Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:17 UK

Ministers warned over terror bill

Armed police
More police powers would lead to a breakdown in trust, Lord Alderdice said

Government anti-terror proposals will alienate ethnic minority communities, the former speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly has warned.

The Counter Terrorism Bill includes powers to increase the time suspects can be held without charge to 42 days.

Lord Alderdice said the measure would be seen as "unjust and unfair", just as internment did during the Troubles.

Opposition parties and Labour rebels are to challenge the bill when it comes back to the Commons next month.

Lord Alderdice, who played a significant part in the Northern Ireland peace process, said the government's proposals would lead to a breakdown of trust between the authorities and those communities most affected by it.

This is what happened in Northern Ireland where terrorist suspects were detained without charge between 1971 and 1975, he said.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said he believed the government was heading for a "train crash" over the legislation.

Next stage

The bill has been given an unopposed second reading but Lib Dems, Tories and some Labour MPs have said they will fight parts of it later on.

During the debate, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she wanted a "reserve power" not a permanent extension from 28 to 42 days.

David Davis, for the Conservatives, told MPs: "There is not one shred of evidence for extension beyond 28 days - full stop."

The bill now goes to its committee stage where MPs will scrutinise the legislation in detail.

The proposals are supported by some senior police officers, but could face a court challenge from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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