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Prisons and Courts Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:37 pm on 20th March 2017.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 7:37 pm, 20th March 2017

I am glad to see my neighbour the Secretary of State nodding.

I find it extremely worrying that of our prison population of 84,307—as at last week—just under 10,000 are foreign prisoners. I have not done the maths, but I think that is around 15% or 16%. Some of them are of course European, so there is a problem with ensuring that they are deported, because we have to have arrangements in place and that does not normally happen across Europe. There are, though, prisoners from countries including Albania, Jamaica, Pakistan, India, Somalia—unfortunately —and Nigeria. Roughly 3.5% of all foreign prisoners come from Nigeria, and a staggering 5.3% come from Jamaica. The prisons Minister and his team of officials really must try to do more to grip the problem. Why are better, reciprocal arrangements not in place? Why are we not working with the Jamaican and Nigerian Governments to, for example, use Department for International Development money to improve their prisons? Why are we not doing the same in Somalia? As far as I understand it, the new Government there have complete control of most of the urban areas and most of the prisons, so surely something could be done.

I shall conclude in a moment; I was going to say something about the courts, but a lot of colleagues are waiting to speak. I was keen to get the key points across, and additional points can be discussed in Committee and on Report. I find it heartening that the Bill commands a great deal of consensus among all parties and that, although the Government’s energy over the next few months—indeed, perhaps two years—is going to be focused on Brexit and all the challenging negotiations that will go with it, they still have time to stand true to their reforming zeal and introduce an important Bill. I congratulate the Secretary of State and her team. Let us hope that a really good Bill can be made better still in Committee.