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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1372 -i
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
The work of the home secretary
Tuesday 5 July 2011
Right hon. THERESA MAY MP
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 94
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 5 July 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Right hon. Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning, Home Secretary, and thank you for appearing before the Committee. I know you have just come from Cabinet and we appreciate the fact that you were able to come today. In the last seven days, a person that you had banned from entering the country arrived at Heathrow Airport, the President of ACPO told you yesterday in Harrogate that he felt that the Government’s policing reviews should pause so that people can be consulted, and police bail has been found to be inoperative. To quote Mr Djokovic when he won Wimbledon last Sunday, "How have your last seven days been at the office?"
Theresa May: Typical for the Home Office, I think: challenging and endlessly raising issues with which we have to deal and hopefully deal competently and appropriately.
Q2 Chair: I want to start with something that is very much in the public domain and that is the allegations that were contained in the Guardian this morning. The Committee is conducting an inquiry into phone hacking and we have police officers, Mr Hayman, Mr Clarke and Ms Akers, coming next Tuesday as part of the ongoing inquiry, but I am sure you have heard the Prime Minister’s quote when he said this: "What I' ve read in the papers is quite , quite , shocking , that someone could do this actually knowing that the police were trying to find this person and trying to find out what had happened", in respect of the Milly Dowler phone hacking. What are your views on what you have seen in the newspapers this morning?
Theresa May: My views on these allegations are very similar to those of the Prime Minister. I think it is totally shocking. Frankly, it is disgusting. If I am honest, I think the mindset of somebody who thinks it is appropriate to do that is totally sick. This has come out as a result of the police investigation. I think it shows that that investigation is doing its work, and obviously the Prime Minister and I have both been very clear on a number of occasions that, in terms of the police investigation, they must follow the evidence wherever that evidence may lead.
Q3 Chair: Indeed. You have had no information from any sources that it was not just the Milly Dowler case but perhaps happened in Soham where the News of the World were also involved. You have no further evidence about anything else?
Theresa May: No, I have seen references to that possibility in the press, but I have no information in relation to that.
Q4 Chair: Is it still your view that if there is to be a public inquiry-and I think you have not made up your mind whether there ought to be-this should await the outcome of the police investigation because the police are currently looking at this matter? That can be concluded and then, indeed, Parliament, and the Prime Minister and yourself, can then decide what further steps should be taken; or has your view changed and you feel that there ought to be a public inquiry?
Theresa May: My view is that we have a police investigation ongoing, that it is appropriate to let that investigation take its course. As we have seen in the last couple of days, that investigation is throwing up yet further issues in relation to this question of phone hacking. I think it is important that that investigation is allowed to continue and, as I said in response to your earlier question, I believe it is right that the police should investigate this very vigorously. I have every expectation they will do, but that they should follow the evidence wherever it may lead.
Q5 Chair: Does it concern you just a little that some of this information, perhaps all of it, was already on file and ought to have been found out when the previous investigation was taking place under Commander Yates?
Theresa May: What I would say to that, Chairman, is this: obviously, I have seen the reports that have been in the press about this information and about it coming through, as I said, from the investigation. I think it is important that we allow that investigation to continue, and obviously that will be looking at a whole range of aspects of this issue. I do not think it would be helpful to speculate on what has or has not happened in the past. What I think is important is that we have a rigorous and vigorous investigation, at this stage, into the various allegations that have been made.
Chair: Of course Parliament, through the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and indeed this Select Committee, are still looking at the law as these police investigations go on.
Q6 Mr Winnick: The last revelations in today’s paper, the Guardian, which the Chair has referred to as particularly shocking, will shock a lot of people who perhaps have not taken so much interest in the hacking affair. Home Secretary, you refer to the police investigations, this has been dragging on for some considerable time. Is it not at the stage now, in view of the allegations that have been made-particularly today-for a public inquiry to be set up as quickly as possible?
Theresa May: No. Mr Winnick. I think what is important is that we make sure that the police are able to investigate this properly and vigorously. You say it has been taking some time. It has been taking some time, but I think what we have seen from the reports in the press is that it would appear, if what we have seen is correct, that the investigation is throwing up potentially new avenues of investigation that need to be followed up.
Q7 Mr Winnick: Is there going to be any time limit on the police investigation? Is it going to conclude at some stage, or perhaps this time next year will we get the same response from yourself and other Cabinet colleagues of yours?
Theresa May: As you know, it would not be appropriate for me, as Home Secretary, to tell the police what they should be investigating or when they should be concluding the investigation.
Mr Winnick: So this could drag on for quite a time?
Theresa May: It is up to them to follow the investigation, to follow the evidence, to decide, as a result of that, whether or not they believe that people should be charged and prosecuted. That will be for them and, obviously, were they to get to that point, with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Chair: Thank you, and of course we will have the opportunity of questioning the police next week when they appear before us.
Q8 Dr Huppert: I accept that this police investigation does seem to be making some progress, but one thing that has concerned me, and I think others in this Committee, is that the initial police investigation did not seem to be satisfactory. There is a real concern in my mind that the police did not want to tangle with a powerful media operation. If that is verified by the current inquiry, or by other information, would you agree that that is a matter of key public concern, that there would need to be a public inquiry if the police are not able to act for fear of a powerful media organisation?
Theresa May: I do not want to speculate on what might or might not come out of the investigation that is currently taking place. I think that it is better to ensure that the police are doing what I believe they are doing, which is thoroughly looking into this issue. As I say, it would appear it is throwing up a number of other areas that they have to explore in relation to the phone hacking. I think what is important is that they are doing that properly, vigorously and with great rigour, as I am sure you will hear when you have an opportunity to question the police themselves about it.
Q9 Chair: Can I now turn to immigration and start with the troubling Sheikh. You banned Sheikh Raed Salah. When did you sign the order banning him?
Theresa May: I signed the order banning him on the Thursday. No, sorry, I am misremembering an exclusion case. I signed the order the previous week, I think, on the Wednesday evening, just two or three days before he came.
Chair: The Wednesday before he came?
Theresa May: Before he came, yes.
Chair: Right, I understand, the Wednesday.
Theresa May: For the point of the record, I think it is better if I confirm the actual date-
Chair: I think somebody will look up a diary.
Theresa May: -and we can send that to you.
Q10 Chair: No, we will look up the diary; the Wednesday before he arrived. So you signed the order. Presumably it was your expectation that somebody would serve this order on him or his legal representatives, because the point of signing an order is to make sure that somebody knows that they are banned. That was your expectation, and I am not assuming that you, as Home Secretary, should trot off and do this yourself. Somebody in the vast bureaucracy of the Home Office would have taken that order off your desk and gone and served it. That is your expectation, presumably?
