Examination of Witnesses (Questions 45-85)|
Q45 Chair: Mr
Hardwick, Mr Bhui, my apologies, we kept you waiting much longer
than is reasonable and I apologise for that. We are going to switch
subjects now. You will be pleased to know we are not going to
ask you about the roots of radicalism.
I am pleased to hear that, Chairman. I am pleased to hear that.
Q46 Chair: But
we are going to talk to you about your report, first of all, into
Tinsley House, because the Committee has been concerned since
the death of Jimmy Mubenga about the way in which those who are
removed from this country are treated. Obviously, everyone accepts
that people have to be removed when they have exhausted the appeal
process; when they have no right to remain they have to be removed
and sometimes they have to be forcibly removed. So we all accept
that but we all believe, of course, that it should be done in
the most legal and humane way possible. I want to ask you about
your report into Tinsley House and the practice of taking detainees
to the airport as reserves to fill spaces on charter flights.
Has this practice ended or is it still being used?
No, it is still being used. We made a recommendation to UKBA that
it should cease and they rejected that recommendation.
Q47 Chair: Why
They said it was on grounds of efficiency. They needed to take
reserves to fill empty spaces to make best use of public money.
Q48 Chair: How
many are taken, for example, on the average flight? If, say, three
detainees are going to be deported, how many would end up going
in the convoy?
That wasn't a feature of any of the overseas escorts we followed.
Maybe my colleague can answer that.
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
More typically on a flight you would have between 30 and 60 detainees
being removed and the notional allocation of escort staff to detainees
is around two to one. On the two flights we observed, it was nearer
to three to one of escorts to detainees. We are not clear about
the reasons why sometimes reserves are taken and sometimes they
are not taken. On some flights where there was clearly space there
were no reserves and on other flights there were no reserves where
we thought it would have fitted more with their policy.
Q49 Chair: Just
run through those figures again. You observed a flight with how
many people being removed?
On the Jamaica flight there were 35 people being removed.
Q50 Chair:So you
had 90 escorts?
We had 104 escorts on that flight. The Jamaican flight was 35
detainees, 104 escorts. The ratio is supposed to be two to one.
In fact in that case, as you say, it was three to one. On the
Nigeria flight they were planning to take 59, six were stopped
for one reason or another, so they took 53; they had 131 staff
Q51 Chair: That is a
lot of people.
It is a lot of people indeed and I think some of the problems
that occurred were simply because some of the escort staff did
not have anything to do, they were bored.
Q52 Chair: How
many reserves went with them?
None, there were no reserves on those flights.
Chair: They obviously
knew you were coming.
Well, they did know we were coming, but I don't think that was
a factor, because we have done other escort inspections up to
the point of pushback and certainly we have not been able to detect
a pattern when reserves are present and when they are not.
Q53 Lorraine Fullbrook:
Can I ask about the Nigeria flight in particular, where you said
there were 131 staff for 53 removals. In your report did you not
say that removals to Africa tended to be more violent and would
that not be the reason why there would be more escorts on that
That wasn't what we said. I don't think we did say that in the
report. I think there were some assumptions made; we overhead
some of the escorting staff making some assumptions about particular
nationalities, but I don't think one would assume that a flight,
for instance to Nigeria, would necessarily be more problematic
than a flight to Jamaica. I don't think that would be correct.
My understanding is that they work on a notional ratio of two
escorts to one detainee, and you can see from the seating pattern
how that might work out and be sensible. What is unclear to me
is why, if they don't have the right number of detainees, they
still take that number of escorts.
Q54 Lorraine Fullbrook:
I would like to ask about your report and the inappropriate use
of language by staff engaged in the removals. The use of racist
terms to abuse somebody was described by a senior officer. Does
this relate to the contractors or to UK Border Agency staff?
Lorraine Fullbrook: It
Yes, the offensive language we heard was from the contractors.
Q55 Lorraine Fullbrook:
Employers would not accept the use of racist language within the
workplace in any context. Do you think that it is acceptable with
a government contract, for example?
No, I certainly don't think it is acceptable. I don't think it
should have been accepted by the G4S managers who were there and
I don't think it should have been accepted by the monitors who
were there. I think it should have been challenged. I thought
these were people carrying out a very difficult and sensitive
public service and I thought that language and behaviour was unacceptable.
