Powers to detain terror suspects without trial are being sought by the Home Secretary. John Reid wants much tougher anti-terrorism powers in the wake of the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic flights, and has instructed his officials to draft new measures that would allow him to bypass human rights legislation.
Backed by Tony Blair, Mr Reid is also considering introducing even tougher powers to put suspects under house arrest, known as "control orders", without being charged or convicted of any offence. Detaining terror suspects without trial could, in rare circumstances, also be used against British citizens - a measure that would lead to concerted opposition from lawyers and civil rights campaigners.
The Independent on Sunday has also learnt that police searching premises linked to the alleged terror plot have recovered hydrogen peroxide - alleged to be a key component of the "liquid bombs" involved in the plot, and evidence that at least one suspect planned a "dry run" this weekend to place a bomb on board an aircraft.
The police, who are still holding 23 suspects, are also studying several "martyrdom videos" allegedly found on up to six laptops recovered during the raids.
Ministers believe that suspending key parts of the Human Rights Act would thwart the judiciary and the Lords, which has ruled it illegal to imprison foreign terror suspects without charge and has watered down existing control orders imposed on dozens of suspects.
A senior Whitehall source said: "Is there an appetite for doing whatever we need to keep these people under control? The answer is 'yes'. If we can't do it in a modified way through control orders, then no other option is currently off the agenda."
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister attacked the Court of Appeal after it ruled that it was excessive to keep five Iraqi suspects and one other man under what amounted to house arrest for 18 hours a day, forcing ministers to cut this to 14 hours. Mr Blair accused judges of frustrating the Government's efforts: "It brings home once again to me the urgency of people understanding that this is an active threat and we have to deal with it."
In a speech just a day before the wave of terror arrests 10 days ago, Mr Reid hinted that these new measures would be introduced. "Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values," he said.
The new powers could be unveiled in this November's Queen's Speech.Reuse content