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Anger over two-day Terror Bill debate

By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent

22 February 2005

The Government was accused of showing contempt for hundreds of years of history after it announced plans to hold terrorist suspects under house arrest would be rushed through the Commons in two days.

A Bill setting out plans for "control orders", including home detention for the most serious suspects, will be published today by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary.

To the fury of opposition parties and some Labour MPs, two parliamentary days ­ tomorrow and next Monday ­ have been set aside for debating its provisions.

The Government is on a collision course with the Conservatives, who argue the plans fly in the face of natural justice, and the Liberal Democrats, who want the power to issue control orders taken out of the Home Secretary's hands. Both parties are pressing for phone-tap material to be admissible in court to allow more prosecutions of terrorist suspects.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, said last night: "This is vitally important legislation. I do not believe Britain's best interests will be served by rushing it through Parliament."

Hopes of all-party agreement on the legislation foundered last week after talks between Tony Blair and Mr Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Mr Clarke was holding a final round of discussions last night with opposition parties in an attempt to find common ground. He offered a concession under which house arrest decisions are reviewed by a judge, but it looked unlikely to win round the opposition parties.