If you are classed as a terrorist expect no benefit claiming in the UK
Terror suspects to be banned from claiming benefits under shake-up of laws to prevent repeat of Abu Qatada costing us millions
Applause in the Commons as Theresa May tells MPs Qatada is in Jordan
Tells of ‘quiet satisfaction’ that a dangerous man has been deported
Pledges curbs on access to legal aid, court appeals and state handouts
By MATT CHORLEY, MAILONLINE POLITICAL EDITOR
PUBLISHED: 16:24, 8 July 2013 | UPDATED: 19:19, 8 July 2013
Terror suspects will be stripped of their benefits under plans being drawn up to stop a repeat of the Abu Qatada saga.
Home Secretary Theresa May vowed to ‘learn lessons’ from the 12-year battle to kick the hate preacher out of Britain.
She unveiled a raft of measures to curb access to state handouts, legal aid, court appeals and end the ‘crazy’ interpretation of human rights law.
Mrs May did what so many politicians have failed to do and saw Qatada finally flown out of Britain, leaving RAF Northolt at 2.46am on Sunday.
The Al Qaeda fanatic – who was pictured smirking through the window as his plane took off – is now locked in a Jordanian jail after being formally charged with two terrorist conspiracies.
Mrs May told MPs: ‘Today we should take quiet satisfaction that a dangerous man has been deported to face justice in his home country.’
The deportation of Qatada has taken 12 years and cost over £1.7 million in legal fees for both sides.
‘That is not acceptable to the public, and it’s not acceptable to me. We must make sure it never happens again.’
But she said the government would ‘turn now to the lessons we need to learn from this case’.
‘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,’ Mrs May said.
Qatada’s deportation brought to a close a legal circus which lasted for almost ten years and cost the British taxpayer £1.7million.
Millions more were spent on surveillance and will continue to be spent on state handouts for his wife and five children, who remain in the UK.
The payments were made despite the UK government trying to have Qatada removed because he was wanted on terror charges in Jordan.
Mrs May revealed Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan is ‘looking at how we can curtail the benefits claims made by terror suspects and extremists whose behaviour is not conducive to the public good’.
She added: ‘In the case of Abu Qatada, £220,000 of his legal fees were actually 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.’
The problem will be addressed by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in reforms to the legal aid system, she said.
In a statement to the Commons the Home Secretary also pledged to remove the many layers of appeal that are available to foreign nationals we want to deport.
The Home Secretary also insisted something must be done to address the ‘crazy interpretation of our human rights laws’ to prevent a lengthy and costly deportation battle from happening again.
Mrs May added: ‘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.
‘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 upon which it blocked his deportation.’
Shortly before the Home Secretary addressed the House, lawyers for Qatada handed a bail application to a court in Jordan, which will be considered within 48 hours. It is understood suspects accused of serious crimes rarely get bail in Jordan.
The controversial preacher has been charged with plotting al Qaeda-inspired terror attacks and detained in a prison in Jordan’s capital Amman.
Charges faced by Qatada cover a foiled plot against the American school in Amman and an alleged attack on Israeli and American tourists during new year celebrations.
As the Home Secretary announced that she would like to make a statement on the deportation of Qatada, rapturous applause broke out, prompting Mrs May to break out in laughter.
Mrs May said: ‘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.’
She said the Government had succeeded in deporting Qatada by ‘respecting the rule of law’.
The Home Secretary added: ‘We did not ignore court judgments we did not like. We did not act outside of the law. We did what was right.’
Graphic about Abu Qatada’s ‘long road home’
As it looked like the legal impasse might never end, several Tory MPs urged Mrs May to simply put Qatada on a plane to Jordan and face the consequences from the international courts.
Instead she struck a treaty with Jordan guaranteeing Qatada would receive a fair trial, without using evidence obtained through torture against him.
Once Qatada left the UK and landed at Jordan’s Marka military airport, the authorities moved swiftly. He was driven in a green SUV, escorted by a 12-car convoy, to the sealed-off state security court in Amman.
Military prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts, remanded him in custody for 15 days and then took him to Muwaqqar prison.
The firebrand was first arrested over his alleged terror connections in 2001. He was rearrested in 2005, when attempts to deport him began.
He lodged appeal after appeal, claiming his human rights would be infringed if he was sent home – finally winning his case in the European Court of Human Rights last year.
But Mrs May continued to pursue his removal, signing a landmark treaty with Jordan promising that no evidence obtained by torture would be used against him.
Fearing that the legal game was up, Qatada agreed to go home voluntarily in May – a process that was completed, amid meticulous planning, yesterday.
In the Commons shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the deportation of Qatada was a ‘good result for the country’.
She said: ‘In his home country Abu Qatada stands accused of plotting terror attacks against a school and against tourists. It is right that he should stand trial for those offences and for justice to be done.
‘In this country, after he was granted asylum in 1994, Abu Qatada 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 this House and the country.’