Mr Hollobone: I am sure that most judges in this country have my hon. Friend on their Twitter feed and will be updated instantly with his pronouncements in

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the House. Might it do a service to the country for the Ministry of Justice to recirculate to judges the findings in that case so that they are reminded of what the Court of Appeal has said?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a helpful suggestion. I hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department takes note and will deal with that.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Would the hon. Gentleman mind repeating the name of the case? I did not hear what he said.

Philip Davies: I apologise for not being clear. The case was from the Court of Appeal in 2011 and was that of R v.Mintchev. I appreciate your seeking clarification, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I fear that my Twitter feed would not be enough. I have 12,000 followers, all of whom hate me, so I am not entirely that the message would get across to my targeted audience.

As for how effective we currently are in removing foreign national offenders, the Public Accounts Committee released a report in January 2015 called “Managing and removing foreign nationals” that considered the effectiveness and efficiency of managing foreign offenders in UK prisons. I must say that the Committee’s summary was damning. It said:

“It is eight years since this Committee last looked at this issue. We are dismayed to find so little progress has been made in removing foreign national offenders from the UK. This is despite firm commitments to improve and a ten-fold increase in resources devoted to this work. The public bodies involved are missing too many opportunities to remove foreign national offenders early and are wasting resources, through a combination of a lack of focus on early action at the border and police stations, poor joint working in prisons, and inefficient caseworking in the Home Office.”

I will not go through all of the conclusions, but it was a damning report. We can clearly see that the system is not working.

When we consider the success rate of the Home Office in removing foreign criminals, we can see that it falls short of its own figures. The number of removals is very low compared with the number of referrals to immigration enforcement. Of the 5,262 referrals to the immigration enforcement team up to September 2015, only 2,855 people —50%--were removed. The Department was handed these people on a plate, but only half of them were removed.

I will not go into the figures for foreign national offenders in prison, because my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering went through them very clearly. His figures match mine and also match those of the National Audit Office. It is interesting to see why these removals fail. In its 2014 report, the National Audit Office concluded that 523 removals failed because of issues deemed to be within the control of the Home Office, and 930 failed removals were due to factors outside the control of the Home Office.

In 2013-14, of those reasons deemed to be within the Department’s control, 159 removals failed because emergency travel documents, EU letters or other

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documentation needed to transport the offender were unavailable. In seven cases, they failed because the tickets for travel had not been booked. It is a farce that someone had forgotten to book the tickets—you couldn’t make it up. How on earth that can happen, Lord only knows.

According to the NAO, the largest reason for failed removals that were deemed to be outside the Department’s control was offenders making an appeal outside the 28-day deadline. They might have submitted an asylum claim, a leave to remain claim or human rights claim. There might have been an injunction, a judicial review or representations received from a medical professional, a Member of Parliament or another Government Department. In 2013-14, 323 removals failed due to those reasons.

We have a situation where the Home Office is trying to kick someone out of the country, and another Government Department is working hard to keep them in the country, which does not say a great deal for joined-up Government. Perhaps the Minister can explain that. The National Audit Office produces a list of all the various failures, the reasons and how many there were for each, and I encourage people to look at it.

One problem is litigation. Indeed, in 2014, in response to an urgent question on this very subject, the Home Secretary said:

“The main problem we face is the rise of litigation; we have seen a 28% increase in the number of appeals.”—[Official Report, 22 October 2014; Vol. 586, c. 905.]

With an estimated £81 million spent in legal aid costs for foreign national offenders, it is clear that the whole process is not only time-consuming, but very expensive. In effect, the Government are paying to thwart the Government in deporting people from the country.

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough mentioned the case of William Danga in his remarks, but let me explain that Danga was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl. After completing his prison sentence, he challenged deportation on the grounds that he had a right to a family life. It was deemed that he could remain here because he had a girlfriend and a young child. This is someone who had raped what I would consider to be a child. Commenting on the case in 2011, a judge said that it was remarkable that he had not been deported for committing the rape. Clearly, there are some sensible judges around.

I raised this very issue with the Home Secretary in 2014, and suggested that, because we are not deporting people, we must ensure that we are tougher at the borders; and that we should take the DNA of foreign nationals who want to enter our country, which I thought was a small price to pay for keeping us safe.

Another concern is over foreign national offenders who are subject to deportation orders and who are then moved to open prisons—you couldn’t make it up. A foreign national has committed an offence and the Government clearly want to deport them, but the Ministry of Justice moves them into an open prison, where people can literally just walk out of the gates. Again, the Government have to do something about the scandal of foreign nationals subject to deportation orders doing that. In 2013 alone, 190 foreign national offenders absconded from our prisons. These are schoolboy mistakes in keeping tabs on people we want to deport.

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Mr Hollobone: This is the most interesting aspect of the whole subject that my hon. Friend is developing. He said that 190 foreign national offenders absconded from open prisons, but does he have the figures—perhaps the Minister could provide us with them later—for the number of foreign national offenders in open prisons subject to deportation orders at any one time?

Philip Davies: I have that information somewhere, but it would try the patience of the House if I were to stand here rifling through my papers in order to find it. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that the information is in the public domain. The Ministry of Justice holds that information and publishes it, so I hope that he will find it for himself. If I come across it, I will tell him, but that might be hard.

Mr Hollobone: Perhaps the Minister can update the House when she responds, but what I am trying to get at is whether the figure of 190 is a large or small percentage of the number of foreign offenders in open prisons subject to deportation orders. What is my hon. Friend’s feel for the scale of that part of this problem?

Philip Davies: It is a significant figure. All these things add up; there are many different elements. I want to come on to the cost, which has been one of the issues raised in the debate.

Craig Whittaker: On that same point, will my hon. Friend elaborate on what he thinks are the reasons that those awaiting deportation are sent to open prison rather than a closed prison?

Philip Davies: It is not for me to answer for the Ministry of Justice, but it seems that the policy it adopts is that foreign national offenders are treated just like any other prisoner and, even if they are subject to a deportation order, will be sent to an open prison if they meet the criteria. One can understand that logic, but clearly there is a flaw in the procedure when somebody has an easy way of avoiding deportation.

Michael Tomlinson: Before my hon. Friend moves on to the issue of cost, I want return to his point about lawyers. I am not trying to be kind or nice to lawyers or judges, but simply make the point that the cases he cites emphasise the need for us in this place to pass laws that are as clear and simple as possible so that the will of Parliament can be effected.

Philip Davies: Yes. I agree with and endorse my hon. Friend’s point.

Mr Hollobone: Will not the answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley be cost? The fact is that the Ministry of Justice, with our prisons full and with 10,500 foreign national offenders mainly in two prisons, will be looking to save costs wherever it can, and if it can get away with putting some foreign national offenders in open prisons it will do so.

Philip Davies: That might well be the case: as I say, I cannot speak for the Ministry of Justice. Perhaps the Minister will be able to clarify.

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One of the main reasons the Bill is so necessary is the cost. Interestingly, in its 2015 report the Public Accounts Committee said:

“The Home Office admitted that it did not know the cost of managing foreign national offenders and accepted that its cost data were not robust enough to enable it to make a judgment as to which of its interventions or processes were more cost-effective than others”.

The National Audit Office estimated the costs; I suspect that the Home Office probably could make a very good estimate of them but just does not want to do so, because it would be rather embarrassing for it if it did.

The NAO gave a lower estimate, a higher estimate and a most likely estimate of the cost, and broke it down into the costs before conviction and those after conviction. The lowest estimate was that the costs were £266 million up to conviction and £503 million after conviction, with a total cost of £769 million a year. The high estimate was £536 million up to conviction and £504 million after conviction, giving a total of more than £1 billion a year. The most likely estimate was £346.8 million up to conviction and £503.7 million after conviction, giving a total of £850 million. The interesting part of that information is that the costs after conviction are the same for the lowest, highest and most likely estimates—they are within £1 million of each other. So the costs after conviction are pretty clear. They are the cost of keeping people in prison, the cost of the deportation orders and so on.

Craig Whittaker: I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering how many British nationals abroad were sent to prison and the answer was 4,000 per year. That does not tell us how many UK nationals are physically in foreign jails. Does my hon. Friend have a figure for that?

Philip Davies: I can do no better than my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering did earlier with his answer. I suspect that that is about as robust as we are going to get. If the Minister has a better answer, we will accept those figures.

The costs up to conviction included police costs, which are shown as £148 million a year for dealing with foreign national offenders, CPS costs of £119 million a year and legal aid costs of £81 million a year. When we are spending £850 million to £1 billion a year on dealing with foreign national offenders, it is clear why the Bill is so important.

One of the complications for the Bill and for the whole subject is the free movement of people. As I have pointed out on many occasions, free movement of people within the EU also means free movement of criminals within the EU. My hon. Friend made a point about how many EU citizens made up the prison population. EU citizens account for about 40% of foreign inmates in England and Wales. The figures are 60% in Northern Ireland and 55% in Scotland. There is a far higher proportion of EU nationals in prisons in those two countries, which is interesting.

My hon. Friend listed by country the number of EU nationals in our prisons today, but he did not give the figures that show the scale of the problem and the fact that it is growing, which means that the Bill is probably more urgent than people give it credit for. He did not point out how many prisoners from those countries

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were in our prisons 10 years ago. He said that top of list of countries whose nationals are in our prisons was Poland, and I have no information to contradict that. His figures were more up to date; mine go up to 2014.

In 2014 there were 867 Polish nationals in our prisons. In 2002 there were just 45. If we look down the list of EU countries, the figures are very similar. In 2014 there were 614 Romanian nationals in our prisons, but only 49 in 2002. There were 115 Slovakian nationals in 2014, and just four in 2002. The list goes on. I will not go through the figures for every country. The point is that since we have had the free movement of people, the growth in number of foreign national offenders from other parts of the EU has gone through the roof. That is a direct consequence of being in the European Union and having free movement of people.

Whether people want to argue for staying in or leaving the European Union is a matter for them. There are sincerely held views on both sides, but people must at least be honest about the consequences of our EU membership, and one of those is that the free movement of people has seen a massive growth in the number of foreign criminals coming to the UK.

Mr Hollobone: I am so pleased that my hon. Friend has highlighted this important aspect of the issue. It is true to say that with the accession of the east European countries, there has been a wave of criminality in this country. We have imported crime and criminals as a result of our EU membership. As the EU gets larger, with the potential accession of Turkey, does my hon. Friend agree that the situation is only going to get worse?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. Of course the situation is only going to get worse. We had net immigration into the UK last year of more than 320,000 people. It is not necessary to be the chief statistician to work out that the number of foreign national offenders will keep going up and up, as the number of foreign nationals coming into the UK goes up.

