Examination of Witnesses(Questions 80-99)
GIEVE CB, MR
THURSDAY 18 JULY 2002
80. You would have said at the time if you did
not think it was a realistic target.
(Mr Boys Smith) We thought that we would find it easier
to remove those numbers than we have found. We have made a lot
of progress in terms of both the case working back-up to that
difficult process that I referred to a moment ago, in terms of
our close working with the police servicewe now have a
concordat with ACPO, for example, to facilitate thatand
a whole variety of other ways, but undoubtedly it has proved more
difficult. But again, if you would allow me to say this, we are
delivering more, 11,500 in the previous year, and again, a much
larger number than any other European country.
81. Obviously if you include dependants amongst
removals, it makes the figures look much better from the Government's
point of view. When did you decide to do that?
(Mr Boys Smith) The target right through the current
Spending Review period, the one we are still in, has since April
2001 been for removals inclusive of dependants. There has never
been any secrecy or anything underhand on that. It has been absolutely
82. There was a day not many months ago when
the number of removals was by way of principal applicants, and
now it is not; it is applicants plus dependants.
(Mr Boys Smith) If I may, Mr Malins, the measurement
of this target through the Spending Review period that we are
still in has been the measurement of removals inclusive of dependants
since April 2001. I do appreciate that that has somehow not been
clearly understood, but we have always proceeded on the basis
that we were measuring with dependants. The figure of applicants
is 9,500, which is principal applicants, which is also a public
figure, 11,500 with dependants.
83. How does that change the position? My parliamentary
answer says asylum removals statistics prior to April 2001 related
to only the number of principal applicants removed, excluding
dependants. The statistics since April 2001 show the number of
principal applicants and the number of dependants removed. What
proportion were dependants, do you think?
(Mr Boys Smith) For the last year it was 9,500 principal
applicants, 11,500 inclusive of dependants, so about 2,000. I
could not give you a breakdown as between dependants, but the
ratio will not be hugely different.
84. You accept that the 30,000 target has been
(Mr Boys Smith) No, it has not been abandoned. It
is still there. Discussions will take place as to the figure that
should be attached to the targets for the coming period and those
discussions have not yet taken place.
85. That 30,000 would presumably disappear from
bits of paper now, but if you had to guess, will there be another
figure for the target for, say, the next 12 months or the following
12 months after that? Are you looking to say a greater number?
Are you looking to say 20,000? What are you looking to say?
(Mr Boys Smith) The White Paper makes clear that the
target for the coming period, as indeed for the moment, will be
the more effective enforcement of the immigration law by removing
a greater proportion of failed asylum seekers. The 30,000 was
previously attached to that and the Home Secretary about a year
ago indicated, because we clearly were not performing in the early
part of the last financial year, that he saw that in terms of
2,500 a month. The position for the coming Spending Review period
is, as I say, and as John Gieve referred to earlier, that discussions
will have to take place with the Treasury, and ministers will
have to decide what number may be attached to this. The press
have somewhat jumped the gun in some articles by suggesting the
30,000 figure has been abandoned. That is not formally the case.
86. This is a handling exercise really, is it
not? Do you think you will ever reach the stage, or do you want
to reach the stage where the percentage of those who are removed
is higher than 50 per cent of those who should by all accounts
be removed because all their appeals have failed? Do you think
you are ever going to make it anywhere near 50 per cent of those
who should be removed being removed?
(Mr Boys Smith) I find that very hard to answer. I
think it is possible. We are confident that we can put the present
number up. We should remember that of those who apply, on present
figures, approximately 40 per cent, either by virtue of initial
decisions, as a consequence of the appeals or because they have
been granted exceptional leave to remain, are, so to speak, legitimately
here after the process, so we are talking of the 60 per cent with
regard to whom there is some kind of negative decision, and I
think it is possible to reach about half of that. Whether it is
possible long term to sustain that I am not quite clear, and I
think a great deal will depend, among other things, of course,
on the national make-up of those who are applying, because whereas
it is relatively easy to remove people to certain countries say
in eastern Europe, to remove them to other parts of the world
is hugely difficult. Removability will change over time.
(Mr Gieve) Can I just add one thing there? One of
the provisions in the new Bill is to allow for non-suspensive
appeals, that is to say, removing people from the country before
their appeal is heard. That could change the position quite dramatically
in some countries.
87. What countries are you thinking of?
(Mr Gieve) Among others, eastern Europe.
88. So ones where there is a prima facie supposition
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
89. Whereas you would not remove someone to
Afghanistan and then invite them to call back, would you?
(Mr Gieve) It depends on the circumstances in Afghanistan.
As you know, we are hoping to remove people to Afghanistan, and
a few volunteers are going already.
