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by RAY FLEMING

IN the view of David Davis, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary, Gordon Brown's insistence on a 42-day period of imprisonment without charge for suspected terrorists is apparently not a point of principle but a way of showing he is better than Tony Blair - “Tony was defeated on 90 days...I am likely to succeed where he failed.” If Mr Davis thinks that the Prime Minister would be capable of playing with the nation's security for the sake of scoring a personal point we should all be grateful that David Cameron beat him for the Conservative leadership.

I was strongly opposed to Mr Blair's 90-days idea; it was an excessive knee-jerk reaction. By contrast Gordon Brown's 42-day proposal is based on considerable experience of the terrorist threat and further reflection about the balance between individual freedom and national security. It is intended only for “truly exceptional” cases and includes many more oversight safeguards, including by the House of Commons itself. In the debates to come consideration should also be given to Ann Widdecombe's sensible suggestion for a “sunset clause” to be added to the Bill to make necessary its annual renewal by Parliament.

In his article in The Times on Monday Mr Brown made a detailed and persuasive case for extending the existing 28-day provision to 42 days; the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith backed it up with an impressive performance on the Today programme yesterday. Even so, a long fight lies ahead in the Commons and the House of Lords.