I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for advocating on this issue consistently and for reinforcing a policy that has led to nearly 45,000 foreign national offenders being deported. In answer to the question, let me say that 46 of the 110 prisoner transfer agreements we have are compulsory. However, it is worth pointing out that, were we to leave the European Union with no deal and no transition period, we would lose 26 of those and face significantly greater challenges in deporting foreign national offenders who constitute nearly 40% of the cohort.
I understand that under those 26 EU agreements only about 200 prisoners have been compulsorily transferred to other EU countries, so that would make little difference. The point is that at any one time 10% of our prison population is made up of foreign national offenders. The best way to reduce overcrowding is to send these people back to prison in their own country. Will the Minister negotiate more compulsory prisoner transfer agreements so that we can get these people back to prisons in their own abode?
I agree strongly with what my hon. Friend says, and indeed we are actively engaged in this; my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor will be in Romania to discuss these issues, and I am meeting the Albanian Justice Minister this afternoon. But it is important to understand that, if we are going to put someone back into prison in another country, that country’s police, courts and prison service need to be onside, and that is a diplomatic challenge.
One of the saddest groups in our prisons are those women from abroad, usually with children, who have been duped into being drug mules. In the past, the Government have helped with the building of prisons abroad to allow those women to go back to their country of origin; is that still this Government’s policy?
As a former Minister in the Department for International Development, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we remain open to that. We have recently faced problems in Jamaica because there has been political resistance, not from us but from the Jamaican Government, to British development money being used in that way. We remain open to investment in the rule of law, and if it helps us to return foreign national offenders, at the same time as helping prisoners in that country, we will do that.