In the past few years, the world and the challenges to which the Government and the Home Office have had to respond have changed dramatically. This morning, we have refocused the Home Office towards the realities of today’s world and the priorities of today’s people. Managing migration and immigration, fighting crime and countering terrorism are now of the highest concern to people in this country.
Since the end of the cold war, we have faced a torrent of new challenges: in particular, mass migration, international crime and international terrorism. It is my responsibility as Home Secretary to ensure a response to those challenges that measures up to their extent, scale and character. That is why I have pursued challenging reform programmes across almost all aspects of the Home Office.
The House will be aware of measures introduced to improve the National Offender Management Service, to acquire 8,000 more prison places, to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the victim, to roll out neighbourhood and community policing, to develop the Respect agenda and to tackle antisocial behaviour. In addition, I have introduced measures to ensure the fair and more effective management of immigration, and the movement of the immigration and nationality directorate towards agency status. All those reforms will continue.
In addition, however, in the wake of last August’s alleged terrorist plot, the Prime Minister asked me to conduct a review of counter-terrorism, involving the appropriate Ministers and Departments, as well as the police and security agencies. Arising out of that review, the Prime Minister has today decided to make changes to the machinery of government. The House will be aware of his written statement laid earlier today. The changes outlined there are aimed at producing a step change in our approach to managing the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and to winning the central battle, which is the struggle for values and ideas.
Among other changes—which I will not outline in detail, as they have already been outlined in the written ministerial statement—we will create a more coherent ministerial committee system for oversight, establish strategic capacity for the longer term, integrate better our joint effort, and establish the capacity to engage in the struggle for ideas and values. We will do that partly by establishing a new unit, the office for security and counter-terrorism, in my Department.
I should make it plain that no portfolios—no responsibilities—will be taken from existing Departments. There will be no change in the lead Department responsibility for any of the agencies. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will of course continue to lead on all aspects of foreign affairs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government similarly will retain her responsibilities in the prevent strand of the CONTEST framework and community engagement. Obviously, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will lead on matters relating to the armed forces and wider defence operations.
However, the changes outlined today will add capacity to that which is already engaged in the formulation and carrying through of our security and counter-terrorism policy. It will develop a more strategic, inclusive, integrated and capable response to the current threat. Along with the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour, the Home Office will be refocused towards the challenges of today’s world and will focus on the priorities of today’s people.
As a result of those refocused and extended capabilities, and the extended attention of ministerial oversight of those exponentially growing challenges, the Home Office, as is appropriate, should shed some responsibilities. Those will be merged with the Department for Constitutional Affairs in a coherent way to form a balanced reformulation of the machinery of government by creating a ministry of justice. The Lord Chancellor will be giving more details of that in another place.
As I said, we are refocusing the Home Office, not for the first time in its history, towards the realities of today’s world and the priorities of today’s people. I commend those changes to the House.
Let me start by thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for granting this urgent question. It should not have been necessary. The breaking up of one of the great Departments of State, with massive implications for crime, immigration, justice and terrorism, should have been brought before the House for proper debate, not disgracefully smuggled out in a written statement on the last Thursday before the Easter recess.
Let me turn to the substance of the Government’s plan. On counter-terrorism—the thing on which the Home Secretary majored—some of the measures with respect to co-ordinating anti-terrorism are sensible and overdue. However, he has failed to secure a new Cabinet post for national security and will not be given control of the overall secret intelligence budget. Therefore, he will not be able to drive the counter-terrorism effort every hour of the day in the way that it clearly needs a Cabinet Minister to do.
As for the split of the Home Office, the logic presumably is that the job is too difficult for this Home Secretary to do. It has been well run in the past by Home Secretaries of all parties when it was much bigger and faced equally sizeable responsibilities. Indeed, it still had responsibility for licensing, gambling, broadcasting, fire, civil defence, human rights, equal opportunities and charities. Breaking it up will solve none of the Home Office’s problems; it may well just create a whole new raft of problems.