90. We should never lose sight of the fact that,
at the end of the day, these are human beings, some of them have
young children, and some are returning to destitution. Although
you are under pressure from people like us, and we are under pressure
from people in our constituencies, we should never lose sight
(Mr Boys Smith) We should not, and part of the training
that we offer our staff, whether on initial decisions or removals,
is that they are dealing with people, huge things that affect
the whole of the future life of that family or that individual,
and some of that is difficult and stressful work for those members
Chairman: This is a subject to which
we are proposing to return in the near future in rather more detail,
so we will no doubt discuss it again. Let us turn now to the Criminal
91. Mr Gieve, on a scale of one to ten, with
one being good, ten being bad, where would you put the Criminal
Records Bureau at the moment?
(Mr Gieve) About half-way. It has had a very bad start,
but it seems to be recovering now, and we expect by about the
end of the summer to be close to hitting our targets.
(Mr Lyon) How many targets have been reached so far
which give you comfort to put it at 5 or 6, a success story?
(Mr Gieve) No, we are not hitting our targets at the
moment. The targets are to clear disclosures in three weeks, and
as you know, we have had great difficulties at the moment. We
have a backlog of cases which we are trying to deal with. However,
in the last few weeks, under the recovery programme which the
Criminal Records Bureau have drawn up with Capita, who are the
private sector partners, things do seem to be moving in the right
direction. We have now issued our one hundred thousandth disclosure,
and the numbers are going up very rapidly week on week.
92. But what are the reasons for those delays?
You have just mentioned Capita; are they the problem, or was the
(Mr Gieve) I think this is quite complex endeavour,
and there is no one fault, that everything else worked perfectly
and this one thing could be singled out. A number of things have
had to be adjusted over recent weeks and there are more adjustments
to come, but the single most difficult thing has been dealing
with paper applications and getting them on the system. That was
the main problem in the first few weeks, and led to a build-up
of forms which had not yet been entered. That is a function that
Capita are responsible for, and they now seem to be getting on
top of that.
93. How many applicants are told that their
applications are being processed in India?
(Mr Gieve) I do not think we do tell people specifically.
It is not a secret; it has been made public and commented on,
but we do not send a letter saying, "Your form is being processed
94. With something as crucial as Parliament
is told the Criminal Records Bureau isand you will be aware
that various Members of Parliament have asked questions over a
period of time, including myselfdo you not think it is
odd, to say the least, that insufficient processes were put in
place and you are now being forced to send work to India to be
(Mr Gieve) I was a bit surprised, yes, that this turned
out to be the best route forward, but I think it is a rather interesting
reflection of the global economy we now live in. As you know,
many private sector companies have been doing this sort of thing
for years, and some public sector organisations have been doing
itthe Student Loans Company I gather uses Indian subcontractors.
It was not in our original plan. Just in terms of what they are
doing there, they are putting on to disk the application; they
are not actually searching the databases for records of any sort.
95. Have you any estimate of the number or groups
of people currently affected by the delay?
(Mr Gieve) I do not have a breakdown. I know broadly
the people who can apply for information under the scheme, and
they are all being affected. Particular groups that we have singled
out include teachers, where we have set up special arrangements
with the Department of Education; the Department of Health; taxi
drivers; and we have had some special schemes for groups where
the delay was causing particular difficulties; so I am aware of
those, but there is quite a wide range.
96. Can you give the Committee an assurance
that every new teacher applicant will have his or her clearance
dealt with by the start of the new academic year in September
and there will be no teaching post left unfilled because of delays
with the Criminal Records Bureau?
(Mr Gieve) I would have to think about that. I do
not think I can give you that assurance, in the sense that it
depends when they apply: if they apply the day before term starts,
we cannot promise to turn it round. What we have done with schools
is that we are offering a partial clearance first, which is actually
the system that schools have operated for some time. They have
their own education list which we check first, and we provide
an answer to the school on whether or not the applicant is on
that list, and then we go through the whole process.
97. Lessons have been learned from this, I assume.
Are there any other examples of where you can bring in outside
work or pressure to improve the situation so that, for example,
a lollipop lady does not have to wait six weeks to have her clearance?
Bearing in mind that the Criminal Records Bureau is there for
children's safety, that children could be crossing the road without
a lollipop lady for six weeks because she has to wait for her
clearance seems bizarre.
(Mr Gieve) No, I do not think there is another magic
ingredient. This requires hard operational improvements in the
organisation, in Capita and in the CRB. We are putting a lot more
staff in; we have subcontracted work to India, as you pointed
out; we have improved the IT; and all of that is intended to bring
us back on track, so that we are turning these applications round
in three weeks. There will always be some difficult cases, I dare
say, where it takes a bit longer than that. The other point I
would just make is that the CRB is offering this service more
widely than the old system of applying to the police. Under the
old system about 20,000 clearances were done a week, but we are
already doing that under the new system and we are expecting to
build it up a lot further than that.
98. When do you expect the Bureau to begin meeting
(Mr Gieve) I am hoping it will be by the end of the
99. So when you return, next time it will be
a rosy picture; it will not be near the bottom, but it will be
a success story?
(Mr Gieve) I am not going to promise it will get 10
out of 10.