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Detainees: Pregnancy

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

10. If she will discuss with the Home Secretary the treatment of pregnant women detained for immigration purposes. (903013)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary takes these matters very seriously. Last year, she commissioned Stephen Shaw, CBE, former prisons and probation ombudsman, to carry out a review of the welfare of vulnerable people in detention. Mr Shaw’s report will be published today, and the Government will take appropriate action in response to his recommendations.

I am grateful for that answer, and we look forward to hearing what Stephen Shaw has to say, albeit that we are slightly sceptical about the remit that he was operating under. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that Government policy of detaining only in exceptional circumstances is, at the very least, put into practice and is not fiction? It would be even better if she ensured that the detention of pregnant women came entirely to an end.

It is Government policy that pregnant women should be detained only in exceptional circumstances. In normal circumstances, they should not be detained. Where a matter affecting a pregnant woman being detained comes to light, it is looked at with the utmost urgency.

I draw the Minister’s attention to the all-party parliamentary group’s report of 2014 on immigration detention, which dealt with the issue of women in detention centres more widely. Many women had been subject to quite horrific violence, including sexual violence. What steps is she taking to ensure that detained women, whether pregnant or not, are safe? Does she agree with me that these centres should not be detaining women at all and that detention should very much be a last resort?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that detention should be a very last resort. It is regrettable in many ways that we have to have detention, but as part of an immigration system that is fair to all, detention is needed in those exceptional circumstances where people refuse to leave the country when they have been ordered to do so. Women are treated with the utmost dignity, and it is important to treat all people in detention with dignity.