Today a Home Office Minister made an utterly pointless Commons statement that was basically a cross between a rant and a whinge.
Rather than play the blame game & finger-point, ministers should bring forward a plan that can actually fix the deportation system that they’ve broken.
Stephen Kinnock: I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement.
The first duty of the British Government is to keep the British people safe, and the Home Office has a responsibility to make sure that rules are fairly enforced, but Ministers are failing to do so and they are blaming everyone else for their failings. The Home Office must deport dangerous foreign criminals who have no right to be in our country and who should be returned to the country of their citizenship, which is precisely why the last Labour Government introduced stronger laws to that effect. The Home Office also has a responsibility to get its deportation decisions right. As the Government have themselves admitted, during the Windrush scandal the Home Office made grave errors in both detention and deportation decisions, and it is currently failing on all counts.
The Opposition are committed to the principles of an immigration system that is firm, fair and well managed. First and foremost, it is deeply troubling that a number of expert reports over recent years have pointed to how Home Office failures have resulted in fewer foreign criminals being deported than should be the case. Indeed, in 2015, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration stated that one in three failures to deport foreign criminals was a result of Home Office failure. Fast-forward to 2022, and the latest immigration figures show that the Home Office is still failing miserably in this regard.
Under the current Prime Minister and Home Secretary, there has been a stark decline in the number of foreign national offenders being returned and deported. In the year ending September 2021, 2,732 foreign national offenders were returned from the UK—20% fewer than the previous year and 47% fewer than in 2019, the year before the pandemic began. Foreign national offender returns had already fallen to 5,128 in 2019. Even more staggering is the fact that, according to a 2019 Public Accounts Committee report, the Home Office had to release six in every 10 migrant detainees whom the Department wanted to deport, and it simply could not explain why this was happening.
The PAC also raised concerns about the need for earlier and better legal advice, which would make it more likely that decisions were accurate and robust, rather than being overturned due to poor decisions later in the process. The Minister will know that the Windrush report identified “low-quality decision-making” and an “irrational…approach to individuals”, and the follow-up report stated that
“there are many examples where the department has not made progress…at all”
on this matter. The level of sheer incompetence is not only a threat to our security; it ultimately erodes the confidence of the British public and foreign nationals alike, because the system fails to fulfil the basic crucial principles of being firm, fair and well managed. The Minister refers to rape, but it is this Government who have presided over rape prosecutions falling to a shameful 1.3%.
The Home Office needs to get this right, but the Minister’s statement was long on bluff and bluster but contained absolutely no substance whatsoever. Perhaps he could therefore answer the following questions: how many foreign offenders have absconded in the last 12 months? What specific steps have been taken to learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal to ensure that this shameful episode is never repeated? Does the Home Office actually have a plan that will address the currently shambolic nature of the deportation system?
The British people deserve better than this. Rather than coming to the Dispatch Box to engage in a frankly rather childish and petulant rant, based on the blame game and finger pointing, the Minister should instead be coming to this Chamber to set out what the Government are actually going to do to fix this broken system.