With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the deportation of Abu Qatada. Yesterday—more than 10 years after this ought to have happened—Abu Qatada was deported from the United Kingdom and sent back to Jordan. On arrival in Amman, he was handed over to the Jordanian authorities and formally charged with the two offences of which he had previously been found guilty in absentia. He is now held in Muwaqqar prison.
As hon. Members know, successive Governments have sought to deport Qatada since 2001. The long delays and significant costs that his case has incurred are down to the many layers of appeal rights that were available to him, and real problems with our human rights laws. I will turn to those issues later, but first I want to make it clear that the Government have succeeded in deporting Qatada by respecting the rule of law at each and every stage of the process. We did not ignore court judgments we did not like. We did not act outside the law. We did what was right. And for a civilised nation, that is something of which we should be immensely proud.
Qatada’s deportation, which took place on Sunday morning, followed my issuing of a fresh deportation decision on 27 June, and my further decision to certify any appeal that Qatada might have brought on human rights grounds as “clearly unfounded”. That meant that the only choice open to Qatada was between challenging my decision through judicial review or conceding that the game was up. Given the strength of the agreement we reached with the Jordanian Government in March, he accepted the inevitable.
It is important to remember that the UK Government already had assurances about Qatada’s treatment in Jordan—assurances that have been upheld in the courts—but in February last year the European Court of Human Rights moved the goalposts and declared that his deportation would be unlawful because of the risk that evidence obtained through the mistreatment of others might be used against him. That was the first time ever Strasbourg had blocked a deportation on that basis. The treaty we agreed with the Jordanian Government puts the answer to that final question beyond any doubt. The treaty guarantees a fair trial for anyone deported from either of our countries. The treaty benefits both countries and I thank hon. Members in this House for ensuring its rapid ratification. It was the key that unlocked the door to deportation.[Official Report, 16 July 2013, Vol. 566, c. 5MC.]
Qatada’s deportation demonstrates both our commitment to abide by the law and our resolve to deport foreign nationals who threaten our safety and security. It also demonstrates the legal validity of our policy of deportation with assurances.
I want to turn now to the lessons we need to learn from the case. The deportation of Abu Qatada has taken 12 years and cost more than £1.7 million in legal fees for both sides. That is not acceptable to the public, and it is not acceptable to me. We must make sure it never happens again.
First, we have to do something about the legal fees spent by defendants and paid by the taxpayer, not to mention the benefits they also claim. Secondly, we have to remove the many layers of appeal that are available to foreign nationals we want to deport. Thirdly, we have to do something about the crazy interpretation of our human rights laws.
The Government are taking action to address all three concerns. First, on legal fees and benefits, in the case of Abu Qatada £220,000 of his legal fees were funded from his own accounts, which were frozen by the authorities, but the rest—some £430,000—was funded by the taxpayer, and in many other cases foreign nationals we ought to be able to remove have their legal costs paid in full by the public. That is something my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary is addressing in his reforms to the legal aid system, and I can also tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is considering how we can curtail the benefits claims made by terror suspects and extremists whose behaviour is not conducive to the public good.
Secondly, we need to do something about appeal rights. Through the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the Government have already legislated for the principle that in national security cases individuals should be able to appeal only following deportation to their home country, except in cases where there is a risk of serious, irreversible harm. But we will do more, and that is why I will introduce the immigration Bill later this year. That Bill will stop illegal immigrants accessing services to which they are not entitled; it will make it easier to remove foreign nationals; it will make it harder for them to prolong their stay with spurious appeals; and it will make clear to the courts once and for all that foreign nationals who commit serious crimes will, other than in exceptional circumstances, be deported. I hope hon. and right hon. Members from all parties will give their support to that Bill.
I can also tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary is considering ways to speed up the pace at which the courts hear national security cases, but those reforms can achieve only so much until we make sense of our human rights laws. The Government are already taking action to address the misinterpretation of article 8 of the European convention on human rights—the right to a private and family life—and we achieved reforms to the way in which the European Court works in the Brighton declaration.
The problems caused by the Human Rights Act and the European Court in Strasbourg remain, and we should remember that Qatada would have been deported long ago had the European Court not moved the goalposts by establishing new, unprecedented legal grounds on which it blocked his deportation. I have made clear my view that in the end the Human Rights Act must be scrapped. We must also consider our relationship with the European Court very carefully, and I believe that all options—including withdrawing from the convention altogether—should remain on the table, but those are issues that will have to wait for the general election. Today we should take quiet satisfaction from the fact that a dangerous man has been deported to face justice in his home country.