Sir Edward Leigh: It is the settled policy of Her Majesty’s Government—I see the Minister for Europe speaking with the Deputy Speaker now—that Turkey should enter the European Union. They support that application, and indeed it has been fast-tracked. There are 77 million Turks. Turkish jails are notoriously appalling. There is absolutely no doubt that if Turkey joined the EU, as is our settled policy, every single one of these 77 million Turks would have an absolute right of entry into this country. A proportion of them would naturally end up in prison, and I predict that very few of them would ever be sent back to Turkish prisons.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. In many respect the problem is even more immediate, because my understanding of last week’s negotiations is that Turkish people will be able to enter the EU without visas, so we do not even have to wait until Turkey joins the EU to see that happen, so of course the problem is going to get worse. That is why the Bill is absolutely urgent. We cannot wait to implement its measures; we need to do something now.

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When we look at the number of EU foreign nationals in UK prisons since the introduction of free movement, we see that just six countries—the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Poland—account for over half that population. It is from those countries that we have seen the huge growth in the number of people coming over to the UK from the EU. The numbers from countries such as Spain and Germany are much smaller by comparison.

Of course, the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering did not make—I mention it for completeness’ sake—is what has happened to prisoner numbers in those EU countries. Members may or may not be surprised to learn that at the same time that we have been taking more Polish and Romanian prisoners into UK jails, there has been a corresponding reduction in the prison population in those countries. Members may speculate on why Romania’s prison population has plummeted at the same time as the number of Romanians in UK prisons has gone through the roof. I suggest that the two may be linked, and it is for others to try to disprove that link. It seems to me to be rather more than a coincidence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering said—it was the one part of his speech with which I disagreed—that that was a stain on countries such as Poland, and that it besmirched them. Good luck to them, I say. They seem to be playing a very sensible game. I make no criticism of Poland for wanting to export its criminals to other parts of the European Union. My quibble is not with Poland, but with the UK Government for allowing these people into the country in the first place and not kicking them out at the first possible opportunity. I make no criticism of Poland; I criticise the UK Government for not getting a grip of the situation.

This is a growing problem in our prisons. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering rightly said, we have very few prisoners from other parts of the world. We have 180 from the whole of Central and South America put together. That tells its own story. This is a direct consequence of our membership of the EU.

We must do something to prevent re-entry. The Bill, on its own, is essential, and hopefully I have explained why we need to do something about kicking people out of the country more efficiently than we are currently doing, but that will be pointless if we do not also have measures in place to prevent re-entry. Otherwise it is just a token gesture. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) tabled an early-day motion on this issue. It states:

“That this House notes that the criminal convictions held by EU citizens that are revealed by a Disclosure and Barring Service check are only those held in central records in the UK; is concerned that this does not therefore include convictions held abroad of foreign nationals; further notes that it is not obligatory for an employer to require an employee to provide a certificate of good conduct from their home country; and therefore calls on the Government to introduce and enforce the obligatory disclosure of any previous convictions held by EU and other foreign-born citizens upon application for a job in the UK.”

That is a very sensible early-day motion, and it goes to show that the Bill’s provisions, and indeed going a bit further than my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering, would command support from not just people such as me, but Members on both sides of the House.

Given the points raised by Opposition Members—whether the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, who is a senior Member

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of the House, or a former shadow Home Secretary—I hope we can look forward to the shadow Minister telling us that the Labour party also agrees with the provisions in the Bill and would actually support going further.

What the shadow Minister says will be important, because this is the last day for private Members’ Bills in this Session, and there will be no further opportunities to take the further stages of any Bill scheduled for today. Therefore, if the Labour party could indicate its support for making it easier to deport foreign nationals, that would give the Government some encouragement to make their own provisions when time runs out for this Bill. I am sure the Minister would be encouraged to know that Opposition parties welcomed more work being done on this issue in the House.

We have no way of knowing the criminal past of any EU citizen entering the UK, contrary to what somebody said in a debate I took part in on the EU. We will have to do a top 10 list of the most outlandish claims by those who want to stay in the EU, but my No. 1 at the moment is that when somebody comes to passport control, we scan their passport and the computer comes up with all their criminal offences in their home country, so we do not have to let them in if we do not want to. I would love that system to be in place, but I am afraid it is a work of fiction—it does not exist at all, as I hope the Minister will also be able to confirm.

I do not want to test the patience of the House—others want to contribute, and there are other matters to be debated today—but I want to make it clear that the Bill is essential; it would certainly command the majority of support among my constituents, and I have indicated that it would also command the support of people on both sides of the House.

Had we been able to kick people out of the country, and had we had a robust policy of border control so that we could take fingerprints or DNA, that might have helped to prevent the Romanian burglar who left his fingerprints and DNA at many of the 31 homes he burgled from getting away with all those crimes because he was not on any DNA database when he entered the country. It might also have dealt with the Lithuanian burglar who was released from prison early and deported, only to be found living back in Britain 12 days later, along with his accomplice, who had apparently been deported from the country not once but twice.

That is what is actually happening in our country day in, day out, week in, week out. We are exposed to dangerous foreign criminals. We have many unnecessary victims of crime in the UK because we are not controlling our borders and not deporting foreign national offenders, even when we know who they are.

The Bill could have prevented the Lithuanian convicted of a knife-point robbery before he came to the UK from going on to rape two women shortly after his arrival. There could be no more tragic example of the problem we face than the death of 14-year-old schoolgirl Alice Gross. The man suspected of killing her had come from Latvia after apparently serving a paltry seven-year prison sentence for killing his wife, yet nobody here knew of his terrible past. The Government have a duty to protect people who live here, and their scandalous failure to do so has had the most dire consequences for many families, including that of Alice Gross.

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There is no more important matter facing the House today than this. I hope we will hear from all parties that they will support provisions to make it easier to deport foreign national offenders to keep us safe. The current situation is unacceptable. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering for doing something about it, and I hope the Government will indicate today that they will do something about it too.

12.24 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It is a pleasure, as always, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who brings to the debate his own inimitable style and has demonstrated once again this morning his expertise on the whole issue of justice and home affairs, particularly the issue of foreign national offenders.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) for picking up the baton at short notice and moving the Bill’s Second Reading on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). He did so with great skill and demonstrated his own considerable expertise in this area. I am delighted to be one of the Bill’s supporters, because there is no doubt that it attempts to deal with a major problem that is of great concern to my own constituents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, in whose name the Bill stands, has demonstrated his considerable know-how in navigating the procedure for private Members’ Bills. The fact that he has managed to ensure that his Bill is at the top of a very long list of no less than 67 Bills set down for consideration today is evidence of that.

My hon. Friend should be commended for his perseverance with the Bill, because it is almost a year ago to the day—6 March 2015—when a previous version received its Second Reading. He noted at the time that he hoped that after the 2015 election, which was looming in the minds of all hon. Members a year ago, a Conservative Government would renegotiate the terms of our membership of the European Union and consequently make the Bill unnecessary, and that its proposed measures would be one of the red lines in the renegotiation.

As history has shown, my hon. Friend was right that a Conservative majority Government would be elected, but sadly he was wrong that they would insist that these matters would be a red line in the negotiations. Indeed, we now know that absolutely nothing was agreed in the negotiations to stop the free movement of people, which includes, of course, the free movement of foreign national offenders from within the European Union.

One of the reasons my hon. Friend promoted the Bill again is the sheer scale of the problem of foreign-born individuals who commit crime in this country. I am not suggesting that everyone who comes here commits crime. It is all relative, and the scale of immigration into this country naturally brings with it an increase in the number of foreign national offenders.

According to figures provided by the House of Commons Library, between January and December 2014 there were approximately 5.3 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK, and a total of 8.3 million people who were born abroad. It is further estimated that, on top of that, some 25,800 asylum seekers entered the United Kingdom in 2014, and they were part of

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approximately 632,000 long-term international immigrants who entered during that year. On top of that are all those who are in the country illegally. For obvious reasons, it is difficult to be precise about the number of illegal immigrants, but there are many of them and, by definition, every single one of them has broken the law, because they have broken the terms of the Immigration Act 1971, as we heard last week on Second Reading of the Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill.

It is, perhaps, not surprising, given the huge number of foreign nationals living in our country, that some of them turn out to be wrong ’uns or bad apples. Each year, the Metropolitan police alone arrest, on average, 230,000 suspects, of whom 70,000 are foreign nationals. Only last month, the Daily Mail reported the staggering administrative costs involved in dealing with the arrests of foreign nationals, including the cost of interpreters.

It reported:

“Scotland Yard has arrested 11 people claiming to be from Dahomey—a West African nation which ceased to exist from 1975.”

That highlights the importance of checking, on arrest, the actual background of those arrested. The bill to the taxpayer for providing translators for suspects, witnesses and victims was £6.8 million between April 2014 and April 2015. The analysis by the Daily Mail showed that the translation bill worked out at an average of £100 per arrest of every foreign national.

Figures released following a freedom of information request showed that 227,535 people were arrested by the Metropolitan police in 2014, the latest year for which full figures are available. Of those, 159,294 were British nationals, and the remaining 68,241 were born abroad.

Mr Hollobone: I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech immensely. He is painting a very vivid picture of the wave of criminality that this country, and especially London, has experienced in recent years. Until recently, I served as a special constable with the British Transport police on the London Underground. I can tell him that something like eight or nine out of every 10 people arrested for pickpocketing on the underground in recent years were Romanians and Bulgarians, who had entered this country under the free movement regulations, for thieving from commuters.

Mr Nuttall: I am not surprised by my hon. Friend’s observation because I was going on to say that Romanians made up the largest group of foreign nationals arrested: 7,604 Romanian suspects were held, followed by 7,429 Polish, as well as 3,618 Lithuanians, 2,928 from India, 2,740 from Nigeria and 2,280 from Jamaica.

Philip Davies: In his remarks, will my hon. Friend comment on whether the Bill is compatible with the EU charter of fundamental rights? The 2010 manifesto—we both stood on that platform, which catapulted the Prime Minister into 10 Downing Street—said there were “three specific guarantees”, including one on the charter of fundamental rights, and that we would

“seek a mandate to negotiate the return of these powers from the EU to the UK.”

