THE government's controversial anti-terror plans were last night roundly attacked by an ex-Labour cabinet minister who left office less than a year ago.
Former attorney general Lord Goldsmith QC launched a remarkable assault on proposals to extend pre-charge detention of terror suspects to 42 days. He dismissed the proposed system – which would see MPs and peers asked to back Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to increase the limit from the present 28 days – as "not a great deal of a safeguard", and asked: "Are you going to ask parliament to simply trust the Secretary of State?"
Giving evidence to the Commons' Counter-Terrorism Bill standing committee, Lord Goldsmith said: "The case has not been made out for that extension and I can't personally support it.
"It is also counter-productive because it sends a message to particularly the Muslim communities that we are down on them, that this is another attack on them, and misguided young men might take it as justification for taking up arms, as they see it, against us."
Several Labour backbenchers appeared exasperated by Lord Goldsmith's stance – which will be highly damaging to the government's plans and could weaken the authority of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.