I know the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to all the Home Office officials, lawyers, police officers and members of the Security Service who have worked on this case, as well as Peter Millett, the British ambassador in Amman, and of course, the security Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire).
Last year, I said:
“The right place for a terrorist is a prison cell. The right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell, far away from Britain.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2012; Vol. 540, c. 166.]
Today, Abu Qatada is indeed in a foreign prison cell, and so I commend this statement to the House.
The entire House should strongly welcome the work that the Home Secretary and her junior Minister have done to get Abu Qatada finally on a plane back to Jordan to stand fair trial. This is a good result for not just the Home Secretary, but the country. In his home country, Abu Qatada stands accused of plotting terror attacks against a school and tourists, and it is right that he should stand trial for those offences and for justice to be done.
After Abu Qatada was granted asylum in this country in 1994, he began preaching hatred and praising terror attacks. He is a dangerous man whose values we in this Parliament condemn, and that is why successive Home Secretaries—Labour and Conservative—have worked to deport him with the cross-party support of the House and that of the country. I strongly welcome the work of the Home Office and the Foreign Office to keep pursuing the case over many years, and we should also welcome the work of the Jordanian Government and Parliament to pass the treaties that were needed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) agreed the first memorandum of understanding with Jordan in 2005, which led to the agreement of the British courts that Abu Qatada could be deported without the threat of torture, and the Home Secretary rightly built on that agreement after the 2012 European Court judgment. She was also right to pursue the legal route, rather than listening to those who urged her to ignore the law. Without the rule of law, we are not free.
We should be in no doubt, however, that the case has taken far too long, so change is needed to deal with such unacceptable and costly delays. The attempt to deport Abu Qatada started in 2005. It took three years for his case to reach the Court of Appeal, another year for it to reach the Law Lords and a further three years for it to reach the European Court, and it is a further 18 months since then. That is far too long—too long in the British courts and then too long in the European Court.
We will examine the Home Secretary’s proposal that layers of appeal should be removed for immigration cases, because we believe that the process needs to be speeded up and that slow justice is in no one’s interests, but I urge her and the Secretary of State for Justice to consider the practical and administrative reasons why such cases take so long. The European Court now has a backlog of 150,000 cases and badly needs major reform. However, Ministers promised progress while Britain chaired the Council of Europe, yet little of substance was achieved. The borders inspectorate has said that a quarter of foreign criminals are sent home and a third are given leave to remain, but that 40% are not deported simply for administrative and bureaucratic reasons, so those cases need to be tackled.
The Home Secretary referred to the qualified right to a family life under article 8 which can be used in immigration cases, on which we have supported the Government, although that was clearly not the issue in the Abu Qatada case. She concluded by saying that she wanted to abolish the Human Rights Act and to consider withdrawing from the European convention, yet she herself has drawn on the Human Rights Act. She used it to prevent Gary McKinnon from being deported to the USA, but without the Act, she would have had no legal justification for doing so. It is unclear whether she wants no Bill of Rights at all, which would consequently mean that there would be little restriction on what the Home Secretary’s decisions could be, but will she confirm that the Government’s commission on a draft British Bill of Rights has replicated article 3 of the Human Rights Act, on the absolute prohibition of torture? As she knows, the central issue in the Abu Qatada case was always torture, which is something that we in Britain have always abhorred, so ditching the Human Rights Act and replacing it with her British Bill of Rights would have made no difference in that case.
The Home Secretary made much in her statement of the importance for us, as a civilised nation, of not acting outside the law. However, if we were to resile from the European convention, what signal would it send to those countries that we are trying to persuade to adopt higher standards of human rights and to follow the convention, such as Russia, regarding the criminal justice system, and Turkey, regarding the treatment of Kurds?
The Government have done immensely important work in the Abu Qatada case: deporting a dangerous man; delivering new legal deportation agreements so that we can remove people to Jordan and elsewhere, with new protection against torture in Jordan; and showing the British Government’s determination to pursue what is right while respecting the rule of law and having no truck with torture. The Home Secretary rightly claimed credit for all those things in her statement, and reforms are needed to deal with the problems of this case. We are pleased that Abu Qatada has finally been deported and we cannot have such delays in the future, but she should put forward her reforms without ripping up the things that she has just achieved.