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Unfortunately, the Prime Minister appears to have forgotten to include that in his letter and it was not therefore part of the negotiation.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend opens up an entirely new area of debate. I suspect that the European Court Justices would rule against the content of the Bill under the charter of fundamental rights, because they would find that it was against the freedom of movement provisions of the treaties. That is why the very first line of the Bill says:

“Notwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972”.

It would be an interesting situation if the European Court of Justice ruled that the provisions in the Bill fell foul of the charter, but this House said that it would disregard the ruling because of what was in the manifesto, regardless of whether that matter was included in the terms of the renegotiation. As we now know, there are to be no changes to the provisions relating to the free movement of people.

Even though the latest offender management statistics for England and Wales show that, for the first time in a decade, the number of foreign national offenders held in custody and immigration removal centres operated by the National Offender Management Service had fallen below 10,000, some 12% of the current prison population in England and Wales is made up of foreign national offenders, so one in eight of those in our prisons are foreign national offenders.

The latest number that I have is that, as of 31 December 2015, there were 9,895 of them. That is, it has to be said, a decrease of 6% compared with 31 December 2014, but that is mainly due to the closure of the Home Office-commissioned places at the Haslar and Dover immigration removal centres, which took place last year. The Ministry of Justice’s figures for the period up to 31 December 2015 include 345 prisoners whose nationality has not been identified and recorded. Of course, if those unrecorded foreign national offenders were included, we would still be above the 10,000 mark.

It is still the case that 12% of the prison population in England and Wales is made up of foreign national offenders, at an enormous annual cost to UK taxpayers. That is 10,000 people who are likely to be released at some point in the future; 10,000 people who, if they are not deported, could live in our communities; 10,000 people who have chosen, of their own free will, to break the law of the country that has welcomed them in and provided them with a home.

The latest offender management statistics bulletin from the Ministry of Justice states:

“The five most common nationalities after British Nationals in prisons in England and Wales are Polish, Irish, Romanian, Jamaican and Lithuanian, accounting for approximately one third of the foreign national population and one in twenty of the prison population overall.”

It is absolutely right that we, as a country, should seek to attract the brightest and the best to contribute to our society, where they are needed, but it is equally right to put in place a robust mechanism to ensure that those who choose to break the rules are excluded. The Bill is intended to do just that. Foreign national offenders are in prison because of a wide variety of offences, but the very fact that they are in prison signifies that they are the most serious of offences.

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Henry Smith: My hon. Friend is rightly focusing on foreign nationals who are given a custodial sentence. However, over the past decade or so, UK Government statistics have shown that less than 10% of those who are convicted of a crime receive a custodial sentence. That suggests that the number of foreign nationals who have been convicted is in the region of 80,000 or more.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend is right that much of the debate this morning has focused on the foreign national offenders who are in our jails, who, by definition, are those who have committed the most serious offences. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, even those who have committed 100 offences are more likely than not, when appearing before the courts, not to be sent to prison. When somebody is convicted of a minor offence, it is pretty difficult to sentence them to a term of imprisonment.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice on the prison population, up to 31 December last year, show that 978 foreign national offenders have committed crimes so serious that they are subject to extended determinate sentences. The same figures reveal that 2,399 foreign national offenders have sentences of less than four years, so those people could well be—and most likely will be—back on our streets before the next election.

The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), confirmed in a written answer on 23 March last year, in response to a question from the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), that the foreign national prison population in the UK included 1,657 people who had committed violence against the person, 1,035 who had committed a sexual offence, 1,192 who were in prison for drug offences, 527 who were in for robbery and 400 burglars.

Let me bring those thousands of offences to life with just one example. Mircea Gheorghiu is a Romanian national who served a six-year sentence for rape in Romania, where he had also been jailed twice for cutting timber without a licence. He reportedly entered the UK in 2002 following his release, after serving only two years and eight months of his sentence. He remained in the country while his wife and children stayed in Romania. In January 2007, Romania joined the EU, so he was allowed to stay in the UK. He was arrested for drink-driving and convicted in November 2007, and banned from driving for 20 months. When his criminal past was uncovered, the Home Office rightly deported him under the new “deport first, appeal later” scheme. However, following an appeal at the immigration tribunal, the press reported on 28 February that because Mr Gheorghiu was an EU citizen, incredibly he was allowed to return to the UK. Why? Because the two judges in the tribunal ruled that his crimes—he had originally been convicted of rape in Romania—were not serious enough to warrant deportation, and that EU citizens should be removed before their appeal hearings only in exceptional circumstances because of their right to free movement and the human right to family life.

Mr Hollobone: I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest. He is bringing fresh information and new insight to the debate, and informatively extending the

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scope of our deliberations. Did the judges in that case give any indication of how serious a crime would have to be for deportation to be triggered?

Mr Nuttall: In truth I do not know whether they gave such examples, but I think that the ruling put future deportations at risk. Understandably, it will only serve to increase the sense of frustration that so many of our fellow citizens feel at how powerless this country now is to keep out convicted criminals.

Mr Chope: The “deport first, appeal later” provision was at the core of the Government’s last Immigration Bill, but from what my hon. Friend says, the European Court of Justice has driven a coach and horses through that.

Mr Nuttall: That provision already seems to have run into the quicksand, if I can put it like that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley pointed out regarding the UK Borders Act 2007, despite the Home Office’s latest plan—at least it is trying to do something, to be fair to it—the will of elected Members of this House has yet again been frustrated by the judiciary, who seem to think they know better than those of us who represent our constituents.

Mr Hollobone: I am not a lawyer, which I am rather proud of—[Interruption.] Someone says, “Evidently”. Perhaps, but maybe those of us who are not lawyers are more in touch with the real world than those who have been. Is it the Human Rights Act or our membership of the European Union that is preventing deportations in cases such as he mentioned, or an element of both?

Mr Nuttall: It is a bit of both, and partly because the European Union now includes the EU charter of fundamental rights, which essentially replicates the European convention on human rights—for these purposes those things are one and the same. If we are powerless to stop convicted rapists entering our country, we must ask what has become of our national sovereignty. I have no doubt that millions throughout the country will believe that the case that I have mentioned alone demonstrates that we need to change that state of affairs and why the Bill is so necessary.

Clause 1(1) requires the Secretary of State to make regulations, which I believe should deal with the process of removal. We are fortunate that the National Audit Office has investigated the costs and processes of returning foreign national offenders, and that it published a detailed report, “Managing and removing foreign national offenders”, in October 2014. Before anyone starts to complain that this situation is all the fault of the current Government, it is worth noting briefly that, according to the report, back in 2006, the Home Office found that more than 1,000 foreign national offenders had been released from prison without even being considered for deportation.

Although the NAO report acknowledged that the coalition Government put more resources into managing and removing foreign national offenders, it also made it clear that progress on reducing the number of foreign national offenders in our jails was slow. It confirmed—this deals with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering has just raised—that the difficulties that hindered removals were caused by the application of the European convention on human rights, as well as

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the application of European law on the free movement of persons. There we have it: the National Audit Office has confirmed his concerns.

Pauline Latham: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather strange that Nigerian prisoners call on the European Court of Human Rights when they are not European? They live in this country but retain their Nigerian nationality.

Mr Nuttall: If that is the case, it does seem strange—I am sure it will seem very strange to our constituents.

The NAO report acknowledged that the Government have put more resources into managing and removing foreign national offenders and made it clear that progress had been made, but it highlighted that the police had carried out an overseas criminal record check on only 30% of foreign nationals arrested. It made it clear that obtaining relevant documents such as passports at an early stage would greatly speed up the process of removal, and that fostering closer links between immigration officers and front-line police officers would speed up the process.

The Public Accounts Committee provided a commentary in its report, “Managing and removing foreign national offenders”, which was published in January 2015 following the NAO report. The Committee’s report states that

“police forces have been slow to recognise the importance, when arresting foreign nationals, of checking their immigration status and whether they have a criminal record overseas and they rarely use search powers to find evidence of identity and nationality.”

Whatever the reasons for that—it could be a lack of training or a lack of awareness—it is significant, because establishing nationality at an early stage would allow for further background checks to be carried out.

The report also states:

“Only 30% of foreign nationals arrested were checked against one key overseas database for a criminal record in 2013–14, and the great majority of police forces do not have automated links between fingerprint machines in their police stations and the Home Office’s immigration databases.”

The Committee suggested that a massive £70 million could be saved by fostering and developing such links.

The NAO noted in its report that in 2013-14, more than one third of foreign national offenders who were removed left as part of the early removal scheme. That is the scheme that returns foreign national offenders to their country of origin before they would be let out of prison if they were back here in the UK. The NAO also noted a key improvement in reducing the number of failed removals from 2,200 down to 1,400, but 1,400 still fail. That number is still far too high. I hope we will hear some detail from the Minister on why so many removals fail and what is being done to improve the situation.

Very often, we hear that problems with the delivery of Government services are due to a lack of resources, but the Public Accounts Committee noted that the number of staff working in foreign offender management had actually increased from fewer than 100 in 2006 to more than 900 in 2014—a huge percentage increase. The taxpayer can rightly expect to see an enormous improvement for that increase.

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It is helpful to consider the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with foreign national offenders, because it demonstrates what an enormous drain on taxpayer resources this problem is. The NAO estimated that the average cost of managing a single foreign national offender was about £70,000 a year. The total bill for 2013-14 was an estimated £850 million, which confirms a figure that was mentioned earlier. I should add that that does not represent the total cost of a foreign national offender to British society. The figure is an estimate from the NAO, because there is an absence of definitive data. There is of course the possibility that the actual cost is much higher when one considers all the costs, from the investigation of the crime through to managing an offender in the community. Perhaps the most notable finding by the NAO, which the PAC also raised, was that managing foreign national offenders costs an estimated £100 million a year more than managing British prisoners. The Committee also noted that the Home Office did not know the reoffending rates of foreign national offenders in the community. The public will want to have confidence that such matters are now being addressed and recorded. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on that point.

Both the NAO and the PAC highlighted the delays in the removal process. The NAO carried out a review of 52 cases in which a foreign national offender had been successfully removed and discovered that 20 cases had had avoidable processing delays. They included seven instances where the case had not been worked on for an average of 76 days, and a further six cases where administrative errors had delayed the process. In order to gather information on foreign national offenders, the Home Office sends out to each one a 50-question paper form. On average, it takes 32 days just to send out the questionnaire, which does not exactly give the impression of speed or urgency. It is perhaps not surprising that foreign national offenders are not so keen on administrative matters such as paperwork. It is not a surprise that almost half of the forms are never, ever returned.

