34 votes needed to defeat 42 day detention bill

Gordon Brown faces a humiliating parliamentary defeat over plans to allow police to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

A survey of Labour MPs by The Independent has uncovered a growing insurrection. Only 34 votes are needed to defeat the detention plans and at least 38 MPs – enough to wipe out Mr Brown’s Commons majority of 67 – are vowing to oppose controversial moves to extend the existing 28-day maximum detention period.

The scale of the rebellion will alarm Labour whips determined to hit the ground running next year after the Prime Minister’s disastrous end to 2007.

It emerged as Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, delivered a damning verdict on Mr Brown’s 42-day plans. He argued that the 28-day limit was working well, accusing ministers of wanting to pass laws based on a theoretical threat. “I think the basic point is whether you want to legislate on the basis of hypotheticals or whether you want to legislate on the basis of the evidence that we have acquired through practice,” Sir Ken told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “It seems to me that if you are legislating in an area which is going to curtail civil liberties to a significant extent, it is better to proceed by way of the evidence and the evidence of experience.”

The struggle over 42-day detention, which ministers say is necessary because of the increasing complexity of terrorist conspiracies, is due to come to a head within two months. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and minor parties have already vowed to oppose the moves, which means that Mr Brown risks losing his first Commons vote since taking the reins.

Earlier government suggestions of a 56-day limit have been dropped and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has launched a campaign to win support for the new proposal. She has stressed that there would be tough judicial and parliamentary safeguards on each occasion that the existing 28-day limit was exceeded.

But, although MPs praise her efforts to consult them, there is no sign of the rebellion abating.

Related:
Director of public prosecutions rejects increasing detention without charge to 42 days
Not a Day More

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