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UK Border Agency: Prisoners

Volume 733: debated on Thursday 1 December 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the recommendations by the independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency on how the agency manages foreign national prisoners.

My Lords, this is an important report and the United Kingdom Border Agency has taken its recommendations seriously. Of the eight recommendations, four were accepted in full, three in part and only one was rejected. We have taken steps to implement and reinforce policy and procedures relating to the management of foreign national offenders. I have placed a copy of the full response in the Library.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response, but does he not agree that the UKBA’s lukewarm response to the Chief Inspector’s recommendation that it should reduce the number of decisions that are overturned on appeal was disappointing? As the UKBA must have a good idea of the likely adverse decisions of the court in most of the one-third of appeals that it loses, is it not both perverse and costly to the public purse to continue acting on the presumption that, where the deportation threshold is met, only in exceptional cases will deportation breach Article 8? Secondly, what is the Government’s strategy for reducing the number of foreign nationals who remain in prison after their sentences have expired, mainly because of non-co-operation by the prisoner or his embassy with the process of obtaining an emergency travel document?

My Lords, I do not accept that our response to that particular recommendation was lukewarm. We accepted it in part and we accept that there is a need to improve the quality of our decision-making. We also accept that it is necessary to increase the number of those whom we manage to deport, as and when their sentences end. The number of those who have not been deported has come down steadily over the past few years.

My Lords, is not the reason for the potentially muted response of the UKBA and the Government to this report because the core conclusion is that the quality of decision-making needs to be improved? The UKBA is faced with a 20 per cent cut in its budget and major new responsibilities. No wonder the Border Agency does not have that much confidence in improving the quality of the work that it is doing.

My Lords, the UK Border Agency has confidence that it can improve these things and that it can do this within the perfectly manageable reductions that it is facing as a result of, as we have said on a number of occasions, the actions of the party opposite when in government. The agency will be able to improve its decision-making and it accepts that it needs to improve its quality.

My Lords, the executive summary to this report mentions that,

“By January 2011, over 1,600 foreign national prisoners were detained under immigration powers at the end of their custodial sentence, pending deportation”.

I remember that, as Chief Inspector of Prisons in 1999, I recommended that the default position should be that prisoners sentenced to deportation should have that deportation processed while they were in prison, so that at the end of the sentence they went straight to the airport and out. Why were more than 1,600 still detained after the end of their custodial sentence?

My Lords, there are frequently problems dealing with the country that the individual prisoner is going to and arranging travel documents. I remember the recommendations made by the noble Lord and that is something that we shall have to address in due course. Obviously, the best way of dealing with that would be to start the process somewhat earlier.