Theresa May: As with any exclusion case that I sign, Chairman, there is a process that is followed in relation to that exclusion case. Exactly what the process is depends on the circumstances of the individual who is being excluded and the extent to which their whereabouts is known at the point at which the notice is intended to be served on them. But the normal process would be that a notice would be served.
Q11 Chair: So when did you find out that he had arrived in this country, even though you, the Home Secretary, had banned him from entering?
Theresa May: I found out shortly after he had arrived in the country. At least initially the report to me was that it was believed that he had, and I then waited and was given confirmation, yes.
Q12 Chair: So you signed on Wednesday, he arrived on Saturday. So did you find out on Sunday or Monday? Because we had Home Office questions on Monday, as you know.
Theresa May: Yes, we did have Home Office questions on the Monday. I think it was anticipated that he had come in. It was believed that he had come in, but I do not think the firm confirmation had come through. I think it was over the weekend that I was told that he had. Again, I am very happy to put a timeline in for you if that is-
Q13 Chair: Yes. But I think the Committee would be very keen to have that information because obviously it has been in the public domain, and at 3.31pm on Monday, Mike Freer, our colleague from Finchley, specifically asked you about this case and you said that you would not comment on individual cases, although you subsequently issued a press release about this. But you were told over the weekend, so a man who was banned from-
Theresa May: No, sorry, I apologise, Chairman, because I am now recalling what happened. I believe I was not told over the weekend. I believe the indication was on the Monday, at the time of Home Office questions, we were not absolutely clear whether or not he had entered the country.
Q14 Chair: Yes, because Mike Freer asked you at 3.31pm. So here we have someone who you have banned entering Heathrow Airport. There seems to be no operation at Heathrow Airport that would flag up the fact that someone of that kind had entered the country. Does that concern you, in respect of your other counter-terrorism role, that people who are banned, or wanted or on a watch list, are able to wander in through Heathrow Airport? Again, I am not holding you personally responsible for this.
Theresa May: No.
Q15 Chair: I am looking at the system, and whether you are worried about the system and the way in which we operate the system. Is there a computerised watch list or, as we have heard anecdotally, bits of paper are given to immigration officers to see if they can track people?
Theresa May: No, there is indeed a watch list. It is operated by UK Border Agency. I am, of course, concerned about the fact that an individual who was excluded then subsequently entered the country. That is why I have asked for an investigation to take place. I know there has been speculation in the newspapers as to the reasons why he might have been able to enter the country, despite the exclusion having been signed, and I can confirm-I do apologise-the exclusion was signed on the 23rd. So it was the Thursday that the exclusion was signed.
Chair: Very helpful.
Theresa May: As I say, I am concerned that somebody was then able to enter the country. That is why I have asked for an investigation to take place. I do not want to speculate as to what it was that happened that meant that he was able to enter the country, and I believe it is important that that investigation is able, again, to take its course. It is being conducted now. We are not waiting for a long time to ask somebody to do this. We have set that up immediately.
Q16 Chair: I am sure Parliament is very grateful for that. But nobody thought of contacting the Israelis. I rang the Israeli Acting Ambassador yesterday to ask whether, based on the fact that this gentleman lived in Tel Aviv, the Israeli authorities had been notified that a banning order had been served, and it appears that they had not been told. So, as part of your review-which of course we welcome-will you ask them to look at that as well, whether foreign Governments, where banned subjects are living, are notified. Especially if it is a country like Israel, which is a friendly country as far as the UK is concerned.
Theresa May: I am sure that the investigation will look at the whole process, but I am very happy to ask them to look at that extra aspect if they are not already doing so.
Q17 Chair: Can I just ask about Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is still not banned, is it?
Theresa May: It is not a proscribed organisation. That is correct.
Chair: No, and the Prime Minister is very keen that it should be.
Theresa May: The Prime Minister has expressed his concern about Hizb ut-Tahrir on a number of occasions.
Q18 Chair: Presumably to you, whenever he sees you to discuss this subject, he says, "When is this organisation going to be proscribed?" and what do you say to the Prime Minister when you say you cannot proscribe it? What is the reason?
Theresa May: We are doing what the Prime Minister has indeed indicated to Parliament when he has been asked this is in Prime Minister’s Questions and he has been asked very recently in PMQs about this. We are constantly reviewing this organisation and monitoring its activities.
Q19 Chair: So, as far as Sheikh Salah is concerned, there are lessons to be learned but we will only learn the lessons when the investigation is completed?
Theresa May: Yes, I think it is better not to speculate on the reasons why he was able to enter the country and what happened. I think it is better to wait until we find exactly what it was that took place.
Q20 Mr Winnick: The reason for the banning, we understand, is that the person is a dedicated-if that is the right word-anti-Semite. I am about the last person to want to see racists enter this country, whether they are anti-Semites or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. They should certainly, in my view-it may not be the view of others-be excluded. So I have no argument over that. But there is some dispute, Home Secretary, about the accusation made against this person, which he strenuously denies. It does not mean that he is not, but he and his lawyers strenuously deny the accusation that he is what he is claimed to be. But is that the basis for the reason of the ban, that he is a racist? Are there other reasons or is that the reason?
Theresa May: Chairman, if I may explain that I am going to be quite careful in the answer that I give to this because, as I am sure Members of the Committee are aware, the individual has a right of appeal against the exclusion that was given, and therefore I think it would not be appropriate for me to talk in great detail in front of this Committee about a particular individual.
Chairman, you indicated that in Home Office questions I did not refer to an individual and we normally do not do so, however this became public knowledge and that is why we have spoken about it.
Q21 Mr Winnick: I wanted to know the reason, without going into the details. He is a banned individual; would it be inappropriate, Home Secretary, simply to say the reason why he is a banned individual?
Theresa May: He was banned for unacceptable behaviour, which is one of the grounds on which it is possible for me to exclude.
Q22 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, allowing for the fact you are waiting for this inquiry, can I ask, are you taking any immediate steps so that if you sign another banning order on another individual there will be some certainty that they are notified that they have been banned, that the organisation that is hosting their visit will be notified and that the terminals at Heathrow will ensure that they cannot just stroll through as if they are on holiday? So I am not asking about your inquiry, I am asking about what you are going to do the next time you sign a banning order.
Theresa May: I can assure you, Mr McCabe, that the UK Border Agency are in no doubt that they need to ensure that if I sign-
Steve McCabe: They had a doubt on this occasion, quite clearly.
Theresa May: -an exclusion order, that the expectation is that that individual will not be able to enter the United Kingdom. In terms of practical steps, of course until we know exactly what it was that went wrong in this particular instance you cannot put something right until you know what is wrong. So we are looking at the details.
