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Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right about public confidence. That is my single biggest concern in the whole matter. That is why I feel it is my duty to try to achieve public confidence. I shall not speak about individual cases, including the one that he mentions, but I agree that bringing people to justice in the right way must be at the core of our approach.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The Home Secretary's use of the passive voice makes me feel that the Government are in office, but not in power. New legislation is continually introduced, although little action is taken to make existing legislation work properly. Given the right hon. Gentleman's response that the immigration and nationality directorate has improved, is it not his responsibility to ensure that it improves and that the current legislation works, rather than continually introducing new legislation?
I accept that responsibility. Perhaps I should take the opportunity to make it clear that the comments about a case in Stockton, which the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the leader of the Liberal Democrats made during Prime Minister's questions, were not correct. The individual in that case is in prison, pending a decision whether to deport him. He is detained under immigration laws. The fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the case is reasonable, but he gave wrong information about it, which I take the opportunity to put straight.
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Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale) (Lab): The matter is extremely serious. Will he reconsider the information that he is prepared to put before the House? I am still dealing with a case in which a British national was deported from Canada in 1992 and killed a constituent of mine in Liverpool in 1994. I should like to know the number of foreign nationals who were released from prison in the UK between 1979 and 1997, to put the whole matter into perspective.
Mr. Clarke: I am absolutely ready to do that. I will follow through my hon. Friend's suggestion and I thank him for his remarks. I have tried to prioritise the more recent and more serious cases, for reasons that he will understand. However, the implicit message of his commentsthat a system was not in place and records were started only in 1999is true. It is also true that the scale of the issue is greater now than it used to be, because there are more foreign nationals in prisons than was the case in the past, but the issues of principle remain. I will look at the precise figures, as he requested.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Does the Home Secretary accept that for democracy to work, there should be respect in this House and for Parliament, and that there should be trust and confidence in Government to do what they are there to donot least, to guarantee the safety of the people of this country? Does he not feel that that has been undermined by this affair? Can he say what recompense will be available to those who have lost their lives, been raped or have otherwise suffered as a result of the incompetence of the Home Office in dealing with international offenders?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished parliamentarian. Though there are failings in the Home Office, which we have reported and which are set out, it is important to say to him as a distinguished parliamentarian that the way that Parliament operates, with the Public Accounts Committee bringing Government to account for their conduct of affairs, as in the present case, is a credit to our parliamentary and public system. I am acutely aware, perhaps more than anybody in the House, that it is my job to try and ensure that confidence in the system is established in the way that he wants, and that is what I intend to do.
Mr. Speaker: Order. No rule has been broken, but one of my duties is to try and gauge how long a statement should last. It will be helpful if hon. Members stand after the statement is made and do not wait until a substantial time afterwards. It is unfair.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the reasons for the problems is that sentences and recommendations made by judges five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago seem not to be at the forefront of people's mind when it comes to prisoners being released? What will he do to ensure that when prisoners are released in future, judges' recommendations made five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago are on their files and to the fore?
My hon. Friend is right to describe the situation in that way. As he knows, the length of
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sentences has, on average, been increasing over the years because the attitude of courts towards some offences has changed. The issue is the one that he knows about and which I have sought to identify: the relationship between the prison service, IND and the courts, to ensure that all the information is in front of the decision-taker at the right time. That is what we are seeking to achieve, together with colleagues in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I note from the Home Secretary's statement that since August, 288 cases should have been considered, the most serious ones are currently being considered, 53 have been completed and there have been only 14 deportations. Is that due to the fact that the remaining 75 per cent. cannot be found, or are we deporting only 25 per cent. of the most serious cases? If that is so, should not the policy be called the non-deportation and non-removal of foreign nationals?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman has not quite got it straight. The 288 cases, of which 83 have been started, 53 completed and 14 resulted in deportation, are not the most serious cases. They are the cases over a particular period, so there is no relationship with seriousness. The people in the 83 cases that I mentioned have all been identified and each case has been considered carefully in its own context. There are different reasons why deportation has not been the judgment. I cannot give details on particular cases, but the decision to deport or not depends on a number of factors, including the length of sentence and other such matters. That is why I am reviewing those aspects to report back to the House and to see whether a higher proportion could more appropriately be deported. With respect, there is confusion in the hon. Gentleman's question. These issues are not the most serious ones. They are the issues in the round.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Will the Home Secretary answer the specific question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon): has he issued specific instructions to the governors of prisons that no foreign nationals will be released without a check first being carried out as to whether they have been recommended for deportation? If he has not issued such instructions, why has he not done so?
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I am concerned about some of the foreign nationals who are from European Union countries, because of the lax border controls that we have with EU countries. Can the right hon. Gentleman give me a guarantee that if a foreign EU national commits a crime and is deported, they will never be allowed back into the United Kingdom?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot give that commitment under EU law. What I can tell him, which may interest him, is that there are about
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1,000 more prisoners from other EU states in our prisons than there are UK citizens in EU prisons, if I may put it like that. That imbalance is correct. That is why we have argued in the EU, with the support of the current Austrian presidency, for a directive which provides that people should be returned to the EU country from which they come, for reasons of rehabilitation, as much as anything else. They are more likely to be able to stop reoffending in their own community. A number of countries in the EU support the change that we propose, as does the Austrian presidency. Some countries do not, for various reasons, but we are pressing for a directive that would have the effect of ensuring that EU prisoners were imprisoned in their country of origin, rather than in other places. That would have the side benefit of reducing some of the pressure on prison places in this country.
Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): I have constituents in Sheffield who will be worried about the situation. Will my right hon. Friend consider tabling new regulations that will assure my constituents that the measures necessary to tackle the situation are being taken?
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