This charter flight to Jamaica is specifically to remove foreign criminals. The offences committed by the individuals on this flight include sexual assault against children, murder, rape, drug dealing and violent crime. Those are serious offences, which have a real and lasting impact on the victims and on our communities. This flight is about criminality, not nationality. Let me emphasise: it has nothing to do with the terrible wrongs faced by the Windrush generation. Despite the extensive lobbying by some, who claim that the flight is about the Windrush generation, it is not. Not a single individual on the flight is eligible for the Windrush scheme. They are all Jamaican citizens and no one on the flight was born in the United Kingdom. They are all foreign national offenders who between them have served 228 years plus a life sentence in prison.
It is a long-standing Government policy that any foreign national offender will be considered for deportation. Under the UK Borders Act 2007, which was introduced and passed by a Labour Government with the votes of a number of hon. Members who are present today, a deportation order must be made where a foreign national offender has been convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. Under the Immigration Act 1971, FNOs who have caused serious harm or are persistent offenders are also eligible for consideration.
Let me put this flight in context. In the year ending June 2020, there were 5,208 enforced returns, of which 2,630, or over half, were to European Union countries, and only 33 out of over 5,000 were to Jamaica—less than 1%. During the pandemic, we have continued with returns and deportations on scheduled flights and on over 30 charter flights to countries including Albania, France, Germany, Ghana, Lithuania, Nigeria, Poland and Spain, none of which, I notice, provoked an urgent question. The clear majority of the charter flights this year have been to European countries.
Those being deported have ample opportunity to raise reasons why they should not be. We are, however, already seeing a number of last-minute legal claims, including, in the last few days, by a convicted murderer, who has now been removed from the flight.
This Government’s priority is keeping the people of this country safe, and we make no apology—no apology—for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals. Any Member of this House with the safety of their constituents at heart would do exactly the same.
First, no one opposing this flight condones any of the crimes that these individuals have been found guilty of. It is the process of mass deportation that is fundamentally wrong, and it is notorious for bundling people out of the country without due process. Does the Minister recognise that this decision effectively amounts to double jeopardy when those involved in some lesser offences have already served their custodial sentence? Does he recognise the message that that sends about the consequences of being a white offender or a black offender, given the racial disparities in sentencing?
I hope the Minister agrees that no one is above the law, not even the Government, and that no one is beneath adequate defence and proper legal representation, not even those born in other countries. Will he therefore outline whether the deportees have been granted access to adequate legal advice and representation, and whether any have been allowed to appeal this decision, particularly given the lockdown restrictions and the likelihood that they would have no access to legal aid?
On being above the law, the Equality and Human Rights Commission recently found that the Home Office unlawfully ignored warnings that the hostile environment was discriminatory. Can the Minister explain why the Government are so comfortable continuing with a key part of the hostile environment policy when it has been so damningly called into question? Has he considered the 31 children who will be impacted by having a parent removed from this country?
The Home Office has got it wrong again and again on immigration. Will it therefore think again, halt this deportation flight and finally end the illegal hostile environment?
The hon. Lady speaks of what she calls mass deportations. I have already pointed out that, over the last year, of the 5,800 people who have been removed, only 33 have been of Jamaican nationality.
The hon. Lady mentioned black versus white. She was insinuating in her question that there was some element of underlying racism in this, but I have pointed out already that the vast majority of people who have been removed this year have been removed to European countries. This policy applies to people from Spain, France and Italy as much as it does to people from Jamaica. There is no element of discrimination in this policy whatever, and the hon. Lady was completely wrong to insinuate that, in some way, there was.
The hon. Lady asked about double jeopardy. She said that these people have been punished by a prison sentence already, but I say this: if somebody comes to this country, commits a serious criminal offence and puts our constituents at risk, it is right that, once they have served their sentence, or a great part of it, they should be removed. It is not just me who thinks that; it is the Labour Members who voted for this law in 2007 who think that, some of whom are sitting in this Chamber today.
