Home affairs

13 Dec 2011 19:25:09

Changes to the scrap metal industry, and a new taskforce to deal with the problem of metal theft will be implemented says James Brokenshire

By Joseph Willits 
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BrokenshireParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire MP, has answered questions from four Tory MPs about the Government's plans to combat metal theft. Brokenshire said that "the Home Office is discussing with other Departments what legislative changes are necessary to assist enforcement agencies and deter offenders". Some of the measures to do so, he said, would include "introducing a new licence regime for scrap metal dealers and prohibiting cash payments" and establishing a "metal theft taskforce" together with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Responding to a question from Gravesham MP Adam Holloway about the financial implications of metal theft, Brokenshire said the cost could be "anywhere between £220 million and £777 million per annum". Holloway asked whether there was "any argument for seizing the entire inventories of metal dealers found to be purchasing what are effectively stolen goods". Brokenshire confirmed that this was one of the reasons for a new taskforce, "to inform intelligence and ensure that those responsible for such crimes are brought to justice".

Continue reading "Changes to the scrap metal industry, and a new taskforce to deal with the problem of metal theft will be implemented says James Brokenshire" »

13 Dec 2011 13:27:37

The Government is delivering on its commitments to tackle domestic violence, says Theresa May

By Joseph Willits 
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Theresa mayYesterday in the Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May reaffirmed her commitment to tackling and ending domestic violence, stating that the Government had fulfilled its pledge. Asked by Devizes MP Claire Perry, about the ways in which the Government was trying to deal with domestic violence against women, May cited a "cross-Government action plan on tackling violence against women and girls", published in March by the Home Office. May said: 

"It includes 88 commitments from 12 Departments to improve the provision of services for victims of violence and to prevent violence from happening in the first place. We have already delivered 22 of those commitments."

Perry spoke of the successes of a pilot scheme running in Swindon and Wiltshire, "in which perpetrators of domestic violence are effectively banned from the family home, rather than the family and the women being forced to move out, as happened previously". Due to the scheme, she said, "82 abusive perpetrators have been removed from family homes", and had been "reaching women who have never been helped before" according to the head of Wiltshire victim support unit said that the programme. The BBC reported in November that 65 Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders (DVPN/DVPO) had been issued.

Continue reading "The Government is delivering on its commitments to tackle domestic violence, says Theresa May" »

12 Aug 2011 08:22:03

Theresa May highlights Britain's "deep-rooted" social problems in her Commons statement on the riots

Highlights from Theresa May's speech to the House of Commons on the public disorder in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other English cities.

Screen shot 2011-08-12 at 08.17.21 There are real social problems in Britain: "Almost 2 million children are brought up in households in which no one works. One in three children leaves primary school unable to read, write and add up properly. We have the highest level of drug abuse in Europe. Almost 100 knife crimes are committed every day and nearly 1 million violent crimes every year. Half of all prisoners reoffend within a year of their release from prison. Those are serious social problems, and we cannot go on ignoring them. No one is pretending that there are easy answers to such deep-rooted problems, but they are the reasons why the reform of welfare, schools and the criminal justice system cannot wait."

Tackling gang culture must become a priority: "Six per cent. of young people are thought to belong to a gang of one kind or another. Gangs are inherently criminal. On average, entrenched gang members have 11 criminal convictions, and the average age for the first conviction of a gang member is just 15. They are also inherently violent. Gangs across the country are involved with the use and supply of drugs, firearms and knives. From talking to chief constables who have dealt with the violence of the past few days, it is clear that many of the perpetrators, but by no means all of them, are known gang members. So we have to do more to tackle gang culture."

Police capacity can be maintained despite tighter budgets: "At the end of the spending review period, the police will have the numbers to enable them to deploy in the way they have done during the last few days. It is possible to make cuts in police budgets by taking money out of matters such as better procurement to ensure that we can achieve the cuts that we need to make while still leaving police able to do the job that we want them to do and that they want to do. In January 2011, the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Peter Fahy, told the Home Affairs Committee: “we have large numbers of officers still in roles that do not require the skills, the powers and expertise of a police officer. It is through that route over the next four years where we will achieve quite a bit of savings.”"

