The Secretary of State was asked—
We have cut red tape and given the police just one simple target: to cut crime. The work that we have undertaken to reduce bureaucracy could save up to 4.5 million hours of police time across all forces every year. That is the equivalent of more than 2,100 officers back on the beat.
I remember that when I was a young barrister practising in Bow Street magistrates court—I could not get a better brief anywhere else—the police officers just rolled up with their note books and justice was swift and usually fair. [Interruption.] Yes, it generally was fair—if they weren’t guilty of that, they were guilty of something else. Ever since then, every single Home Secretary has tried to cut police bureaucracy, but it now takes up to a third of police time. Can we just cut through this matter and repeal the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which started the rot?
I am not about to repeal the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which contains some important safeguards in respect of the way in which the police should conduct investigations. However, my hon. Friend’s overall point about the necessity of ensuring that the criminal justice system works smoothly, efficiently and effectively, not just for those who are investigating and prosecuting but for those who are brought to trial, is important. That is why the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice continue to do such work. The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims is continuing the work that was started by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) when he was in that position to reduce the paperwork in the criminal justice system as much as possible so that we get the police doing what everybody wants them to be doing, which is preventing and cutting crime.
In her reply to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), the Home Secretary said that the reduction in bureaucracy was the equivalent of 2,100 additional bobbies on the beat. How many bobbies were on the beat a couple of years ago and how many are on the beat now?
The purport of the hon. Lady’s question is that there has been a cut in the number of police officers over the past few years as police forces have dealt with the changes in their budgets. I am pleased to say that, despite that, the proportion of police officers on the front line has gone up over the past few years.
A couple of years ago, I was stopped for the fairly inoffensive crime of failing to clear the frost from my windscreen. The police officer who stopped me inquired what my ethnic origin was. When I asked why he wanted to know, he said that it was demanded by the Home Office. Will the Home Secretary therefore tell me whether there are officials locally, regionally or in the Home Office itself collecting that information? Would those people not be better deployed catching criminals?
There are a number of circumstances in which police officers ask for the ethnicity of the individual they have stopped—for example, they record that information for stop-and-search. That is why we know that in stop-and-search cases, people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are six times more likely to be stopped than young white males. Such information has enabled us to bring about changes in stop-and-search, which I believe are absolutely right, to ensure that nobody on the streets of this country is stopped simply because of the colour of their skin.
It was absolutely right to introduce police and crime commissioners. They have introduced a degree of local accountability to local policing that was not there when the police authorities were in place. I understand that the hon. Gentleman’s party thinks that at local borough command level, police borough commanders should be jointly appointed by the local council and the chief constable. That would be a wrong move; it would mean the politicisation of the police, and I suggest that his party think again.
Child Abuse Inquiries
On 5 September I announced Fiona Woolf as the chair of the inquiry. Ben Emmerson QC was announced as counsel to the inquiry, and Graham Wilmer and Barbara Hearn were announced as panel members. The remaining panel members and terms of reference will be announced shortly. It is important that we get this right to ensure that the inquiry is able to challenge individuals and institutions, get to the bottom of these abhorrent crimes, and ensure that they do not happen again.
The number of people barred from working with children has fallen from 11,000 in 2011 to 2,660 in 2013, which means that people convicted of serious offences against children are no longer automatically barred from working with children. Will the Home Secretary consider whether the inquiry will examine that issue, together with current child protection practices?
The inquiry was set up in recognition of the number of cases, both historical—and, as we have increasingly seen—ongoing, that have taken place and that have suggested significant failings and problems in certain institutional and other environments where people have frankly not been abiding by their duty of care to children. The inquiry will consider those circumstances and tell us what we need to do in future to ensure that state and non-state institutional environments maintain their duty of care to children so that these horrific crimes are not committed in the future.
Will the Home Secretary explain why the inquiries will not consider the outcome of the forthcoming serious case reviews or the impact of cuts to local authority children’s services, especially as the severity of cuts in some areas will make it impossible for local authorities to take on board the inquiries’ recommendations when they eventually arrive?
When the terms of reference for the inquiries are published the hon. Lady will see the nature of work they will do. As I explained in response to the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), the inquiry was set up against the background of concern about the number of historical cases of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children that we have seen. Subsequently, a number of other cases have come forward that show that sadly this is not simply a crime that occurred in the past but something that occurs in the present. It is necessary to ensure that institutions are abiding by their duty of care to children. That will involve identifying the faults and what happened in those institutional environments, and considering what lessons need to be learned from that.
Communications data are vital in child abuse and other serious cases. In a recent speech, the Home Secretary said that in a six-month period the National Crime Agency had to drop at least 20 cases in which a child was judged to be at risk of imminent harm, and the Met also had to drop 12 cases in three months. Meanwhile, the Deputy Prime Minister has said that the only issue that needs resolution is the availability of unique IP addresses. Will the Home Secretary say whether that is correct?