Q23 Steve McCabe: What is the normal procedure? If you sign a banning order, is there a normal check that it has been issued to the individual? So has something gone wrong, or are we identifying for the first time that you sign a bit of paper and that is the last bit of action you are involved in?
Theresa May: No, there is a normal process that is undertaken by UK Border Agency in relation to any exclusion orders that I sign. As I indicated to the Chairman earlier, that process may differ depending on the circumstances of the individual who is being excluded from the United Kingdom, but there is a normal process of notification and then, obviously, of indications to those at ports of entry that this is an individual who should not be allowed to enter the United Kingdom. That did not work in this instance. Something went wrong. We are urgently reviewing this to see what it was that went wrong and, of course, when we have identified that we will take steps to put it right.
Q24 Steve McCabe: What happens if you have to sign one before you have completed all this inquiry? What happens if you had to sign one on somebody else in the next 48 hours? What would you do to try and stop a repeat, bearing in mind you will not have all the facts? There is not much point in your signing a banning order if you cannot stop the individual, is there?
Chair: Maybe I could summarise it like this: I think the Committee is obviously less than pleased with what has happened, I think Parliament is less than pleased, I imagine you are less than pleased and that you made it very clear to your officials that it should not happen again.
Theresa May: That would be a very good summary.
Q25 Mr Clappison: Not necessarily displeased that an exclusion order has been signed where it is considered that somebody is responsible for unacceptable behaviour, and of course, Home Secretary, you have to act within the administrative and legal framework that you found in place when you took your office.
Can I move on to another aspect of that framework that you inherited. The National Audit Office estimates that there are 181,000 overstayers whose visas have run out since December 2008 and doubtless many more since before then. What steps are being taken toughen up on the enforcement of overstaying?
Theresa May: Yes, we are taking a number of steps. First of all, we are committed to reintroducing exit checks. That will be done over a period of time. E-borders will be a crucial part of that ability for us to introduce those exit checks so that we have a better understanding of who is or is not in the country. But on immigration generally we are looking across every aspect of our immigration system. So there are a number of issues that we are looking at in terms of the number of people who have visas and are eligible to enter the UK for work purposes, and so forth. We are also looking at the whole process of enforcing our rules and decisions and the removal of individuals who should not be here. So there is work ongoing to see how we can improve our ability to enforce and remove.
Q26 Mr Clappison: Is that review of enforcement, both on people who are overstaying and on people who have committed criminal offences while they are in this country, looking at the question of the Human Rights Act and the way in which it has interfered with the immigration system and the legal system?
Theresa May: The Human Rights Act has obviously, in a number of cases, prevented us from removing people from the United Kingdom for a variety of reasons. Two reason are normally cited: either if it is considered not possible to send them back to a particular country from which they have originated because of what the courts here decide may happen to them there, or under Article 8 in relation to the right to family life. We are indeed looking at the issue of the operation of the Human Rights Act in relation to immigration cases, because I think everybody will be as displeased as I am when, for example, we are not able to remove from the United Kingdom somebody who has committed criminal offences in the United Kingdom.
Q27 Mr Clappison: Have you found in your review of this that there are perhaps several hundred people in that position, who have committed serious offences who cannot be removed because of the Human Rights Act?
Theresa May: I will not put a number on it. Obviously there have been a number of high profile cases in relation to this. Suffice it to say, if I may, that this is an issue about which we do have concern and about which we are actively working and looking at.
Q28 Mr Clappison: Can I ask you one other question on the ambit of the review that you are carrying out on human rights. We have been told, and it has been made public knowledge, that there are some 2,000 individuals in this country who are suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. It is believed that a number of those are foreign citizens. Would the review, which you are carrying out, look at any question of the Human Rights Act preventing the removal of foreign citizens who are a threat to this country’s security?
Theresa May: We are looking at the issue of being able to remove from the United Kingdom those who are a threat to this country’s security in a number of aspects. Obviously if it is the case that that the Human Rights Act is being cited as a means of not being able to do so-and obviously there have been cases in the past where that has been made public-then it is a question of looking at that, but also at our discussions with other countries about the possibility of deportation with assurances. This is the other part of that picture, which would give us greater ability to remove people from the United Kingdom. We have been able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on deportation with assurances and indeed on returns generally in immigration cases, with a number of countries now and we are working on doing so with more.
Q29 Mr Clappison: Will the review be able to weigh up the threat to national security and the burden on the security services, which these people represent, and set that against the question of the Human Rights Act itself?
Theresa May: I have been clear in public statements that I have made that I am concerned about the operation of a piece of legislation that means that the rights of the individual are not, I think, always properly balanced against the rights of society more generally; be it the rights of a victim’s family where a criminal offence perhaps has taken place, or the rights of society in terms of our security. The review is looking at how we in our operations-obviously in our immigration decisions and the way we operate the immigration system-might be able to overcome some of these issues. This is not something that is an overnight answer, I am afraid. Obviously it is an issue that requires very careful consideration.
Q30 Michael Ellis: Home Secretary, there are those who may think that at the moment there is an imbalance, following on from what Mr Clappison has been saying, in the human rights aspect of things in this country and the definition and how it is applied, and that the imbalance is that between the right of the individual, as perceived by some courts, and the right of the general public at large. You have said clearly that you are unhappy with the state of affairs and looking at things, is one of the possibilities a redefinition of what is meant by some of these phrases in the Humans Right Act?
Theresa May: There are particular Articles within this area. One of those that it is used of course is Article 8, which is the right to a private and family life. Article 8 is not an absolute right and it is open to us-and this is one of the issues that we are looking at-to give consideration to a better definition within Article 8, to see if that is a way in which we can provide a greater ability for us to be able to ensure that people are removed when it is appropriate to do so.
Q31 Michael Ellis: Good, thank you. Moving on slightly to the Border Agency particularly and appeals from the UK Border Agency decisions. Apparently, 39% of appeals were allowed. However judges are complaining that too many cases are routinely being appealed. Can we do anything to stop routine appeals from decisions of the Border Agency that are clearly clogging up the judicial process?
Theresa May: Yes, if I may, as a broader context as well, of course we have recently had a Supreme Court decision that means that we may see even more appeals, because there is an extra appeal part of the process that now appears to be available. We are looking at the appeals process and what can be done, and very often there will be cases where what happens is an individual will apply and an Entry Clearance Officer will take a decision on that application for a visa. That might be a decision to refuse. The individual then appeals and produces more evidence for the appeal and then we find that, on the basis of that evidence, the appeal is allowed and the assumption is that the original decision was wrong. In fact, on the information available to the officer, the original decision was right; it is that the applicant has produced more evidence. So we are looking at what we can do within that system, for example, because those are appeals that take time, take resource, and so we are looking at what we can do around that as well.
