Foreign Nationals (Deportation and Removal)

– in the House of Commons am 12:33 pm ar 26 Ebrill 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Hon. Members:

Resign!

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

With permission, I would like to make a statement on deportation and removal of foreign nationals. As I said in my written statement to the House yesterday, to the best of my knowledge, between February 1999 and March 2006 1,023 foreign national criminals, who should have been considered for deportation or removal, completed their prison sentences and were released without the appropriate consideration of deportation or removal action. This failure in the systems for dealing with foreign national prisoners is deeply regrettable and my immediate priority is to set that right.

The arrangements for identifying foreign national prisoners and considering their removal from the UK have not kept pace with the significant rise in the foreign national prisoner population over recent years. While there has been no fundamental change in our policy to consider serious offenders for deportation before release in recent years, it is clear that the increasing number of cases being referred for consideration led to the process falling down.

In recent months we have been making significant improvements to the system for identifying, referring and caseworking foreign national prisoners. That includes significant increases in resources for caseworking, commencing deportation proceedings at the earliest possible point prior to release and much closer working between the agencies involved.

Of the 1,023 foreign nationals in total, consideration of the case for deportation has started in 355 cases, of which 107 have been completed and 20 have been deported. Of the 288 that should have been considered since August 2005, 83 have been started, 53 completed and 14 deported. I can confirm that consideration of the most serious cases has, of course, commenced and I will report further on progress by the end of this week.

It may help to put the matter in context if I say that in the two calendar years 2004 and 2005, around 3,000 foreign national prisoners were deported. I am confident that we can build on this performance and I am considering how we might tighten our processes even further—[Interruption.]—for example, through policy and sentencing options and further practical measures.

My aim is to ensure that the foreign national prisoner population is managed effectively and proactively, ensuring that the number of people held in prisons under immigration powers is kept to the absolute minimum, that we have the right sentencing powers and identification of referral and caseworking capacity so that we are in a position to effect removal at the earliest point of release. That is my commitment, and I will report regularly to the House on progress.

C

(I've said this before somewhere)
- there was a time when minister would have to resign for something like this.

Ultimately, any blame in the Home Office, Police, Prisons, Immigration, etc., etc., will be deferred upwards and upwards until it falls on the Home Secretary's head. That's one of the reasons why it's there.

Me might not be personally responsible, but the press, the public and the opposition smell blood and want to go in for the kill. Let them have it!

Cyflwynwyd gan Callum Wood.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I have to say to the House that I respond to the Home Secretary's statement with regret, which is not something that I have said about all Home Office Ministers. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for 30 years, and despite our differences, I have always had a broad degree of respect for him. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us over the last few days, it is the first duty of Government to protect the public—and I am afraid that events of the last few days have demonstrated a culpable failure to protect public safety—[Interruption.] If the Government Chief Whip wishes to intervene, I am afraid that under the rules of the House, I am not allowed to let her do so; I will gladly do so on another occasion.

The Home Secretary's statement reveals a disturbing neglect of public safety at the heart of Government. Following on from his statement last week on murders committed by offenders on probation, this is yet another example of his Department's failure and incompetence. There is no excuse for the Home Secretary not knowing about it. Her Majesty's inspectorate of prisons report of 2002–03 highlighted

"an institutional blind spot for foreign nationals as a whole", while the following year's report stated baldly:

"In spite of the growing number of foreign national prisoners, there is still no national strategy, and too few prisons have their own local foreign national policies".

The National Audit Office reported on the matter last July, and in September my shadow prisons Minister asked how many foreign nationals were in prison awaiting deportation. She was told that the information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

In October, when the Public Accounts Committee asked how many failed asylum seekers had been released from prison, the Home Office could not answer. When we asked again, as late as last November, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality claimed, with astonishing complacency that the Government were ensuring

"that foreign national prisoners liable to deportation are removed promptly."—[Hansard, 21 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 1751W.]

Now, after that series of warnings, the Home Secretary is still unable to give us the definitive figures. He says that to the best of his knowledge, 1,023 foreign-born prisoners who should have been considered for deportation have been released into the community, putting the public at risk. Is he even able to tell the House how many of those released criminals have committed further offences? We would expect half of those people to have reoffended. How many further serious crimes have been perpetrated by the people whom the Home Secretary has put back on our streets?

When asked where the murderers, rapists, kidnappers and drug dealers were today, the Home Secretary said that he did not know, despite the fact that many, if not all, of those categories should have be subject to supervision, even if they had been British prisoners. But he presumably does know how many have been released, and he does know who has been deported. So if the Home Secretary does not know where they are, he must tell the House this: how many foreign convicted killers, how many convicted paedophiles, how many convicted rapists and how many convicted drug dealers are at large today, as result of his policy failure?

