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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1939 -i
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Work of the Home Secretary
Tuesday 24 April 2012
Rt Hon Theresa May
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 95
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 24 April 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Rt Hon Theresa May, Home Secretary, gave evidence.
Chair: Good morning Home Secretary. Can I apologise for keeping you waiting. We overran a little on our inquiry into drugs.
Are there any interests that need declaring that are not on the Register of Members’ Interests?
Alun Michael: I should say that I have indicated my intention to stand for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, Chairman.
Chair: Thank you very much. Yes, Dr Huppert?
Dr Huppert: I am on the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.
Q1 Chair: Home Secretary, we originally asked you to come in to talk about various aspects of your work, as we do from time-to-time. It is now almost two years since you were appointed Home Secretary. Are you still enjoying the job?
Theresa May: Yes, Chairman. I did speak, when I was first appointed, to the former Home Secretary who said he thought that "enjoy" wasn’t quite the right word for Home Secretaries but it gives enormous satisfaction and, yes, I am still enjoying the job.
Q2 Chair: Good. I am going to start by talking about Abu Qatada, and I think nobody in this committee room, or in the House, cannot commend the work that you have done personally; you got on a plane and went to Jordan to see the King, Junior Ministers have been over to Jordan, the Prime Minister has spoken to the King of Jordan; a lot of work has gone on. But I am going to ask my first questions, and the Committee would like to concentrate on the issue of the deadline, because obviously you addressed the House and you informed the House of the steps that you had taken, and you have the support of the whole House in what you are trying to do with Abu Qatada.
The Prime Minister spoke on the Today programme yesterday, and he said, throughout this process, there had been communications and discussions and assurances from the European Court. You were asked several times, during your statement last Thursday, or rather the urgent question last Thursday, as to whether or not you had any information that would satisfy the House that you knew, or your officials knew, that the deadline was in fact the 16th rather than the 17th. I for one don’t hold you personally responsible for not knowing the deadline, may I say. I don’t expect Ministers to have to look up case law or look up European directives. You obviously have many officials to tell you.
Do you have any email or telephone note, or letter from the European Court to your officials, which will say that the deadline was 16 April rather than 17 April?
Theresa May: Chairman, perhaps it would be helpful if I set out the position from our point of view, and perhaps try to explain a little bit about how the European Court, as I understand it, operates in these matters because it is relevant to your question, if I may.
Chair: Is it going to be long?
Theresa May: There are a number of points that I want to make, and I will make them as briefly as I can, Chairman. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, we were of course in contact with Strasbourg, with officials in the European Court, during the three-month period, to discuss the deadline for the referral. The advice that I was receiving-the legal advice that came from Government, from Home Office and Foreign Office lawyers-was absolutely clear throughout that the deadline was midnight on April 16 and that advice has not changed, and that advice was based on interpretation of Article 43 of the Treaty, together with the court’s own guidance notes that they provide and past precedent.
As I already said in the House of Commons last week, I am aware that there was some speculation, some mixed messages on the Monday night and the Tuesday morning, about what the deadline should be. The court officials had always been clear with us, in any contact we had, that the judgment as to what the deadline was, and the interpretation of the deadline, was for the panel of judges at the Grand Chamber. It is their determination about whether or not to accept a referral.
Given that I had unambiguous legal advice that the deadline was on Monday 16th, given my responsibilities for keeping the public safe, for public security, this was an individual-Abu Qatada-who we want to deport; we believe he is a danger to our national security. As you yourself said, there is across the House belief that this is an individual who should be deported. I decided to accept the unambiguous legal advice that I had been given and to make the arrest of Abu Qatada on the Tuesday. That was also against the background that there was beginning to be intense press speculation about the situation that we were in and what moves might be made. I thought it was operationally appropriate to take that action, because I believed that at that stage there was an increased risk that there might be an abscond.
Q3 Chair: That is very clear, because what you are saying to this Committee is that you acted on advice, as I would expect Ministers to act on advice, as I did when I was a Minister. But you have 61 government legal service staff in the Home Office headed, I understand, by David Seymour, and eight qualified lawyers working for the UK Border Agency. Bindmans have Edward Fitzgerald and Gareth Peirce. They came to the conclusion that the deadline was midnight on the 17th. Danny Shaw from the BBC contacted the Home Office and said, "Are you sure this is happening?" Do you have something in writing?
I will give you an example of what happened today. You were due to come here; your deadline for appearing today was 12.30. I asked my officials to ring up and make sure that you were going to come at 12.30, because I know you are in Cabinet. In fact, they told me that you would come at 12.40, so I got a note back and I found out who the official was that they spoke to and which official had contacted you, or your office. You in fact arrived at 12.35. So, even on something that is as relatively minor as that, I was absolutely certain that I knew when you were going to arrive. Can the Government Legal Service and your advisors-not you; I do not hold you personally responsible for this-give you an email or a letter confirming that the deadline was 16 April? I know all this about assurances and discussions and beliefs, but is there something in writing that we can say to the court, "You told the British Government it was the 17th rather than the 16th"? If not, why did Edward Fitzgerald and Gareth Peirce know about it, and why didn’t your officials?
Theresa May: First of all, Chairman, as I have just explained, the court decides through the panel of judges at the Grand Chamber what the appropriate deadline was, and therefore whether an application for referral is within the deadline or outside of the deadline. We are clearly arguing, as the UK Government, that it is outside the deadline. As I say, we based our judgment on Article 43 on the court’s own guidance that they issue as to how that should be interpreted and on past precedent, and I have a number of letters, which have been received by the UK Government in the past, which clearly show the final date. If it was 18 January the decision came out, the date on which the judgment became final was 18 April. Therefore, the deadline expired midnight the day before. So, based on past precedent, based on Article 43, the legal advice to me was absolutely clear throughout. Obviously, I take responsibility for the decision that I took to act. I did so because, as you would appreciate, I thought it was appropriate. It was the first opportunity that the Government had to resume deportation that we did this. Our aim is to deport Abu Qatada, and that is what we are all working to.
Q4 Chair: Yes. Of course, and I accept that and other colleagues will come in on the deadline. But you are still not answering my question, with the greatest of respect. I understand you acted absolutely on legal advice. I wouldn’t expect you not to. This is a case that had the attention not just of the Prime Minister and you but the whole of Parliament, the whole of the country, the King of Jordan, and the European Court. So, on something as important as that, wouldn’t it have been wise for the Government Legal Service to have had something in writing as to when the deadline was? It isn’t the case that, for example, if Bindmans had applied on the 18th that the court would have accepted their application because that would have gone past the deadline of midnight on the 17th. Do you have anything to give us?
Theresa May: I apologise, Chairman, if I hadn’t explained fully. The point is that the decision as to what the deadline is, is a decision that is taken by the panel of judges in the Grand Chamber.
Q5 Chair: So, you are telling us that if they had applied on 18 April it would have been in time? Is that what you are telling us?
Theresa May: No. I am saying that the decision as to whether or not the deadline has been passed, and therefore what the deadline was, is taken by the panel of judges at the Grand Chamber. They are the only arbiters, and the court has made absolutely clear throughout that that is the case; the arbiters are not any individual but that panel of judges. On the point about the 18th, the guidance in Article 43 suggests obviously that there is a period of time within which referrals can be made. But, as I say, I think it is up to the panel of judges as to what decision they take in relation to the timing of the referral.