Mr Hollobone: Are these forms being sent to foreign national offenders in English, or are they in the language of the offender themselves? Or is there yet a further burden to the taxpayer in having to translate that document for the offenders to respond to them?

Mr Nuttall: That is a good point. I am sure my hon. Friend the Minister will know the answer to that question and will be able to enlighten my hon. Friend when we hear from her later in the proceedings. As my hon. Friend noted in his speech, foreign national offenders are from every corner of the globe. It would indeed be an enormous task to ensure that the form sent to each foreign national offender was in a language that that individual could understand. I rather wonder whether all the forms are sent out in English. That might go some way towards accounting for why fewer than half are returned to the Home Office.

There were 1,453 failed removals in 2013-14, and although 36% of the cases in which the Home Office tried to remove a person but could not occurred for reasons that the Home Office considered to be within its control, nearly two thirds of the remaining 930 were classified as being outside its control. If the Home Office has lost control of the process, I think it fair to ask who has that control.

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Another issue that arises from the removal of foreign national offenders is the compensation that is payable to those against whom legal proceedings are taken by the Home Office, and who then take proceedings against the Home Office for unlawful detention. That, I think, is another reason why it is so important for the Bill to be passed and the law clarified. The National Audit Office reported that between 2012 and 2015, £6.2 million in compensation was awarded to 229 foreign national offenders. It really is a case of adding insult to injury. On average, about £27,000—approximately the average UK salary—had to be paid out following claims alleging breaches of the processes under the Immigration Act 1971 and the UK Borders Act 2007.

Not much has been said today about prisoner transfers. On 5 November 2014, when asked about transfer agreements, the permanent secretary to the Home Office said in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee:

“Most prison transfer agreements are with the consent of the prisoner, and that is worldwide. That has mostly been because we have tried to get Brits back to serve their sentences within the UK. The big change in the to make prison transfer compulsory—without the prisoner complying.”

The permanent secretary was referring to a fundamental change from the previously exclusively voluntary approach to international prison transfers. He went on to say:

“There are specific arrangements in place with the Irish Republic. For Poland, there is a stay in implementation while they improve their prison system.”

The Committee noted that over the past few years, the number of British nationals returned to UK prisons through the prison transfer agreements to complete their sentences had been about double the number of foreign national offenders being removed. Noting that imbalance, my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) observed during the oral evidence session:

“So we are actually not exporting criminals; we are importing criminals. One of our growth areas is importing foreign criminals. It takes a special genius to put in place a system under which we are net importing foreign criminals into our prison estate.”

There is clearly a real problem here. Surely we ought to be removing more foreign national offenders than we import. The problem is there are relatively few effective prison transfer agreements in place. Poland, which has the highest number of foreign national offenders on the prison estate, has been exempted until the end of this year.

The principle of exclusion or removal of foreign national offenders is at the heart of the Bill, and I think it would be helpful to be clear and simple about that process. I would have hoped that serious offenders would be prevented from entering the country in the first place, but sadly that is not always possible. There are many cases of criminals being allowed into the UK, where, not surprisingly, they commit further crimes. We must improve border checks, but once a foreign national is in the UK, if they commit a crime, the police must check their identity and check whether they have been engaged in any previous criminal activity. Clearly, the administrative process of removal should then be straightforward. If a foreign national is convicted, a caseworker should be attached and should determine as soon as possible whether there are likely to be any barriers to deportation. That could be an appeal based on human rights legislation, a lack of co-operation from the home country, or a lack of co-operation from

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the offender. If those problems were identified early, the relevant authorities could take action so that when the time for deportation came, it could proceed smoothly.

In his Policy Exchange speech on prison reform only last month, the Prime Minister spoke about action in this area. I agreed with him when he said:

“Of course, there is one group I do want out of prison much more quickly, instead of British taxpayers forking out for their bed and breakfast: and that is foreign national offenders.”

He announced plans to legislate to give the police new powers. In light of those comments, I hope we will hear from the Minister that the Government will support the Bill today.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it within your power to suggest to Government Members that they begin to bring their comments to a close? They have now been debating a two-clause Bill for three and a half hours—a Bill that was debated last year and then withdrawn from the Floor of the House. I think this practice risks bringing the House into disrepute. There are so many people who really want us to get on to the next business about the NHS, which is incredibly important. For these few Conservative Members to be talking for so long is simply not courteous either to the rest of the House or to the people outside the building who want to see what is going on.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order and for her advance notice of it. She knows the answer to the question she has raised. Some hon. Members still wish to speak in this debate, and it is for hon. Members who have been here all day waiting to speak in this debate to determine what time we get on to the following business. The hon. Lady is, I think, voicing the frustrations that many hon. Members have expressed about private Members’ Bills on Fridays. If she has not done so already, I direct the hon. Lady to the Procedure Committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into proceedings for private Members’ Bills.

Philip Davies: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) to move a closure motion if she is so determined to get on to the next Bill?

Madam Deputy Speaker: As the hon. Gentleman knows, it would be in order, but it is entirely up to the hon. Lady.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a new Member in the House, I find what is happening to be shocking—not just because of the waste of time of so many Members who want to speak on an issue that is so important, but because our constituents are writing to us all, including to Conservative Members, to ask us to discuss and vote on the National Health Service Bill. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Before this degenerates into a slanging match, let me make it clear that the hon. Lady is doing exactly the same thing as the hon. Member

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for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas)—voicing the frustration that many Members have had over the years about our proceedings for private Members’ Bills. There are other ways in which hon. Members can raise issues. There are vehicles other than private Members’ Bills. Today, however, is devoted to private Members’ Bills, and the current Bill that is being discussed is on the Order Paper.

Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): This had better be a point of order. Thus far, we have not had points of order, but points of frustration.

Owen Thompson: This is the second Friday on which I have been unable to be in my constituency on account of the private Members’ Bills on the agenda today. It is obviously not going to be taken, and we are looking at a future notional date of 22 April—to be fair, I might as well suggest Julember the tenteenth as the next date for the Bill to have a hearing. Will you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how I can take the matter forward and get issues that are so important to my constituents heard?

Madam Deputy Speaker: These are no longer genuine points of order; they are points of frustration. The Procedure Committee is currently doing an inquiry into private Members’ Bills, so I direct the hon. Gentleman to that. There are other avenues through which he can raise issues that are of concern to himself and to his constituents. Now is not the time. With that, I think that is the end of points of order on this matter.

Mr Nuttall: According to information released by the Home Office on immigration enforcement transparency data for the fourth quarter of 2015, of the 5,789 foreign national offenders subject to deportation action, 1,865 had been living in the community for 60 or more months, showing how complex some cases can be and the obstacles that the Home Office faces when trying to deport people. Hon. Members may be aware that, according to Home Office figures, the average time taken to deport a foreign national offender is 149 days. Were the Home Office to take action today, a foreign national offender would not have to worry about being deported until 5 August.

When a person is sentenced to 12 months or less in prison, the Government can consider deportation only on a public interest basis by looking at the cumulative effect of the offending. The Bill would ease that administrative burden. For example, a foreign national offender from a non-EEA country with a six-month sentence would be excluded from the UK under clause 1. As has been noted, if we turn to EU nationals we come up against the problem of the principle of free movement of people. If people abuse that right, it is absolutely right that this country should have the right to exclude them if they break our laws.

In conclusion, this is, on the face of it, a modest Bill, but one with huge potential to help remove from the country those who seek to abuse our generosity by breaking our laws. We have heard how big the problem is: around one in eight of the prison population is a

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foreign national. The price tag attached to keeping all these foreign nationals in our jails is somewhere in the region of a huge £250 million a year, so there is a massive incentive to get the problem sorted out not only for law and order, but for the British taxpayer. The Bill seeks to move the pendulum back in favour of the law-abiding majority and the taxpayer, and I hope it receives the unanimous support of the House.

1.7 pm

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): I am pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate, which is of course just as important to my constituents as many other debates in this Chamber. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for bringing the Bill forward and my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) for his excellent presentation today.

The Bill’s purpose is straightforward: if someone came to this country, committed an offence and was given a term of imprisonment, they would be deported to the country from which they came. Furthermore, that person would not be permitted to enter the UK again. Of course, the Government already use a range of measures and powers to remove foreign national offenders from the UK, a point to which I will return shortly. As such, the Bill’s real emphasis relates to countries within the European Union, as made clear in the first line of clause 1. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering said that 40% of the 10,442 foreign nationals in our prison system are actually from the EU.

Mr Hollobone: It was some time ago now, but I think I said 47%.

Craig Whittaker: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I stand corrected if I misheard the figure that was given to the House.

Under the Bill’s provisions, foreign criminals would not have the right to return to the UK once they had been sent back to the European Union. Thus, they would be removed without any reference to human rights legislation, the stipulations of the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactments.

Britain is a tolerant, welcoming country for those who come here to work hard and to create a better life for themselves. Those who abide by our rules and contribute towards society will always be welcome. However, I appreciate the concerns of my constituents in relation to those foreign nationals who come to this country legally, in receipt of our hospitality, and then go on to commit serious offences.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend says that this matter is of concern to him and to his constituents; it is also of concern to my constituents. Is he not shocked therefore that the Scottish National party and the Green party think that this is not an important issue for debate? They do not care about foreign national offenders who cannot be kicked out of the country.

Craig Whittaker: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Like many other Members, I receive letters, emails and phone calls from my constituents on many matters. This issue is as important to my constituents as any, so, yes, he is right to make his point.

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Such behaviour can undermine the trust that exists in our communities and create tensions that others can exploit. Although I have considerable sympathy with the broad intentions of the Bill, we need to consider what measures are already in place to deal effectively with this matter.

The Government are already able automatically to deport non-European economic area nationals who are convicted in the UK and given a single custodial sentence of 12 months or more for one conviction. I think that that has already been pointed out by several Members in the Chamber today. In circumstances where automatic deportation cannot be applied, the power already exists to seek to deport a foreign national offender on the grounds that it would be in the public interest to do so. When somebody has been removed, they are then prohibited from re-entering the UK while the deportation order against them remains in force. As a deportation order has no expiry date, it remains in force indefinitely unless a decision is taken to revoke it. Those individuals who have been handed a deportation order will be subject to the relevant Border Force checks, which means that, under the existing system, the Government are able to keep out those who have previously been deported.