Last night on "Newsnight", when asked if anyone was released in the period after we knew about this problem, the Home Secretary said, "Very, very few," but a statement broadcast after the 10 o'clock news announced that 288 more foreign criminals were released after the Home Secretary explicitly knew that there was a problem: 288 releases over eight months is actually a faster rate than 700 over six years. The rate of release of those criminals into the community was greater after July, when he found out, than it was before July. Does the Home Secretary really believe that almost 300 foreign convicted criminals released into our communities is "Very, very few"? I am afraid that I must tell him that I cannot think of a starker demonstration of a Minister not in charge of his Department.

The Home Secretary is a proud man, and he will be mortally embarrassed by the failure that we have heard about today, so I am not surprised that he offered his resignation to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said that he should not go. At 4 pm I was saying that he should not go. On the 6 o'clock news I was saying that he should not go. On the 10 o'clock news I was saying that he should not go. But like the Prime Minister at the time of his earlier admission, we did not know all the facts yesterday. The information released overnight is that 288 criminals were released after the Government knew about the problem. I am sorry to say that because of this culpable failure to protect the safety of the public, the Home Secretary's position is now untenable.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I think that there are three points that I want to make. [Hon. Members: "Resign!"] I am terribly sorry to disappoint Opposition Members— [Interruption.]

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

First, it is absolutely untrue that the Government neglect public safety. Public safety is rightly the first priority of any Government. It is true—this is the second point—that there have been the failures that I set out in the statement to the House today, including failures in the relationship between the Prison Service and the immigration and nationality directorate that have led to the failures of information to which David Davis referred and for which I apologised to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee over the phone yesterday morning, before writing him the letter in which I set that out. It was a failure. I have acknowledged that it is failure, and it must be got right.

Photo of Brian Binley Brian Binley Ceidwadwyr, Northampton South

Apologise!

a

Mt Binley has a...

Cyflwynwyd gan ashley riley Continue reading

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I do apologise; I have apologised; and I continue to do so. It is not right that this should be the state of affairs, but I will produce the information, as I said in my statement, in the form that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden requests, when I have it in every respect—I will not do it partially.

The third point that I want to make in response to what the right hon. Gentleman said is that I think that the first duty of everyone in public life, certainly everyone in government, is to take responsibility to improve the situation and deal with things in the proper way. [Hon. Members: "Take responsibility!"] I think that my responsibility is to take that responsibility and to put things right, and that is what I intend to do.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

Yesterday, No. 10 was reported as saying that it is

"unreasonable to expect Ministers to know what is going on in every nook and cranny in their Departments."

Does the Home Secretary really think that the release without deportation of more than 1,000 foreign prisoners can be reasonably described as a nook or a cranny in the work of the Home Office? The Prime Minister also said that the facts have come to light only recently, and that a new system is in place to deal with the issue. However, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend Annette Brooke, a Home Office Minister told us in January 2004:

"HM prisons are instructed to notify the Immigration and Nationality Directorate . . . of all foreign nationals sentenced to a term of imprisonment, together with their release dates once calculated.

IND then considers whether a person should be deported or removed and it is our aim . . . to remove such persons in line with their release from custody."—[Hansard, 27 January 2004; Vol. 417, c. 267W.]

If that was the case in January 2004, how can it now be plausibly claimed that neither the Home Secretary and his Department nor the Prime Minister knew that there was a system in place already to deal with the issue, which was abjectly failing in its primary responsibility to protect the safety of the public?

Will the Home Secretary also tell us whether he knows the whereabouts of the three murderers and nine rapists who have been released and not deported—who should, in the normal course of events, have provided details of their whereabouts to the police already? If he does not know their whereabouts, will he tell us when he thinks that he will have that information? Does he know what offences have been committed by those who have been released? If not, when will he know?

Finally, the Home Secretary at least displays some understanding that someone needs to take some political responsibility for this momentous example of incompetence. Frankly, the same cannot be said for his predecessor, Mr. Blunkett, or the Minister responsible for immigration, who both, within hours of this matter coming to light yesterday, said that the heads of officials might need to roll. Reacting to the news by immediately hoping to shift the blame to officials and underlings who do not have the ability to defend themselves in public smacks of the worst kind of mean-spirited buck passing.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I think that there are two points here. First, on the various aspects of information that the hon. Gentleman asked me to provide, I simply refer him to what I said in the statement and in answer to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden. Mr. Clegg is entitled to ask those questions, and I will give the answers, but I will do so in the time scale that I set out.

