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Topical Questions

Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

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)

Crime in my hon. Friend’s constituency —he is a friend of mine—has gone down by 19% since 2010.

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 Minister has been saved up, perhaps as a specialist delicacy. The House will take its own view of him, I feel sure.

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.