New Clause 13 - Reporting to Parliament in relation to the prevention of death

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 4 November 2021.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 2:00, 4 November 2021

I thank the hon. Member for tabling the new clause. I note his concerns around transparency and accountability in relation to deaths of people subject to immigration powers. I can assure him that transparency and accountability remain a key priority for the Department. We currently publish data every year on the number of deaths of people under our care in immigration detention. I recognise the importance of transparency in these circumstances to ensure that there is accountability and that we can develop effective policies and processes to prevent such instances from occurring in future. One death of a person in our care in one death too many. We must do everything in our power to ensure that these do not occur. Thankfully, deaths in detention are rare. There were no deaths in detention in 2020 and just one in 2019, where the individual died of natural causes.

We regularly review the statistics that we publish as a Department and, where it is clearly in the public interest to do so, it is our duty to consider the feasibility of publishing new statistics. We must weigh that up against other considerations. While we have a duty of care to all of those in our remit, there are many people in the asylum and immigration system who are either not required to, or choose not to, maintain regular contact with us. Some may even leave the UK without informing us while they have an open immigration claim. That means that there may be instances where we are not informed of the person’s death or we do not have all the relevant facts.

Additionally, it can take months and even years for inquests to reach conclusions. It is important that we know the facts before we publish the information. This highlights the kind of practical and deliverability challenges that we face and which affect the scope and accuracy of any information in this space. However, I acknowledge the importance of transparency. We regularly review the information that is published by the Department on the context of transparency, but also in line with the changes that the Bill will bring about. I note the interest of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East in this particular area and will ensure that it is considered in line with the wider and ongoing review of statistics published by the Department. I trust that that addresses his concerns and I encourage him to withdraw the new clause.