After all, the Home Secretary got his job as a direct result of the scandal of foreign prisoners being released on to our streets because of poor communication between the prisons department and the immigration department. How will that poor communication be improved by splitting the prisons and immigration departments into separate Departments of State?
At the moment, this country faces the threat of terrorism—the Home Secretary made that point—a criminal justice system that is in disarray, prisons that are overflowing and immigration that is out of control. Now he proposes to distract the senior staff of the Home Office by a massive reorganisation. Where are the resources going to come from to carry that out? Out of the frozen Home Office budget, at the expense of criminal justice, policing and immigration control? How much will it cost and where will it come from?
As for the new department of justice—an extremely important Department according to the Home Secretary’s new definition—it already has massive problems, second only to those of the Home Office. Are we to have a Cabinet-rank Minister for this Department in this House, or is the House of Commons only to have second best in terms of criminal justice policy and critical issues of criminal justice?
This proposal has been described as “batty” by one of the Home Secretary’s predecessors and as “balkanisation” by the one before that, and was dismissed by this Home Secretary only last year in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. Because of the way in which it has been carried out, this ill-thought-through exercise to create a department of justice and a department of security will actually leave public security undermined and a justice system overwhelmed.
Normally I would begin by welcoming the right hon. Gentleman’s positive contribution. I think I can save time today by missing that out.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I was intending in any event to invite him, and will still invite him—along with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), his Liberal Democrat opposite number—to go through the details of the proposal with me. I believe that he is making a dreadfully wrong strategic judgment, for reasons to which I will return, as indeed he is on identity management. I believe that he is on the side of the past rather than on that of the future. I believe that his mistake is strategic, and I am happy to discuss it with him, because I believe that wherever possible national security should be a matter of national consensus. However, I will deal with his points about process in some detail, because they are legitimate.
It was not and has never been the normal practice of Administrations to make oral statements on the machinery of government. It certainly was not the practice of the last Conservative Government. Indeed, proposals were often announced by way of press release from Downing street. Examples of major changes that were not announced by means of oral statements include the formation of the Employment Service in 1987, the splitting of the Department of Health and Social Security into the Department of Health and the Department of Social Security in 1988, the formation of the Central Statistical Office in 1989—during a recess, incidentally—the formation of the Department of Energy in 1992—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman asked about process; I am answering his question.
Further examples are the formation of the Department of National Heritage in 1992 and, in 1995, the merging of the Departments of Employment and Education to become the Department for Education and Skills. And then there is the daddy of them all. In 1995, the Financial Times reported
“The decision to scrap the Department of Employment came as a shock to its ministers and officials, none of whom were consulted.”
So I do not think that we need take lessons in process from the right hon. Gentleman.
The illogicalities and non sequiturs in the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution leap out at me. On the one hand he speaks of a great office of state abandoning its responsibilities; on the other, he refers to all the responsibilities that have been abandoned over the years precisely to enable the Home Office to refocus on today’s challenges: constitutional affairs, the fire service, royal matters, rape, faith and cohesion, communities, and the voluntary and charitable sector—and that is only since 2001. There were many before that. Indeed, originally there were only two Departments apart from the Exchequer, those responsible for foreign affairs and for home affairs. While I stand in admiration of Conservatives who wish to retain the status quo however the world has changed, it is not very useful to refuse to change one’s opinions and institutions even though the world has changed.
Let me now deal with co-ordination. This is of course a matter of judgment, but there was another great non sequitur in the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution. He cited foreign-national prisoners as an example of the way in which co-ordination is improved by matters being dealt with by the same Department. It was, in fact, a classic example of why that does not, of itself, ensure co-ordination.