The different police tactics that restored public order: "On Tuesday, the Prime Minister and I held a meeting with the acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in which he set out his intention at least to double the deployment of officers. During the day, a number of offenders were identified, arrested and taken out of circulation. Officers took a tougher approach and intervened earlier to disperse groups before trouble began. Leave was cancelled, special constables were mobilised and mutual aid was stepped up, so up to 16,000 officers were deployed in total. As I said, officers took a more robust approach to tackling disorder and making arrests. There are tricky days and nights ahead, but thanks to the efforts of those thousands of officers order has in large part been restored."

Social media and the riots: "This is not the first time that criminals with plans to disrupt life in our towns and cities have used technology to plot their crimes. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and messaging services such as BlackBerry Messenger have been used to co-ordinate criminality and stay one step ahead of the police. I will therefore convene a meeting with ACPO, the police and representatives from the social media industry to work out how we can improve the technological and related legal capabilities of the police."

8 Jun 2011 10:30:58

David Davis draws attention to prison-visiting imam who celebrated Taliban jail-break

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Yesterday in Parliament, during questions on the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy (which Paul Goodman covered on ToryDiary yesterday), former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis highlighted the case of a Muslim prisoner who had witnessed extremist preaching in a "high-security prison": 

DAVIS DAVID "Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I welcome wholeheartedly my right hon. Friend’s statement and comments, not least because a couple of weeks ago I received a letter from a Muslim inmate of one of our high-security prisons, in which he said:

‘Last week our prison service imam told us ‘not to believe western media’ in relation to the death of Usama bin Laden. The week prior to that the imam celebrated the escape of hundreds of Taliban prisoners from the Kabul jail. He went on to list equally inappropriate teachings by prison imams in a total of five prisons.

The Home Secretary is right to draw attention to the previous Government’s complacency over the issue. Will she give an undertaking that this will be put right and that we will not be able to say those things next year?"

In response, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, promised to work more closely with the prison service in order to stamp out extremism of the nature Mr Davis mentioned. 

May Theresa in black "Mrs May: I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing that letter to the attention of the House and, in doing so, raising a very important aspect of the work on which we wish to focus. There is a great deal more to be done in prisons, and a number of steps that we intend to take are set out in the Prevent strategy today. I should be very happy to receive a copy of that letter, if he feels able to share it with me, so that we can look at the specific allegations that have been made, but we intend to work more carefully with prisons, prison staff, the National Offender Management Service and those going into prisons to deal with individual prisoners in order to try to ensure that we do not see the sort of activity taking place that he has identified."

14 Dec 2010 16:57:59

Defending elected police chiefs, Nick Herbert puts Ed Balls in his place

Nick Herbert MP, Police Reform Minister, knocked Ed Balls for six yesterday in the House of Commons. He attacked Labour for misrepresenting the proposals, inconsistencies in their arguments and for a fundamental distrust of the people. The full extract from Mr Herbert's contribution is pasted below.

The Shadow Home Secretary's arguments against our proposals for police and crime commissioners are deeply unconvincing and he keeps getting things wrong. He attacked our statement on police funding today and got the numbers wrong. Last week, he said that the inspectorate of constabulary's figures were "corrupt and erroneous", but was then forced to retract those words. Today, he told the House that police and crime commissioners would have the power "to direct" policing, but that is simply wrong. Chief constables will retain control and direction of their forces, as it says in clause 2, which he should read. We are determined to protect the operational independence of chief constables. Police and crime commissioners will be able to set the policing plan with the agreement of the chief constable but they will not direct policing and nor should they.

The shadow Home Secretary said that the commissioners will be elected solely to run policing, but that will not be their sole job. They will be police and crime commissioners with wider powers and devolved budgets from the Home Office to fight crime and engage in crime prevention with the local community. If the right hon. Gentleman has such a good case, why does he need to invent objections to the Bill? He continues to assert that the commissioners will appoint political advisers, but we have repeatedly made it clear that we will not allow that. We do not want to politicise policing and we do not want spin in policing. We will not take any lectures about political advisers and spin from the friend of McBride and Whelan.

