Foreign National Prisoners

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 13th November 2012.

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Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent 11:30 am, 13th November 2012

How many foreign national prisoners were repatriated to their home country to serve their custodial sentence in 2011.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The simple answer is “Not nearly enough.” In 2011, 32 foreign national prisoners and one British national were sent to other countries to serve their sentences. The number of prisoners being repatriated is still unacceptably small, as it has been for a number of years under both Governments. I am not satisfied with that, and I am determined to push the numbers up, but the House should be aware that this is a difficult issue. We need the collaboration of other countries, and we are working hard to secure it.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

What a dismal record. Back in November 2010, the Prime Minister said that he would “personally” lead a new drive to remove foreign prisoners. Given that the number repatriated in 2011 was just a third of the number in Labour’s last year in government, is this not yet another illustration of a Prime Minister who over-promises but under-delivers?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I will not take any lectures from a party that was responsible for the levels of immigration to this country that we have seen over the past decade. There are now fewer foreign nationals in our prisons than was the case under Labour. I intend to continue the drive both to deport people when they have finished their sentences, and to deport them through prisoner transfer agreements as soon as we possibly can.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Will my right hon. Friend make it a departmental priority to negotiate compulsory prisoner transfer agreements with Commonwealth member countries, especially Nigeria and Jamaica, which seem to be the source of most of the foreign national offenders in our prisons?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I can give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance to that effect. The prisons Minister—my hon. Friend Jeremy Wright—and I have met our Jamaican counterparts during the last few weeks. We are focusing our efforts to negotiate compulsory transfer agreements on the countries where the problem is greatest. Of course, what we inherited from the previous Government were voluntary agreements, which, as we all know, have a limited effect.