Q6 Chair: But you are talking about inherent jurisdiction. There is no inherent jurisdiction to alter time limits. If this application had arrived on the 18th-which is why they faxed it over, as I understand it, just before midnight on the 17th-it would not have been an application made in time. It would have been out of time. Then you get the question of inherent jurisdiction. But since this has all happened, and since there has been this brouhaha about this, have you gone back to your officials and said, "By the way, in your files and on your email, in your telephone messages-"and I have worked as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Law Officers Department, every conversation we had we made a file note of what was said. In all those pieces of paper nobody has said to them, "The deadline is 16 April"? You haven’t seen a single piece of paper, have you?
Theresa May: No. What I have said, Chairman, is that-I think this is one of the points that I was trying to make on Thursday-
Chair: The answer is, no, you haven’t, or have you?
Theresa May: No, Chairman. The answer is that the only people who can decide what the deadline is is the panel of judges of the Grand Chamber. It is not for anybody else, as I understand it-and we have been clearly told this by the court-it is not for anybody else to determine in the court when the deadline is, it is for the panel of judges to determine. It is for both parties to use their legal advice as to when they believe that referral to be. The clear legal advice I have had consistently from the Government legal advisers, in both the Home Office and Foreign Office, is that the deadline was on Monday, 16 April. I believe it was right, therefore, given that was unambiguous advice that I took the first opportunity to act to resume the deportation of Abu Qatada because that is what I want to see. I want to see Abu Qatada deported. I believe we have the assurances now that will enable us to do so. It may take many months, but as I said before I believe that is the-
Q7 Chair: Indeed. We will come onto the assurances in a minute. Finally, on this point, before colleagues come in, obviously what you are saying is you accepted the advice of David Seymour, Iain Macleod and all the other people in this very, very large team of 61 Government lawyers that you have. But since this has all happened, and since Danny Shaw rang and said, "Are you sure this is the right date?" nobody has met and looked through files to find out whether they have anything from the court. I understand your point about inherent jurisdiction, but you are telling this Committee today there is nothing on file with a date saying "16 April"?
Theresa May: What I am telling the Committee is that the judgment about the deadline is one that will be made by the panel of judges. There was speculation and mixed messages on the Monday night and the Tuesday morning-I referred to that in answer to questions in the House of Commons-about what the deadline was. But the unambiguous advice that I received then, that I continue to receive to this day, from legal advisers in the Government-as I say, both Home Office and Foreign Office-is that the deadline was Monday, 16 April, and I believe it was right to act as quickly as possible after that, given the importance of this case and given the nature of the individual.
Chair: That is very helpful. I am now going to call for other legal advice and I am going to call Mr Ellis.
Q8 Michael Ellis: First of all, Home Secretary, I congratulate you for coming here. I think this is your third time in the last 12 months, and your Labour shadow hasn’t been here once in that period. Can I just explore what you have just been saying about the legal advice? You have referred to Home Office legal advice, Foreign Office legal advice and you have said that it has been unambiguous. There is also a British agent at the court in Strasbourg. Can you say whether you received advice from the British agent there and whether it, too, was along the lines of the advice you received from all the others?
Theresa May: As I say, the legal advice that I have received at every stage was that this was-
Chair: Sorry, can we just clarify. This British agent, is he part of the British Government?
Michael Ellis: It is a British official at Strasbourg.
Chair: A British official. All right. Do you know of this British official?
Michael Ellis: All of your advice has been the same?
Theresa May: All the legal advice that I have received has been the same that the deadline was on Monday, 16 April. I have a number of letters here, examples of where the UK Government has been informed by the court of the date on which a decision became final, and therefore the date, by implication, of when the deadline was. There is plenty of past precedent here that shows that the deadline was on Monday 16th.
Q9 Michael Ellis: If I may, Home Secretary. As far as the past precedent is concerned, I have a letter from the European Court of Human Rights, in connection with another case, where they write to say that they are informing that, no request having been made under Article 43 for the case to be referred to the Grand Chamber, the judgment of 22 November 2011 became final on 22 February 2012. That would support your contention, would it not, that three months having elapsed the time was up? The Article 43 in question uses the word "within". The ordinary meaning of the word "within" three months implies that the requirement is for the referral to have been made by Monday, 16 April, on or by that date.
Theresa May: Indeed, Mr Ellis, and that is the basis obviously on which we worked. You referred to one letter; I have a dozen letters here saying the same thing. Obviously the periods of time that they refer to are different.
Q10 Chair: Those letters, none of them refer to the Abu Qatada case?
Theresa May: No, none of the letters refer to Abu Qatada.
Q11 Chair: Are you going to let us have these letters?
Theresa May: We can let you have those letters.
Chair: That is very helpful. Thank you.
Theresa May: But they do make absolutely clear that the date on which the judgment becomes final is the equivalent day, which means that the deadline is the previous day. As I say, there is precedent here, and it is not just that Article 43 says "within three months," it is also that the court’s own guidance, as to how that should be interpreted, makes clear that that period starts on the day of the judgment. So, the period of consideration did not start the day after the judgment. It starts on the day of the judgment.
Q12 Michael Ellis: Is your advice still as it was? Effectively, you are being invited to say that, although the Home Office and Foreign Office and other lawyers advised you that you would be within the three months, a BBC reporter apparently didn’t think that you should be. Are your officials standing by that advice that they gave you, and are you satisfied that the British Government acted within the required time limit?
Theresa May: I am satisfied of that. The advice that I have received has been consistent. It did not change at the time that there was the speculation around the Monday night and Tuesday, as to whether or not there was a different deadline. The advice has remained consistent and it remains consistent to this day. Of course, that is one of the arguments that we have used to the court in explaining why we believe they should not accept the application for referral. There are other legal reasons why we believe they should not refer it, according to their own guidance again, because we don’t believe the case that the other side have put up fits the guidance of the legal reasons.
Q13 Chair: Indeed. You are telling this Committee you have made an application to strike out, have you?
Theresa May: No. What we have done, Chairman-I only said "No" because of the terms in which you placed that.
Chair: Please, I am willing to be educated on the courts.
Theresa May: What the court does is, obviously, it lets the other side of the case know when a referral has been applied for and it is open then to the other side-in this case the UK Government-to make representations to the court as to why we believe they should not accept the application for referral. We have set out four reasons; one of those is that we believe it was outside of the deadline, so it was out of time. There are three other reasons. For example, in their own guidance they indicate that the matter could be reconsidered if the original decision was a departure from case law-we clearly showed that it was not a departure from case law-whether there were general interest reasons why it should be re-heard, or the appeal should be heard. We point out why there were not general interest reasons; and there was a third reason that we set out.
Chair: Very helpful.
Q14 Alun Michael: When you were given advice about the point at which the decision would become final, what advice were you given about the powers of the court to consider an application out of time?
Theresa May: My understanding was that the court was able to-this panel of five judges of the court at the Grand Chamber-determine whether an application should be accepted, part of that determination would be whether it was within time, but it was open to them to make that determination and that is why-
Q15 Alun Michael: You were advised that an application out of time could be made and that the judges could then decide that they were going to consider it?
