MPs urged to act against ‘mounting’ terror threat

The head of the Metropolitan Police today urged MPs to extend the length of time terror suspects can be detained without charge.

He warned the UK is facing more and increasingly ambitious terror plot. As such he said it is only a matter of time before detaining suspects for 28 days will cease to be sufficient.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the number of terror plots against the UK is “mounting day by day” and warned their “magnitude” was growing.

He told MPs: “The number of conspiracies, the number of conspirators within those conspiracies and the magnitude of the ambition, in terms of destruction and loss of life, is mounting.”

As such, he warned security agents could soon need more time to obtain evidence against suspects.

He said there was a “real prospect” parliament would have to consider extending the period for detention without charge.

Sir Ian admitted no case has yet collapsed because of insufficient time. However, he said the increased threat of terrorism meant a “pragmatic inference” could conclude 28 days will at some stage be insufficient.

Gordon Brown said in July he would consider extending the length of time for which terror suspects could be contained, with 56 days the most likely prospect.

The 28 day period is itself a compromise, after Tony Blair failed in his original bid for a 90-day limit.

The Conservatives greeted Sir Ian’s plea today with scepticism and warned they would not back an extension without evidence.

Shadow home secretary David Davis pointed out the UK already detains terror suspects for longer than any other democratic nation.

Mr Davis continued: “Instead of more draconian legislation, there are immediate practical measures the government should be taking that would make Britain safer, including the introduction of a real border police force, post-charge questioning of terror suspects and lifting the ban on using intercept evidence to prosecute terrorists.”

Human rights group Liberty also opposes an extension to detention without charge. It argues the government should consider less contentious reforms first, including those recommended by Mr Davis.