Secondly, on the hon. Gentleman's concluding point about responsibility for this matter, I believe that he is right to say that it is entirely a matter for Ministers to take responsibility, and in particular, for me to take responsibility, and not to seek to shelter behind officials in any regard. It is true to say that there is a systemic issue, as I have indicated throughout, which needs to be addressed and which is my responsibility. He is quite right to say that. However, I interpret that—I am not sure that he does—as meaning that it is my responsibility to get the systems working correctly to protect us in the most effective way. That is what I intend to do.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Llafur, Leicester East

I welcome the information that the Home Secretary has given this morning, but may I remind him that on 5 October last year, I wrote to him about a constituent, James Bishop, who was killed by a foreign national who was removed from the country without standing a full trial? On 28 October, from the Dispatch Box, I was given assurances that if there were lessons to be learned about that removal, they would be learned. Does he not agree that at the root of the problem is the co-ordination between three departments—the Prison Service, the IND and the Courts Service? I am glad that he is not resigning and is going to remain as Home Secretary, because the system has to be put right to ensure that people who kill people in this country stand trial before removal, and that those who have been convicted with a recommendation for deportation are removed and not allowed to remain.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I completely agree with him about the extent of the systemic issues to which he referred. He is also right to say that those failures lead to personal tragedies of the most appalling kind—of the kind that he has raised previously. That is why I take so seriously the responsibility for getting the systems working in the right way.

Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Ceidwadwyr, South Norfolk

I shall give the Home Secretary credit for one thing: at least he has not tried to claim that yesterday was the best day ever for the Home Office. He has sought to accept responsibility for this matter, and to that extent, I credit him. None the less, people are simply at a loss to understand how this could have happened. They want to know why, every time a prisoner who is a foreign national is about to be released from prison, someone does not ask, "Should they now be deported?" The only explanation that people can come up with is that the rights of foreign criminals are more important and given higher priority than the right of the public in this country to be protected. Those are the facts. Will the Home Secretary at least tell us that an order has now gone out to prison governors that no foreign nationals who are currently in prison are to be released without it first being established whether they should be deported—and if not, why not?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I begin by paying tribute to my parliamentary neighbour, Mr. Bacon, for the way in which he has conducted himself on the Public Accounts Committee. As I said to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, although there are many criticisms to be made of the way in which the Home Office has operated in this respect, the fact that the PAC has addressed the issues as it has, and has taken them up, is a credit to the system and I pay credit to him personally for it.

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman on his point of substance. It is not my view, or that of anyone in the Home Office, that the rights of criminals, especially foreign national criminals, are more important than the rights of citizens. However, it is the case, as his Committee has been trying to expose, that inefficiencies and ineffectiveness exist in the way in which we have carried out our responsibilities. I am sure that his Committee will continue to take up that issue, and we will, of course, continue to try to improve what we do.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Llafur, Warley

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he has commendably come to the House and accepted responsibility. Does he accept that the Home Office is a seriously dysfunctional organisation that has frustrated the attempts of Home Secretaries of both parties to deal with crime and illegal migration? Will he not only follow the advice of his predecessor to ensure that heads will roll, but make sure that there is a shake-up from top to bottom in the Home Office, so that this inefficient organisation is on the side of the community, not the criminals?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I agree completely with my right hon. Friend and his implicit criticism. That is why I have, as Home Secretary, tried to carry out the kind of reform that he describes. In saying that, I want to point out that this issue is about not the integrity or commitment of people who work for the Home Office, but how to organise ourselves in the most effective way. The issue has highlighted both that and the need for the kind of reforms that my right hon. Friend highlights.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Ceidwadwyr, Folkestone and Hythe

Last night the Home Secretary told Jon Snow that he would not resign unless it could be shown that what had happened was the result of a personal failure on his part. I agree with him that that is the right approach. A few hours later, he told Jeremy Paxman that what had happened was the result of a shocking failure on his part, among others. Given those two answers, how can he stay in his job?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably the only Member of the House from whom I would not accept that stricture. As Home Secretary he had a long record of evading responsibility, as Miss Widdecombe pointed out so powerfully at the time. For example, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's responsibilities on category A escapes stand in front of us. I agree with him that it is right for people to bear responsibility—and I do—but my responsibility is to create the kind of Home Office that means that such a situation cannot recur. In so doing, I am still, eight years on, dealing with the legacy for which he was responsible.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Llafur, Birmingham, Selly Oak