Ed Balls: I do not want to get into personal invective or to drag the important issue of policing down to the gutter. I have been told by a number of people who attended the meeting of the Association of Police Authorities at which the Minister spoke that he said that, if he were elected as a police and crime commissioner, the first decision he would take would be to appoint a political adviser. Was everyone else at that meeting mistaken or has he forgotten attending the event and saying those things?

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Gentleman is wrong and our intention is clear-we keep repeating it: we do not want political advisers and we have legislated for that in the Bill.

The Labour party complains about the cost of the commissioners and that complaint was repeated by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe). We have made it quite clear that commissioners must cost no more than the police authorities they replace. Yes, there will be the cost of holding the elections once every four years-an average £12.5 million a year. That is less than 0.1% of police spend, and the money will not come from force budgets anyway.

Ed Balls: Will the Minister give way?

Nick Herbert: Labour's manifesto at the last election proposed referendums five times over-on AV, on reform of the other place, on mayors, on further powers for the Welsh Assembly and on the euro. Did Labour Members advance arguments against those democratic pledges on the grounds that they would cost money? Of course not. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley) pointed out, of course there is a cost to running elections. Police authorities do not have that cost because they are not democratic. That is exactly what we want to fix.

Hazel Blears: Will the Minister give way?

Continue reading "Defending elected police chiefs, Nick Herbert puts Ed Balls in his place" »

14 Dec 2010 08:37:55

Theresa May and Boris Johnson refuse to close door to riot police using water cannons

Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday Theresa May was repeatedly pressed by Labour MPs to rule out water cannon as a way of controlling public protests. She repeatedly said that she hoped water cannons would not be used on British streets but did not completely close the door to the possibility. Scotland Yard, says the Daily Mail, believes it would be "foolish" to rule it out.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, reports Metro, pledged on Monday to oppose the use of water cannon to control protests but he, too, kept options open. "We live in a liberal democracy, I do not want to see the Met police engage in an arms race with the protesters," he said, ‘But, on the other hand, we need to keep this thing under review.’

From Hansard:

Screen shot 2010-12-14 at 08.33.28 Labour MP Jack Dromey: "The Home Secretary was reported yesterday as appearing to contemplate the use of water cannon; today, she appears to be ruling out the use of water cannon. Will she clarify this beyond any doubt: will she rule out the use of water cannon on British streets?"

Mrs May: "I made it clear in my earlier comments that I do not think anybody wants water cannon used on British streets. What I said in the interview yesterday is that the Metropolitan police will of course look at the range of tactics available to them to consider whether there is any tactic not yet used that they might wish to use. Currently, as I speak here today, the legal position is that water cannon are not approved for use on the streets of England and Wales. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully to my interview yesterday, he would have heard me make the point that we have a different approach to policing in this country from what is seen in many continental countries. I have reiterated that view in my statement today and in further responses to the questions put to me. In Britain, we police by consent, which depends on the link of trust between the police and the public-and long may that continue."

Labour MP Chris Bryant: "The Home Secretary seems to be equivocating a bit on the question of water cannon. She said that they were not legal yet, as if she was implying that she might be persuaded to change her mind. As one who experienced water cannon in Chile in the 1980s, I can assure her that they are entirely indiscriminate, can lead to panic among those who are protesting, and can cause serious injury. The last time they were used in Stuttgart was a couple of months ago, when two people were blinded by them. Will the Home Secretary therefore rule out giving permission for the use of water cannon in this country?"

Mrs May: "I have made the position absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman and others. I do not think that any of us want to see water cannon being used on the streets of England and Wales. I have said that several times in response to questions on my statement, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should have listened to my earlier answers."

