Government Ditches 42-Day Detention after Lords Defeat; Humiliating Climbdown after Peers Reject Totemic Bill by 191 Votes
Byline: Western Mail reporter
THE Government was last night forced into a humiliating climbdown after peers rejected controversial anti-terror laws.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith withdrew plans for extending pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days in an emergency statement to the House of Commons, after they were defeated in the Lords.
She said a new Bill, which included the measures, was written and ready to be made law if they were needed.
MsSmith attacked opponents of the proposals, saying: "Some may take the security of the British people lightly. I do not."
Ms Smith said she was not prepared to leave the British people unprotected against the terror threat.
She accused critics of "being prepared to ignore the terrorist threat for fear of taking a tough but necessary decision".
Measures in the Counter Terrorism Bill to add two weeks to the pre-charge detention limit were defeated by a crushing 191 votes yesterday, including those of former Labour Lord Chancellors Lord Falconer and Lord Irvine.
With Prime Minister Gordon Brown sitting behind her, Ms Smith said: "I do not believe, as some Hon Members clearly do, that it is enough to simply cross our fingers and hope for the best.
"Mr Speaker, that is not good enough. Because when it comes to national security, there are certain risks I'm not prepared to take.
"I am not prepared to risk leaving the British people without the protections they need."
Ministers will now hope the presentation of the new Bill will give them a degree of political cover as they walk away from what was a major plank of their counter-terror policy.
They were left with little choice but to ditch the plans when faced with the prospect of a bruising return to the Commons.
The measures had squeezed through in June despite more than 30 Labour rebels voting with the Opposition, thanks to the support of Democratic Unionist MPs.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the move was a "victory for civil liberties" and the new Bill was a "fig leaf".
He said: "The decision to prepare emergency legislation instead is merely a fig leaf which does little to disguise their defeat. …