Theresa May: Yes, in that obviously the treaty requires referrals within three months and the guidance sets out the expectation of what that timetable would be, but because it is ultimately a matter for the panel of the Grand Chamber, for them to interpret the convention, I cannot rule out that in certain circumstances they might accept a late referral.
Q16 Alun Michael: Is there in the guidance any limitation on them accepting an application out of time?
Theresa May: The guidance indicates that they should not accept an application out of time; that is a published document, but it is not outside of the possibility that the panel of judges of the Grand Chamber, because they are the final arbiters, could exercise their judgment in exceptional circumstances, if they choose to.
Q17 Alun Michael: To go outside the guidance, would they have to give some reason for that?
Theresa May: I understand that the panel of judges do not give their reasons why they do or do not accept or reject a referral.
Alun Michael: Thank you.
Q18 Nicola Blackwood: Has the court ever accepted a case out of time?
Theresa May: My understanding is I believe that they have accepted a case out of time.
Q19 Nicola Blackwood: Do you know the reason for that? Would we be able to find out?
Theresa May: I can certainly-
Chair: If you could find out that would be helpful. David Winnick.
Q20 Nicola Blackwood: No, I am not finished yet, Chair. What I wanted to go onto-
Theresa May: You can’t put a good woman down.
Nicola Blackwood: I wanted to go onto ask, obviously the panel is not only going to consider the issue of time, they are also going to consider the merits of the case. Can I ask what your advice is now about how strong the case is going back to the Grand Chamber about the Jordanian assurances, and whether it is likely that they will accept the case on its merits, regardless of the time issues?
Theresa May: Yes. If I may, in a sense, separate those two aspects because you ask about the assurances we have from the Jordanian Government. I am clear we have-
Chair: Can we come onto that later and just keep with the deadline issue? We will come onto Jordan in a second.
Theresa May: The question was about whether or not I thought the panel were likely to accept the referral. In fact, in looking at accepting the referral, they will be looking not at the issue of the assurances that have been received from the Jordanian Government, they will be looking at the arguments that Abu Qatada’s lawyers have put forward as to why that should be accepted. Those are arguments about the general interest of the case, about it being a departure from case law, and an issue around whether or not the facts that were found by the original decision of the court were correct. Our arguments are very clear: first, this is not a departure from case law; the issue is whether accepting assurances effectively was a departure from case law. We are very clear that that was not a departure from case law. There are examples where the court has accepted deportation with assurances; that on fact-finding that is not the job of the Grand Chamber of the court to determine the facts and, on the issue of general interest, that actually that is not met. There is considerable interest in the Abu Qatada case, because of the nature of the individual rather than because of any particular legal issues that are raised by this.
Q21 Mr Winnick: Home Secretary, arising from the question of a deadline, here we have a person who you consider, as previous Home Secretaries have done, is a danger to this country and should be removed as quickly as possible. Does it occur to you that the one person who is laughing about all this is that particular person, arising from what has occurred in the last week?
Theresa May: No. I was always clear, and I was clear to the House of Commons, that there were going to be a number of legal avenues that Abu Qatada could go through, which could mean that his deportation would be delayed for many months. I have been absolutely clear about this. Obviously, he and his lawyers will be discussing the approach that they are taking to this case, as they absolutely should do. His lawyers have acted in the way that they have. The UK Government stands by its interpretation, and the legal advice that Ministers have received about the deadline, and I continue to believe that the deadline was on the 16th.
Q22 Mr Winnick: So, the comments that have been made, that what has occurred has been farcical, a fiasco, and the rest, you simply dismiss and say all that has happened you justify accordingly, as you said to the Chair about the date.
Theresa May: I don’t consider it a farce, Mr Winnick, for a Government Minister to take unambiguous legal advice, to act on that unambiguous advice, and to take action at the first possible opportunity to resume the deportation of an individual who is considered to be a danger to our national security.
Q23 Mr Winnick: That legal advice, Home Secretary, has of course been challenged, and hence the second statement that you made to the House last week. Can I ask you this question; you are not in the business of speculating, I accept that entirely, but those who say that it is quite likely that this person, as you would say, is a danger to the security of the United Kingdom, you want him removed, and so on. What would you say to those who say it is quite likely by the end of the year he will still be here?
Theresa May: I made clear in my original statement to the House of Commons, and I believe I would have repeated it on Thursday as well, that it may take many months to remove Abu Qatada. But what I am also clear about-absolutely clear about-is that the nature of the assurances that we have received from the Jordanian Government actually mean that we will be able to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan. I am clear about that. It may take some time. There are legal processes.
Q24 Mr Winnick: So, it could take a year, two years, as the case may be?
Theresa May: You will be aware, Mr Winnick, that even if we set aside the issue of whether the European Court accepts a referral or not-and we are yet to have their decision on that-that of course within the UK courts, if it goes through SIAC and the UK courts there would be a number of avenues of appeal that would potentially be open, and therefore that is why I said to the House it could take some time. My phrase was, "many months".
Q25 Mr Winnick: A long-running saga, Home Secretary?
Theresa May: What I would say to that, Mr Winnick, is this started in 2001, and that I was very clear that at the first opportunity the UK Government had to resume deportation we should do so, and that is why we acted on Tuesday, 17 April as we did.
Q26 Lorraine Fullbrook: Just to follow on from Mr Winnick, Home Secretary, can you confirm that Abu Qatada was released on bail under the last Government?
Theresa May: Indeed I can. Yes, that did take place.
Q27 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would like to talk about Mr Justice Mitting’s bail hearing on Tuesday, where he said, "The Jordanians appear to be bending over backwards to get Qatada a fair trial". Therefore, are you confident that the assurances mean that, and whether the case will be heard in the Grand Chamber or in a British court, and will we eventually see Qatada put on a plane back to Jordan?
Theresa May: I am very clear that the nature of the assurances that we have received is such that we will be able to deport Abu Qatada. As I have made clear, that may take some time. But I am absolutely of the view that the very considerable work that was done by Ministers and officials, over a period of weeks, with the Jordanian Government had led to us receiving assurances that will enable us to deport Abu Qatada.
Chair: Could I ask, those assurances which of course you told the house about-
Lorraine Fullbrook: Chairman, I haven’t finished.
Chair: Well, you looked at me so I thought you had, Mrs Fullbrook, please carry on then.
Q28 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, the country are united in the fact that they want to see Qatada, a dangerous terrorist, removed from the country. But is it not the case that we have to do this under the law, so that when he goes he is actually gone for good?
Theresa May: I am very much apprised of the need that we ensure that when we do this we do this in a way that is going to ensure that Abu Qatada is deported, and remains deported, and we do not suddenly find ourselves told to bring him back by some court. That is why I said in the House, and I am happy to repeat again, I think it is absolutely right that the UK Government should be operating within the rule of law in relation to this, so that when we do deport him-as I am convinced we will-we are able to do that sustainably.
Q29 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, I very much hope that the panel of judges will agree with the advice you acted on. If they decide that the deadline was 12 o’clock on 17 April, is it fair to conclude that you acted on advice that proved to be inaccurate?