On 10 April I wrote to the immigration and nationality directorate about the case of Paul Omorui, a Nigerian who entered the country illegally from Spain using false documents, got employment with Royal Mail, again using false documentation, and stole financial and identity documentation. As I have not yet received a reply to my inquiry, will the Home Secretary assure me that the man will be deported, as recommended by the judge who sentenced him to 15 months' imprisonment? Will the Home Secretary also give assurances that in future, instead of constant change brought about by a never-ending round of criminal justice and immigration and asylum legislation, the Government will concentrate on developing effective and efficient administration systems and good decision making in the Home Office?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that I will look immediately into the case and answer her directly.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP, Belfast East

I share with many on the Opposition side of the House concern about the serious failing of the Home Secretary and the Home Office. Even if the Home Secretary does not know the precise addresses of all those whom he is considering for deportation, can he indicate whether there are any who are likely to be residing in Northern Ireland, and the offences for which they might have been formerly convicted?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the full information that he requests. I understand that there are fewer than 50 foreign nationals in prisons in Northern Ireland, for a range of offences, but I will write to him with the information that he wants.

Photo of Mark Todd Mark Todd Llafur, South Derbyshire

Does the Home Secretary agree that there is substantial evidence of overload, in political, administrative and legislative terms, in his Department and that that has put substantial burdens on him and his fellow Ministers? Does he agree that there is a requirement for a review of the political and management resources devoted to the tasks that are given to him?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I agree with quite a lot of that. Since I have been Home Secretary I have tried to organise the Home Office into three essential pillars—the first dealing with policing and counter-terrorism, the second dealing with offender management and the issues about which we are talking, and the third dealing with immigration, asylum and identity—and to have a reform programme in each to try to ensure that we can achieve the efficiency that we need. That has to be taken forward in a large variety of ways, as is happening. I also agree with my hon. Friend about the substantial volume of legislation that we have had in this Session. Perhaps I can give him the assurance that I have given others that I am determined to have a good deal less legislation in the rest of the Parliament. I see that the Government Whip who deals with such matters is looking extremely happy as I make that statement.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Ceidwadwyr, Wokingham

Presumably the released offenders are now either on benefit or in employment paying tax, so how can the Government have lost contact with them? I am sure that if one of my law-abiding constituents had committed a speeding offence, the Government would soon find his address and send him the relevant prosecution papers. Why cannot the Home Secretary use the many records that the Government have to find those people before it is too late?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

As I said, we are proceeding on that. I have given figures on where we are, and I said that I would report further. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that if an identity card system had been in place, it would have been easier to move more quickly—[Interruption.]

C

The claim about ID cards is... strange. To start with, the people released were foreigners and so might not even be on the ID card register. Secondly, how would ID cards help the Home...

Cyflwynwyd gan Chris Lightfoot Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. It will not do if hon. Members are shouting across the Chamber. I once again remind the House that it wanted the statement, and that hon. Members want to question the Home Secretary.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Llafur, Chorley

Obviously this issue is serious, and no one can shy away from it. May I say to my right hon. Friend that people expect action, and to know that no more will be released? What special advice has he given to the Prison Service and chief constables to get those dangerous people back off the streets, into prison and deported—whenever that may be? We need to know that the matter is being taken seriously, and the public expect officials in the civil service to resign—[Hon. Members: "Ministers!"] The public also expect elected Members to consider their position when such serious things have happened, so I must pass that advice to my right hon. Friend.

J

I share Mr. Hoyle's concern, but would suggest that a public enquiry is required to get "to the bottom" of this issue. It seems that this is a problem that goes back several years, and by implication, involving former ministers and civil servants. It is absolutely scandalous that these people have been returned to our streets rather than deported, and the law of averages argues that many of them will be...

Cyflwynwyd gan John Harrison Continue reading

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is quite right, in that I am sure that his constituents and everyone want the situation to be addressed effectively and quickly. I said in my statement that I would report further on progress regarding the most dangerous individuals concerned by the end of the week. As for the consideration of positions, I have considered my position—and I have decided that my position must be to put the situation straight, which is what I am going to do.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