Q32 Dr Huppert: Just very briefly on that, would you agree therefore that it is the system that tells people what sort of information they may need to apply that will be an issue. As you will know, many Members get involved with these appeal cases where it seems perverse, the initial decision of UKBA. I could give examples. Therefore, we should also be trying to make sure that UKBA does, as far as possible, get it right first time because you will know, for example, the successful appeal rates in Canada are extremely low.
Theresa May: The UK Border Agency want to get the decision right first time. It is in our interests that they do so, it is in the interests of the applicant that they get it right first time, and they make every effort so to do. But as I have just indicated to Mr Ellis, in my answer to his question, what we often see in appeals is not that the UKBA officer gets it wrong. The UKBA officer often makes the right decision on the basis of the information provided to them by the applicant and then, subsequently, when they go to appeal, the applicant provides further information that, had it been available initially, would have changed the decision. It is that process that is in nobody’s interests; it takes time and money, it costs the applicant. So I think it is important for us that we find ways of ensuring that we can get that decision process right.
Q33 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, were you surprised that the impact assessment on your Tier 4 policy changes, which obviously came out some time after you had decided and announced the changes, is estimated to cost our economy £2.4 billion?
Q34 Theresa May: Of course, we want to be transparent with people in relation to the impact of the policies that we are producing, but I do have a concern about the approach that is taken in producing these impact assessments. If I can just explain in two areas to the Committee that the impact assessment, the figure that has been produced does not take account fully of the costs on public services, for example, of individuals, and it crucially, to my view, makes an assumption-because a lot of the costs that they had identified there was in relation to work, people coming in and working in the UK-that if a student does not come in with a visa and work in the UK, that job is not undertaken by anybody. That is the basis on which they make this economic assessment. Now, I don’t think that is right.
I am not going to suggest what percentage of those jobs might be taken by other people, but what I do think is that that assumption, that none of those jobs will be filled by anybody else, is not right. I have asked the Migration Advisory Committee-and I am not going to pluck at figures from thin air-to look at these issues to see if we can get to a point where we can get a better assessment and a better judgement of the true picture, in relation to the costs or otherwise, of the decisions that we are taking, because I do not believe that the impact assessment gives a full and true picture at the moment.
Q35 Steve McCabe: They describe it as their best estimate. Should we anticipate that there is going to be a revised estimate then, based on what you have said?
Theresa May: The Migration Advisory Committee is doing work, not on the specific estimate but on the generality of how it would be possible for us to improve the estimates that are being made. So that is work for the future.
Q36 Dr Huppert: I raised a question about this at last week’s Home Office questions and the Immigration Minister said very much what you said, but it leads me to the following thoughts. At the stage where the policy was being developed and consulted on, there was not an impact assessment. At the stage at which you announced the changed in immigration rules to bring it into effect, there is an immigration assessment showing costs of £2.5 billion, which you do not believe. Does that mean that you are going ahead with a policy without an impact assessment that you believe?
Theresa May: There will be a number of areas where the Government decides to take a policy decision on something because it believes that it is the right thing to do. The impact assessment can inform that but, given that we have a process on the impact assessment that currently we feel does not give us full information in relation to that particular issue, and of course we consider these matters when we are taking the policy decision, as a Government, we have a commitment to reduce net migration into this country. That is a commitment that is a Coalition commitment to reduce net migration into this country, and we are putting in place the policies that enable that to happen.
Q37 Dr Huppert: As you will be well aware, there is a party difference on whether it is a Government commitment or a Conservative commitment. But are you saying that, even if it turns out that on a proper impact assessment the cost would £1.5 billion, £2 billion, whatever it may be, you think that is an acceptable price to pay from this economy?
Theresa May: What I am saying is that the impact assessment that has been published has a particular cost attached to it. As I have explained, I do not believe that presents the full picture of the impact of the decision that we are taking. Some of these issues are difficult to judge. The impact on the cost of public services, for example, is not an easy element to be able to assess in relation to these decisions. So I accept there is difficulty there, but we do not have the figure, what I believe is a true picture, but there will be occasions when Government across the board, not just in this particular area of policy, has made a decision that a policy is important to follow and will follow that policy.
Q38 Chair: Before we pursue these cracks in the Coalition, are you still sticking to your target? You are going to reduce net immigration down to the tens of thousands by the time that this Parliament is over?
Theresa May: It is certainly our aim to reduce net migration down to the tens of thousands.
Q39 Michael Ellis: Staying on the subject of immigration, the Coalition commitment is a clear one to reduce immigration, as you have already said, Home Secretary, and the general public belief is there has been far too much immigration but you are also focused on ensuring, are you not, that there is room for talented individuals and exceptional people to settle? I note that one of the questions in the consultation was to allow Tier 1 exceptionally talented migrants to settle, although investors and entrepreneurs settling is not something that has been consulted on, and can you expand a little on the rationale behind the Tier 1 position?
Theresa May: Yes. We are, as you know, when we looked at the whole question of Tier 1 and Tier 2, we listened very much to business as to the approach that we should take, and the approach that they very much wanted us to take, which we did adopt, was that we should put the greater emphasis on Tier 2 but allow some capacity within Tier 1 still for exceptionally talented individuals to be able to come in, and including within that, entrepreneurs and investors.
Michael Ellis: That is included?
Theresa May: So we are looking at that whole area of entrepreneurs and investors as to what should be possible for those individuals, and the ways in which we might be able to encourage those who would be good for the British economy to come here. The overwhelming theme that we are following is that we want to obviously ensure that, one Britain is open for business and two, that we are open to those who will be of benefit to our economy.
Michael Ellis: That has answered the question, thank you.
Q40 Nicola Blackwood: One of the issues associated with the change of the student visas is the impact on universities. But meeting with university leaders a couple of weeks ago, their major concern was not with the Tier 4 visa system, which they claim is working fine, but with the Tiers 1 and 2 and accessing researchers and so on. Are you finding that the 4,000 limit for Tier 1 is functioning properly, from the UKBA perspective, and that you think that is going to provide sufficient researchers and top academics for the university structure to ensure that we remain internationally competitive?
Theresa May: Yes, I am confident it is operating properly and for this reason. I would simply say I think sometimes universities assume that their researchers could only come in under Tier 1, as exceptionally talented individuals. In fact, they can come as-
Nicola Blackwood: Which they are.