My hon. Friend raises an important point about communications data. He sat on the cross-party Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Communications Data Bill and accepted that there was a need for legislation to improve our ability to access communications data. He mentioned the cases that I have cited recently, and among them are cases that are not just about IP addresses but about our inability to obtain communications data, because communications service providers based overseas do not retain the right data.
Of the NCA cases I mentioned, two were discontinued because of that problem, one of which was a case involving the distribution of indecent images of children. Of the Met cases that my hon. Friend mentioned, six were discontinued because of the lack of retained data, and of those one involved posting indecent images, one related to child protection in which there was a threat to life, and one was a kidnap where there was a threat to life. The Communications Data Bill would have addressed that problem. Therefore, while we are taking action to address the problem caused by IP addresses, it is not true that the cases I mentioned in my speech were related simply to IP addresses. Even for cases that were discontinued because of the lack of a unique IP address, had there been such a unique IP address it would not mean that the case could have been continued—the scale of the problem probably means that no communications data would have been available for that IP address anyway.
I say to Members across the House and to our coalition colleagues that if they are serious about giving the police the capabilities they need to keep us safe, protect children and save lives, they should reconsider their position on the Communications Data Bill.
When the terms of reference are published, could they be as wide as possible? Also, the Home Secretary will know that I have pushed for some time to try to increase the tariffs for those who abuse children and are involved in paedophilia.
I thank my hon. Friend. We aim to ensure that the terms of reference are able to cover everything they need to cover, but I am sure all Members of this House will recognise that we want this not to be an inquiry that just goes on ad infinitum, should the terms of reference be too wide. We need to have resolution of these issues: we need to identify the problems and we need to be able deal with them. I note the point he has made, and I know he has championed this particular cause for some time.
I have received representations in relation to the Kincora inquiry. Sir Anthony Hart is undertaking an inquiry. At the moment, I am looking at the best means of ensuring that the most thorough investigation and inquiry possible relating to the events at Kincora take place. I have not yet come to a decision on whether to bring that within this inquiry, or to make it possible for it to happen within the Kincora inquiry in Northern Ireland, but the aim of us all is the same: to make sure that the issue is investigated thoroughly and that all the elements that need to be addressed are addressed.
The Home Secretary will be aware of the failure of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the Project Spade case, where 2,500 names of people buying child abuse images were passed on by the Canadian police but not looked at. A doctor at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge was abusing children and was on that list. Had CEOP acted with the powers it already had, a number of children would not have been abused. What does the Home Secretary have to say to those children about the failure of the police on her watch?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise a level of concern about the action taken in relation to Project Spade and the information that CEOP received from the Toronto police. The NCA has referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It is looking into this issue and I am sure that he, like me, will await with interest the outcome of its inquiry.
The NCA knows of 20,000 people it thinks are accessing online child abuse, but it lacks the resources to follow that up. Many police forces also have a huge backlog, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) has just referred to the case of the Cambridge doctor who was also a deputy head, and who had 15 months more in the classroom before conviction because information was not passed on. We currently have separate lists of people suspected of posing a risk to children and of those working closely with children. Will the Home Secretary explain why those lists are not being cross-checked, and why last year the police referred only 108 cases of people they were concerned about to the Disclosure and Barring Service?
The hon. Lady cites a number of figures in her question. It is right that a significant number of people have been identified as accessing child abuse images. I think it is true to say—I have made this point more generally in the past—that we are not yet fully aware of the scope of the problem of child abuse, either in terms of people accessing images or of child abuse that takes place, and the implications. The NCA has recently made a significant number of arrests of individuals in relation to Operation Notarise. It operates on a very clear basis to ensure that it is dealing first with those cases where it considers there is particular harm to children. It is right that it should prioritise in that way, but this issue is wider than suggested by the sort of figures she cites and wider than the response from the NCA.
Rape Cases (Cheshire)
This is my first opportunity as the new Policing Minister to say how proud I am to be at the Dispatch Box. However, I am not proud of what was disclosed by the investigation in Cheshire.
The Government are committed to improving the police response to rape, and it is vital that police-recorded crime statistics are robust, especially for the victims of such abhorrent offences. That is why the Home Secretary asked Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to carry out an all-force investigation of crime recording practices—this is how the Cheshire situation arose—and I expect the police and crime commissioner and chief constable to use the findings to improve the service to victims in Cheshire.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but the chief constable was quoted as saying:
“HMIC questioned the administration process of recording the crimes at fault, not the investigations into them.”
Does that not show that he has failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation? With a chief constable who is so complacent and a police and crime commissioner who has been unusually silent on this issue, how can any woman in Cheshire have the confidence that if she reports a rape it will be treated seriously?
