Page last updated at 07:45 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 08:45 UK

David Davis resigns from Commons

David Davis explains why he is resigning

Shadow home secretary David Davis has resigned as an MP, promising to fight to regain his seat on a platform of defending "British liberties".

The Lib Dems are not taking part in the by-election in Haltemprice and Howden, while Labour has yet to decide.

Mr Davis said the government was facing a test of "nerve" over its plans to extend detentions for terror suspects.

But Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the resignation showed the Conservatives were in "disarray".

Mr Davis said he would fight the by-election campaigning against the government's plans to extend pre-charge detentions for terror suspects to a maximum of 42 days.

'Their issue'

The proposal passed through the Commons on Wednesday by a margin of nine votes, against the opposition of the Tories, Lib Dems and 36 Labour MPs.

Mr Davis said: "It would be very unlikely that the Labour Party wouldn't stand.

"This is their issue... If they don't, what does it show about their nerve? What matters is the principles that we are dealing with here."

At the last general election, in 2005, Mr Davis was re-elected in Haltemprice and Howden with a 5,116 majority, with the Lib Dems second and Labour third.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said his resignation was an extraordinary move almost without precedent in British politics.

This cannot go on. It must be stopped and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to make a stand
David Davis

So far no party has said it will put up a candidate against Mr Davis - the Lib Dems say they support him on terror detention and Labour is still deciding whether to take part in what some of its MPs have described as a "stunt".

The BNP, which came fourth in the seat in the 2005 general election, says it will not stand against Mr Davis as it agrees with his stance on terror detention.

UKIP, which was fifth, said it was still considering its position, although one of its MEPs, Godfrey Bloom, has offered to campaign for Mr Davis.

If no other candidate has come forward by the close of nominations, Mr Davis would be returned as the MP without a vote.

'Personal decision'

He has led the opposition to Labour's plans to extend the maximum limit terror suspects can be held beyond the current 28-day maximum.

On Wednesday, Mr Davis accused the government of "buying" the nine votes they needed to get the legislation through the Commons.

David Davis speaks to Nick Robinson about his decision

He vowed that the Conservatives, who are the official opposition and favourites to win at the next election, would continue the fight in the House of Lords.

Tory leader David Cameron paid tribute to his campaign on 42 days and insisted the party would not change its policy.

But he stressed Mr Davis' resignation had been "a personal decision, a decision he has made".

He said it was a "courageous" move and he hoped Conservatives would support Mr Davis's by-election campaign.

This resignation is quite extraordinary and without precedent that I can think of in British politics and means that politics is now utterly unpredictable
Nick Robinson
BBC Political Editor

But he added: "We cannot put home affairs on pause and it is my job to ensure that we have a team that's ready for government."

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve, whom Mr Cameron has appointed as the new shadow home secretary, rubbished reports the Tory leadership was split on the issue of 42 days and pledged to repeal the measure if the party gained power.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Faced with a crucial decision on the safety and protection of the British public, the Conservatives have collapsed into total disarray on what is their first big policy test since they have come under greater scrutiny.

"David Cameron must come clean on what has really happened and why David Davis has really resigned."

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who also voted against 42 day detention, said his party would not be fielding a candidate in the by-election, after speaking to Mr Davis.

It has come to something when it takes the lone bravery of a Tory MP and the house of Lords to protect civil liberties in this country
Peter Hearty, London

Mr Davis mounted a passionate attack on government plans to extend terror detention in the Commons on Wednesday - only to see the government win the key vote by the narrowest of margins.

In his resignation statement, he said he feared 42 days was just the beginning and next "we'll next see 56 days, 70 days, 90 days".

But, he added: "In truth, 42 days is just one - perhaps the most salient example - of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms."

He listed the growth of the "database state," government "snooping" ID cards, the erosion of jury trials and other issues.

"This cannot go on. It must be stopped and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to make a stand," said Mr Davis.

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