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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 21:25 GMT 22:25 UK
MP dubs Home Office 'incompetent'
Richard Bacon
Charles Clarke's resignation would not achieve much, Mr Bacon says
The MP whose questions led the Home Office to admit it failed to look at deporting foreign prisoners says he fears "incompetence" is to blame.

Conservative Richard Bacon says it was known that 237 of the 1,023 who were freed were failed asylum seekers.

Yet he says he cannot understand why questions were not asked about whether any of the number would be eligible for deportation once they were released.

Mr Bacon made the discovery as a member of the Public Accounts Committee.

If you are judged by the system to have a failed asylum application and you shouldn't be here, then shouldn't you be considered for deportation once you are released from prison?
Richard Bacon

He said it was during the PAC's hearing on a National Audit Report about returning failed asylum seekers that his interest was sparked.

During the course of last October's probe he asked what happened to foreign nationals, particularly asylum seekers, when they were released from prison.

"Because if you are judged by the system to have a failed asylum application and you shouldn't be here, then shouldn't you be considered for deportation once you are released from prison?" he said.

"What appears to have happened is the questions are not being asked about whether this person, who is a foreign national, should be deported from the UK.

"It may not be appropriate - they could be residents, they might be married to a British citizen - but they are not even asking the question, they are letting them out into the community."

Suspicions

Mr Bacon said the Home Office later wrote back saying that 403 foreign prisoners had been released.

But then Home Secretary Charles Clarke sent a letter to PAC chairman Edward Leigh to say "there had been some error and the 403 was 609", he said.

On Tuesday, Mr Clarke admitted that some 1,023 foreign prisoners had been released between February 1999 and last month, and there had been a failure to consider them for deportation.

Later, the Home Office admitted 288 foreigners had been released from prison between August 2005 and March 2006 - after Mr Bacon had flagged up the problem.

The MP said he had been suspicious that many of the 1,023 people had been released since August 2005 and that the Home Office had used "a global figure" to hide the real figures.

"I will be asking questions about this tomorrow," he said on Tuesday. "My sense is because the prison system is under pressure in terms of capacity, they are letting them out."

'Not a resigning issue'

Mr Bacon, MP for South Norfolk since 2001, said he found the Home Office's refusal to name the 916 criminals who have yet to be traced "an odd approach".

"Unless the public are given the information with which to help the Home Office and police, they are not going to be able to help them," he said.

"This is information that has been in the public domain - the court cases will have been reported in the newspapers."

While he says he does not believe forcing Mr Clarke to resign would achieve a lot, he claims there has been "incompetence" in the Home Office.

"There has been a dereliction of duty by the Home Office in protecting the public and in making sure that basic questions are asked of the management of the Prison Service, of foreign nationals who in many cases do not have the right to be in this county," he said.

"It is perfectly obvious that if somebody comes to this country for whatever reason, they are a guest of this country.

"If they then abuse the hospitality by indulging in murder, rape, arson, paedophilia, there must be a presumption that they may end up being deported."


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