Theresa May: I am sure they are exceptionally talented, but in fact they can come under Tier 2 as people who have an offer of a job, and I think sometimes universities forget that they should be looking at that avenue. I am confident that these figures, the limit that we have set, will not be a brake on people being able to come into the UK as researchers, and I am confident that it is not a brake in fact more generally on business and others’ requirements because so far, in the operation of the annual limit, we have seen a significant under usage of the certificates of sponsorship that are available under Tier 2.
Nicola Blackwood: That is interesting, thank you.
Q41 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, I would like to talk about the control of our borders. I understand our agreement with the French on controlling the border between Dover and Calais is working very well, and working very effectively. Do we have any plans for similar arrangements on border controls with other countries, where we have sensitive borders, or indeed further arrangements in other areas in the north of France?
Theresa May: The juxtaposed controls at Calais are working well. Indeed, I visited Calais three or four weeks ago with the French Interior Minister and we saw that in operation. Indeed, on the very morning that we were there, a number of illegal immigrants were caught in a lorry that was trying to go through the border, so it showed that the processes do work very well. We do have some juxtaposed controls elsewhere. For example, we have some ability to identify individuals in Belgium as well. However, this is not developed to the extent that it is in relation to France and indeed, on the very same day, as it was reported in the Press, an individual attempted to use what is known as "the Lisle loophole", which is the individual who gets on a train with a ticket to Lisle and then tries to stay on across the border and, indeed, the individual was apprehended by UKBA at St Pancreas.
Q42 Lorraine Fullbrook: So, for example, with Belgium, will we enhance the arrangements with them in the future?
Theresa May: We are obviously always looking at opportunities in which we can improve the controls that we have and are working with other Member States in doing so, but it is not just a question of physically siting officers; it is obviously a question of the legal processes and the legal powers that are available to us but we are always looking to improve our system.
Q43 Mr Clappison: Very briefly on the question of impact. You have been asked about some narrow economic impacts but net immigration, which you referred to, has been in recent years shooting up and running at a rate of in the region of 200,000 a year, which contributes to population growth, one of the consequences of mass migration. Is that something that you are taking into account in your analysis of migration policy, and the future population growth in this country with a target of possibly 70 million on present trends?
Theresa May: What we have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to do is-when it is looking at these issues around limits and appropriate limits-to look more widely at the impact of immigration. It does not specifically talk about the future population level, but obviously by definition, in looking at the impact on public services on issues like housing, these are all aspects of that issue.
Q44 Mr Clappison: It will take into account the population growth itself up to 70 million on trends?
Theresa May: That is a figure that you have quoted. You will note that I am not putting a figure on the possible future population growth. I think what is key here is the impact on services and the economy, and it is not a question of looking at a particular point in time of what the figure is going to be. The questions are, what is the impact, what is the effect of individuals coming into the UK in relation to public services, in relation to the economy, in relation to the infrastructure and issues such as housing.
Q45 Mr Clappison: Can I ask you about borders? You have been asked about the border with France and Belgium. Can I ask you about European borders more generally, because the Committee has been interested in the operations of Frontex, which this country makes a contribution towards? Have you taken an interest in what has been taking place in the operations of Frontex, for example, on the Greek/Turkish border, and do you have any reflections on that?
Theresa May: Indeed, yes, and it is true to say that within the European Union, the issue of the Greek border is one that has been discussed on a number of occasions, and the importance of providing support to enable more capacity and a better ability to deal with what is happening on the Greek border is indeed something that is being looked at actively. Obviously Frontex is a part of that. Of course, we are not full members of Frontex, in the way that other Member States are not in the Schengen Grouping, but we do contribute to Frontex and we have made clear that we stand ready to provide resources and expert advice and expertise to Frontex in what we think is a very important job, which is the job of ensuring that we have good and proper external border controls.
Q46 Chair: As Mr Clappison has said, the Committee is very concerned about the Greek and Turkish border. We visited the border. We went to a detention centre at Filakio. There are 100,000 people crossing that border every year and their destination of choice is London, Paris and Stockholm; it is not Athens and, therefore, any support we can give the Greek Government, and indeed Turkey, would help us in the long run and we just wanted to make clear that the Committee felt strongly about this.
Theresa May: Indeed, and there is a Greek action plan, as you probably know, Chairman, within the European Union, which is a number of Member States working with Frontex, working to provide capacity and support at that border, to ensure that it is possible to better deal with the people who are crossing that border. Of course, the work of the European Asylum Support Office, another organisation that is being set up within the European Union, will be an element of that too.
Q47 Alun Michael: Staying on this issue of the external borders, do you have any concerns about the future access of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area, in regards to the security, the use of external borders?
Theresa May: On the membership of individual countries within the Schengen area, of course, we are not a member of the Schengen Grouping, so we have a different relationship with those sorts of decisions. What has been happening is a number of requirements are set for those countries that do join these groupings, in terms of the operation of their systems and how they are dealing with them.
Q48 Alun Michael: No, I understand the distinction between the members of the group and those like us who are not, but obviously there are serious implications for our borders and movement within the EU, on the consistency and skill with which the Schengen Group deal with those issues. So as I understand it, there are a number of points that are assessed, as you just said. Does the UK play a part in that assessment? Do we provide our expertise when those assessments are being made, which I think are in relation to air borders, visas, police co-operation and personal data protection?
Theresa May: We do get involved in some of those assessments and looking at some of those assessments certainly. In terms of our own security, of course, people would still be subject to our own controls at UK borders because we are not part of the Schengen Grouping in relation to that.
Q49 Alun Michael: No, but when the Committee went to Turkey and some colleagues went to Greece as well, it was quite clear that what was happening in Turkey and Greece, and the level of co-operation between the Turkish authorities and our own authorities, was absolutely crucial further down the line, but we do then play a part in the assessment process.
Theresa May: Yes, and what we are doing at the Home Office in relation to UKBA, in relation to some of these border matters, is looking at the extent to which we are able to provide support to countries to increase capacity upstream from our point of view, so that we are enabling better systems, better ways of dealing with people who are crossing borders, who ultimately might be trying to come to the UK. So we are not just looking at what we do in terms of the border at the UK. We are very conscious of these issues of other borders, both within Europe and indeed elsewhere, and we are looking to provide support and expertise in capacity building.
Chair: Thank you. Could I say to colleagues, we have a lot of other questions to put to the Home Secretary on policing and counter-terrorism, so could we be as brief as possible in our questions? That is not directed at you, Dr Huppert, but it would be helpful.
