UK & World News

  • 10 March 2013, 12:02

Qatada: May Pledges To Scrap Human Rights Act

Theresa May has pledged that a Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act, which she claims has stopped Britain from deporting the radical preacher Abu Qatada.

The Home Secretary also went so far as to indicate the Conservatives could go further by pulling out of its European obligations on Human Rights altogether, an association dating back more than 60 years.

Ms May, who is being touted as a possible future Conservative leader, told Tory activists that the party must "consider very carefully our relationship" with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

She said that Britain must stop human rights laws interfering with its ability to protect the nation.

She pointed to the case of Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's right hand man in Europe, who was on Saturday returned to custody following his arrest for allegedly breaching his bail conditions.

Ms May said that the Strasbourg-based court had constantly moved the goalposts on Britain's request for his deportation to Jordan.

"We need to stop human rights legislation interfering with our ability to fight crime and control immigration," she told the Victory 2015 conference.

"That's why, as our last manifesto promised, the next Conservative government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and it's why we should also consider very carefully our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights and the convention it enforces.

"When Strasbourg constantly moves the goalposts and prevents the deportation of dangerous men like Abu Qatada, we have to ask ourselves to what end are we signatories to the convention?"

She added: "So by 2015 we'll need a plan for dealing with the European Court of Human Rights. And yes, I want to be clear that all options - including leaving the convention altogether - should be on the table."

The Government is to make a bid at the Court of Appeal on Monday to overturn a judge's decision to allow Qatada, who has been convicted of terrorism charges in Jordan, to remain in Britain.

Ms May made her comments to Tory grassroots as part of a wide-ranging speech in which she also said that she expects the Conservative's public sector reform agenda to "become even more radical" and could include allowing companies to make a profit delivering frontline services.

The country's most senior judge, Lord Neuberger, last week pointed out that if Britain was to scrap the Human Rights Act and end its association with the European Convention on Human Rights, it would also have to withdraw from the United Nations.

He pointed out that it is under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that terrorists could not be deported to countries where they might be subjected to poor treatment.

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said: "She says she wants freedom yet she wants to abolish the Human Rights Act which protects freedom of speech, freedom from torture and freedom of religion.

"And she wants to pull out of the European Convention which is protecting basic freedoms in emerging democracies across Europe and has nothing to do with her failure in deporting fewer foreign criminals."