Q56 Mr Clappison:
Were they aware of this? I find it surprising and it doesn't inspire
No, I think it doesn't inspire confidence. By its nature it could
not be an unannounced inspection, they knew we were there. What
I found in the inspections as a whole was that you don't have
to be there very long. We are unobtrusive. We are not hiding and
sneaking up on people but we try and be unobtrusive and things
pretty quickly revert back to normal. They get used to you being
there pretty quickly and revert back to normal. That is true in
prisons, that is true in immigration removal centres, so I think
that the behaviour we saw was typical behaviour that people had
simply got used to and had stopped seeing as something to be embarrassed
about or feel was wrong.
Q57 Mr Clappison:
How do you think this could be best addressed?
I think it needs to be addressed in lots of different ways. Ultimately,
it is a straightforward management issue. Managers should make
it clear that kind of behaviour is not acceptable and address
it whenever they hear it on the spot. I think there is a training
issue and I also think there is a sort of cultural issue. I think
part of this was, apart from the language, that some other aspects
of what happened we felt were over risk-averse. It becomes a rather
dehumanising process if the escort staff, given the difficult
task they have to do, are not, none the less, encouraged to see
the individuals they are coping with as human beings. I would
also say that you will find in both reports examples of very good
and sensitive behaviour by escort staff where they went to some
effort to defuse potentially difficult situations. So this wasn't
a uniform picture, it was some individuals who should have been
Q58 Mr Clappison:
It is surprising to find that it happens at all and where it does
presumably it does not make the actual task any less sensitive.
No. I think it betrays a very alarming attitude and I think it
is, as you say, very surprising that they would do it in front
of inspectors. One of the reasons
Mr Clappison: Well, to
do it at all actually, but to do it in front of inspectors as
Exactly. One of the reasons that we had not done these sorts of
inspections before is that we thought people would modify their
behaviour so much when we were there that it would not be meaningful.
I don't think that was the case.
Q59 Mr Winnick:
I accept it is more a matter for UKBA to decide, but do you see
any particular reason in your position as Chief Inspector of Prisons,
Mr Hardwick, why contractors should be used in the first place?
Why can't the UKBA staff do the job?
I don't know the reason why that happened. I think contractors
have been used for a long period of time. I don't think there
is any reason why it could not be done by UKBA staff or why it
should be done by contractors. I imagine it is an issue of cost.
Q60 Mr Winnick:
If it is a matter of cost, as a layman in such matters I would
have thought it was more expensive to contract out.
I said I imagine. I don't know the reasons and I certainly haven't
had explained to me a good reason why that is the case. I certainly
think that if they are going to contract out this service, the
monitoring arrangements need to be much more effective and intrusive
than is the case on the flights that we saw.
Q61 Mr Winnick:
Is there any feeling on your part, or your colleague's, that in
fact there is too much of a cosy relationship between UKBA and
the contractors and especially, of course, if particular arrangements
with certain companies have been long established?
I am not sure that it is at a sort of structural organisational
level, but as well as these two reports that you have talked about,
about Jamaica and Nigeria, we have done a thematic study of our
escorts and my predecessor published it in 2009. There we did
think there was a risk that in fact the individual monitors on
particular removals had got too close to the people whom they
were supposed to be monitoring.
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
Yes, the report was published in 2009. It was a thematic report
on detainee escorts and removals, and there were UKBA monitors,
escort monitors, who were present to the point of pushback. So
they were not flying on the plane, they were going with escorts
from the point of arrival at the airport to the point when the
aircraft took off. We were quite concerned that the monitors at
times appeared to be part of the escort team rather than taking
a step back and being independent persons who were looking at
what was happening. We were also concerned that they did not seem
to speak to detainees very much, or attempt really the kind of
oversight duties that we would expect of a good monitor.
Q62 Mr Winnick:
Would you expect, Mr Hardwick or your colleague, UKBA to say to
contractors, where there have been much-publicised incidents,
that the contractors will lose the contract with UKBA if there
is any repeat?
If there had been misconduct or poor performance, that would be
an issue in the contract, yes, and it is very important that UKBA
is clear about the standards that it expects in the way the contractors
treat detainees and that it will take very vigorous action if
those standards are not met. Obviously, you would have to look
at each individual circumstance, but I am supportive of what you
Q63 Chair: Is
there a difference between the contractors? We know that following
the death of Jimmy Mubenga G4S lost the contract. Obviously the
UKBA says that it is nothing to do with the fact that the contract
went to Reliance. But there seems to be, in a sense, the same
contractors who work in the prison service also work for other
parts of the court service. It is the same contractors all over
the place. Do you find that?
It is certainly the same individuals. As I understand it, the
staff from G4S have been transferred over to Reliance. So it is
the same individuals.
Q64 Chair: Sorry,
the same individuals who worked for G4S are now working for Reliance?
