Foreign National Offender Removal Flights

– in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 18th May 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 12:39 pm, 18th May 2022

Foreign criminals who abuse our hospitality by committing serious and violent crimes such as murder and rape should be in no doubt of this Government’s determination to deport them. The British people have shown repeatedly at the ballot box that they want an immigration system that is firm and fair. Our new plan for immigration, underpinned by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, is the first major reform of the system in decades. With that Act now law, we are getting on with the job and operationalising the plan.

It is this Conservative Government who are delivering on the will of the British people. Making our streets safer is our priority. That is why we introduced the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, giving the police the powers they need to crack down on violent criminals. It is also why, despite the challenges of covid, we stepped up the removal of criminals who have no right to be here. Since January 2019, over 10,000 foreign national offenders have been removed from the United Kingdom. In the last month alone, flights have left to Albania, Romania, Poland and Lithuania and now, this morning, to Jamaica—a flight I expect to land while I am on my feet.

It was under a Labour Government that the UK Borders Act 2007 was introduced and passed requiring a deportation order to be made where a foreign national has been convicted of an offence in the UK and sentenced to 12 months or more, unless an exception applies. We apply that law, but it is Labour MPs who now howl, time and again imploring us to halt the removal of dangerous foreign criminals from our streets with letters, questions to Parliament and campaigns on Twitter. We have even seen members of the shadow Cabinet defending criminals, with no consideration for the victims or their loved ones. Too often, Opposition MPs are ignoring the law-abiding majority and, by extension, standing on the side of criminals, including paedophiles, murderers and rapists.

Let me set out some facts of the flight that departed this morning, because I know this is of real interest to many Members of this House. First, the offences committed by individuals on the flight include rape of a minor, sexual assault against children, firearms offences, dealing and importing controlled drugs, and other violent crimes such as actual bodily harm. Between them, these individuals had a combined total of 58 convictions for 127 offences. These are extremely serious offences, which have a real and lasting impact on victims and communities. They are not minor matters, as some would have people believe.

Secondly, the flight to Jamaica makes up just 1% of total enforced returns in the year ending September 2021. Criminals who have no right to be in the United Kingdom are regularly removed to countries across the world, and we will continue to do this to keep our citizens safe. Public safety is non-negotiable. However, many more criminals could have left the UK today. What we have seen over the last 24 hours is more last-minute claims facilitated by specialist immigration law firms, as well as representations from Opposition MPs to prevent this flight from leaving.

It is no surprise that the Opposition voted against our Nationality and Borders Bill precisely because it seeks to address the merry-go-round of last-minute claims and to speed up the removal of dangerous criminals. Labour Members fought tooth and nail to prevent that Bill from becoming law, and votes have consequences. Convicted criminals guilty of heinous crimes, including manslaughter, rape, robbery, child sex offences, drug offences and violent crime, and persistent offenders remain in our country; had the legislation been passed more quickly, with Opposition support, those individuals might have been removed from the UK today. They remain here, and it is a stain on our country that they do. However, I assure the British people that we are taking action, and things are changing as we get on with delivering our reforms.

I make no apology for removing criminals who have abused our hospitality, broken our laws, and have no right to be here. I make no apology for doing everything in my power to make our streets safer and stand on the side of actual victims. We stand with the British people. It is time that the Opposition tried that as well.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 12:44 pm, 18th May 2022

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement.

The first duty of the British Government is to keep the British people safe, and the Home Office has a responsibility to make sure that rules are fairly enforced, but Ministers are failing to do so and they are blaming everyone else for their failings. The Home Office must deport dangerous foreign criminals who have no right to be in our country and who should be returned to the country of their citizenship, which is precisely why the last Labour Government introduced stronger laws to that effect. The Home Office also has a responsibility to get its deportation decisions right. As the Government have themselves admitted, during the Windrush scandal the Home Office made grave errors in both detention and deportation decisions, and it is currently failing on all counts.