4 Nov 2010 11:59:36

Brian Binley leads cross-party move against the right of prisoners to vote

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-11-04 at 11.56.06 Jonathan offered an acute summary recently of the anger on the Tory backbenches about the Government, the European Court of Human Rights and the right of prisoners to vote.  Early Day Motions are ten a penny, and nothing usually comes of them, but one tabled by Brian Binley may be worth noting.  It's number 953, and reads as follows -

"That this House believes that if a crime is serious enough to warrant a term of imprisonment, then the perpetrator must forgo certain civil liberties, including the right to suffrage; and recognises that the right to vote does not aid the rehabilitation of a prisoner and is a privilege that should be exclusively reserved for law-abiding citizens."

I see that of the six original signatories, two are Labour - Jim Cunningham and Alan Meale - and that they've been joined by Andrew George, a Liberal Democrat.  I assume, therefore, that they support withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights, which as far as I know is the only means of guaranteeing the objective set out in the motion.

28 Jul 2010 09:38:44

Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'

By Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday the Home Secretary explained to MPs why the Government was adopting the European Investigation Order. Posted below are key highlights from her opening statement:

The need to deal with cross-border crime: "To deal with cross-border crime, countries enter into mutual legal assistance-MLA-agreements. Those agreements provide a framework through which states can obtain evidence from overseas. MLA has therefore been an important tool in the fight against international crime and terrorism."

The European Investigation Order aims to simplify and accelerate cross-border crime-fighting: "The process is fragmented and confusing for the police and prosecutors, and it is too often too slow. In some cases it takes many months to obtain vital evidence. Indeed, in one drug trafficking case the evidence arrived in the UK after the trial had been completed. The European investigation order is intended to address those problems by simplifying the system, through a standardised request form and by providing formal deadlines for the recognition and execution of requests."

The Association of Chief Police Officers want the EIO: "The Government have decided to opt into the EIO because it offers practical help for the British police and prosecutors, and we are determined to do everything we can to help them cut crime and deliver justice. That is what the police say the EIO will do. We wrote to every Association of Chief Police Officers force about the EIO, and not one said that we should not opt in. ACPO itself replied that "the EIO is a simpler instrument than those already in existence and, provided it is used sensibly and for appropriate offences, we welcome attempts to simplify and expedite mutual legal assistance.""

The EIO does not threaten civil liberties: "We will seek to maintain the draft directive's requirement that evidence should be obtained by coercive means, for example through searching a premises, only where the dual criminality requirement is satisfied. Requests for evidence from foreign authorities will still require completion of the same processes as in similar domestic cases. In order to search a house, for example, police officers will still need to obtain a warrant. The execution of the EIO must be compatible with the European convention on human rights. That means that there must be a clear link between the alleged criminality and the assistance requested, otherwise complying with the request would be in breach of article 8 of the ECHR, on private and family life."

Continue reading "Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'" »

27 Jul 2010 08:37:37

Theresa May unveils most radical police reforms "in at least fifty years"

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-07-27 at 06.00.15In the Commons yesterday, sat alongside police reform minister Nick Herbert, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, unveiled what she described as "the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years."

Key extracts are republished below:

The problem: "For too long the police have become disconnected from the communities that they serve, been bogged down by bureaucracy and answered to distant politicians instead of to the people. Crime remains too high, too many families and communities suffer from antisocial behaviour and barely half the public are confident that important local issues are dealt with. Meanwhile, the challenges that we face have changed. Terrorism, the growth in serious and organised crime and cybercrime all require new approaches that cross not just police force boundaries, but international borders."

Remedy one, devolution of power: "We will introduce directly elected police and crime commissioners by 2012. The commissioners will set the police budget, determine police force priorities and have the power to hire and, where necessary, fire their chief constable."

[On ConservativeHome yesterday, Blair Gibbs of Policy Exchange made the case for directly-elected police chiefs].

Remedy two, transparency: "To help the public hold their local police to account, we will publish local crime data and mandate local beat meetings so that people can challenge the performance of their neighbourhood policing teams."