The one thing that does ensure good co-ordination is the National Criminal Justice Board, which runs like a weld under elements of the present Home Office and elements of the present Department for Constitutional Affairs. It will remain. It is chaired jointly by the Lord Chancellor and myself, and that will continue. It involves the police, the judges, the agencies and the probation and other services, as well as Ministers. That will continue as well. The co-ordinating elements are there. Of course it is a matter of judgment, but it is not self-evident that being in the same department helps or ensures co ordination.
Will the ministry of justice always remain the responsibility of the House of Lords? I do not think so. During the transitional period up to 8 May, and perhaps for some time beyond it, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who presides over the Department of Constitutional Affairs, will be the best repository and the best person to develop the ministry. But it is perfectly possible, and perhaps perfectly appropriate, that after the transitional period, we could move responsibility for a ministry of justice to the House of Commons, allowing it to hold the Minister accountable.
Finally, on a homeland security Minister, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden does not seem to realise that we already have a counter-terrorism Minister, the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). He already exists. The sum total—[Interruption.] I wish that hon. Members who are interested in national security would listen to their policy to counter today’s threats; it is to take the same Minister who, at present, is in the chain of command from the Prime Minister through the Secretary of State to the terrorism Minister and to put him into the Cabinet. It will not add one iota of capacity to the fight against terrorism. It will do nothing to integrate or to give strategic capacity. It will build nothing in terms of numbers or character. It will do nothing at all to meet the seamless challenge with a seamless response.
All the proposal would do is to make two Cabinet Ministers responsible for the same subject to the same Cabinet and the same Prime Minister. In other words, it would create the elementary fault that anyone who knows anything about security would avoid; total confusion of command, control and communication. That is what the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden is offering us. No wonder that after four weeks of not having a shadow homeland security Minister, he still has not appointed one.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that this irresponsible decision further delays the reforms that are critically necessary throughout the criminal justice system? Does he further accept that, particularly in relation to prisons, probation and the National Offender Management Service, where reform is desperately needed, the shift in responsibility will delay the changes that need to take place? Finally, does he accept that the coherence and co-ordination of the criminal justice system that is so important to its success will be damaged seriously by these proposals?
I disagree with my right hon. Friend on every point. I respect his judgments. I do not think they have always been right in the past—[Interruption.] But I have no doubt that I will make mistakes as well. There are differences in judgment on that and we just have to differ.
If the manner in which the announcement has been made is any guide to the manner in which it will be implemented, we are headed for further organisational chaos at the heart of government. On 21 June last year, the Prime Minister told my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that he saw no case whatever for the creation of a ministry of justice. A few weeks or months later, we were told through leaks to the press that, after all, that is on the agenda. Last night, we were told that the Home Secretary would make an announcement to this House. We were told a few hours later that it might be the Prime Minister, and then that there would be a written statement. We now see the Home Secretary on his feet, but only in response to an urgent question from the Opposition. This is a shoddy, shambolic and cynical way of treating this House and the British public on an issue of such grave importance.
How would the Home Secretary feel if he were a civil servant in the Home Office—vilified month in, month out by his political masters—and he learned about such an uncertain future through such contradictory leaks and counter-leaks in the press?
When the Home Secretary responded to my suggestion that there should be a public inquiry into the events surrounding the 7 July bombings, he claimed that my request was out of order, inappropriate and not possible because of the demands that it would make on official resources. How can he maintain that view when this change alone will consume far more official resources—certainly if it is to be implemented at the breakneck speed that he proposes—than a public inquiry?
Can the Home Secretary explain what role will be left for the Cabinet Office? The Cabinet Office plays a crucial role in co-ordinating information concerning our anti-terror strategy. The British public rightly expect the Prime Minister, not an aggrandised Home Secretary, to take the lead in setting our anti-terror strategy. Can he explain why the Cabinet Office appears at least to have been marginalised in the approach that he has set out this morning?
