We have to be prepared for the worst, warns Jacqui Smith

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Indy Politics

Jacqui Smith closed yesterday's dramatic debate with an appeal to MPs not to gamble with the nation's security: "We cannot simply hope for the best, we must have plans in place so that we can cope with the worst."

The Home Secretary had earlier insisted that the Government had bent to accommodate critics' concerns: "We have listened. We have moved." But plans to extend the 28-day limit on detention without charge came under sustained fire from Labour and opposition benches, as MPs attempted to swing the final waverers during yesterday's six-hour debate on the Counter-Terrorism Bill.

Ms Smith insisted the new powers were needed to deal with future complex terror plots. "I hope we never need to extend the period," she said. "But the question that MPs need to ask of themselves is if they are confident we will never need 29, or 30, or 31 days to bring a terrorist suspect to charge, to put them in front of a court."

She added: "The proposals we will vote on today are better, fairer and more proportionate for the process of parliamentary scrutiny and debate they have undergone.

"But the time has come for members to decide. It is the job of Government, police and prosecutors to protect the public from terrorist attack and defend everybody's right to life. Today, it is the job of Parliament to give them the tools to do that."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, dismissed the legislation as "the worst of all worlds", explaining: "It is the job of Parliament to defend the liberties that we've had for centuries. The Home Secretary offers a Faustian bargain to trade a fundamental liberty for a little extra security and yet, as this debate has gone on, the case for 42 days has crumbled, then collapsed."

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said that Britain risked giving terrorists "exactly what they want, which is clear evidence of an insensitive and oppressive state. We must not and we must never become what we are fighting."

A series of Labour MPs declared their support for the Bill, claiming that their doubts had been allayed. Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "This is the right course of action ... I believe very firmly that the Home Secretary has conducted this matter in a proper way giving MPs the opportunity to put their concerns forward."

His Labour colleague Dari Taylor added: "A terrorist has to get lucky only once. Sometimes the balance of the law to protect the individual has to be very clearly seen."

But others argued that the move to 42 days was a step too far. Andrew Dismore, the Labour chairman of the all-party Human Rights Committee, said ministers had not made the case for extending detention without charge.

"Would it make us safer?" he asked MPs. "This is not a deterrent to terrorism, it's an investigation tool. It could make things worse if the consequences are alienation, less co-operation, less information, less intelligence."

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour left-winger, added: "The Government now wants 42 days and I expect in a few years' time there will be some other Home Secretary wanting even more. That is the nature of the proposals that endlessly give more powers to the politicians over the process of detention."

Diane Abbott, another Labour left-winger, issued a stinging attack on the proposals' supporters and, in particular, the Prime Minister: "They have emphatically not won the arguments." Gordon Brown was, she said, "reneging on a tacit understanding that 28 days would finish this argument for this parliament." Ms Abbott added: "This is pure politics. This is about polls. This is about positioning. This is about putting the Conservative Party in the wrong place. We should not play ducks and drakes with civil liberties just to get a few months' advantage in opinion polls."

Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said it was "demeaning to the Government and demeaning to Parliament" that the Government was apparently trying to negotiate deals on industrial diseases and lifting sanctions on Cuba to woo its critics.

MPs who defied party lines

*Some 36 Labour MPs rebelled against the Government on the 42-day limit for pre-charge detention, an analysis of division lists disclosed. They were:

Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington), Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield), Katy Clark (Ayrshire North & Arran), Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead), Frank Cook (Stockton North), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central), Andrew Dismore (Hendon), Frank Dobson (Holborn & St Pancras), David Drew (Stroud), Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme), Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Paul Flynn (Newport West), Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow), Ian Gibson (Norwich North), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath), John Grogan (Selby), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Highgate), Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak), Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool Walton), John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington), Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock), Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway), Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton), Julie Morgan (Cardiff North), Chris Mullin (Sunderland South), Doug Naysmith (Bristol North West), Gordon Prentice (Pendle), Linda Riordan (Halifax), Alan Simpson (Nottingham South), Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury), David Winnick (Walsall North), Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)

*One Conservative MP voted with the Government:

Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and the Weald)

*Nine members of the DUP supported the Government:

Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), The Rev William McCrea (South Antrim), The Rev Ian Paisley (North Antrim),

Iris Robinson (Strangford), Peter Robinson (East Belfast), David Simpson (Upper Bann), Sammy Wilson (East Antrim)