Smith faces fresh pressure on 42-day terror detentions

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Indy Politics

Pressure on Jacqui Smith to back down over plans to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge intensified yesterday after leaked documents suggested ministers were considering allowing suspects to be held under house arrest.

Home Office documents are said to propose giving judges powers to order "alternatives to detention" such as electronic tagging or house arrest if police want to hold terror suspects beyond the current 28 day limit.

Ministers have already hinted at concessions to the controversial Counter-terrorism Bill to give MPs' greater scope to debate any move beyond the 28-day limit and have indicated they are open to discuss judicial safeguards over the emergency powers.

As many as 50 Labour MPs are thought to oppose extending pre-charge detention, leaving the Government facing the prospect of its first defeat of Gordon Brown's premiership. Mr Brown has already hinted that he may be prepared to lose next month's Commons vote rather than give ground to critics.

The Home Office declined to comment on the leak, but insisted that ministers were committed to "giving police the powers they need". Opposition MPs said ministers should drop plans to extend the current limit.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said the tagging concession did not go far enough. He said: "This is a stepping stone to complete collapse, despite the Prime Minister's protestations that he will not make any concessions."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, added: "So-called concessions from the Government cannot disguise the fact that it has failed to give any evidence for the need to extend the existing 28-day period of detention without charge."