Can the Home Secretary explain how we can have any other interpretation but a political one of the timetable for changes, which will fall neatly on 9 May, the date on which, we are all led to believe, there will be a transition of power from one Prime Minister to the next? Does not he accept that, as long as that timetable is considered to be politically determined—
I notice that the hon. Gentleman managed to avoid saying that this is something for which he has been asking for some considerable time. I heard him this morning make an extraordinary statement, saying, “It is the right thing to do, but we do not like his reasons for doing it. This is the way to fight terrorism, but it is all to do with personal ambition.” I will leave the psychoanalyst role to him.
Let me give the hon. Gentleman a few facts. I do not think that he could have been more profoundly wrong on every single particular that he mentioned. First, on the civil servants, his constant running down of certain aspects—I do not mind acknowledging faults—and his refusal to accord any credit where improvements are made, is what depresses people. For several months, civil servants have been involved in discussing the matter, from the permanent secretary down.
Secondly, during that time, there have not been any leaks from the Home Office. There has been one newspaper article, which I wrote and briefed around. There have been 10 other leaks. None has come from the Home Office and all have criticised and misrepresented the plans. Thirdly, unfortunately, it is those misrepresentations on which he has based his analysis. Not for the first time, an hon. Gentleman has spent a lot of time decrying those who apparently chase headlines, and spent the rest of his time chasing the headlines, making the headlines or basing his story on the headlines. The Prime Minister will still oversee the strategic national security elements. He will chair the new integrated committee. The Cabinet Office will service that committee. He will still have a national security adviser. It will not be the Home Secretary who chairs that.
It is simple facts such as those that are the first step towards a rational discussion. If the hon. Gentleman wants to learn the facts, I will invite him in, but I ask him please not to base his arguments on spurious and misrepresentative reports in the press.
Finally, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a good idea to have a ministry of justice, by definition, that would leave the Home Office refocused on those elements that are not part of the ministry of justice. That is precisely the position that I have arrived at. I know he finds it difficult, but there is an old rule: do not ask for something unless you consider the fact that you might get it. He has just got it. He might welcome it.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said about co-ordination of terrorism policy. Does he accept that today’s decision leaves criminal justice spread across two Government Departments? I hope that he will come to the Select Committee at an early opportunity to discuss how that will work in practice, but for today can he tell the House which Department—the Home Office or the ministry of justice—will take responsibility for introducing criminal justice Acts? Which Department will take responsibility for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984? How will we ensure that organisations such as the police know who it is they have to deal with and do not have to run around Whitehall trying to find the right civil servant to lobby?
I agree entirely with the points made by my right hon. Friend. It is important that we co-ordinate. I have said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), the former Secretary of State, that we have different judgments on the matter. I do not regard all my judgments to be right, or all his to be wrong. It is perfectly possible for those of us who have the responsibility of government—[Interruption.] Of course, if one does not have the responsibility of government, it is possible always to be right because all one has to do is criticise everyone else. For those of us who are interested in actually governing the country, it is possible for two men of equal weight and sincerity to make different judgments on a set of facts. Those are important judgments.
I do bear the burden of the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) is making, which is that there has to be an understanding that the Home Office will be responsible not just for counter-terrorism and security. There will also be the responsibility for antisocial behaviour. We intend that neighbourhood policing and the British style of policing will stay the British style of policing. Immigration will also be a responsibility. Those responsiblities will be co-ordinated throughout that Department. In response to his second point, the National Criminal Justice Board will also act on co-ordination across the criminal justice system.
In answer to my right hon. Friend’s third point, of course I will come and explain these matters to his Select Committee at the earliest date. He asked about who will bring forward legislation in relation to the operations of the executive agencies inside the Home Office, the answer to that is the Home Office.
I have now answered all my right hon. Friend’s points. All the legislation relating to the executive functions of those agencies, including the police, that operate inside the Home Office will be brought forward by the Home Office. The Bill teams will act out of the Home Office.