I thank the right hon. Lady for the references that she made to the success in deporting Abu Qatada, and for saying that the Labour Opposition will look very seriously at the proposals that we bring forward in the immigration Bill. The Opposition supported changes to the immigration rules in relation to the interpretation of article 8, and we were grateful to them for that. Sadly, a number of judges have not heard Parliament in the way that all of us hoped. I hope that we will have support on the immigration Bill, because I think these changes are important.
The right hon. Lady mentioned the administrative reasons for the lack of deportation, and issues around the speed with which these cases are dealt with in the courts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice is looking at that issue, because we all want to make sure that we can deal with these cases properly—with people having proper rights of appeal, so that we can ensure that their case is heard—but can deport people rather more quickly.
The right hon. Lady then sadly spent quite a bit of her response on the Human Rights Act, my views on it, and what might happen in the future in relation to it. I make two points in response. First, what she fails to appreciate is the concern that Government Members have about the role of Parliament in setting laws that operate in the United Kingdom. That is one of the issues that we are looking at in relation to the European Court and its ability to deal with cases that are taken through the courts in the UK. Secondly, she rather churlishly suggested that nothing happened when we chaired the Council of Europe. A considerable amount of work was put in by the former Justice Secretary, the Attorney-General and others, and it led to the Brighton declaration, which is bringing about change in the way in which the European Court operates, so that is another success for this Government, who took that opportunity to make some changes.
My final point is very simple. Members of the public cannot understand why, under the human rights laws that we currently operate, somebody who is a threat to this country is able to remain in it, year after year, without being deported. Frankly, if the right hon. Lady cannot understand that, she simply does not get it, and will not get an opportunity to be on the Government side of the House.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and congratulate her and her team on their steadfastness, including in the face of criticism from Opposition Front Benchers in the past. Does she agree that, in the field of human rights, now is the time for a re-examination of the balance between microscopic and extended examination of an individual’s human rights, and the safety and security of the constituents who send us to this place?
My hon. Friend has absolutely put his finger on the problem, which is that in all these cases we are asked to look forensically at the human rights of an individual, but there is no opportunity to balance that with the danger that an individual poses to others in society. There is no opportunity to take into account that balance of the human rights arguments. It is exactly that sort of issue that we need to address.
I congratulate the Home Secretary on the achievement of removing Abu Qatada. It is a personal triumph for her. I know that she has worked extremely hard over the past few years to secure this result; indeed, since becoming Home Secretary, she must have felt, to coin a phrase, that there were three people in her marriage. The critical part of all this has been the relationship with Jordan and securing the agreement of the King of Jordan. Will she look at drawing up treaties with other countries right at the start of the process, rather than at the end, as that is one way of removing people? Will she look at a fast track through the European Court for those cases that involve terrorism, so that they are dealt with more quickly than other cases?
I shall perhaps not refer to some of the right hon. Gentleman’s comments, but I am grateful to him for his kind remarks. This has been the result of a huge amount of effort by a great number of people, including Home Office officials, our ambassador in Amman, and my hon. Friend the security Minister, to make sure that we achieved the deportation of Abu Qatada. The right hon. Gentleman encourages us to enter agreements of a similar nature with other countries. We have, I think, 30 mutual legal assistance treaties with other countries, so we have already gone down that route, and that includes countries such as United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. We have a number of deportation with assurances memorandums of understanding with other countries—I think we have now been able to deport 11 people as a result of those agreements—but of course we seek to increase that number where it is necessary to do so.
May I award my right hon. Friend and her entire team 10 out of 10 for standing up against this man and for British interests? It is deeply offensive to the British people that £1.5 million was spent keeping this man in the country for 12 years. May I encourage my right hon. Friend to carry on with her work and, despite the remarks of the shadow Home Secretary, to look again at repealing the Human Rights Act and Britain’s membership of the European convention on human rights? Can she tell us whether the judges have got it at last? She is doing a fantastic job—keep it up, please.
In relation to the interpretation of article 8, sadly we have seen cases where the interpretation by the judges has not been what the intent of Parliament was when we changed the immigration rules, which is why we are going to put those changes into primary legislation in the immigration Bill later this year. I can assure my hon. Friend that I and others will continue looking at human rights and what the right human rights laws are. As our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear on Sunday morning, the Conservative party will introduce our proposals at the next general election.
I, too, congratulate the Home Secretary and, in particular, the security Minister on the work that they have both done to get this good result. I was just thinking that it has taken 12 years to deport Abu Qatada—I think it took Andy Murray only seven years to win Wimbledon—so the whole country will be very pleased about this.