Q50 Dr Huppert: Thank you, Chair. Could I just ask a couple of quick questions hopefully about asylum; the first on the broader issue about the Dublin Convention, the Dublin II. As you will know, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles is being very critical of it, particularly with regard to Greece, and the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Belgium and Greece. I believe the UK opposed the suspension of the Convention, arguing instead for practical co-operation. What does that mean?
Theresa May: What it means is the following. You are absolutely right; there has been a court judgment that means it is not possible to return asylum seekers to Greece. I believe, however, that the Dublin Regulation-which, in principle, as you know, is that a country should be able to return an asylum seeker to the country at which they first entered the European Union-is an extremely important regulation. We want to maintain that regulation. I believe that suspension of the Dublin Regulations would give the wrong message. I think it would potentially act as a call factor. I think it would not solve the issue at the border that is causing a particular difficulty, because all it would mean would be that people would be able to come through and go into other Member States and not be able to be returned, so there is no incentive to improve the capacity at that border. Rather than suspending the Dublin Regulation, what we want to do is what I have been talking about in answer to other questions, which is to provide that level of support and capacity, working with other Member States within the European Union, at those external borders, like Greece, through things like the Greece action plan to try to ensure that the issue is dealt with appropriately where it should be, which is at that border.
Q51 Dr Huppert: I will have to move on, for reasons of time. If I could just ask one quick question about our own asylum system. I get the sense from constituents who come to see me, that there are increasing waiting times for asylum decisions and even some who thought they were in the old programme seem to have slipped on to a new programme. What is the latest in terms of backlog? Is it growing again and will we face the same problems we have had in the past?
Theresa May: No. Of course, as you know, the backlog that we had in the past, which has recently been resolved, got as high as 500,000 cases and we are certainly not looking at that sort of backlog. I am just looking for the figures. I was looking through my folder for the appropriate figures. Currently, in terms of dealing with decisions, it delivers an excess of 50% and often above 60% of decisions within 30 days of application, and that is up from 21% in the May 2009 cohort, and in excess of 90% of cases now have a decision within six months. What we are looking-
Q52 Chair: What are the numbers, Home Secretary? How many are in the backlog at the moment?
Theresa May: What we are doing at the moment is looking at how we can best make information available to people about what the numbers are for those who are currently within the system and within the backlog. As you will know, Chairman, from the 500,000 cases, there are a number of cases that have not yet been concluded, some of which are on the way to being concluded but not necessarily everybody has had their answer.
Q53 Chair: Yes. You have obviously seen our last report where only 9% were removed off the backlog of 450,000. We are not holding this Government solely responsible. This is successor Governments, and we were concerned at the number of lost files; 74,000 people could not be found. So are there processes in place to make sure that with this asylum backlog, it is not repeated?
Theresa May: There are processes in place. We have looked at what happened previously, of course, and have learned from what happened previously. I should say, Chairman, that of course of those that we inherited-and it was a problem that we inherited from the last Government-the 500,000 cases, those have now been dealt with. There is that number of around 70,000; I think the figure is just around 75,000, who have not been traced. What is happening, in relation to those, is that efforts continue to be made to try to ensure that we are able to identify those individuals and what has happened to those individuals and take appropriate action.
Q54 Chair: Indeed and when will we have a new head of the UK Border Agency?
Theresa May: It is my intention that an announcement will be made this week.
Chair: This week, excellent. Now, Ms Blackwood has a quick question on extradition.
Q55 Nicola Blackwood: Very quick. We have received some concerns and criticisms on the EU arrest warrant and other areas of extradition arrangements that we have and, in particular, issues of forum. I know that there is an extradition review ongoing. Could you give us an update, please?
Theresa May: Yes. The extradition review that is ongoing will look at the European arrest warrant, as well as the UK/US Treaty and other extradition matters, and it will be reporting later this year, sometime in the autumn. They have recently made a visit to the United States to look at the other side of the coin, in terms of the UK/US Treaty on extradition. They have been taking evidence from a number of bodies and the work is ongoing.
Q56 Chair: Let us turn on to policing now. Could I start with police bail? Again, from colleagues, very quick questions to the Home Secretary. When did Ministers first know that there was a problem about the bail situation?
Theresa May: The Ministers were first alerted to the bail situation on 24 June.
Q57 Chair: Prior to that, there was no indication that there was a problem.
Theresa May: Not to Ministers, no. What had happened, I am happy to go through the timeframe, Chairman, was that the initial judicial decision was in April. There was then an appeal and that was not upheld in May. It was not until 17 June that the written judgment became available to ACPO and the Home Office, and it was not until that had been properly assessed that it became clear that the issue was wider than had first been thought.
Q58 Chair: Indeed. We have had all that from the police but thank you for repeating it. Thank you very much for the courtesy of letting us have a copy of the Bill in advance of the final draft. This is going to be very helpful in terms of the debate. Can I just ask you about the decision that has just been made by the Supreme Court to refuse the stay of judgment? Was that a surprise to you? Did you know that it has just happened?
Theresa May: I know that it has just happened. You ask if it was a surprise. I always hesitate to predict what judicial decisions are going to be because, indeed, I am sometimes surprised by judicial decisions. I think what the court has done is it has made clear that it was not necessarily open to it to make a stay in these particular circumstances. As you know, a stay can only be introduced in exceptional circumstances.
Q59 Chair: Yes, but was this very much a matter for ACPO as opposed to the Home Office? Were you waiting for ACPO to tell you what to do? Not you personally but the Home Office.
Theresa May: No. We were not waiting for ACPO to tell us what to do, but you will appreciate that operational judgments about the impact are very much a matter for ACPO and so, of course, the Home Office was working with ACPO, but we were reliant on ACPO being able to make a judgment as to what the operational impact of this decision of the courts would be. Within an hour of receiving the request from ACPO that they believed that emergency legislation was necessary-I think it was an hour and two minutes after we received that letter in fact-Nick Herbert stood up in the House and made the statement that he did last Thursday that we would do it.
Q60 Chair: Yes. The timetable is still 12 June? You hope that by 12 June Royal Assent would be achieved and the new law will take effect.
Theresa May: 12 July.
Chair: 12 July.
Q61 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, I want to ask; given the mess that we are now in because of the Supreme Court’s decision, and the fact that this started three months ago virtually, are you absolutely satisfied that you and all the people you are responsible for, have acted properly and promptly to head off this problem?
Theresa May: Yes, I am.
Steve McCabe: How?
