In the Media

Theresa May and the 14 dodged Abu Qatada questions

PUBLISHED April 20, 2012

The Home Secretary appeared in front of MPs yesterday to answer questions about the deportation of the radical preacher amid claims she had made an error over the date.

She appeared to consistently avoid the question of whether she had been made aware of a possible ambiguity surrounding the three month period.

Opposition MPs persisted in asking variations on the question a total of 14 times. In answer, Mrs May repeatedly told them the deadline was Monday, April 16.

The ambiguity has led Qatada's lawyers to lodge an appeal with Europe's human rights court on Tuesday, effectively putting moves to return him to stand trial in his native Jordan on hold.

The questions were as follows:

1) Did the Home Office get specific assurances from the European Court that the deadline was Monday night? If so, will it publish them? (Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary)

The Shadow Home Secretary tells us she want to see Abu Qatada deported. I'm beginning to wonder whether she really does.

2) Was she told [about the ambiguity] and what did she do about it? (David Blunkett MP)

I have made it clear that the deadline was on Monday 16 April. That is the view that we have put to the European Court.

3) Did her officials ever put a decision before her of whether to go forward on the 17 April or whether to go forward on the 18 April? (Clive Efford MP)

The position of the government has always been absolutely clear...that the deadline was on the 16 April. The question is based on an incorrect premise.

4) Will the Home Secretary now publish the advice? (Pat McFadden MP)

I have answered the issue about the European Court, the treaty and indeed the advice and guidance given by the European Court.

5) Did the Home Secretary, at any time and from any quarter, receive advice to delay the re-arrest by 24 hours? It's a very simple question that demands a yes or no answer. (Tom Harris MP)

I have made it absolutely clear that theview of the Government is that the deadline finished on 16 April

6) The Home Secretary is not helping her case by wriggling and wriggling and wriggling on the question that has been put to her. Did she receive any advice on the ambiguity surrounding the 24 hours? (Kevin Brennan MP)

Let me say to all MPs who are intending to repeat this question that I have already answered this point. The government's position is absolutely clear that the deadline was on 16 April.

7) It is absolutely clear from her evasive answers that she did receive advice about the ambiguity of the 24 hours (Pat Glass MP)

I have been clear, and am happy to repeat to the house again, the deadline was Monday 16.

8) Will she publish all the advice that she received on this matter, including any advice about the ambiguity of the deadline? (Helen Jones MP)

[Discussed history of case] Our view is very clear; we want to deport Abu Qatada

9) Why did she not wait an extra 24 hours before making her announcement? (Luciana Berger MP)

I will repeat it again. I could not be clearer. The deadline was on Monday, 16 April.

10) On Tuesday, was she aware there was a different opinion from hers about the deadline? (Thomas Docherty MP)

The Government have been absolutely clear that the deadline was 16 April.

11) She's admitted she knew of the BBC advice. Will she confirm, yes or no, did she had advice from officials that there was doubt about the deadline? (Bill Esterson MP)

Obviously we've learned the Oppositions' view is that the best advice should come from the BBC. What this government did on Tuesday was take at the first opportunity the action to resume action of deporting Abu Qatada.

12) Did she receive any advice from any officials (albeit a minority opinion) that this date had some ambiguity to it? (Andrew Gwynne MP)

I would say to the honourable gentleman that he is wrong and it is a simple question of mathematics.

13) Might I just briefly suggest that if she wants to avoid being asked the same question again and again she could answer it at the first time of asking. She has not said whether she was made aware that there could be uncertainty about [the date] in the European Court. Was she made aware of that? (John Woodcock MP)

The deadline was 16 April.

14) Will the Home Secretary confirm…if she did receive advice from officials there was ambiguity about the deadline? (Ian Lucas MP)

I have answered those points on numerous occasions.

Labour MP Alan Johnson added: "If she is wrong, will she accept that she must take responsibility, not one of her officials?"

"I take full responsibility," confirmed Mrs May.

Dennis Skinner asked: "Does the Prime Minister know what day it is?"

"Yes," said Mrs May