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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Point-by-point: Question time
All the main points from prime minister's questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday 3 May, from 1200 BST.

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair began by answering a question from Willie Rennie, new Lib Dem MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, who asked what it would take for home secretary Charles Clarke to be sacked.

  • Mr Blair said the home secretary was sorting out a system that "has not worked properly for decades" and it was "right" that he was doing so.

  • Conservative leader David Cameron asked why the rate at which prisoners were released without being considered for deportation had increased after Mr Clarke had found out about the problem.

  • Mr Blair said more cases were considered because the system changed in August, with immigration officers going into prisons rather than relying on the prison service. And since 30 March this year every case was considered before release, something which he said had not happened for "decades", he added.

  • Only one in five failed asylum seekers were removed when the Tories were in power, said Mr Blair. No records were kept at that time about how many prisoners were considered for deportation, he added.

  • Mr Cameron said the current "scandal" had happened on Mr Blair's watch and added: "People listening to that answer will frankly think it pathetic."

  • Quoting an immigration official, Mr Cameron said they were under instruction not to get involved with deportation to "massage" the asylum figures.

  • Mr Blair said the important thing was to overhaul not just how the system works but "fundamentally" change the system itself.

  • He said the law should be changed so that anybody who is convicted of an imprisonable offence should be automatically deported.

  • Mr Cameron asked why Mr Clarke did not tell Mr Blair about the foreign prisoner problem for three weeks.

  • Mr Blair said the important thing was to revamp the system. "Let us deport all of those people and I hope we can get support for that right across this house," he said.

  • Mr Cameron said the home secretary would be "forever be associated with the scandal of releasing foreign prisoners onto our streets". He called for the removal of Mr Clarke, saying people were paying the price "for the arrogant attachment to office of a leader who has completely lost control".

  • Mr Blair accused Mr Cameron of using a "prearranged soundbite". He said there were faults with the present system but the real issue was to change the system itself.

  • Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell asked if the Home Office was "fit for purpose".

  • Mr Blair said he did not think reorganising up the home office was the answer.

  • Sir Menzies said his party would look carefully at the new deportation legislation but added that Labour had created many new offences and said what was needed was "less legislation, better government and a new Home Secretary".

  • Labour MP for Tyne Bridge David Clelland read out a long list of supposed Labour achievements, including the minimum wage, lower class sizes and reduced waiting lists, asking, apart from that, "what has the Labour government done for us?".

  • Mr Blair said there was also "double maternity leave" and extra child benefit.

  • Mr Blair was asked by Conservative MP for Wiltshire North, James Gray, "under the prime minister's new rules of ministerial accountability" how long the Home Secretary had to sort out the foreign prisoner debacle and if he would be standing down after it.

  • Mr Blair repeated that the system was now working but new legislation was still needed to automatically deport all foreign prisoners.

  • Labour MP for Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman asked if her constituency was "unique" in getting a boost in education spending.

  • Geraldine Smith, Labour Morecambe and Lunesdale, asked if the home office should be split up. Mr Blair said he believed there was a "proper fit" between crime, prisons and immigration and asylum.

  • Asked by Simon Burns, Conservative Chelmsford West, if "collective responsibility" had broken down and the government was in "meltdown", Mr Blair listed Labour's achievements on the economy and social issues.

  • Colchester Lib Dem MP Bob Russell called for more Arts Council support for English folk dancing. Mr Blair said he would look into it.

  • Former Tory leader Michael Howard asked how Mr Blair planned to automatically deport all convicted foreign nationals when it would contravene his own Human Rights Act.

  • Mr Blair said this was not the case and added that Mr Howard did not deport all foreign criminals when he was home secretary, and that was before the Human Rights Act had been in force. "He has got as about as good a record as Liberal Democrat would have," added Mr Blair.




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