Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government won a crucial parliamentary vote on sweeping new anti-terrorism legislation Wednesday, but faced a further fight over plans to lock up terror suspects for 90 days without charge.
Following a lengthy debate in the House of Commons, lawmakers voted 472-94 to back the Terror Bill.
The main opposition Conservative Party supported the bill, but warned it would seek to block the legislation at a later stage if the government did not rethink some of the proposals.
“We must all pause, draw breath and think through the implications very carefully indeed,” Conservative law and order spokesman David Davis said. “Poorly drafted counter-terrorist measures have many risks.”
In the wake of July’s deadly attacks on London’s transit system, the government said it wanted to extend the maximum 14-day detention without charge for terror suspects to three months, outlaw attending terrorist training camps and make it an offense to glorify or encourage terrorism.
The bill also aimed to outlaw preparing for an act of terrorism, publishing or selling of material that incites terrorism and giving or receiving training in terrorist techniques — such as how to spread viruses, place bombs and cause a stampede in a crowd.
Before the legislation can become law, it faces further scrutiny by a committee of lawmakers, a further vote in the Commons and votes in parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said Britain faced a terrorist threat from extremists intent on mass murder.
“We cannot properly fight terrorism with one legal hand tied behind our back, or give terrorists the unfettered right to defend themselves as they promote and prepare violent attacks on our society,” he said.
The most controversial proposal was extending the detention period. Police and prosecutors argued that more time is needed in complex cases, in which terror suspects often have multiple aliases and store information in encrypted computers, and in which cooperation of foreign agencies is needed.
However, Lord Carlile, appointed by the government to review anti-terror measures, has said the three-month detention plan could be open to challenge under European human rights legislation.
Davis said the Conservatives wanted the period reduced and thought the definition of glorifying terrorism was too broad.