The Opposition are committed to the principles of an immigration system that is firm, fair and well managed. First and foremost, it is deeply troubling that a number of expert reports over recent years have pointed to how Home Office failures have resulted in fewer foreign criminals being deported than should be the case. Indeed, in 2015, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration stated that one in three failures to deport foreign criminals was a result of Home Office failure. Fast-forward to 2022, and the latest immigration figures show that the Home Office is still failing miserably in this regard.

Under the current Prime Minister and Home Secretary, there has been a stark decline in the number of foreign national offenders being returned and deported. In the year ending September 2021, 2,732 foreign national offenders were returned from the UK—20% fewer than the previous year and 47% fewer than in 2019, the year before the pandemic began. Foreign national offender returns had already fallen to 5,128 in 2019. Even more staggering is the fact that, according to a 2019 Public Accounts Committee report, the Home Office had to release six in every 10 migrant detainees whom the Department wanted to deport, and it simply could not explain why this was happening.

The PAC also raised concerns about the need for earlier and better legal advice, which would make it more likely that decisions were accurate and robust, rather than being overturned due to poor decisions later in the process. The Minister will know that the Windrush report identified “low-quality decision-making” and an “irrational…approach to individuals”, and the follow-up report stated that

“there are many examples where the department has not made progress…at all” on this matter. The level of sheer incompetence is not only a threat to our security; it ultimately erodes the confidence of the British public and foreign nationals alike, because the system fails to fulfil the basic crucial principles of being firm, fair and well managed. The Minister refers to rape, but it is this Government who have presided over rape prosecutions falling to a shameful 1.3%.

The Home Office needs to get this right, but the Minister’s statement was long on bluff and bluster but contained absolutely no substance whatsoever. Perhaps he could therefore answer the following questions: how many foreign offenders have absconded in the last 12 months? What specific steps have been taken to learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal to ensure that this shameful episode is never repeated? Does the Home Office actually have a plan that will address the currently shambolic nature of the deportation system?

The British people deserve better than this. Rather than coming to the Dispatch Box to engage in a frankly rather childish and petulant rant, based on the blame game and finger pointing, the Minister should instead be coming to this Chamber to set out what the Government are actually going to do to fix this broken system.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for his contribution, but let me deal with some facts in responding to it. First, I can be very clear for the House’s benefit that more than 10,000 foreign national offenders have been removed from our country since 2019. [Interruption.] Opposition Members are making lots of gestures, but one thing they will recognise, I am sure, is that we have had a pandemic during the last two years, and I think all Members probably realise and recognise the impact that that has had on business as usual in the returns and deportation space. I can also confirm for the House that the vast majority of removals from our country are to European economic area countries, and of course that applies to enforced returns.

The hon. Member mentioned Windrush. This issue is of course completely unrelated to Windrush. None of those being returned are British citizens or nationals, or members of the Windrush generation. Each person’s return is considered on its individual merits and carefully assessed against a background of relevant case law and in the light of published country information, which covers country-specific issues. The case of each person being returned on a charter to Jamaica is referred to the Windrush taskforce, and it is right and proper that that work is done. I can also add—[Interruption.] Well, it is right that this is done properly. Legal aid was also raised. Of course, people can access legal support in detention in the usual way.

The Blair and Brown Governments took an entirely pragmatic and eminently sensible approach to these matters. [Interruption.] Well, I give credit where it is due. Opposition Members criticise, but I will give credit to former Labour Home Secretaries who did the right thing and were committed to ensuring that our laws are upheld, and it is the UK Borders Act 2007 that governs this.

Often, the Opposition talk tough on serious violence, but when they have the opportunity they want, entirely optionally, to let out those who have committed serious violence on our streets, when there are options available to remove them from our country. Labour had the opportunity to change things for the better, but oh no, as always they carp from the sidelines but never have a plan.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

My constituents, and I guess most in the United Kingdom, find it unbelievable that convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles who are foreign national offenders are not returned immediately to their countries. Can the Minister tell us how on earth last-minute appeals can stop people going on flights? Surely we can at least have a cut-off date beyond which no appeals can be made. Maybe he can also tell the House whether he has been on one of these flights and what the atmosphere is like.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour speaks with great authority on these matters, and I know the view that people in Northamptonshire take on this. I have been on a removal flight to Poland a few months ago, which was a useful experience for me to understand the end-to-end process. I am grateful for his support for the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which introduces the one-stop processes and priority removal notices that should enable us to break this cycle of endless dither and delay, and constant appeals and claims, so that those individuals are removed from our country more quickly. His constituents can be assured that we are getting on with delivering this.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I, too, thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement, but I do not thank him either for the fact of the statement, which I agree was completely pointless, or for the overblown rhetoric it contained—rhetoric that I more commonly associate with the Minister’s boss than the Minister, who I have a great deal of respect for.

