Foreign National Offenders: Prison Transfers — [Ian Austin in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:16 pm on 19 February 2019.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 4:16, 19 February 2019

My hon. Friend is clearly clairvoyant, because my next note addresses exactly that point. Under the transfer agreements, the mechanism allows us to transfer a sentenced prisoner during their prison sentence so that they will continue to serve that sentence in a prison back in their home country. Importantly, the agreements are reciprocal and allow the return home of British nationals from overseas prisons. We have more than 100 transfer agreements—he mentioned 160, which is roughly in the right space overall—with countries and territories around the world. Depending on the type of agreement that is in place, prisoners can be transferred either on a voluntary basis, meaning the consent of the prisoner is required, or on a compulsory basis, meaning their consent is not required. To address a point that my hon. Friend specifically raised, under either type of agreement, including the compulsory one, the receiving country still has the right to accept or refuse the prisoner; the country receiving them still has to agree to accept them even if the prisoner does not have a say in that process.

To focus briefly on the EU prisoner transfer agreement, that is the most effective transfer agreement to which the UK is a signatory, largely because, going back to my previous point, there are limited grounds on which a receiving member state can refuse to accept a prisoner transfer request. Our departure from the EU will therefore have an impact. As the prisons Minister said earlier this month, if we leave the EU without a deal there is the risk of a decline in the number of transfers to and from the EU, because we might be forced to fall back on older transfer mechanisms that could prove less effective.