Theresa May: The premise of your question, I am afraid, Mr McCabe, I would question because, as I have indicated earlier in response to Mr Michael, my understanding is that the court does not normally give reasons for accepting or not accepting an application for referral. There are a number of legal aspects that they will be looking at in terms of the argument-
Q30 Steve McCabe: Yes, but you said in evidence that the determination was down to the panel of judges. So, I am asking if they were to rule that the appeal before midnight on 17 April was valid, then it is reasonable to conclude that you acted on advice that was inaccurate. Is that a fair observation?
Theresa May: No. Sorry, I was perhaps taking rather longer to get to the point of my answer, but I-
Steve McCabe: Sorry, my apologies.
Theresa May: The point of my answer was going to be very simple, which is that, as I understand it, the court will not indicate why it is that they have accepted an application for referral, if they choose to accept an application for referral. The issue of the deadline would not be part of that, obviously, because they would be looking at a number of issues, the deadline and other matters.
Q31 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, I am grateful to you for that. Are you telling me that the panel of judges could rule to accept his appeal but give you no reasons for that decision? Is that how it works?
Theresa May: I understand it is normal practice that the decision that will come out is simply a decision as to whether or not the referral has been accepted.
Q32 Steve McCabe: Can I ask one last thing. Have you had any advice from your officials on whether or not Abu Qatada would be in a position to sue the British Government if this appeal is upheld?
Theresa May: The advice that I have received, the position as far as I am aware, and that I have been advised, is that we acted entirely properly. It was entirely within our rights to act in the way that we did on the Tuesday, in terms of the arrest and taking him before SIAC.
Steve McCabe: Thank you.
Q33 Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, you have repeatedly said that you would be breaking the law were you just to deport Qatada. How?
Theresa May: In a number of ways, Mr Reckless. First of all, the UK Government abides by its international treaties and we do not break those international treaties, and we abide by Rule 39 that was given by the European Court, which was an injunction on the deportation of Abu Qatada.
Q34 Mark Reckless: Can you confirm that that Rule 39 injunction has no effect in UK law?
Theresa May: What I can confirm is that this UK Government operates according to the rule of law. It operates according to its international treaties and that is part of that, but there is a second part to my answer, if I may, if you are about to come back.
Q35 Mark Reckless: Before we go onto that, if we could deal with this international law point because there is concern that you may be putting an intergovernmental agreement with the Council of Europe before the law of the land, as determined by Parliament and our highest court. You told Parliament that our highest court, then the House of Lords and now of course the Supreme Court, had said that Qatada should be deported. Given that, why are you putting an intergovernmental agreement before the law of the land?
Theresa May: I am not. If I can explain the stages, which mean that it is-
Theresa May: We act in accordance with international law. We are absolutely clear. This is a Rule 39. If we were to break that it would be contrary to international law. Our public policy when dealing with deportations is to respect Rule 39. We make that absolutely clear in public guidance and we have said that to the court. So, our courts are clear that the law requires us to act in accordance with our published guidance, and apply such guidance consistently. That is also clear, and if we were to break that we could be judicially reviewed on that.
The other point is a very simple one, Mr Reckless, which is if we were to set that aside, if we were to say, as I know you believe that we should say, "Well, this is a rule from the international court and, therefore, we don’t accept it"; if we were to say that we have to give 72 hours’ notice of deportation to an individual, I am very certain that the individual concerned, and his lawyers, would have sought an injunction against that deportation; that there would have been a point of law to be considered, notably whether it was possible for the UK Government to act contrary to the Rule 39 injunction, and at that point we would not have been breaking the law, as set out by the European Court, we would have been in contempt of court here in the UK. That is why there are various layers, why I say that I believe we should be acting within the rule of law. I know it is frustrating to people; I want to be able to see him deported. It takes time, but I am also clear that we should abide by what we have said that we abide by the international law and we abide by the Rule 39 injunction.
Q36 Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, I am afraid you missed a step there. I think it is clear that the Rule 39 injunction is not binding in UK law, and is merely an international obligation, as you refer to it. But in terms of Qatada getting this domestic injunction, which would make his deportation unlawful, are you certain he would get that? Is that not merely speculation?
Theresa May: I am learning rapidly. I think I learned fairly rapidly in this role that one can never be certain about the decisions that judges will take, and that is absolutely right because it is for them to judge each case on their merits. That is true for the European Court and for the UK courts. If I may, I was trying to set out the various stages at which it could have been the case that the UK Government would have broken the law. You dismiss the issue about our attitude to Rule 39. What is clear from our UK courts is that when we are deporting somebody we should be doing it according to the guidance that we have issued, and it would have been possible for an injunction, or a judicial review, to follow on that and also on just public law principles of fairness, with exception to Rule 39.
Q37 Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, the guidance is not law and you have said that our highest court has said that Qatada should be deported. Is it not possible that if his lawyers resist that deportation a domestic court will consider itself bound by our highest court, and its previous decision that Qatada can be deported? Why do you not test that so we can get this man out of the country quickly?
Theresa May: As I have tried to explain, it is not only the fact of an injunction, there could be a judicial review and there could also be an injunction. The point about the injunction is the question would be: would there be a point of law for the court to consider? This is as I understand it. There would indeed be a point of law for the court to consider, and that is why I think it would have been highly likely in those circumstances, setting aside what I consider is the right thing for the UK Government to do, which is to say we abide by the rule of law.
Q38 Chair: Good. Can we just close and conclude the Abu Qatada section? I know that Nicola Blackwood has a quick supplementary. The assurances that you worked hard to get from the King of Jordan, is there a letter from the King of Jordan? Has he now written and said the things that he has assured you of privately in the meeting that you had with him? Is that something you can wave in front of the court?
Theresa May: I can assure you, Chairman, there will be more than one letter. I should make it absolutely clear-because this is part of the issue-that of course there have been a number of changes in Jordan, and it is very clear that there is a separation of powers in Jordan, exactly as there is here in the UK. We have been working with authorities in Jordan, both with legal authorities and obviously with the Government, and we have a number of assurances on the issues, such as where Abu Qatada would be detained; his conviction would be quashed pending a retrial were he to return to Jordan.
Q39 Chair: Yes, so the whole process. You have several letters from the King, do you?
Theresa May: No, I have explained there is a separation of powers, Chairman.
Q40 Chair: All right. You have several letters from a senior official?
Theresa May: That means that we have a number of pieces of evidence that we would be putting forward to back up our case.
Q41 Chair: But a letter from the Jordanians giving you a letter of comfort that all these things would happen, or just assurances that you have gained?
Theresa May: We have a number of assurances that we have received-
Chair: In writing?
Theresa May: I can assure you those assurances are in writing, Chairman.
Q42 Chair: Excellent. That is all I wanted to know, and you received them when?
Theresa May: We have been working on this for some considerable time and, for the avoidance of doubt, Chairman, there were further assurances that we wished to receive after the point at which you indicated to the press that we had received everything we need.
Q43 Chair: I know. I just said that to give you the opportunity to say that again. We look forward to seeing the letters and the dates of those letters.
On the issue of costs, is Abu Qatada legally aided, in terms of his application to the European Court? This is an issue that is not clear to the House and to this Committee. Does he receive legal aid?
Theresa May: You have asked two separate questions. He does not receive legal aid in relation to his application to the European Court. It is possible for him to receive legal aid in relation to his applications to the courts here in the UK.
Q44 Chair: So, he is in receipt of legal aid for any deportation proceedings, or any proceedings before SIAC?
