News In Depth
May urged to defy European judges
Tory MPs have urged Home Secretary Theresa May to deport "scumbag" terrorist Abu Qatada as soon as possible, even if it meant defying European judges.
Veteran Conservatives said the Government also needed to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights after Qatada launched an appeal against his deportation.
They said the Government needed to adopt a British Bill of Rights rather than trying to reform the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which could take years.
And Tory MP Charles Walker said Mrs May should defy the ECHR altogether and deport Qatada and other terrorists as soon as possible.
In an exchange with Mrs May, the MP for Broxbourne said: "You must not delay in getting this scumbag and his murderous mates on a plane out of this country. And in so doing would you send a metaphorical two fingers to the ECHR?"
In reply, Mrs May said the Government had tried to deport Qatada at the "first opportunity". Assurances from the Jordanian authorities that Qatada would not be tried on evidence obtained through torture meant ministers now had a "strong case".
Mr Walker's Conservative colleague Mark Spencer warned the saga risked painting the UK as a "safe haven" for terrorists.
And Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell said it was time the UK "withdrew its legal processes from the jurisdiction" of the European courts.
In a question to Mrs May, Bill Cash, chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, said: "You have tried your best, there is no question about that.
"But unfortunately it is not working. The root cause of this is the question of what is the rule of law, whose rule of law and who interprets it? It should be decided in this House. We should withdraw from the European Convention, we should repeal the Human Rights Act and we should get the matter straight because the people of this country demand it."
Mrs May said she took issue "seriously" but insisted the Government "must operate within the rule of law".
Tory MP James Clappinson said the time it had taken to try to deport Qatada showed that the European Court was "at the root of the problems" faced by the Government.
The attacks from the Tories came as Labour MPs accused Mrs May of "wriggling" on the issue of whether she knew of any ambiguity over the deadline for Qatada's appeal.
UK Border Agency staff arrested the Islamic radical cleric on Tuesday, believing the deadline for his appeal against an ECHR ruling that he could receive a fair trial in Jordan had already expired.
But the deadline was apparently due that evening and his lawyers managed to lodge their appeal with reportedly only minutes to spare.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the influential Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said staff in her department should have known from two other EU cases the three-month time limit begins the day after the original decision.
He said he was concerned a North London firm of legal aid solicitors had been able to "outwit" the Government's highly paid barristers.
Answering MPs' questions in the House of Commons, Mrs May said it may no material difference when Qatada was arrested because judges in the ECHR's Grand Chamber still had discretion to accept appeals after a deadline had expired.
what do you think?
if the deadline had expired which means that this load of idiots we call a govt should hide their heads in sham and do the decent thing and quit as they are all a waste of space
Courts everywhere really have no other consideration other than implementing law. That's why we have elected governments who can make or change law. That's whats wrong here there is no (effective) power higher than ECHR. They of course wish to use their powers to the utmost, with fervour and zeal even! The judges are thinking - we'll show these politicians just whoose in charge here!
what do we have westminster for?????? oh yes ive remembered so they can all keep there snouts in the trough.Not one of them has a backbone except george galloway and thats saying something. Tell strasbourg to shove it and lets get him on a plane tonight!!!! What could they possibly do to us?????
Solution send Theresa May with him to Jordon to ensure he is not tortured whilst he there. When has finished his imprisonment etc she can come back to England - Abu Qatada would then have is own mother Theresa nice!
All persons who enter the country illegaly should be deported - even if their girlfriend has a cat !