No matter what type of rape it is—whether it is rape against a woman or against a male—it must be treated seriously across the country as a whole. The hon. Lady says the police and crime commissioner is being quiet, but this is a quote from him:
“I am committed to ensuring that victims are at the heart of policing”
in Cheshire. I expect him to adhere to that.
Horrifyingly, one in five women will experience sexual violence during their life, yet only 15% of the victims of the most serious sexual offences report those crimes to the police. Does the Minister agree that if more victims are to come forward, the police up and down the country need to send out a robust message that these crimes will be taken very seriously?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. When people come forward, they must have confidence in the force and the police officers who are dealing with their complaint. I hope that that is why more people are having the confidence to come forward these days.
Police performance in dealing with crimes of rape is getting worse, not better. Last year there were 4,000 more crimes recorded in the UK, but on this Government’s watch since 2010 we have seen hundreds fewer prosecutions and convictions, and there is a postcode lottery around the country. In Suffolk, for example, we know from freedom of information requests that the police have no-crimed more reports of rape than they have detected rapists. In Lincolnshire, the no-crime rate for rape is over 20%. Does the Minister agree that this is unacceptable, and will he now back Labour’s plan for a commissioner on domestic and sexual violence to raise standards across every police force in this country?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on what I think is her first outing at the Dispatch Box with her new portfolio, but I can agree with hardly anything she said, apart from that we must take rape very, very seriously, whether it be against women or men, and we want more and more people to come forward and to be confident that the investigation will be robust. That is what we need, not running down the police time and again.
Working with the Cheshire rape and sexual abuse support centre and St Mary’s sexual abuse referral centre, Cheshire police have established a dedicated rape unit. Does my right hon. Friend agree that work between the police and third sector organisations is one way of improving the support available to rape victims and helping to encourage them to come forward and report the crime?
This cannot be done by the police alone; they have to work with partners across communities. I shall be visiting this particular part of the world in the near future, and I hope to look at this scheme so that we can possibly see how it can be done elsewhere in the country.
Police Emergency Response Times
This Government’s reforms have freed forces from a top-down approach and placed more power in the hands of local people through police and crime commissioners, who can set local priorities and decide how to respond to emergency calls.
We said that the 20% cut to police budgets would affect front-line services, but the Secretary of State disagreed. Does she accept that the increase in police response times could be the difference between catching the criminal in the act or someone getting away—and in extreme cases, the difference between life and death?
Coming from a blue-line emergency service background, I probably know more about response times than most people in this House. That is not being patronising; it is being absolutely honest. I think there are ways in which we can improve response times, particularly if we get more of the police cars out of the stations where they tend to spend more time—that is, getting police officers away from bureaucracy—but crime has fallen under this Government, and that is something Opposition Members cannot get away from.
When he did not turn up for work on Friday 22 August, my late constituent Mr Joseph McIntosh’s employers alerted Merseyside police, as they were concerned about his well-being. The police called at his home and, finding him to be in need of medical attention, called an ambulance. When no ambulance had turned up after an hour, the police took Mr McIntosh to the local hospital themselves. Sadly, he later passed away. I have raised this matter with the Health Secretary, who accepts that North West Ambulance Service’s response did not meet the required standard. The chief constable of Merseyside police has referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. As the Merseyside police and crime commissioner, Jane Kennedy, has said, the only body being held to account for Mr McIntosh’s sad death so far is Merseyside police. Will the Minister make it clear that the police are neither trained nor equipped to act as a substitute for the ambulance service?
The police are no substitute for the ambulance service or for any other emergency service. The Health Secretary has explained exactly what the situation is, and the matter will be looked into. However, I was out on patrol in Holborn in north London recently when someone with a mental health illness was reported to the police. The police could have arrested that gentleman for a public order offence, or taken him to the hospital where he could receive the care that he needed. He went to the hospital with the police.
The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens, but with the Home Secretary having imposed the biggest cuts to the police service of any country in Europe, including a cut of 8,000 from response alone, the police are taking up to 30% longer to respond to calls for help. Does the Home Secretary accept that she is failing in her duty and that, as a result of her swingeing cuts to our police service, sometimes desperate citizens dial 999 only to be let down in their hour of need?
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, and outside the Chamber we are actually quite good friends. I am sure he would agree that the police service do an absolutely fantastic job. There has been a reduction in police officers, and there has been a reduction in crime. Two thousand police officers who were in back-office roles are now in front-line roles, and that is what we want to see, along with crime coming down.
Serious and Organised Crime
Serious and organised crime is a threat to the UK’s national security, and damages communities across the country. The Government are committed to tackling this threat. One year ago, we launched a comprehensive new strategy to tackle serious and organised crime and a powerful new crime-fighting organisation—the National Crime Agency—which is already making a difference. We are driving forward reform, including through the Serious Crime Bill, which will strengthen our ability to disrupt and prosecute serious and organised criminals.