The hon. Lady mentioned the EHRC and the compliant environment. This case is nothing to do with the compliant environment; it is about implementing the Borders Act 2007, as we are obliged to do. In terms of due process, there are ample opportunities to complain and appeal, as many people do, and I have mentioned already the case of a murderer who was taken off the flight just a few days ago following legal appeals.
We are protecting our fellow citizens, and I suggest that the hon. Lady takes a similar approach.
Will my hon. Friend make it clear that people who come to the United Kingdom to contribute to our economy and our society are most welcome, but that those who come from foreign countries and then commit the most heinous of crimes, be it murder, sexual violence, violence against children or violence against the person, can expect to experience the full force of law and then be required to leave the country at the end of their sentence? Does he agree that, far from the public disagreeing with that, they are wholly in support of it and expect the Government to take this action to keep society safe?
My hon. Friend, as always, puts it very well. Of course, when people come to this country as immigrants and make a contribution—to academia, to the work environment, and in myriad other ways—we welcome them with open arms. Our new points-based system, which will become active in just a few days’ time, does precisely that. However, as he says, if somebody comes to this country and enjoys our hospitality, but abuses that hospitality by committing a serious criminal offence, they can, should, and will be removed in the interests of public protection.
I first pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) for having secured such an important and time-critical urgent question. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) for his previous work and advocacy in this important area.
The news of this flight comes just days after the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Government, as we have heard, acted unlawfully in their treatment of the Windrush generation through the hostile environment. As Caroline Waters, the chair of the EHRC, said,
“The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history.”
There is no clear timetable for implementing the recommendations of the Wendy Williams report, and with just 12% of applicants having received a payment and at least nine people having died waiting, the Windrush compensation scheme is failing badly. In his written response to me over the weekend, the Minister said that it is wrong and offensive to conflate this returns flight with the Windrush scandal, but I am afraid that given this Government’s track record, their failings on Windrush and the delays in the compensation scheme, we simply have no faith that this Government have done their due diligence in relation to those on this scheduled flight, and we would not be doing ours if we did not ask the questions.
Of course, we recognise that those who engage in violent and criminal acts must face justice. However, we also hear that at least one person on that flight has a Windrush generation grandfather; there is another whose great-aunt was on the HMT Windrush, and another whose grandfather fought in the second world war for Britain. It is clear that we have not yet established just how far the consequences of the Windrush injustice extend. With that in mind, what assessment has been made to ensure that none of those scheduled to be on the flight are eligible under the Windrush scheme, or have been affected by the wider immigration injustices that impacted the victims of the Windrush scandal? What assurances can the Minister provide the House that the mandatory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children left behind, who are innocent in this, has been considered?
It has also been reported that the Home Office has reached an agreement with the Jamaican Government that people who left Jamaica as children will no longer be repatriated. Can the Minister confirm whether this is the case, and can he also confirm what age someone would need to be to have been determined to be a child?
The hon. Lady, the shadow Minister, asks about the Windrush scheme. As she will be aware, over 6,300 people have now been given citizenship, quite rightly, and 13,300 documents have been issued to those people who suffered terrible wrongs in the past. In terms of compensation, 226 people have now received claims totalling in excess of £2.1 million, with a great deal more to pay out. I can also confirm that all of these cases on the plane have been individually assessed, and none of them is eligible for the Windrush compensation scheme.
The hon. Lady spent a great deal of time talking about Windrush during her question, but I say again—as I said in my letter to her—that it is completely wrong to conflate the people who were the victims of terrible injustice in the Windrush cases with these cases, who are nothing to do with Windrush, have no Windrush entitlement at all, and have committed terrible criminal offences. She also asks about the age eligibility. The Government are fully committed to discharging their obligation under the 2007 Act, which is to seek to remove anyone of any age who has been sentenced to a custodial term of over 12 months. That has been, is, and will remain our policy.
