» Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Foreign Prisoners

Put to him that perhaps the Prime Minister should have been informed of the issue 3 weeks earlier, the PMOS said that, as the Home Office had explained, during that period they were putting together the full facts. It was entirely understandable that rather presenting a partial picture of what was going on they wanted to present a full picture. It was quite correct to take the time and get the facts together.

Asked if the Home Secretary had updated the Prime Minister on this issue in the last 24 hours, the PMOS said that the Home secretary and his officials had been working intensively on this over the weekend and work continued on that. The Home Secretary had offered on Friday to do a further report back this week.

Asked to respond to the claim that the Home Office hadn’t pursued some of the prisoners recommended for deportation because they were scared they might claim asylum and increase the asylum figures, the PMOS said no. The reason these problems arose was precisely for the reason we had already set out, that at the administrative level decisions had been taken which ministers were unaware of. The Government was determined to address the asylum issue and had done so Equally however we were determined, as indeed ministers had expected, that foreign prisoners recommended for deportation should have been dealt with properly. Action had been taken from within the Home Office to make sure of that.

The PMOS reminded journalists that the Home Secretary had been responsible for some 3000 prisoners being deported. Put to him that some of the staff who should have been dealing with these foreign prisoners had been diverted to processing asylum claims, the PMOS said that for details on staffing people should talk to the Home Office. We had put in an extra £2.7million as a result of a newly appointed official finding out what the problem was and as a result of that we were also doubling the capacity within the Home Office for dealing with this particular area. Asked why the capacity was still increasing at this stage, the PMOS said that you had to train staff in this particular area. People needed to have the necessary skills to deal with this issue. You don’t want people working in this area without the sufficient skills making these kinds of decisions because otherwise you ended up with the sorts of problems we had just seen.

Asked if this issue wasn’t evidence that the Home Office wasn’t too large and unwieldy, the PMOS said that first and foremost we should recognise that many of the criminal justice elements of the Home office had been transferred to the DCA. He also pointed out that in this particular case the requirement was for the prison service, the police, the probation service and the immigration service to work more closely together. Therefore you had to ask yourself whether it was more likely to help those agencies work together if you split those functions away from the Home Office. The answer to that seemed fairly obvious. Asked if there might not be a review of the actual procedures for deportation, the PMOS said that people should wait for the Home Secretary’s full report to the House on this issue.

Briefing took place at 14:00 | Search for related news

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