Home Office Restructuring

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:31 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of John Reid John Reid Home Secretary, The Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:31 am, 29th March 2007

In the past few years, the world and the challenges to which the Government and the Home Office have had to respond have changed dramatically. This morning, we have refocused the Home Office towards the realities of today's world and the priorities of today's people. Managing migration and immigration, fighting crime and countering terrorism are now of the highest concern to people in this country.

Since the end of the cold war, we have faced a torrent of new challenges: in particular, mass migration, international crime and international terrorism. It is my responsibility as Home Secretary to ensure a response to those challenges that measures up to their extent, scale and character. That is why I have pursued challenging reform programmes across almost all aspects of the Home Office.

The House will be aware of measures introduced to improve the National Offender Management Service, to acquire 8,000 more prison places, to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the victim, to roll out neighbourhood and community policing, to develop the Respect agenda and to tackle antisocial behaviour. In addition, I have introduced measures to ensure the fair and more effective management of immigration, and the movement of the immigration and nationality directorate towards agency status. All those reforms will continue.

In addition, however, in the wake of last August's alleged terrorist plot, the Prime Minister asked me to conduct a review of counter-terrorism, involving the appropriate Ministers and Departments, as well as the police and security agencies. Arising out of that review, the Prime Minister has today decided to make changes to the machinery of government. The House will be aware of his written statement laid earlier today. The changes outlined there are aimed at producing a step change in our approach to managing the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and to winning the central battle, which is the struggle for values and ideas.

Among other changes—which I will not outline in detail, as they have already been outlined in the written ministerial statement—we will create a more coherent ministerial committee system for oversight, establish strategic capacity for the longer term, integrate better our joint effort, and establish the capacity to engage in the struggle for ideas and values. We will do that partly by establishing a new unit, the office for security and counter-terrorism, in my Department.

I should make it plain that no portfolios—no responsibilities—will be taken from existing Departments. There will be no change in the lead Department responsibility for any of the agencies. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will of course continue to lead on all aspects of foreign affairs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government similarly will retain her responsibilities in the prevent strand of the CONTEST framework and community engagement. Obviously, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will lead on matters relating to the armed forces and wider defence operations.

However, the changes outlined today will add capacity to that which is already engaged in the formulation and carrying through of our security and counter-terrorism policy. It will develop a more strategic, inclusive, integrated and capable response to the current threat. Along with the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour, the Home Office will be refocused towards the challenges of today's world and will focus on the priorities of today's people.

As a result of those refocused and extended capabilities, and the extended attention of ministerial oversight of those exponentially growing challenges, the Home Office, as is appropriate, should shed some responsibilities. Those will be merged with the Department for Constitutional Affairs in a coherent way to form a balanced reformulation of the machinery of government by creating a ministry of justice. The Lord Chancellor will be giving more details of that in another place.

As I said, we are refocusing the Home Office, not for the first time in its history, towards the realities of today's world and the priorities of today's people. I commend those changes to the House.