Remedy three, less paperwork: "Front-line staff will no longer be form writers; they will be crime fighters, freed from bureaucracy and central guidance and trusted to get on with their jobs. We have scrapped the policing pledge. We have got rid of the confidence target. We will restore police discretion over charging decisions for particular offences. We will limit the reporting requirements for "stop and search" and we will scrap the "stop" form in its entirety."

Remedy four, a Home Office focused on strategic national challenges, not micro-management: "As the Home Affairs Committee noted during the previous Parliament, the previous Government tried to micro-manage local policing but failed to support forces effectively on national issues, so we will build on the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency to create a more powerful national crime agency, which will tackle organised crime and protect our borders."

Remedy five, procurement reform: "We will make the police more efficient at force, regional and national levels so that front-line local policing can be sustained. To this end, we are already consulting separately on police procurement regulations to get better value for taxpayers' money."

Remedy six, more public involvement in crime fighting: "We will also do more to encourage active citizens to become special constables, community crime fighters and members of neighbourhood watch groups."


3 Jun 2010 12:35:11

Theresa May tells Commons that now is not the time to review Britain's gun laws

Highlights, not verbatim.

Screen shot 2010-06-03 at 12.16.35In an emergency statement to the House, and in her first statement to the Commons in her new role, Theresa May MP reflected on the "senseless" murder of twelve people in Cumbria yesterday by Derrick Bird. She paid tribute to the emergency services. The Home Secretary announced that one hundred detectives had been assigned to the investigation of the tragedy. Mrs May confirmed that Mr Bird's two firearms were properly licensed. She will go to Cumbria tomorrow with the Prime Minister. More funds will be made available to the police, local government and local charities if necessary. Calls for a debate on Britain's gun laws are not just "understandable" but "right and proper" but, Mrs May continued, there should be no rush to judgment until full facts are established.

Most MPs did not press the Home Secretary to make instant judgments but John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, did say that it was beyond his comprehension that a taxi driver could legally own such firepower as Mr Bird possessed. Labour's Kate Hoey said that Britain had among the most stringent gun laws in the world and urged caution in reviewing them. Mrs May said there would be no knee-jerk reaction but she hoped that the Commons would have an opportunity to debate related issues before the summer recess.

John Stanley MP urged that questions were asked about the rapid reaction times of armed police. Ben Wallace raised the issue of sharing 'protective services' between the Lancashire and Cumbrian constabularies.

Tim Montgomerie

Related link: After Cumbria, calls for tougher firearms laws are understandable. They're also wrong.

22 Jan 2010 11:59:54

Labour backbenchers are giving up on their frontbench in the Commons

I wrote last November about the lack of Labour backbenchers willing to support their Government’s Queen’s speech in the Commons.

Rob Wilson blogged earlier about the unwillingness of recent ex-Ministers to speak in the Commons.

A few weeks ago, Jonathan noted that no Labour speaker supported the Fiscal Responsibility Bill – a flagship Government measure – in the Commons at Second Reading.

So have Labour backbenchers been more enthusiastic this week?  Not much.  Here are some highlights from Monday’s Second Reading of another key Government measure – the Crime and Security Bill:

  • Debate began at 15.34. The first Government backbench speaker was Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  He announced that he wouldn’t be supporting the Government: “I will abstain in the vote on Second Reading today because the Home Secretary has not convinced me on the DNA issue.”
  • Second up from the Labour back benches was Neil Gerrard, who said in relation to the DNA database: “I cannot see what the hard evidence is to support the proposals in the Bill.”
  • Third up was Robert Flello, who finished by saying: “The Bill is good in principle, but a lot of it needs further detailed scrutiny, and I would like to table some amendments at a future date.”
  • He was followed by my colleague Tony Baldry, who observed: “The honourable member for Stoke on Trent South spoke for nearly 40 minutes, so I can only assume that the Whips, believing that there was a somewhat thin turnout on the Government side, had exhorted him to go long.  He certainly had not appreciated that the cavalry had arrived, in the shape of the right hon. Member for Harrow East (Tony McNulty) and the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford).”
  • Angela Smith rose from the Government benches at 21.55 – the first fully supportive Government backbencher since front bench speeches ended at 17.58.
  • Later, Tony McNulty said that the Government had “wimped” on mobile phones in prisons and wheel clamping.