Theresa May: That is possible. The decision of course is not mine. The rules on which that is based are set out very clearly. They are taken by the Legal Services Commission, but that is open to him to receive legal aid. One of the concerns I have is that I am sure many members of the public would say, "Why is it that somebody who we consider to be a threat to national security, who we are trying to deport, is able to access that legal aid?" One of the things I am intending to do, of course, is to look at the processes that other countries use in deportation to see if there is any way in which we can be able to deport people rather more quickly than we do at the moment.
Q45 Chair: The cost of the legal aid, do you know how much he has received so far over the nine years?
Theresa May: I don’t know that figure.
Q46 Chair: Would anyone know this figure?
Theresa May: Obviously in recent years a lot of the process has been to the European Court, and that does not get the legal aid qualification.
Chair: That is privately funded by him.
Theresa May: It doesn’t qualify for legal aid. But I believe that the Legal Services Commission would obviously have looked at-he has frozen assets-that in terms of any determination they made.
Chair: Yes, but he has had legal aid and he will have it for any proceedings-
Theresa May: He is eligible to receive it. That is a matter for the Commission.
Q47 Chair: I know that you said to this Committee very strongly that you have had excellent legal advice, but I draw your attention to recent claims of compensation against the Home Office and those very same lawyers who advised you in this case. Basically the large amount of money that Brodie Clark received in compensation. I know you can’t tell us the figure. I am not asking you for that figure. But it must run into several thousand pounds. You have just had to pay compensation to Sheikh Riyadh Salah-
Theresa May: No, Chairman. We have not.
Q48 Chair: You have not? Would you clarify? Has any money been paid to him?
Theresa May: No.
Q49 Chair: None at all. So, speculation that he has received any money from the Home Office is not correct?
Theresa May: No, compensation has not been paid to him.
Q50 Chair: Very helpful. Also, in the annual report of the Home Office, there are a lot of examples of asylum seekers receiving overpayments from the Home Office. Do you plan to look at the way in which legal advice is given to you as a result of all this? Or are you very satisfied that the advice you are given is the best advice possible? You are not thinking of asking Gareth Peirce or Edward Fitzgerald to advise the Government?
Theresa May: I am satisfied with the advice that I receive, Chairman. It is the case that there are occasions on which obviously, as I have indicated, the Home Office will take cases through the courts and sometimes we will lose those cases, and sometimes as a result of losing those cases we are in the situation of having to pay compensation. But that doesn’t mean to say that it was the wrong decision to take the case through the courts in the first place.
Q51 Chair: You mentioned in your statements 15 other cases that you felt were very important that were terrorism-related. We don’t want you to tell us all these cases, but are you satisfied that the processes are in place on all these 15 cases? This is a figure you gave to the House last year.
Theresa May: Yes, it was. It was 15 cases where we are looking at reliance on our deportation with assurances agreements. We have those agreements with a number of countries and there are a number of cases pending in relation to that. Of course, in relation to the original judgment that was taken by the European Court, this is what is now being challenged by Abu Qatada’s lawyers in their application for referral. But in relation to the original judgment, the court found that those assurances were good in terms of the memorandum of understanding we had with the Jordanian Government about the treatment of Abu Qatada himself when he returns to Jordan.
Q52 Chair: Would you let us have a list of the 15 countries concerned? Is this a public document?
Theresa May: I can certainly tell you. I have the figures with me but it might be easier if, rather than trying to find them immediately, we tell you there are five countries where we have memorandums of understanding and there are 15 cases. We can tell you which numbers are for which countries.
Chair: Excellent. That would be very helpful. Nicola Blackwood promises me that this is a short question.
Q53 Nicola Blackwood: I just wanted to follow on from the points being made by Mr Reckless, regarding Article 39 and abiding by the law. I am reading here from the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which places a, "duty on Ministers to comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations". As I understand it, that would include Article 39 rulings, would it not?
Theresa May: Yes, it would.
Q54 Nicola Blackwood: If you were to ignore that you would be breaking the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Theresa May: Yes.
Nicola Blackwood: Thank you. That was my only question.
Chair: Mr Reckless wants the right of reply, I am afraid I have to give it to him. I am a very fair Chairman. Yes, Mr Reckless.
Q55 Mark Reckless: Can you confirm, Home Secretary, that the Ministerial Code is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and that we have not previously had a Conservative Prime Minister who had in that Code any reference to international law?
Theresa May: I can confirm obviously that the Ministerial Code is the responsibility of the Prime Minister. Mr Reckless, I will be honest with you, I have not read every Ministerial Code under every single Conservative Prime Minister that there has ever been.
Chair: Why not?
Q56 Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, I have, and I would ask you, do you agree with ex-Cabinet Secretary, Lord Butler, who said that, "The Ministerial Code has no statutory force, is neither comprehensive nor absolute. Ministers are accountable to the Parliament, not a piece of paper"?
Theresa May: Of course Ministers are accountable to Parliament. But I can assure you, Mr Reckless, that if a Minister broke the Ministerial Code Parliament would have something to say about it.
Chair: We are going to make rapid progress through the other parts of your very exciting portfolio, starting with Lorraine Fullbrook and Heathrow Airport; passports.
Q57 Lorraine Fullbrook: I understand, Home Secretary, UK Border Agency officials have said that there is insufficient funding to ensure all passport gates are staffed during the busy periods of the Olympics, and I understand 11 airlines have contacted you on the gridlock during busy times. I have to say I have had a personal experience recently coming back from Qatar. The airport is very busy on a Sunday evening and there are three gates open and one man on Facebook, so it was quite interesting. I did ask: why is he on Facebook? He said he is very busy.
Theresa May: As you might imagine, we have put considerable effort into the planning for the Olympics, and we recognise the importance of dealing with the numbers of people who will be coming through the borders at the Olympics. I think sometimes everybody assumes that everybody is going to arrive on the same day. Of course, there will be peak days but it is not the case that there is going to be one single peak day when everybody is arriving.
Obviously athletes will be arriving at different times to come to training camps and so forth, and Games family members more generally and others, tourists, will be arriving at different times. We have been doing a lot of work with the airport authorities, with airlines, to look at the numbers of people who will be coming through, when the peaks would be and to roster staff accordingly. We will be at peak times manning all of the desks, all of the primary checkpoints-as they are known-at Heathrow. We will be ensuring, therefore, that we have the staff available for that. So those plans are in place. We also have contingency arrangements available to draw on other staff if necessary.
Q58 Lorraine Fullbrook: Is there some sort of fast track system in place for athletes coming in, when the teams come in?
Theresa May: There will be a separate lane for Games family members, yes.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you.
Q59 Chair: It is not just an Olympic problem. It is a problem now, is it not? We have had many examples-BAA and Virgin have contacted us, as well as BA, who I met yesterday-about the problems you have at the moment of people trying to get through passport control. I think yesterday the Bahrain Grand Prix team that came over, and even Justin Bieber, were held in a queue at Heathrow Airport. We are not asking you to give evidence to us, Home Secretary. But it must worry you that this is happening now. You have probably seen the article by Brodie Clark, which basically says, "Go back to the pilot".
