House of Commons
Monday 10 February 2020
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Family Reunion
The UK has a long and proud tradition of offering protection to vulnerable people who are fleeing war and persecution, and this Government take the welfare of vulnerable children extremely seriously. We support the principle of family unity wholeheartedly.
If the Government are as committed as Ministers have repeatedly said they are to maintaining children’s ability to join family members in the UK, then rather than waiting for the outcome of negotiations, will the Home Office not get on the front foot and make some much-needed changes to domestic legislation? The changes could be made tomorrow and provide certainty for the many hundreds of families who can currently be reunited through the Dublin regulation.
The hon. Lady will be more than aware of the work that we do to provide safe and legal routes for family reunion, and for vulnerable persons and children. She has heard me say that we are fully committed to supporting the most vulnerable children and the principle of family reunion. It is a fact that we are about to negotiate with the European Union. I set out the Government’s position clearly in communications and correspondence with the European Commission at the end of last year, and that is the route we will be pursuing.
The Home Secretary will be aware of the conditions that many refugee children endure in refugee camps all over Europe. She will also be aware that the public do not want us to let these children down. Will she confirm that unless law and practice are changed, we run the risk of breaking up families and leaving children abandoned with no relative to care for them?
The right hon. Lady has touched on a very important point, namely the conditions that children and families endure in refugee camps outside the United Kingdom. That could be in Europe, but also in countries outside Europe. It is important that we reflect on the priorities and standards that we, as a country, provide for those refugees through our work in international development and aid. We should not overlook the fact that there are a great deal of associated issues—reunion, the protection and settlement of refugees, and vulnerable children—that come together internationally, but we are leading the way on this in the UK.
Does the Home Secretary agree that by far the best way of reuniting families is to find vulnerable children in refugee camps in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and that by simply accepting those who turn up at Dover, we risk encouraging the vicious people traffickers who thereby make a lot of money? Does she agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, who said recently:
“The resettlement of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable refugees over the past four years is something the UK can be proud of”?
I hope that she is proud of that.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. The House should be under no illusions; we have a strong and proud record of helping vulnerable children, and we have protected more than 41,000 children since the start of 2010. He is right; there are a number of points here about the criminality associated with illegal migration. I am afraid that we have seen far too much of that, whether people are being trafficked in small boats, in lorries or through other vehicle movements. That is wrong, and it is something that we are also determined to stamp out.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the action that the Government are taking to protect vulnerable children through legal routes, more action needs to be taken to slow down and stop activity on the illegal people trafficking routes, particularly those between Calais and Dover?
My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) speaks with a great deal of knowledge and insight about this issue. We must absolutely clamp down on the illegal routes that are being exploited, many of which are upstream—outside the United Kingdom —and on the appalling amount of human trafficking. There are many safe and legal routes that are supported by the British Government, and we will continue to support them.
Why do we not simply say unilaterally that we will continue to consider take charge requests on behalf of unaccompanied children from Europe? Why should children’s rights be subject to negotiations at all?
The hon. Gentleman must recognise that any future agreement is a matter for negotiation, and it is not within the gift of the United Kingdom alone. We can work bilaterally, but this is about the reciprocal arrangements that we undertake with our EU counterparts. That is the approach that has been outlined by the Government, and it is the right approach.
Terrorists are a persistent menace to our security and way of life. The nature of the terrorist threat is constantly changing, so our response must evolve as well. The safety and security of the UK is obviously our No. 1 priority, and we are committed to ensuring that our security and law enforcement organisations have the powers and tools they need to keep us safe. To do that, we have provided an additional £160 million for counter-terrorism policing this year, taking counter-terrorism police funding to over £800 million. The counter-terrorism and sentencing Bill, and our emergency legislation, will close further gaps in our ability to combat terrorism.
Reports suggest that the perpetrator of the recent London terror attack was on automatic early release. Does the Minister agree that we need a robust and tough approach to sentencing for those convicted of terror offences, to prevent them from being able to carry out further atrocities?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why the Government will be introducing emergency legislation in Parliament tomorrow that will end the automatic early release of terrorist offenders without there first being a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. Those still considered a threat to public safety will be forced to spend the rest of their time in prison. The changes will mean that about 50 terrorist prisoners already serving effected sentences will see their automatic release halted. We will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure that we do all we can to protect the public and keep our streets safe.
Absolutely. I am pleased to say that in the last week we have announced that we are considering whether new legislation is required to provide additional reassurance when terrorist offenders are released from prison. A range of measures are available, including stringent conditions during post-release licence periods and notification requirements for terrorist offenders, which the Government strengthened only last year. Serious crime prevention orders were extended to terrorist offenders last year. Alongside terrorism prevention and investigation measures, these orders provide the police with strengthened powers to manage terrorists on their release. We will continue to review everything to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep the public safe.
Countering terrorism is not just about London and the big cities; it is across the whole country. I welcome the extra £8.6 million of funding for Lincolnshire police. What can be done to prevent people in rural areas from being drawn into terrorist activity?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Overall funding for CT policing will grow to £906 million in 2020-21. That is a £90 million year-on-year increase. The money will support and maintain the record high numbers of ongoing counter-terrorism policing investigations, allowing us to respond swiftly and decisively to incidents, no matter where they take place—and we have to be clear that they could happen anywhere in the UK. It is a significant additional investment that builds on the work we are doing to ensure that we are protecting our communities with 20,000 extra police officers around the country, and the work we do in all communities around the country with the Prevent programme to keep people safe and prevent people from being taken into extremism in the first place.
The Minister has just referred to the Prevent programme. This week, it is a year since the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 received Royal Assent. Of course, that Act provided for an independent review of the Prevent programme. In the last year, the Government have appointed one reviewer, who has had to resign from post given previous views that he had expressed about Prevent, and we are left today—a year later—without a reviewer in place. The Minister is talking about decisive action. When will that reviewer be appointed?
As I have outlined at the Dispatch Box previously, the review will go ahead, and it is still the case that it will be completed in the timeframe that the Government outlined—that is, before the end of August this year. We are also introducing emergency legislation tomorrow.
We face a growing threat from extreme right-wing organisations in this country. The Minister will be aware of incidents in my own community relating to some extreme right-wing groups. Why have the Government not yet proscribed organisations such as the System Resistance Network, the Sonnenkrieg Division and others who are linked to the banned National Action organisation, and what steps will they take to review the situation urgently?
These issues are always under review. The hon. Gentleman is right that we have to be alert to and aware of extremism from any direction, including the growth in right-wing extremism. That is why Prevent is focused on protecting people who are targeted by terrorist recruiters, regardless of their reasoning or where they come from.