I thank the Home Secretary for phoning me yesterday morning. I do not want to get involved in the politics of this, but serious questions must be asked. As the alarm bells started ringing at the Home Office last summer, why was it that the permanent secretary was unable to give anything like full details to the Public Accounts Committee when we asked him direct questions in October? Why was it that after repeated prodding, no proper note was produced, despite the fact that a note with the information was promised by the time our report was published on 13 March? Why did it take until yesterday for the Home Secretary to write to me with the details? Was that because this afternoon we are interviewing the new permanent secretary about the unprecedented failure of the Department to present any accounts at all to the Comptroller and Auditor General? What is going on in the Department? Is it ungovernable, in meltdown and out of control, or was there an attempt by the then permanent secretary to withhold information from the Public Accounts Committee, which would surely be unthinkable and unprecedented?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I repeat to the hon. Gentleman what I said to his colleague on the Committee: the PAC has conducted itself entirely correctly. I give him an absolute assurance that there was no attempt by the former permanent secretary, who I think will be in front of the Committee this afternoon, to withhold information from the Committee. The Committee's inquiry revealed the inadequacy of our procedures, even to the extent of giving the proper details and information to the Committee that should have been given. As a result of that and the continued pressing by Mr. Bacon on those points, we went back through every aspect, and we came to appreciate that we had given the Committee the wrong information for the period about which it asked. I decided not only that we should give accurate information on that period but that we should give full information for the whole period so that all our information was in the public arena. That is why we made the decision. We acted as speedily as possible, but I certainly cannot hide from Mr. Leigh, after his Committee's careful consideration of those matters, the fact that there was a serious systemic failure in our ability properly to understand what was happening, as the Committee discovered. He deserves credit for that clarification, but I repeat my assurance that, first, we will work with his Committee if necessary to get it right—and we shall certainly do so in any case—and, secondly, that there was no attempt on the part of anyone, including the former permanent secretary, to mislead the Committee with the information that was given.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Llafur, Northampton North

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement on a matter that is of great concern to my constituents, who want reassurance. Having listened to the exchanges, it appears that there is problem with delays in decision-making by IND on those cases. My constituents want to know why it takes a certain length of time to decide to deport someone who has committed a desperately serious crime. What will my right hon. Friend do to speed up decision making so that decisions are made quickly and the processes can be cut down if necessary to prevent delays in deporting serious criminals?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

My hon. Friend has put her finger on the problem. It is important to make those decisions while people are still serving their sentence so that they can be executed before they leave prison. [Interruption.] I do not mean executed literally—the decisions should be executed before those people leave prison. That is precisely the policy that we have now put in place, and we are carrying it out as energetically and effectively as possible. What is required, as my hon. Friend implied, is a significant improvement in our procedures, particularly the relationship between the Prison Service and the IND to ensure that they can both identify and consider those questions far more rapidly. As I said in my statement, we are considering whether sentencing issues and even legal changes could assist us, but my hon. Friend has put her finger on the right point.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

May I tell the Secretary of State that the events of the past 24 hours have been met with huge concern in Scotland, so can he tell me how many of those released foreign nationals are resident there? He will know that criminal justice in the Scottish Prison Service is devolved to the Scottish Executive, so when did he first alert Scottish Ministers and the Scottish prison system to those difficulties?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I do not have information about Scotland to hand but, as I told Mr. Robinson, I will write to the hon. Gentleman with that information as soon as possible.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound PPS (Rt Hon Hazel Blears, Minister of State), Home Office

No one would deny that this is a damnably serious business. I pay tribute to Members such as Mr. Leigh who decided not to lower themselves by playing party politics with the issue. May I tell my right hon. Friend that the episode has taught me two things? First, this is not the time for the Home Secretary to leave his position, as he has to see this through. Secondly, does he not agree that the case for identity cards has now been made?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

As it happens, my hon. Friend will be shocked to hear that I agree with him on his second point. He is quite right, and I am confident that wisdom will spread across the House on those matters. As for his first point, I am extremely grateful for his support. Yes, I believe that I should sort this out, and that is what I am going to do.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Ceidwadwyr, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The right hon. Gentleman referred to systemic failure. Does he accept that that extends to Ministers, and will he confirm that 288 prisoners were released after he and his colleagues became aware of the problem? Will he confirm that 160 were released, notwithstanding an express judicial recommendation that they should be deported? Given all of that, what meaning should we attach to the phrase, "personal responsibility", as applied to Ministers, if it excludes the resignation of those responsible?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I think that I have dealt with every single one of those points, so I will not repeat myself.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Minister (Energy), Trade & Industry

Coming back to the point about the amount of legislation, is that not one of the most galling aspects of the whole business? The Home Secretary has brought to the House criminal law Bill after criminal law Bill, yet he has failed to use his existing powers. Is that not the reason why he has to go, as he has been caught playing gesture politics while failing to be effective in the most basic way possible?

Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Lord Warner, Minister of State), Department of Health

My right hon. Friend may be aware that my office experienced some difficulties last year with the immigration and nationality directorate. After some robust conversations with the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, I am glad that the IND has sorted out many of those problems, and spent a great deal of time with my office to resolve cases that went back several years. That experience demonstrates that there is capacity in the IND to sort out such problems, but there is a problem with communication and capacity across the whole service. Can my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents and me that he and the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality will keep working to make sure that communications are better?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I agree with my hon. Friend. One of my regrets is that this whole business obscures the fact that the IND has made substantial improvements in recent years by, for example, achieving the tipping point. The improvements to which she referred are the result of a deliberate effort to change the relationship between the IND, Members of Parliament and others. I do not wish to hide the failure that has taken place, particularly the failure in communication to which she rightly referred. However, I hope that fair-minded Members will take account of the genuine progress by IND in various ways in recent years.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Ceidwadwyr, Bromley and Chislehurst

How many of those criminals had a previous criminal record, either here or in their own country?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am sorry, but I must give the right hon. Gentleman the same answer that I gave his right hon. Friend David Davis. I will publish all the information when I am in a position to do so.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

The statement referred to the introduction of a new system in 1999. Can the Home Secretary confirm that a major problem with the immigration and nationality directorate for many years—and it is one that still frustrates those of us who have to deal with it on a daily basis on behalf of our constituents—stems from the fact that a considerable backlog of cases was inherited from Mr. Howard and others, which meant that its focus was not always where it should have been.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is right. As a matter of practical politics, I generally do not think that it is very helpful to refer to things that happened more than eight or nine years ago, as people can legitimately say that we have been in government since 1997. However, the one person I would exclude from that is Mr. Howard, as he bore direct responsibility for the shambolic system that we inherited.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships)

The House and the nation are entitled to know how severe the crisis would have to be before the Home Secretary's conscience was pricked and he left his job, if not with credit, then at least without a stain on his character. In how many cases did a judge recommend at the time of sentencing that the offender be deported? What are the legal implications of the Home Secretary and those for whom he is responsible ignoring such recommendations?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

There is a misunderstanding that I must clear up. When sentencing takes place, the judge recommends in such cases that consideration be given to deportation. He does not recommend that the individual be deported, but that consideration be given to deportation. That recommendation should have been looked at. That was not done correctly, but it will be done correctly and carried out properly. There are grounds for considering the difficult question of whether deportation should be used as a direct sanction in court to deal with certain cases. That is what I was referring to when I referred in the statement to the need to take a wider look at some things. That is the situation. On the numbers, I repeat what I said to David Davis: when I am ready to give the figures, I will do so.

Photo of Patrick Hall Patrick Hall Llafur, Bedford

My right hon. Friend will no doubt agree that one of the important issues to consider in this matter is the effect on public confidence. He will know that a constituent of mine has been widely reported as having had a hand in the Rwandan genocide. I do not know whether that is so, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the Home Office needs to play a clear role in getting the matter investigated? It undermines public confidence in my constituency and elsewhere if, as appears now, nothing seems to be done.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is right about public confidence. That is my single biggest concern in the whole matter. That is why I feel it is my duty to try to achieve public confidence. I shall not speak about individual cases, including the one that he mentions, but I agree that bringing people to justice in the right way must be at the core of our approach.

Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Birmingham, Yardley

The Home Secretary's use of the passive voice makes me feel that the Government are in office, but not in power. New legislation is continually introduced, although little action is taken to make existing legislation work properly. Given the right hon. Gentleman's response that the immigration and nationality directorate has improved, is it not his responsibility to ensure that it improves and that the current legislation works, rather than continually introducing new legislation?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I accept that responsibility. Perhaps I should take the opportunity to make it clear that the comments about a case in Stockton, which Sir Menzies Campbell, the leader of the Liberal Democrats made during Prime Minister's questions, were not correct. The individual in that case is in prison, pending a decision whether to deport him. He is detained under immigration laws. The fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the case is reasonable, but he gave wrong information about it, which I take the opportunity to put straight.

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Llafur, Weaver Vale

The matter is extremely serious. Will he reconsider the information that he is prepared to put before the House? I am still dealing with a case in which a British national was deported from Canada in 1992 and killed a constituent of mine in Liverpool in 1994. I should like to know the number of foreign nationals who were released from prison in the UK between 1979 and 1997, to put the whole matter into perspective.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am absolutely ready to do that. I will follow through my hon. Friend's suggestion and I thank him for his remarks. I have tried to prioritise the more recent and more serious cases, for reasons that he will understand. However, the implicit message of his comments—that a system was not in place and records were started only in 1999—is true. It is also true that the scale of the issue is greater now than it used to be, because there are more foreign nationals in prisons than was the case in the past, but the issues of principle remain. I will look at the precise figures, as he requested.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

