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UK detention period extended -

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UK detention period extended

The World Today - Thursday, 12 June , 2008 12:33:35

Reporter: Stephanie Kennedy

EMMA ALBERICI: The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has boosted his flagging leadership after
winning a critical vote on an extension of time terrorism suspects can be held without charge. The
change means suspects will now be able to be detained for 42 days up from 28.

But the narrow victory in the House of Commons came at a cost - 37 Labour MPs crossed the floor and
voted against the legislation. In the end Mr Brown had to rely on the support of a minor party.

Stephanie Kennedy reports from London.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: The stakes were high for Gordon Brown. This vote in the House of Commons was a
crucial test for the Prime Minister's already weakened leadership.

Gordon Brown wanted to extend the time terrorism suspects can be held without charge from four to
six weeks, but he faced a backbench revolt with up to 40 Labour MPs threatening to vote against the
Bill. In a bid to win over the rebels, the Prime Minister telephoned every one of the wavering MPs.

Labour backbencher Frank Dobson is the unofficial leader of those who opposed the Bill.

FRANK DOBSON: I believe that 28 days is quite long enough. I think that it's far and away the
longest in the common law world. In Canada people can be held for a day; in America and New Zealand
they can be held for two days without charge; in Ireland it's seven days; in Australia it's 12
days; in Britain it's already 28 days.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Ahead of the vote there were heated exchanges in the House of Commons between
the Tory leader David Cameron and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

GORDON BROWN: Our first duty is the protection of national security. We fail in our duty if we do
not take preventative measures. I say in sorrow rather than anger, it is no use opposition for
opposition's sake.

(Voices raised from the House.)

We have to take no risks with security.

DAVID CAMERON: Isn't there a danger that as well as being unnecessary, this is counterproductive?
When you've got former attorney-generals, soldiers who have served against the IRA in Northern
Ireland all saying that this sort of measure could actually help the terrorists rather than hurt
then, aren't we making a bad step?

(Voices raised from the House.)

Isn't it clear that terrorists want to destroy our freedom and when we trash our liberties we do
their work for them?

(Cries of "Hear! Hear!")

GORDON BROWN: In a sweetener to the back bench, the Government made a last-minute concession.
Suspects held for longer than 28 days but not subsequently charged would be eligible for financial
compensation.

But that failed to persuade the rebels and with the conservatives and the Liberal Democrats
opposed, the Government had to rely on a deal with nine MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party to
win the vote.

SPEAKER: The Ayes to the right, 315; the Nos to the left, 306.

(Voices raised from the House.)

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Outside the Houses of Parliament, Labour stalwart Tony Benn described the result
as a very sad day.

TONY BENN: Well I never thought I would be in the House of Commons on a day when Magna Carta was
repealed. It is Osama Bin Laden's biggest victory because we have been persuaded to abandon rights
we've held and boasted about, and the DUP apparently had some financial concessions which is a
classic case of selling your birthright for a mess of pottage. But it's a very, very sad day for
British justice and democracy in this country.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: The legislation now goes to the House of Lords and that's another battle the
Government will have to win before the Bill becomes law.

In London this is Stephanie Kennedy reporting for The World Today.