Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Is Ready to Give Ground as Defeats Loom on Terror Laws

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Is Ready to Give Ground as Defeats Loom on Terror Laws

Article excerpt


TONY BLAIR offered to give ground on his terror crackdown today as more crushing defeats loomed in the House of Lords.

Ministers signalled new concessions in a bid to rescue the emergency powers for house arrest and other measures against terrorist suspects.

With the house arrest powers under fire from all sides, the Government turned its energy to keeping out a Tory proposal for a "sunset clause" that would make the legislation expire after eight months.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said peers would "send the wrong signal" to terrorists and police that they were not serious about defending the realm if that was passed.

The attempt to strike a deal came as Mr Blair faced five new potential defeats in the Lords, including the sunset clause.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears went out of her way to build bridges, describing last night's Lords debate - which culminated in a massive defeat for the Government - as "extremely helpful".

She said: "I'm going to be looking at the Lords debate extremely carefully today and the amendments laid to see if there is any room for further agreement." Downing Street was markedly more cautious, merely saying it was "up to business managers" to decide what to do with the Bill.

That was a reference to the whips who were desperately sounding out Labour MPs about the chances of reversing the defeats in the Commons tomorrow.

Although ministers hope to do so, the sheer scale of opposition left many Labour MPs saying compromise was was inevitable The first olive branch to the rebels emerged this morning when the Attorney General announced extra help for special lawyers who will represent suspected terrorists in hearings. Mr Blair ' s spokesman said he thought the Bill struck the best balance before it was amended by the Lords but would not commit the Premier to changing it back. …

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