NEWS

Labour Rises up Against Precharge Detention Extension

By Matthew Harwood

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces the grim prospect that his Labour Members of Parliament will cross the aisle to vote against his new counterterrorism legislation when it comes before Parliament next year, reports Bloomberg.com.

The centerpiece of the legislation calls for law enforcement's ability to detain terrorism suspects as long as 42 days in exceptional circumstances. Presently, police can detain terrorism suspects for 28 days, much longer than any comparable democracy.

According to Bloomberg, a revolt simmers within Brown's Labour Party:

Fourteen Labour members of Parliament contacted by Bloomberg News said they plan to oppose the extension. Seven others, still undecided, said they were ``not happy'' with it. Another 11 sit on committees that last week concluded the government hasn't proven its case. About two dozen more who voted against a longer extension in 2005 didn't respond to the survey.

With both main opposition parties, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, saying they will vote against the plan, it will fail if 34 Labour lawmakers vote no.

``I am not at all convinced the government has the numbers it needs,'' Philip Cowley, a professor of politics at Nottingham University who tracks revolts in Parliament, said in an interview. ``It's very, very tight.''

If Brown's new counterterrorism plan does fail, it won't be too surprising. The issue of precharge detention handed Brown's predecessor, Prime Minister Tony Blair, his first legislative defeat as he pushed for 90 days. A compromise between Conservatives and Labourites set precharge detention to its current maximum of 28 days.

For more on Britain's juggling act between civil liberties and expanded counterterrorism powers, look out for Security Management's January cover article, "Fighting Terrorism in the U.K.."

 

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