Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 614: debated on Monday 5 September 2016

We are meeting this September after terrible events over the summer—in Nice, Charleroi, Normandy and Munich. We must step up international efforts to keep our people safe and tackle violent extremism. I have spoken over the summer to a number of my counterparts—not least the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve—and they all agree that the UK must not step back from international co-operation on security and counter-terrorism. We will not shirk that.

In 2015, Northumbria police were involved in 13 extraditions. If the Home Secretary is unable to commit to retaining the European arrest warrant—I listened to her earlier answers, which did not offer a great deal of comfort—will she set out in much more detail how she will make sure that we continue to have the powers we need to tackle cross-border crime, keep our country safe and bring criminals to justice?

I remind the hon. Lady that nothing has changed yet. We will still have the European arrest warrant in place. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that she will not trigger article 50 until next year, so I urge the hon. Lady to work with her police force and reassure them that nothing has changed for now—so we can carry on with the European arrest warrant.

T2. I am currently assisting a constituent who has been the victim of a fraudulent scam, losing over £30,000 of life savings. The case has been referred to ActionFraud. The Minister spoke earlier about an increase in referrals to ActionFraud, but it is results that matter. The cases I have dealt with show poor results. What action is being taken to ensure that ActionFraud improves its performance? (906135)

First, we are investing in a new software programme for ActionFraud that will not only improve the analytics of crimes that are reported to it, but allow victims of fraud to track their cases in live time online. In response to my hon. Friend’s concern, I have also asked officials to look into how ActionFraud communicates with members of the public. I think it important to remember that these are victims, many of whom have done nothing wrong whatsoever and have been preyed upon by some of the worst people in society.

The Home Secretary will be aware of continuing concern about the historical conduct of South Yorkshire police. I understand that she is meeting members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign next week to discuss their call for a public inquiry. Is she also aware of the tragic case of Terry Coles, a Swansea City supporter, who was trampled to death by a police horse at a football match in 2000? Will she agree to look at the evidence, and accept that, unless we have the truth about all these past injustices, we shall not be able to restore trust in South Yorkshire police?

The hon. Lady is right: I am meeting members of Orgreave Truth and Justice, and I look forward to having the opportunity to hear from them. The Government have not shirked in looking at historical cases, and if the hon. Lady wants to bring any more to my attention, I shall certainly look at those.

T3. Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Redditch Borough Council on welcoming five Syrian refugee families into our town, over a third more than promised by the county of Worcestershire? Will she also update the House on the progress being made by our county to ensure that it follows the great example of Redditch Borough Council? (906136)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: local authorities are leading by example and showing how to welcome families into their communities, and I particularly congratulate Redditch on being ahead of the pack. So far 118 councils are participating, and we hope that that number will grow.

T4. Given the level of public concern about British citizens who travel to fight Daesh and then attempt to return to this country, will the Minister tell me when the number of those who are attempting to return will be published, and what action will be taken to keep us safe in this country? (906137)

It is incredibly important that when people return—and we hope that they do—they are properly introduced back into society. If they pose a threat, it is important for that threat to be managed, and it is also important that if they can be removed from radicalisation, we take the right steps to do that. I will certainly review the hon. Lady’s request for the publication of the number of passports, for instance, that have been withheld from individuals. First and foremost, however, I assure her that we have measures in place to ensure that these people are not just left alone and we do not lose track of them of them, which would pose further risks to the British people.

T5. Fraud and scams have a huge impact on individuals, especially the elderly, who are seen as easy prey. Does my hon. Friend welcome the Back-Bench debate on scams that I shall be leading on Thursday, and will he commit himself to considering what more can be done to tackle this rank criminality? (906138)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the leadership that he has shown on not only fraud but consumer rights in ensuring that the vulnerable in society are not taken advantage of. We have set up a Joint Fraud Taskforce, inviting, for instance, Age Concern to help to protect the elderly, so that we can do more to ensure that in future the people who commit those crimes are caught and the elderly are defended from unscrupulous behaviour.

T7. One of my constituents, Lorna Ross from Markinch, recently returned from Greece, where she had been working as a volunteer in a refugee centre. She brought back harrowing accounts of the conditions facing, in particular, young unaccompanied refugees. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to ensure that if such refugees have the right to move to the UK to be with their families, they are allowed to do so without delay, wherever they arrive in Europe? (906140)

We take our obligations under the Dublin agreement very seriously, and will always look into how we can help unaccompanied refugees. We have seconded officials working with Greek, Italian and French counterparts, and we hope to be able to speed up the process.