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Two families in Selby have lost their entire life savings as a result of a sophisticated organised phone-fraud scam. In both cases, the victims quickly realised that they were being scammed and alerted their banks and the police. After a bit of cajoling and arm-twisting, some of the banks involved have reacted well and returned the money, but the Yorkshire building society and the TSB have so far not been as helpful as they perhaps could have been. What action does the Minister plan to take to protect our constituents from these fraudsters? Will she meet me to discuss a way forward?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. This Government take economic and financial crime extremely seriously, which is why the Home Secretary set up the economic crime command within the National Crime Agency and why she and I have been working with banks and other financial institutions to ensure that we can give everyone security in their financial operations. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his great work as a constituency MP and on achieving the recovery of money for one of his constituents. I would be more than happy to meet him to discuss what else we can do.
If the Minister is to tackle serious and organised crime, will she consider looking at the competency and fitness for purpose of the Serious Fraud Office? Its recent history does not fill many of us with confidence. The fact of the matter is that, because of a lack of resources, the SFO has increasingly had to listen to the big accountancy firms, which is leading us into terribly dangerous waters.
Britain’s border controls are among the toughest in the world. All passengers arriving at passport control are checked carefully before they are allowed to enter the country. Last year, 17,000 people were refused entry and more than 3,000 people were arrested as a result of border system alerts. Substantial quantities of illegal goods and cash have also been seized.
The Government have completely failed to meet their immigration target; despite what the Minister says, the number of people who have been stopped at the border and sent home has actually fallen by 45%. Why will the Government not bring in checks to count people in and out? Why will they not bring back fingerprint checks for illegal migrants at Calais? Why do the Government not stop people claiming benefits for children abroad? Why will they not change the law to make it easier to deport EU criminals for a first offence when they first arrive?
I shall certainly try to be pithy, as you request, Mr Speaker. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we are introducing exit checks from next spring and they will do what he has sought, which is counting people out—the previous Government got rid of that. On benefit reforms, I hope he will welcome the fact that we have introduced changes to ensure that people from the EU cannot claim benefits until they have been here for three months and that that benefit entitlement is then limited to six months, reducing to three months next month.
Will the Minister confirm that, notwithstanding the socialist taxation policies of its Government, which some in this place would seek to introduce here, France remains a safe and wonderfully civilised country, as no doubt are the many other countries that have been crossed by those who are camped at Calais and seeking to launch asylum applications in this country?
My hon. Friend makes an important point about the Dublin regulations and the fact that we do return people to other EU member states, because it is right that people seeking humanitarian protection should claim it in the first country in which they arrive. Obviously, we are stepping up security around Calais, and he will be aware of the announcement the Home Secretary made last month about the work we are doing with the French Government to ensure greater security around the port of Calais. Indeed, we are working very closely with the French authorities.
7. What steps she is taking to improve the service offered by the Passport Office. (905429)
I have today issued a written ministerial statement which confirms that, with effect from 1 October 2014, Her Majesty’s Passport Office ceased to be an Executive agency of the Home Office and now reports directly to Ministers. That follows a review I commissioned and it has been done so that there will be more effective oversight, robust forecasting and the right level of trained staff to ensure that families and business people do not face the same problems as this year.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her answer. Like many other right hon. and hon. Members, I received a large number of complaints during the summer about delays in obtaining passports. My staff found the experience of using the MPs hotline very frustrating. They often had to wait ages for the phone to be answered and when they did get through the person who answered said that they would ring back and never did. Will she take steps to ensure that if there is to be an MPs hotline, the staff answering the phones are properly trained to respond in a timely and helpful fashion?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. Following my statement to the House in June, we introduced more staff and more telephone lines for the MPs hotline. A number of MPs were complimentary about the service they received, but I recognise that he had a different experience. We want to make sure we learn all the lessons necessary for the future, and we will be reviewing the service.
I warmly commend the Home Secretary for her decision to abolish the agency status of the Passport Office, which occurred 10 days after it was recommended by the Home Affairs Committee—we look forward to her accepting our recommendations on other matters as promptly. Last month, however, it emerged that officials at the Passport Office received £674,000 in bonuses, whereas citizens had to pay £103 for a fast-track passport before she allowed that process to be free. Will she stop those bonuses and instead give the money to those who suffered so badly over the summer?
As I pointed out in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Gordon Henderson), I did commission a review of the status of the Passport Office. I think that the report of the right hon. Gentleman’s Home Affairs Committee came between considering the response to that review and the decision, but we are at one in thinking that the correct action was taken. A number of people did receive some financial help. Following my statement to the House, people whose holidays were in danger of being cancelled as a result of the problems at the Passport Office received free upgrades in relation to the handling of their passports. It is important that we ensure that the forecasting at the Passport Office is right and that the office is able to deal with people in an appropriate time scale, so that we do not see a repeat of the problems that we had this summer.
