‘Is it our intention to do the dirty work for dictatorships all over the world?’ Labour MP John Denham challenged Home Secretary Clarke yesterday.
Denham spoke up during Clarke’s moving of the second reading in the House of Commons of the Terrorism Bill.
A flustered Clarke denied the charge but spent most of his allotted time answering MPs’ interventions, admitting that ‘there are particular doubts on all sides of the House’ on ‘the definition glorifying acts of terrorism and the length of time of detention before charge’, to be increased from 14 to 90 days.
Tory MP Douglas Hogg was one of those who questioned the proposal to extend police powers to hold alleged terror suspects without charge for 90 days.
Hogg cautioned that there ‘is a risk of people under sustained interrogation making false confessions and unsound statements’.
Adding that ‘people will say anything just to get out of custody’, he asked what safeguards would there be against that risk.
Clarke said that the courts would deal with the risk of people giving false confessions.
Labour MP Chris Mullin said: ‘The police must be amazed that the government has endorsed detention without trial for 90 days at first go.
‘So far nobody has been held for the present 14 days, just one person has been held for 13 days.
‘So I fail to see why 90 days is so urgent.’
Clarke said the accusation of acquiescing to the police was ‘nonsense’ but added that police were very much in tune with changed circumstances.
Labour MP Tony Lloyd asked: ‘Is the Bill compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights?’
Clarke said that this was ‘something we have discussed with our European colleagues’ and assured that ‘yes, it is compatible.’
Liberal Democrat David Heath suggested that a person could be charged under a lesser part of the Act and brought before a court, rather than held for 90 days without charge.
Clarke rejected this proposal with the argument that ‘even for an act preparatory to terrorism it can take longer to acquire all the evidence’.
• Second News story
RUSSIA ‘NO’ TO SYRIA SANCTIONS
Russia said yesterday it will block any UN effort to impose sanctions on Syria over its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution circulated by the United States, United Kingdom and France, that threatens Syria with sanctions.
Speaking on a visit to Israel, a spokesman for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow ‘opposes sanctions against Syria’.
The foreign ministry spokesman added: ‘Russia will be doing everything necessary to prevent attempts to impose sanctions against Syria.’