On that note, my first question is, why can we not try to have a sensible, grown-up discussion about this complex policy area? It is frankly nonsense to speak about “sides”. There is a balance to be struck, and it is our responsibility as legislators to debate that sensibly. It is perfectly legitimate for us to question whether the balance is in the right place or to question the disproportionate impact on some communities. As I have pointed out before, in endless urgent questions and on similar topics, Stephen Shaw, the Government-commissioned independent expert, said that the deportation and removal of people brought up here from a young age was “deeply troubling” and entirely “disproportionate”. Yes, of course many deportations are absolutely justified to protect the public, but it is nonsensical to ignore the fact that some are very cruel, particularly when they relate to people who have lived almost all their lives here and have absolutely no connection to the place they are being deported to.

The Government refuse to acknowledge the fact that these decisions can have profound impacts on the family life of the partners, spouses and children of those being deported, and on others, or that it is legitimate to press the Government on that. So let me try a different argument. If someone has been here since they were in infancy, grew up here, was educated here, commits crime here and is potentially dangerous, why is it fair on the country to which they are deported to have to manage that risk, especially if it is possibly far less equipped to do so, rather than this country, where that person was brought up? The Minister talks about letting people out on to the street, but he is letting people out on the street—just not our streets, but those of another country, with which they have absolutely no connection.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

What we do as a Government is take responsibility for our returns. We live up to our legal obligations in this space, and that is right and proper, and what the British people expect. But we understandably expect other countries around the world to do the same in taking their immigration offenders and those who have committed criminality in this country and are liable to deportation.

I was slightly surprised to hear the hon. Member say that there has been a lack of interest in these matters in the House. There has been quite a lot of interest, in terms of Twitter commentary and parliamentary questions, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that I have received ministerial correspondence. I also know that Members from across the House have had constituency correspondence on this, so there is certainly interest. On a day when we have had another of these flights—it has attracted considerable media attention, as these matters often do—it is right and proper that I am able to come to the Dispatch Box to set out the steps that the Government are taking. Quite often, Ministers are criticised for not coming to the House to set out such measures. I am here today, I am answering questions from across the House, and I am also here to reassure the British people that we have a plan and we are taking action.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

Contrary to the predictable bleating from the Opposition Benches, this is nothing to do with Windrush considerations; the nationality of these individuals is not in question. It is nothing to do with poor prosecution rates; these people have been convicted fairly in a British court. My constituents are sick and tired of this cottage industry of leftie lawyers who are more concerned with keeping serious offenders in the UK than with keeping law-abiding people in the UK safe. Can my hon. Friend tell me the cost of failed deportations, the legal cost of challenges to the UK taxpayer, and the cost of unused tickets for offenders and their chaperones when they are taken off the plane at the last minute—costs that our constituents are having to bear day in, day out?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that there are significant costs associated with these removal operations. As I say, with scheduled flights more readily available in the period ahead relative to the last two years of covid, I hope that it will be easier to facilitate removals from our country more cost-effectively. As a Government, we spend millions of pounds a year dealing with this, but it is right and proper that those with no right to be here and those who commit serious offences on our streets do not remain in the United Kingdom. That is an obligation that we will continue to live up to. As I say, we live up to the requirements of the law on that, as is right and proper, but I will certainly take away my hon. Friend’s wider point and gladly share any information that I can about specific costings.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