Surely we should have a programme giving young people who might be attracted into terrorism other creative things to do in the community. Would the Minister think about diverting some of the tens of millions of pounds flowing from the plastic bag charge into community action that would involve young people and replace some of the dreadful cuts in youth services that we have seen in recent years?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about engaging with people from communities across the country, particularly young people. We do have funds specifically focused on young people. The Prevent training has already been completed some 1.1 million times. One of the areas where Prevent is so successful is in enabling frontline practitioners, including teachers, to recognise the signs of radicalisation. That is why this programme is so important, as well as the bespoke programmes that we support.
Violent Crime: Young People
The Government are committed to delivering on the people’s priorities by tackling violent crime. We have already invested £220 million in early intervention. Through our serious violence fund, we have committed to funding violence reduction units until 2021. We are also introducing the serious violence Bill, which will put a duty on police, councils and other agencies to prevent and reduce serious violence.
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding the entire House that we have these vitally crucial elections coming towards us, at which the public will have the right to hold their police and crime commissioners to account. I look forward to working with many Conservative PCCs in future, I hope. I fully support the idea of diverting children who are on the cusp of entering the justice system and putting in place, where appropriate, support that can reduce risk and prevent an escalation in offending. He may wish to know that in his own local area, we are funding Redthread at Queen’s Medical Centre—I was delighted to attend its launch last year—and, through the youth endowment fund, two different projects are helping children and young people, and their families and schools, by keeping them safe and diverting them from risk.
Children excluded from school are twice as likely to carry a knife. A quarter of young offenders who are serving a custodial sentence of less than 12 months have a history of permanent exclusion. To help turn around the life chances of these children, will my hon. Friend take up the recommendations in my report on school exclusion, published last year, which are aimed at taking a public health approach to crime and tackling the root causes, not just the symptoms, of school disengagement?
I thank my hon. Friend for his meticulous work in his report. He will know that the Prime Minister is taking charge of our response to serious violence, and is indeed holding a Cabinet Sub-Committee on this imminently. I agree that we must tackle the root causes of serious violence. That is precisely why we are bringing forward the serious violence Bill to place a duty on the agencies that can help to address it.
I fully support the exclusions review that was just referred to, but, in tackling youth violence, does the Home Office think it is either acceptable or right that the vast majority of young people on the gangs matrix are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds? Being flagged on the gangs matrix brings with it huge consequences for those young people, often separation from families and other issues. Does she think that this approach is appropriate, or that it works?
The hon. Lady is referring to an operational tool used by the police, but it is one of many tools that we are looking at in terms of law enforcement response and these crucial issues about diverting children and young people away from crime in the first place. The causes are manifold, and we must work with communities to address them together.
Can my hon. Friend assure me that the police have all the powers they need to crack down on the scourge of knife crime, which is ruining so many lives across the country, but particularly in London? Could she update the House on what plans she has to target repeat knife carriers?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who of course brings to the House his experience of representing his constituency on this important issue. We are determined to ensure that the police have the powers they need to tackle this terrible scourge. That is why, in the new serious violence Bill, a new court order will be brought forward that will make it easier for the police to stop and search known and convicted knife carriers.
Drug gangs, or county lines, often involve a horrific form of child criminal exploitation, and we are determined to put an end to it. One of the many ways we are seeking to do that is through further investment in the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, which has co-ordinated enforcement action across the country, resulting in more than 2,500 arrests and the safeguarding of more than 3,000 vulnerable people.
Last year, Labour attempted to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill to ban the open sale of knives and require shops to lock them behind cabinets, as we currently require them to do for cigarettes. The Government refused those amendments. Last week, Sudesh Amman walked into a shop on Streatham high street, picked up a knife from the display and stabbed two people. This weekend, that shop was still openly displaying knives and machetes by the front door. Will the Government now think again?
The hon. Lady may recall that we said we would keep that under review, because we felt that the measures put forward last year were of a nature that did not target areas that have a particular problem with knife crime. We will keep it under review, but I make the point again that it is the responsibility of shop owners to make sure that if they are selling items such as that, they display them appropriately and, if necessary, keep them under lock and key.
Good youth services are the frontline against youth violence, but this week we see yet another local government settlement that means there is a decade’s worth of erosion of funding for youth services. What will the Home Office do differently to encourage the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to properly fund youth services or to put its own money into a good universal offer across all our communities?
The hon. Gentleman will know of the most recent local authority grants, which the House will debate later this week. He will also know that the Chancellor restated a commitment to young people, confirming £500 million of investment through the new youth investment fund over five years, in addition to the £220 million that will be spent over the next 10 years on early intervention projects that can, and I hope will, make a great difference to our young people’s lives.
The Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities scheme is about to make a payment of £19 million of money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to youth projects in Scotland, bringing total payments to more than £110 million since the programme began in 2008. Will the Minister join me in welcoming that as something that can deliver real opportunity for young people in Scotland?
Families of Police Officers
It is often forgotten or taken for granted by many that behind every police officer stands a proud but anxious family. We want to recognise their bravery, commitment and sacrifice by introducing the police covenant. The covenant will be brought forward through the police powers and protections Bill, placing it on a statutory footing and ensuring that Parliament can scrutinise its progress. We will launch a consultation on the principle and scope of the covenant in the coming weeks.
My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point. The death of Andrew Harper last year on the very edge of my constituency was a terrible and tragic event. She will know that there are already measures in place to assist families in that position, not least the police injury benefits scheme, as well as welfare support offered by particular forces and the Police Federation. But there is always more we can do, and we would welcome submissions to the consultation on the covenant, to address any gaps that may exist.
One thing that families would quite like to see is prosecuting authorities and the police themselves taking it much more seriously when there are assaults on police officers, even if they are relatively minor ones. Otherwise, there seems to be a sort of acceptance that a degree of violence is in the day job of a police officer, and that must surely be wrong. Why is the legislation introduced two years ago still not being used effectively by the Crown Prosecution Service?
The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. As I have said in this House before, it is my view that anybody who raises a malevolent finger against any emergency service should face the full weight of the law. He is right that there is general concern about the increasing number of attacks on emergency service workers of all types, and we will review what steps need to be taken in the near future to sort that out.
Hampshire Constabulary: Police Numbers
The Government’s pledge to put an additional 20,000 officers on our streets sends a clear message that we are committed to giving police the resources they need to tackle the scourge of crime. Hampshire will receive up to £366.5 million of funding next year, an increase of up to £26.1 million on the previous year. In this year alone, the county will benefit from 156 more police officers.
I welcome the increase to Hampshire—and Isle of Wight—constabulary. Does the Minister agree that the increase will enable police in both Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as well as in other areas of the UK, to follow up lower level crime? It causes great concern to all our constituents, but in recent years the police have been under pressure not to investigate it, due to police numbers.
It is obviously an operational matter for chief constables to address where and how they allocate their resources, but I would certainly hope that an increase in the number of police officers will allow them to spend more time on the sort of crimes that assail both my hon. Friend’s community and mine in the county. They perhaps do not attract the attention of the headlines, but nevertheless cause consternation in the communities we represent.
“Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper”
Immigration is and will remain a reserved matter. This Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. Applying different immigration rules to different parts of the UK would significantly complicate the immigration system.
The Australian Immigration Minister stated last November that regional visas
“can play an important role in helping to address regional skills gaps and grow local economies.”
As migration is the only reason Scotland’s population continues to grow, does the Minister agree that Scotland would benefit from this Australian approach to immigration, rather than the one-size-fits-all one of this UK Government?
We have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee on several occasions to look at the case for applying different immigration arrangements to different areas of the UK. It has consistently recommended against this, and I think Members in this House will realise why it would make no sense, for example, for a plumber from Gretna to be unable to take on jobs in Carlisle.
New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada are just some of the other countries that, like Australia, operate a tailored regional immigration system without any need for internal borders, so what possible rationale is there for claiming, as the Prime Minister did last week, that to operate a Scottish visa would require a hard border between Scotland and England?
Again, we have made it very clear: the independent Migration Advisory Committee has set out in its report why it does not recommend this type of approach. Ultimately, we do not want to see borders at Berwick just to satisfy a separatist obsession. Our goal would be to have a system that works and drives success in Scotland, and that means being part of a wider, stronger United Kingdom.
I think the only people satisfying a separatist obsession at the moment are those on the Conservative Benches with their hard Brexit.
Let us try again on this mythical hard border, shall we? The United Kingdom has an open land border and shares a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which operates an entirely distinct and independent system. That does not necessitate a hard border, so why should a modest Scottish visa mean a hard border between England and Scotland? Let us have an answer to the question for a change.
Let us be very clear: the Migration Advisory Committee has advised against such a system. It would create complexity, with businesses having to work out which staff were on one visa and which were on another. Ultimately, we will be guided by independent advice, but I will be absolutely clear: this Government will create a migration system that works for Scotland and drives success in Scotland, but will not drive separation for Scotland.
Can the Minister confirm that this Government will indeed design and implement a new, fit-for-purpose global immigration system that works for all regions and nations of our United Kingdom, and that, of course, Members on the SNP Benches have as much right as any Member in this place to work with the Government to help to achieve that?
Absolutely, and the suggestion from the Scottish Government that it would be implemented via the Scottish tax code is rather defeated by the fact that Scottish Members of Parliament are on the Scottish tax code but work across our United Kingdom, and rightly so. So, yes, we will work with interest groups across Scotland to make sure this system works for Scotland as part of our United Kingdom, on a points-based basis. Again, we will focus on what works and what is successful, not on what pleases the separatist grievance agenda.
Police Officer Numbers: Lancashire
We believe that the entire country, including Lancashire, could do with a boost in police numbers to address the changing nature of crime, and as a result we have provided enough money to recruit 6,000 police officers over the next year. Of that, Lancashire will benefit from 153 more.
I am sure, Mr Speaker, you will wish to join me in paying tribute to Lancashire police, who responded over the weekend to the devastating effects of Storm Ciara, alongside all the other emergency services.
The Minister points out that Lancashire is to receive 153 officers under this core grant allocation-style funding, but Lancashire has lost 750 police officers since 2010. On that pattern, we will not regain the total number of officers lost, whereas Surrey, which has lost eight officers since 2010, looks to be gaining hundreds of officers under this funding formula. Can the Minister explain to my constituents why that is fair?
The funding formula has been in place for some time, and there is obviously consternation across the House about the impact it may have, along with a number of the other formulas on which we allocate resources. We will keep this under review, and will do so on this formula, but for the moment the quickest and most efficacious way for us to share out this huge uplift in the number of police officers across the country was using the existing formula, and I hope those 153 officers will be put to good use.
Points-based Immigration System
The Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the United Kingdom, and that is fair and prioritises the skills people have to offer wherever they come from.
I for one welcome this, particularly the fact that we will be able to get the brightest and the best not only from Europe but from other nations as well, such as the US, Australia and New Zealand, and Canada. But Lichfield is a rural constituency—a particularly beautiful one, I might add—and we have a need not just for people with great skills but for part-time horticultural workers. What can my right hon. Friend do to assure people they will come to the UK?
Without wishing to compete with my hon. Friend’s beautiful rural constituency, I, too, have one. Of course, in order to take back control we are effectively bringing in these changes, and with that I am doubling the number of people who can go through the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, and more information will follow on that in due course.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question on the applicability of the points-based system, including to his beautiful Bridgend constituency, and of course he is absolutely right to raise that. We want the brightest and the best; we want to control immigration, but of course we want to bring that equalisation so that anybody from around the world—not just from the EU—who wants to come to the UK, including Bridgend, and has the skills to offer will be welcome.
Will the Secretary of State provide some clarification regarding the proposed immigration system? It has been called Australian-styled, but the Minister will be aware that the Australian system is actually a permissive system designed to encourage migration, and as the hostile environment rages on surely that is not what this Government aim to do—raise migration. So will the right hon. Lady clarify exactly what the system is, and confirm whether the Government will scrap the net migration target, which was dreamed up without evidence and has never once been met?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and of course she will know that the hostile environment, as she called it, dates back to previous Governments. The point about the points-based system is of course that we want a simpler, faster, firmer, better system—one that fulfils our promises to the British people, where we seize that once-in-a-generation opportunity to take back control of our borders and end free movement, which I appreciate Opposition Members simply do not want. We will restore democratic control of our immigration, which is effectively what the British people voted for.
It is important to remember that it was the Labour Government who introduced a points-based system. It is important to remember, too, that many of the workers we need in this country cannot come in under the immigration cap of £30,000. The Home Secretary has looked at that for some professions, but will she widen it to ensure we get the workers we need?
Immigration legislation will come before the House in due course. With regard to the labour market and the skills this country needs, decisions on the points-based system will be based on the needs and skills that this country requires. That is incredibly important, so that no Member is deceived under that. It recognises the fact that we need good people with the skills our economy needs, which will enable and facilitate growth in our economy. We want to encourage the brightest and the best to come to this country not just from the EU, but from outside the EU.
Criminal Justice System
The Government are looking at all aspects of the criminal justice system to ensure it works for victims, witnesses and the most vulnerable. We all have a part to play in that—this is not just a Home Office matter—and today the Cabinet’s new committee on the criminal justice system will meet to look at how we can drive better integration across government.
As part of that work, I welcome the review of sentencing we are undertaking. We need to ensure that sentencing reflects the severity of the crime. I ran a survey for residents in Crewe and Nantwich to tell me what they think and they overwhelmingly back what we are doing. They also tell me that the term “life sentence” is not fit for purpose. I do not understand why someone whose loved one has been murdered might hear that the person responsible has been given a life sentence but see them walk out of jail, while they are still serving the true life sentence of living with a lost relative.