Theresa May: If I may, and I do not want to repeat the timeline, but for this reason: the original judgment was given, Greater Manchester Police appealed against that judgment, that appeal was not upheld. The verdict was given orally; the judgment that was given was an oral judgment and indeed I think it was made clear at the time that obviously there would be more detail in the written judgment. It was not until that written judgment was received that it was clear that this decision had an implication that was wider than the particular aspects of the particular case upon which the original judgment had been made. It is that wider implication. A number of opinions have been taken from counsel on this, to make sure we get it absolutely right in relation to what we should be doing and what-
Q62 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, it was reported in the Criminal Law and Justice Weekly journal the day after the written judgment, but your officials probably did not see that because they did not look at the judgment until the following Monday. How is that evidence that you are treating it seriously? That suggests to me that something that is now a major problem has been allowed to fester.
Theresa May: What we are talking about, Mr McCabe, is a judgment being available on 17 June, a written judgment that had to have proper consideration of it, not just by officials in the Home Office, not just by police officers in ACPO but counsels’ opinion was taken on this and that counsels’ opinion was available. As I understand it, initial opinion was available the following week. I was alerted to the fact of the implications of this on Friday, 24 June. I immediately asked for the legal opinion to be available to me that following Monday. It was then ACPO decided they wished to take further counsels’ opinion. At that stage, it was clear to me that we might need emergency legislation, but we were still looking at the full implications of the decision that had been taken.
Q63 Michael Ellis: Presumably, Home Secretary, it is perfectly possible that the oral judgment, having been given, it might have turned out to have applied only to that individual case or a particular cohort of cases and, as someone who has been in practice in the courts for 17 years, would you agree with me that clearly we had to wait and see what the written judgment said before acting precipitately? Yes or no?
Theresa May: Yes, I do.
Q64 Chair: Okay; let us turn to general policing. You have just come from Harrogate; you have heard Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, saying, "Pause; let us consider these reforms. They are the most fundamental reforms for over 150 years. Why don’t we adopt the attitude taken by Andrew Lansley, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, to have a good think about these reforms?" Are you prepared to accept Sir Hugh’s advice?
Theresa May: We will go ahead with the reforms, Chairman, in the way that we have introduced them, and on the timetable that we have already introduced, and the reason for doing so is very simple. In fact, Sir Hugh, in his speech yesterday, indicated as you have just said. He also said that he wanted to ensure that there were appropriate decisions being taken in relation to a number of the issues and asked for us to, in some areas, in his view, I think speed things up.
In relation to this particular decision, we have a Coalition agreement to introduce directly elected individuals to be responsible for accountability, democratic accountability for policing at a local level. We are pursuing that. As you know, it is the Bill. The police perform a social responsibility to do this through the Lords.
Chair: Yes; we will come to all those questions in a moment. One thing-
Theresa May: Can I just make one point?
Theresa May: Because I think what is crucial here is, yes, we are making a number of changes in the way that policing is undertaken in this country and the structures in which it is undertaken, and we are doing that against a background of financial cuts. I believe that the cuts make reform all the more urgent. I do not think that the cuts are an excuse for not reforming. I think they make the need for reform all the more urgent.
Q65 Chair: One of the things you were asked yesterday was something that the Minister for Police said that the Government had no plans to do a week ago when he sat before this Committee. I asked him specifically, "Is there a plan to set up a Government owned company to be responsible for Police IT?" He said, "No. There is no plan for a Government owned company", but you announced yesterday there was a plan for a company to be set up. It was not going to be Government owned; it was going to be owned by the police but the Government may well have shares in it, and you put as the Chairman designate of this company your special advisor on policing. Is Lord Wasserman going to chair this committee?
Theresa May: No. First of all, Chairman, the Policing Minister said we were not going to set up a Government owned company. We are not setting up a Government owned company.
Chair: But you are going to have shares in it, aren’t you?
Theresa May: We may. It is our expectation that we will take some shares in it but the detail on that has yet to be worked through, and that work has now started. The aim of the company is that it will be police owned and police led. I think it is absolutely crucial that these decisions are being taken by the police in relation to their ICT because they are the people who know what they need; they are the people who will be using this equipment. It is also important that this is a company that has running it people who are professional in ICT. We cannot put amateurs on it who happen to know a bit about computers. It is essential that these are people who are professionals in ICT. We have set up a group that will be overseeing the transition and overseeing the work that is in preparation for this company. It is the case that Lord Wasserman, who is an advisor on crime and policing matters to the Home Office, will be chairing that particular group. You assumed that that was the equivalent of being the Chairman of the company; it is not.
Q66 Chair: It is not; so there is no problem with Lord Wasserman coming to give evidence to this Committee on his work now that he is chairing this group. Is that right because, so far, he has resisted coming to see us?
Theresa May: I think that it is right that advisors do not normally come to the-
Chair: But now he has this new position, will he be able to come to the Committee?
Theresa May: He is operating still as an advisor for the Government, Chairman.
Chair: I see, okay.
Q67 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would like to talk about the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. During the passage of the Bill, the Opposition tabled an amendment for elected Police Authority Chairmen. Why do we not have elected Police Authority Chairmen?
Theresa May: For the very good reason that, if you went down the route of elected Police Authority Chairmen, you would end up in almost the worst of all worlds, in the sense that you would have somebody who would be claiming a democratic mandate but who could not put that democratic mandate into place because they could be outvoted by members of the Police Authority. So you would have paid lip service to democracy but not delivered the democratic accountability that we believe is necessary, and it would also cost more money.
Q68 Dr Huppert: Can I just come briefly back to this company; the police owned Government interested company? Will it be subject to FOI and other sorts of normal requirements of public sector bodies?
Theresa May: I would expect so, but we are looking through exactly what the structure is going to be and obviously working with the police because we want this to be police owned and police led. So I answer your question in the way I have, rather than in an absolute because the nature of it is-
Q69 Chair : Will it be multi-purpose?
Theresa May: Yes.
Dr Huppert: I hope it will.
Q70 Chair : It is still working through?
Theresa May: Yes. We have to do the very detailed work about exactly what the appropriate commercial and financial and governance structures for this body are.
Q71 Michael Ellis: On Police and Crime Commissioners, Home Secretary, and you have spoken of reform of policing generally and the need for it, are you, in the Home Office, focused on being more responsive to local needs but also conscious of the need for joined up policing as to the national aspects of policing?
Theresa May: Yes, indeed. I think often when people look at what we are doing in terms of policing reform, they focus on the Police and Crime Commissioners, but in fact what we are doing is far wider than that. In fact, I was saying in my speech to ACPO yesterday, we are changing the model and we are changing the model to one where decisions are taken at the level that is appropriate for those decisions to be taken. I think that what happened in the past was that Central Government tried to interfere too much in local policing but did not do enough on national level and international level crime. So what we are setting up is a model where local policing is subject to the democratic accountability of the Police and Crime Commissioner, where national and international level crime will be dealt with by the National Crime Agency, the new body that we will set up, a crime fighting body, which will bring together an economic crime command, a border police command, organised crime command and the child exploitation and online protection organisation, and will be able to get synergies across those areas of dealing with crime of that sort. So national level crime dealt with nationally, local crime dealt with locally and collective decisions dealt with collectively, such as in the ICT proposal that we are putting up.