T6. As the Minister will know, last week the Police Federation called for a review of the position regarding police officers and visible tattoos. Can he assure me that the Home Office has no intention of relaxing the current guidelines? (906139)

Obviously, decisions on whether to recruit individuals are for the chief officer of the police force concerned and each case should be treated on its merits, but I can say that we have no plans to change guidance, and the college guidance is very clear: the candidates

“should not have tattoos which could cause offence…or undermine the dignity and authority”

of the role of the police constable.

T8. As the Home Secretary knows, leading organisations such as Freedom from Torture are very concerned that the definition of torture used in imminent statutory guidance of adults at risk in immigration detention should be wide enough to cover torture by non-state actors such as Daesh, the Taliban and Boko Haram. Will she agree to meet me to discuss these concerns urgently? (906141)

I am more than happy to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman. I understand exactly the point he makes that Daesh, the Taliban and Boko Haram in Nigeria, where I was last week, can indulge in some of these terrible acts, and we need to make sure we address that particular situation.

T9. Is the Minister willing to meet the Metropolitan police to discuss why they are not willing to meet Councillor Peter Golds and the successful petitioners against Lutfur Rahman’s administration in Tower Hamlets, who have presented a dossier which appears to show damning evidence of criminal intent? These people would like to see why this is not being taken forward by the police. (906142)

My hon. Friend highlights an important case, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) did a lot of work on this and is working with Councillor Peter Golds. I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend if he feels that would be useful, but this is the subject of an ongoing investigation, and, indeed, commissioners have been put into Tower Hamlets by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

T10. Should I understand from the Home Secretary’s earlier answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) that it is her intention that the relatives of those killed in the Birmingham pub bombings should have access to legal representation at the fresh inquests? (906143)

I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has got a little ahead of the meeting I am having this afternoon in order to address exactly that proposal, so no decision has been made yet.

Recently I visited a UN Gift Box event in Southend on human trafficking organised by the Soroptimist society. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that the general public should do everything they can to co-operate with the police and other authorities to stamp out this dreadful trade?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The public have a vital role to play in tackling this horrendous crime. In July 2014 the Home Office ran a national TV, radio and online campaign raising awareness of human trafficking, and the campaign materials are available on for use by partners.

Despite a UN resolution in May, the targeting of medical facilities, predominantly by the Syrian Government, continues, with at least 72 further attacks over the summer. This is clearly exacerbating the refugee crisis, so will the Home Secretary work with colleagues across Government to ensure that this despicable targeting of hospitals by the Syrian Government is stopped and international law is immediately complied with?

The hon. Lady raises an important point about an area that is undergoing horrendous experiences, and, yes, indeed I will: we will do everything we can to help the people of Syria who are undergoing those terrible circumstances.

Tragically, ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson recently died outside his father’s house in my constituency, following the deployment of Tasers by the police. The officers involved were not wearing bodycams. Does the Minister agree that all police carrying any sort of weapon should wear bodycams to protect both police and public?

My hon. Friend raises a tragic situation. The loss of any life is obviously tragic, and the deployment of body-worn video is an operational matter for police, but I hope she will appreciate that it would be inappropriate of me to comment further as there is an ongoing Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation ahead of the coroner’s inquest.

A young couple in my constituency from Slovakia who have been in Scotland for 14 years began the process of applying for British citizenship after the Brexit vote. As the Home Secretary will be aware, the first stage is permanent right of residency. The lady in this couple was refused. The Home Secretary says nothing has yet changed, but I cannot understand how an EU national could be refused residency after living here for 14 years.

To be frank, it is difficult to comment on individual situations like that, but if the hon. Lady would like my Department to have a look, I ask her to please write to us about it and we will do so. I also ask her and other hon. Members to reassure their constituents that at the moment nothing has changed.

There is no point in blaming the French for the mess in Calais if we continue to be a magnet for illegal migrants. The fact is that we grant asylum to more illegal migrants than France does, and we deport fewer of them. Of the 44,000 applications received up to June, more than half were granted and only half those who were refused were deported. Will the new Home Secretary take action to deal with illegal migration?

I am always keen to take action to follow the law where it is appropriate. There are many reasons why we are more popular with asylum seekers than some other countries. It is often to do with language, with families or with the diaspora in our communities; it is not simply about the process around asylum seeking. My hon. Friend should rest assured that we take getting the numbers down very seriously.

Has the Home Secretary seen the report from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which suggests that children as young as 11 are becoming the victims of revenge porn? These are primary school-aged children. When will Ministers in her Department and across Government start working together to eradicate this? We know that once these pictures get out into cyberspace, they can fuel online child abuse.

The hon. Gentleman raises a truly horrendous crime, and the Government have taken a great deal of action not only to bring in new offences and to prosecute them but, critically, to educate young people and their families about the risks they take when they share images of themselves online. We will do everything possible to protect young people.