Yes. I understand that is the case. We haven't done an inspection
of a removal since Reliance have been in charge, but we do have
a programme of inspections planned. We will do those through this
year now, given our initial experience, and so to some extent
I will be in a better position to answer your question when we
have seen what Reliance are doing, but it is the same staff.
Q65 Chair: Do
you have any information as to when the case will be concluded?
Mr Mubenga died on 12 October last year and the matter still seems
not to be resolved.
I don't have information on that. The death is being investigated
by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman and I think there is an
inquest due. That is not our role. I don't have information on
that, I am afraid, Chairman.
Chair: Of course. I think
the Committee would probably want to find out what is happening.
Mr Michael has a question on child detention.
Q66 Alun Michael:
Two questions, perhaps just on the detainees generally first.
How satisfied are you with the arrangements for dealing with detainees
once they have reached their destination, in other words once
they have been taken back to the country to which they are being
I think that is a concern. Some people are part of an assisted
return scheme and they do get some help. On the Jamaica flight
those people who weren't part of the assisted return programme
at least got a leaflet in the flight that explained what sources
of help might be available to them, and we feel it would have
removed some of their anxiety if they had been given that information
at an earlier time. On the Nigeria flight there was nothing of
that kind provided and, as we describe in the report, we were
very concerned about how some of the Nigerian officials dealt
with people on the plane after it had touched down, let alone
what happened after that, which we did not see.
Q67 Alun Michael:
Indeed, you gave a graphic description of that. Whose responsibility
is it to make sure that, not just during transit but on arrival,
the situation is understood and dealt with appropriately?
I don't know what the legal answer is to that, but I certainly
would have thought the British Government had some responsibility
to make sure that people are treated properly and fairly after
they leave the flight.
Q68 Alun Michael:
I would accept that as a general answer, but is it clear whether
Home Office, Foreign Office, contractor or airline are responsible
for making sure that matters are dealt with properly on arrival?
I don't know the answer to that question precisely, but I think
there will be a system in place for negotiating return arrangements
for the countries concerned and I think the mechanics of what
happens in the arrival process need to be part of that agreement.
Certainly on the plane I think there are questions about whether
the monitors and contracted staff should have been more prepared
to intervene in things that were happening right in front of them.
Q69 Alun Michael:
So you would think it is reasonable for both you and this Committee
to want greater clarity around it?
I certainly think that is an issue where greater clarity is needed.
Q70 Alun Michael:
The detention of children in custody has been an issue for some
time and there was a promise that the holding of children in custody
would be ended by Christmas 2010. Has that happened?
Children are no longer detained in immigration removal centres.
There are, as you know, plans in exceptional circumstances to
hold them in special family units. That will be detention, and
we will inspect it. Children are also detained in short-term holding
facilities with their adult carers. I think you have to be careful
about taking a judgment on that because you have to be careful
before releasing a child with an adult or two adults into the
community if you are not sure of the relationship between the
child and those adults. I think the conditions in which children
are held in the short-term holding facilities need improvement.
You have to be careful about saying that children should never
be held in any circumstance; they may have to be held at least
until the welfare of the child and its relationship with the adults
can be satisfactorily determined.
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
Can I add something to that? Children are held in three distinct
places reallyin short-term holding facilities at airports,
in the new pre-departure accommodation that UKBA has recently
opened, which bears very little relation to the classic design
of a detention centre, and also in a unit within Tinsley House
Immigration Removal Centre. That was being refurbished when we
last inspected and so there were no children or families there
at the time. That has now opened, and we have not had the opportunity
to go back and have a look at it but it is certainly being managed
by the managers who also manage the general immigration removal
Q71 Alun Michael:
I think this is always going to be something where the issues
at the edges are difficult to define. I do not want to get engaged
in undue criticism where essentially the objective is being met,
but there was a report a couple of weeks agoI think it
was bythe Children's Societythat seemed to claim that the
promise had not been delivered. It sounds to me as if you are
saying that the promise has been delivered, but there are residual
issues to be dealt. Would that be fair?
That is correct. That report did refer to short-term holding facilities.
As I say, we had concerns about the conditions in some short-term
holding facilities, but we think the argument about whether children
should ever be held there are more complicated than that report
suggested, because I certainly think there are issues if the relationship
between the adults and the child are not yet established because
they don't have the documentation to do that.
Q72 Alun Michael:
Am I right in interpreting what you have said as meaning that
this is an issue that you are going to look at and report on?
In what sort of timescale?
It will be unannounced, so we have plans to go to all of these
places next year from April.
