Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6 July 2015.

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Photo of Douglas Carswell Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton 2:30, 6 July 2015

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As was indicated earlier, tomorrow we will mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 7 July 2005. It was indeed a dark day in this country’s history, when ordinary people just going about their daily lives, many of them on their way to work, were cruelly and despicably attacked. Fifty-two people were killed and many hundreds more were injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who died and those who still live with the consequences of that terrible day.

Since 7/7, the terrorist threat has continued to evolve, and it is serious. Last year the joint terrorism analysis centre raised the threat to the UK to severe, meaning that an attack on the United Kingdom is highly likely. Recently we of course saw another despicable attack, in Tunisia, where 38 people, including 30 British nationals, lost their lives—the largest loss of British lives to terrorism since 7/7.

The Government are clear: we must fight the threat we face on every front with everything we have. We are working to counter the wider extremism, which may not be violent in its nature, but which we believe can play a part in feeding and sanctioning narratives that inspire acts of terrorism. We must form a partnership with communities and organisations to promote the fundamental values that unite us and confront the pernicious ideology that seeks to divide us. That is why, as I indicated earlier, we will introduce a new counter-extremism strategy to protect people and communities, and ensure that we work to defeat extremism in all its forms.

Photo of Douglas Carswell Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton

Last year, the number of illegal migrants intercepted by the Port of Dover police increased from 148 to 563. What extra steps are the Government taking to prevent illegal migration?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

In relation to those who try to come across to the United Kingdom clandestinely, we have been improving the security of ports where they have juxtaposed controls such as Calais and, of course, Coquelles. We are also looking at questions of security around our ports here in the UK. I would like to pay tribute to the work of Border Force officers and the police in ensuring that the number of clandestines is and has been identified.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Can the Security Minister reassure me that the police and the intelligence services will have new powers to stay ahead of extremist groups and individuals, not least in terms of technology?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Yes, I can. The principles and practices of our enemies may often be barbarically archaic, but the methodology they use is up to the minute. It is vital that we match that with the resources, the techniques and the skills for our security services to counter those threats.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I join the Home Secretary in remembering the victims of the attack 10 years ago. It was a heinous crime, which will live with people right up to today and beyond.

It is now over nine months since the migrant crisis started at Calais, and things are not getting any better for travellers, hauliers, the people of Calais or, indeed, for those individuals who have been trafficked there. Given the situation and recent concerns in the town of Calais, will the Home Secretary or her Minister confirm now what steps she has taken with the French Government to assess, identify and agree with the French authorities either asylum refugee claims or removal at the border? What steps is she taking to ensure that we improve security in France for UK citizens travelling through the Pas-de-Calais to the port?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

The Government have taken a number of measures to enhance security. The Home Secretary had discussions with her opposite number, Bernard Cazeneuve, last week on this specific element. We have invested £12 million into Calais and are looking at providing enhanced fencing at Coquelles in order to see the speeding up of freight and other traffic through both those points. We saw the appalling situation last week of industrial action being taken in France, which compounded the issues, which is why we are working continuously with our French counterparts. They are deploying more police resourcing and Border Force has deployed to Calais and Coquelles as well to enhance screening and assure our security.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Can the Home Secretary give reassurances that in respect of our plans to increase online surveillance powers for the police and security services, the public will not, as many fear, lose their right to their own privacy?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can reassure my hon. Friend that, as I indicated in response to my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, we will introduce a draft investigatory powers Bill later this year which will ensure that law enforcement and security agencies have up-to-date powers available to them within the right legal framework, which will respect the need both to provide security and for privacy. I do not see privacy and security as a zero-sum game, as we can enjoy our privacy only if we have our security.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

I have written to the Home Secretary about the risk of fraudulent use of internet wills. I have encountered one such case in my constituency. Fraud is a criminal matter, not a civil matter, but the police seem to be turning their back on that case. Will the Home Secretary look into the issue of internet wills and their use?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue. We are already looking into it. The practice is taking place across the country, and we do not know the exact extent of it, but we will, I hope, work together to eliminate this horrible crime.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

As we heard earlier, the new Prevent duties were introduced last week. Will the Security Minister update the House on how the legislation will be used to identify and eliminate extremism?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Governments have their part to play in delivering the national interest and the common good, but don’t we all? It is vital for communities themselves to play a part, and public services too. The organisations that we have asked to do their bit in respect of their new duties—including prisons, schools, colleges, health authorities and local authorities—already have a duty of care, including pastoral care. They are very well placed to identify radicalism, protect vulnerable people, and secure our national wellbeing and national interest.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Earlier, Ministers were selective about positive crime statistics. What has the Home Secretary got to say about the 32% increase in sexual exploitation and sexual offences, which is a really serious matter? Will she tell us what plans she has to involve the perpetrators in the criminal justice system?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We can only bring these abhorrent people to justice if their crimes are reported. There is clearly more confidence now than ever before about coming forward to report both historic crimes and crimes that are taking place today. As I said earlier, that will affect the figures, but I think it is a positive development, and I think we should be very pleased that people have that confidence.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

Many UK haulage firms are being caught up in the terrible events in Calais, including Kersey Freight, which is based in Hadleigh, in my constituency. Drivers have been intimidated, and they are now starting to suffer financially as a result of the crisis. May I urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to do all that she can to support our haulage companies in these challenging times?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the pressures on hauliers who are seeking to facilitate trade between the United Kingdom and Europe, and the challenges that they have been facing. We have been working closely with the haulage industry, and last week I had three separate meetings with representatives of different parts of it. We are making sure that hauliers are being given the best information, and we are also working with the French authorities to ensure that the area is policed and the security that our hauliers expect is being delivered.

