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Foreign National Prisoners

Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2012

11. How many foreign national prisoners were repatriated to their home country to serve their custodial sentence in 2011. (127921)

The simple answer is “Not nearly enough.” In 2011, 32 foreign national prisoners and one British national were sent to other countries to serve their sentences. The number of prisoners being repatriated is still unacceptably small, as it has been for a number of years under both Governments. I am not satisfied with that, and I am determined to push the numbers up, but the House should be aware that this is a difficult issue. We need the collaboration of other countries, and we are working hard to secure it.

What a dismal record. Back in November 2010, the Prime Minister said that he would “personally” lead a new drive to remove foreign prisoners. Given that the number repatriated in 2011 was just a third of the number in Labour’s last year in government, is this not yet another illustration of a Prime Minister who over-promises but under-delivers?

I will not take any lectures from a party that was responsible for the levels of immigration to this country that we have seen over the past decade. There are now fewer foreign nationals in our prisons than was the case under Labour. I intend to continue the drive both to deport people when they have finished their sentences, and to deport them through prisoner transfer agreements as soon as we possibly can.

Will my right hon. Friend make it a departmental priority to negotiate compulsory prisoner transfer agreements with Commonwealth member countries, especially Nigeria and Jamaica, which seem to be the source of most of the foreign national offenders in our prisons?

I can give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance to that effect. The prisons Minister—my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright)—and I have met our Jamaican counterparts during the last few weeks. We are focusing our efforts to negotiate compulsory transfer agreements on the countries where the problem is greatest. Of course, what we inherited from the previous Government were voluntary agreements, which, as we all know, have a limited effect.