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4. Ms Quin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next intends to meet representatives of the probation service to discuss probation issues. [30264]

Mr. Sackville: My right hon. and learned Friend expects to meet representatives of the Association of Chief Officers of Probation on 10 July and of the Central Probation Council on 23 July.

Ms Quin: Will the Minister take the opportunity of paying tribute to the work of the probation service and give a commitment to an enhanced and secure role for the service in the future? In the discussions in July, will the Minister respond to the probation service's concerns about the Government's action in removing training qualifications from the probation service? Will the Government also respond fully to the probation service's concerns about the Government's White Paper and the work of the probation service as set out in it?

Mr. Sackville: I am glad to be able to say that Baroness Blatch will meet people in the profession to discuss the new training arrangements. I ask the hon. Lady to request that her allies in politics and in the trade unions desist.

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They have been seeking to delay those negotiations in a rearguard attempt to keep the outdated social work degree as a necessary part of training. Any further delay will damage the profession.

Mr. Nicholas Baker: Does my hon. Friend think that representatives of the probation service will recommend to him a curfew of children under 10, as recommended by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)?

Mr. Sackville: The hon. Member for Blackburn needs to get his house in order and decide exactly what he is recommending to the House. We have heard three different versions of that plan in as many days, which typifies the totally muddled and confused attitude to law and order on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Alex Carlile: Will the Minister explain to the House how his right hon. and learned Friend proposes to persuade probation officers that that there will be an improvement in penal policy by a 15 per cent. reduction in probation staff this year? Will he also tell the House how the Government will justify the removal from prisons of seconded probation officers, who make an important contribution to the release of prisoners from prison, so that it can be shown--if at all--that prison works?

Mr. Sackville: I do not know where the hon. and learned Gentleman gets his figures, because spending on the probation service has remained constant in real terms. As to prisons, a great deal more work is being done on rehabilitation in prison by prison officers and by drug rehabilitation services, which are now working in prison. A great deal of work is being done.

Immigration (False Documents)

5. Mr. David Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many false documents were discovered per week in 1995 in the United Kingdom being used by people trying to enter the United Kingdom illegally. [30365]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Timothy Kirkhope): During 1995, a total of 4,486 forged or falsified travel documents were detected by immigration officers at United Kingdom ports and airports of entry, an average of 86 detections each week.

Mr. Evans: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that the British people are sick and tired of immigrants who pay nothing and take everything? Does he agree with me that it is time that immigrants paid tax for five years before they can use the health service or take social security benefits? After all, students have to take out loans and pay for their education. Why cannot immigrants do the same? We know that the lot opposite, if they ever got into power, would let everybody in, and the taxpayer would foot the bill.

Mr. Kirkhope: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his robust remarks. It is important to remember that people who come to this country legally find it highly offensive that some people use bogus documents to try to enter the country and thereby take social security benefits and jobs

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that should be available for those who are here legally. I also congratulate members of the immigration service's national forgery section and the national intelligence section on their work. Many people come from all over the world to see how they work because we have an excellent detection service to prevent abuses of the system.

We are concerned about forged credentials of all kinds. Indeed, we should all be concerned about the Labour party's forged credentials on crime, because, frankly, with such credentials, no one can trust it.

Mr. Henderson: Does the Minister not think that there is a contradiction between his stated desire to get rid of bogus documents and his reply to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), and the Government's policy in the Asylum and Immigration Bill, clause 8 of which introduces provisions that mean that employers will have to recognise up to 40 new documents when they make their checks? Will that not create a forgers charter, in that all the people who are currently making money out of preparing forged immigration documents will now be forging employment documents? The Government should withdraw clause 8 if they genuinely want to get rid of forgery in the context of immigration.

Mr. Kirkhope: If only the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had been a little more supportive of the Government in this vital aspect of legislation, we might be able to deal with some of the abuses rather more effectively. We want to ensure that people who do not have the proper documentation that entitles them to work should not benefit from the economy of this country. I hope that the Labour party will start to think more carefully about what benefits from the economy should be available to people who are in this country legally and to good employers.

Mr. Whittingdale: Does my hon. Friend agree that it will be possible to detect people who are attempting to enter this country using false documents only if we continue to check such documents at the point of entry? Will he confirm that the Government will not in any circumstances accept any attempt by the European Commission to remove our border controls?

Mr. Kirkhope: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We are extremely effective in detecting forged documents, but it is vital that we maintain our present controls to make sure that illegality is stamped out.

Leicester Prison

6. Mr. Janner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will pay an official visit to the Welford Road prison, Leicester, to discuss conditions of prisoners and staff. [30266]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Ann Widdecombe): I will be making a routine visit to Leicester prison on 27 June.

Mr. Janner: Is the Minister aware that, since the Conservative party came to power, crime in Leicestershire has trebled and the population of Leicester prison has risen from 207, which is permitted, to 324? When she

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makes her routine visit--which will be very welcome as she has a well-earned reputation for gentle, quiet and caring compassion--will she be kind enough to consider the terrible effect that such overcrowding has, not only on inmates and their rehabilitation but especially on those who are in charge of them and whose life's work it is to work in prison?

Miss Widdecombe: Despite the earnest expression on the hon. and learned Gentleman's face, I think that he must be having a little joke at his own party's expense. He seems to be suggesting that we are responsible for overcrowding in prisons, but, during the Labour party's previous term in office, the prison population was rising by 15 per cent. and the party responded by cutting the prison capital programme by 20 per cent. That was how seriously the Labour party took overcrowding.

In contrast, we have built 22 new prisons, eliminated the practice of trebling, eliminated the use of police cells since last June and reduced the percentage of prisoners sharing two to a cell designed for one. That should make the hon. and learned Gentleman very happy about our compassionate policy on overcrowding. Will he stand up and congratulate us and apologise?

Mr. Garnier: Before my hon. Friend makes her routine visit to Welford Road prison in Leicester, will she ignore the routine rant of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner)? As it happens, crime in the county of Leicestershire--I am sorry about the city of Leicester--has fallen quite markedly. Will my hon. Friend also make a special visit to Gartree prison, which is on the way to Leicester, which she will find is well run and not overcrowded?

Miss Widdecombe: I can absolutely agree with my hon. and learned Friend. Crime in Leicestershire fell by 5.5 per cent. last year. I congratulate him on giving his constituents the good news and the facts, in comparison with the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West, who wants nothing more than to depress his constituents and paint the worst possible picture. I shall of course be delighted to visit Gartree, although I cannot, of course, guarantee to visit it before I visit Leicester. When I visit both prisons, I shall congratulate the prison staff on a magnificent achievement that is always belittled by the Opposition.

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