In my first speech to the House as a Member of Parliament, I said that I wanted to be able to speak on behalf of those whose voices were small and might not be heard. In this debate, I want to speak up on behalf of the women who are detained at the Yarl’s Wood removal centre, which is on the outskirts of my constituency. Those women have to deal every day with a sense of despair, a sense of uncertainty about their future and, most crushingly, a sense of disbelief about all the encounters that they have, because from the point of view of the state they have no right to be here.
It was inspirational of Sarah Teather to set up this inquiry, and I am so grateful to her for the work that she put into it and for enabling me to be part of the review that we are debating today. In my view, it is also a great benefit to us that the Minister for Immigration, my right hon. Friend James Brokenshire is responsible for immigration issues, including detention. It is fair to say that he has inherited a mess when it comes to the use of detention. This goes all the way back to the 1970s, when the process of administrative detention was put in place. That led to a massive growth in the detention estate and introduced the principle of indefinite detention, and has led us to incarcerating children again. Those are the results of the way in which policy on the detention of people who have no right to be here has evolved over the past 30 or 40 years, and it is entirely correct that Parliament, ahead of any Home Office review, should express a demand for change by the Government.
We know that the current system is a mess not only because the Home Office is undertaking a review of the extension of the detention estate but because it has set up the Shaw review of the healthcare and wellbeing of people in the detention system. One of the administrators of the system, Serco, is carrying out its own review under Kate Lampard into the role of immigration detention and the quality of the services provided to the people in Yarl’s Wood. Her Majesty’s inspector of prisons has said that Yarl’s Wood is a place of “national concern” and the independent monitoring board of the detention estate has expressed concern not just about the practice of immigration detention but about the policy, which is the direct responsibility of this Government.
It is almost beyond question that the current process of immigration detention is costly, ineffective and too often unjust for too many of the people involved. How on earth can I justify to my taxpayers the expenditure of £100 a night to incarcerate someone in a prison, only then to put them back where they came from in the first place? How can the Minister defend a policy that results in 50% of the people who are put into detention centres being put straight back into the community rather than being removed? Why on earth will he not take the advice of the all-party parliamentary groups and look into the proposed alternative case management systems, which would offer a lower-cost solution for the taxpayer?