02/Sep/2014 - Last News Update: 07:03

Government's Abu Qatada woes increase

Category: Politics

Published: 18th Apr 2012 18:49:23

Has the latest row over the deportation of the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada come down to a misunderstanding about when midnight on Tuesday is?

Is it Monday night into Tuesday morning, or Tuesday night into Wednesday morning? The Home Office went for the first option, it seems, and the European Court of Human Rights the second.

This matters for two reasons: the credibility of the home secretary and how long it might take before Abu Qatada is put on a plane to Jordan - and whether he is released from prison in the mean time.

In her Commons statement, Theresa May suggested the government had a legally-watertight case to send Abu Qatada to Jordan, but it could take some months.

The home secretary, believing the deadline for an appeal to the court's Grand Chamber had passed, told MPs he could be removed from the UK "in full compliance of law."

But on Wednesday the court revealed it had received a request at 2200 BST on Tuesday evening, which it said was before the deadline.

Politically, it is potentially very awkward for the home secretary.

Her central pitch in the Commons was the government had secured a position of relative clarity: it could convince the European Court of Human Rights that Abu Qatada would get a fair trial in Jordan, and that evidence against him would not have been extracted by torture.

Yes, the process would take some time, but there was a clear process that had begun.

But it looks rather less clear now.

"I've been clear to everybody there were legal avenues for him to pursue," Mrs May told the BBC. "He has employed this delaying tactic. I'm not surprised, I don't think anybody should be surprised at that and I think he did this only after he had seen the strength of the case that we have for resuming his deportation to Jordan."

But shadow justice minister Chris Bryant shot back: "What seems to have happened is that the very basic details weren't done before the big fanfare of the announcement yesterday."

The reaction from some Conservative backbenchers has followed a pattern: support for the home secretary, criticism of Home Office civil servants.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said the Home Office had "dropped the home secretary and the ministers in it."

Tory backbencher Mark Reckless was even more blunt: "Whoever is the home secretary, the Home Office is institutionally incompetent."

"So long as civil servants are unaccountable, so long as they are promoted however wrong they get things, things will not change," Mr Reckless added.

For some days, making a broader point, the outspoken Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has been suggesting civil servants are too powerful within government.

"Concerned about Sir Humphrey? It's not just me," is the headline of his latest blog. He even asked David Cameron about it at Prime Minister's Questions.

Meanwhile, the questions for the Home Office and the home secretary, that perpetually poisoned chalice of cabinet posts, keep coming.

The deportation of Abu Qatada is an intensely emotive issue. Red meat for newspapers, with big political ramifications.

Even the biggest supporters of the European Court of Human Rights acknowledge that "fast track" is not in its DNA. One person's procedural niceties and due process are another's never-ending pontificating.

It can lead to a feeling for some that decisions are forever getting kicked into the legal long grass.

The political danger for the government is that the grass might just have got even longer.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Government's Abu Qatada woes increase [Online] (Updated 18th Apr 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1423191/Governments-Abu-Qatada-woes-increase [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Transfer window in numbers: Man Utd & rivals break records

    A busy transfer deadline day capped a record summer of spending in the Premier League.
  • Cameron's anti-terror plans 'rehash of old policies'

    A former terror suspect has criticised government anti-terrorism plans as "rehashing of old policies" which will "disenfranchise" UK Muslims.
  • Action films most likely to make you fat, says study

    Watching action films may make you more likely to pile on the pounds, according to US researchers.
  • Musician Ben Watt makes Samuel Johnson non-fiction list

    Everything But The Girl musician Ben Watt has been announced as part of the 15-strong longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
  • Boris Island airport plan rejected

    A plan for an island airport in the Thames estuary has been rejected by a commission looking into the UK's airport needs.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com