I am not going to comment on the individual operational circumstances surrounding any particular flight, but we are fully committed to the 2007 Act’s provisions. In relation to children, there is a well defined test around family rights and how they interact with removal. It is possible for people to go to the courts if they want to test their family rights against the Government’s obligations to remove them. But we are clear that our priority is protecting British citizens from dangerous criminals, and that is what we are doing.
The overwhelming majority of Mansfield residents will feel that foreign criminals of any nationality who violate our laws and our values should be removed from this country. Will my hon. Friend assure me and my constituents that it is public safety that is at the front of his mind; will he be clear that Labour’s attempts to draw everything into an argument about race are both plainly wrong and quite brazenly an attempt to silence people it disagrees with; and will he call out those celebrities who have spent the weekend trying to use their public profiles to shame businesses into not helping to remove murderers from the UK?
I agree with my hon. Friend’s sentiments. This is about protecting the British public. I am aware of cases where people have been removed from the deportation or removal programme owing to various appeals and have then gone on to commit crimes against our fellow citizens. It is precisely the kind of repeat crimes that damage our fellow citizens, our constituents, that we are seeking to prevent.
In relation to the celebrities and everything they have been saying, they should pay attention to the fact that, as I said before, the majority of removals and deportations are to European countries, and any suggestion that there is a racial element to this is obviously confounded by a straightforward look at the facts. Over half of the flights are to European countries. Less than 1% of removals in the past year have been to Jamaica, and anyone who is assisting the Home Office in those flights is doing a service to the country by protecting our fellow citizens.
While some deportation decisions are clear cut, many more involve careful balancing exercises weighing up a whole range of factors. The problem is that it is very difficult to trust the Home Office to make those judgment calls as week after week its policies and practices are torn to pieces in report after report. Stephen Shaw, in his Government-commissioned report, said that the deportation and removal of people brought up here from a young age was “deeply troubling” and entirely “disproportionate”. Why not act on that advice and exclude in law the deportation of those who have spent their childhood years here?
More broadly, why not commission Stephen Shaw to review the whole framework on deportation ? Until something like that happens, we simply cannot and will not have any faith in those decisions. The Minister appears to repeatedly conflate deportations and removals, so can he give us the separate figures for deportations only?
In relation to deportations only, the 1% figure is very similar to the figure for removals more generally. In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s point about Stephen Shaw, we did not accept his recommendation about age back in 2018, and we do not accept it now. We remain fully committed to implementing the obligations imposed by the UK Borders Act 2007, as passed by the last Labour Government. In terms of due process and decision making, of course there is an extensive set of legal processes that anyone is able to avail themselves of, and they frequently do. I mentioned that just a few days ago somebody convicted of murder got themselves taken off the flight by launching just such an appeal, so there are plenty of processes—I say that advisedly—that people can avail themselves of if they disagree with any particular decision.
The Opposition have been very clear that they oppose the Government’s efforts to deport foreign criminals who pose a risk to the British public and the people of Stoke-on- Trent. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative party is the only party committed to law and order, evidenced further by our extra funding for more police?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is a great champion for the people of Stoke-on-Trent and in ensuring their safety as well. It is very disappointing to hear Labour Members questioning the removal of dangerous foreign nationals, although, interestingly, they are only raising it now, when we have had more than 30 charter flights go this year. This is the first time they have thought to raise this issue. This Government will defend the public and stand up for the safety of our constituents, and that is what we will do on Wednesday.
The Minister will understand that there is a backdrop of distrust among the communities affected by the Windrush scandal that he should be trying to address in order to build confidence in deportation decisions. Given the Home Office’s response to a previous Select Committee report on Windrush that identified 32 people who had been deported as deemed foreign national offenders but who were likely to be part of the Windrush generation and whose circumstances had never been investigated, and given that the National Audit Office and Wendy Williams have recommended that the circumstances of those cases should be investigated, will he now do so?