Members will be aware that the Immigration Act 2014 contains a public interest consideration in relation to deporting foreign nationals. Section 19 clearly states that the law should be on the side of the public and that the starting point is to accept that foreign criminals will be deported. Indeed, it says:

“The more serious the offence…the greater is the public interest in deportation of the criminal.”

In addition, the Government have previously made it clear that article 8 of the European convention on human rights should not be used to allow the private and family life rights of criminals to supersede the rights of ordinary members of the public to be protected from serious criminals.

Section 17 of the Immigration Act also provides for a revised deportation process so that, in cases where there is no real risk of serious irreversible harm to the individual, a foreign national offender can exercise their right of appeal only from outside the UK, thereby allowing for a more timely deportation. That section is particularly relevant when one considers that most foreign national criminals do not appeal once they have returned to their home country. By the end of 2015, more than 2,600 people had been removed under these new “deport first, appeal later” powers since they were introduced in July 2014.

In October 2014, the Government reduced, from 17 to four, the number of criteria on which foreign criminals could appeal against their deportation. That was a welcome reform that was necessary to stop criminals exploiting the system and lodging one appeal after another to avoid deportation. Finally, in situations where the level of the crime committed does not meet the threshold for deportation, the Government can take administrative action to remove offenders who have no legal right to be in the United Kingdom. Subject to certain expectations, foreign national offenders who have received a custodial sentence can be administratively removed from the UK and will face a mandatory refusal under immigration rules of entry clearance or leave to enter the United Kingdom.

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The measures that the Government have introduced over the past few years have undoubtedly strengthened our ability to adopt a firm and vigorous approach in protecting the general public, although the management and removal of foreign national offenders will continue to present many challenges, as has been mentioned today. The number of foreign criminals removed from the UK increased last year to 5,277, representing a significant improvement on the 2011-12 numbers.

Of course, when it comes to deportation, there is a distinction between EU and non-EU nationals, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering has made very clear. It is important to remember that the free movement ofusb people is not unqualified, and the existing requirements pertaining to free movement are that a person has to exercise their right to work, study or set up a business. In the event that they fail to exercise any one of those rights and, furthermore, that they abuse our hospitality by committing an offence, they should be removed and kept out of the country. Our existing power of imposing a re-entry ban of one year helps to facilitate that too.

Furthermore, the UK has implemented the free movement directive—that is, the 2006 EEA regulations on immigration. Under the regulations, EEA nationals can be removed from the United Kingdom on the grounds of public policy, public security or public health. All EEA nationals who receive a custodial sentence are considered for deportation or administrative removal. However, it is important to bear in mind that a decision to remove somebody from a country cannot be made solely on the basis of a criminal conviction, as other factors must be taken into account. As it stands, the Bill stipulates that an EEA national who has been convicted of an offence should be deported solely on the basis of that conviction without due consideration being given to a wider range of factors and, indeed, to the individual’s circumstances as required under the regulations.

For that reason, the Bill is incompatible with the freedom of movement directive. In relation to that point, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering will draw my attention to clause 1(1) and argue that it reinstates our national sovereignty and removes the UK from some of our previous obligations under EU migration law. However, I am not convinced that the issue is quite that simple and would in fact suggest that it is far more complex than the Bill acknowledges. As a nation, we are bound by a plethora of European and international obligations, directives and treaties that all require careful consideration as part of the Bill. Indeed, the European immigration regulations to which I referred a few moments ago are only a small part of the wider legislative and regulatory landscape that must be taken into account.

There is also the small matter of a referendum to consider and, depending on the result, many of the issues discussed as part of this debate might need to be approached in a different light. I wonder whether we are being slightly premature in considering these issues now.

Mr Hollobone: I am listening closely to my hon. Friend’s interesting remarks, but he seems to imply that the incompatibility of the Bill with the EU freedom of movement directive is a bad thing. I think many of us would say that it is a good thing.

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Craig Whittaker: I thank my hon. Friend for his always considered interventions. On this point we may have a slight disagreement. In the Calder Valley we have 1.8% unemployment and I can assure my hon. Friend that without freedom of movement and the labour that that brings to the factories in the Calder Valley, many of the factories would not be there. Perhaps we could have a further discussion about that.

Mr Hollobone: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way a second time. He began his remarks by saying that we have freedom of movement in the EU, but that is not without qualification. Would it not seem sensible to those like him who want to stay in the European Union for the EU states to negotiate and agree that freedom of movement does not apply to convicted criminals? I cannot see why there should not be an EU-wide agreement whereby someone convicted of a qualifying offence would not be allowed to cross any of the boundaries within the European Union. If staying in the European Union really does make us safer, which is what my hon. Friend believes and I do not, surely that would be a sensible measure to take.

Craig Whittaker: My hon. Friend has a point, but what are qualifying convictions? Many of us and many of our children committed silly crimes in our youth. Would we exclude people from freedom of movement around the EU because of a previous misdemeanour? There would have to be tight and clear criteria for qualifying convictions.

Even if we leave the European Union, we may well find ourselves bound by other international treaties and obligations which restrict our ability to exclude foreign nationals, in much the same way as this Bill suggests the European Union does at present.

The Government already employ a range of powers to remove foreign national offenders from the UK and have legislated over the past few years to strengthen their approach. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering supports the measures that this Government have taken, and was somewhat reassured by the response of the Immigration Minister when my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough presented this Bill only last year.

However, I appreciate that he has genuine concerns about our existing ability to deport foreign prisoners to EU countries, and that those concerns are shared by many people throughout this country. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering for highlighting the challenges that we continue to face in protecting the public from those who come to this country and abuse our hospitality by committing serious offences.

Although I have considerable sympathy with the aim of the Bill, I believe it must be considered alongside an evaluation of our existing international and European obligations and responsibilities. Whether we agree with them or not, the fact remains that those currently exist, and debating these issues in isolation from our pre-existing legal commitments is not the most conducive approach and fails properly to acknowledge the inherent complexity of the subject. It is worthy of detailed discussion and debate in the House and, although I cannot support the Bill in its current form, I hope that Members can explore some of the wider issues at stake in greater detail on other occasions.

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1.23 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): I am extremely disappointed: I have sat here since 9.30, unlike the Members of the SNP and the Green party who have only come in recently and not all of whom have stayed. They are trying to stop democracy in this Chamber. They do not want us to speak. Most of us have been here a long time and probably intend to stay till 2.30. It is a bit rich that they should try and stop democracy on private Members’ Bills when no private Member’s Bill is more important than any other.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) on securing a Second Reading of his Bill, particularly after sleeping in the corridors of this place to ensure that the subject would be aired. SNP and Green Members would not have done that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) for taking the Bill forward. I believe it was national homelessness week recently. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough is not in that situation, but was merely sleeping in the corridor to ensure that his Bill was listed and heard in this place, which I bet none of those SNP and Green Members would have done.

As other Members will have noted, the House debated an almost identical Bill this time last year, when a few of the Members who support this Bill were candidates trying to secure election. The Conservative manifesto platform on which they ran explicitly pledged to tackle criminality and the abuse of free movement. That included negotiating with the EU to introduce stronger powers to enable us to deport criminals and stop them coming back, and tougher and longer re-entry bans for all those who abuse free movement.

I have little doubt that the sentiment of this concise Bill—preventing foreign nationals who commit a crime in the UK from remaining or returning—is supported by the vast majority in this House and of the public. Britain is one of the most generous and hospitable nations in the world, and every one of us should be proud to be lucky enough to call this country home. Understandably, it is also one of the most sought-after countries to live in. Rightly, we have to be careful about how many people we allow into the UK, and we must have strong protections in place to ensure that those who pose a threat to our way of life and our established customs and traditions do not have the chance to come here. I believe that we do have provisions firmly in place and that this Government, and the Conservative-led Government in the previous Parliament, deserve credit for the work they did to tighten restrictions and increase resources to let the border police and Home Office do their job.

Because we are such a generous nation, there are few things more frustrating to the public than when those who come here and abuse our hospitality do not adhere to our laws and waste taxpayers’ money going through our legal system. There have been high-profile cases of the processes for removing individuals from the United Kingdom taking too long and costing too much money. Members have today given many examples of that. Again, that is understandably frustrating for the public when the obvious solution is to remove them from the country and not let them back in.

It is especially frustrating when human rights are invoked as part of the reason they cannot be removed.

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This week saw International Women’s Day and I think of the many women and girls around the world who suffer real human rights abuses without legal recourse, not the tenuous human rights claims that have been used to stop the eviction of criminals from the United Kingdom. I was in Nigeria last week and met the families of the girls who have been abducted by Boko Haram. We are coming up to two years since their abduction, and the world should be shocked that many of them are still missing. Those girls have suffered abuses of their human rights, whereas some of the human rights claims evoked in this country are total rubbish.

There is particular frustration about the over-generous use of article 8 of the European convention on human rights, as my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) explained, which prevents deportation of EEA and non-EEA nationals if it would breach a person’s right to private and family life. How a criminal’s right to family life has ever been allowed to supersede the safety of the British public I shall never understand. It is also hard to believe that Greece is an unsafe country to return its nationals to, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering mentioned.

I therefore have a lot of sympathy with the Bill and the Members who have brought it forward. I also admire its simplicity and brevity; the main part, clause 1(1), is just 43 words long. Unfortunately, however, I am unable to support the Bill as it stands, because I believe that we already have functioning procedures in place to keep criminals out. The language of the Bill, brief though it is, is too ambiguous. We would have to withdraw from a number of conventions and treaties that benefit us in order to implement it. It also disregards any idea of individuals being able to rehabilitate themselves, which is something this Government are making positive efforts with in this Parliament.

As I am sure the Minister will outline, the UK already has provisions for deporting foreign criminals enshrined in law. They have not always been as strong as they are now, so the previous Government deserve credit for the steps they took to address the problems of deporting foreign criminals who commit a crime in the UK. Perhaps the Government should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering mentioned, look at simplifying the four definitions of how people can be returned to their country: if they had just one, it might be easier for judges to implement.

