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Balls backs cut in terror detention

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls has indicated that Labour is ready to support moves to cut the pre-charge detention period for terror suspects to 14 days.

Paving the way for a cross-party agreement on reducing the current 28-day limit, he said he would back the change if it would not impede the police and the security services.

His comments mark a significant policy shift for Labour and a break from the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown governments that introduced 28 days and tried to extend the pre-charge period still further.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Balls admitted Labour had been damaged by its attempts in office to increase the limit to 90 days and then 42 days.

"Even 42 days was a step too far. Our reputation as a party which protected liberty as well as security suffered as a result," he said.

"Our approach should always be that if the evidence shows we can go down from 28 days without impeding the police and security services from doing their jobs, then we ought to do it."

Home Secretary Theresa May announced a review of counter-terror legislation in July, when she said her personal view was that the limit should be 14 days, which the Liberal Democrats also support.

The review, overseen by former director of public prosecutions and Lib Dem peer Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, is ongoing.

Civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch said the Government now had "no excuse" for keeping the pre-charge limit at 28 days.

Alex Deane, its director, said: "This is good news. It means that there is simply no excuse for the Government to keep the limit at 28 days - even the authoritarian Labour Party which introduced 28 detention now agrees that it's wrong."