We all appreciate the need to remove dangerous foreign criminals who present a genuine crime or security risk to our country and should not be here. However, the Government’s record on removing foreign criminals has not been good, and to the year ending September 2021 it was at an all-time low. Many have absconded before they could be removed. With the current pressure on the Home Office—including 100,000 asylum claims outstanding, delays in processing Ukraine visas, delays in visas for marriage and work, and problems with processing passport applications—can the Minister confirm that the announced cut of 91,000 civil servants will not apply to the Home Office and that it will have the resources it needs to carry out the work it has to do?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am confident that we will have the resources that we need to deal with these issues, but I can absolutely say to the Chairman of the Select Committee that it does not help our day-to-day immigration work in other parts of the business to have to deal with these constant cycles of claims, appeals and deliberate attempts to frustrate removal. I would be absolutely delighted if we could free up resource in the Home Office to focus on processing other, related claims—in the asylum space, for example, or Ukrainian claims or whatever they are. We would be better placed if we could do that. As I have consistently said, the abuses of our immigration system that we have seen and continue to see make it much harder to get on with the day-to-day business and be as generous as we can be. We are generous, but we could be doing more if the system were in a better place.

Photo of Natalie Elphicke Natalie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we speed up deportations and give effect to the new Rwanda agreement without the twists and tricks of those who put their political preference for uncontrolled, open borders above our country’s safety and the safety of those who are considering crossing the channel and putting themselves in the hands of criminal gangs?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is interesting that Ministers are often challenged about our evidence base for wanting to deliver reforms through the new plan for immigration and the Nationality and Borders Act, because the evidence that my hon. Friend points to—she raises these issues consistently—speaks precisely to why the change is necessary and why we are getting on with operationalising the measures in the Act. That work is happening at pace, and we will not waste a moment in bringing that work to fruition.

My hon. Friend is right to recognise the challenges that the current situation is presenting, and I am conscious of the impacts on Dover in particular. She does a tremendous job in raising them with Ministers, and I am keen that we continue that dialogue.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South

I have written to, I think, my third Minister about the case of a person who stabbed a constituent of mine—he wanted to murder her—and is still in the country. If I write to the Minister, will he undertake to look at the case again and ensure that that person is deported so that my constituent can live in peace?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that sensitive issue so constructively. If she shares the details with me, I will gladly look at it. Again, I am determined that the requirements of the Act are upheld, and we as a Government are determined that those with no right to be here should leave our country without delay. Of course, those who have committed serious crimes and are eligible for deportation under the Act should be deported.

Photo of William Wragg William Wragg Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

As my hon. Friend is one of the Ministers in Her Majesty’s Government most able to give a direct answer to a direct question, does he know how many dangerous foreign national offenders were due to be on the deportation flight this morning and, owing to appeals, how many actually left?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee always asks incisive questions of his witnesses, and he asks an incisive question of me. There is a public interest in explaining to the House the situation that we have seen overnight. I can confirm that the manifest originally had 112 individuals on it; in the end, only seven left our country on the flight.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Labour, Sheffield Central

The Minister will know that in November 2020 the Home Secretary and her team negotiated an agreement with the Government of Jamaica not to remove people who came to the UK under the age of 12, because they believed that we had some responsibility for those whose lives were shaped here. Will the Minister confirm whether that agreement is still in place?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

We debated these matters in the Nationality and Borders Public Bill Committee. A person’s age upon arrival to the UK is not an exception to deportation. The length of time that a person has lived in the UK as well as the strength of their social, cultural and family ties are factors that are considered under the article 8 requirements of the immigration rules. Of course, there is ongoing dialogue with all our returns partners and all such matters are discussed as part of those deliberations and discussions.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