We grant humanitarian protection only when it is genuinely needed. Sometimes that includes people who have overstayed their permission to be here, or who have entered the country without permission. Since 2010, 18,000 such people have been granted asylum.
Surely anybody who enters this country illegally should not be able to remain here with indefinite leave or be granted asylum, but should go through the proper processes. Will the Minister explain how many such cases have occurred as a result of the Human Rights Act, dating back to 1997? Is it not the case that that Act, rather than giving any meaningful rights to decent, law-abiding citizens in this country, is a charter for illegal immigrants? Is it not time that that wretched Human Rights Act was scrapped?
I say to my hon. Friend that it is right that appropriate process is undertaken, but that this country is proud of its record of providing humanitarian protection for those in genuine need. He makes an important point about the Human Rights Act. As he will know, the Prime Minister and others have underlined our commitment to see that Act reformed so that actions and matters are dealt with in our courts rather than elsewhere.
As the Minister will know, asylum seekers who successfully achieve refugee status have a 28-day move-on period before asylum support is withdrawn, in which to sort out a job, housing, benefits and so on. A recent report by the British Red Cross has, however, highlighted the fact that many successful claimants of refugee status find 28 days insufficient time to get all those arrangements in place. What discussions is the Minister having with other Departments, specifically the Department for Work and Pensions, to improve procedure so that such refugees are not left destitute?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for highlighting the issue of ensuring a smooth transition for genuine claimants who have been granted asylum. We keep such issues under careful review. Under the new contract put in place on 1 April, Migrant Help provides appropriate support and advice.
Detention plays a necessary role in our immigration asylum system, but detention centres must be sensitively designed and appropriate to their location. Plans to double the size of Campsfield House are neither and, as such, they are unsurprisingly opposed by both the independent monitoring board and the people of Kidlington. Will the Minister reconsider his plans, as they will not work for the detainees or for the local community?
I certainly recognise the local issues that my hon. Friend has highlighted and which she and I have discussed outside this House. It is right that the Government have the appropriate immigration detention facilities in place in the right parts of the country, and that is part of the overall reforms that we are putting in place to secure and achieve that. None the less, I note her comments and we will continue to reflect on them.
The national cyber-security programme provides £860 million over five years to transform our response to cyber threats. We are strengthening law enforcement capabilities through the National Crime Agency’s national cybercrime unit and establishing regional organised crime unit cyber-teams. We fund the “Cyber Streetwise” campaign, which provides advice on safer online behaviour.
My constituent, Sandra Moss, lost £6,000 when she bought a non-existent car from a non-existent garage on eBay. She got no help from anybody, apart from being referred to an online fraud number through which she could not speak to the police or find out what was happening. After intervention from me, action is now being taken but she is unlikely to see her money again. Does the Minister agree that the system and staffing of fraud investigation are inadequate? What will she do to fix that?
I sympathise with the hon. Lady’s constituent, and I am sure that we would all go out of our way to help a constituent who suffered a similar loss. City of London police have taken charge of Action Fraud and I urge the hon. Lady to ensure that in future all instances of cybercrime are reported to Action Fraud, which is a central hub to ensure that we get the right level of information and the right level of reporting. We are working with the College of Policing to ensure that front-line police officers have the right training, which is also vital.
The UK has a proud record of providing protection to those who need it, but we also take firm action to prevent illegal migration and deter abuse. We are addressing asylum shopping by sending back those who should have claimed asylum in another EU country, we are working with France to strengthen border security at Calais, and we are working internationally to stem the flow of illegal migrants into and across Europe.
Further to the question that will be asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), does the Minister agree that if all those asylum seekers claimed asylum in the first European country they came to it would solve the crisis in Calais? How many asylum seekers who have come from Calais and France have been returned to France or to other countries?
I recognise my hon. Friend’s important point. Asylum seekers cannot travel through safe countries illegally and then choose where to claim asylum. If we have evidence that an asylum seeker has travelled through another European country before claiming asylum in the UK, we will seek to return them under the Dublin regulations. Since those regulations came into force in 2003, 12,000 asylum claimants have been so returned.
Our reforms have cut net migration by a quarter since the peak under the previous Government and have led to net migration from outside the EU falling to levels close to those last seen in the 1990s. However, the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show a rise in long-term immigration from EU nationals coming to the UK for work-related reasons.
I underline the reforms that the Government have made, which have been effective in cutting net migration from outside the EU. My hon. Friend raises the issue of EU migration and free movement. It is absolutely right that the Prime Minister has underlined the need for reform of free movement, and how, if we are elected as the next Government, that will be at the heart of our renegotiation with the EU.
