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Foreign National Offenders

Volume 607: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2016

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on steps to remove foreign national offenders from UK prisons to their home countries. (903940)

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on steps to remove foreign national offenders from UK prisons to their home countries. (903944)

9. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on steps to remove foreign national offenders from UK prisons to their home countries. [R] (903950)

The Justice Secretary and the Home Secretary have regular bilateral meetings in which they discuss progress on removing foreign national offenders from UK prisons and more generally. It remains a top priority for both Departments.

In London, we welcome people who come here to study, be tourists or add to our economy, but not those who commit crime and are then imprisoned. With 40% of crime in London committed by foreign nationals, what more can my hon. Friend do to ensure that those responsible are deported at the end of their sentences and not allowed back into this country?

The number of foreign national offenders in the prison population went down by 1,240 between June 2010 and December 2015, but my hon. Friend is right and we strive to do better. Further action is being taken. As the Prime Minister announced on 8 February, we have introduced in the Policing and Crime Bill a new clause that requires defendants appearing in court to provide their name, date of birth and nationality. That is an important tool, backed up by a criminal offence for failure to respond that will help us to remove even more FNOs. That is vital for public protection and vital to saving precious taxpayers’ money.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is totally unacceptable for the British taxpayer to be paying for foreign criminals?

My hon. Friend is right. We have a range of existing measures, as well as the new action I have just described. The early release scheme allows for the early removal of foreign national offenders. We remove about 1,800 prisoners per year under that scheme and there are also prisoner transfer agreements. Overall, 29,000 FNOs have been removed between 2010 and 2015.

What efforts are made to ensure that EU national foreign offenders who have been returned to their countries are banned from returning to the United Kingdom—or is that sort of sensible precaution not possible while we are a member of the European Union?

My hon. Friend makes, if I may say so, a predictable but powerful point. There clearly are restrictions as a result of free movement, but we try to exercise the powers we have as strenuously and as vigorously as possible.

My constituent was stabbed by a criminal who was given an indefinite hospital order. In my view, he should be deported. If I write to the Minister, will he look at the case to see that justice is done for my constituent?

Those kinds of cases are very serious and very traumatic for the family. I am very sympathetic, and the hon. Lady should please feel free to write to me. All I would say to Opposition Members is that when we come to consider human rights reform, I hope that on the substance we can enlist as much support across the House as possible.

The Minister will know that 25% of the foreign national offenders in our prisons come from three EU countries: Ireland, Poland and Romania. What is the reluctance of other EU countries to take back their own citizens who have been committing crimes in our country?

We try, through our prisoner transfer agreements and residual national powers, to exercise powers as robustly as possible to remove as many people as possible. The right hon. Gentleman will know that, as a result of the EU free movement rules and of the Human Rights Act 1998 and human rights regime—which is, in fairness, separate, albeit related to some degree—there are restrictions. As I said to the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), when it comes to looking at human rights reform I hope sensible people with experience, such as the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, will look very carefully at the substance and not just take a purely political stance.

In July 2012, when the Government signed a compulsory transfer agreement with Albania, the then prison Minister said he hoped it would be the first of many. How many have there been since then, and how is the arrangement with Albania going?

We have more than 100 bilateral prisoner transfer agreements, as well as Council of Europe and Commonwealth schemes. If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I can write to him in due course on the particular numbers under the Albanian agreement.

Does the Minister agree that the deportation of foreign national offenders is in some cases inhibited by the operation of the Human Rights Act? If so, will the Minister update the House on plans to repeal it and replace it with a British Bill of Rights?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One specific issue we want to look at in some detail is the scope to which our Bill of Rights can facilitate the removal of serious offenders, particularly when they have relied on their rather elastic, opaque and ever-expanding rights under article 8. The removal of serious offenders is made even more difficult because of the Human Rights Act. Our proposals will be coming in due course.

There are many convicted criminals in our prisons who, after committing crimes in the UK, fled the UK and were then returned here to face justice, thanks to the European arrest warrant. Will the Minister explain to the House how the interests of victims of crime can be protected if we leave the EU and, as a result, the scope of the EAW?

I think the hon. Lady is slightly confused about the difference between extradition and deportation. As a result of European law, it has become harder and harder to deport foreign national offenders, while unfortunately the fast-track extradition of innocent British citizens has become easier and easier. That balance should be addressed, and in that I hope we can enlist her support.