» Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Home Office Reforms

Asked what was happening with the Immigration and Nationality Department (IND) today, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said, without getting ahead of the Home Secretary’s statement this afternoon, that today the Home Secretary would be announcing structural changes. Next week he would be announcing changes to the IND immigration criteria. However, it was important to set the scene: this was about making the department as a whole fit for the modern day challenges. This addressed the future challenges, which the Prime Minister set out in his forward to the capability reviews where he outlined five themes that underlined all the reviews: a clear focus on the respective roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of ministers and civil servants; transformation of central headquarters into strategic centres with delivery devolved to the frontline; improving the way that departments engaged with individuals and communities; strengthening the links between the centre and the frontline in particular so that experiences get fed back from the frontline; and delivering a step change in the professional skills of the civil service. We were publishing four reviews today – Home Office, DfES, DWP, DCA – the rest of the seventeen would be rolled out in due course with another batch coming before Christmas.

Asked why the Prime Minister had not addressed these issues earlier in his premiership, the PMOS said that the reality was that the reality was changing. Therefore this was a process of evolution. The underlying reasons for change were that globalisation, technology, changes in public expectations and how people lived their lives had evolved over the years. Now public services needed to change not only to meet where we were today but also to get ahead of the curve and address the challenges ahead in the future.

Put that the Home Office’s failures were systemic and not a result of the current age, the PMOS said that John Reid would speak about this in his statement and without pre-empting that he would point out that the end of the Cold War had changed the challenges of migration. This did not just affect this country, if peopled looked at any major country today migration was pretty much near the top of everyone’s agenda. The reasons for this were that travel was significantly easier these days and that the Internet and technology had influenced the expectation of the type of life people could lead. Therefore the government had to respond accordingly and IND was a classic case where because of historic under investment it had not had the ability to change quickly enough. This was why it was so important to get ahead of the curve rather than be behind it as we had been in the past. Put that the growth in immigration had also brought about a growth in prosperity, the PMOS said that migration was a benefit to this country, but it had to be managed migration that brought in the skills needed to keep the economy going and he hoped that the media recalled when he had defended migration to them when it had not been easy to do so. This economy needed migration to keep growing – there were still 600,000 vacancies that needed to be filled and migrants helped do so. However if we did not address that in a managed way, which took into account the pressures on services and welfare then we would get a reaction against migration, which made it all the more difficult.

Put that this was a stale argument used many times over, the PMOS said that people recognised the role that migration played in industries such as tourism. As globalisation became a clearer reality people in this country would travel overseas more extensively. Education was a good example of this; we were now close to having a global market for the most gifted students around the world. This was a reality that we had to take account of, which meant education policies had to respond to that development by having properly funded universities. As Sir Gus O’Donnell would say later today people’s expectations of the public service had changed, people were no longer content to wait in line, they now demanded the same level of service that they received in the private sector from the public sector.

Asked whether the Prime Minister took on board the point that by making the IND an arms length agency that it also removed ministerial power to affect that agency, the PMOS said that the agency would be set very specific criteria for success or failure and be judged by them. The relationship would always be one where there were regular reviews of that process. Therefore the way forward was to set objective criteria and judge IND against those criteria. The passport agency was a classic example in case. It had been regarded in "technical jargon" as a "basket case" this was no longer the case. It was now regarded as a success story in one of the must difficult areas for government – IT projects. Put that this was fine when it went right but not when things went wrong, the PMOS said that the government had control over agencies because it had the ability to reset their criteria and ultimately it was the paymaster.

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with John Reid that the government needed to increase the capacity of prisons, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed that prison was necessary, which was why the government had provided an additional 19,000 extra places since 1997 and this included 4000 more in the last two years. In addition to that you also needed to put money into rehabilitation, which the government was doing, particularly in relation to drugs in order to make sure people who went into prison, as drug users, did not leave as drug users. It was not a case of either or it was about doing both. Asked whether a 10% increase was on the cards, the PMOS said that we recognised that there may be a need for extra prison places and if so we would meet that need. What you did not do was to decide your sentencing policy on the basis of the number of prison places.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. You could lower mass immigration but you shouldn’t treat those who are already indide the country as war criminals or even worse
    <a href="http://www.skillipedia.com">http://www.skillipedia.com</a&gt;

    Comment by career — 3 Dec 2006 on 6:02 pm | Link

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