Let me start by offering the Home Affairs Committee Chairman reassurance in regard to the flight this week. All the people in scope for that flight have had their cases individually checked, and none of them is in the scope of the Windrush compensation scheme. As I have said, none was born in the United Kingdom. So those checks that she rightly calls for have been diligently carried out. In relation to the 32 historical cases that she refers to, I will look into that and write to her.
I find it extraordinary that the Opposition should choose an urgent question to plead the case for serious foreign criminals rather than standing up for the victims of crime, particularly on a day when an urgent question might be more appropriate on the issue of the imminent and extraordinarily early release of a woman, Mairead Philpott, who was jailed for the killing of six of her own children. Can my hon. Friend—
I am not criticising you, Mr Speaker; I am just questioning priorities. Can I ask the Minister how much we are spending already on housing these foreign criminals in the UK, and how much taxpayers’ money is being wasted on chartering places on flights that are not taken, often at the last minute?
I certainly concur that Mr Speaker is wholly infallible in all matters.
I share my hon. Friend’s surprise at this question being tabled when the Government are simply discharging not only their duty but their obligation under an Act of Parliament passed by the last Labour Government, with the votes of a number of Members who are sitting on the Opposition side of the Chamber this afternoon. We are doing the right thing by protecting our fellow citizens. Many of the people concerned were living in the community rather than being housed. Our principal objective is public safety rather than finances, but his last point about charter flights is right. We suffer astonishingly high levels of legal attrition on these flights, largely as a result of legal claims often made at the very last minute—sometimes I wonder if they are intentionally made at the last minute—and we need to tighten up our legal system. As my hon. Friend may know, the Government intend to legislate next year to do exactly that.
Even if the Home Office were halfway competent in dealing with these matters, this area would still be absolutely fraught with difficulties, as the figures given to the House by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee indicate. It has been reported that the Government have now entered into an agreement with the Government of Jamaica regarding this flight and others. When will that agreement be published?
We do not have any formal agreements. What we have is an ongoing dialogue about any individual flight or any individual operational circumstance, but let me make it completely clear that our commitment to discharging our duty under the 2007 Act, which is to seek to deport anyone committing an offence of over a one-year sentence, regardless of their age on arrival, remains steadfastly in place.
As a magistrate and on many prison visits, I have frequently encountered criminals who came to the UK from overseas and committed serious offences that caused pain, suffering and long-lasting psychological harm. Does my hon. Friend agree that the responsibility of all of us across this House is to stand up for the victims of those crimes?
My hon. Friend, speaking as a magistrate, hits the nail exactly on the head. The principal concern of Members of Parliament should be protecting the victims of crime and protecting our constituents from the harm that might otherwise be done to them by foreign national offenders. That is precisely why it is right to remove foreign national offenders—so that they cannot commit any more offences against our constituents.
Does the Minister accept that many people feel that this mass deportation is both cruel and potentially dangerous: cruel because he is separating, just weeks from Christmas, families of people who have served their sentence; and possibly dangerous because he is deporting vulnerable people—communities that we know are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus—in the middle of a pandemic?
The right hon. Lady asks whether this is the right thing to do. The answer to that question is categorically yes—an answer that she herself gave when she voted in 2007 for the Act of Parliament under which the Government are required to carry out these deportations. The right hon. Lady voted for this measure herself. In relation to coronavirus risks, as I said already, we have been carrying out these flights throughout the entire summer and autumn period, using methods that the High Court has found to be covid-safe in immigration removal centres, such as reverse cohorting, distancing, frequent testing, temperature checks and so on and so forth. I therefore do not accept the right hon. Lady’s point. Let me say this again: the overwhelming consideration for Members of this House should be the protection of our constituents.
Does my hon. Friend agree with me and my constituents in Dudley North that any person who comes to this country, engages in criminal activity, breaks our laws and abuses our hospitality has no place in our society, and that the Government are therefore doing the correct thing in the interests of national security by removing these people from our country?
