Foreign National Offenders

International Development – in the House of Commons on 6th June 2019.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

If he will allocate funding from the international aid budget to build prisons in recipient countries to facilitate the return of foreign national offenders to prisons in their home countries.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The UK aid budget is already building the capacity of security and justice institutions in developing countries. That includes support for improved prison conditions, which can facilitate the return of foreign national offenders. Since 2010, we have removed more than 48,000 FNOs from the UK, with over 5,000 removed in 2018-19.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

We spend almost £1 billion a year on incarcerating more than 9,000 foreign national offenders in our prisons, many from developing countries to which we already give international assistance. Given that it is far cheaper to build a prison to requisite standards in those countries than here, does it not make sense to use our international aid budget to send these people home, using the funds from the Department for International Development?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I am advised that the Minister of State has just been elevated to the Privy Council. I congratulate him on that and wish him well, and I am sure the House will want to join me in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend Mr Hollobone knows very well that official development assistance is dispersible only in accordance with the rules set out by the OECD. There is a good argument for building prisons, in order to remove prisoners from the UK. However, ODA funds could not be used for such a purpose, since the primary intention of ODA funds is to render assistance. I would suggest very strongly that my hon. Friend speaks to our right hon. and hon. colleagues in the Home Office and the Department of Justice.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

That is quite a helpful answer. Supporting the justice systems in developing countries is hugely important, but we should not make any move towards the notion of tied aid or a quid pro quo, such as was suggested in the substantive question; that would be worrying. Will the Minister make it clear that that is not a policy of the Department for International Development?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

It is not a question of that not being a DFID policy; such a thing would be proscribed by the OECD and its development advisory committee. The proposal by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering has merit, but it would not be proper for international development funds to be used for such a thing, and if we did so, it would not count towards the 0.7% to which we are committed.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

When I was in the Minister’s position, I refused Foreign Office requests—indeed, instructions—to build a prison on Pitcairn to accommodate one prisoner. Will he assure me that he will not cave in?