Does the Home Secretary accept that for democracy to work, there should be respect in this House and for Parliament, and that there should be trust and confidence in Government to do what they are there to do—not least, to guarantee the safety of the people of this country? Does he not feel that that has been undermined by this affair? Can he say what recompense will be available to those who have lost their lives, been raped or have otherwise suffered as a result of the incompetence of the Home Office in dealing with international offenders?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished parliamentarian. Though there are failings in the Home Office, which we have reported and which are set out, it is important to say to him as a distinguished parliamentarian that the way that Parliament operates, with the Public Accounts Committee bringing Government to account for their conduct of affairs, as in the present case, is a credit to our parliamentary and public system. I am acutely aware, perhaps more than anybody in the House, that it is my job to try and ensure that confidence in the system is established in the way that he wants, and that is what I intend to do.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. No rule has been broken, but one of my duties is to try and gauge how long a statement should last. It will be helpful if hon. Members stand after the statement is made and do not wait until a substantial time afterwards. It is unfair.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Llafur, Tooting

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the reasons for the problems is that sentences and recommendations made by judges five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago seem not to be at the forefront of people's mind when it comes to prisoners being released? What will he do to ensure that when prisoners are released in future, judges' recommendations made five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago are on their files and to the fore?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is right to describe the situation in that way. As he knows, the length of sentences has, on average, been increasing over the years because the attitude of courts towards some offences has changed. The issue is the one that he knows about and which I have sought to identify: the relationship between the prison service, IND and the courts, to ensure that all the information is in front of the decision-taker at the right time. That is what we are seeking to achieve, together with colleagues in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I note from the Home Secretary's statement that since August, 288 cases should have been considered, the most serious ones are currently being considered, 53 have been completed and there have been only 14 deportations. Is that due to the fact that the remaining 75 per cent. cannot be found, or are we deporting only 25 per cent. of the most serious cases? If that is so, should not the policy be called the non-deportation and non-removal of foreign nationals?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The hon. Gentleman has not quite got it straight. The 288 cases, of which 83 have been started, 53 completed and 14 resulted in deportation, are not the most serious cases. They are the cases over a particular period, so there is no relationship with seriousness. The people in the 83 cases that I mentioned have all been identified and each case has been considered carefully in its own context. There are different reasons why deportation has not been the judgment. I cannot give details on particular cases, but the decision to deport or not depends on a number of factors, including the length of sentence and other such matters. That is why I am reviewing those aspects to report back to the House and to see whether a higher proportion could more appropriately be deported. With respect, there is confusion in the hon. Gentleman's question. These issues are not the most serious ones. They are the issues in the round.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Defence)

Will the Home Secretary answer the specific question put to him by my hon. Friend Mr. Bacon: has he issued specific instructions to the governors of prisons that no foreign nationals will be released without a check first being carried out as to whether they have been recommended for deportation? If he has not issued such instructions, why has he not done so?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The instruction has been issued that all such assessments should take place before the end of the sentence and release time. The effect is to achieve what the hon. Gentleman set out.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Ceidwadwyr, Shrewsbury and Atcham

I am concerned about some of the foreign nationals who are from European Union countries, because of the lax border controls that we have with EU countries. Can the right hon. Gentleman give me a guarantee that if a foreign EU national commits a crime and is deported, they will never be allowed back into the United Kingdom?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot give that commitment under EU law. What I can tell him, which may interest him, is that there are about 1,000 more prisoners from other EU states in our prisons than there are UK citizens in EU prisons, if I may put it like that. That imbalance is correct. That is why we have argued in the EU, with the support of the current Austrian presidency, for a directive which provides that people should be returned to the EU country from which they come, for reasons of rehabilitation, as much as anything else. They are more likely to be able to stop reoffending in their own community. A number of countries in the EU support the change that we propose, as does the Austrian presidency. Some countries do not, for various reasons, but we are pressing for a directive that would have the effect of ensuring that EU prisoners were imprisoned in their country of origin, rather than in other places. That would have the side benefit of reducing some of the pressure on prison places in this country.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith PPS (Yvette Cooper, Minister of State), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I have constituents in Sheffield who will be worried about the situation. Will my right hon. Friend consider tabling new regulations that will assure my constituents that the measures necessary to tackle the situation are being taken?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am considering doing that to strengthen the system. Unfortunately, it is not only my hon. Friend's constituents who express their concern. I am acutely aware that it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone in the country can have confidence in the robustness of the system.

Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister (Childcare), Treasury

In today's Prime Minister's questions, we learned that the Prime Minister did not know a key fact when the Home Secretary offered to resign yesterday. The key fact is that 288 criminals were released after the Home Secretary became aware of the problem. Given that, how can the Home Secretary stay in post?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The key fact is that between February 1999 and March 2006 1,000 people who should have been considered for deportation were not considered for deportation, and the issue concerns how that happened and how to put it right. That is the question that I have considered; that is the question that the Prime Minister and I discussed yesterday; and that is what I am determined to put right.

