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Departmental Co-ordination

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

2. What steps he plans to take to improve co-ordination between the different sections and services of his Department. (127790)

Since we published three reform plans in July last year, I have taken several steps to ensure that joined-up services throughout the Department are improved. They include end-to-end processes for offender management, against which the Opposition voted, end-to-end improvement of the surveillance of asylum applications and, from next month, the establishment of the national policing improvement agency. The Department’s reform programmes are also making several changes to structures, processes and ways of working that will improve co-ordination further.

Given that the Home Secretary’s predecessor essentially lost his job because of failures in co-ordination between the immigration and nationality directorate and the Prison Service—even now, I have heard of a case of a foreign prisoner who was released rather than deported because of co-ordination failures—does he believe that progress has been satisfactory and that it would be better served by having the two services in two separate Departments?

The non sequitur in the question is that the failings to which the hon. Gentleman referred are a perfect illustration of why being in one Department is no guarantee of good co-ordination. The function of co-ordinating and improving co-ordination is essential, whether it is within a Department or between Departments.

The hon. Gentleman knows that we are improving the National Offender Management Service. We brought proposals for that before the House. We are improving policing by rolling out neighbourhood policing. We are also improving the immigration and nationality directorate—we publish plans and key indicators for that. We are reviewing counter-terrorism, among many other matters, as well as the Home Office plan. We are making progress on all those matters and we will report publicly on them. However, whatever configuration is used for those units, co-ordination in a Department and between Departments is essential.

On 22 June 2004, I raised in an Adjournment debate the case of my constituent James Bishop, who was killed by a Chinese national, Mr. Yin. Due to lack of co-ordination at IND, he was removed before being prosecuted fully for the offence. I appreciate that the Home Secretary will not have the answer today, but will he write to me to confirm that the promises made during that debate have been fulfilled and that the co-ordination of such cases has been improved?

Under the Government, the immigration and nationality directorate has presided over a substantial increase in net migration of up 185,000 in 2005—the last year for which we have figures. Is any other part of the Home Office co-ordinating that figure with the demands of migration on housing infrastructure and the implications for population density, or does it remain the case that the Government see “no obvious upper limit” to migration, to use the words of the Home Secretary’s predecessor?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, which is precisely the reason for the need to reconfigure and improve our services in the Home Office. Three of the main issues, among many others with which we deal—international migration, international crime and international terrorism—have grown exponentially in the past decade and a half. We therefore need to undertake improvements and consider reconfiguration to concentrate on managing migration, countering international terrorism and coping with international crime. As part of that, we proposed a migration advisory commission, which would examine independently—and offer independent advice on—a range of issues related to the optimum amount of immigration. That would mean consideration of wider issues than purely and narrowly defined economic matters.

Why does the Home Secretary believe that turning one dysfunctional Department into two dysfunctional Departments will improve matters for the public as opposed to separating the Home Secretary from responsibility for the shameful state of our overcrowded prisons and the early release of dangerous offenders?

I do not think that the Home Office has been dysfunctional in all its aspects. For instance, in the hon. and learned Gentleman’s constituency, there are something like 257 more police officers than there were under the previous Conservative Government, as well as 155 police community support officers. If he looks at the crime statistics for Harborough, he will see that there has been a 5 per cent. fall in burglary and a 25 per cent. fall in the theft of motor vehicles. In terms of reducing crime and putting more police on the streets, the Home Office has been a damned sight more functional than ever it was under the Conservatives. Having said that, we are facing mass migration on a scale hitherto unprecedented globally, international terrorism at a level that was not even contemplated a decade ago, and the international crime associated with both, and it is therefore right that we should consider the reconfiguration of our efforts to deal with them. When the facts change, we change our views and our structures. That is what sensible people do.

I can assure the Home Secretary that there are not 247 police officers in the Harborough constituency—far from it. Does he not think that the public have a right to expect from Home Office Ministers some strategic political leadership and managerial competence on prisons, violent crime, drug crime, early release from custody of serious criminals, immigration and asylum, border controls, and getting rather more than one in 58 police officers on to the beat? Instead, over the past 10 years, we have had to put up with a flood of repealed or incompetent legislation, and incompetent, disjointed, headline-grabbing schemes that have had no substance or that have been cancelled or replaced within weeks. Instead of spending time in bars co-ordinating their diaries with lobbyists, should not Ministers be spending their time working for the public and dealing with the mess that they have made—

The hon. and learned Gentleman, who is infamous for stooping low, never surprises us by his capacity to go even lower. Is he complaining that we have a record number of police on our streets, or that we have seen a 35 per cent. reduction in the crime rate? Is he complaining that we have campaigned ceaselessly on a whole range of antisocial behaviours, or that we have put more resources than ever into fighting crime? Or will he admit that, on every single occasion, he and his colleagues have voted against the money, the resources and the energies involved? We do not need to take lectures from a party whose Government doubled crime, when we have cut it by a third.