Prisons

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:43 pm on 24 October 2023.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 2:43, 24 October 2023

I beg to move,

That the draft Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Removal of Prisoners for Deportation) Order 2023, which was laid before this House on 16 October, be approved.

Last week my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor made a statement to the House setting out a number of reforms in which our sharp focus is public safety. We will ensure that the worst offenders stay locked up for longer; further enlarge our prison capacity, building on the recent growth that has been achieved, which is unprecedented since the Victorians; and ensure that that capacity is put to best use for public protection.

The removal of foreign national offenders is a priority for this Government. Between January 2019 and March 2023, we removed 14,700 foreign national offenders from the country, but there are still 10,000 FNOs in our prisons, each of them taking up a prison place at great expense to the British taxpayer. While my Department is working closely with the Home Office to increase removals, there is still more that can be done.

As the Lord Chancellor set out in his statement, it cannot be right that some of these individuals are sitting in prison when they could otherwise be removed from the country. The early removal scheme exists to deport foreign national offenders. This means that any foreign national who is convicted of a crime and given a prison sentence—with the exception of those convicted of terrorism or terror-related offences—is considered for deportation. We also remove foreign offenders through prisoner transfer agreements, which enable prisoners to be repatriated during their prison sentence. Those agreements also operate to bring British national offenders back to the UK, and we currently have over 80 such arrangements in place with other countries.

The early removal scheme—the subject of this debate—allows for foreign national offenders to be removed before the end of their sentence, subject to a minimum time being served. Once removed, they are subsequently barred from re-entering the UK, and we are clear that any illegal re-entry will see them returned to prison, where they will serve the rest of their sentence. The draft instrument before us today will ensure that certain foreign national offenders can be removed earlier.