Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 1:19 pm, 6th March 2015

My hon. Friend will know that, from time to time, judgments in our courts in relation to prison conditions or other ancillary issues can be used, and argued in courts, to seek to prevent removal. It is important to restate in our regulations that the measure should have parity, in essence to provide certainty and assurance if legal issues are raised by someone seeking to delay, defer or frustrate their removal on the grounds that, in some way, the conditions on the ground in another EEA member state should prevent them from being removed.

I come back to the issues I touched on at the outset of my contribution on ensuring that we have a system that joins up, so that we have that sense that it deals with all the matters at hand in preventing people who have a criminal record from coming to this country in the first place. I have highlighted the introduction of the second generation Schengen information system, which will give us access to 35,000 alerts for people wanted for crimes within the EU. We will stop and arrest people at the border before they enter the UK and commit further crimes. That is the ability that the new Schengen information system gives us.

I should remind Jack Dromey, who speaks for the Opposition, of the Government’s commitment and focus. We introduced the second generation Schengen information system. It is not about a delay or deferral on the basis of political aspirations or focus, as he suggested. We have had to invest in and work through significant technical and other system issues with the relevant agencies at EU level. We have shown that focus for many years. We have ensured that investment to ensure that we can join the second generation Schengen information system from April and have the benefits of it. That is why we have focused on seeing that that happens.

Our ability to access information on overseas convictions is also significantly improving. Under this Government, checks on foreign nationals going through the criminal justice system have increased by more than 700%, including more than 72,000 since April 2014 by the Association of Chief Police Officers criminal records office. The figure in January alone was 11,745. With the increasing use of the European criminal records information system, those figures will continue to rise. In the last financial year, checks were made on around 30% of foreign nationals arrested. We aim to double that to 60% by the end of this financial year. From November 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service has mandated 100% checks. By the end of January, the, ACPO criminal records office estimates that it was checking around 67% of foreign nationals arrested nationally.