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Topical Questions

Volume 611: debated on Monday 13 June 2016

The violence in Marseilles surrounding England’s match against Russia was deeply disturbing. Seven English fans are still in hospital, two with very severe injuries, and our thoughts are with them. The French authorities had to deal with trouble involving England supporters on Thursday, Friday and Saturday around the city, and there were alarming clashes inside the stadium at the end of the match. The French and UEFA will rightly be asking themselves searching questions about how the segregation of fans within the Vélodrome stadium broke down. There will be lessons to be learned surrounding the wider policing operation. I am in no doubt that co-ordinated groups of Russian supporters bear a heavy responsibility for instigating violence.

We must also ensure, however, that we have our own house in order. Some among the England contingent in Marseilles behaved inexcusably. Anyone who has travelled to France to cause trouble has let down their nation and does a disservice to all genuine England fans. In co-operation with the French Government, we are going to do all we can to ensure that such scenes are not repeated. I have spoken to the Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. Plans are in place to ensure that there are more British police spotters in Lens for the match between England and Wales. We have prevented nearly 1,400 people with a history of football-related violence from travelling, and an extension of the ban on alcohol sales around key matches announced yesterday is a positive step. Above all, I appeal to the English and Welsh fans travelling to Lens this Thursday. UEFA has made it clear that the penalties for bad behaviour for individuals and for the teams they support will be severe. I have every confidence that the fans will respond in the right spirit and we can all get back to enjoying the tournament.

As a former barrister who specialised in insolvency law, I understand the civil remedies available to make recoveries from those involved in fraud. The economic crime prevention group has recovered £1.1 million and led to 10 disqualifications of directors since the insolvency pilot began in 2013. Does the Home Secretary plan to continue the pilot?

My hon. and learned Friend is right to point to the work that has been done so far by the ECPG, which is a joint public and private sector group across various agencies; indeed, the National Crime Agency is one of its sponsors. A report on the insolvency scheme to which she referred is due shortly, and the future of the project is being considered. The outcome of that report will be part of those considerations.

I gently remind Front Benchers that we must accommodate Back Benchers. I am not having the time eaten up by Front Benchers.

The Home Secretary is right: the terrible scenes of violence in Marseille this weekend have soured what should have been a great celebration of football. As ever, the vast majority have been let down by a hard-core minority, and their actions are all the more inexcusable given the serious terror threat hanging over the tournament. Although, as the Home Secretary has said, the England fans are not blameless, it is also the case that they were the subject of extreme provocation and that there were severe failings inside the stadium and concerns about policing. Given that this is a complex matter and that we need to establish all the facts ahead of the England-Wales game on Thursday, will the Home Secretary commit to making a fuller statement at her earliest opportunity, to ensure people’s safety and that there is no repeat?

The right hon. Gentleman is right: we obviously want to ensure that there are no repeats of the scenes we saw in Marseilles. That is precisely why work is ongoing between the UK Government and the French Government to look at the steps that need to be taken, particularly in Lens, where the England-Wales match will take place, and Lille, where Russia will play very close to that time, and that work will continue.

Let me turn to Hillsborough and mention that I wrote to all parties in the House, asking for their support in making it a moment of real change. One of the reasons that the Hillsborough injustice stood for so long was the inadequacy of the original inquest, which imposed the 3.15 pm cut-off and at which families had to scrabble around to raise funds for their own legal representation. The truth is that similar injustices are still happening today. Bereaved families are all too frequently thrown into courtrooms, raw with grief, to face adversarial questioning from highly paid QCs hired by the police and other public bodies. Later today I will put a proposal to this House to create parity of legal funding for families on the simple principle that public money should fund the truth, not the protection of vested interests. Will the Home Secretary say why she is opposing that move and whether she is prepared to work with us to establish that important principle?

The right hon. Gentleman has rightly raised an issue that has been a matter of significant concern to the families who were victims of the terrible tragedy in Hillsborough. He is right to say that the original inquest system did not serve those families well. I am pleased that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the former Attorney General, was able to reopen the inquest, with the results and verdicts that we have seen. I have asked Bishop James Jones, who chaired the independent panel that looked into the Hillsborough incident and who has also been chairing the family forums and has been my adviser on this matter, to work with the families, to hear directly from them their experiences. I expect experiences about the inquest process to be part of that, which is why I wish to look at this issue once we have the full picture from the families as a result of the review by Bishop James Jones. The right hon. Gentleman has raised a very important and valid point, but I think that we need to look at the issue in a wider sense and get all the experience from the Hillsborough families before we look at the inquest process.

