4 Oct 2011

Clarke and May fall out over cat claim

A row has broken out between Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Home Secretary Theresa May over her claim that a foreigner was allowed to stay in the UK because he had a pet cat.

An extraordinary row has broken out between Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke – over a cat. And behind the smiles, the fur is flying.

In her speech to conference, Ms May claimed that an illegal immigrant had been protected from deportation “because… he had a pet cat”.

She used the case to justify a change to immigration laws to make deportations easier, downgrading the importance of the right to a family life. But Mr Clarke made clear he did not agree.

Famous for her kitten heels, the home secretary today tangled with “Mr Hush Puppies.” The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, bit back – and all this on law and order day at the Conservative Party conference.

‘I’ll have a bet with her, I’ll bet she can’t find the cat!’ – Ken Clarke

Theresa May put the human rights act at the centre of her speech. It was a menace to justice, obstructing deportations.

“I remain of the view that the human rights act has to go,” she told conference. But Ken Clarke disagreed.

“We’ve got a commission precisely to give sensible advice on this,” he told Channel 4 News.

Clarke and May fall out over cat claim

Theresa May said judges kept allowing people who should be thrown out of the country to stay here because of article eight of the European convention on human rights respecting the right to family life trumped other laws.

She claimed that one judge even let someone stay here because he had a pet cat. The justice secretary’s response: “I’d be amazed if someone resisted deportation on the basis that he owned a cat here.”

“I’ll have a bet with her,” he continued. “I’ll bet she can’t find the cat!”

Tonight Ken Clarke was telling friends he wasn’t backing down because he was right.

Ken Clarke has the judges on his side. Their Judicial Office issued a statement saying in the case in question, the judge ruled the Bolivian could stay in the UK because he was involved in a serious relationship with a girlfriend.

The fact that they had a pet cat was supposed to be evidence of that – not the substance of the claim in law.

The home secretary says the cat was mentioned proves she is right. The problem for Ken Clarke is that the prime minister has come down on her side.

Mr Clarke’s critics in the right-wing press will be only too delighted to portray him as a liberal who is past his sell-by date.

It is an insight into two departments which often do not agree on policy.

So who was right? FactCheck gets its claws out

Was one man allowed to stay in the country because of his cat? FactCheck gets to the bottom of it.

FactCheck: Theresa May caught catnapping on the job