But it is a very serious matter, and this is a dangerous individual who was a threat to this country. I urge the Home Secretary to say to other countries with which we do not have memorandums of understanding that this is a clear message that the British Government can ensure that someone is deported, that they are not tortured and that they receive a fair trial. We should say to countries that may have been a little reluctant that now is the time to step up their act and get those memorandums agreed.
The right hon. Lady makes an important and valid point. Absolutely, we can send that message. One of the crucial aspects of this case is that the deportation with assurances memorandum of understanding was agreed by the courts as something that worked, so we can indeed build on that.
I join others in congratulating the Home Secretary and her team on achieving what the whole country wanted, which was for Abu Qatada to go home. I thank her very much for saying that one of the issues with the European convention is the backlog of cases, and for the initiatives that the Government have taken. She will know, however, that the Liberal Democrats believe that she is fundamentally wrong to argue that repealing the Human Rights Act or even thinking of pulling out of the European convention would be in Britain’s interest. If we want to set an example of human rights for majorities as well as minorities, in Jordan and around the world, we must not pull out of the best guarantee that Europe has had of them, written by Britons, and working well for the past 70 years.
The right hon. Gentleman should not be surprised that I or indeed any of his Conservative colleagues in the coalition should stand up and talk about repealing the Human Rights Act, because we were all elected to the House on a party manifesto that had exactly that within it. In relation to the European convention, we do, I believe, as a country, have to look at our relationship with the European Court and the operation of the convention. We need to do so because of some of the cases that we have seen, and national security cases are a particular concern when we cannot deport someone for a significant period of time—if at all, potentially—because of the interpretation by the European Court of the convention. It is only sensible when beginning to work on this that we accept that all options should be on the table, and we do not rule anything out before we have done the work.
May I, too, congratulate the Home Secretary and the security Minister on all the work they have done to see Abu Qatada removed to Jordan? In all the ups and downs over the years of dealing with this man, there was a time just a few months ago when it looked as if he might be freed from prison and freed from bail. The only option the Home Secretary would have had at that point would be to put him on a terrorism prevention and investigation measure. Given that at that moment she must have realised the inadequacy of TPIMs, what plans does she have to review them, especially as David Anderson has warned that early next year a number of dangerous individuals on TPIMs will be free to roam the streets?
This is a debate that we have had across the House and that I have had with the right hon. Gentleman on a number of occasions. The Government brought in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 and we are operating those TPIMs against a number of individuals, as he knows. As he is also aware, when TPIMs were introduced instead of the control orders that his Government had brought in, we also introduced, through some extra funding, measures to enhance the ability of the Security Service and the police to deal with these individuals, and we are confident in the package that was produced.
Many people pay lip service to the concept of having respect for the law, but in cases such as this, which are deeply frustrating, testing and troublesome, the Home Secretary shows real respect for the law, and I congratulate her on her conduct and that of her Ministers throughout this matter. Will she look at the many varied avenues of appeal that are open to people like Abu Qatada, which can be curtailed without any infringement of the overall rights, and will she express the thanks of this House to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for its extremely friendly actions in this case?
My hon. Friend is right in referring to the many layers and avenues of appeal that are available. It is precisely that sort of issue that we wish to examine in considering any changes we will introduce in the immigration Bill later this year. We have been co-operating with the Jordanian Government on this matter for some time now, and that co-operation has been very good, but I am pleased that the treaty we signed with them is more general and will apply in other cases as well. There is benefit to both the United Kingdom and Jordan in that mutual legal assistance treaty.
I, too, sincerely congratulate the Home Secretary and the security Minister. No wonder she is talked about as a future Tory leader. The Home Secretary very generously thanked officials and lawyers who had worked on the case, but given what she said about the cost of the case overall—this is no criticism of her—does she think there is an argument for a review of why it took those officials so long to fix on the treaty route as the best way to solve the problem, rather than run up those huge bills?
The reason that large legal bills built up was the time the case took, because of the various stages of appeal that were available to Abu Qatada and the fact that the European Court moved the goalposts in the unprecedented decision that it took early last year. It was because of that that we had to undertake further discussions with the Jordanian Government about the assurances that could be achieved. And of course our own Special Appeals Immigration Commission last autumn decided that despite those further assurances and its view that the Jordanian Government would bend over backwards to make sure that Abu Qatada got a fair trial, this one issue about whether evidence that was allegedly obtained by torture could be used had to be addressed. That is addressed, among other things, in the general treaty that we have signed. It is because there have been so many opportunities to appeal and because of the decisions that have come as a result of those appeals that the legal bills have built up.