My hon. Friend makes some very valid points about victims, sentences and the criminal justice system. I had the privilege of meeting some of his constituents when I visited his constituency during the election. It is fair to say that the work we are doing with regard to changes to sentences and working with the criminal justice system will ensure that sentences will fit the crime and that we can therefore restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.
In the Flint area of my Delyn constituency, violent and sexual assaults made up 47% of crimes committed in the second half of last year and antisocial behaviour 21%, yet for all crimes committed across the board only 7% went to court, 31% are still being investigated and 55% were closed with no action. What can my right hon. Friend do to assure my constituents that the Government will ensure that offenders are brought to court in a timely and efficient timeframe?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight those appalling figures and statistics, which go to show that victims are not being served and justice is not being given to the victims of those crimes. In terms of what we should do and are doing, there is now clear financial uplift to the Crown Prosecution Service. We are pressing the CPS and working with it closely to address many of the failings and inadequacies in the system. We must eradicate such delays and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.
It is not just in the CPS that there are delays and bottlenecks. The Home Secretary will know that in the court system, too, there are very significant delays exacerbated in some cases by the lack of access to legal aid, which means defendants having to represent themselves. Will she say what discussions she is having with her counterparts in the Ministry of Justice about speeding up the courts process?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the issues about access to justice. The work that has taken place and will be taking place through the new Cabinet Committee on Crime and Justice, and the work that I am undertaking in addition with the Ministry of Justice, very much shine a spotlight on that. We have to support individuals as they go through the legal process, the court process and the court systems. The Government have announced a royal commission into the criminal justice system, where some of those issues will be addressed.
One group of people who often do not have confidence in the criminal justice system are those with autism and their families. They often get caught up in the criminal justice system inappropriately. Will the Home Secretary agree to work with Ministers in other Departments and perhaps set up a cross-ministerial working group to ensure that people with autism are not unnecessarily caught up in the criminal justice system?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and the new committee that the Prime Minister has established seeks to do exactly this. We have to look across Government. No one Department has the answers to any of the challenges not only with the system but in terms of how we can protect victims and individuals. Cross-government working is absolutely crucial, and I am very happy to work with individuals and people who have experience of this.
County Lines: Exploitation of Children
The Government are determined to stop the terrible exploitation of children and rid our streets of criminal county lines gangs. That is why we are augmenting significant police activity with an extra £25 million of targeted investment across the next two years to uplift the law and enforcement response to county lines and increase the support available to children, young people and their families.
In Beaconsfield, the Thames Valley police have been working tirelessly to protect and prevent child exploitation, particularly from county lines. Will the Minister update the House on what preventive tools the police can use to protect children and young people who are at risk of being criminally exploited through the county lines network?
One of the most significant deterrents that we think will be available to us is differential sentencing. A judge, on giving a sentence to somebody who is involved in county lines, can already take into act culpability factors, such as the use of children. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the Sentencing Council is currently reviewing those guidelines, and we hope and believe that the most severe penalties will be meted out to those who exploit children in this way.
With no statutory definition of “child criminal exploitation”, different safeguarding agencies and police forces understand the risks differently, but county lines exploitation is everywhere. In order to comply with Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary’s recommendation that we need a unified definition in law of child criminal exploitation, when can we expect such an announcement so that we truly safeguard these child victims?
The co-ordination of the effort across Government and indeed, across all the arms of government, including local government, will be one of the primary tasks of the new Cabinet committee that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has established. The hon. Lady is right that dealing with this phenomenon, which spans force and local authority boundaries, will take a united and concerted approach, and we will be doing so over the next few weeks.
According to Hampshire police, every town in our county has been targeted by county lines drugs gangs, and in Fareham we had some recent arrests of drug dealers. Will the Minister reassure me that Fareham will not get overlooked in the allocation of police officers as part of the new recruitment wave?
In her usual manner, my hon. Friend fights hard for resources for her constituency and I do not blame her, but, as she knows, the allocation of police officers—not least, new police officers—in a specific force area is a matter for the chief constable. However, as a Hampshire MP myself, with a town that has also been preyed upon by county lines drug dealers, she can be assured that how we as a county, and indeed, as a country can combat this scourge is at the front of my mind.
As I said in answer to an earlier question, co-ordination of the effort against county lines in terms of enforcement and intervention, and then rescuing young people who are involved in it, will take a huge amount of effort. The Cabinet committee that the Prime Minister has drawn together will look specifically at this. The hon. Lady will be pleased, however, that the Cabinet Office has been leading on cross-government work, looking at what more we can do to make sure that we deal with this problem.
Domestic Abuse: Victim Support
The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill was announced alongside the Queen’s Speech on 19 December last year. The Bill and an accompanying non-legislative package will protect and support victims of domestic abuse across England and Wales and bring perpetrators to justice.
In the west midlands, over 60,000 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes were recorded by the police in the year ending March 2019. Will the Minister ensure that in the forthcoming domestic abuse Bill these victims and their children, who as a result of their ordeal have been made homeless, are prioritised during the allocation of safe and permanent housing for victims of domestic abuse in Wolverhampton and across the country?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Government are committed to supporting domestic abuse victims and their children. Statutory guidance already makes it clear that in allocating social housing councils should consider giving additional preference to those who are homeless and require urgent rehousing as a result of domestic abuse. We strongly encourage all councils to give appropriate priority to victims and their families who have escaped abuse and are being accommodated in a refuge or other temporary accommodation.
We are determined to tackle the scourge of knife crime. We are recruiting 20,000 more police officers, increasing police funding, making it easier for the police to use stop-and-search, and ensuring that more perpetrators go to prison for longer. We have legislated through the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 and knife crime prevention orders to help take more knives off the street. We are also introducing the serious violence Bill, which will put a duty on police, councils and health authorities to prevent and reduce serious violence.
First, I offer my condolences to the bereaved family. It is a terrible event to happen and I know it will have shocked everyone in the town. Happily, I understand that an investigation is ongoing and an arrest has been made, and we await the outcome of that investigation. As my hon. Friend, who has fought hard for resources for her constituency, will know, Devon and Cornwall police will receive more funding next year and will be able to recruit 141 additional officers in the first year, as part of the 20,000 police officer uplift. I hope they will be put to good use to prevent exactly this sort of incident.
Last week, we were shocked and appalled by another terror attack on the streets of London. I pay tribute to the brave members of our police and emergency services who responded immediately. It is our duty to keep the people and public safe, and it is only right that the Government are now introducing emergency legislation to put a stop to these terrorist offenders being automatically released early with no checks or review.
Since I last addressed the House, Britain has made history by leaving the European Union, delivering on our promise to the British people. This is the dawn of a bright new future for our country. With that, I am also delighted to announce that our hugely successful EU settlement scheme has received 3 million applications. This will embrace an exciting new chapter in our history together.
