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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 23:04 GMT
Ministers backing Blair on terror
Tony Blair
Blair's defeat was his first since coming to power in 1997
Tony Blair's Cabinet colleagues have united to voice their support for him after his defeat on anti-terror laws in the Commons.

Ministers say the prime minister was right to argue for 90 day detentions for terror suspects.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said Mr Blair had his "full support", while Home Secretary Charles Clarke took the blame for the detention proposal's failure.

Mr Blair has described a "worrying gap" between some MPs and public opinion.

Rebelling

He accused some MPs of being out of touch with the public and of failing to face the terror threat.

MPs on Wednesday rejected plans to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge.

The plans were defeated by 31 votes, with 49 Labour MPs rebelling against the government.

The Commons instead backed a compromise proposal to extend the detention time limit from the current 14 days to 28 days.

Defence Secretary John Reid denied the vote had undermined Mr Blair's authority, or made it more difficult for him to push through his broader policy agenda.

Commons Leader Geoff Hoon told a Question Time audience on Thursday that Mr Blair had "done what he thought was right and had taken a difficult decision" after acting on advice.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the Cabinet was disappointed but united in believing it had been right to hold the vote.

Push ahead

The spokesman said Mr Blair had told ministers that police and security service had given him a "sobering" security assessment which had reinforced his view.

Downing Street is signalling that Mr Blair wants to push ahead with his reform agenda despite warnings from some of his backbenchers.

Asked if the prime minister was ready to change his plans on other policies, the spokesman replied: "The Cabinet believe their manifesto commitments."

Mr Blair says his authority is intact despite losing the vote over a key part of his anti-terror plans.

COMMONS VOTES
90 days' detention time limit: Defeated by 322 votes to 291, majority 31
Backbench compromise of 28 days' detention: Passed by 323 votes to 290, majority 33

But Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy warned Mr Blair could become a "lame duck" leader.

And outgoing Conservative leader Michael Howard says Mr Blair should resign, although he does not think critics could win a no confidence motion.

Mr Clarke said Mr Blair had left it to him as home secretary to decide whether to hold a vote on the 90-day plan.

But Downing Street said the prime minister was "in no way saying he is going to let the home secretary take the rap".

And earlier Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "Tony Blair must continue to implement the agenda on which we were elected. It's only six months, you know, since there was a general election."

Inquiry

Some Labour MPs expressed concerns about Mr Blair's authority, particularly over planned reforms.

Former minister John Denham said Mr Blair must learn that backbenchers would no longer take him on trust.

The police case for the 90 days detention will be discussed by a Commons inquiry, with the home affairs select committee set to discuss its terms of reference next week.

As committee chairman Mr Denham said that politicisation of the police would not be one of the aims although MPs might well raise the issue with chief constables.

Ex-Conservative Cabinet ministers Peter Lilley and Stephen Dorrell have criticised the government for using chief constables to lobby MPs ahead of the detention plan vote.

In a Commons motion, they said they feared the move was a "damaging step towards the politicisation of the police".

But Downing Street denied the claim, saying it was right for police to explain why they backed the 90-day plan.


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