May I join all those who have offered their congratulations to the Home Secretary, and may I also thank her for the congratulations that she has offered to others—her officials and officials in other Departments? That is a very proper thing to have done. Does she agree that even before the enactment of the Human Rights Act, we probably would not have deported a terrorist suspect to be tortured or to face trial on the basis of evidence extracted by torture or to a country which might have used the death penalty upon that person? Does she also agree that the core to the success that she has had has been the bilateral agreement with Jordan, and that although we may all have our frustrations about the expense and the difficulties caused by the Strasbourg Court, the central thing that we must concentrate on is ensuring that we have with these other jurisdictions rock-solid, cast-iron treaties which permit deportation?
Indeed, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. It is important that we have these assurances and agreements with other countries where there is a possibility, or where the courts have suggested that there is a possibility, that it would not be possible to deport an individual because of the situation they would find themselves in once deported. When the European Court made its judgment last year, I think that it failed to appreciate the changes that have taken place in Jordan and the work the Jordanian Government have done, for example to change their constitution in relation to torture. In a sense the judgment was unfair with regard to the Jordanian situation. Nevertheless, as a result of the judgment, we had to undertake further discussions with the Jordanian Government and put in place exactly the sorts of assurances and agreements that my hon. and learned Friend refers to.
We on the left of the Gangway are delighted that this evil man is being sent back where he belongs to stand trial, but I got worried, when I watched him swagger on to the plane with a big smile on his face, that he might have a secret way back. I hope the Home Secretary has all the doors covered.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the support that he and, as he indicates, his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) have given to the action that has been taken—I must say that this is an unusual day for the Home Office, but I suspect that the normal situation will resume fairly soon. We are indeed turning our attention to ensuring that doors are closed.
I join the whole House in congratulating the Home Secretary and the security Minister on their stunning success in deporting Abu Qatada. I am not sure what gave me greater pleasure on Sunday: watching Andy Murray’s victory or the news that Mr Qatada was leaving on a jet plane. What assessment have her officials made of the right of Mr Qatada’s family to remain in the United Kingdom should he be found guilty in Jordan?
I congratulate the Home Secretary, her predecessors and everyone else involved in this long haul. Further to the last question, could Abu Qatada or his family argue, after he has done his time, whatever the sentence might be, that the right to family life allows him to come back to his family in this country?
I add my congratulations to the Home Secretary and the security Minister. We all agree that it is very good that Abu Qatada will face justice without the risk of information derived from torture being used against him. Since the Home Secretary is keen on ensuring that people are deported to face justice, can she confirm her support for a reformed European arrest warrant that does exactly that? She will know that only this weekend we saw yet another arrest of a Briton trying to evade justice in Spain.
My hon. Friend tempts me to comment on a matter that I hope will more properly be the subject of announcements in this House before the summer recess. I am aware of the arguments that have been made about the operation of the European arrest warrant in relation to its usefulness and to some of the problems that apply to it.
As I indicated earlier, in answer to an hon. Friend who asked about the Human Rights Act, it is absolutely no surprise that a Conservative should stand here and talk about scrapping the Human Rights Act, because we were elected to this Parliament having stood in a general election on a manifesto that said exactly that.
Will the Home Secretary accept the thanks of a grateful nation for a job well done?
On the wider issue of deporting foreign nationals who commit crimes in this country, could it not be a condition of entry for everybody when they turn up at the airport or port that they sign to say that if they are found guilty of a criminal offence, they will be required to leave?
I assure my hon. Friend that we understand the public’s concern, which I share, about examples of when we are not able to deport foreign-national offenders. There are a number of reasons why that can happen—most notably, as in cases highlighted in the media, the interpretation of article 8 about the right to a family life.
Of course, the right to a family life was not one of the arguments used at all in the Abu Qatada case, although there are foreign-national offenders who have used that argument. We will look to ensure that we make it absolutely clear in the immigration Bill that, except in exceptional circumstances, foreign-national offenders will be deported.
I join the whole House in congratulating the Home Secretary, the security Minister and all her officials on finally managing to deport Abu Qatada. I particularly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement that the immigration Bill will include a simplification of the appeals process. What will that simplification do about the introduction of new evidence at a late stage of the appeals process?
We will consider that issue, of course. We have moved already on a different part of the appeals process—that relating to family visas. We have taken away the right of appeal for family visit visas. We saw that evidence was often produced towards the end of the process; had it been there at the beginning, it might have led to a different decision in the first place. My hon. Friend has picked up an important issue that we should consider in other contexts.