Photo of Natalie McGarry Natalie McGarry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities)

In June 2012, the United Kingdom Government signed up to the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Will the Minister tell us why, three years later, organisations such as Women’s Aid are criticising the Government for not taking further action?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady will know that primary legislation is necessary if we are to comply with all the articles in the Istanbul convention, including article 44, which concerns extra-territoriality. We are negotiating with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we can introduce such legislation. I should add that the Government comply with everything else in the convention. We have criminalised forced marriage, for example, and we have taken steps to deal with female genital mutilation. We have done more than any previous Government, but we do not ratify conventions until we are absolutely certain that we comply fully with them.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

The policy of European Governments on migrants is weak, and because it is weak, it is cruel, encouraging traffickers to bring more and more of them in. What action is the Home Secretary taking to enforce the Dublin convention, whereby migrants are returned to the place where they first entered the European Union? That is happening in only 3% of cases. What is she doing to enforce the traditional law of the sea whereby people are picked up in a humane way, looked after, and returned to where they came from?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

My hon. Friend has made an important point about the established principle enshrined in the Dublin regulation that those in need of protection should seek asylum in the first safe country that they enter. Since 2003, when the regulation came into force, it has allowed us to transfer more than 12,000 asylum seekers from the UK to other European states. As for the point that he rightly made about organised criminality, we have established a new taskforce to ensure that we have the best intelligence so that we can pursue traffickers, who seem to see people as some sort of commodity that they can trade, with all the risks and loss of life that that can bring.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

Does the Home Secretary share my concern about the wellbeing of women survivors of domestic violence, many of whom have been denied legal aid and are then repeatedly brought back to court by their former partners because they are not represented by skilled advocates?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I take the treatment of victims and survivors incredibly seriously, as do my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. We are determined that victims will have their voice heard, that they will be listened to, and that they will be treated with dignity. That is why we have introduced 144 independent domestic violence advocates, stationed at police stations and custody cells to make sure that victims get the respect and dignity they deserve.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

On the occasion of her visit to the Eastbourne and Willingdon constituency, I was very pleased to show the Home Secretary the new partnership-working between local officers at the borough council and local police officers; that is shared space, partnership-working which is really delivering for local people because of the ease with which communications can be shared. I am very pleased to say that that also extends to elected Members, having just received a call from the district commander about this. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such partnership-working, neighbourhood policing rooted in the community and working with agencies is a successful model?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Eastbourne is setting the right trend around the country, and I know the Home Secretary was very impressed when she visited the local authority. That is exactly the sort of way in which we can save money by cutting backroom costs, while also working better together than apart.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP, South Antrim

Northern Ireland relies a great deal on nurses from throughout the world to be able to have an efficient health service.

The rule that an individual must earn £35,000 before they can stay will damage our health service. Will the Minister allow flexibility or change the immigration ruling for Northern Ireland?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I am happy to look into those specific points and write to the hon. Gentleman, but we take advice on this from the Migration Advisory Committee which looks at this independently, setting the figures and assessing the information, so as to inform us in making our determinations.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Conservative, Saffron Walden

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the rising number of complaints about excessive waits in the EU entry channels at Stansted, causing the airport to slip to the bottom of the airport service quality scores in the last 12 months? Can he tell me what steps he might take to help the airport operator overcome this problem?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I highlight to my right hon. Friend that the vast majority of legitimate passengers pass through the border control at Stansted quickly, and Border Force is increasing staff numbers at Stansted, maximising the use of e-passport gates and improving its approach to staff rostering. I can also say to him that I will be meeting Manchester Airports Group, the operators of Stansted, next week, when no doubt we will be able to go into this in more detail.

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the register of interests. Given that many commercial drivers coming in through Calais are now not checking the loads as they come through because they fear they might be attacked, what guidance has the Minister given to police and border agencies on the UK side to deal with commercial drivers who have allowed somebody to come through, or will he at least review the situation?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I know the hon. Gentleman has taken a close interest in this matter for some time. There is clear guidance. It was one of the issues that came up in my meetings last week. Our accreditation scheme sets out in clear terms those hauliers that are part of it and the guidance that is in place, but we will certainly continue to look at what more can be done.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Conservative, Selby and Ainsty

Tens of thousands of mobile phones are reported stolen every year when the reality is that many of them are lost by the owners, particularly in licensed premises. Will the Minister look at changing the crime status of the loss of mobile phones in licensed premises, because registering these phone losses as serious crimes can have a serious impact on the night-time economy and visitors, particularly when it comes to licensing?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I will take a close interest in what goes on in pubs and what gets lost in pubs and nightclubs and report back.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office)

I am alarmed at the effect this Government’s immigration policy is having on young married couples like my constituents Kudzai and Merai Mupunga, who are being denied their basic human right to a family life. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss the impact of the minimum income threshold on them and many others?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

The minimum income threshold was set with specific advice from the Migration Advisory Committee and has been upheld by the courts, and that is the basis on which we will continue to operate it.