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Foreign National Prisoners

Volume 566: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2013

Q4. How many foreign national prisoners (a) are in prison and (b) were in prison in May 2010; and what steps are being taken to send them to secure detention in their own countries and to negotiate compulsory prisoner transfer agreements with high-volume countries. (165612)

Overall, over 4,500 foreign national offenders were removed from the UK in 2012 and the annual removal rate has remained broadly consistent since then. However, the number of foreign nationals in prison in England and Wales is still far too high, and while it is lower than at the election, we can do more. That is why the Justice Secretary is working to secure compulsory prisoner transfer agreements with those countries with the highest populations of foreign offenders. The Government will make it clear in the immigration Bill this autumn that foreign national offenders will be deported except in exceptional circumstances. I think that everyone in this House can celebrate the removal of one foreign prisoner, Mr Abu Qatada, who has returned to Jordan, and I congratulate the Home Secretary on her hard work.

Now that my right hon. Friend and the Home Secretary have deported Abu Qatada—something the previous Government completely failed to do—will he do all he can to send foreign nationals in prison in our country back to prison in their own country, which would save British taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend on this issue and the fact that it requires real drive from the centre of this Government. That is why we have held a National Security Council meeting on it and why we are trying to sign compulsory prisoner transfer agreements with countries such as Albania and Nigeria. I make sure that all Ministers raise these issues in all their meetings with other countries where there are foreign national prisoners to be returned to. We should not rule out any steps, including in some cases helping countries such as Jamaica with their own prison regime so that it is easier to return people. This is a major priority for the Government and I want us to do better.