Theresa May: On the issue of a risk-based approach, we have not ruled out a risk-based approach. But, of course, as you will be aware, Chairman, at the time of the pilot the initial indications were that it was working. However, the Chief Inspector’s report made absolutely clear that the recording of the results of the pilot had not been good enough-some aspects had simply not been recorded-and therefore we could not rely on a judgment and assessment of that.
The primary purpose of the Border Force is to control and secure our borders, and that is why I think it is important that we have the right checks at our borders. Yes, of course, we talked to the airlines about the concerns that they have about queues when they do occur. Sometimes queues will occur because there have been other events that have led to a build up of the number of flights arriving, which is outside of the UK Border Force’s control. But I have to say there was some publicity to the views of the airlines and airport operators prior to Easter that Easter was going to be a significant problem. In fact, as it turned out, it was not a significant problem, and UK Border Force were able to cope very well with the increased numbers that they had at Easter. As we coped very well in February with the peak half-term time of school parties returning through Calais from trips abroad.
Q60 Alun Michael: In the letter that raised the issue of the potential gridlock, there was an offer of Simon Buck, the Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association, to come and meet you and relevant officials in order to highlight the reasons for their concerns. Has that meeting happened?
Theresa May: It hasn’t happened yet but it is being arranged. I am not sure whether a date has absolutely been set. But we have been in touch with them and, I am very clear, I would like to sit down with Simon Buck and talk to him about it.
Q61 Alun Michael: Thank you. On the Border Agency and the Border Force you took a decision to split the two. We have seen in the figures, the changes in the estimates to reflect that organisational change, that about a third of the costs, in rough terms-so therefore, presumably, about a third of what was all part of the Border Agency-is now separated out into the Border Force. Can you clarify exactly what the UK Border Agency will be doing in future and what the Border Force will be doing? What is the line between the two?
Theresa May: Yes, and if I may introduce another body because there are three bodies who will be dealing with issues that relate to the border. There will be the Border Police Command in the National Crime Agency. That will be dealing with serious organised crime at the border. The UK Border Force’s responsibility is to secure the border and operate the checks at the borders, which we want to see to ensure that we prevent either individuals or goods that we do not think should enter the UK from doing so. Then the UK Border Agency will be implementing the Government’s immigration policy.
Obviously these work together. There will be times when, in order to ensure that perhaps somebody who is not able to enter under immigration purposes, obviously, the UK Border Force will be the first port in terms of the individuals who are dealing with people who are coming through the ports.
Q62 Alun Michael: That gives three separate elements in terms of what their focus is, but isn’t it going to be difficult to define exactly who does what, in terms of securing the borders and the checks and the checks that are relevant to immigration policy?
Theresa May: Work is obviously being done on the issues of handovers between these different bodies. But I have to say that in relation to Border Force and UK Border Agency, even when Border Force was part of UK Border Agency, these issues existed as to whether responsibility for certain things was the responsibility of immigration officers or the individuals at the border. Obviously we are working on the detail between these various organisations, but I think by separating UK Border Force what we have clearly been able to do is put a clear focus within that organisation, within that body of people, on the security of the border.
Q63 Alun Michael: I think that is helpful. Very clearly, from all the evidence we have heard, there was a lot of confusion about who does what and how to communicate. But I am tempted to worry that this might make matters worse. It is also very clear that the name of the agency misleads people, even in your Permanent Secretary’s response to questions in this Committee. She was changing in her use of language because it is quite clear, is it not, that the Border Agency and the Border Force are part of the mainstream Home Office? They are your officials. They are not part of an arms-length agency despite the use of the word "agency". Wouldn’t it be a good idea-if there is to be clarity-either to turn it into an agency so that it is properly a separate body or, alternatively, to call it the Borders Directorate or something like that, so it is clear that it is part of the Home Office?
Theresa May: The UKBA was set up in the way that it was in order to present some arms-length separation between the Home Office and the UKBA. I believe that it was important to bring the Border Force into the Home Office absolutely clearly, which is what we have done. This is part of the issue around the structures of Government, some of which were set up to try to separate out certain parts from the main Home Office. Of course, the Home Office family-if I may use that term-has all of these various organisations within it, and I am tempted to say, by virtue of the fact that the Home Secretary, appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, can expect to be asked questions on the UK Border Agency, as well as other aspects of the Home Office, by definition I know where the ministerial responsibility lies.
Q64 Alun Michael: But you, perhaps, are clearer than others, including the Permanent Secretary then, because the confusion of language appears to be there. Isn’t it the basic point that this ought to be either an arms-length agency or understood by everybody to be a part of the Department?
Theresa May: Obviously, the relationships between UKBA, as now is, Border Force and the Home Office more generally, are matters that are being detailed-if I can put it like that-in the work that we are doing because we have separated out the Border Force.
Chair: We need to move on. The Home Secretary needs to be away, and we have had her here already for almost an hour. Mr Reckless, you are burning to ask a very quick question, are you?
Q65 Mark Reckless: More than one. On 7 November, Home Secretary, you said that senior officials, "at the head of the organisation who put at risk the security of our border. Our task now is to make sure that those responsible are punished". Have you now done that?
Theresa May: Obviously, Chairman, you will appreciate-
Q66 Chair: What form of punishment was it?
Theresa May: Disciplinary proceedings were put into place and a report was done in relation to individuals within the UK Border Force. Obviously you would appreciate-there is a limit to what I can say in relation to this-that the then head of UK Border Force is no longer in the Home Office.
Q67 Mr Reckless: Can you confirm that his punishment extended to six figures?
Theresa May: I am not at liberty to make any comment about the arrangements that were made. I am not at liberty to do that because both sides agreed a confidentiality agreement.
Q68 Mark Reckless: Home Secretary, you have chosen to agree a confidentiality agreement with him rather than to answer to Parliament for the expenditure of public money. But John Vine, in his report, confirmed that Brodie Clark told you about suspending secure ID in his weekly reports to you but you did not read these. Can you explain why that was?
Theresa May: No. That is not what the Chief Inspector said within his report, Mr Reckless.
Q69 Mark Reckless: 4.106 is the paragraph. You read the first three of his reports but not the ones after that where he referred to the suspension of secure ID.
Theresa May: Oh, you are talking about the-perhaps, Chairman, I may look at the particular reference?
Theresa May: 4.3?
Mark Reckless: 4.106.
Theresa May: 4.106.
Q70 Mark Reckless: You said you would co-operate with John Vine, but he says he was unable to establish why you didn’t get these and there was no clear explanation for the omission given to him. Why was that not done?
Theresa May: Ah, no, I am sorry, Chairman, what he says was that he, "Established that Ministers only received the first three of seven weekly update reports, while the Acting Chief Executive received the first four. We have been unable to establish why they did not receive the others as there was no clear explanation for this omission". Those reports were not received and if Ministers don’t receive the report they can’t read it.
Q71 Mark Reckless: So the first three of these were presumably in your red box. Why did the further reports, when he referred to the suspension of secure ID, not go into your red box?
Theresa May: That is a question that has been asked, and I believe that there was some question as to whether the reports came to a position in the Home Office where they would be capable of being put in my red box, if I can put it like that.
Chair: Maybe we can find out who missed the deadline of the red box at some stage. Are we done?
Mark Reckless: Thank you.
