Blair Loses Vote on Terror Detention Bill

The House of Commons today voted down a Blair-backed proposal which would have allowed police to detain terrorist suspects for 90 days without charge.

Blair Suffers Major Defeat on Terror Bill (AP)

Prime Minister Tony Blair lost a crucial parliamentary vote Wednesday on sweeping new legislation allowing police to detain terrorism suspects for 90 days without charge — the first major defeat of his premiership and a serious blow to his authority. Instead, lawmakers, including some from Blair’s own Labour Party, voted for a maximum detention period of 28 days without charge.

Lawmakers blocked Blair’s original proposal by a 322-291 vote, and then approved the modified plan by an almost identical 323-290 vote. The prime minister had refused to compromise over his plan. Knowing the vote could the tightest of his eight years in office, Blair recalled two Cabinet ministers from overseas trips to shore up support.

What’s especially odd about this is that the Conservatives have managed to get a win by staking out a position well to the left of Blair and most of the Labour PMs. Indeed, I’m less surprised that a number of Labourites voted against the proposal than that almost all of the Tories did.

On substance, the outcome is a good one. Even in the case of accused terrorists, four weeks is more than long enough to suspend habeus corpus.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Even in the case of accused terrorists, four weeks is more than long enough to suspend habeus corpus.

    Now if only George W. Bush agreed with that.

  2. James Joyner says:

    No argument from me on that one.

    I understand that it’s an easier position to take from my standpoint than Bush’s or Blair’s–they’re held accountable for securing their nations–but principle has to trump security at some point.