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Mr. Clarke: I am considering doing that to strengthen the system. Unfortunately, it is not only my hon. Friend's constituents who express their concern. I am acutely aware that it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone in the country can have confidence in the robustness of the system.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): In today's Prime Minister's questions, we learned that the Prime Minister did not know a key fact when the Home Secretary offered to resign yesterday. The key fact is that 288 criminals were released after the Home Secretary became aware of the problem. Given that, how can the Home Secretary stay in post?
Mr. Clarke: The key fact is that between February 1999 and March 2006 1,000 people who should have been considered for deportation were not considered for deportation, and the issue concerns how that happened and how to put it right. That is the question that I have considered; that is the question that the Prime Minister and I discussed yesterday; and that is what I am determined to put right.
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): Today, we have heard from both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister about the increased resources that have been put into the Home Office. Will the Home Secretary tell the House whether he considers those resources to be adequate or whether even more resources will be placed at the disposal of the Home Office?
The resources that we have allocated are adequate for that process at this time. If I reach a different view, I will allocate the appropriate resources, because the matter is such a high priority. It is true that both the immigration and nationality directorate and the Prison Service are always under pressure for resources, because
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they deal with some of the most difficult people in the country in a variety of different ways, which puts pressure on both staff and the individuals concerned. I do not think that resources were the fundamental point, although there were resources issues. The key issue concerned communication.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): May I raise the case of Sungaradazzo Mudgyiwa, which I have raised with the Home Office in questions and correspondence? She is a lady from Zimbabwe who was sent to prison for four and a half years for conducting hundreds of thousands of pounds of fraud on the benefit system and the Post Office. Now that the Home Secretary has won his appeal on Zimbabweans being allowed to be deported under certain circumstances, will that multiple fraudster, whose son has just been issued with an antisocial behaviour order for terrorising the neighbourhood, be removed from the council house that she is currently occupying in Whitstable in my constituency, which is one of several that she has fraudulently obtained?
Mr. Clarke: As the hon. Gentleman has said, the Court of Appeal judgment on Zimbabwe went the Government's way. The matter has now been returned to the asylum and immigration tribunal for consideration, which will take place as quickly as possible, but I would be surprised if a decision were made in less than a couple of months, given the way in which legal processes work. Once we have clarified the situation, we can return to cases such as the one that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned to see whether deportation is justified. As an aside, I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman supports the proposition that it is reasonable to deport people to Zimbabwe in the current circumstances, because that view is not shared across the whole House.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): Were the people who had committed serious sexual offences put on the sex offenders register before they were released, which is vital if we are to be confident that the register will help our local police forces? If they were not put on the register, what other categories of prisoner are also exempt from being put on it?
Mr. Clarke: I assure the hon. Lady that precisely the same procedures on the sex offenders register applied to the foreign nationals whom she has described as apply to anybody who commits a sex offence.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): When the Home Secretary said on "Newsnight" last night that very few foreign nationals had been released since he became aware of the situation, was he aware that 288 had been?
I was. That phrase has been taken up by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), the Leader of the Opposition and such distinguished interrogators as Mr. James Naughtie on the "Today" programme. Perhaps my use of language was infelicitous, but I was thinking of the thousands
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who were successfully deported over that time and the large number of people whom we are looking at in the round.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): When a judge makes a recommendation to the Home Secretary concerning deportation which is not acted on by the Home Office, does that not place the Home Secretary in contempt of court? Will the Home Secretary reflect on the rather novel doctrine of ministerial responsibility that he has advanced to the House that the bigger the shambles that he is presiding over, the more essential it is that he remains in office?
Mr. Clarke: I do not believe that I am in contempt of court. As the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) will confirm, Home Secretaries often risk being in contempt of court and many judgments are made about the Home Secretary of the day, but I do not think that I am in contempt of court in this case.
Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): Given that it is 24 hours since the Home Secretary personally took charge of the issue, if any more cases come to light or if any overseas offenders are released without being considered for deportation, will he then resign?
Mr. Clarke: As I have said, I have taken responsibility for the matter not for 24 hours, but for the whole time that I have been Home Secretary. The issue involves getting it right, which is what I intend to do.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): Did the Home Secretary offer his resignation to the Prime Minister before the Prime Minister was in possession of the full facts? If that was the case, does he not think it fair for him to repeat his offer to the Prime Minister?
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Will the Home Secretary tell us how many times in total he has offered his resignation to the Prime Minister? Is it once? Is it twice? And will it be a case of third time lucky for the public?
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has just confirmed that the Government have failed in their guarantee that no one waits more than six months for an NHS operation. Last night, however, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), claimed at Hansard column 549 that the number of people waiting more than six months for an NHS operation is "zero". Having written to Health Ministers, asked parliamentary questions and secured a Westminster Hall debate, what further action can I take to ensure that Ministers make factually correct statements to this House?
Mr. Speaker: Back Benchers must persevere and keep annoying Ministers at all times. Since becoming Speaker I have missed the Tea Room, where senior Members can provide good advice on how to make things awkward for Ministers. The hon. Gentleman is engaged in an apprenticeship, and he should speak to some of the journeymen and women.
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): On a point of order, earlier this year I tabled a parliamentary question asking the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment his Department had made of trends in the loss of privately owned green space as a result of new residential development. On 11 January at Hansard column 691, the Minister replied that there is no information on any loss of privately owned green space. However, for the purposes of an article in The Daily Telegraph at the weekend on the same subject, an ODPM spokesman was able to provide such an estimate. Will you confirm that the Government should not provide less information in response to parliamentary questions than is provided to members of the press? Perhaps you will urge Ministers to provide hon. Members with the basis for the estimate that was given to The Daily Telegraph.
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