THE Bishop of Worcester has weighed into the row over controversial plans to place terror suspects under house arrest without trial.

The Rt Rev Peter Selby told the Lords he was "puzzled" as to why the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, needed powers usually reserved for judges.

Mr Clarke is facing cross-party opposition to his emergency legislation which would give him the personal power to detain terror suspects in their own homes.

Opposition parties want the house arrest control orders to be dispensed by judges, rather than politicians - a call rejected by the Government.

Bishop Peter stepped into the row as it becomes increasingly likely that the Government's plans will be blocked in the Lords.

"Decisions to deprive a person of liberty should be taken, and only taken, by the judge," he said.


"I remain puzzled as to why the Government has felt it necessary to go down the road of an executive decision in a matter that constitutionally belongs to the judiciary."

Responding to the Bishop's remarks, Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal said the primary responsibility of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister was to keep the nation safe.

"That is very much part of the responsibility of Government and the responsibility of the Executive," she said.

Presenting the Prevention of Terrorism Bill to the Commons yesterday, Mr Clarke offered concessions to critics by saying that he would not immediately need to use the house arrest powers.

Instead, he wanted to be able to place lesser restrictions on the movements of the Belmarsh 10, who will be released on Thursday, March 10, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled their detention under existing legislation unlawful.