One hundred and two prisoners have so far been transferred from England and Wales under the EU prisoner transfer agreement. There were 4,111 EU nationals detained in prisons in England and Wales on 31 March 2016, with 2,967 serving an immediate custodial sentence. The transfer of prisoners from Scotland and Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved authorities.
I was expecting a low number but the number of EU transferees back to their country of origin is absolutely pathetic. With the number of EU nationals in our prisons approaching 40% of the foreign national prisoner population, is this not just another example of the European Union, through its directives, promising us the earth but, in effect, giving the British people the square root of naff all?
The main mechanism by which we get foreign national offenders out of our jails, which we are very keen to do, is the early removal system, which transfers out about 1,800 a year. The European prisoner transfer agreement is therefore in addition to the early release scheme, but it may be helpful to my hon. Friend if I give him the figures. The transfer agreement was implemented only in 2013, and we got 19 out in 2014, 38 out in 2015 and 29 out in 2016, to date, with a roughly similar number awaiting transfer.
Is the identity of prisoners who are returned to their countries of origin registered with UK Visas and Immigration, so that when they attempt re-entry to the UK they can be identified? Even if that were the case, is it right that we could not prevent their re-entry unless we were to leave the EU?
Is it not the case, as the former Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), put it, that if we left the European Union we would go back to a system of prisoner transfer where we had absolutely no ability to deport anybody to their country of origin unless we could persuade the Government of that country to accept them? Why would we risk losing that progress?
The hon. Lady is right in that if this country leaves the European Union, we will lose the compulsory prisoner transfer agreement that we currently have, and that will cause issues when it comes to trying to return the current EU prisoners in our prisons.
Does the Minister agree that rather than sniping from the sidelines on these issues, we should be playing our full part in co-ordinated international security frameworks such as the prisoner transfer agreement, the European arrest warrant, Eurojust—the body that leads judicial co-operation between member states—and the Schengen information system, as all of them ensure that our EU membership continues to help protect us against crime, terrorism and threats to our security—yet more reasons to vote to remain on 23 June? [Laughter.]
Order. I do not know what the source of merriment is among the little troika on the Back Benches—the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope), for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). I do not know whether some sort of powder has been applied to them, but they are in a very happy state.
This Government want to see as many compulsory prisoner transfer agreements as possible, because it is hard work trying to transfer all foreign nationals, of whatever nationality, out of prisons in England and Wales. Therefore, all compulsory transfer arrangements are useful. Currently, we have them with all members of the European Union, with the exception of Ireland and Bulgaria.