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Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Last night the Home Secretary told Jon Snow that he would not resign unless it could be shown that what had happened was the result of a personal failure on his part. I agree with him that that is the right approach. A few hours later, he told Jeremy Paxman that what had happened was the result of a shocking failure on his part, among others. Given those two answers, how can he stay in his job?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably the only Member of the House from whom I would not accept that stricture. As Home Secretary he had a long record of evading responsibility, as the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) pointed out so powerfully at the time. For example, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's responsibilities on category A escapes stand in front of us. I agree with him that it is right for people to bear responsibilityand I dobut my responsibility is to create the kind of Home Office that
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means that such a situation cannot recur. In so doing, I am still, eight years on, dealing with the legacy for which he was responsible.
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): On 10 April I wrote to the immigration and nationality directorate about the case of Paul Omorui, a Nigerian who entered the country illegally from Spain using false documents, got employment with Royal Mail, again using false documentation, and stole financial and identity documentation. As I have not yet received a reply to my inquiry, will the Home Secretary assure me that the man will be deported, as recommended by the judge who sentenced him to 15 months' imprisonment? Will the Home Secretary also give assurances that in future, instead of constant change brought about by a never-ending round of criminal justice and immigration and asylum legislation, the Government will concentrate on developing effective and efficient administration systems and good decision making in the Home Office?
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): I share with many on the Opposition side of the House concern about the serious failing of the Home Secretary and the Home Office. Even if the Home Secretary does not know the precise addresses of all those whom he is considering for deportation, can he indicate whether there are any who are likely to be residing in Northern Ireland, and the offences for which they might have been formerly convicted?
Mr. Clarke: I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the full information that he requests. I understand that there are fewer than 50 foreign nationals in prisons in Northern Ireland, for a range of offences, but I will write to him with the information that he wants.
Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab): Does the Home Secretary agree that there is substantial evidence of overload, in political, administrative and legislative terms, in his Department and that that has put substantial burdens on him and his fellow Ministers? Does he agree that there is a requirement for a review of the political and management resources devoted to the tasks that are given to him?
I agree with quite a lot of that. Since I have been Home Secretary I have tried to organise the Home Office into three essential pillarsthe first dealing with policing and counter-terrorism, the second dealing with offender management and the issues about which we are talking, and the third dealing with immigration, asylum and identityand to have a reform programme in each to try to ensure that we can achieve the efficiency that we need. That has to be taken forward in a large variety of ways, as is happening. I also agree with my hon. Friend about the substantial volume of legislation that we have had in this Session. Perhaps I can give him the assurance that I have given others that I am determined to have a good deal less legislation in
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the rest of the Parliament. I see that the Government Whip who deals with such matters is looking extremely happy as I make that statement.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Presumably the released offenders are now either on benefit or in employment paying tax, so how can the Government have lost contact with them? I am sure that if one of my law-abiding constituents had committed a speeding offence, the Government would soon find his address and send him the relevant prosecution papers. Why cannot the Home Secretary use the many records that the Government have to find those people before it is too late?
Mr. Clarke: As I said, we are proceeding on that. I have given figures on where we are, and I said that I would report further. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that if an identity card system had been in place, it would have been easier to move more quickly[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. It will not do if hon. Members are shouting across the Chamber. I once again remind the House that it wanted the statement, and that hon. Members want to question the Home Secretary.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Obviously this issue is serious, and no one can shy away from it. May I say to my right hon. Friend that people expect action, and to know that no more will be released? What special advice has he given to the Prison Service and chief constables to get those dangerous people back off the streets, into prison and deportedwhenever that may be? We need to know that the matter is being taken seriously, and the public expect officials in the civil service to resign[Hon. Members: "Ministers!"] The public also expect elected Members to consider their position when such serious things have happened, so I must pass that advice to my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is quite right, in that I am sure that his constituents and everyone want the situation to be addressed effectively and quickly. I said in my statement that I would report further on progress regarding the most dangerous individuals concerned by the end of the week. As for the consideration of positions, I have considered my positionand I have decided that my position must be to put the situation straight, which is what I am going to do.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con):
I thank the Home Secretary for phoning me yesterday morning. I do not want to get involved in the politics of this, but serious questions must be asked. As the alarm bells started ringing at the Home Office last summer, why was it that the permanent secretary was unable to give anything like full details to the Public Accounts Committee when we asked him direct questions in October? Why was it that after repeated prodding, no proper note was produced, despite the fact that a note with the information was promised by the time our report was published on 13 March? Why did it take until yesterday for the Home Secretary to write to me with the details? Was that because this afternoon we are interviewing the new permanent secretary about the
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unprecedented failure of the Department to present any accounts at all to the Comptroller and Auditor General? What is going on in the Department? Is it ungovernable, in meltdown and out of control, or was there an attempt by the then permanent secretary to withhold information from the Public Accounts Committee, which would surely be unthinkable and unprecedented?
Mr. Clarke: I repeat to the hon. Gentleman what I said to his colleague on the Committee: the PAC has conducted itself entirely correctly. I give him an absolute assurance that there was no attempt by the former permanent secretary, who I think will be in front of the Committee this afternoon, to withhold information from the Committee. The Committee's inquiry revealed the inadequacy of our procedures, even to the extent of giving the proper details and information to the Committee that should have been given. As a result of that and the continued pressing by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon) on those points, we went back through every aspect, and we came to appreciate that we had given the Committee the wrong information for the period about which it asked. I decided not only that we should give accurate information on that period but that we should give full information for the whole period so that all our information was in the public arena. That is why we made the decision. We acted as speedily as possible, but I certainly cannot hide from the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), after his Committee's careful consideration of those matters, the fact that there was a serious systemic failure in our ability properly to understand what was happening, as the Committee discovered. He deserves credit for that clarification, but I repeat my assurance that, first, we will work with his Committee if necessary to get it rightand we shall certainly do so in any caseand, secondly, that there was no attempt on the part of anyone, including the former permanent secretary, to mislead the Committee with the information that was given.
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