The vast majority of the public—and, if truth be known, the vast majority in the House—support what the Minister is doing. The Home Office has a responsibility to keep citizens safe, but does he agree that it also has a responsibility to keep the villagers of Linton-on-Ouse safe, so while it is the right idea, it is entirely the wrong location to put 1,500 young, single men—the vast majority of whom will be law-abiding but some will not—in the middle of a village of 600? Will he look again at the plans and put them on hold until the impact on the community has been properly considered? When the refugee agencies are saying that it is the wrong location, the Home Office must pause, look again and stop the plans completely.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue, which is pertinent to his constituency. I know that he and Members on the Government Benches recognise how important it is that we have a more sustainable accommodation model. We cannot continue to spend about £5 million a day on hotel accommodation in the asylum space. That is not acceptable or sustainable, so we must find solutions to that, including through the accommodation centre model that he is aware of. He raised a number of points and I know that ministerial colleagues in the Department are keen to continue to engage with him and work through those issues.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The Home Office has had the report that it commissioned from Stephen Shaw on immigration detention since 2018. What progress is it making in relation to the implementation of its recommendations?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I will happily write to the right hon. Gentleman with an update on the work that we are doing in detention. Of course, we keep all our facilities, policies and approaches under constant review, reflecting feedback that is received, and I would like to provide him with a full update that touches on all the pertinent and relevant issues, which I cannot do on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire

I very much welcome the statement. A successful deportation programme requires co-operative recipients. Will he name and shame those countries who are not engaging with the Government’s deportation programme—in particular, countries such as Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan—and say what pressure can be brought to bear on them? Will he consider perhaps denying visas to the nationals of those countries until they engage?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My right hon. Friend raised that point eloquently. There is mixed performance in co-operation on removals and deportations from our country. We continue to have constructive discussions with countries around the world about those arrangements. He will also note that, through the Nationality and Borders Act, we have introduced new visa penalty provisions that should help us to drive forward improvements. It is the responsibility of countries around the world to live up to their obligations and accept their returns as the British Government do.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

Deporting extremely vulnerable people when it could lead them to harm, or even their death, is fundamentally wrong. My constituent’s brother has been diagnosed with a severe mental disorder by a consultant psychiatrist. He is in a mental health crisis, and he has attempted suicide. Is the Minister okay to ignore the human rights of extremely vulnerable people in those circumstances?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I remind the hon. Member that we live up to our obligations, as is entirely right and proper, including appropriate human rights law and paying due regard to the UK Borders Act 2007. On the specific issue of vulnerabilities, health and wellbeing is taken into consideration, and proper risk assessments are conducted for all those in scope of removal. It is right that we work through individuals’ circumstances appropriately—[Interruption.]. She can utter that that is not true, but that is a fact.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

It is outrageous that anyone should conflate the Commonwealth citizens who have come and contributed directly to this country with foreign nationals who have been convicted in our courts of the most serious offences. I find that reprehensible. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the backlog for removing dangerous foreign offenders and the numbers of those in prison now who are likely to be deported at the end of their sentences? Can they be escorted from the prison gates to the plane and flown out of here?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend is right to raise the terminology and language used when we debate these issues. It is right that the correct terminology is applied to reflect the relevant circumstances of the individuals and their cases. I give him an absolute assurance that top of my priorities is delivering a quickening of the pace of removing individuals from our country who have no right to be here and deporting foreign criminals. The reforms that we are introducing are pivotal to achieving progress in that regard.

I come at this issue as the victims’ Minister, too. When we meet the victims of serious criminality and hear their stories, it is difficult not to be hugely troubled, and the suffering and pain that they feel is only exacerbated if dangerous individuals are in our country when they simply should not be here.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I believe I heard the Minister right that there was a manifest today with 122 people on it who were to be deported, but that only seven were finally deported. Does that not just point to the incompetence and the problem we have with this Government? How did they get to be on that manifest when they were not ready to be deported?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I should correct the hon. Gentleman. The manifest began with 112 people on it and seven ended up on the flight leaving overnight. I think the question his constituents ought to be asking him is this. He complains about problems in the system. He had an opportunity to vote for the solution and consistently refused to do so.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The SNP spokesman said it may be very cruel to deport these criminals who are paedophiles, murderers and rapists, but what is very cruel is the suffering of the victims and their families, and any future victims and their families. Will my hon. Friend tell me what work he is doing with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that processes start while people are in prison, so they can be deported as soon as possible when their sentence finishes?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My hon. Friend is right to raise that point. It will of course be known to her that I am a Minister who spans both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. I am having discussions with the Minister with responsibility for prisons on what more we can do to ensure that individuals who should not be in our country are no longer here for any longer than is absolutely necessary, and that we create greater awareness around release from prison, and removal and deportation from our country where appropriate for the circumstances of individual cases.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