Yes, I agree entirely. As I have said repeatedly, we are protecting our constituents from harm. These are dangerous offenders, whose offences including murder, rape and sexual assault against children. It would be irresponsible of us to allow people such as that to remain in this country when they are not nationals of the United Kingdom.
Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded that the hostile environment policies pursued by this Government broke equalities law. Specifically, the EHRC noted:
“When negative equality impacts were identified by the Home Office and stakeholders, they were repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or their severity disregarded”.
With that in mind, can the Minister say with absolute certainty that neither his Department nor any stakeholders have identified any negative equality impacts with this scheduled deportation flight? If he cannot, does he not then agree that the flight should be halted immediately?
This flight and others like it are not part of the compliant environment to which the EHRC report referred. This is taking place as a statutory obligation under an Act of Parliament that was passed, as I have said already, by the last Labour Government. I am confident that they gave careful consideration to the equalities implications of the Act of Parliament that they passed. As I have also said, we have looked at each case individually and are confident—we know, in fact—that none of these cases are Windrush eligible. On the question of the equalities impact more widely, I have already pointed out two or three times that the majority of people subject to these charter flight deportations and removals are going to the European Union, which should tell the hon. Member a great deal.
Can my hon. Friend explain what level of discretion the 2007 Act gives Ministers and reassure the House that both he and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary have considered every single case on this flight and deem them to be suitable for deportation under the conditions of that Act?
We are very mindful of the obligations placed upon the Home Office and the Government by the terms of the 2007 Act, and we seek to fully abide by its terms. As I said, everyone in the scope of the charter flight going in a few days’ time has been very carefully considered to ensure that they are fully compliant with the obligations imposed by the Act.
The cost of deportation—economic, ethical and, most importantly, human—cannot be justified. Can the Minister confirm that an equalities impact assessment has been completed regarding these proposed deportations, to demonstrate that due regard has been paid to equalities legislation?
The hon. Lady talks about human cost. Let me tell her about the human cost caused by these criminals. What about the children who have been sexually assaulted by these criminals? What about the victims who have been murdered by these people? What about the victims of violent assault? What about the people whose lives have been ruined by drug addiction or who have been the victims of rape? What about those human tragedies? The hon. Lady and many Opposition Members appear to have nothing whatsoever to say about the human tragedy of the victims. Let us put the victims at the centre of today’s debate. They are the people we should be standing up for and speaking for. This Government will protect them. Why will she not?
Welcome to the modern Labour party—more concerned about stopping the deportation of foreign criminals than keeping our streets safe. We on the Government Benches do take that obligation and duty seriously; that is why we are taking these measures. I thank my hon. Friend for all the work that he is doing to deport these foreign serious criminals and make our country safer. Can he confirm that this Government are removing foreign criminals from the UK every week and that this flight is no different?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is this Conservative Government who are prioritising the victims and public safety. He is also right to say that the deportation of foreign national offenders, as we are required to do by law, happens as a matter of routine, week in, week out.
Happy St Andrew’s day, Mr Speaker. This is not just about whether people are themselves connected to the Windrush generation. Deporting those who have been in the UK since childhood shows that the lessons of Windrush have not been learned. The Minister keeps referring to murderers and rapists, yet deportation applies to those with sentences as short as 12 months. Is it not time to provide legislative certainty and protection for those who come to the UK as children? Can the Minister say how many were originally included in this flight?
I would like to reciprocate by wishing the hon. Lady a happy St Andrew’s day as well; I am sure the whole House will join me in that.
When it comes to removing people who are not British citizens—who are citizens of another country—but who put our constituents at risk, it is right that we move to deport as we currently do. The debate about whether some age threshold is appropriate is one that this House had in 2007, when the House rightly decided that anyone who is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than a year is in scope. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) says something from a sedentary position. He himself voted for that Act, so he expressed his opinion on this matter in the Division Lobby back in 2007.