T2. The four agriculture students from Cirencester who were accused of rape prove that one does not have to be a celebrity to suffer the trauma of a case going on in the full glare of publicity. What protection can the Home Secretary give defendants, as is the case with the accuser, so that there is some sort of equality? (905340)

My hon. Friend raises a very important point that he has raised with me personally on a number of occasions, and the case to which he refers has brought it into sharp focus. The usual practice is that the police do not identify people before charge. However, we had a long debate on this issue about five years ago and there are cases where the identification of somebody can bring forward other victims and enhance the case against them, so this is not an easy area in which to operate.

T3. There have been grave reports by asylum seekers detained in immigration removal centres of sexual assault. What risk management measures have been put in place for vulnerable detainees, who may already have histories of trauma but who are detained alongside foreign national offenders who have histories of violence? (905341)

We take our duties in relation to the operation of immigration removal centres extremely seriously. That is why, under the Home Secretary, we engaged in the Shaw review and report on how we can better identify those who are vulnerable. We will implement further changes in the months ahead to ensure that those issues are very much brought to the fore.

T4. The internet has brought with it great opportunities but also, sadly, a much darker side and threats. What work is being done to ensure that paedophiles who operate anonymously online are brought to justice? (905342)

My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. We need to make sure that there is no safe place for paedophiles to operate. I am sure she knows that all 43 forces have signed up to the child abuse image database that this Government introduced and that the Prime Minister instigated. It is really starting to get results in identifying and safeguarding child victims, finding perpetrators and making sure that they can be brought to justice.

T8. Yesterday saw even more newspaper revelations about serious problems with COMPASS asylum accommodation contracts in Glasgow, yet emails from senior G4S staff and minutes of Home Office meetings suggest that these contracts are to be extended come hell or high water. Will not the Home Office at least have enough respect to wait for the Select Committee on Home Affairs to complete its inquiry before making any such decisions? (905346)

We are carefully considering the extension of the existing contracts in accordance with their terms. The introduction of the COMPASS contracts has improved the standards of accommodation, but where there are failings we will take action.

T5. Last Monday, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) asked how many EU citizens had been deported during the last four years. Now, as I understand it, the question has been answered and we are told that only 102 EU citizens have been deported. Does the Minister acknowledge that the deportation of such a small number is rather poor? (905343)

I remind my hon. Friend that the Government have removed more than 30,000 foreign national offenders since 2010. The number of offenders from EU countries who have been removed has more than tripled from 1,000 in 2010-11 to more than 3,400 in 2015-16.

The Home Secretary will have seen the recent reports that Eliza Manningham-Buller, when she was head of MI5, wrote to the then Prime Minister protesting about MI6 involvement in rendition. This becomes particularly concerning in view of the reasons given by the Crown Prosecution Service last week for declining to prosecute a senior officer of MI6. Will the Home Secretary confirm that that letter was written by Eliza Manningham-Buller, and will she commit to having it put into the public domain?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we do not comment on documents that have apparently been leaked from Government. That is the position, as it always has been.

T6. I have been contacted by a number of my constituents who have expressed concerns about the balance between privacy and security in the Investigatory Powers Bill. Will the Home Secretary explain how the implementation of the Bill will provide that balance but will also provide essential protections against terrorism? (905344)

My hon. Friend is right to mention this very important Bill. The measures in the Bill are essential to enable both law enforcement and our security and intelligence agencies to protect us from not only terrorism but serious and organised crime, paedophiles and others. I assure her that we are putting in place world-leading safeguards and oversight arrangements, which will ensure that the balance between privacy and the need to exercise these powers is properly kept.

Will the Secretary of State work with organisations such as the Red Cross to explore alternative ways of submitting family reunion applications, to avoid dangerous journeys to third-party countries?

I am extremely grateful to the Minister. This shows what we can do when we try.

In respectful memory of the victims of the homophobic terrorist slaughter in Orlando, I should like to request of colleagues that at 3.30 we observe one minute’s silence. Thank you.

The House observed a minute’s silence.

Colleagues and all of those observing our proceedings—thank you for that display of respect.