The Home Office puts public protection at the heart of its work to counter terrorism, cut crime, provide effective policing, secure our borders and protect personal identity.
Will the Home Secretary assure my constituent, Gary McKinnon, who has attracted considerable public interest, that he is carefully considering the compelling new medical evidence on the impact of the extradition proceedings on my constituent’s Asperger’s syndrome? Will he in any event defer the execution of the extradition order until after the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on 10 November?
I have invited the hon. Gentleman to come and see me about this, because Gary McKinnon is his constituent. As he knows, we have stopped the clock ticking in regard to the representation to the European Court because new medical evidence has been provided. It is important that I stress that there are two issues on which Gary McKinnon’s legal advisers have argued. The first is that the Director of Public Prosecutions should have tried him in this country rather than in America. The High Court dismissed that in July and would not allow the matter to go to a judicial review. In the words of the most senior judge in the country, it would be
“manifestly unsatisfactory in the extreme”
for him to be tried anywhere other than in the United Kingdom. That is finished.
On the second issue, in respect of Mr. McKinnon’s human rights, of course I have to ensure that his article 3 human rights are being respected, and it is the new medical evidence that I will be looking at very carefully. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and his constituent that I will look at it very carefully before making my decision.
I believe that the legislation introduced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport some years ago on the back of a Labour private Member’s Bill has had an extraordinary effect. In fact, the personal experience of my constituents—and, indeed, my own personal experience—suggests that the problems that used to be associated with fireworks weeks and sometimes months before firework day have gone down to a very small number. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that antisocial behaviour legislation can be used in this respect, however. The powers are there to be used, and all my experience tells me that they are being used very effectively.
The reality is that the numbers fluctuate, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, which is that this is a very serious issue. That is why we are working with the industry, the trade unions and the police to do everything we can to tackle the problem of cash-in and vehicle crime. We are working to design out crime to make it more difficult for people to break into the vans and to ensure that banks are better equipped to deal with any incidents. We are working hard to resolve traffic problems, particularly around parking—leaving the vans parked away from the places they are delivering to. We are also working with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to make sure that the sentencing fits the crime.
It is a very difficult balance. We have consulted the House and are grateful for the help of the Home Affairs Select Committee. We have criteria for the order in which we should deal with cases. I would ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind the fact that until 2007 just under a fifth of claims were duplicate claims from across the EU, and there is significant duplication, as the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) said, in the 40,000 cases across migration and asylum. I have an open mind on the criteria, however.
First, I do not accept the premise that an ASBO is a badge of honour. This phrase came from a Youth Justice Board study into a tiny number—124—of cases and has never been supported by any other evidence. If the hon. Gentleman spoke to the police, who are the people who know about this, they would point out that if young people wanted ASBOs as a badge of honour, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to avoid them?
My hon. Friend mentions a “Ministry of Legal Affairs”, which sounds like something from “The Thick of It”. If he is talking about the Ministry of Justice, I can tell him that we work very closely with it. Unpaid fines are, of course, a matter for that Department and I know it is working very hard to ensure that they are paid. Indeed, it can point to statistics showing an incredible improvement over the last 10 years.
The administrative burden is not confined to drug crimes; it should be reduced to the absolute minimum for the police in all respects. We have had some incredible success on that in removing bureaucracy from the police’s shoulders. I recently made a speech saying that there is much further to go, which is why we asked Jan Berry, the former head of the Police Federation, to look at this for us and present a completely independent report to tell us where she thinks, from her vast personal knowledge and experience, we could do more to help. Her report is due very shortly.
I have not issued any guidance on the definition of that phrase. The police know what they are doing and how to tackle such demonstrations, and they do so very effectively. A combination of the right legislation introduced by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), the police treating the matter as an absolute priority and other measures have led to far fewer problems as a result of animal rights extremism. That is one form of domestic extremism, and if the police want to use such a term, I would not fall to the floor clutching my box of Kleenex. It sounds like a sensible way to describe such forms of extremism.
If the hon. Gentleman cares to contact me, I will consider that matter. I have not heard of the report he mentions, but we want to ensure that justice is done by Yvonne Fletcher. That has been our priority from the start, and that is why it was a major part of our discussions with Libya a few years ago.
Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) about the alphabet soup of agencies that appears to have decided to put everyone in the country who protests about anything on a list of suspects, does the Home Secretary agree that that is an example of mission creep? It has gone beyond the original intention of dealing with violent animal rights extremists, and everyone else in the country who protests is now being treated in that way.
I do not accept that, and I do not know why Liberal Democrat Members jump to that conclusion. The police are doing their job effectively. There was an issue around the G7 protest or the G20 protest—one of the protests—earlier this year that led the police to look again at some of their procedures. The result of those deliberations will be in the White Paper on policing, which will be published shortly.
My right hon. Friend has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to introduce a scheme to assist British citizens who are victims of terror abroad. May I ask him when the Government are likely to introduce a scheme and make some announcement? The victims of Bali, Mumbai and Sharm el-Sheikh and their families have waited far too long to get compensation for the brutal attacks, deaths and injuries that they have had to put up with over the past decade or so.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his work in this connection. As he will know, the Prime Minister and the Government are keen to introduce a scheme whereby those British people injured in terrorist attacks abroad have the same rights to compensation as they would have if they were injured in this country. Having said that, a number of problems need to be got round, and I hope that the committee that I chair will come to a conclusion on that soon.
The Office for National Statistics has said that the population of this country will increase by 10 million in the next 25 years. Are the Government happy that immigration will be on that level, or do they agree that they should do everything they can to ensure that it does not reach such a level?
The Office for National Statistics did not say that; it made it clear that it was not a forecast but a projection based on previous years. In the same release, it accepted that the projection could be, and is being, affected by Government policies on other matters.
We continue to take this important issue seriously. It is extremely difficult to establish the true number of people involved because of the nature of the crime, but we work with our colleagues internationally as well as with agencies in the United Kingdom, and we are trying hard to obtain an accurate figure.
The Government have no policy on what the birth or death rate in our population should be in 15 years’ time, but I can tell the House that our migration policy is already paying dividends in reducing net migration. The ONS reported that it had fallen to 45 per cent. of the projected increase, and that was partly a result of the measures that we have taken.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend read the eccentric report in The Guardian last week suggesting that there were no sex trafficking crimes, which will come as news to the gentlemen who have been banged up for that odious crime. Will he convene a public and transparent conference to discuss the issue? It cannot be right for academics and journalists to say that sex trafficking is non-existent in the United Kingdom.
As I have said, we are working hard to obtain the correct figure, but, as my right hon. Friend will know, that is extremely difficult. I find it regrettable when speculative articles are published in the media giving the erroneous impression that exercises such as Operation Pentameter did not lead to arrests and are not important in making the United Kingdom hostile to traffickers; once we have some figures, I shall return to my right hon. Friend to discuss his suggestion.