Q73 Alun Michael:
So it would be reasonable for us as a Committee to look for an
update on it?
Absolutely, we are happy to do that. We will keep the Committee
informed of our plans on that.
Q74 Chair: Please.
One of those presumably is the Cedars?
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
Yes. That is the pre-departure accommodation.
Q75 Chair: Yes,
which I have visited and is a pretty splendid place with nobody
in there, as far as I could understand.
Right. We will inspect that later in the year.
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
There are people there now.
Q76 Chair: There
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
There are now, yes.
Q77 Chair: But
it is a short-term place, isn't it?
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
It is seven days maximum, and they tell us that most families
will come in and out within one to two days.
Q78 Chair: Do
you know how many children have passed through?
Hindpal Singh Bhui:
Q79 Lorraine Fullbrook:
I would like to ask about the information given to detainees about
the arrangements when they arrive at their destination. You said
on the Jamaica flight they received a leaflet about what would
be available on the ground when they arrived, and nothing on the
Nigeria plane. Is it the case, though, that the information available
would be different for the country of destination and be subject
to the availability of help at the other end?
Yes, it is. My understanding is it was about local NGOs, local
mosques or faith groups that would be available to assist people.
It was not assistance provided by the British Government, but
it did have some basic factual information for people, if they
were going to arrive with no means and no accommodation, about
what they could do and who they could turn to for help. I think
providing some of that information reduces, if you provide it
at an earlier stage, some of the tension that is part of the kind
of build-up to the flights and helps make the process smoother.
Q80 Lorraine Fullbrook:
But that is really what I am asking, because in Jamaica is it
the case that on the ground there is more provision available
than in Nigeria or any other country?
Clearly it is different from country to country, but even in Nigeria
there are things available; there is some assistance available.
People were told that there would be some assistance available
in the airport, but that was very vague, and I think some more
specific advice could be given.
Q81 Lorraine Fullbrook:
So as a standard there should be basic information available,
irrespective of which country they are going to?
Absolutely. I think as a standard there should be some very basic
factual information available, particularly for those people who
arrive without means and accommodation, about what they can do
immediately to sort themselves out for the first 24 hours or so.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank
Chair: Mr Winnick has
a general question about your other role in prisons.
Q82 Mr Winnick:
Mr Hardwick, I think the latest figures show there is the largest
prison population. It has now reached 85,000?
87,000-plus, I think.
Q83 Mr Winnick:
Yes. How concerned are you at such an increase?
I am very concerned. My predecessor and I take it that it is not
for us to say what the size of the prison population should be,
but there has to be a match between the numbers in prison and
prisons' capacity to do anything useful with people when they
are there. So my concern about what will happen when the numbers
go up and the money doesn't is that inevitably people will spend
longer and longer locked in their cells so the opportunity to
do something useful with them, so that they are less likely to
return, is reduced. So I think there is a crucial issue about
capacity and I do absolutely worry about that. I think that is
a very big worry. It is my major concern.
Q84 Mr Winnick:
Are you making representations in your role as Chief Inspector
of Prisons to the appropriate Ministerobviously the Secretary
of State for Justice first and foremost, but also the Home Secretarythat
the chances of rehabilitation will obviously become much less?
Rehabilitation and the opportunity for prisoners to engage in
purposeful activity is at the top of my agenda, and one of the
things coming new into the role that has surprised me is how little
priority that gets and how little activity of that sort there
is. In every inspection report I do, pretty much, I try and hammer
that point home. Some of this, I think, also could be done better
by individual prisons, I have to say. Sometimes I think it is
not simply a question of national Government policy. Even with
the same levels of funding, some prisons do more than others,
but it will get more and more difficult as the numbers go up,
there is no doubt about that at all.
Q85 Chair: Presumably
this has been exacerbated by the riots and the number of people
who have been sentenced to prison?
Yes. We did some quick inspections to see how prisons and young
offenders institutions were coping with the influx from the riots.
I have to say on the whole they absorbed it quite well. I think
some of the press reports were a bit alarmist. They were absorbing
it reasonably well. There were individual instances where we felt
they could have done some things better, but they were absorbing
it overall. The problem was not the crisis of the admissions following
the riots, the problem was the one that Mr Winnick refers to.
It is all very well bringing them in but what are you going to
do with them when you have got them there? The more people you
have, the more difficult it is to have a sensible answer to that
question, I am afraid.
Chair: Indeed. Mr Hardwick,
Mr Bhui, thank you very much for coming and for your very helpful
evidence to the Committee. I am sure we will see you again in
I look forward to it very much.