May stands firm on Qatada deadline
Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted European human rights judges should throw out an appeal by radical cleric Abu Qatada against deportation.
Mrs May told MPs the application had been lodged by Qatada's lawyers after the deadline for appeal had passed at midnight on Monday. She dismissed suggestions that the Home Office had miscalculated the date.
"The Government is clear that Abu Qatada has no right to refer the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, since the three-month deadline to do so lapsed at midnight on Monday," she said. "The Government has written to the European Court to make clear our case that the application should be rejected because it is out of time."
Mrs May was forced to come to the Commons to make a statement after shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tabled an emergency question.
Mrs May acknowledged that because the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had no automatic mechanism to reject an appeal on the grounds that it was out of time, it would have to be considered by the court's Grand Chamber.
"This means that the deportation process and any potential Siac (Special Immigration Appeals Commission) appeal is put on hold, but we will resume the process as soon as the injunction is lifted," she said.
"In the meantime, we will continue to build our case, based on the assurances and information we have received from the Jordanian government. Abu Qatada remains in detention, and the Government will resist vigorously any application he might make to be released on bail."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "When the Home Secretary is accused of not knowing what day of the week it is, then chaos and confusion has turned into farce."
She demanded to know whether the Home Office had clarified the deadline with the European court prior to the appeal being lodged. Mrs May replied: "Of course the Government were talking to the European court throughout the three months and we were talking to them on the basis that the deadline was April 16."
Mrs May acknowledged that the court could find that the deadline was midnight on Tuesday - as Qatada's lawyers argued - an hour after the appeal was lodged. She said: "It is a judgment that is going to be made by the panel of the Grand Chamber. They are the only final arbiters of what the deadline was."