I congratulate Paul Blomfield, and my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and for Bedford (Richard Fuller) on securing today’s debate on the report of the joint inquiry by the all-party group on refugees and the all-party group on migration into the use of immigration detention in the UK. I am aware that all three of them, as well as others who have contributed to this debate, were part of the panel that produced this report, and I thank them and their fellow panel members for their work. The report raises interesting points on an extremely important issue, which we have examined and continue to examine carefully. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I also want to place on the record my thanks to Sarah Teather, who chaired the panel and did some extremely important work. This was certainly a topic on which she was very impassioned, and remains so to this day.
This debate has highlighted the fact that immigration detention remains an important and emotive subject. Depriving an individual of their liberty is one of the most serious acts a state can take. The decision to detain should never be taken lightly and, once the decision has been taken, it is incumbent on the state to take proper steps to safeguard the health and welfare of those in detention. I always stress that those detained should be shown respect and dignity. This has certainly been an area of particular focus for me since I became the Minister for Immigration last year. I have visited a number of immigration removal centres; indeed my first visit this Parliament was to Yarl’s Wood, and last week I was over at Heathrow seeing the two immigration centres there. The issue will command a continuing focus, on the part of not only the House, but Home Office Ministers.
The Home Office uses immigration powers of detention to prevent unauthorised entry to the UK or to effect the removal from the UK of people who have no right to be here. A lot of the debate has highlighted asylum, but IRCs deal with many broader matters, including foreign national offenders and cases where people have overstayed and are abusing their right to be in this country. It is therefore a complex picture, but it is important that we discuss these points in the way we all have during today’s debate.