UK extends 'terrorism' legislation

Parliament narrowly votes in favour of increasing pre-charge detention for suspects.

    Human rights group Liberty accused the government of exaggerating the need for an extension [AFP] 
    There was also talk, hotly denied, of a deal with the nine members of parliament from Northern Ireland's largest Protestant party the Democratic Unionist Party.

    Last-minute effort

    Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's correspondent at Westminster, said: "The prime minister was actually telephoning people asking them to vote. It was a knife edge.
     
    "Ministers utterly failed to provide the evidence in favour of
    42 days in
    the Commons"


    David David, opposition spokesman

    "There's already a post-mortem taking place looking at what these MPs might have been offered to get them onboard. The House of Lords, parliament's second chamber, is now likely to vote against the extension and it is likely to ping-pong between the two houses."

    Thirty-six members of Brown's Labour Party still rebelled, despite last-minute concessions from the government and the personal interventions of senior party figures.

    "Securing votes by threats, bribes and personal pleading demeans the role of the prime minister," John McDonnell, one Labour MP who opposed the bill, said.

    David Davis, home affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative party, accused the government of having "bought the votes".
      
    "Ministers utterly failed to provide the evidence in favour of 42 days in the Commons and the measure is likely to be rejected in the House of Lords," he said.

    'Exaggerated claims'
     
    Before the vote took place, Liberty, the UK-based human rights group, accused the government of exaggerating claims of the need for an extension.

    Liberty said that even the current limit of 28 days far exceeds pre-charge detention limits in 14 other comparable democracies, including France, Spain, Turkey and the United States, which have all suffered attacks.
     
    Tony Blair, Brown's predecessor, tried and failed to increase the pre-charge detention limit from the then-maximum 14 days to 90 days after the July 2005 suicide attacks in London.
     
    Lord Peter Goldsmith, Blair's former chief legal adviser, said that the
    extension would strain relations with Britain's Muslim communities and could choke the flow of information on which police and intelligence officers rely to foil attacks.
     
    Defeat would have been damaging for Brown at a time when his poll ratings are at record lows and some Labour MPs are openly questioning his suitability to lead the party into a general election due to be held by May 2010.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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