My right hon. Friend is right to point out that through our points-based system we are introducing new routes to attract the brightest and the best. Our fast-track immigration scheme will facilitate entry to the UK for more people with skills, including scientists, researchers and mathematicians. This is just the first phase of our reforms to send a signal that the UK intends to remain at the forefront of research and innovation.
Does the Home Secretary appreciate the widespread concern about the Jamaican deportation flight due tomorrow? Is she aware that Stephen Shaw, in his review of detention, suggested that we should not be deporting people who came here as children, but that many of the proposed deportees came here as children and have no memory of Jamaica? Does she accept that these deportations constitute double jeopardy, because the persons have already served an appropriate sentence for their crime? Is she aware that more than 170 Members of Parliament from all political parties have written to the Prime Minister calling for the deportation flight to be halted?
I am sure that the right hon. Lady is aware that under the UK Borders Act 2007 a deportation order must be made in respect of foreign criminals sentenced to 12 months or more in prison. Every person on the flight was convicted of a serious offence and received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. That means that, under the Act, which was introduced by the Labour Government in 2007, a deportation order must be made.
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting and shining a spotlight on some of the most corrosive and abusive behaviour that people in public office—public servants—witness and experience online. That is simply unacceptable. The Government’s Online Harms White Paper makes clear that we will absolutely tackle such corrosive behaviour: we will pull it off the online media, and we will introduce a regulatory regime to ensure that that kind of hatred cannot continue online.
On Friday the deputy chair of the local Conservative association was jailed for nine weeks for menacing communications, including these threats against me:
“I am already organising her to be hurt. Amazing what crackheads will do for £100. I’m gonna get her beat up.”
The chair of the local association wrote to me today expressing regrets and apologies for what he describes as the grave and unacceptable actions of its member, who has since been expelled. I welcome that letter and that support, but it concerns me that, thus far, no similar condemnation or sense of regret has been expressed by the national party. The national chair’s letter to me in response to the issue said nothing stronger than
“intimidating behaviour has no place in our politics.”
I am also disappointed that the neighbouring Member of Parliament chose to give a very positive character reference for that individual, without contacting me first. I have raised that with her directly, but I know that she was unable to be in the Chamber today.
I am still concerned about the fact that although I raised this case with senior members of the national party, the individual was still able to be at the general election count after he had been summonsed. May I therefore ask the Home Secretary to condemn these threats in the strongest terms, to look into her party’s response, and also to show leadership by urging all political parties to come together and draw up a new joint code of conduct against intimidation? Violent threats must have no place in politics in all parties.
I thank the right hon. Lady for presenting to the House the horrors of what she has endured, and for making the case, very strongly and robustly, that there is no place for threats and intimidation in society or in public life. Let me say now, on the Floor of the House, that that is categorically unacceptable and wrong. There is no place at all for intimidation in public life. As for the national party’s response, the right hon. Lady can take it from me, right now, that I am hugely apologetic for what she has had to put up with. It is simply unacceptable, and that is also something of which we should all be mindful, as representatives of major political parties. None of this should be tolerated.
The right hon. Lady referred to my colleague in the neighbouring constituency. My understanding is that her comments were in support of securing the help that that individual needed in terms of access to mental health. However—[Interruption.] I see that the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) is chuckling away. This is a very serious matter. It is not a laughing matter.
I think it is fair to say, given that remark, that the insincerity sits with the hon. and learned Lady. The fact of the matter is that it is right that we come together. [Interruption.] Yes, we will see. It is a fact that it is this Government who are trying to deal with this type of issue. Members have already heard me speak about dealing with online harms and trolling, and have heard me call this unacceptable. I am absolutely sincere in my remarks, and I am so sorry—actually, I think it is shameful—that the hon. and learned Lady is herself being quite insincere in respect of the case that I am putting to her.
We have provided up to £10.6 million more funding, which will allow the police and crime commissioner to recruit another 64 police officers for the county. That is the first instalment of Cambridgeshire’s share of the 20,000 police officers. I hope that the good people of Cambridgeshire will reciprocate by electing a very good police and crime commissioner in May.
We will shortly confirm our policy on migration, and we will of course continue to have discussions across Government with the European Union to determine future status here in this country.
I am more than happy to endorse my hon. Friend’s remarks. He has been a champion for his part of London for a long time before coming to this House. He is quite right to have high expectations of the Mayor of London, whose efforts on crime have sadly disappointed during his time as Mayor thus far.
I am sure that the issue of drug consumption rooms will appear in the discussions during the drugs summit, but I repeat what I have said to the Scottish Affairs Committee on this matter, which is that the Scottish National party’s obsession with drug consumption rooms is a distraction from the major effort that can be put into this issue. The irrefutable evidence from across the world is that treatment is by far and away the best way to prevent drug deaths. However, it is no surprise that the SNP should seek to distract in this way, not least because the SNP Government have cut drug treatment funds in Scotland over the past few years.
I share my right hon. Friend’s concerns, and we have been clear that people should make their asylum claim in the first safe country they reach. We work under the Dublin regulations and we will continue to discuss our future participation in that regard, post-Brexit, but we will be tackling this because we want to end the scourge of trafficking that puts so many lives at risk.
I had the privilege of visiting the west midlands two weeks ago and participating in an early-morning drugs raid. The scourge of serious and violent crime is absolutely one that we have to deal with, and this Government are fully committed to that. We are providing all the necessary resources—the money, the equipment and the powers—to the police to enable them to get on top of this.
Just this weekend I received a report of masked intruders on a farm in my constituency. Could my right hon. Friend update the House on what is being done to tackle the intimidation of farmers and rural crime such as fly-tipping and theft, and could she also reassure my constituents that preventing and prosecuting rural crime will be a focus of this Government?
I reassure my hon. Friend that we absolutely view rural crime as totally unacceptable. It blights communities and, whether it is fly-tipping or organised crime related to waste crime in particular, she and all other Members who represent rural communities know that it has to be tackled. We are currently working on that through our serious organised crime strategy and across Government.
Pre-settled status is granted to people who have not been in the country for five years. By definition, an EU citizen who has been living in the country for five years or more and can evidence that will be granted full settled status. For clarity, according to the most recent set of official figures, I think only five people have been refused status, all on the grounds of criminality.
When a secular psychopath threatens to run amok and kill indiscriminately, we treat him as criminally insane and detain him indefinitely in a high-security psychiatric unit. Why do we not do the same for a religious psychopath who threatens to do exactly the same thing?
My right hon. Friend raises very important issues. The Government will address them in tomorrow’s emergency legislation and the forthcoming counter- terrorism Bill, which will consider appropriate sentences for people who seek to do a great deal of harm to our country.