May I say how disrespectful it is that Conservative Members keep talking about lawyers who are, after all, simply protecting people under the laws of this country? It is childish in the extreme that every time we mention that all we hear is, “Lefty lawyers, lefty lawyers.” Who cares what their politics are? They protect people according to the law. One of the people who was taken off the flight because they were protected by a lawyer has severe learning disabilities. In his original trial the judge said he was not a ringleader but had in fact been dragged into it by the ringleader, so he should be protected. Does the Minister class him as dangerous? Does he think that the lawyer was wrong? Does he think the law was wrong to allow that man to stay here? Will he join me in condemning these childish attacks on a very proud profession?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

As I alluded to in answering an earlier question, there is a proper process in place that checks for vulnerability and ensures that those cases are dealt with appropriately. I, of course, think it is right and proper that people have access to legal advice and, of course, the legal profession and due process are absolutely crucial to ensuring that these matters are handled sensitively, appropriately and correctly in accordance with the law. We cannot continue to have a completely unbalanced situation where we see abuses of the system and we see that behaviour rewarded. I have to say to you, Mr Speaker, that my eyes water when I see some of the case studies that are put in front of me and some of the instances we are dealing with in the system. It is not acceptable. It is not okay. There is a need for action and that is why we are taking the steps we are.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

If the Labour party wishes to make the case as to why convicted foreign national rapists and paedophiles should remain in this country they are very welcome to test drive it in my constituency and elsewhere. Meanwhile, does my hon. Friend agree that, although it is absolutely right and fair since we left the European Union that any foreign national with a sentence of over 12 months will be automatically deported, that does, of course, put the emphasis on the Home Office to make sure that its legal ducks are in a row and that the right people are deported?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

That caseworking side of things is so important in processing these cases, ensuring they are handled as expeditiously as possible and there is not needless delay. That is something I am looking at intensively and that is why we have the new plan for immigration and the reforms we are introducing. As I have said, I constantly have at the forefront of my mind the victims of criminality when reaching decisions and considering cases, and reading the representations that are made. When we talk in this House about serious violence, for example, and there are calls for root and branch action to tackle it, it is impossible to divorce what we are talking about today from the work we are doing more widely in Government to tackle that very harm and that scourge on our society.

Photo of Paulette Hamilton Paulette Hamilton Labour, Birmingham, Erdington

It is believed that young adults who are being deported arrived in the UK as minors. The Home Office and the courts say that there is no such thing as a homegrown criminal, but at present no weight is being placed on rehabilitation. I am about rehabilitation. Does the Minister believe that weight should be placed on rehabilitation, especially for young people who came into this country as minors and made a mistake and committed a crime?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I, too, think there is absolutely a place for rehabilitation within the criminal justice system. That is right and proper, and something I think we all broadly accept across the House, but what we are talking about here is serious criminality that is a scourge on our society and our communities, and causes real harm to real people and real families in the communities we represent. That is front and centre in the decisions we make, and of course we act in accordance with our legal responsibilities under the legislation as it stands. I have to say that I am hearing a sort of orchestra of suggestion that we are getting decisions wrong. We are getting decisions right on these cases. It is the process that is flawed and we are fixing it.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

May I encourage my hon. Friend to come to the Dispatch Box more often, because that was one of the best Government statements we have had in recent times? Residents in the Kettering constituency want foreign national offenders who have committed serious and violent offences to be deported and they will be appalled that, thanks to the intervention of lefty, woke human rights immigration lawyers, 107 of those who should have left our shores this morning remain on British soil. May I urge my hon. Friend to go further and faster, arrange more flights and attach conditions so that those who are deported are never allowed to re-enter the United Kingdom?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is fair to say that the status quo is thoroughly depressing. I know that, behind people in Corby and east Northamptonshire, Kettering people are very sound and they are right to raise this issue. [Interruption.] And of course people in Wellingborough, too. They are right to demand action. They are right to be impatient for the change we have promised. We will continue to work hard and constructively to deliver the reforms we are making. The issue about people returning in breach of a deportation order is one that I am conscious of. The changes we are making through the Act, particularly around illegal entry, should help us to clamp down on that.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I know from both my own case work and my work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on immigration detention that the Home Office decision-making process is often flawed and that mistakes are often made. Can the Minister provide an updated figure on the number of cases where somebody has been removed from this country in error and how much compensation the Government have had to pay out to those people as a result?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