In the Immigration Act 2014, the Government set out that the law should be on the side of the public, and the starting point is the expectation that foreign criminals will be deported. The Act also rightly changed the law so that, when there is no risk of serious, irreversible harm, foreign criminals can be deported first and have their appeal heard later. It also changed the rules so that those who do have a right to appeal will be able to appeal only once, thus avoiding wasting time and UK taxpayers’ money on drawn-out legal appeals, which have happened far too often in the past. That is on top of the long-standing rules we have in place on deporting foreign nationals, including on the automatic deportation of non-EEA nationals who are convicted in the UK and who receive a single custodial sentence of 12 months or more for one conviction. It is shocking to hear that judges sometimes say they will give only an 11-month sentence so that people do not have to be deported.

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A non-EEA person who has been deported is already prohibited from entering the UK while the deportation order against them remains in force. Such orders are indefinite, unless a decision is made to remove them. That leaves open the possibility that a person who commits a crime when they are young can appeal to return later in their life when their character is proven to have changed. The Bill affords no such second chances and proposes no scale for different offences.

There is a range of petty crimes that could technically merit a prison sentence but for which courts may, based on the individual, judge that not to be necessary. The Bill is rigid in its definition of what crime has to be committed for someone to be excluded from the UK, referring to

“any offence for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed by”

a UK court of law. Such strict terms—free from provision for any individual consideration, which our legal system currently has—are a flaw in the Bill.

We already have in place a tough system to refuse visas or entrance to individuals applying to come to the UK who have a criminal history in the UK or elsewhere. I know it is not Government policy to publicise exclusion decisions, but I believe the Home Secretary when she says those measures have successfully kept hundreds of criminals out of the UK. That, however, does not get to the heart of the issue the Bill is aimed at—a swift repeal of European law, which prevents EEA nationals from being excluded from the UK if they are sentenced. Under the European directive on freedom of movement, more demanding grounds than previous criminal conviction are required to deport EEA national offenders who have resided in a host member state for over five or 10 years. I was pleased that the Prime Minister made easing restrictions on deporting EU national offenders part of his renegotiation deal and, in particular, that the Commission agreed to examine the five and 10-year residence thresholds for expulsion.

The Bill does not acknowledge that the freedom of movement directive contains restrictions. I agree that there has been abuse of free movement in the EU, but EU offenders who commit a crime in the UK can already be removed and kept out, with a re-entry ban of one year. I hope the Prime Minister does not give up on his efforts to have that re-entry ban extended. The Secretary of State already has the power to exclude those deemed a serious threat to public policy or public security.

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Pauline Latham: I thought SNP Members wanted us to conclude, but I will give way.

Dr Cameron: First, I must declare an interest, having previously completed risk assessments in this regard. Does the hon. Lady agree that it is important that foreign national offenders receive comprehensive risk assessments so that appropriate judgments can be made?

Pauline Latham: The hon. Lady makes an interesting point, but it might be difficult to do comprehensive risk assessments, and that would delay the process. If somebody has been convicted, they need to go back to their own country immediately.

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As part of the Prime Minister’s EU renegotiation deal, the EU Commission will clarify the meanings of the “serious” and “imperative” grounds on which we can exclude people from the UK, removing ambiguity and making it easier for our immigration services to carry out their duties.

For those who are removed and deemed to be a threat to the UK, we still have border checks in place to make sure that they cannot be allowed in. This Government and the Conservative-led previous Government deserve credit for strengthening the data our border police have through the warnings index, specifically those on whether anyone coming through our border is subject to an outstanding deportation order. The Bill would also do away with the Schengen information system, which allows European states to share information on criminals, thereby preventing them from getting into the UK in the first place.

Ultimately, although I agree with the sentiment behind the Bill—all of the speakers have spoken powerfully, mainly in favour of the Bill, and I understand where they are coming from—we already have in place a lot of what it is trying to achieve, namely the exclusion of those non-UK individuals under discussion from enjoying the opportunities and hospitality that this country offers. Therefore, I do not believe the Bill is necessary.

1.36 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham), although I do not agree with her conclusion. This is the 13th Friday in this Session on which I have been present, and I am sorry that not all Members feel it necessary to be here every Friday. I share the frustration of some Opposition Members that it is not always possible to discuss the business one wants.

I sympathise very much with the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), whose Bill refers mainly to England. Clause 23 is the only clause in her Bill that extends to Scotland, and I find it extraordinary that a lot of Members from Scotland do not wish to address this Bill, which relates to a UK-wide issue, but wish to retain their interest in debating just one particular clause of the second Bill on the Order Paper. My understanding is that the problems, costs and frustration caused by foreign national offenders extend as much to people in Scotland as they do to those in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a pity that we have not heard any SNP Members set out their policies on those important issues.

The Bill fits in with the principles we hold dear. We are privileged to be members of the sovereign United Kingdom. We are privileged that we are able to have control over our own borders as a sovereign nation, and as a sovereign nation we should be able to decide who comes, who stays and who leaves our country if they are not citizens. We welcome visitors to our country, but we expect them to comply with our laws. If they do not, it is a basic principle that we should be able to require them to leave. If they commit a criminal offence, they should be forced to leave, and quickly rather than slowly.

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In response to the Home Affairs Committee report, “The work of the Immigration Directorates”, the Government state:

“Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.”

The problem is that there may be determination to deport, but there is no ability to do so in many cases. There is a big difference between the two, and that is the essence of the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone). He is trying to ensure that the people who abuse this country’s hospitality are deported.

Importantly, the Bill does not discriminate between one type of foreign national and another. It treats them all equally. That is why I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker). Why should we treat citizens of the EU who are not citizens of the United Kingdom more favourably than other foreign nationals? Why do we not treat them all equally? The only way we can do that is to rid ourselves of our current relationship with the European Union.

The Prime Minister promised that he would get fundamental change in the European Union. My understanding was that that would include a significant revision of the free movement arrangements, the bugbear causing the difficulties to which so much reference has been made during this debate. But the Prime Minister did not achieve the fundamental reform of the European Union that we wanted and, in attempting to achieve it, we supported him so strongly.

Having failed to achieve that, the only way in which we will be able to regain control over our own borders and ensure that those foreigners who abuse our hospitality are forced to leave this country is by voting to leave the European Union on 23 June or, in any event, by introducing a Bill soon afterwards to make sure that the Government exercise their sovereign power to clean up our prisons and remove from them the foreign nationals who should be serving prison sentences in overseas countries.

In a sense, the weakness of the Government’s position is summed in their response to the Home Affairs Committee:

“We do not routinely provide data relating to specific countries as publishing such data could result in undermining diplomatic relationships with those countries, particularly where they might have less incentive to co-operate with us.”

That is the same argument made in relation to those who wish to remain in the European Union—that if we do not do as the remain campaign ask, our European partners might not wish to co-operate with us so much. I think the best way to ensure that EU countries co-operate is to name and shame those that are not taking back the foreign national offenders they should take back under the EU rule of law. As with so many aspects of EU law, that aspect is applied more in the breach than in the observance.

The only way in which we can achieve what the Bill sets out is to leave the European Union. We will then be able, once again, to re-establish our position as an independent, sovereign country—masters of our own destiny, and in control of events—with a democratically elected House of Commons that can decide such issues for itself, without interference from foreign courts. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill, and I am proud to be invited to be a co-sponsor of it.

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1.42 pm

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): It is great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope). I agree with his sentiments and I, too, rise to speak in favour of the Bill. Having sat in the Chamber throughout this debate, it would be remiss of me not to add one or two words, but I note your earlier stricture, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I will keep my comments brief.

I used to practise at the bar, and came across at first hand the experience of attempting, at sentence, to deport foreign offenders, so I have seen the difficulty for the courts and the contortions they have to go through under the current regime. I want to praise the simplicity of the Bill. Many comments and criticisms have been levelled at lawyers and judges—not just during this debate, but elsewhere—but I fear that many of those criticisms are unfounded. This place has a duty to ensure that the Bills and laws we pass are as clear and simple as possible to remove any risk of lawyers being able to make such arguments in court. I therefore praise the simplicity of the Bill and how the provisions are set out. I also praise my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) for setting out the principles behind the Bill so clearly.

I want to pick up on one or two points, the first of which is the question of what is a qualifying offence. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) suggested that he would be satisfied if there were no such definition and the Bill covered all offences for which foreign offenders are convicted. As it stands, clause 1(4) states that it is an offence for which

“a term of imprisonment may be imposed by a court of law.”

We have heard an exchange on what precisely that means and what it covers. My view is that it is clear and that it covers any offence for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed.

Philip Davies: Will my hon. Friend address my point about the sentencing guidelines? Is there not a doubt about whether the Bill would apply to cases in which somebody commits an offence for which prison is not an option within the sentencing guidelines?

Michael Tomlinson: My view is that there is not. My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, but my firm view is that it is clear: on a plain reading of the Bill, any offence where a term of imprisonment may be imposed would be caught. We discussed theft and the example of shoplifting a few moments ago. My view is that, because there is a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment, the offence is clearly covered by the Bill, even though shoplifting is towards the lower end of the scale and one would not expect there to be a sentence of imprisonment in any event.

Philip Davies: But in a case of shoplifting, particularly if it is a first offence, the judge may not impose a custodial sentence, because that would be outside any kind of sentencing guideline, so surely in such a case, the Bill may not apply.

Michael Tomlinson: I do not believe that to be the case. My firm view is that, on a plain reading of the Bill, even shoplifting would be covered.

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I want to make the slightly different point that perhaps that is going a bit too far for shoplifting. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) said that it was his view and that of Migration Watch that a sentence of imprisonment for 12 months was about the right level. There could be a debate about what precisely is the right level, but as drafted the definition is very wide indeed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering spoke about the number of prisoners for whom no nationality has been recorded. I believe the figure was 434 or thereabouts. I would like the Minister to address that point, because if the Bill is to have effect, we cannot have foreign national offenders or, indeed, any offender flouting our laws by refusing to give up their nationality.

I also ask the Minister to address the point that has been raised with regard to article 8 of the European convention on human rights. As drafted, the Bill is very simple. The intention behind clause 1(1) is very clear when it says:

“Notwithstanding…the European Communities Act 1972”.

My fear is that the Bill may still be caught by article 8. Perhaps the solution is around the corner with the British Bill of Rights. This place will have the opportunity to address each and every one of the articles and determine whether it is right or not for them to be included in our British Bill of Rights.