I just want to reassure the House that, in fairness to the Home Secretary and me, we took very seriously threats made against MPs and candidates during the last election, so much so that we were constantly in touch to make sure that support was being given. That support will continue to be available to all MPs. Please, if a threat is made to any MP, make sure that you report it. The House and I and the Home Secretary will ensure that your safety comes first. Please do not shy away from reporting any incidents.
Point of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will be brief. Before the 2017 general election, Amnesty International carried out research into abuse against female MPs. The results showed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was the most abused female MP in the United Kingdom, by a country mile. I was the second most abused female MP in the UK, although very far behind my right hon. Friend, who has had a lot to put up with. That was the perspective from which I made my comments, in exasperation, during the last exchange. I simply want to put on the record that that was the context in which I made my comments, and to say that the level of abuse that I have continued to receive has taken its toll on me, my girlfriend, my family and my friends. I really do hope that the Government are going to tackle it in this Session.
I want to reassure the hon. and learned Lady. Nobody should suffer abuse in the way that we have seen. It has happened to many other MPs as well. I want to make sure that that does not happen and to ensure your safety. Please, if you are getting abuse, we will ensure that the House supports you and we will take people to court. I have done a witness statement on behalf of every MP, which will be used back you up and to take some of the threat away from you.
Deportation Flight to Jamaica
(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary, as she leaves the Chamber, if she will make a statement on the suppression of the Windrush lessons learned review and its implications for the deportation flight that is set to leave the country on Wednesday.
Righting the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation has been an absolute priority for this Government. People who arrived in this country as little more than infants, and who built lives and raised families here, were told they were no longer welcome. That should never have happened, and it was a terrible mistake by successive Governments and by the Home Office.
Since these injustices came to light, the Government have moved swiftly to give those affected the certainty they need. That is why we set up a taskforce to help people confirm their status. I can confirm that over 8,000 people have been granted some form of documentation, including over 5,000 grants of citizenship, under the scheme.
We have also launched a compensation scheme to address the financial hardship suffered by those left unable to work or unable to access other support systems. To ensure nothing like this ever happens again, the previous Home Secretary commissioned an independent lessons learned review.
In recent days, news coverage has referenced extracts of a draft report, which were leaked in June 2019, in the context of a planned deportation charter flight to Jamaica. I am not going to comment on leaks, but let me be very clear that the lessons learned report has not been suppressed. The report has yet to be submitted to Ministers by the independent adviser, Wendy Williams. It will be for the Home Secretary to publish her report once it has been received.
It is vital that we allow Wendy Williams the time and space to produce her report without political interference. When it is available, the Home Office is committed to publishing it as soon as practically possible and will take its findings and any recommendations very seriously.
With regard to tomorrow’s charter flight, the Home Secretary is required by law to issue a deportation order for anyone who is a serious or persistent foreign national offender. It does not matter what part of the world they are from. Whether it is the United States, Jamaica, Australia or Canada, it is criminality, not nationality, that counts.
That legal requirement is set out in the UK Borders Act 2007, which was introduced under a Labour Government, and I remind the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) that he was a member of that Government and did not, as far as I can recall, raise objections at the time to the Act’s provisions.
We cannot breach the Act, and we will not allow foreign nationals who are convicted of the most serious offences, including rape and child sexual abuse, to remain in Britain. Tomorrow’s flight is about keeping the public safe, and it cannot and should not be conflated with the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation.
I regret the tone with which the Minister has responded to this urgent question. It is two years since there was consensus in this House on how the Windrush generation had been treated in this country. This is a generation of people, thousands of them, who came to this country after the second world war and gave so much but took so little.
Let me just remind the Minister: 164 people were detained and deported, which the Government say they got wrong. On the back of that, 5,000 people were denied access to public services, healthcare, pensions and education—all that they were entitled to. Against that backdrop, he is correct that the Government rightly set up the independent lessons learned review led by Wendy Williams. In the wake of that, they suspended flights to Jamaica. The question today is why have the Government resumed those flights?
In light of the scandal of people who arrived in this country as children, how can the Minister guarantee to the House that there are not people on this flight who are actually British nationals? In the wake of the leak, in which Wendy Williams herself says Ministers should not deport people under the age of 13, can he confirm that there are people on that flight who arrived in this country aged two, three, five or 11? He gives the House the impression that they are murderers and rapists, but he knows that many of them were convicted of non-violent offences.
We in this House cannot condemn county lines and those who would pimp young black children in this country and, at the same time, send those same children back to Jamaica for such drug offences. So I ask the Minister: when will we see this lessons learned review? It was promised in March last year. It was then delayed until September. We are almost two years on now, and people watching see the way in which this Government hold in such disrespect the contribution of West Indian, Caribbean and black people in this country. When, when will black lives matter once again?
Let us start with the review and when it will come. Ultimately, this is an independent review and the timing is in the hands of the reviewer. Ministers cannot compel it to be produced by a particular date. Let us be clear: on the status check, there are no British nationals on that flight. Let us also be clear that the foreign national offenders on the flight have been sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison. As we said, the offences relate to everything from sex offending to serious drug trafficking offences, violent offences and firearms offences. That is what is happening in this instance and, aside from two cases, it is based on legislation passed under a Labour Government, in 2007. To define the Windrush generation by this particular group of offenders is truly wrong. The Windrush generation should be defined by the midwife who delivered hundreds of babies; the person who travelled thousands of miles, worked hard and provided for their family for decades. The line being adopted by the Opposition now is remarkable: that somehow that generation is defined by serious or persistent criminal offenders who are being deported from this country. Many listening to the exchanges this afternoon will think that the Labour party not only lost an election, but lost the plot as well.
Yes, I do. Given the provisions of the law that have been in place for the past 13 years, many will expect that when someone is convicted of a type of offence that many of those on this flight have committed, deportation may well proceed. Let us be clear: drugs are not a victimless crime; we need only look at the death rates, particularly the tragic figures we had last year in Scotland, to see their impact. As I say, the law is there and the law is clear, and it is not a “might”, a “may” or a “could”; it was legislated in 2007 that it was a “must” issue a deportation order.
The public will note the very dismissive attitude that the Minister has taken to the serious urgent question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). One problem with this deportation flight is that it is not clear how many people on it came to this country as children. The Minister said he will not comment on leaks from the Windrush lessons learned review. Will he accept that the Stephen Shaw review of detention suggests we should not deport people who came here as children? Is the Minister aware that some of the proposed deportees have, in effect, been held incommunicado because of problems with the mobile signal in their detention centre? Is he aware that one thing the Windrush scandal teaches us is that, when we deport people in this way, we need to be absolutely certain about their immigration status? Clearly, none of them are of the Windrush cohort, but some of them may be the children and grandchildren of the Windrush cohort, which would have made it difficult for them to establish their nationality. Is the Minister aware of the very real concern in the community about this mass deportation flight? His dismissive attitude suggests an altogether dismissive attitude to the concerns of the community and what is problematic about this mass deportation flight.
