and Nantwich)

* Fisher, Mark (Stoke-on-Trent Central)

* Flynn, Paul (Newport W)

* Gerrard, Neil (Walthamstow)

* Gibson, Ian (Norwich N)

* Godsiff, Roger (Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath)

* Grogan, John (Selby)

* Hamilton, David (Midlothian)

* Henderson, Doug (Newcastle upon Tyne N)

* Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)

* Hopkins, Kelvin (Luton N)

* Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead and Highgate)

* James, Sian (Swansea E)

* Jones, Lynne (Birmingham Selly Oak)

* Khan, Sadiq (Tooting)

* Kilfoyle, Peter (Liverpool Walton)

* Lazarowicz, Mark (Edinburgh N and Leith)

* Lloyd, Tony (Manchester Central)

* Love, Andy (Edmonton)

* Marshall-Andrews, Robert (Medway)

* McCafferty, Chris (Calder Valley)

* McDonnell, John (Hayes and Harlington)

* Meacher, Michael (Oldham W and Royton)

* Morgan, Julie (Cardiff N)

* Mudie, George (Leeds E)

* Mullin, Chris (Sunderland S)

* Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)

* Raynsford, Nick (Greenwich and Woolwich)

* Riordan, Linda (Halifax)

* Short, Clare (Birmingham Ladywood)

* Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)

* Skinner, Dennis (Bolsover)

* Soulsby, Peter (Leicester S)

* Taylor, David (Leicestershire NW)

* Thornberry, Emily (Islington S and Finsbury)

* Trickett, Jon (Hemsworth)

* Wareing, Robert (Liverpool West Derby)

* Winnick, David (Walsall N)

* Wood, Mike (Batley and Spen)