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Damian Green announces terror detention change

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Media captionHome Office minister Damian Green: "Fourteen days should be the norm"

Powers allowing terror suspects to be held for 28 days without charge will be allowed to lapse next Tuesday, returning to a 14-day limit, Home Office Minister Damian Green has said.

The decision followed a review by the government, the full findings of which will be announced next Wednesday.

Mr Green's announcement was a response to a question in the House of Commons.

The 28-day limit, introduced under Labour's 2006 Terrorism Act, had been criticised by some civil rights groups.

Last year, the use of the 28-day limit was extended for a six-month period - which expires next week - while the review was carried out.

Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Green said: "In the interim I can announce that the government will not be seeking to extend the order allowing the maximum 28-day limit, and accordingly the current order will lapse on January 25 and the maximum limit of pre-charge detention will from that time revert to 14 days."

Mr Green said the government was clear that "the power to detain terrorist suspects for up to 28 days before they were charged or released was meant to be an exceptional power", although he said it "became the norm" under the Labour government, with the power repeatedly being renewed.

The minister said Home Secretary Theresa May would set out the government's "detailed considerations" on anti-terror measures next Wednesday.

Mrs May would, he said, set out "contingency measures" which would "ensure that our ability to bring terrorists to justice is as effective as possible".

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, who campaigned to reinstate the 14-day limit, said the move would speed up the justice system.

"If the time frame is longer I'm afraid that there is less pressure to get together the evidence that is required," he said.

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls said he agreed that keeping the public safe and balancing security with the protection of civil liberties was a "vital task facing any government".

However, he was critical of the process leading to the announcement, questioning why Mrs May was not announcing the change to MPs and claiming the way in which the move had been revealed was a "complete shambles".

Mr Balls asked what would happen on Monday if a terrorist suspect was detained, and questioned whether the security services had agreed to the change.

"This is a deeply arrogant way for the government to treat this House and it is a shambolic way to make policy on vital issues of national security," he said.

The outgoing independent reviewer of terrorism laws, Lord Carlile, said the 14-day limit was enough in most cases.

"When the 28-day limit was introduced some siren voices said that the police would treat the 28-day maximum as the norm.

"That has been proved to be anything but the case. In every single case the police, where they have charged, have charged as soon as possible, and where they have released, they have released as soon as possible. And that is why 14 days has proved perfectly sufficient."

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