I agree with the shadow Home Secretary that it is right that extensive checks are made before people are listed for deportation on a flight such as the one we are discussing. Let us be clear: these are offenders who have been through the courts and sentenced. There will have been opportunities to make representations against their removal and, as the right hon. Lady will know, there are exemptions in the 2007 Act that apply in respect of, for example, the refugee convention or the European convention on human rights. Those matters have been considered and many of the offenders have lodged appeals. Again, I am clear that the public would look at this debate and say that these are persistent or serious criminal offenders. The law is clear and it is a statutory “must” that the Home Secretary make a deportation order. The law is applied based on the criminality, not the nationality, of the offender. There are regular deportations to many other countries around the world. We will consider the review, but we will also be clear that victims and the public have a right to be protected from serious criminals.
Surely voters throughout the country for all parties would expect serious and persistent offenders to be deported in accordance with the law. Will my hon. Friend tell the House the minimum threshold at which somebody becomes classified as a serious and persistent offender, so that we can understand the criteria being applied to put people on these flights?
Normally, the definition of a serious offence would be one that has attracted a sentence of 12 months in prison. On persistence, the nature of the offences would be considered. There is not a particular number that somebody would have to hit; it would be about the nature of their offending patterns. As my hon. Friend says, the public would expect serious or persistent offenders who are liable to be deported under the 2007 Act to be removed from this country unless the exceptions apply.
I agree that it is hugely troubling that the lessons learned review has not yet been published. It is totally unacceptable that this charter flight could proceed before all the lessons of Windrush are learned. Windrush should change everything; instead, the Home Office carries on as if nothing has changed.
Will the Minister admit that the flight will include people who were entitled to British nationality—including one individual who was in the care system—but could not access it because of complicated and expensive nationality procedures? When will access to British citizenship finally be made affordable and simple? Does the Minister accept that many on the flight have a far stronger connection to Britain than to Jamaica? As Stephen Shaw would put it, many are more British than they are Jamaican. Will the Minister confirm that the flight will leave 41 British children separated from their fathers and nine British citizens without partners or husbands? Is it not time to look at the legislation again?
Finally, written answers confirm that the Home Office has taken absolutely no interest in what happened to the people on its last charter flight to Jamaica. Is that not the height of irresponsibility?
Again, I am clear that we have checked that there is no one on the flight who would be eligible for British citizenship or nationality. We would not be able to deport them if they were. The cases have been through the courts. Again, I should make it clear that the law is very clear, the offences committed are very clear and we are very clear that the Home Office applies the rules based on the criminality, not the nationality, of the offender.
Does the Minister agree that shrill virtue signalling and faux outrage ignore the political and legal realities of the issue? My parents emigrated to the UK from Commonwealth countries in the 1960s and could have been caught up in the Windrush issue. Thankfully, they were not. The Government have apologised for this issue and are taking remedial action on it. Will the Minister confirm that British citizenship is a privilege, not a right? Those foreign national offenders who abuse their time here need to face the full force of the law.
Clearly, those with British citizenship would not be liable for deportation, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should not define the Windrush generation by a group of people who have committed serious offences or been persistent criminal offenders. The Windrush generation is the midwife who delivered hundreds of babies, the person who worked hard to provide for their family—that is who defines that generation, not serious offenders.
The Minister’s tone and his response to this urgent question have been quite shameful. My constituent came here from Jamaica when he was five years old and all of his family lives here. He is set to be deported on this flight tomorrow, having served a seven-month custodial sentence in 2015. Given the leaked “lessons learned” review issues, is it not right that the Minister, the Home Secretary and the Government take stock and halt this flight just to make sure that they do not inflict any further harm? This mistake has been made before—people were deported and they ended up dead.
Yes, we do want to make sure that we prevent further harm—further harm to future victims of crime that may be committed by the persistent or serious offenders who are on this flight. As I have said, the law is very clear. It is rather strange that a Conservative Minister should come under this type of attack, as we are defending and outlining legislation that was actually pushed by the Labour party.
It would not be right for me to go into the details of the offences that individuals have committed, yet I can say that those on board include people who have been convicted of rape—rape of children—firearms offences, and serious drug offences. As I have said, the legislation is clear about what the exceptions are, and, again, those will have been assessed before the final deportation notices were issued.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says that it has become aware that potential victims of trafficking have also been served with removal directions. Will the Minister please confirm with a clear yes or no whether there will be victims of human trafficking on this flight?
Any claims made for the protection routes will have been assessed, but, again, we are talking about a planeful of people who have been sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison and have committed serious offences. Decisions are based on the exceptions under the UK Borders Act 2007, and that is the law with which we will comply.
A number of my Chelmsford constituents have written to me about this case. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the court case that was heard in Chelmsford last year regarding protesters against a previous flight. With that in mind, and given that we do have a legal duty to deport persistent and serious offenders, can he assure me that he personally has looked at each individual case, and that each one involves a persistent or serious offender?
Yes, I have been through the manifest, but it would not be appropriate for me to discuss individual cases on the Floor of the House. Let me be clear: the decisions on all these cases will have been based on professional assessments, on the law and on where they fall around the exceptions, including things such as the right to a family life under the European Court of Human Rights.
“Never again” we were told by those on the Government Benches when they were dragged to this place over the first Windrush scandal. Now we are hearing that lessons learned in that report are again falling on deaf ears. Ultimately, we on the Labour Benches know that this Windrush case is state-sanctioned racism, and it has given permission to racists across this country to attack people day in, day out. When will the Minister understand that this flight must be stopped, or on his head be it?
Well, I do listen to some of the comments from those on the Opposition Benches. It would be on our head if we stopped the flight because we would not be complying with our legal duties. We would be seeing persistent and serious offenders remain in this country when they should have been deported under an Act passed by a Labour Government. I must say that many people listening to this will agree with this Government that it is the criminality, not the nationality, that should be determining what happens in this case.
Does the Minister agree that the legal duty on the Government to do the right thing to keep the public safe by removing serious criminals from this country is completely separate from our duty to do the right thing by the Windrush generation who helped to rebuild this country after the war?
I could not have put it better myself. The Windrush generation has made a huge contribution to this country, and it is absolutely unbelievable that some on the Opposition Benches want to define them by a group of foreign national offenders who have been sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison. It is truly remarkable.
A number of those facing deportation tomorrow were found guilty of drug-related offences and have served their time. Meanwhile, we have a Prime Minister who has said that he took cocaine, which is a class A drug. Is it one rule for some and another for others?
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the people on the flight tomorrow are not only serious or persistent offenders, but all adults who were convicted as adults and not as young offenders?
Will the Minister provide the House with some facts, in particular the individual sentences and the offences of those on the flight; the age at which they came to this country; and whether any of them were affected by the lack of mobile phone coverage, which the Home Office recognises was an issue?