We know that we will still have all the problems there, but we are not confident from what the Home Secretary has said that we will have the proper solutions. Does not he remember how, on one busy afternoon, the Prime Minister created the Department for Constitutional Affairs on the back of an envelope and sought to get rid of the Lord Chancellor? He then found that what he was proposing was entirely unworkable and unrealistic. What confidence can we now have that the new ministry of justice, created without proper consultation with Parliament, is going to be up to the job? Why on earth did not the Prime Minister have the respect for Parliament to come here today and explain in detail what he has in mind?
On the process point, I have already explained the matter. In fact, at the risk of boring the hon. Gentleman, there were 10 occasions on which the previous Administration did not even deign to come to Parliament with an oral statement. On some occasions they did not even issue a written ministerial statement. They changed the machinery of government by a press release from Downing street.
The Prime Minister made a written ministerial statement this morning. I have come here in response to the urgent question. I am more than happy to go through all the elements with hon. Members in a search for consensus. Of course with any of these things there are judgments to be made. Of course there is controversy, but the idea that, by preserving the present structure, we have some benign recipe for perfect co-ordination and operations within the Home Office does not strike me as self-evidently true on the basis of history. It may have been true, but as I have said, each of the units of the Home Office already has a plan for reform. I have introduced three of them, and several were introduced by my predecessor. They are being worked through, including the National Offender Management System. All those elements will continue. This reconfiguration is not a substitute for improving the quality of each of the constituent elements. It will not involve the expense that the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), expects. It will be accomplished within the existing budgets of the Home Office and the DCA. The change will not require the expenditure of time, energy or resources that is anticipated. If hon. Gentlemen will give us time to go through that, I am more than open to discussing that continually with them.
Splitting the Home Office may make sense, but as a former police Minister I am worried about the message to the police of some of the detail in my right hon. Friend's reply today. Will not the changes appear to downgrade the Government's successful focus on cutting crime and disorder and antisocial behaviour, on police community support work and on crime reduction partnerships? Having a department of homeland security may make sense, but it appears to downgrade the emphasis on local policing. Can he reassure us on that?
On the first point, let me offer a correction: it will not be a Department for homeland security. That, by definition, would fragment our counter-terrorist and security effort because of the misapprehension that we can neatly segregate the current threat into foreign affairs, defence affairs and domestic affairs. One of the reasons why we need not only a longer term strategic response but a better integrated one is that the threat is now seamless. It is a seamless threat that runs through foreign and defence affairs and affairs at home. That is another reason why the Opposition’s recommendation does nothing to address the current threat.
I can give an assurance that neighbourhood policing—the British style of policing, which has been rolled out through the country—will not only remain in the Home Office but will be a very high priority, as will antisocial behaviour. While some elements of legislation—such as police and criminal evidence legislation—will remain with the Home Office, other elements, such as criminal justice Bills, will pass to the ministry for justice. Therefore there will be a partnership approach.
I worked in the Home Office for three years, and I say to the Secretary of State that there was nothing inherently dysfunctional about it at that time, and that splitting Departments will not address the problems that exist, which are essentially ones of leadership.
Let me also say that having Ministers with responsibility for justice in the other place rather than in this House is profoundly unacceptable. It is not right that the two Ministers of justice—the Attorney-General and the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs—will be in the other place. That must be rectified.
As a former shadow Home Secretary—I was also shadow almost everything else without achieving the substance, as the current shadow Home Secretary will find out over long years of opposition—may I make the point to my right hon. Friend that the effectiveness of the machinery of Government depends on whether it works? It has been found in the past—for example, when the Conservative Government took broadcasting away from the Home Office—that the machinery of Government must work. Also, as a former Conservative Home Secretary found, prisons policy can be a mess if it is not properly administered. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that the key issue is not the boundaries of Government, but whether the structure works?