We are driving comprehensive reform of the whole asylum and migration system through the new plan for immigration. The hon. Lady asks for specific statistics, which I do not have to hand today. I will gladly take away her question and write to her. If I can provide more specific information, I will.

Photo of Suzanne Webb Suzanne Webb Conservative, Stourbridge

Does the Minister agree that the simple truth is that had the Opposition supported our Nationality and Borders Act and helped us to pass this important legislation into law sooner, some of the dangerous criminals being prevented from removal would not now be on our streets?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Well, rather like for me, some of the dither and delay we saw in getting on and passing that legislation has not escaped my hon. Friend’s attention. I do not think there is any time to waste in getting on and delivering those reforms. The British people have spoken consistently about the need for action. We have a plan. It is the only credible plan that will fundamentally improve matters and that is why we are getting on and operationalising it.

Photo of Antony Higginbotham Antony Higginbotham Conservative, Burnley

Me and my constituents in Burnley and Padiham are sick and tired of the Labour party approach to this issue—to stand on the side of murderers, paedophiles and rapists. My constituents want to see more deportations of these foreign criminals and more flights, so I urge the Minister to lay on more flights and publicise them, so that people know that we are on the side of the law-abiding majority and the victims of these awful crimes.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

It is absolutely right and proper that the British Government live up to their legal obligations around the deportation of foreign national offenders from our country who have committed serious acts of crime that have blighted our communities and that blight communities such as my hon. Friend’s in Burnley. He is right to raise this issue, and he has done so a number of times with me during our conversations over recent months. He is impatient, as I am, for the reform to come to fruition. We will continue to drive this agenda forward because it is the right thing to do to keep people in our communities safe from the harms that these sorts of individuals perpetrate.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for his statement and for clearly outlining a workable strategy. The Government’s intention to deport criminals, including paedophiles, murderers and rapists, is the right thing to do. The Government’s responsibility is to protect the citizens of this country, and that is where our priorities are. Will the Minister ensure that everything is being done in accordance with the law, and will he outline the steps that are being taken to ensure that human rights for those people are protected not simply during the flight, but as they get off the plane at their destination and in the days that follow, as they attempt to integrate in society, wherever that destination may be?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

At all times, the UK Government act in accordance with their obligations, as is right and proper. I have been on a removal flight to see for myself the work that goes on. The teams that carry out the work act with complete respect and dignity for the individuals who are in their care for the duration of that process. They work tirelessly at that. I was hugely impressed by what I saw, by their dedication and commitment to that work, and by the vast experience that many of those individuals have in facilitating removals and deportations from our country every week of the year. The hon. Gentleman can be assured that that work is carried out entirely properly.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

The people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke are delighted that we have shipped off over 10,000 foreign national offenders since 2019, because they do not deserve to have their feet on these great British shores. However, my constituents are flabbergasted that the woke, wet and wobbly lot opposite are on the side of their leftie woke warrior lawyers in making sure that these rapists and paedophiles remain in our United Kingdom, rather than actually standing up for the British people and their safety. But it is no surprise because of Labour Members’ unhealthy obsession with free movement and open borders, thinking that anyone who wants border control is a bigot and that borders are racist. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is about time that the Labour party got on the side of the British people and backed our having safer streets?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I have to say, I had a bit of an inkling of what the views of people in Stoke-on-Trent might be on this issue. My hon. Friend speaks with great passion on behalf of his constituents, who want to see action in this area and safer streets. One of the things that people across the country find slightly frustrating is that some individuals who oppose our plans are not straightforward about their motivations and intentions. If we wish to have a country with no border controls, people should be honest about that fact. That is a perfectly legitimate argument to proceed with, but it is one with which I do not agree.