Rebels demand last-minute concessions on house arrests

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Barbara Follett has joined a growing Labour backbench rebellion against the Bill to allow house arrest for suspected terrorists, saying supporting it would "dishonour" Steve Biko and her murdered first husband, both civil rights activists in South Africa.

Barbara Follett has joined a growing Labour backbench rebellion against the Bill to allow house arrest for suspected terrorists, saying supporting it would "dishonour" Steve Biko and her murdered first husband, both civil rights activists in South Africa.

Mrs Follett abstained when 32 Labour MPs voted against the Government on the Bill last week but says she would now vote against it. Other MPs who abstained are also threatening to vote against the Bill if Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, fails to satisfy them with concessions today.

Home Office officials said Mr Clarke will not be tabling amendments for today's Commons debate on the Bill, but will issue a statement "clarifying" his proposals. Among the concessions will be a requirement that a judge be asked for approval within seven days of making a detention order.

Mrs Follett said: "I can't sit there and let this happen. It would be dishonourable to all the people I know. It would dishonour everything I have ever stood for. I got into politics because I believed what was happening in South Africa was wrong. Britain was a beacon of hope to me in those days. It was what I comforted my children with after their father was killed. I said, 'Look, there are other places in the world that do things in a better way'. I would not be able to answer to them if I voted for this."

Mrs Follett's first husband, Richard Turner, was murdered while under house arrest in South Africa. The detention order, imposed to stop him campaigning for the right of blacks to join unions, had lasted for five years when he was murdered at home in front of their daughters.

In a sideswipe at two ministers backing the Bill, Mrs Follett told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "Patricia Hewitt [the Secretary of State for Trade] and Harriet Harman [the Solicitor General] were bugged by MI5 in the 1980s. If we had had this law, who knows what would have happened? Liberty is something that you have to guard and we could be in danger of losing it."

Comments