U.K. opposition parties dispute about new proposed law

A leader of the opposition Conservative Party says he hasn't been persuaded that terrorist suspects should be held without charge for up to 90 days, as the government has proposed in legislation up for debate Wednesday.

David Davis, the Conservative spokesman on law and order, said the party would vote for the bill on second reading but seek to amend it later. A smaller opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, said it would vote against the bill Wednesday.

British law now permits terrorist suspects to be held for up to two weeks without charge, but police chiefs are seeking a 90-day maximum. This has been one of the most controversial proposals made by the government in response to the July attacks in which four suspected suicide bombers killed 52 subway and bus passengers.

Davis, one of two finalists in the Conservative party leadership race, said the 90-day provision was the most troublesome element of the bill.

"The prime minister described the case as compelling. I have had ... briefings and I have to say I don't even find it convincing," Davis said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"Ninety days in prison is equivalent to a six-month sentence. That, of itself, is something to be avoided at all costs if there is any other way of doing it."

Davis suggested amending the bill so that police could continue to question suspects on terrorism allegations after they have been charged with a lesser offense.

Mark Oaten of the Liberal Democrats said his party would vote against the bill on second reading because of the 90-day issue. "We think that breaks so many principles of natural justice in this country that it is worth taking a strong stand today and actually opposing the bill," Oaten told the BBC.

Chief Constable Ken Jones of Sussex Police, speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, defended the 90-day detention period, reports the AP. I.L.

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