Topical Questions

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 18 September 2023.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will make a short topical statement. The range of threats our country faces is ever evolving, so I want to set out what we are doing to get ahead of it. We have refreshed our counter-terrorism strategy, especially by overhauling the Prevent strand so that it recognises and can counter the driving force of ideology. Our counter-terrorism operations centre is truly world class and fit for the 21st century. However, the security threat is wider than terrorism, and that is why we have passed the National Security Act 2023, which also addresses the evolving nature of the threat and contains several measures to modernise counter-espionage laws. Our comprehensive economic crime plan and legislation have cracked down hard on the Russian oligarchs upon whom Putin relies. We will give our courageous and capable intelligence and security services all the powers they need to keep us safe.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that statement. She will know that there is continuing widespread concern about the threat to our national security from the whole-of-state approach that the Chinese are taking to espionage activities in our country. I urge her to ensure that our response will mirror that, and that China is in the enhanced tier of the foreign influence registration scheme.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

National security is our overriding priority as a Government, particularly at the Home Office. As Home Secretary, it is my job to oversee the protection of the UK from all types of threats to our national security. As the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report has said:

“The Chinese Intelligence Services target the UK and its overseas interests prolifically and aggressively.”

I will not shy away from calling out the threats from China for what they are or from making it clear that its agencies regularly engage in hostile activity towards the UK. We are currently reviewing the countries that should go into the enhanced tier of FIRS. There is a strong case to be made for China being put into it, but I do not want to prejudice the process by which those determinations will be made, and—

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

On 7 March, the Home Secretary emailed Conservative supporters saying

“today we’re changing our laws—and bringing the small boat crossings to an end.”

Since then, 20,000 more people have arrived. She is not applying her own law, because it does not work. The use of asylum hotels is up, with no date to end their use, and foreign criminal returns are down. The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration has said:

“This is no way to run a government department.”

He is right, isn’t he? Is that why the Home Secretary is getting rid of him?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am incredibly proud of the landmark legislation passed by this House, which was opposed by the Labour party every step of the way. This will allow us to detain those who arrive here illegally and remove them to a safe country like Rwanda.

The point is that at least we have a policy. I am not sure that anyone on the Labour Front Bench knows what Labour’s plan is for stopping the boats. Shadow Ministers certainly seem to be making it up as they go along. There were quotas and then no quotas. The EU has made it clear that we would be expected to take thousands more migrants from the EU. Will there be family reunion? We already have a scheme for family reunion. They are making it up because they do not have a plan. I think the British people can see exactly what Labour’s plan is—

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

What the Home Secretary said is total waffle. She has no answer on the inspector because she is afraid of scrutiny. There was no answer on her failure, just invented garbage about Labour. The Home Office’s immigration director, asylum director, borders director and accommodation director are all going or gone because the only people she removes are the people she needs to do the job. There has been a 40% increase in the use of asylum hotels since she became Home Secretary. When will she end the use of asylum hotels? When will she deal with this shambles, stop the gimmicks and get a grip?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Lady talks about a shambles, but the last four days have been a great example of a shambles. The EU has called her party “delusional” when it comes to its grand plan for stopping the boats. Labour disagrees with the National Crime Agency on how to solve the problem. The reality is that Labour is on another planet on how to stop the boats. It is not based in reality, it is not grappling with this challenge and it is not being honest with the British people.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

Constituents and businesses are being impacted by illegal car racing and meets. The Labour council is dragging its heels on implementing a public spaces protection order and Kent police have been working hard to tackle it, but resources are precious. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at how Kent police are funded? They are having to deal with increasing activity in this area and, being so close to London, we are seeing increasing burdens from criminality.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I thank my right hon. Friend for her tireless campaigning on behalf of the people of Rochester and Strood. Kent has record police officer numbers at 4,261, which is about 10% more than it ever had under the last Labour Government. We intend to review the police funding formula. I strongly urge Medway Council to get on with putting that PSPO in place.

Photo of Amy Callaghan Amy Callaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

Since we left the European Union, my constituent—a UK citizen from birth, as was confirmed by the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023—has been repeatedly stopped by UK border guards and had his citizenship questioned. Is this British Government satisfied that the customs and immigration system is so chaotic that their own citizens are being othered by the Department’s officials, just because their parents were born in the EU?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

I have no idea what the hon. Lady is referring to, but I would be very happy to look into that individual case.

Photo of Andy Carter Andy Carter Conservative, Warrington South

Over the summer, dozens of Traveller caravans have been illegally pitched in my Warrington South constituency, impacting playing fields in Appleton Thorn, Bewsey and Dallam, and costing thousands to clear up. Warrington’s Labour council has avoided bringing forward proposals, despite having money in its budget. Does the Minister agree that local authorities need to play their full part so that the police can be effective in using the legislation passed by this House?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, I do agree; local councils should be robust in using the powers this House granted them, as should the police in terms of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. The police do have strong powers under the amended Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and I urge police forces up and down the country to use those powers.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

We heard a little about retail crime earlier and it is a real issue in Birmingham, where a number of ugly, violent assaults on staff have taken place at Co-op stores in my constituency. I was pleased to hear the Minister’s earlier response. However, with less than 4% of about 8 million crimes actually recorded by the police, when can we expect to see the tougher measures he hinted at earlier?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I met representatives of the Co-op just a week or two ago and his chief constable, Amanda Blakeman, who leads on this for the National Police Chiefs’ Council. At my request, the police are working up a plan to make sure that they always look into the CCTV footage to try to get a facial recognition match, in order to arrest and prosecute shoplifters, and that they patrol a lot more regularly in areas where shoplifting is a problem.

Several hon. Members: