Kenneth Clarke slaps down Theresa May over Qatada

Downing Street and the Home Secretary have signalled that they are looking at a temporary suspension of the ECHR over the case of Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled he cannot be deported to Jordan because he risks having evidence obtained by torture used against him.

The Court of Appeal yesterday refused the Home Office permission to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The case has tormented British ministers, who have promised repeatedly to remove Qatada but so far failed to do so.

Conservative ministers are increasingly angry about the ECHR’s role in preventing deportation, and No 10 sources have suggested that David Cameron is prepared to allow a temporary suspension of Britain’s membership of the convention.

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Abu Qatada deportation appeal: Qatada is smiling today, while Theresa May and the rest of Britain are furious

After coming down hard on the Border Agency yesterday, Theresa May has caught one in the eye. Her appeal against a court ruling preventing Britain from deporting the radical cleric Abu Qatada has been quashed, meaning that the man will walk free just weeks after he was detained.

This is one of the issues on which British public opinion is most starkly at odds with that of the immigration courts. To most people, it seems obvious: we don’t want Qatada, with his alleged terrorist links and alleged Al Qaeda influence, in Britain, and we should be able to get rid of him. The continual obstructions put in place by the court only stokes a feeling of public disillusionment with the ruling classes. With confidence in politicians at an all-time low, cases like this are profoundly damaging, especially with elections drawing ever nearer.

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Emergency hearing held to decide Abu Qatada’s fate after cleric ‘breached bail’

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is due to hold an urgent telephone hearing this afternoon to determine whether Qatada will be granted bail, a spokesman for the Judicial Office said.

UK Border Agency officials arrested Qatada on Friday, following raids by the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism unit.

Searches at two residential homes and a business began on Thursday, while a search on a third property is ongoing, Scotland Yard said.

No arrests have been made in connection with the police investigation.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK Border Agency (UKBA) arrested a 52-year-old man from north London for alleged breaches of his bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).”

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Clegg Vows to Deport Qatada

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)

BREAKING NEWS: Nick Clegg has been doing the TV and radio rounds this morning ahead of his flexible working time announcement later today. The Deputy Prime Minister told ITV’s Daybreak: “What we want to do in government is give mums and dads more choice… Everybody should have the right to ask whether they can work flexibly.”

Mr Clegg also vowed the Coalition would not let the Abu Qatada case rest after his deportation was ruled out on human rights grounds. He said: “we are determined to deport Abu Qatada. He doesn’t belong here and he shouldn’t be in this country.”

BBC IN NEED OF RESTRUCTURING SAY PROMINENT TORIES

The BBC crisis is becoming increasingly political. Lord Patten remains under pressure, especially given our revelation this morning that Lord Entwistle was “paid double to go quietly”. Conservative MPs, who had largely held their tongues so far, tore into the corporation yesterday. John Whittingdale, head of the Commons culture committee, told the FT (£) that a reorganisation was needed in the corporation as George Entwistle “clearly demonstrated that he couldn’t fulfil both parts of the job, and maybe no one can do that”. Conor Burns also argued that the role should be split in future.

It isn’t just the Tories. Tessa Jowell writes in this morning’s Telegraph about the “culture of moral smugness” which detracted from the organisation’s internal management. She argues that only “radical public ownership” of the BBC will see it salvage itself. Our leader is equally damning, insisting that the BBC must do less, and do it better:

“In pursuit of the renewal of its charter and licence fee, the corporation has become obsessed with extending its ‘reach’, but in trying to appeal to every demographic it risks diluting the quality of its output and the values that it is there to represent. It has also become over-managed, inflexible and sclerotic.”

OSBORNE BACKS GAY MARRIAGE

Never let it be said the Chancellor is out-of-touch with his base. His op-ed in this morning’s Times (£) – where else – embraces gay marriage and rules out changes to the abortion time limit. It is an instructive insight into the thinking at CCHQ that after extolling the virtues of economic conservatism, Mr Osborne argues it must be paired with social liberalism:

“It is astonishing that Mr Romney won the election among men by a clear-cut margin of 7pc; but it was Mr Obama’s 11pc lead among women that won it for the President, even though many of those who voted Democrat thought Mr Romney would manage the economy better.”

Good job the Prime Minister doesn’t have a women problem, in that case. Even so, as I write in my Telegraph column, it might be time for the Chancellor to turn his attention to more prosaic matters. A 40pc tax rate is fast becoming the new normal thanks to fiscal drag. The proportion of the workforce paying will hit 15pc next year, having been 5pc in the late 1980’s. It’s time the higher rate returned to being a tax on the wealthy.

PM TO PUT GUNS AND MONEY AT HEART OF FOREIGN POLICY

The Prime Minister gave his annual speech on foreign policy at the Lord Mayor’s banquet last night, resplendent in his rented white tie and tails. Our report is here. Dave promised he would personally lead the promotion of Britain’s financial services and defence sectors around the world. The Prime Minister also warned against bank bashing, adding, “those who think the answer is just to trash the banks, would end up trashing Britain.”

ABU QATADA SET TO BE FREED

Theresa May’s new found status as banisher of public enemies has taken a beating after Abu Qatada’s deportation was blocked by the Special Immigration Appeals Committee on the grounds that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan. Mrs May blamed a “deeply unsatisfactory” original ruling from the European Court of Human Rights for the decision, rejecting Yvette Cooper’s accusation that the Home Office had pursued the wrong strategy, the Telegraph reports. Perhaps Mrs May needs Peter Bone as a legal consultant. His advice? “Just deport him and worry about the consequences after.”

LABOUR LOSES FUEL VOTE

Two birds in the bush proved more tempting for the Tory backbenchers than the one in Ed Balls’ hand. There was no revolt over the planned petrol duty rise, largely thanks to the Chancellor’s heavy hints that he would abandon it anyway come the Autumn Statement. Even if the backbench stayed loyal, the frontbench nearly didn’t. Philip Hammond, Grant Shapps and others wandered into the wrong lobby and only just managed to force their way out in time to avoid being counted against the Government (see Tweets and Twits).

BOUNDARY BLOCKING LEGAL

Fresh legal advice given to the House of Lords indicates that a delay on implementing boundary reforms until after the next election is lawful, the Guardian reports. Lord Strathclyde had attempted to block the Labour-Lib Dem amendment to the electoral administration bill on the grounds that it was out of order and irrelevant to the main bill. However, legal opinion commissioned by Labour and placed in the Lords library disputes this. With a majority of at least 50 for the amendment in the Lords, and no blocking majority in the Commons, any vote effectively ends Conservative hopes of implementing the review.

CLEGG LOSES BATTLE ON PATERNITY PAY

Nick Clegg will make his flexible working speech today (08:45, Putney). The Mail reveals that his initial proposals were watered down heavily after opposition from Conservative ministers. The Deputy PM had wanted to add six weeks of paid paternity leave to the list of new entitlements. He settled for two days off, unpaid, for fathers to attend ante-natal classes, instead.

WHITEHALL BRACED FOR FURTHER CUTS

An additional 20pc may be shaved from Whitehall budgets after the next election, according to the FT (£). The squeeze on the Civil Service is expected to last until 2017-18. Although civil servants are yet to receive word from the Treasury, the prognosis looks realistic given calculations by the Social Market Foundation showing that if the health, schools and overseas aid budgets remain cut free, a 23pc real terms budget fall will be required elsewhere.

HUNT TO PROMISE ONLINE REVOLUTION

The Independent reports that the Royal College of Nursing is warning that up to 61,000 NHS jobs may have to go amid a looming “workforce crisis”. Never mind, computers will pick up the slack. Jeremey Hunt will give speech this morning (11am, Richmond House) pledging an “online revolution” in the NHS, the Sun reports. Patients will be able to order prescriptions , book GP appointments and see test results over the internet by the time of the next election, he will promise. Sounds like just the sort of large and intricate IT project at which the state excels.

PCC RUNNERS AND RIDERS

For those confused by the upcoming PCC elections, Michael White of the Guardian has produced a guide to the runners and riders in the key seats. Prezza has a fight on his hands in Humberside, apparently. Most telling is the graphic which details the backgrounds of the candidates. In an election aimed to open up democracy to those from public protection backgrounds, one third of Labour’s nominees are…politicians. Plus ca change.

GAS MARKETS RIGGED?

The Guardian seems to think so, splashing this morning on allegations made by a former industry insider that the market was manipulated at key dates in the accounting calendar. The FSA are already investigating, but this has ‘independent inquiry’ written all over it. Surely we’ll run out of judges soon?

DORRIES LATEST

Nadine outperformed tabloid darling Helen Flanagan when the pair were locked in separate coffins which were then filled with bugs last night. Neither lasted the ten minutes necessary to win extra food, however, leading the Sun to sternly label them “bottler blondes”. A sympathetic public has put Mrs Dorries forward for another bushtucker trial tonight.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Barry Gardiner reports confusion among the Tory high command:

@BarryGardiner: “Hammond, Shapps & a dozen senior Tories flee the No Lobby as they realise they were just about to vote against the Prime Minister’s amendment”

TOP COMMENT

In the Telegraph

Benedict Brogan – Osborne needs to show a little love to the squeezed middle

Tessa Jowell – Let the public run our national broadcaster

Philip Johnston – There’s no such thing as a cure-all inquiry

Telegraph View – The BBC must do less, and do it better

Best of the rest

George Osborne in The Times (£) – Obama proves you can win in tough times

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian – If only soap operas didn’t wash their hands of politics

Domonic Lawson in The Independent – Elevated ideals are the only way ahead

Gideon Rachman in the FT (£) – Beijing and Washington navigate in risky waters

THE AGENDA

TODAY: Commons rises for recess. Foreign Secretary William Hague attending EU/Arab League meeting in Cairo. Prime Minister David Cameron visiting Netherlands and Italy. Mr Cameron will have talks with Dutch PM Mark Rutte in The Hague, followed by talks with Italian PM Mario Monti in Rome.

