Fourteen times she was asked about Qatada – fourteen times she dodged it

Home Secretary ridiculed over bodged deportation – but vows to oppose cleric's bail application

Abu Qatada could be released on bail early next month, it emerged last night as pressure grew on Theresa May over the disarray surrounding her attempts to deport the radical cleric from Britain.

The Home Secretary refused yesterday to disclose the legal advice she received about when to order the cleric's arrest and begin fresh moves to return him to Jordan to face terror charges.

In fractious Commons scenes, she denied claims that she had blundered by ordering Qatada's arrest before the three-month deadline set by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for him to appeal against his expulsion expired.

She insisted the Government would oppose any application by Qatada's lawyers for him to be released on bail while the legal wrangling continues.

The cleric was arrested on Tuesday morning and sent before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) as the first step towards his removal to Jordan. Mr Justice Mitting gave permission for Qatada, right, to be held in jail. But he added that he would reconsider whether the cleric should be bailed "if it is obvious after two or three weeks have elapsed that deportation is not imminent". His comments make it almost certain that Qatada's lawyers will apply for bail early next month.

Any move to release him – even on conditions that amounted to virtual house arrest – would provoke a new crisis for Ms May, who faced challenges on all sides yesterday when she made an emergency statement to MPs.

Labour mocked her for the confusion over the deadline for Qatada's appeal. The Tory right backed her, but demanded the Government ignore the ECHR and press ahead with deporting Qatada, who has been described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe.

Charles Walker, the MP for Broxbourne, urged her to put the "scumbag and his murderous mates" on a plane out of the country and send "a metaphorical two fingers to the ECHR".

David Cameron said yesterday: "This man... is a danger to our country and we want to remove him. However long it takes and however many difficulties there are, we will get him out." In the Commons, Ms May said she stood by the Home Office's interpretation of when Abu Qatada's three-month deadline ended – and accused the cleric's legal team of using delaying tactics.

She insisted the ECHR throw out the preacher's last-minute appeal shortly before midnight on Tuesday because the actual deadline was midnight on Monday. However, Ms May suffered a setback last night when a spokesman for the Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR, said it believed Qatada's appeal may have been lodged "just in time".

The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the "confusion" had played into Qatada's hands. "When the Home Secretary is accused of not knowing what day of the week it is, chaos and confusion have turned into farce. But this farce has serious consequences," she said.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said Ms May's staff should have known from two other EU cases that the three-month time limit begins the day after the original decision. He said he was concerned that a north London firm of legal aid solicitors had been able to "outwit" the Government's highly paid barristers. The Conservative MP Douglas Carswell called the handling of the case "Carry on Sir Humphrey in the Home Office".

What was said... and how the Home Secretary responded

"Did the Home Office get specific assurances from the European Court that the deadline was Monday night? If so, will it publish them?"

Theresa May chose not to answer directly.

"Was she told [about the ambiguity] and what did she do about it?"

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.

"Did her officials ever put before her the decision whether to go forward on 17 April or 18 April?"

Your question is based on an incorrect premise.

"Will the Home Secretary now publish the advice?"

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

"Did the Home Secretary – at any time and from any quarter – receive advice to delay the re-arrest by 24 hours?"

I have made it clear that the Government's view is that the deadline finished on 16 April.

"Did she receive any advice on the ambiguity surrounding the 24 hours?"

Let me say to all MPs who are intending to repeat this question that I have already answered it....

"It is absolutely clear from her evasive answers that she did receive advice about the ambiguity of the 24 hours"

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

"Will she [publish] all the advice that she received on this matter, including any advice about the ambiguity of the deadline?"

May did not answer directly.

"Why did she not wait for an extra 24 hours before making her announcement?"

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

"On Tuesday, was she aware there was a different opinion from hers about the deadline?"

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

"She's admitted she knew of the BBC advice. Will she confirm whether she had advice from officials that there was doubt about the deadline?"

We've now learned the Opposition's view is that the best advice should come from the BBC.

"Did she receive any advice from any officials – albeit, perhaps, a minority opinion – that there was some ambiguity in respect of this date?"

You are wrong.

"She has not said... whether she was made aware that there could be uncertainty about [16 April] in the European Court. Was she made aware of that?"

The deadline was 16 April.

"Will the Home Secretary confirm... if she did receive advice from officials there was ambiguity about the deadline?"

I have answered that point on numerous occasions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions