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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.