London, Sept.27 : A former chief of Britain's MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, has joined a growing chorus for the withdrawal of the government's 42 days counter-terrorism legislation, saying that the provision to hold suspects for six weeks without charge is excessive.
"It's too much, quite frankly," The Guardian quoted her as saying when asked about the 42-day limit during a talk in London about her new spy thriller novel.
While she was uncertain what the right limit was, it was clear to her that 42 days was too long.
Rimington, who became the first woman director general of MI5 in 1992 and held the post until her retirement in 1996, also attacked the US-led "war on terror" for sending the wrong message and said that the treatment of prisoners at Guant¡namo Bay had been very damaging.
The 42-day plan faces rejection when it goes to the House of Lords after the summer recess, guaranteeing a bruising round of parliamentary "ping pong" in which the counter-terrorism bill will travel back and forth between the Lords and Commons if the government insists on the plan.
Two months ago, another former head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, used her maiden speech in the Lords to attack the plans. She opposed them on a "practical basis as well as a principled one".
A critical report from the all-party Lords constitution committee, which includes the former lord chief justice Lord Woolf and former Labour attorney general Lord Morris of Aberavon, said the draft bill risked undermining the independence of judges and the chances of a fair trial for suspects.
Other notable opponents of the legislation include Sir Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions, who sees no reason to extend beyond 28 days. Lord Goldsmith, former attorney general, warned that it would undermine fundamental British freedoms.