Q72 Steve McCabe: Can I ask a quick question about policing, Home Secretary? There has been a lot of speculation recently about the West Midlands and Surrey police-partnering programme. Home Secretary, could you tell the Committee, in your view, are there any services that are not suitable for business-partnering or contracting out and, if so, what are they?
Theresa May: I think it is absolutely right that the police services in today’s budgetary conditions particularly, but in any case, should look to see what possibilities there are for partnering with outside organisations, with business organisations, for the provision of services. What I am also clear about is that we are not intending to allow private companies to carry out police activities that require warranted power beyond those, which is detention and escort services, which the previous Government allowed to be outsourced to private companies.
Q73 Steve McCabe: Is the answer: any service that does not require warranted power could be partners or contracted out?
Theresa May: There is no intention to allow services other than those I have described, which were allowed under the previous Government, which require warranted power to be contracted out. The point of the process that West Midlands and Surrey are going through is that they are looking quite broadly to see what opportunities there are, and will then obviously make a determination as to which services they feel it is appropriate for them to outsource and which it is not appropriate for them to outsource.
I think the answer is that I am open-minded about this, beyond the issue of the warranted power services, but we wait and see what comes forward in terms of the opportunities that may be there. Of course, it will be-it is currently for the police authorities. If it is under the Police Commissioners and Police and Crime Commissioners, it will be for them to determine which of those services they choose to outsource.
Q74 Chair: Thank you. We are now moving on to surveillance, and I am going to ask Dr Huppert to take the lead on this. I noted the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister has given Dr Huppert the veto over surveillance policy, along with Shami Chakrabarti. Did this come as a surprise to you that you are not included in this holy trinity?
Theresa May: I am well aware of the expertise that Dr Huppert has in this area and he and I have many interesting discussions, I am sure, ahead of us on this matter.
Chair: Okay, so we have about six minutes on this, please. Doctor, not all are for you but-
Q75 Dr Huppert: Thank you, Chairman, there is lots to get through. Home Secretary, the first question that many people would like to know is what exactly are the proposals? What is it that you want people to do that they are not currently doing?
Theresa May: Yes. That is very helpful, Dr Huppert, to enable me to say that there are a lot of myths out there about what we are going to do.
Dr Huppert: Indeed.
Theresa May: Myths that we are going to, in real time, be monitoring everybody’s email. We will not. Myths that what we are proposing in the communications data proposals, is about the content of messages. It is not. At the moment, there is currently a capability for the law enforcement agencies-that is the Security Service and the police, they are the bulk of the requests-to be able to access detail about a communication, so when, where, not the content of that communication. That data has been used in all terrorist investigations. It has been used in 95% of serious crime investigations. What has happened is that as people’s modes of communication change-and they use new methods of communication, such as the internet and so forth-that capability, which existed for a certain regime in telephony broadly, obviously has not been transposed into the new world. I simply want to take the existing capability and ensure it can be done and that it will work.
Q76 Dr Huppert: Currently, you can ask for information from Facebook, from Google, from Skype, and they comply with the majority of those requests. They provide that information voluntarily. What is it that you would like them to provide that they currently do not provide? What information is it that you would like ISPs, for example, to collect that they do not currently collect? What exactly would this be?
Theresa May: Not every one of the communication service providers will be necessarily collecting the information if they don’t require themselves to collect it. I want to give a legal backing to the ability for those organisations to have that information, and for that to be able to be accessed, in limited circumstances when it is justified on a case-by-case basis, by the law enforcement agencies. The issue at the moment is that what we have is a situation where we are, unfortunately, not able to catch certain people who are doing very bad things.
Q77 Dr Huppert: With respect, Home Secretary, you are not answering the question about what it is that you would expect them to do. You will be well aware, for example, that most of this data is encrypted; Facebook messages, a whole range of other things use secure encryption. In order to break that encryption you would need to be able to place black boxes that would break the encryption on each of these ISPs. It is extremely unclear at the moment, to ISPs and others, is that what you are proposing or not?
Theresa May: Dr Huppert, the technical details of what will be done, I am surprised that you say that it is uncertain to those in the industry what the Government is proposing.
Q78 Dr Huppert: It is expressly unclear. Many of them have said that to me.
Theresa May: The Government has been having considerable discussions, obviously, with the industry about what is happening in relation to these different developments that take place and to what it might be necessary for the Government to do.
Q79 Dr Huppert: Would there be boxes that do decryption of messages flowing through the network, yes or no?
Theresa May: I am sorry, Chairman, I don’t think it is appropriate for me in this to say: firstly, it is a technical detail; and secondly, I am clear about what the legislation will require in terms of what we want to be able to access.
Q80 Chair: Home Secretary, maybe it would be helpful if we had another session specifically on surveillance, which would allow us to go to this. I have just had a note that you are pressed for time and we have a lot of issues to get through. It may be helpful if we have another session just on this in the future.
Theresa May: We could have another session just on this, but all I would caveat that with, Chairman, is that it may be, obviously, we might want to consider how that session would be held and who best-
Chair: Yes. A very final quick question to the Home Secretary from you, Dr Huppert, and we must move on.
Q81 Dr Huppert: You will be aware that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the internet and Government advisor on matters technical, has commented that surveillance plans would be a destruction of human rights. Do you agree with him? Do you agree that he is an expert in this area and would you listen to him?
Theresa May: What I don’t know is what the surveillance plans were that Sir Tim Berners-Lee was talking about. What I do know is that all we are doing is saying we have a capability at the moment. We wish to ensure that we can maintain that capability in the future because what we are seeing at the moment is that people out there, like paedophiles and others, are not being caught because of the inability, in certain circumstances, to access some of this information.
Chair: Thank you. We now need very short questions from now on.
Mr Winnick: Home Secretary, I-
Chair: Starting with Mr Winnick, as you have started already.
Q82 Mr Winnick: Home Secretary, the Coalition programme for Government stated quite clearly, "We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". Liberty have sent us a brief. They say, for the first time, "Private companies will be instructed to collect information on billions of communications made by their customers". Don’t you see that for many people this is a sort of nightmare scenario? Do we take it that the Government is reconsidering or what?
Theresa May: The proposal that we have is very simple. It is to ensure that we can maintain the capability, which has been in existence for a number of years, for the law enforcement agencies to access certain data about communications that enables them to catch criminals and terrorists and others. It is my belief that it is absolutely right that the Government should say, "Given that the technology is evolving we wish to maintain that capability". That is all we are saying. We are not-
Q83 Mr Winnick: And extend it tremendously.
Theresa May: No, Mr Winnick, we are not extending the capability in the sense that we are doing anything new, other than saying there are new methods of communication and we wish to be able to apply to the new methods of communication what we have been able to do with the previous methods of communication. It has been there. It has been used. It has been something that has supported the law enforcement agencies, and I believe it is right that we maintain their capabilities.
Mr Winnick: "Extended" is the right word all right.
Chair: If I could just ask colleagues, if you ask one question then it would be very helpful to other colleagues. Mr Ellis, no long introduction.
Q84 Michael Ellis: Can I just establish, Home Secretary, we currently have a system where landline telephones are subject to certain powers. But is it your understanding that there would be a risk that, without the improvements envisaged, organised criminals, terrorists, paedophiles would be able to go about their business more freely by using more modern forms of communication? In short, is it the intention simply to bring into line with current powers those modern forms of communications, like Skype for example, that are not covered?