The Minister said in an article on 6 September—he has said again just now—that the Government have cut net migration by a quarter. Has he had a chance to see the letter to me, dated 9 October, from the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot? It says that net migration was 244,000 in June 2010 and is now, four years later, 243,000—just 1,000 lower. Will he explain to the House how he came to that conclusion and, while he is at it, does he expect to meet the Government’s manifesto commitment made at the last election?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for highlighting the poor record of the previous Labour Government. On their watch, 2.5 million people were allowed to come into this country. It is absolutely right that our focus should remain on returning net migration to sustainable levels, from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. I know that the shadow Home Secretary has said that she wants to talk more about immigration, but the Labour party’s record says it all.
Our membership of the European Union brings with it a right to free movement into this country for people from other EU countries, and that brings with it a feeling that our friends in Commonwealth countries are being completely discriminated against. Is not the only solution to that problem for us to leave the European Union and be free of these rules once and for all?
My hon. Friend makes his clear point, which he has made consistently over the years. He is right to say that we need to focus on net migration from outside the EU, as well as the implications of free movement. That is why we made the changes that we have made to reform benefit entitlements. I say again that free movement is absolutely one of the aspects on which we will want renegotiation to take place.
Internet Islamic Extremism
The Home Office works with the internet industry and police to restrict access to terrorist and extremist material. Since 2013, over 32,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content have been removed from the internet. We are also working with industry to build the capacity and skills of civil society groups to counter online extremism.
My hon. Friend will know that the servers that provide this information and encourage people to become jihadist extremists originate abroad, often in countries over which we have no control, so could he explain in a little more detail precisely how we can stop those servers producing such websites?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The counter-terrorism internet referral unit, which is at the heart of our response in taking down these unlawful websites, is working with the providers that are obviously hosting this material, and there are successes in taking them down. But he highlights the need for more to be done. That is what we are doing through discussions with the internet service providers and other EU partners as well, which is what I was in Luxembourg to do last week.
Many in Bristol, particularly within the Somali community, are concerned about the whereabouts of 15-year-old Yusra Hussien, who has disappeared and is rumoured to be on her way to Syria to try to join the jihadis. Her aunt has blamed internet grooming for her disappearance. What is the Minister doing to protect young people from that risk?
Obviously, we recognise the pressures and dangers that are on the internet. That is precisely why the counter-terrorism internet referral unit is doing the work that it is doing to prevent material from being there and it is working with the industry to filter out much of this material, which may not cross an illegality threshold. The hon. Lady highlights the broader need to work with families and communities, which we are doing, so that if people have concerns about an individual who may be at risk, they can come forward to report that, knowing that their concerns will be appropriately considered and support can be provided to help prevent that from happening.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to the House on 1 September, we will be bringing forward further powers to disrupt terrorists, particularly those who travel abroad to fight in Syria and Iraq. We have already introduced a range of measures to protect the UK from terrorism, including seizing passports, barring foreign nationals suspected of terrorism from re-entering the UK, and enacting recent emergency legislation to safeguard the retention of communications data.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for alerting the House to the important relationship that the Government have with the aviation sector in relation to aviation security. We have done a lot of work with this sector over the years. We have taken the decision now that we need to bring some capabilities into a legislative framework, but we continue to talk to the industry and work with its members on the best possible means of ensuring that we can provide the greatest security for people travelling by air.
Hundreds of thousands of British Muslims have come together to say that the actions of ISIL and other terrorist organisations have nothing to do with the peaceful and dignified religion that they follow. What message does the Home Secretary have for those British Muslims, including many in Worcester, who have stood up and said, “Not in my name”?
Certainly, I and, I am sure, the whole House would want to congratulate those British Muslims in Worcester and across the whole country who have stood up and said that the actions of ISIL and, indeed, other terrorist organisations are not taking place in their name. Indeed, across the country, it has been good to see increasing numbers of Muslims coming forward with that message. I was very pleased recently to share with a number of Muslim women from across the UK the inspired programme of #makingastand, saying that this is, again, “Not in our name.”
ISIL’s brutal and barbaric acts continue to demonstrate the very deadly threat that we face from terrorism. More than 500 British citizens have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq. The Government have already taken action to combat these threats, as I have just outlined, by toughening the royal prerogative power that allows us to remove the passports of British citizens who want to travel abroad to engage in terrorism. We have used it to stop people travelling to Syria in over 20 cases. So far this year, just over 100 people have been arrested for Syria-related offences, 24 have been charged and five have been successfully prosecuted. We must do more. That is why we have announced plans to introduce legislation to deal with this increased terrorist threat, and we will engage in cross-party consultation on these proposals and intend to introduce this urgently needed legislation at the earliest opportunity.
The police and courts recommended that an asylum seeker and London gang leader should be deported because he represented a danger to the public, especially to young children. He was not deported; he was relocated to my constituency, where in the summer he was arrested in possession of an illegal drug in a children’s play area. Is the Government’s failure to deport Mr Joland Giwa typical of their immigration policy, which is boastful in promises but impotent in action?