I agree 100 per cent. One of the reasons why I have come to the conclusion that I have is that it seems to me that although we can improve the constituent elements of work within the Home Office, because of the magnitude of the challenge of three or four elements, the work on them cannot be carried out properly unless we concentrate and refocus on them and shift the other elements to a different dimension or Department. This change is being made because of practical reasons to do with responding to the current challenges of mass immigration, international crime and counter-terrorism, as well as to the policing and antisocial behaviour problems that we have. I say that with sincerity as both the current Secretary of State at the Home Office and in the past as Secretary of State for almost everything else.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) asked the Home Secretary what the cost of the restructuring was, and the Home Secretary failed to answer. He must know the figure. Will he share it with the House?
No, what I was asked about was the additional cost of this change. I said that that cost will be met from within the existing budgets of the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. That is possible because the magnitude of the change is hugely exaggerated. All that is happening is that the National Offender Management Service element and criminal justice system element of the Home Office will now be the responsibility of another Minister.
Is not the truth of the matter that the Home Office has caused endless embarrassment to successive Governments—I can recall Henry Brooke’s career being destroyed when he was Home Secretary in the 1960s—and that the Department is currently far too large to be properly organised and maintained either by the permanent secretary or, even more importantly, by the Home Secretary of the moment? Therefore the reforms and changes are welcome.
I am glad that the reforms are welcomed by my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to the permanent secretary and all the staff who have been working on this proposal and on the improvement and reform plans of each of the constituent elements. I am the last person in the world to deny that we have had the odd problem in the Home Office; I have probably been more open in acknowledging problems to do with my own Department than any other Cabinet Minister. However, I assure Members that that is not the driving force behind these changes. The driving force behind them is the magnitude of the challenges of mass migration, international crime and countering international terrorism. That is why this has been done. It has been done not to avoid embarrassment, nor as a job creation scheme for a Cabinet Minister, nor for elongating anyone’s career. It has been done in the national interest, not in any departmental or person interest.
What discussions has the Secretary of State had with Scottish Ministers and relevant agencies and bodies in Scotland about how their key functions will fit in with this new structure? Can he assure me that crucial work in Scotland on immigration, counter-terrorism and international crime will not be compromised by what is proposed?
Most of the material and the structures and functions that will be affected are reserved areas. Obviously, the Scots have control over their policing and legal system through the Scottish Executive, but the other areas—counter-terrorism, mass migration, immigration—are dealt with on a reserved basis. We will consult, of course; I will consult Cathy Jamieson on this, as I do on other issues, to make sure that our response in all the areas involved is as seamless and integrated as possible, given the autonomy in many areas of the Scottish Executive.
In the 200th anniversary year of the abolition of slavery, will the Home Secretary confirm that the restructuring of the Home Office will allow for there to be centrally prepared data on, for example, the number of children trafficked into the United Kingdom? Also, what will happen to the children who are not granted asylum, and what will happen to children who disappear while in the care of a local authority?
Before I answer those questions, let me say in response to the previous one that I would have thought that prostitution as a policy area will come under the ministry of justice, although the policing of any such matters will of course come under the Home Office.
The co-ordination and partnership that will apply to any areas, including the compilation of statistics, will not change in functional terms from what is the current position. Statistics will be compiled by the Home Office or the ministry of justice as appropriate, and the relationship or partnership with local government will continue. Obligations that we have signed up to—such as the European convention on human trafficking—will be carried forward by the Government.
It is regrettable that there will be no detailed parliamentary scrutiny of the changes to the machinery of Government. Those changes have, according to my friend, gone off at half-cock, and that was the case when the Conservative Government were in power as well as under this Government. We have had four transport Departments since 1997, and we had a Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry which lasted five minutes.
May I take my friend back to the central issue of costs? The Cabinet Secretary told me three or four weeks ago in an evidence session to the Public Administration Committee that the costs of the change would be met from within the departmental budget. My question is simple: can we have the figures here and now?
