Ex-MI5 chief warns over detention

dame-stella.jpgBBC News | MPs should work together to agree a detention limit for terror suspects and ensure the matter is not a political football, a former MI5 chief has said. Ministers want to be able to hold suspects without charge for 42 days, rather than the current 28-days.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and many Labour MPs oppose the change.

Dame Stella Rimington called it “a huge pity” the debate had become a political issue, saying security “was too serious a thing to play party politics with”.

For this reason, she told BBC Radio Nottingham, she would not express an opinion on the present limit, or proposed extensions to 42 or even 60 days.

“But I do think they should try and achieve some kind of consensus,” she added.

Police ‘backing’

A Commons vote is expected in mid-June on the matter, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown favouring a 42-day period.

He has said the change was needed to accommodate questioning after any “substantial terrorist incident” on British soil.

He has argued that this extension was backed by Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London and the most senior policeman in the UK.

But Conservative leader David Cameron has accused Mr Brown of trying to push through the extension to appear “tough on terror”, rather than because he believes in it.

Last week Mr Cameron claimed he had been sent a report which detailed the concerns of some Labour MPs on the issue, and suggested there might be a backbench rebellion when the vote was held.

The Liberal Democrats also oppose extending the 28 day limit. Enough Labour MPs appear to oppose the extension to suggest the government could be defeated.