08:45 am: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speech on family-friendly measures for working women. The Third Door, 16 Point Pleasant, Putney.

09:30 am: Justine Greening gives evidence on aid for Rwanda to the Commons International Development Committee. Committee Room 15, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

10:00 am: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.

10:30 am: Defence minister Philip Dunne and chief of defence materiel Bernard Gray give evidence to Commons Defence Committee on acquisitions. Grimond Room, Portcullis House, London.

11:00 am: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to set out mandate of NHS Commissioning Board. Mr Hunt will set out details about the first ever “contract” between the Government and the health service. Department of Health, Richmond House.

11:45 am: International Development Secretary Justine Greening speech at Open Up! conference on technology, innovation and open government. Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, Old Street.

12:30 pm: Press conference to launch Conservative parliamentarians’ inquiry into women in the boardroom. Room O, Portcullis House, London.

02:00 pm: Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards takes evidence from bankers, including Stephen Hester of RBS.Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

03:00 pm: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt gives evidence to Commons Health Committee on spending. Committee Room 8, House of Commons.

06:00 pm: Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg speech on One Nation Education. Committee Room 10, House of Commons.

Theresa May blames Europe for Qatada debacle

The hate preacher will be back on the streets tomorrow after a senior British immigration judge ruled he should not be deported to Jordan, where he faces terror charges.

But that decision followed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year which said he could not be removed because he risks facing trial on evidence obtained by torture.

The Home Secretary tonight blamed Strasbourg for the chaos and accused them of repeatedly making it harder for Governments to deport dangerous foreign nationals.

It came as MPs called on Mrs May to defy the courts and simply put Qatada, whom she described as a “dangerous man and suspected terrorist”, on a plane and deal with the legal fall-out later.

But Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said there were “serious questions” as to whether Mrs May had adopted the right strategy in her attempts to remove Qatada.

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Abu Qatada released from prison as Nick Clegg vows to deport cleric

Qatada was driven away from the maximum security prison HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire in a black Volkswagen people carrier.

The heavily-bearded cleric, who was sitting in the rear of the vehicle, made no attempt to hide from waiting media cameras and appeared to be smiling.

Earlier Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the Government is “absolutely determined” to deport Abu Qatada as a legal watchdog warned it could take “years” to remove him.

Qatada was released today and will be allowed to roam free for eight hours a day after a court ruled he cannot be deported to his native Jordan.

The security services and police will watch him around the clock in a surveillance operation that is likely to cost the taxpayer more than £5 million a year.

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Abu Qatada denied bail to allow MI5 to focus on Olympics

The extremist preacher, once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, sought again to be freed from jail while he fights deportation to his native Jordan.

But a senior immigration judge ruled that he should remain in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London, expressing concerns that Qatada’s supporters in al Qaeda could help him to escape if he were bailed.

Mr Justice Mitting said if the 51-year-old firebrand cleric absconded, the security services would either have to divert resources away from protecting the Olympics and Paralympics to find him or make locating him a lower priority.

“I am not going to take that risk, and it would be wrong for me to do so,” he said.

The judge observed that al Qaeda groups in North and East Africa have posted statements of support for Qatada on jihadist websites.

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Abu Qatada could be freed as judges decide whether to grant bail

Qatada, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, will have his application for bail heard by a senior immigration judge in London.

The radical cleric is being held in a high-security prison while he fights deportation to Jordan over terror charges.

The hearing will be held before Mr Justice Mitting at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) this afternoon.

It could mean the man once dubbed “Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe” back on the streets within weeks.

There are fears that, if freed, he could not be prevented from radicalising his son and family.

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Abu Qatada loses European appeal against deportation

A panel of five judges ruled there were no grounds to reconsider a decision that the hate cleric would not face torture if returned to Jordan, sources said.

The decision was a narrow escape for Theresa May, Home Secretary, after the court decided the application was submitted within time.

The firebrand will remain in the country for up to a year because he will now resume a separate legal challenge against assurances that he will face a fair trial.

Qatada was arrested and returned to custody last month after the Home Secretary resumed his deportation.

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Abu Qatada: European judges meet to decide right to appeal

A panel of five judges will hold talks on whether the case should be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

Qatada’s appeal, lodged on April 17, prompted a row with Home Secretary Theresa May over whether the three-month appeal deadline from the court’s original decision on January 17 expired on the night of April 16 or 17.

But it will remain unclear whether Mrs May was right to say that Qatada’s appeal was made too late as the judges are likely to simply say whether or not the appeal against deportation can go ahead.

The panel may not reach their final decision today and, even if they do, they may not announce it until later, a spokesman for the court said.

Very few Grand Chamber appeals are successful, but if the appeal is granted, Qatada, 51, is likely to apply to a senior immigration judge for bail and could be freed from Belmarsh high-security jail within weeks.

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