I fully support what my hon. Friend is doing to deport these dangerous criminals and to keep people in this country safe. Is he as concerned as I am by reports that activist lawyers are trying to thwart the Government’s legal efforts to deport these criminals and keep the British people safe?
My hon. Friend is right to raise concerns about abuse of legal process. We find, not just in this context but across the entire immigration system, that last-minute claims are made—often immediately before removal or deportation, often 24 hours in advance—even though there has been plenty of opportunity to make such a claim previously, apparently with the express intention of frustrating the process. There is also an opportunity for people to raise repeated claims in sequence and sometimes over a period of many years in a manner that would appear to me to be potentially vexatious. That is something that the Government need to act on to sort out—my hon. Friend is right—and we do intend to legislate next year to close precisely the problematic areas to which he rightly refers.
My constituent on this flight came to the UK in 1997 aged 26. He married a British citizen in 2004 and has two children aged 21 and 18. He was in prison for two years, and had he not been he would have been able to complete the process of indefinite leave to remain. His life was under threat when he was in Jamaica. It will be under threat if he is returned there. He is on suicide watch at the moment and has an active asylum claim. He was picked up last week and due to be deported this week. Will the Minister at least agree that this is not a proportionate reaction and that this flight should be delayed at least to give the opportunity for proper legal advice to be taken?
I have the particulars of the case in front of me. He was sentenced to four years and served two. The offences were very serious indeed. No, we certainly will not be stopping the flight, but I do know that the hon. Gentleman has written to me about this particular case and I will, of course, respond to his letter.
Will the Minister commit to review any law that prevents the deportation of these people, because no law should stop us removing foreign nationals who have committed very serious criminal offences, thereby undermining the very kindness and the hospitality that we have shown them and abusing the process in doing so?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and I can give him that assurance. He puts it very well. We have extended a welcome and hospitality to people who come to this country, and rightly so. We have a long and proud history of welcoming people who make a contribution to our society, and this Government are the first to recognise the enormous contribution that people who have come to this country as immigrants have made, and the points-based system embraces that very principle. Where people abuse our hospitality by committing serious criminal offences, it is right that we remove them.
The Minister does not seem to understand the sensitivities around the Windrush scandal, but nobody is arguing about deporting very serious violent criminals. Can the Minister say with certainty that nobody on this flight has been committed of just driving offences or has been groomed as a child?
As the hon. Lady will know, only people who have been sentenced to a custodial sentence of a year or more are eligible, so, clearly, minor driving offences are outside the scope of that. It applies only to people who have been sentenced to a year or more in prison. She knows that very well because she voted for the Act of Parliament in 2007 that instituted these measures.
The fact that it is in any way controversial to deport foreign nationals who commit serious offences and are persistent offenders shows just what a farce the Labour party has become in recent years—Lord knows what the public must think of this exchange. May I say to the Minister that the overwhelming majority of my constituents will absolutely support what he is doing? Actually, they would want him to ignore the siren voices from the party opposite, and make it easier to deport foreign nationals who commit offences—perhaps to take in those who commit any offence at all, not just those who have to serve more than a year in prison.
I am very grateful for the support emanating from the people of Shipley. I think the public will be astonished to see Labour MPs standing up on the side of dangerous criminals instead of on the side of victims and, even more importantly, people who might be victims in the future. On improving the legal system so that we can more readily deport people who are dangerous—dangerous criminals and others—we do, as I say, want to legislate to improve the system. It does not really work at the moment as it should, and my hon. Friend will have plenty of opportunities to support legislation with that purpose in mind next year.
Government plans to push ahead with the mass deportation of 50 people to Jamaica this week are both obscene and irresponsible, and they fly in the face of the damning Equality and Human Rights Commission report released only last week, which declared the hostile environment policies illegal. We talk about victims, but what about the Windrush generation victims who are still fighting for compensation and justice? Will the Minister outline whether the EHRC’s findings have been taken into account during this process?
