Overseas Territories: Illegal Immigration - Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:27 am on 27 April 2023.

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Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 11:27, 27 April 2023

My noble friend raises an important point; I know I am expected to say this, but I am genuinely grateful to him for raising this issue, which is not raised enough in this place. The problem he described is serious, but he is semi-right in relation to the FCDO. The FCDE is air traffic control for the OTs; the levers of delivery belong to other departments of government. But I pay tribute to the team in the FCDO, given that it is the department, notwithstanding what I just said, delivering the most for the OTs. We commissioned a serious crime review before the situation escalated in TCI, and urgently requested the deployment of UK police—and funded this. It is true, as has been noted, that UK police pulled their officers out and chose not to provide operational officers at the time they were needed. That was a mistake on their part, but the Foreign Office then secured further UK police capacity-building team and separately procured a 16-strong operational serious crime team for TCI through commercial routes, and that team is in place and making a big difference today. The FCDO also requested and funded the support of a Royal Navy helicopter at the height of the crisis in the TCI. The Foreign Secretary has been working with the Prime Minster and myself to ensure that all government departments understand their role in supporting the overseas territories. The noble Lord makes an important point that this is not someone else’s problem. The OTs are part of the UK family and the message has gone out from the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, and to individual Ministers from me, that the Government need to step up across Whitehall.