A number of Labour MPs have tabled an amendment to the government’s Counter-Terrorism Bill in a bid to block plans to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days.
Among those to sign it are several MPs who previously backed a 90-day limit, suggesting Prime Minister Brown will lose the vote next month.
The amendment has been put forward by Labour MP David Winnick.
He was the MP who proposed the amendment to extend detention without trial to 28 days that saw the defeat of the then prime minister Blair’s bid to extend it to 90 days.
Winnick said: ‘It does appear that some who supported the government in 2005 have now changed their minds and now take the view that the current 28-day limit is sufficient.
‘I believe there is a reasonable chance that the government will be defeated, but I do accept that the government will do everything in its power to try to persuade some of my colleagues to agree on the basis of various concessions.
‘If the government does not get its way, hopefully the issue will be closed for some time, unless there is compelling new evidence to show that it is necessary to go beyond 28 days.’
Downing Street made clear that Prime Minister Brown was determined to press ahead with his plans.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: ‘It is the prime minister’s view and the home secretary’s view that there can be no question of any compromise over 42 days.
‘They are both strongly of the view that it is necessary to put in place legislation on a precautionary basis to enable terror suspects to be held for more than the current 28-day limit.’
This came amid reports that Labour Chief Whip Geoff Hoon is seeking to broker a deal to prevent a Labour split.
This would reportedly involve greater parliamentary oversight and the need by government to declare an ‘exceptional need’ to use the power.
In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Brown had insisted: ‘I would rather win, and I’m going to put the argument. . . I’m going to try to win this argument.’
He claimed that, ‘I’m concerned about the security of this country.’
Right-wing Labour MP Frank Field, who led the Labour rebellion on the abolition of the 10p tax rate, advised Brown to stick to his guns as he believed the PM could win the vote.
Field told GMTV yesterday: ‘He has a clear position on this. He should make the case again in the Commons.’
Last Wednesday, MPs and peers on the Joint Committee on Human Rights said an extended detention limit was ‘unnecessary’ and instead proposed a series of reforms.
These include ending the ban on granting bail in terror cases, and allowing post-charge questioning of suspects.
The committee has tabled several amendments to the bill calling for these changes.