Chair: A quick answer would be great.
Theresa May: It is our intention to bring the capability up-to-date, in terms of being able to cover more new-
Q85 Michael Ellis: So the histrionics that we are hearing do not apply?
Theresa May: They do not apply. There has been a lot written about what this will do. It will not be doing many of the things that it has been claimed it will. It will not be, in real time, looking into everybody’s emails. I am grateful to all those who have sent me their emails, on the basis that they thought that that was what I wanted to do but it is not what I want to do.
Chair: We will make sure that is stopped immediately. Mr Winnick, I think, has been communicating with you. No? Bridget Phillipson?
Bridget Phillipson: On a different topic?
Chair: Yes, please, on a different topic.
Q86 Bridget Phillipson: Home Secretary, you may be aware of the coverage in recent days of the appalling naming and abusing on Twitter of a victim of rape, where a defendant was sent to prison for that. Obviously, I don’t expect you to comment on this specific case but can I ask what discussions, if any, you will be having with colleagues across Government, because I know you lead on the area of violence against women, and whether you feel the legislation, as it stands, allows the police to deal with this with the utmost seriousness?
Theresa May: I am grateful to you for raising that. Of course it is a topic of some considerable concern. I am not able to give you an instant answer as to where we think legislation should go, or whether we think there is further action the Government needs to take, because obviously this is something we have to look into and consider very carefully, in terms of what the current legislation does enable the police to do and the action that can be taken. Again, it is another example of how technology advances, as communications advance, we see people using those in ways like this, and we have to say, "Are we keeping up with our ability to deal with that?"
Q87 Bridget Phillipson: My concern is that obviously if women feel they may be named in this way on social media that may deter women coming forward and reporting rape in the future.
Theresa May: Yes, I fully appreciate that, yes.
Chair: Thank you. Mr Michael, an equally brief set of questions.
Q88 Alun Michael: On the issue of Police Community Support Officers, there has been some discussion over the proposals in South Yorkshire, although it is difficult to know whether those are justified fears, especially because the actual report is so littered with initials and acronyms that it is basically incomprehensible. But is it your intention to make any change in the responsibilities and powers of Police Community Support Officers or do you intend to keep them as they are and leave it to Chief Constables and those to whom they account for the deployment?
Theresa May: Yes, it is not our intention to change. As you will be aware, there are a variety of powers that are open for Chief Constables to allocate to their PCSOs, and it does differ from force to force. What we will be doing is there will be a change to the funding arrangements so that the Police and Crime Commissioners will be responsible, working with the Chief Constable, in determining what is going to be right in their force. It has been the case obviously in the past that there has been some funding specifically for PCSOs. We removed that specification from the Metropolitan Police, because the mayor obviously is the Police and Crime Commissioner now for the Metropolitan Police.
Alun Michael: I think that is a matter of debate, but-
Chair: Anyway, three very quick questions.
Theresa May: Sorry, I was just going to say in the future, from next year, Police and Crime Commissioners will have the funding and will determine whether Chief Constables will-
Q89 Chair: I am sure that Mr Michael will be very pleased with that, from the South Wales perspective. Three quick questions; extradition, Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer. Are you in any position to tell the Committee when you are going to come to a view on the Gary McKinnon case?
Theresa May: We have recently received some further representations from Mr McKinnon’s lawyers and those are being considered at the moment.
Q90 Chair: Have you looked at the effects of Christopher Tappin voluntarily going to the United States and the fact that he has been held in custody for eight weeks? Are you satisfied with the treatment of those who are extradited to the United States and the way in which they are dealt with when they get there?
Theresa May: Chairman, as you will be aware, we are looking at the question of the Extradition Treaty, not just at the Baker review, but there are a number of aspects in relation to the interaction between the UK and the US. I am very clear that it is important that we have an Extradition Treaty, which enables both us to extradite from the US and the US to extradite from the UK those people against whom there is evidence and they should be required to stand trial.
Q91 Chair: Is there a review, as President Obama and the Prime Minister wanted? There is work going on on this, is there?
Theresa May: Obviously this is a matter that was raised when the Prime Minister met President Obama, and the issues that were raised in that discussion are being looked at and worked on.
Q92 Chair: Doreen Lawrence has written to you about corruption in the Met in respect of her case. You were quoted in The Guardian yesterday as saying that you thought this should be looked at. What is your current position on this?
Theresa May: Yes, and I understand there will be an urgent question in Parliament today in relation to this, although I will not be able to respond on it.
Theresa May: But the position is very simple, I have been asked whether there should be a public inquiry. Doreen Lawrence has obviously made her position clear that she feels that there should be a public inquiry on this matter. What I have said, in response to the letter that I received, was that there are certain aspects of the way the Metropolitan Police have handled some of the information around this case that need to be bottomed out before I take a decision on a public inquiry. I think The Guardian headline suggested I might already have taken a decision.
Chair: But you haven’t.
Theresa May: What I have said is that no decision has been taken but there are some aspects that need to be considered before a decision is taken.
Q93 Chair: Are you as worried as the Commissioner was when he came to see us last week about the number of allegations of racism within the Metropolitan Police?
Theresa May: I am always concerned about allegations of racism within the police, whichever force that takes place in. I am pleased to see that the Commissioner and his Deputy have taken this extremely seriously, have put into place a number of actions to ensure that they deal with this and send a very clear message that this is not acceptable.
Q94 Chair: Finally, the case of Saajid Badat, the supergrass, who apparently has been re-housed using taxpayers’ money and given taxpayers’ money towards the creation of an office space in his house. He has access to mobile phones and the internet, and we are paying for the cost of this. The surprise is that this was only told to us because of a case in New York. We were not aware of it. Presumably this is not the first time that you were made aware of it when you saw it in the newspapers. Is the newspaper report accurate? Is that the fact: are we paying for all this?
Theresa May: The CPS have said that they considered very carefully the merits of entering into this agreement with a convicted terrorist, but they believed that the administration of justice internationally benefited from the agreement they have entered into. I understand that the police have also said it has secured substantial and significant evidence and intelligence relating to investigations undertaken by the Counter Terrorism Command, which has assisted law enforcement agencies in other countries.
The co-operation of defendants or prisoners with the police to help catch terrorists or stop attacks and bring other terrorists to justice, obviously is an issue that has to be considered and looked at in the merits of each individual case. But co-operating with the authorities has been a longstanding feature of our criminal justice system.
Q95 Chair: You occupy one of the great offices of State. You are only the second woman to be Home Secretary in the history of this country. You have a very, very tough job, as has been demonstrated by this hour and a half of questioning. Does it irritate you when the press look at the colour of your shoes or what jacket you are wearing, rather than the content of the decisions that you are making?
Theresa May: Obviously everybody in politics, Chairman, hopes that they are going to be looked at in terms of what they do and what they say, but I am very aware of the fact that there are those-not just women in politics-whose footwear is looked at by the press from time to time. The Justice Secretary, for example, has had comments on his footwear in the past, and-
Michael Ellis: Yours are nicer.
Chair: I don’t know whether those are sexist comments or not. I am sure they are not. Home Secretary, thank you very much, we are most grateful.
Theresa May: Thank you.
Chair: Thank you very much.