Page last updated at 22:55 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 23:55 UK

Clarke warns on terror detentions

Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke was formerly the home secretary under Tony Blair

Concessions made to secure the passage of the 42-day detention bill will "damage the fight against terrorism", a former home secretary has said.

Charles Clarke said the bill, which would extend the time terror suspects can be held without charge, would bring "discredit" on the government.

Mr Clarke expressed "very serious doubts" in a series of letters he sent to current Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

But he supported the government in last week's vote on the proposed change.

The measure to introduce 42-day pre-charge detention in certain terror cases passed through the Commons by nine votes.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Clarke wrote to the home secretary saying that the concessions she offered Labour rebels to secure their support rendered the 14-day extension, beyond the current 28-day limit, unusable.

In a message obtained by Channel 4 News, he said: "I remain very concerned about the possibility of ever using this power to extend to 42 days, so that the whole process is worthless from the point of view of national security."

Mr Clarke predicted "protracted and potentially bitter divisions with the government" over the issue.

He added: "The new law is likely to turn out to be entirely academic and the whole process will severely damage the fight against terrorism and will only bring discredit on the government and the Labour Party."

As former Prime Minister Tony Blair's home secretary, Mr Clarke once proposed the extension of pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 90 days.

The current bill is now due to be debated in the House of Lords, where opposition to the 42-day proposal is much greater.

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