Britain's House of Lords voted Monday against a controversial plan to extend the amount of time police can hold terrorism suspects without charge from 28 to 42 days while an investigation is conducted.
Members of the House of Lords rejected the proposals by 309 votes to 118 after an impassioned debate, dealing the government a significant defeat.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was to make an emergency statement on the bill to the House of Commons later Monday evening.
The government says the proposal – endorsed by the House of Commons in June by a margin of only nine votes – is needed to fight the complex international terrorist threats facing Britain.
But a number of prominent politicians, writers and the Council of Europe have attacked the plan as a threat to civil liberties. The council, Europe's top human rights watchdog, said the plan would imperil the right to a fair trial.
Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, a member of the House of Lords who used to head the domestic spy agency MI5, condemned the measure as unnecessary and said it could jeopardize Britain's freedoms.
“I have weighed up the balance between the right to life – the most important civil liberty – the fact that there is no such thing as complete security, and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties,” the former spy chief said. “On a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days pre-charge detention.”
The current MI5 director stayed neutral on the issue, saying it was a police matter.