I must touch on the issue of cost, which has been impressed upon me by constituents. I am staggered by the figures that have been given in this debate—up to £1 billion. I am not sure whether that includes the costs that would be saved by shutting prisons. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley and I are on slightly different sides of the argument on this point, but I firmly believe that if 10,000 foreign national offenders were deported, it would give us an opportunity to make even more savings by closing prisons down.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) raised the issue of risk assessments. I fear that bringing in that sort of test would undermine the purpose of the Bill, which is very clear and simple. If someone comes to this country, they are very welcome if they want to work hard—they can come to Mid Dorset and North Poole, work hard and add to our economy. If someone commits an offence, especially one so serious that it can lead to a term of imprisonment, the principles behind the Bill are that it is right for them to be deported. No risk assessment, no delay, no quibble—those are the rules, pure and simple, and I praise the simplicity of this Bill, which aims and intends to do just that. Given the time and your earlier strictures, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will leave it there, but I entirely support the purpose and thrust of this Bill.

1.50 pm

Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab): I will keep my comments brief. Members throughout the House agree that foreign criminals who are guilty of serious crimes have no place in this country. British hospitality should extend only so far, and those who pose a risk to public safety should have their requests to remain here refused.

We are therefore in agreement with the Bill in principle, and I welcome the opportunity to debate this crucial issue. The question, however, is how we tackle the problem in practical terms, and I suggest that the

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introduction of new laws, extra court time, and added strains on our overburdened criminal justice system, is not the solution. The solution is for the Government properly to enforce existing laws—something that they are failing to do on a grand scale.

Just yesterday it was revealed that the Home Office is releasing five foreign criminals a day on to Britain’s streets, instead of deporting them. The Home Affairs Committee said in a shocking report that in the three months to December last year, 429 foreign national offenders were freed into the community when they should have been deported. Those are people who, according to our existing laws, should no longer be allowed to remain in this country. It is unacceptable that the Committee found that a total of 5,267 overseas criminals are living in Britain and due for deportation, including those convicted of the most serious crimes. That is the highest number since 2012.

It is little wonder that the Home Office has been accused of a “complete failure” to get a grip on the system for deporting overseas convicts. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), said of his Committee’s findings:

“The Prime Minister promised to make the speedy removal of foreign national offenders a priority but these figures show the Home Office has failed to do so. The public will be alarmed that 1,800 offenders are still here after five years. This demonstrates either incompetence, inefficiency or both.”

Michael Tomlinson: Does the hon. Lady accept that not just this Government but Governments throughout history have failed to get to grips with this issue? That is why this important and clearly presented Bill should be supported.

Christina Rees: I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I will come on to that in due course.

The Committee’s findings add to a long list of damning reports on the Government’s failure to crack down on foreign criminals. The Public Accounts Committee released a scathing report in 2014, which found that more than a third of failed removals were the result of factors within Home Office control, including poor co-operation between relevant bodies on detention, release and deportation, poor use of IT, failure to use the powers available, cumbersome and slow referral processes, and inefficiency in processing. Crucially, it found that only 30% of foreign nationals were being checked against international databases. Two years on from that report, the Government have not learned from their mistakes. By contrast, the last Labour Government made this issue a priority and increased the number of foreign prisoners who were removed.

In conclusion, as I have made clear, we support the principle behind the Bill that more foreign criminals should be deported, especially given how poor the Government’s track record has been. However, the Bill’s proposals are not the way to tackle the problem. As a shadow Justice Minister, I know all too well how strained our criminal justice system already is, as indeed are our police, prisons and probation service. Wasting extra court time is not the remedy, and we need the Government to honour their promise to deal with the dangerous

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criminals who Parliament, the public, and the authorities have already agreed have lost their right to remain in the UK. Labour Members welcome this timely debate, and call on Ministers to stop dragging their feet and deal as a matter of urgency with this issue that is so crucial to public safety.

1.54 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) on moving the Bill, and other hon. Members on their contributions. This is third time we have debated such a Bill—they have been promoted by him and by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), so perhaps next year, we can call it the Foreign National Offenders (Northamptonshire) (Exclusion from the UK) Bill. We shall see.

I am conscious that hon. Members want to debate the National Health Service Bill. I, too, wish to debate the NHS in England, and will therefore restrict my comments to give the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) time to move her Bill. I should make the point that that is dependent on my not taking interventions and not having significant debate. I hope hon. Members will understand if my comments are significantly shorter than I was expecting them to be. My time spent preparing my speech could have been used to do other things, but let me get on to a few specific points.

I join the shadow Minister and others in assuring my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering that the Government are determined to deal with the problem of foreign national offenders. We agree that they need to be dealt with and deported as soon and as effectively as possible, but I am afraid that the measures in the Bill do not deliver that.

The Government are doing a significant amount—I am afraid I do not have time to set out the many things we are already doing—but it might be worth my pointing out some of the new things we are about to do, particularly regarding individuals’ nationalities. Establishing the nationality of individuals at the earliest possible point in the criminal justice process obviously helps to avoid significant delays when the Home Office wishes to deport foreign national offenders and illegal migrants from the UK. On top of existing measures, we are seeking through the Policing and Crime Bill to amend the UK Borders Act 2007, to introduce a requirement for a suspect foreign national to state their nationality on arrest. That will help to ensure that the person’s identity is established early on, and that overseas criminal record checks are conducted with the correct country of origin, so that we can properly assess the risks posed to the public by that individual.

Reducing the number of foreign national offenders is a priority. Provisional data show that, in the calendar year 2015, we removed 5,602 foreign national offenders from the UK, which is a 6% increase on the previous year and the highest number of removals in a year since records began in 2009. It is worth my making the point that more than half of those removed were European Economic Area foreign national offenders—we are deporting both EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals. More than 29,000 foreign national offenders have been removed since April 2010.

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Philip Davies: Is the Minister trying to make the case that the Home Office is doing a good job? Given the figures in The Times yesterday, that would be an extraordinary claim to make. Is it her case that the Home Office is doing a job, because most hon. Members in the Chamber think it is failing miserably?

Karen Bradley: I have the highest respect for my hon. Friend, but I am sure he would not expect me to agree with his comments. The officials and people in the Home Office, including my team, are incredibly dedicated and determined. This Government and the previous coalition Government have been dealing with the failures of the Labour Government, who for 13 years made it more and more difficult to deport foreign national offenders. We have taken steps to make a difference and will continue to do so—we will continue to do all we can.

In the short time I have, I should like to make one further point. I realise that some of my hon. Friends will disagree with me on this—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering, who makes his position clear with his tie. I am absolutely clear that European Union co-operation, and discussion and working with our European Union counterparts, enables us to deport foreign national offenders effectively, through information sharing, including through the Schengen information system and the European criminal records information system. We are also working through the serious offending by mobile European criminals—SOMEC—scheme to share information. We have talked about free movement. I agree that free movement is not an unconditional right. I want free movement of criminal information before any criminal gets to our shores, so we know exactly who they are and that we can stop them from causing trouble and committing crimes on our shores.

Sir Edward Leigh: I know the Minister is trying to get to the end of her speech, but this is a very important point. Will she at least reply to the point we made that the Government should introduce legislation to ensure that as soon as someone is convicted—on day one—deportation procedures begin?

Karen Bradley: As my hon. Friend knows, we have introduced zero tolerance and “deport now, appeal later”. We continue to work further, but it is only by working with our European Union counterparts in other member states that we can hope to achieve what we all want: the UK as safe as possible, so that British citizens can live their lives free from concern that a foreign national offender is walking the streets and may seek to harm them.

With that, I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering will withdraw his Bill. I know he has the very best of intentions, but I also understand that we need to

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get to on to other business. I would have liked to have spent more time debating the Bill, but I hope he will withdraw it at this point.

2.1 pm

Mr Hollobone: With the leave of the House, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), for Shipley (Philip Davies), for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham), for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) and for Christchurch (Mr Chope) for their most illuminating speeches, and my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) for his multiple intelligent interventions. This has been a thoroughly well-informed debate about an issue that is very important to our constituents. I, too, want to get on to the next Bill, not least to discuss part 5, clause 22, where the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) proposes the abolition of the NHS charge for immigrants using our national health service. That, too, is of interest to my constituents, but we have time, before that debate, to test the will of the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 25.

Division No. 213]


2.02 pm


Fitzpatrick, Jim

Nuttall, Mr David

Rosindell, Andrew

Smith, Henry

Tomlinson, Michael

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Philip Hollobone


Philip Davies


Barwell, Gavin

Bingham, Andrew

Bradley, Karen

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Dinenage, Caroline

Elphicke, Charlie

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gummer, Ben

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hollingbery, George

Hurd, Mr Nick

Kirby, Simon

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lefroy, Jeremy

Lewis, Brandon

Lidington, rh Mr David

Milton, rh Anne

Perry, Claire

Rudd, rh Amber

Soubry, rh Anna

Stewart, Rory

Syms, Mr Robert

Whittaker, Craig

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Christopher Chope


Sir Edward Leigh

The Deputy Speaker declared that the Question was not decided because fewer than 40 Members had taken part in the Division (Standing Order No. 41)

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National Health Service Bill

Second Reading

2.13 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It is an honour to have brought this Bill to Parliament today. It is the result of widespread consultation and has extensive backing from a raft of doctors and nurses delivering front-line care, as well as from local NHS campaign groups. Its backers include the British Medical Association council, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and many local NHS staff and campaigners. I want to pay tribute to them all for their amazing work. I pay tribute, too, to Allyson Pollock, the professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University of London, and to Peter Roderick, a barrister and senior research fellow there, for their expertise and help.

The incredibly positive and wide-ranging popular support for the Bill reflects a strong belief in a publicly provided NHS. People are rightly worried because the NHS, consistently ranked one of the best in the world, is under threat like never before. It is under threat from underfunding dressed up as efficiency savings; under threat from cuts; under threat from the wasteful bidding of the internal market; under threat from increasing commercialisation and the steep increase in corporate sector contracts since the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): A Select Committee on Health report in 2010 showed that the NHS’s running costs had more than doubled from 6% to 14%, based on the purchaser-provider split, and that was before the outsourcing and tendering of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Caroline Lucas: I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who speaks with great expertise in this area. She is absolutely right that the creeping privatisation and marketisation are, along with all the other problems they bring, incredibly inefficient.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): I am sure that everyone in the House sympathises with the lack of time for Second Reading of the hon. Lady’s Bill. Does she agree that the NHS is also direly threatened by the imposition of brutal pay restraint policies that do such damage to recruitment and retention, particularly in places such as Oxford?