I have already pointed out that these flights are nothing to do with the compliant environment; none of these individuals is in the scope of the Windrush compensation scheme. I must say that the hon. Lady is going a great disservice to those genuine victims of the Windrush tragedy—the Windrush scandal—by conflating them with dangerous offenders who are not British citizens and who are eligible for deportation under an Act that the Labour Government passed in 2007. She should reserve her indignation for those victims who have been affected by these terrible, terrible crimes.
The British people will expect foreign national offenders who have violated our laws and our values to be removed from our country. Does my hon. Friend agree that this charter flight shows that we are acting in the interests of the British people and that we have their overwhelming support in taking this action?
I have been contacted by many of my constituents in Vauxhall who are concerned about these deportations. Given the Government’s track record on Windrush and the delay in implementing the lessons from the Wendy Williams review, it is understandable that hon. Members in this House seek assurances and more detailed information from the Minister in regard to this deportation. The Home Secretary has rightly committed to implement all of the 30 recommendations in that review. Will the Minister confirm how many recommendations have been implemented? Will he today give a clear timetable for when each of the 30 recommendations will be implemented?
I have already given the House a clear assurance that all these cases have been individually looked at and, as I have said several times already, that none is eligible for the Windrush compensation scheme. It is wrong, and indeed almost offensive, to conflate, in any way, these people who have committed terrible criminal offences with those victims of the Windrush scandal; they are completely different things and it is completely wrong to conflate them. As the hon. Lady says, the Home Secretary is fully committed to implementing each and every one of Wendy Williams’ recommendations; she published a response to the Williams review back in September and I know that she will be keeping the House regularly updated about the timing of the implementation of each and every one of those 30 recommendations.
Nearly 12 months ago, in constituencies such as Workington, this people’s Government were elected on a promise to make Britain safer and more secure. Does my hon. Friend agree that by continuing to remove these dangerous criminals from this country we are delivering on that commitment we made to the British people?
Yes I do agree, of course. My hon. Friend puts the point very well. One of the most fundamental duties of any Government is to protect their citizens, and ensuring that foreign nationals convicted of serious offences are removed from the country is one very important way in which the Government can protect our fellow citizens. As I have said, I am aware of cases where people were eligible for removal or deportation but for some legal challenge reason this was not done and they then went on to commit some serious offences.
I have a constituent on the flight who came to the UK aged 11. He has no friends or family in Jamaica, but he does have three children who do not know that he is likely to be deported. Although he is desperate to see them one last time, he does not want them to worry. Have the Government carried out any assessment of the impact this will have on his children, who are likely to never see their father again?
The balance between family rights and the obligation on the Government to remove dangerous offenders is laid out in statute. If a challenge is brought, it is up to the courts to determine in each individual case how that balance is struck. I would say—I have the case details in front of me, but I do not want to recite them to the House, for reasons of confidentiality—that the hon. Lady’s constituent is an extremely persistent and prolific offender, and that includes some quite dangerous offences. As I say, the balance between family rights and public safety is set out in statute and is struck by the courts, but I make no apology for putting public safety first.
There is great support in Amber Valley for the deportation of serious foreign national offenders but also great concern at how long the process takes. Does the Minister have any plans to revert to the position in the Immigration Act 2014, where some—[Inaudible.]
I am afraid that the roll-out of rural broadband to my hon. Friend’s house clearly has a bit of a way to go, because he broke up a little. I think he was asking about finding ways to expedite the proceedings, and we are looking at ways we can do that, including by making sure that provisions in previous Acts of Parliament, which he may have been asking about, can be properly implemented. That is very high on the Government’s agenda.
Dangerous foreign criminals, including murderers, rapists and drug dealers, have no right whatever to remain in this country. The people of Blackpool South expect the Government to be resolute in standing up to those activist, left-wing lawyers who, in this instance, are working against the clear national interest. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will never compromise the security and safety of my constituents by letting such dangerous offenders remain in the UK?