Footnote: no Labour backbencher was present at the start of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill on Wednesday. None was present at the start of yesterday’s Topical Debate on the Food Industry. I’m not suggesting that Labour backbenchers should follow the Government position on autopilot.  And I appreciate that what happens in the Commons is usually of minimal interest outside. But it’s important to convey the texture and taste of what’s happening daily in the Commons – namely, the draining away, like blood from a dying man, of authority and command from the Government front bench.

Paul Goodman

3 Nov 2009 09:10:01

Leading Conservatives back Home Secretary on dismissal of Professor Nutt

Chris Grayling: "Independent scientific advice is important, but those who take on formal roles with the Government have to be extremely cautious about the things that they say. Professor Nutt’s comments earlier this year, comparing the risks of ecstasy with those of horse riding, were particularly ill judged. The issues that the council deals with are highly sensitive, and there are very divergent opinions out there, so there is a clear responsibility to act cautiously, and be mindful of the fact that messages given by official advisers can and will influence the behaviour of the public."

Sir Patrick Cormack: "As the Home Secretary comes under attack, will he remind himself that it was Churchill who said that scientists should be on tap and not on top?"

David Davis: "May I give unequivocal support not only to the Home Secretary’s decision but to the reasoning behind it? He is obviously familiar with Professor Robin Murray’s comments, which imply that the ACMD did not do a very good job in surveying the evidence previously. I know that the Home Secretary will want to be diplomatic to the council now, but will he please ensure that he also takes evidence from others when he makes his decisions in future?"

More in Hansard. Watch Alan Johnson defend his decision.

19 May 2009 07:45:03

Julian Brazier MP asks why Jacqui Smith has banned a shock jock from entering Britain but not suspected terrorists

From Hansard.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): For what reasons she decided to prevent Michael Savage from entering the UK; and if she will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): Michael Savage was excluded for engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and by fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence. The exclusion is in line with the strengthened policy on exclusions that I announced to the House on 28 October last year. In his radio broadcasts, Mr. Savage has spoken about killing 100 million Muslims, and he has spoken in violent terms about homosexuals. Coming to the UK is a privilege. I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life.

Michael Fabricant: Notwithstanding the Home Secretary’s answer, she will be aware that the things of which she accuses Mike Savage are also illegal in the United States of America, and he has not faced prosecution there. Does she realise how ludicrous her ban is and the disrepute into which she has put this country in the eyes of many right-seeing—and, indeed, left-seeing—people in the United States? Does she also plan to ban Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and other middle-aged, white, ordinary, American radio presenters?

Jacqui Smith: I subscribe to the view, as expressed by another Member of this House, that “It’s clear for reasons of our security that we must expel or refuse entry to those who preach hate, pit one faith against another and divide our society.” Those were the words of the Leader of the Opposition, and I think he was right. Frankly, if the hon. Gentleman believes that it is appropriate for somebody to use words about Muslims such as, “I said so kill 100 million of them, then there would be 900 million of them. I mean would you rather us die than them?”, then he has a very different set of values than I have, and I want to ensure that those are implemented in the decisions that we make about who we do and do not allow into this country.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): The Home Office’s production of a “name and shame” list was a self-evident gimmick and demeaning to Government, and it has led to a completely avoidable legal action that is producing splendid publicity for Michael Savage. Does the Home Secretary think, on reflection, that that was a mistake and the wrong way for the Government to behave?

Jacqui Smith: No, I do not, because I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s party leader that we need to be clear about who we will and will not accept into this country. We need to be clear about the values that we have. Where someone preaches hate and foments hatred in the way that has happened in this case, where they provoke others to serious violence, and where they use phrases such as, in relation to somebody who said on his radio programme that he was gay, “You should only get AIDS and die, you pig!”, then it is right that we express our view about that. We recognise that coming to this country is a privilege, and we will express our values in terms of those we exclude.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): If it is an even-handed approach, could the Home Secretary explain why we have welcomed back to this country from Guantanamo Bay two UK residents, but not citizens, who are not only suspected terrorists in Afghanistan but wanted on murder charges in Spain?

