Peers sound warning over 42-day detention

Moves to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge could lead to the collapse of trials and put judges and MPs at loggerheads, an all-party group of peers warns today.

The plans, which only just scraped through the Commons, are now heading for certain defeat in the Lords by an overwhelming majority. In a foretaste of the battle to come, the Lords constitution select committee protested that the proposed extension from 28 days to 42 days was "ill-advised" and a "recipe for confusion".

Ministers responded to widespread criticism of the proposals by setting up a complex system of safeguards. The Home Office is promising that any decision to hold a suspect beyond 28 days would have to be approved by parliament, as well as the courts.

But in a withering assessment of the plans, the committee said the "elaborate" decision-making process was a weakness, rather than strength, of the Counter-Terrorism Bill. It said: "It is likely to lead to high-profile litigation during a time when the response to terrorism will be a matter of high controversy."

The peers warned that it might be impossible to give MPs and peers detailed enough information about investigations without prejudicing trials. "We are concerned that parliament would be asked ... to make decisions that ... it is institutionally ill-equipped to determine," they said.

The Home Office said it will consider the committee's concerns.

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