Many of my constituents were delighted to see Abu Qatada fly out of Northolt, although they may have been a little disappointed to see the plane so empty. Does the Home Secretary have a view on the family and associates of Abu Qatada? Many of my constituents find it indefensible that they should have been on benefits for so long and think that they would have been better off on the plane with him.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend both on this excellent result and on her commitment to reviewing and, hopefully, reforming human rights legislation. However, we will not get away from what she calls the crazy interpretation of our human rights laws if we allow our judges a completely open-ended clause in the legislation containing an unspecified phrase such as “exceptional circumstances”.
I understand my hon. Friend’s point. We will, of course, need to look at those issues when we come to frame the legislation so that we can be clear as a Parliament about exactly the sort of circumstances we are looking at. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that there may be some circumstances in which it will not be possible to deport somebody, although we want to ensure that we can deport foreign-national prisoners as far as possible. We will set out, as we have already tried to in the immigration rules, the circumstances in which we expect that a foreign-national prisoner will not be allowed to remain in the UK on the basis of article 8 but will be deported.
I congratulate the Home Secretary and welcome Abu Qatada’s removal, but I share her fears about the implications of the case. What estimate has the Home Office made of the number of extra successful deportation challenges that it expects per year as a result of Strasbourg’s novel—and, frankly, dangerous—ruling?
I am not able to give my hon. Friend an answer about the number, but I can say, having looked at a sample of cases, that this case was unusual in that it related to the potential torture of people other than the individual whom we were trying to deport. That is why it was such an unusual and unprecedented judgment from the Strasbourg court; it is also why the case is not likely to be replicated on many occasions.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on joining the ranks of the US Navy SEALs in knowing how to get rid of perpetrators of terrorism, even if by slightly less violent means. Does she agree that the principles of the European convention on human rights are very noble but have been misinterpreted by judges, and that if we have a British Bill of Rights, we can return to a situation where the perpetrators of terrorism are not given precedence over the victims of terrorism?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid and important point. It is about the interpretation of human rights laws. We all agree that it is important to have a legislative framework that protects people’s human rights; it is then about how that is interpreted. It is also about the relative balance of responsibilities between this Parliament and another body that is external to it.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend in the strongest terms on behalf of my constituents, who watched with growing disillusionment as the will of the people and Parliament of this country was profoundly defied by a decade of spin and drift costing over £1.7 million in legal fees. I especially welcome her announcement that illegal immigrants and criminals will be deported. Does she agree that nothing fuels disillusionment as much as state-sponsored abuse of protections that are rightly the privilege of British citizens, not foreign criminals?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I share people’s frustrations and concerns when they see foreign national offenders whom we wish to be able to deport unable to be deported. He refers to illegal immigrants. One of the benefits of the change that has been made by scrapping the UK Border Agency and setting up the immigration enforcement part of the Home Office is that we will be able to put a far greater focus on ensuring that we remove illegal immigrants.
I wonder what words my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has for the naysayers and doom-mongers on the Opposition Benches, such as the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), who is no longer in his place, who said on 24 April in this Chamber:
“Is it not obvious that this saga will continue for some time and that all the Home Secretary’s efforts have so far failed miserably to get this preacher of hatred out of Britain?”
The hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) said:
“This farce makes the Government look incompetent as well as impotent.”—[Official Report, 24 April 2013; Vol. 561, c. 894-897.]
May I add to the bouquets under which my right hon. Friend is being buried and congratulate her and her team on succeeding where her predecessors had failed? Is she aware of the report that, contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) said, the plane back to Jordan was not quite empty because it had aboard it three security guards, a psychologist, a medical examiner, and, inevitably, a lawyer? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the costs of those people will not fall on the British taxpayer? If they do, will she change the rules of taxpayer liability as soon as possible?
When I was an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland we spent a lot of time trying to drain the water from terrorists—in other words, the people with whom they lived. However, they were coerced and frightened. Such people may well be replicated on the mainland. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to try to identify terrorists and get them away from the society which sustains them and allows them to operate in England?
We do of course have a strategy for dealing with terrorism. The officials at the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, which is based in the Home Office, work with the police, the Security Service and the other security and intelligence agencies to make sure that we can, where possible, prevent terrorist attacks from taking place in the United Kingdom. Sadly, in the past couple of months we have of course had the incident of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Prior to that, we had seen a number of plots by terrorists to do harm and to kill people here in the United Kingdom thwarted by the very good efforts of officials, police and members of the Security Service.