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Foreign National Offenders

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

8. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to reduce the number of foreign national offenders in the prison system. (906336)

Between January 2019 and December 2022, we removed 13,851 foreign national offenders from the country. As my hon. Friend rightly suggests, that is all about close working with colleagues, including in the Home Office.

We have all seen the stories of convicted foreign criminals being pulled off planes at the last minute. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was brought in to improve the process of returning criminals—to speed up that process and increase the window for removal of foreign national offenders from prison under the early removal scheme. Could my right hon. Friend comment on how that scheme is working, how he expects it to affect the numbers, and how he expects the process to be sped up?

As my hon. Friend mentions, under the Nationality and Borders Act, we expanded the FNO early removal scheme window from nine months to 12 months, allowing for earlier removal. We are working closely with the Home Office on that. In May, we also agreed a landmark new deal with Albania, and we are working to negotiate new prisoner transfer agreements with EU member states and other countries.

I thank the Minister very much for that response. It has been reported that the proportion of Northern Ireland’s total jail population who hail from outside the United Kingdom and Ireland is disproportionately high—the figures indicate that it is between 7% and 9% per year. Has the Minister had an opportunity to assess that with the Department of Justice back home?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, given the way we are organised, we do not cover the Northern Ireland Prison Service. However, it is very important that we stay in close touch and, although I have not had that specific conversation recently with colleagues in Northern Ireland, there will no doubt be opportunities in the future.