I have already made it absolutely plain that the costs will be borne from inside the budget, alongside other ongoing efficiency savings. The cost will be small. There is no need to build new buildings, and no need for a massive reallocation, for a massive restructuring of departmental organisations, or for consultancy fees. This is a merger of an existing, coherent unit—NOMS and the criminal justice section—with the Department for Constitutional Affairs, so the costs are in no way prohibitive and will be met inside our budgets as a normal, routine managerial expense.
The Home Secretary will recognise the importance of effective border controls. Will today’s changes enable his Department to close the Brussels-Lille loophole whereby, if a Eurostar passenger at Brussels buys a ticket only for Lille, they are not subject to juxtaposed and other controls and merely stay on the train at Lille, arriving at Waterloo without any documents?
I am not going to respond here to the question of the detailed travel arrangements of this hypothetical passenger, but I will look into this issue and write to the hon. Gentleman. He will know that this week, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), proposed yet another step change in our immigration and enforcement policy. Through exporting our borders, by the end of next year the people of more than 100 countries will require visas to come here; and the introduction of biometrics, fingerprint and identity management will enable us to track people in and out of the country. I ask Opposition Members to reconsider their opposition to identity management. Without it, we will never be able to counter fraud and terrorism or to track immigration. The hon. Gentleman is on the wrong side of this argument.
I welcome the long overdue proposal to create a new ministry of justice, and I commend the Home Secretary on dealing with what must have been very difficult negotiations. However, what are the implications for the role of the Attorney-General, who is the third part of the criminal justice system? It is important that a statement be made to the House about this matter—especially as the Select Committee is looking at the Attorney-General’s role—and that a Minister from that department also be on the Front Bench. Could we please have an urgent debate on this issue?
The short answer to my right hon. Friend’s question is that there is no significant change to the Attorney-General’s role that I am aware of. The trilateral arrangements will still pertain, and the Attorney-General will certainly still be on the National Criminal Justice Board, on which we all sit in an attempt to co-ordinate matters across the criminal justice system. So I think that there is no significant change.
What the hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise is that a massive efficiency, improvement and reform plan is under way in almost every area. For instance, a staff reduction of 1,600 in NOMS alone is envisaged over the coming period, so compared with the reductions, improvements and efficiency measures taking place, the cost of this change is, as I said, very small. There will be no cuts, but a reallocation and a refocus toward immigration, international crime and international terrorism. The British people’s three priorities, according to every single opinion poll of the last three years, are fair and effective control of immigration, countering crime and countering terrorism. These are responses not only to changes in the world, but to what people in our communities want us to focus on.
The Home Secretary said today that the Prime Minister decided only today on the change, yet BBC television reported it last night, saying that there would be a statement today. Why are the Government briefing the BBC before Members of this House?
The hon. Gentleman is talking about leaks and reports. The Financial Times reported it 10 weeks ago; it was a misreport and misrepresentation. The Evening Standard reported that one of my Cabinet colleagues was opposed to this; it was not true. There have been constant leaks, as happens in government; that does not mean that we are doing these things. This issue has been discussed for a considerable time across government, and the civil servants and officials working on it have done so with huge discretion and integrity. It is in some ways amazing that the accurate details did not come out until two or three hours ago, when the written ministerial statement was issued; other details have been placed in the Library of the House. I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that all the reports of the past 10 weeks have not been at all authoritative; indeed, for the most part, they have been misleading and wrong.
My constituents want to know that, as a result of this reorganisation, the roll-out of the safer community teams in Kettering and the surrounding area will not be affected. They would also like to know the answer to this question: when does the Home Secretary expect to update the House on progress?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman’s constituents that visible, accessible and responsive neighbourhood policing, which is obviously one of their priorities, is one of our high priorities, too. If he asks them, he will find that managing fair and effective immigration, reducing crime, and countering fraud, international crime and terrorism are their three highest priorities, as they are for the rest of the British people. That is what the evidence constantly tells us, and they are precisely the areas on which we have refocused this great Department of state.