Jacqui Smith: We have, for some period of time, taken a position of wanting to see Guantanamo Bay closed. In order to help to facilitate that, we have accepted back, and in fact sought the return to this country, of those who are nationals and have previously been resident in the UK. I think that President Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay is the right one, not solely because of the individuals there but because of the ability that that gives us internationally to take forward the sort of values that we hold, and the US holds, in fighting and tackling terrorism.

30 Apr 2009 12:09:46

Government deservedly loses Commons vote on Gurkhas

Joanna and the Gurkhas The Government was sensationally and splendidly defeated yesterday in the House of Commons.

A Liberal Democrat motion backed by the Conservatives and 27 Labour MPs was supported by a vote of 267 to 246. It offered all Gurkhas equal right of residence, which the Government had wanted to restrict. David Cameron later commented that "Today is a historic day where Parliament took the right decision ... The government now has got to come back with immediate proposals so that the Gurkhas can have an answer."  

During the debate, Michael Howard made an impassioned speech:

"The 2nd Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles is based at Shorncliffe, in my constituency. In a bitter irony, soldiers from that battalion returned to Shorncliffe on Sunday 19 April, 10 days ago—just five days before the Government made their announcement—from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. It was a tour of duty in which, yet again, they demonstrated their heroism and valour, and during which they lost two of their comrades. On Tuesday 4 November, Rifleman Yubraj Rai received a gunshot wound from enemy fire. He received medical treatment at the scene but he died a short time later from his wounds. Only a few days later, on Saturday 15 November, Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura was taking part in a road move in the Musa Qala district of Helmand, when the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle in which he was travelling was struck by an explosive device.

Those Gurkha soldiers made the supreme sacrifice for our country. When they died, the Prime Minister told the House that we should never forget the sacrifice that they had made, just as he did some three hours ago in respect of the death of the Welsh Guardsman who lost his life yesterday. However, those words must be accompanied by deeds.

Continue reading "Government deservedly loses Commons vote on Gurkhas" »

28 Apr 2009 12:55:26

Lord Tebbit on the cost of illegal immigration

Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit, who is always good value, has asked an interesting written question:

"To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 30 March (WA 191) concerning the average cost of deporting an illegal immigrant, what is the cost of not deporting illegal immigrants. [HL2953]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): While research into the costs of illegal migration has been undertaken, this has been conducted with the aim of making general assessments on the impact of such migration, rather than producing definitive financial figures.

The two most relevant recent studies are the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs regarding the economic and fiscal impact of migration which was published in October 2007 and a Home Office research paper entitled Migration: an Economic and Social Analysis which was published in 2001 and is available on the Home Office website."

Here is the original question, from Lord Roberts of Llandudno:

"To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average cost of deporting an illegal immigrant. [HL2120]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): It is not possible to provide a comprehensive figure for the average cost of a removal or deportation because there are many different factors which may or may not be involved in the cost of a case, such as detention costs, travel costs and the cost of escorting the individual in question. We are unable to disaggregate the specific costs, and any attempt to do so would incur disproportionate cost. However, the National Audit Office (NAO) gives a breakdown of the cost of typical asylum cases in 2007-08 in part four of its report The Home Office: Management of Asylum Applications by the UK Border Agency, which was published on 23 January 2009.

The table on page 36 of the report sets out 12 typical profiles and the lower- to upper-end estimate of costs either excluding or including accommodation and support costs. For example, profile four estimates the cost of a case resulting in the enforced removal of a single, undetained adult after he or she has exhausted their appeal rights as being between £7,900 and £17,000 excluding accommodation and support or £12,000 and £25,600 including accommodation and support. This report is available to view at the following website at www.nao.org.uk/pubications/0809/management_ of_asylum_appl.aspx. However, the UK Border Agency aims to ensure removals are effected at the lowest available rate subject to operational needs."