The offences all meet the threshold for deportation set under the 2007 Act by the Government the right hon. Lady was a member of. Their cases, including whether there are ECHR rights that apply, have been considered by the courts. We are clear that they have committed serious offences or been persistent offenders, who qualify under the Home Secretary’s legal duty. This is within the law, and, as we say, it is about criminality, not nationality.
Is not the point that there is a difference between foreign nationals who come to this country, who make a contribution and who are law abiding and those who are serious or persistent offenders? Can my hon. Friend confirm that the offences committed by those on the flight include manslaughter, rape, drug dealing and robbery? These are serious and persistent offenders.
How many of the people scheduled to go on the flight have had their mental state assessed? A number of them are vulnerable. After what happened in the Windrush scandal, does the Minister think it is fair to continue to treat people in this way?
Anyone entering immigration detention is assessed as part of our adults at risk policy where there is a concern, but let me be clear: these are people who have been through the criminal justice process, some on a number of occasions; they have completed sentences and are now liable under the law to deportation. They have been judged on their criminality, not their nationality, but there are exemptions provided for in the 2007 Act.
Parliament in 2007 passed legislation to require the Government to deport those guilty of serious or persistent offences. In those circumstances, does my hon. Friend agree with me that, were the Government not to do it, they would be liable to judicial review?
My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. As he said, we are under a legal duty to make the deportation order based on the criminality, not the nationality. Potentially, we would have to answer to future victims if we adopted the policy that is advocated by Labour Members now but not supported by some of them when their party was in government.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) noted, in the Windrush scandal British citizens have been wrongly deported. Why will the Minister not consider the possibility that the deportations should be suspended until the lessons learned review has been received and considered?
We have considered whether any of the people involved would benefit from protections under the Windrush scheme. The answer is no, none of them is a British citizen or British national. Ultimately, we have a legal duty to remove serious or persistent criminal offenders, some of whom have committed appalling crimes in this country. I recognise the legal duty this Government have, as does the Home Secretary, and we will fulfil it.
I thank the Minister for confirming that all those set to be deported are not British nationals. Does he agree that it is right that we can deprive foreign offenders of British citizenship when they harm and endanger our communities? Drug offences are not some unconscionable crime, they are serious —look at the scourge of county lines. Can he confirm that the majority of foreign offenders are in fact deported to the EU?
It does have to be said that the majority of deportations are to the EEA, and, as I touched on in my initial answer, we deport criminals who meet the thresholds regularly every week to a range of countries. As we keep on saying—I will say it again—it is the criminality, not the nationality that determines the outcome in each case.
When Parliament passed the UK Borders Act 2007, under the proposals of the then Government it would have considered whether it is appropriate to apply deportation orders to those who are serious or persistent offenders as part of the penalty for the crime. I believe the vast majority of the public think that is right.
Does my hon. Friend agree that attempts to play party political games with the Windrush scandal are shameful, especially given the fact that a National Audit Office report recognised that the hostile environment dated back to 2004 under the previous Labour Government?
I think it is extraordinary to see people wanting to conflate a group of foreign national offenders who have been sentenced to a total of 300 years’ imprisonment with a generation who have made such a huge contribution to this country. The Home Office will be guided by the law, not party political points.
Does the Minister agree that if the lessons learned review that was leaked is correct, in deporting 50 people tomorrow the Government will be going against their own recommendations in their own report, which has reportedly stated that those who have lived in the UK since childhood should not be deported?
I think we need to clarify that we are in a situation where Opposition Members are seemingly campaigning against Labour policy, so does my hon. Friend agree that foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes in Britain should be in no doubt about our intention to deport them?
As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on immigration detention, I am deeply concerned by some of the implications of this flight. The Minister did not answer the question from the Chair of the Select Committee, so can I ask whether he is aware of the outages of phone signal at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook immigration removal centres exposed by Detention Action, and whether all the people on the flight had access to functioning mobile phones so that they might access legal representation?
It has to be said that one of the people on the flight did a TV interview this morning, so there is provision for communications. Again, we have met the legal thresholds and the legal test. Ultimately, this is about whether we wish to deport serious or persistent offenders who have committed a range of offences. Many people will be watching with astonishment the attitude on the Opposition Benches.
As I have touched on, they have all been through the criminal justice system. Many have had quite extensive legal provision afterwards, and they have been assessed on everything else. I say yet again that we are complying with the law set in 2007. The hon. Lady can shake her head, but it is the law that her Labour predecessors voted for.
In the criminal process, there would have been opportunities to access legal aid. We have met our legal duties, and we have met the appropriate assessment around whether any of the individuals meet any of the exemptions. Ultimately, these are serious or persistent criminal offenders who, in some cases, present an ongoing threat to people in this country. We will put our legal duties first and protect the public, despite the calls from the Labour party.
I deeply regret the wilfully obtuse attitude taken by the Minister and others on the Government Benches regarding this issue. He should not hide behind the 2007 law on deportation when he knows full well that our concerns relate to our expectation that the independent review will say, when it is published, that those who came to this country as children should not be deported. This flight should not go ahead before that review and its recommendations are officially published in full. Surely he can see that that is the only way we will know that we have not deported our own citizens.
I repeat that there is no British citizen on that flight, and the potential eligibility for Windrush protections has been checked. As a Minister I remember that not so many months ago we were getting lectures from the Opposition about following the law and the rule of law, but now we are hearing the argument that we should not. We are not hiding behind the 2007 law; it is our duty to implement the 2007 law. It is really quite extraordinary to see the reactions from the party that brought it in.
Will the Minister describe to the House exactly how the Government have carried out their duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to ensure that any child affected by an immigration decision has their welfare properly considered? Does he know how many of those who are leaving the country on this flight have the care of, responsibility for or close family relationships with children in Britain?
When matters have been raised around family or dependent children, they have been professionally assessed before the decision has been taken to put someone on a deportation flight. Of course, when that is done, the nature of the criminality and the offences of some of those involved will be taken into account.
The problem with all the Minister’s answers is that he is asking us to trust a Department and a system that have been found to have had repeated and costly failures. He admitted to me himself in answer to a written question just a couple of weeks ago that the Home Office had wrongly detained 312 people at a cost of £8.2 million in compensation in just one year, 2018-19. That was up from 212 cases, costing £5 million, in 2017-18. He still refuses to give us the statistics on wrongful deportations and the costs associated with them. When will he come clean about how much money the Department has paid out for wrongfully deporting people—including, as it has done in the past, one of my own constituents?
Let me be clear about the facts of tomorrow’s flight, which are: a total of about 300 years of sentences of imprisonment for those on board, the nature of the offences committed and the existence of the legal duty. The Government will follow the law. Our system is based on criminality, not nationality. Ultimately, the real failure would be if we left the public to face the consequences of our not removing some persistent and serious criminals.