That is a bit rich coming from an Opposition Member. [Interruption.] I will answer the question. This Government have tightened up and improved our ability to deport people from this country, but there remain certain countries to which it is difficult for us to deport people. That is why we have continued the programme of deportation with assurances from a number of countries, to enhance our ability to deport people. There are still a number of countries where it is not possible for us to deport people, but we continue to work on that to make sure that we can do so in the future.
T3. Are the Home Secretary and her team aware that crime in Norfolk has fallen by a welcome 11% since 2010? Will she and her team join me in congratulating the Norfolk constabulary on the part that it has played in this achievement? Will the Policing Minister find time to come up to Norfolk to build on this very good work? (905390)
Mr Speaker, you will be pleased to know that I will visit Norfolk in the very near future. Even though there has been a small reduction in the number of police in Norfolk, there has been an 11% reduction in crime, and I congratulate the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner.
The Home Secretary and the whole House will want to express to the families of David Haines and Alan Henning our thoughts and prayers. Both men were helping innocent people caught up in conflict, and that is how we will remember them.
ISIL’s actions are barbaric—killing and torturing anyone who gets in its way—and the Home Secretary is rightly concerned about British citizens who are going to fight, but may I ask her about those who are returning? Will she tell the House whether the Government agree with reports that between 200 and 300 people have returned after fighting to Britain and whether the police and Security Service believe that they know who and where those people are? She referred to only 24 people being charged. Will she tell the House whether any of the others are now subject to terrorism prevention and investigation measures and what proportion of them are engaged in the Channel deradicalisation programme?
I echo the right hon. Lady’s comments about the absolutely brutal beheadings of David Haines and Alan Henning and, of course, of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the two Americans who have been beheaded by ISIL. Our thoughts are with all their friends and families at this very difficult time.
The Government are, as the right hon. Lady knows and as I have just said in a previous answer, looking at a number of extra powers that we can introduce to deal with these issues and with those who are returning, as well as preventing people from going to Syria in the first place. Some people have returned from Syria—not all of them will have been involved in fighting, of course—and the Security Service and our police do everything that they can to ensure that they maintain the safety and security of citizens here in the United Kingdom. They do an excellent job, day in and day out.
I thank the Home Secretary for her answer, but it would be helpful to have more information, as and when she is able to give it, about the scale of the problem and what is being done. More action is needed against those returning. Has she looked at making it a requirement that those returning from fighting engage with the Channel deradicalisation programme? When TPIMs were introduced, she took the decision, which we opposed, to remove relocation powers; can she confirm that she will reintroduce those powers at the earliest opportunity—before Christmas—in the legislation that she plans to bring forward?
We are looking at a number of ways of dealing appropriately with those returning from Syria. Part of that will be through measures brought forward in the legislation to which I referred. As the Prime Minister made clear in the House, we are looking at the question of relocation, and at exclusion zones and the extent to which they can be used. We will put Channel and Prevent on a statutory footing, but it is important that we look on a case-by-case basis at what action is appropriate for returning individuals, rather than assuming that one route is always the right way of dealing with them. Of course, in the consultation on the legislation, the right hon. Lady will be appropriately briefed, on Privy Counsellor terms.
T6. Recently, 130 people who are in the asylum system were placed in temporary hotel accommodation in Folkestone, with little or no notice to the local authority. Will the Minister tell me what the Home Office is doing to review the situation to make sure that this type of temporary accommodation is not used in future? (905393)
We have certainly made it clear to our contractual providers that the use of hotels is only ever acceptable as a short-term measure. The Home Office does not decide which hotels providers use, but we are clear that asylum seeker accommodation must comply with strict contractual standards relating to safety and habitability. We are working with our providers to increase the range of provision available. The hotel in my hon. Friend’s constituency to which he referred was vacated last week.
T2. A growing number of charities and businesses are echoing Labour’s call for the Modern Slavery Bill to include measures relating to the supply chains of large companies operating in the UK. Charities say that that will change corporate behaviour, and British businesses want legislation to create a level playing field, so will the Home Secretary tell us why she is resisting these calls? (905389)
The hon. Lady has perhaps not had a chance to see a copy of the letter that I put in the House of Commons Library, in which I confirmed that the Government will bring forward a world-leading provision in the Modern Slavery Bill to ensure that we tackle slavery within supply chains.
T7. I welcome the new Policing Minister to his post. Will he join me in praising the proactive work of the West Mercia police, who, in Operation Fuchsia, have taken the fight against burglary and drug dealing into the homes of the perpetrators? (905394)
I congratulate West Mercia police, not only in general, but on their recent operation, in which I believe they used chainsaws to get into certain premises and reach villains who had thought that they could get away with it. Also, I praise the West Mercia police for a 17% reduction in crime since 2010, and a 3% reduction this year alone.
T4. Northumbria police’s budget has been cut by a third, which has meant that violent crime in my area has increased by 25%. When will the Government get their priorities right and treat crime as an important issue in this country, rather than giving filthy rich tax cuts to companies? (905391)
T8. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will know that in one part of the United Kingdom, namely Northern Ireland, the writ of the National Crime Agency does not run. What discussions has she had with the Minister of Justice and others in the Northern Ireland Executive about extending the NCA to Northern Ireland? In particular, will she speculate on the opposition from, for instance, Sinn Fein, to cracking down on serious crime? (905395)
The restrictions on NCA activities in Northern Ireland clearly create a major gap in tackling serious and organised crime, put additional pressures on the Police Service of Northern Ireland and inhibit the recovery of criminal assets. Organised crime groups on both sides of the Irish sea cannot be properly investigated. We are committed to resolving this fully, and fully support the proposals that Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister has put to the political parties—proposals that provide the transparent accountability that they seek.
T5. The Government’s deportation of fewer foreign criminals than the previous Labour Government has nothing to do with the Human Rights Act but everything to do with the Home Office issuing fewer deportation notices. When will the Home Secretary stop blaming the law and start deporting more foreign criminals? (905392)
We are deporting foreign criminals and there is work across Government to achieve that. The hon. Gentleman may say that there are no obstacles, but he should be aware of some of the issues on documentation and proving identity. That is what we are doing with our colleagues in the Foreign Office and with overseas Governments to ensure that those who have offended in this country are removed.
T9. Crime is down in Chester but there has recently been a spate of burglaries aimed at members of the Asian community in the belief that they have gold and jewellery at home. The local police believe that this has been done by a national gang. Will my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that this is being taken seriously at the centre of Government and that the resources have been put in place to tackle these horrific crimes? (905396)
Good afternoon, Mr Speaker.
May I give my hon. Friend the assurance that we are taking these matters seriously? In fact, the issue of family gold has been considered by one of the crime prevention panels that I have established and we are well on top of that particular issue.
The Home Secretary will no doubt agree that co-ordination in the fight against ISIL and extremists in this country is crucial. Will she therefore explain why, to my dismay, it appears that the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities have yet to meet their Welsh counterparts and other devolved counterparts to discuss tackling extremism in schools and universities throughout our country?
Through the extremism task force there is work that is chaired by the Prime Minister on combating extremism and terrorism. This work is ongoing, and putting Channel and Prevent on to a statutory basis will ensure that we have that co-ordination at a local level and that there is consistent priority across the country.
Last week, a retired RAF officer was found guilty by a court martial in Bulford of 21 cases of child sexual abuse 25 years ago on a German RAF base. Although he is retired, his address was given as RAF Northolt, and he escaped the usual rigours of being tried in an open civil court. Will the Home Secretary refer this matter and the use of courts martial for child sexual abuse cases to the independent panel to ensure that the process of courts martial does not allow the services to keep such hearings unreported and under wraps?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who discussed that matter with me last week, and I share her concern about the particular case to which she refers. There is an issue there that needs to be looked at, but she will understand that such matters have to be considered carefully, so I will, if I may, get back to her in writing.
Further to her answer earlier on the inquiry panel in relation to child abuse, what steps has the Home Secretary taken to ensure that the security services are making sure that no documents of theirs are destroyed or removed, that all information will be made available to the inquiry panel, and that former officers and agents have every encouragement and confidence in coming forward with their information?
As I said in reply to the earlier question, in relation to Kincora particularly, but it goes across the board, we want an inquiry that is able to look properly into the events of child abuse that have taken place in the past, particularly, obviously, in state institutions, although we will cover non-state institutions as well. It is important therefore that the information is made available to the inquiry, and steps are being taken with a number of departments and agencies across Government to make sure that that happens.
In 2010, just 1,162 asylum seekers were deported from the UK under the Dublin convention. In 2013, that number had fallen to 757. Given that Calais is heaving with illegal immigrants, all of whom have gone through safe countries to get there, why are we not deporting tens of thousands of asylum seekers each year under the Dublin rules?
We are working with other European partners to ensure that they take all the steps necessary to be able to document people and show where they first arrived in the EU in order to uphold the Dublin regulations. There are issues relating to litigation and, in particular, the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 that returns to Greece breached article 3 of the convention, but I can assure my hon. Friend of the focus and attention we are giving to that very subject.
Does the Home Secretary recognise the real public concern about how long it is taking to establish the child sex abuse inquiry and, in particular, the fact that we have not yet seen the terms of reference? When we will see the terms of reference?
I fully understand the degree of concern that the hon. Gentleman refers to. We want to ensure that we get the balance of the panel’s membership and the terms of reference right. As I said earlier, I expect to be able to announce the remaining members of the panel and the terms of reference shortly, because I am as keen as he is to ensure that the panel inquiry starts its work and that we get some answers for the victims who suffered those horrendous crimes.