As always, my hon. Friend speaks very well for his constituents. It is absolutely our intention to make sure that, where there are dangerous people in the United Kingdom, we will tirelessly seek to remove them. That is our duty as a Government, and we will work tirelessly, as I know he will, to discharge that duty.
What worries me about the case of my constituent, who is due to be deported, is that I cannot even name him today, because there are genuine and credible grounds for him to believe that his life is under threat. That is surely a reason to pause and rethink whether he should be deported.
There are obviously legal channels through which individuals can raise concerns of the type of the hon. Gentleman just referred to. As I say, many people do precisely that. Just a few days ago, a convicted murderer was removed from the flight for similar reasons. However, let me make it clear that it is our priority to protect British citizens, and that should be the hon. Gentleman’s priority, too.
It is disappointing that Opposition Members have been less than supportive of the Government’s efforts to deport dangerous foreign criminals who pose a serious threat to this country’s national security and to the safety of the British people. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative party is the only party committed to standing up for the victims, to having a firm hand on law and order and to making sure that this country remains safe and secure?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It has been conspicuous this afternoon that it has been Government Members who have stood up to speak out for victims and for the safety of their constituents; we have heard almost nothing of that from Opposition Members. The British public will have heard that, and they will draw their own conclusions.
If the Minister listens carefully, he will hear that I am also speaking about victims and rehabilitation. The recommendations made by the Windrush lessons learned review have still not been implemented in full, and we still do not know why people are illegally deported. It is this that has caused distrust in the Government. Many of these predominantly black people set for deportation have already served their sentence. Many committed these offences when they were young, as they were victims of drugs operations known as county lines or have been criminalised in association. I put it to the Government that many of these people have grown up in this country since childhood, and it is our country’s moral responsibility to rehabilitate them.
The hon. Lady said a few moments ago that the people subject to deportation proceedings are mainly black. That is not true because, as I said earlier very clearly, the majority of people removed and deported are removed and deported to European Union countries, and in the last year well under 1% of people subject to these proceedings have come from Jamaica. In relation to age, the test, as we have discussed already, is set out in statute—in the UK Borders Act 2007. It is an Act passed by the last Labour Government with the votes of a number of her colleagues who are sitting on the Opposition Benches right now.
Unlike Opposition Members, the people of Ashfield are absolutely delighted that murderers, rapists and other dangerous criminals are being flown out of the UK and deported to their country of origin. This will keep our streets safer and send out a clear message to anyone who does not share the values of our great country. Can my hon. Friend please reassure me and the people of Ashfield that this Government will continue to send vile criminals back to where they come from as they have no place in our society, and can he also thank Opposition Members for supporting this Act when it was passed in 2007?
I am sure the Opposition Members who voted for the 2007 Act are extremely grateful for my hon. Friend’s reminder and thanks, but the thrust of his point I completely agree with. It is right that where someone endangers our fellow citizens, we act to deport them, because if we do not do that, we are exposing our constituents to ongoing risk. That is completely unacceptable, and this Government will take action.
The Minister is making it clear that he and his Department find it irksome having to comply with the current requirements of the law. Thank goodness they do, because the law is there to protect everyone, and I get the impression that a number of Government Members do not approve of that. What access have those who were due to be on this flight had to legal advice prior to the flight’s departure?
I would not say the Government find it irksome to offer people due legal process; of course we do not, because we respect those legal processes. However, we do find it deeply frustrating and, frankly, at times inappropriate when the legal system and the legal process are used in an abusive or vexatious way, as they apparently sometimes are. That is something we intend to come back to in legislation next year. In relation to access to justice, there are very ample opportunities provided for consultation with lawyers by all kinds of means. I would say that in my observation of people subject to Home Office proceedings, one thing they are not short of is legal advice—very often legally aided. The access to justice point that the right hon. Member makes is certainly amply catered for in a whole range of different ways.