Notes from the British Parliament on Jamaica-UK prison transfer signed in 2007


Foreign National Prisoners

4. Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): What steps he is taking to transfer more foreign national prisoners to their home countries. [92475]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Crispin Blunt): The Government are committed to removing more foreign national offenders at the earliest opportunity. Last week I met the European Union Commission, and the Justice Secretary met European Union Justice Ministers, to impress upon them the importance of member states implementing the new European Union prisoner transfer agreement promptly. We continue to negotiate prisoner transfer agreements with countries outside the European Union. We are also examining our offender management processes here in the United Kingdom, which will help to identify how more foreign national offenders can be transferred to their home countries.

Mr Spellar: Is not the reality that the number of foreign prisoners being removed is actually dropping, and that although we signed an agreement with Jamaica in 2007, Jamaica has still not got round to ratifying and acting on it? When is the Minister going to get a grip of the situation?

Mr Blunt: I regret that we are having to deal with the inheritance of the legal instruments that were negotiated and presented to us by the last Administration. The Jamaican prisoner transfer agreement is an example of that. Even if the Jamaican Parliament passed the legislation to implement and ratify that agreement—which is beyond the control of this Government, I might gently point out—it would still require the consent of the Jamaican prisoners in our prisons to go home under that agreement. That would not be forthcoming, so we need a rather more effective piece of negotiation, which is all part of the strategy that we are putting in place with the 20 countries from which the largest number of foreign national offenders in our prisons originate, to get some proper, joined-up governmental attention on this issue

15 Oct 2014 : Column 94WH

with 469; eighth is Somalia, with 430; ninth is India, with 426; 10th is Bangladesh, with 276; 11th is Albania, with 275; and 12th is Vietnam, with 247. I am sure that the Minister will correct me if any of those numbers are wrong or should be updated, but those 12 countries have the biggest national populations in our prisons, making up 57% of the total—that is 6,174 prisoners.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing such an important debate and addressing an issue that affects a lot of us. Does he agree that one way to resolve the problem is to use the budgets of both the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Justice to improve prisons in countries such as Jamaica—I have visited Kingston prison, where some UK nationals and almost 1,000 Jamaicans were being held—thereby allowing prisoners to be returned to a human-rights-compliant jail in their homeland?

Mr Hollobone: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention; he knows a lot about the subject, and I congratulate him on taking the initiative to visit the prison in Kingston. There cannot be many Members of the House who have visited Kingston prison, so I applaud my hon. Friend for his endeavour. He makes an extremely sensible suggestion, but I must say that I do not think that my constituents in Kettering are particularly fussed about the human rights of foreign nationals who commit crimes in this country. However, I understand that, as things stand, we operate under human rights legislation introduced by the previous Government and are not allowed in law to deport criminals to non-human-rights-compliant prisons.

It would make sense to use the huge and increasing international aid budget to build suitable prisons in countries that provide us with a large number of prisoners. That is a good idea. Indeed, earlier this year I asked the then Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), how much we give in aid each year to Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, India and Bangladesh. The answer was that for 2012—one year—we gave them £973 million. Those six countries provide us with 2,900 foreign national offenders, which is more than a quarter of the total number of foreign national offenders. It costs this country more than £100 million a year to incarcerate these people in our jails. It would be a good idea to spend some of that £973 million on building prisons in those six countries.

Guy Opperman: What my hon. Friend is describing is not a novel idea. The Government have supported similar ideas in other countries: I believe that Haiti is one such case, and the Jamaican example is the one that is closest to happening. I hate to say it, but the project has stalled because there have been difficulties with the MOJ and DFID budgets and with driving the matter forward through civil servants and Ministers, and there have also been problems with getting agreement with the Jamaican Government. Nevertheless, where there is a will to deport these gentlemen, there is definitely a way.

Mr Hollobone: That is absolutely right. In that regard, I have great hopes for my right hon. Friend the Minister, because I am sure that if something can be achieved, he

Again, I would be happy to be corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that we have been pursuing a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement with Jamaica for ages, but it is still subject to ratification by the Jamaican Government. We have only a voluntary prisoner transfer agreement with Pakistan. We have, at last, a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement with Nigeria, and I hope that the Minister will tell the House how many hundreds of Nigerians await deportation to that country. We do not have a prisoner transfer agreement of any sort with Somalia or Bangladesh, and we have only a voluntary prisoner transfer agreement with India. These six countries provide us with 25% of our foreign national offender population; we give them the best part of £1 billion a year in international aid; yet they are not co-operating with us in any sensible, meaningful way on taking back their nationals who have committed criminal offences in this country.

“The prisons Minister…and I have met our Jamaican counterparts during the last few weeks. We are focusing our efforts to negotiate compulsory transfer agreements on the countries where the problem is greatest.” —[Official Report, 13 November 2012; Vol. 553, c. 165.]

That is great, but we still await these compulsory transfer agreements.

Jay’s comments are below

This means that we have in been in negotiations with the UK Government from last year based on these Hansard report ( 15th October 2014 )from the British Parliament and so Cameron’s visit two week ago was a culminations of these talks.

Can the Minister of National Security comment on the above.

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Government are taking to further negotiations with the Jamaican Government to facilitate the return of Jamaican nationals convicted in the UK to serve their sentence in Jamaica; and if he will make a statement. [164419]

Mr. Hanson: The United Kingdom and Jamaica signed a limited prisoner transfer agreement on 26 June 2007. This is the first prisoner transfer agreement to be signed by the Jamaican Government and it requires changes to Jamaican law before the agreement can enter into force.


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