Photo of Gordon Banks Gordon Banks Llafur, Ochil and South Perthshire

Today, we have heard from both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister about the increased resources that have been put into the Home Office. Will the Home Secretary tell the House whether he considers those resources to be adequate or whether even more resources will be placed at the disposal of the Home Office?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The resources that we have allocated are adequate for that process at this time. If I reach a different view, I will allocate the appropriate resources, because the matter is such a high priority. It is true that both the immigration and nationality directorate and the Prison Service are always under pressure for resources, because they deal with some of the most difficult people in the country in a variety of different ways, which puts pressure on both staff and the individuals concerned. I do not think that resources were the fundamental point, although there were resources issues. The key issue concerned communication.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Transport)

May I raise the case of Sungaradazzo Mudgyiwa, which I have raised with the Home Office in questions and correspondence? She is a lady from Zimbabwe who was sent to prison for four and a half years for conducting hundreds of thousands of pounds of fraud on the benefit system and the Post Office. Now that the Home Secretary has won his appeal on Zimbabweans being allowed to be deported under certain circumstances, will that multiple fraudster, whose son has just been issued with an antisocial behaviour order for terrorising the neighbourhood, be removed from the council house that she is currently occupying in Whitstable in my constituency, which is one of several that she has fraudulently obtained?

s

why is it the gorvement is making a public comment on all lmmigranta who have done or have made a crime in the uk as if british citezen,s are all well behaved and are tretted with respect ,,we are all humanbeings and we deserve to be tretted the same no matter what.

Cyflwynwyd gan sibanda shyleen

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

As the hon. Gentleman has said, the Court of Appeal judgment on Zimbabwe went the Government's way. The matter has now been returned to the asylum and immigration tribunal for consideration, which will take place as quickly as possible, but I would be surprised if a decision were made in less than a couple of months, given the way in which legal processes work. Once we have clarified the situation, we can return to cases such as the one that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned to see whether deportation is justified. As an aside, I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman supports the proposition that it is reasonable to deport people to Zimbabwe in the current circumstances, because that view is not shared across the whole House.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Ceidwadwyr, St Albans

Were the people who had committed serious sexual offences put on the sex offenders register before they were released, which is vital if we are to be confident that the register will help our local police forces? If they were not put on the register, what other categories of prisoner are also exempt from being put on it?

S

He didn't answer her question: were those individuals actually registered?

Cyflwynwyd gan Simon Sarmiento

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I assure the hon. Lady that precisely the same procedures on the sex offenders register applied to the foreign nationals whom she has described as apply to anybody who commits a sex offence.

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Ceidwadwyr, Croydon South

When the Home Secretary said on "Newsnight" last night that very few foreign nationals had been released since he became aware of the situation, was he aware that 288 had been?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I was. That phrase has been taken up by David Davis, the Leader of the Opposition and such distinguished interrogators as Mr. James Naughtie on the "Today" programme. Perhaps my use of language was infelicitous, but I was thinking of the thousands who were successfully deported over that time and the large number of people whom we are looking at in the round.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

When a judge makes a recommendation to the Home Secretary concerning deportation which is not acted on by the Home Office, does that not place the Home Secretary in contempt of court? Will the Home Secretary reflect on the rather novel doctrine of ministerial responsibility that he has advanced to the House that the bigger the shambles that he is presiding over, the more essential it is that he remains in office?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I do not believe that I am in contempt of court. As Mr. Howard will confirm, Home Secretaries often risk being in contempt of court and many judgments are made about the Home Secretary of the day, but I do not think that I am in contempt of court in this case.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Ceidwadwyr, Rochford and Southend East

Why did the Home Secretary offer to resign?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I have given the reason a number of times. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present earlier.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

In that case, may I courteously suggest through you, Mr. Speaker, that he opens his ears?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Ceidwadwyr, Lancaster and Wyre

Given that it is 24 hours since the Home Secretary personally took charge of the issue, if any more cases come to light or if any overseas offenders are released without being considered for deportation, will he then resign?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

As I have said, I have taken responsibility for the matter not for 24 hours, but for the whole time that I have been Home Secretary. The issue involves getting it right, which is what I intend to do.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Did the Home Secretary offer his resignation to the Prime Minister before the Prime Minister was in possession of the full facts? If that was the case, does he not think it fair for him to repeat his offer to the Prime Minister?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I have dealt with that matter as fully as I intend to.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Ceidwadwyr, Sir Fynwy

Will the Home Secretary tell us how many times in total he has offered his resignation to the Prime Minister? Is it once? Is it twice? And will it be a case of third time lucky for the public?