Clarke hits out at 'childish remarks'
JUSTICE Secretary Ken Clarke has accused Home Secretary Theresa May of making "laughable and childlike" comments about the Human Rights Act in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference.
Ms May has told conference delegates the Act should be abolished.
Mr Clarke told the Post he believed Ms May had broken convention to give her own opinion instead of sticking to the "collective" Government line – and said she had enraged both judges and Government advisors.
Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to play down the row yesterday, claiming Mr Clarke and Ms May were "on the same page".
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As revealed in the Post yesterday, Ms May announced plans to change rules which prevent the deportation of foreign offenders on human rights grounds.
She cited the case of an illegal immigrant she claimed used the Human Rights Act to escape being sent back to his home country because he had a pet cat.
Immediately afterwards Mr Clarke, when he was asked about the case, said he did not believe it and issued a challenge to Ms May to accept a bet she could not prove it.
He told the Post: "I sat and listened to Theresa's speech and I'll have to be very polite to Theresa when I meet her, but in my opinion she should really address her researchers and advisers very severely for assuring her that a complete nonsense example in her speech was true."
He added: "I'm not going to stand there and say in my private opinion this is a terrible thing and we ought to get rid of the Human Rights Act."
Mr Clarke said that the cat had nothing to do with allowing the individual mentioned in Ms May's speech to remain in the UK.
He disagreed with Ms May's criticism of the Human Rights Act, claiming it was "essential to a modern democracy" and that it would be "unwise" for the party to pledge its repeal.
But he said the Government had agreed that its policy was to set up a commission – not due to report back for months – to explore reform of the Act and whether to set up a British Bill of Rights instead.
"It's not only the judges that all get furious when the Home Secretary makes a parody of a court judgement, our commission who are helping us form our view on this are not going to be entertained by laughable child-like examples being given," said Mr Clarke.
"We have a policy and in my old-fashioned way when you serve in a Government you express a collective policy of the Government, you don't go round telling everyone your personal opinion is different."
The veteran MP also expressed frustrations with his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, whose leader Nick Clegg stated that the Human Rights Act was "here to stay" at the party's conference two weeks ago. "Governments work well when ministers stick to the collectively-agreed line," added Mr Clarke.