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I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the immediate repatriation of foreign nationals awarded a custodial sentence to serve detention in their country of origin;
and for connected purposes.
In moving the motion, I would like to welcome to his place the Prisons Minister, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Mr Blunt. I am also delighted to see next to him members of the Treasury team-my hon. Friends the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury-who I am sure will be thrilled to know that my Bill, if enacted in full, would save Her Majesty's Exchequer some £460 million a year, which I am sure would be a welcome contribution to reducing our nation's record deficit.
The situation regarding foreign nationals in prison in our country is a national disgrace. There are 11,367 foreign nationals currently serving time in Britain's jails-some 13% of the prison total-and the number has almost trebled in the past 15 years, up from just 4,000 in June 1995. Two of Her Majesty's prisons are devoted entirely to housing foreign national prisoners: HMP Canterbury and HMP Bullwood Hall. Indeed, we have the privilege of having foreign national prisoners from some 160 different countries serving time at Her Majesty's pleasure. We have become, in many respects, the United Nations of crime. My Bill would save a huge amount of money for the British taxpayer and free up valuable space in our prison estate, which is basically full, but it would also enable Her Majesty's Government to rehabilitate better our own prisoners who are serving time in jail.
Typically, foreign national prisoners spend between eight and 10 months in Britain's jails. One third have been convicted of violent or sexual offences, while one fifth have been convicted for drug crimes. Although 160 different countries are represented, 10 countries account for half the total, and five countries account for one third. The top five in the list of shame are as follows: Jamaica, with 963 prisoners; Nigeria with 752; the Republic of Ireland with 647; Vietnam with 620; and Poland with 617. Those five countries alone are contributing 3,600 prisoners.
There has been legislation on this matter in recent years. The Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 enabled Her Majesty's Government to negotiate voluntary transfer agreements with countries around the world, but unsurprisingly, not many prisoners volunteered to be returned to their country of origin. In 2006, the previous Government amended the Act to enable compulsory transfer agreements to be introduced. In 2008 a system was introduced for prisoners serving more than 12 months to be automatically deported to their country of origin at the end of their sentence.
My Bill would enable Her Majesty's Government to transfer foreign national prisoners back to secure detention in their own countries without their consent. I do not see why the British taxpayer should pay the bill for the housing and lodging of foreign nationals who have abused our trust by committing crimes so heinous that they have been jailed in this country. I believe that their own countries of origin should pick up the bill.
Nigeria, which is second on the list, with 752 foreign nationals in our jails, is seeking to conclude a compulsory transfer agreement with the United Kingdom, and I understand that that legislation is now before the Nigerian National Assembly. Indeed, it has been in that position since 2007. I should like politely to suggest that Nigeria be encouraged to get a move on. It has not escaped my notice that, while we British taxpayers are paying £30 million for incarcerating Nigeria's foreign nationals in our jails, we are at the same time giving that country £132 million annually in development aid. Now, fair's fair-if we are going to contribute to the development of that nation, it ought to be mindful of the extra costs that we are bearing by incarcerating its prisoners in our country. Nigeria, Jamaica and other countries on the list are Commonwealth countries, so there should be no suggestion that returning people to those countries would result in their being badly treated.
An additional protocol to the Council of Europe's convention on the transfer of sentenced persons, which Her Majesty's Government signed in November 2009, allows for the compulsory transfer of sentenced persons back to their country of origin among the 35 signatory countries, including all of the European Union. That would cover some 3,100 foreign national prisoners, or 28% of our foreign national prison population. The list of shame covered by this agreement is headed by the Republic of Ireland with 647 prisoners, Poland with 617, Romania with 357, Lithuania with 330 and France with 163.
My message to the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, who has done an excellent job in his first few weeks as prisons Minister, is that we should gently encourage our European partners to abide by the terms of the additional protocol and ensure that facilities are in place to ensure the swift transfer of foreign national prisoners back to those countries.
Times are hard, and we have heard from the Opposition that our country has run out of money. The bill that we face every year for the incarceration of foreign nationals in our jails is simply too high, and the time has come for the British taxpayer to say to our friends and neighbours around the world, "If you're going to send us people who behave so badly that they're found guilty of crimes serious enough for them to be sent to jail, fair's fair, you must take your citizens back to their own country and make sure that they serve time in secure detention there." That would rehabilitate them better, among their friends and family, and it would free up our prison space so that we could rehabilitate better our own nationals who have strayed away from the right path of the law. It would save us a lot of money and do the right thing. I very much hope that the message is being received loud and clear by those in authority both in our country and among our friends and neighbours abroad.
Question put and agreed to .
That Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr David Davis, Mr Peter Bone, Mr Julian Brazier, Andrew Rosindell, Mr David Nuttall, Mr Andrew Turner, Patrick Mercer, Mike Freer, Bob Stewart, Priti Patel and Gordon Henderson present the Bill.
Mr Philip Hollobone accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on