Caroline Lucas: I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is no wonder that we cannot recruit more nurses and doctors when the Government treat them so badly and their expertise is so unappreciated.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Further to the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) made, the Government extol the virtues of those who work in the national health service, yet they have offered them a paltry 1% pay rise. Does the hon. Lady think they could do better than that?

Caroline Lucas: Yes, I was about to come on to that exact point. The 1% pay rise is frankly insulting. It is unsurprising that there is so much concern among NHS

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staff, because it is not only about finances but about how they are being treated in general. We have a Health Secretary who constantly undermines their professionalism, helping to push our NHS into crisis.

To see off the many threats facing our NHS, the Bill is guided by the principles of the National Health Service Act 1946. It would reinstate the Secretary of State’s duty to provide services throughout England. It is time to put an end once and for all to the purchaser-provider split, which is the harmful cornerstone of the commercialisation of our health service. It is the open door that lets the health corporations in to pick off the most profitable NHS contracts.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP): I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing forward this Bill, which attempts to stop the dismantling of the NHS in England and Wales. Does she appreciate that that dismantling poses a threat to the NHS in Scotland, because our funding is linked to English public expenditure through the Barnett formula? Does she also recognise that Scottish National party MPs are here in numbers today at the request of their constituents?

Caroline Lucas: The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right. I am grateful to my SNP colleagues for being here today and for being patient as we waited to get to this point. What happens to the NHS in England has consequences for the NHS in Scotland. They are absolutely linked, which is why I am so grateful that she and her colleagues are here today.

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Lucas: If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will not, simply because I want to make a bit more progress and many Opposition Members have waited a long time to speak in this debate.

The purchaser-provider split has allowed NHS privatisation in England to increase dramatically since the 2012 Act. The most recent official figures show that the NHS paid £6.6 billion to private healthcare firms in 2013-14. Some have suggested that that figure has now increased to as much £10 billion.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): The Bristol clinical commissioning group, which issues contracts for local NHS services, is in the process of striking out rules that prevent tax-avoiding private companies from securing NHS contracts, for fear of litigation. Does the hon. Lady share my worry that the only health concern for some private contractors is ensuring that they get healthy profits?

Caroline Lucas: I agree with the hon. Lady’s strong and compelling point.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): I remind the hon. Lady that Labour Members are also here. As a member of the Health Committee between 2010 and 2015, I know that the Bill is vital. Does she agree that it is necessary to overturn the reorganisation that nobody wanted and that cost £3 billion?

Caroline Lucas: I pay tribute to Labour colleagues who are here. Unfortunately, there were not enough to ensure that we could have had a closure motion earlier,

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about which I am sorry. However, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that we need to tackle reorganisation head-on. Some will argue that the NHS cannot face yet more reorganisation. I agree with that on one level, but the alternative of carrying on down the current route is absolutely impossible. The Bill is framed in such a way to ensure that reforms are implemented organically over time. Frankly, I do not think that we can do without it.

Dr Philippa Whitford: The NHS is being reorganised on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Every time a service is outsourced, it is completely reorganised. By being taken over, people’s contracts are altered, and the shape of the service changes. In Scotland, we reversed the purchaser-provider split in 2004, and it was relatively painless. What we need is simply a decision not to outsource further and gradually to move back to geographical health planning instead of the fragmentation of clinical commissioning groups at a time when we need integration.

Caroline Lucas: That intervention is incredibly helpful, as it shows what is possible. The fact that it has been done in Scotland without major problem demonstrates that, if the political will is there, changes can be made.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): The urgency of the Bill is notable. In my constituency, a hospital was closed within five days because of competition and the fragmentation of services. Is it not essential that we do everything we can to bring about a collaborative, planned service now?

Caroline Lucas: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. She must have very good eyesight, as I was about to come on to exactly that point. We need a planned service, not one based on competition all the time. To those who say that the private sector is only a small part of our NHS, I make three important points. First, the private sector causes enormous harm by cherry-picking profitable services. Secondly, there has been an undeniable escalation of private sector involvement since the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the direction of travel is plain. Thirdly, material harm is being caused by the purchaser-provider split, which puts competition above co-operation and sees NHS bodies literally bidding against each other, and I simply cannot see whose interest that is in.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Lucas: No, I will not, because the hon. Gentleman has already had about two hours in which to speak this morning.

I will say a little more about each of those points. On cherry-picking, the inescapable truth is that the private sector is camping out on the NHS’s lawn. It is using all the corporate machinery available to it to pick off the low-hanging fruit—the non-urgent, easy and profitable services. The 2012 Act handed the private sector unprecedented access to NHS markets. Invited in to browse, it has predictably seized the simple, profitable work, sending complications back to the NHS to mop up any mistakes or unforeseen outcomes.

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Dr Philippa Whitford: I have asked on several occasions in the Chamber about the contribution of the Health and Social Care Act to the current financial state of the NHS in England. We constantly hear that it is all just due to agency nurses, yet when we look at the five years before the change, we see that the NHS managed, somehow, to balance its books. It then had a debt of £100 million, then £800 million, and now we are looking at a debt of £2.5 billion. That is because we are not looking after everyone. We are giving the private sector the cheap people and the NHS ends up with the expensive people.

Caroline Lucas: The hon. Lady puts her point well.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): I thank the hon. Lady for bringing the Bill to the House—I am glad that she has finally been able to do so. Does she agree that the real issue with the privatisation of the health service is that the money that is made goes into the pockets of shareholders and not back into patient care?

Caroline Lucas: Absolutely. It is just criminal that the money that the NHS so desperately needs to provide front-line care is going to line the pockets of private companies’ shareholders.

Philip Davies: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Lucas: No, I will not. I will not give way to a gentleman who has spent about two hours boring on this morning.

The private sector is profiting from NHS training, but it is depriving the NHS of income and removing valuable day-to-day training experience. Let us take the example of a surgeon who no longer gets to practise on scheduled elective work and who, as a result, has to refer an emergency shoulder injury to a specialist unit. It could have been dealt with at a lower level, but the experience and practice were lost.

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing this Bill forward. In communities such as mine, in Whitehaven, Millom, Keswick, Maryport, Workington and elsewhere, we are really feeling the effect of Government policy right now—there are no two ways about it—as it is hollowing out the NHS. The Bill requires a lot of work, and I do not favour another reorganisation. Where in the Bill would provision be made for the NHS to recognise explicitly the difficulties and differences in providing healthcare in isolated rural peripheral areas? It is fundamentally different from how it is provided in more urban areas.

Caroline Lucas: I thank the hon. Gentleman. I think that point will be explored in Committee. I cannot point him right now to the relevant clause, but it is a serious point. I would say that we will have a better chance of having such a managed and planned NHS, in which we can ensure that there are appropriate services in rural and urban areas, if we have a guiding mind back in charge of the NHS. That is exactly what was broken by the provider-purchaser split. The hon. Gentleman’s point is a good one, and I would love to see it debated further in Committee.

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When it comes to the overall direction of travel and the duty to provide, it is shocking that the private hospital share of NHS-funded patients grew rapidly between 2006 and 2011. By 2010-11, private companies performed 17% of hip replacements and 17% of hernia repairs, and handled 8% of patients. First attendances for orthopaedics or trauma, such as broken limbs, also increased, yet it is the NHS that invests in training and picks up the pieces when things go wrong in the private sector, and it is the NHS that so often innovates.

Following the coalition’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, the NHS Support Federation has been charting the impact of Government policy on the use of outside providers to deliver and plan NHS care. Its report, which came out last month, charts the continuing steep escalation of creeping private sector involvement in the NHS. Its research shows that more than 400 NHS clinical contracts, worth £16 billion, have been awarded through the market since April 2013. Over that time the private sector has won nearly £5.5 billion of them, so let me give a few examples of the kind of corporate takeover that we are talking about.

In September 2015, Capita, despite its chequered record in the provision of public services, took control of a contract worth £1 billion to be the provider of primary care services in England. In October 2015, Virgin Care won a five-year, £64 million contract from Wiltshire clinical commissioning group, Wiltshire Council and NHS England to provide community child health services in Wiltshire. As of April 2016, services including children’s specialist community nursing, health visiting and speech and language therapy will all transfer to Virgin Care. In my constituency, the private company Optum, part of the giant American corporation UnitedHealth, last year won a £1.5 million contract from Brighton and Hove CCG for referral management services.

Such outsourcing goes on despite a trail of failed, terminated and collapsed contracts, such as the £235 million contract for provision of musculoskeletal services in West Sussex, which was awarded but never begun once it was determined just how much damage it would do to other NHS services in the region. Then there was the collapsed £800 million contract for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough older people’s services. There are estimates that the collapse of that contract has cost the local hospitals, GPs and community care providers about £20 million. There is a third example, of course—that of Circle, the private company running Hinchingbrooke hospital, which pulled out after just two years of a 10-year contract. That company’s announcement came just after the publication of a damning report on the hospital from the Care Quality Commission that raised serious concerns about care quality, management and the culture at the hospital.

Dr Philippa Whitford: One of the areas in which I have concerns relates to the case of Mid Staffordshire. A lot of the blame in the Francis report was on the drive for foundation status, which meant that senior management were totally fixated on that instead of on the quality of care to the patient. Consideration should be given to clinical governance, so that management are responsible for the clinical outcomes and not just the financial outcomes.

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Caroline Lucas: I thank the hon. Lady for making that important point.

In the last moments that are left to me in this debate, I want to talk a little about how what is happening to our NHS, sadly, did not just happen with the 2012 Act. It goes back further than that. To protect the NHS for future generations, we need to recognise that there were several other stealthy acts of vandalism before that Act. Margaret Thatcher’s Government introduced the internal market right back in the 1990s. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) was in charge, following on from the so-called options for radical reform set out by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin). In its 1997 manifesto, new Labour promised to end the Tory internal market but afterwards embedded it even further.

On those foundations, the now Lord Lansley, Secretary of State for Health in the coalition, drove forward the Health and Social Care Act. With that Act, no longer do the Government or anyone else have a legal duty to provide hospital services throughout England. That duty to provide was severed. Universal provision was replaced with commissioning for registered patients. Healthcare was thrown open to “any willing provider”—hastily changed to “any qualified provider”.

Shockingly, last October we learned that Lord Lansley has since been hired as a consultant to Bain & Company, which, according to its website,

“helps leading healthcare companies work on the full spectrum of strategy, operations, organization and mergers”.

That appointment at Bain was signed off in July 2015 by Baroness Browning, who herself chairs the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments—

2.30 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 22 April.

Business without Debate


Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 22 April.