Q72 Michael Ellis: How can we hold separately accountable the individual Chief Constables, and Police and Crime Commissioners, for the financial management and performance of their local police force?
Theresa May: Of course, the Chief Constable will be held to account by the Police and Crime Commissioner. We will ensure that there is transparency, as we have introduced in other public bodies, in relation to money that is being spent. But there will, as there is today with the Police Authorities, continue to be an overall responsibility for the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, as accounting officer for the structure and the way in which money is distributed to the police forces.
Q73 Michael Ellis: Geographically as well? The Police and Crime Commissioners will need to know, or perhaps they will be their own judge, which police forces to collaborate with especially if they are geographically adjacent. Will there be guidance for them about that or is that something that can be left to their own discretion?
Theresa May: We are looking at what support and help we can give in relation to collaboration, and we are indeed encouraging collaboration on a number of aspects, a number of procurement aspects for example. I am pleased to say we are already seeing police forces now doing more to combine their efforts in those areas where they believe it can deliver better operational policing.
Q74 Alun Michael: Coming to the issue of domestic violence, have you made a recent analysis of the impact of national and local spending cuts in respect of services to deal with these issues? I am talking both of refuges and outreach and support groups.
Theresa May: Yes. At a national level, the Home Office has protected funding for £28 million of funding over the four year CSR period for some specialist domestic violence services that will include-
Alun Michael: Yes, sorry, I asked about the support for local services because, on 7 March, a survey showed that 60% of refuge services were without agreed funding from 1 April and 72% of outreach services. So can you tell us what the position is now?
Theresa May: Yes. Mr Michael, you asked me I think about both the national and local level of provision of funding-
Alun Michael: No. I asked about the impact of the national and local spending cuts on local services and domestic violence.
Theresa May: I am responding on the impact of national and local spending cuts. In relation to the national picture, we have protected funding at the Home Office. In relation to the local spending picture, there has been very little change to the supporting people funding that is available to local authorities, which has been the area from which most local authorities have been providing these sorts of services. But I suggest, before you try and intervene again, let me just finish my answer to you this time. However, we are aware that there are issues at local level about local authorities’ approach to the funding of and the provision of services in relation to domestic violence. I chaired a meeting two or three weeks ago of the Inter-ministerial Group, which I hold regularly, on violence against women and girls, at which we took evidence from a number of stakeholders from Women’s Aid, and Refuge was there as well, for example; and a number of other organisations involved in the delivery of these services at local level, and we heard directly from them. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government attended the meeting in order to hear that evidence. Baroness Hanham, who is a Minister in the Communities and Local Government Department, has recently held a workshop with local authorities, to impress on them the importance of ensuring that they continue to see the importance of providing for those who are subject to, victims of and survivors of, domestic violence. We have been giving, at every opportunity possible, very clear messages to local authorities about the importance of this work, but the decision-
Q75 Alun Michael: With respect, Home Secretary, that is a very long answer that does not answer the question. We are aware that, for instance, Devon was going to cut domestic abuse support by 100%, then cut it by 42% compared to its own cuts of 27% over four years. Are these services going to be devastated locally? Have you made a recent assessment of this?
Theresa May: What I am saying to you, Mr Michael, is that we have heard evidence from stakeholders recently about what is happening in relation to these services. The decision about local authorities’ distribution of their budgets is a decision for local authorities. What the Government-
Q76 Alun Michael: In retrospect, was it not unwise to abolish the performance indicator that obliged all English councils to tackle domestic violence?
Theresa May: I have to say to you, Mr Michael, that a scenario in which local authorities, and indeed other organisations, constantly have to look at a myriad of performance indicators that were provided by the last Government, I do not think is one that necessarily provides for the best opportunities at local level. What I think is important-and I am bound now to say this-of course local authorities are looking at funding cuts. They are looking at funding cuts because this Government is dealing with the biggest budget deficit in peacetime history.
Alun Michael: Save us the cracked record, Home Secretary.
Theresa May: I am sorry. I am sorry, this-
Chair: Order, order. Could we let the Home Secretary finish quickly? I would like to end this session before the House sits, and we have to get on to counter-terrorism. I know you have other things to do as well, so if we could just come to the end of your-
Theresa May: My point is very simple: local authorities must decide how they distribute their spending. National Government is giving them a very clear message that domestic violence is not an area that they should be looking to cut. It is an area that is important and they should continue to look to support it.
Q77 Alun Michael: Have you seen our report on forced marriage?
Chair: Yes; have you seen our report on forced marriage?
Theresa May: I am aware of your report on forced marriage.
Q78 Nicola Blackwood: On a belated point, I just wonder if you could give us an assessment of progress on Rape Crisis Centre funding, but also on the Sexual Assault Referral Centres, given that they are in same sort of bracket and should be prioritised?
Theresa May: Yes, indeed. On the Rape Crisis Centres or Rape Support Centres, extra funding is being made available through the Ministry of Justice to provide stable funding on a three-year basis for those centres. They have suffered in the past from not having that medium term funding, and money is also being provided for four new centres to be opened up, Rape Support Centres to be opened up, again from the Ministry of Justice to try and fill in some of the gaps that there are across the country.
Q79 Mr Winnick: How worried are you, Home Secretary, at the acute feeling of dissatisfaction felt by police officers, and which certainly they have communicated at every opportunity to this Committee?
Theresa May: I am aware that obviously we are making a number of reforms in relation to the police. I am also aware of course that there is concern among police officers, about some of the issues that are not only affecting them but affecting other workers in the public sector; notably, the potential for a two-year pay freeze. Of course, that has to go through the police negotiating body and the issue about potential increased contributions to pensions that, obviously as I say, is affecting people across the public sector. What I see when I visit police stations, when I talk to police officers, though, is a continued commitment to their job of public protection and cutting crime, and a continued enthusiasm for doing their job in the interests of the public.
Q80 Mr Winnick: That is not in question, is it, Home Secretary? Police officers who have contacted us, and spoken at a meeting in the House of Commons, have not said for one moment that they do not intend to carry out their duties and responsibilities. You went to the Police Federation. Were you surprised by the reaction you received as Home Secretary?
Theresa May: Mr Winnick, I am going to give a similar answer to one I gave when the Chairman asked me if I was surprised at something, which is that I had not expected or set up any expectation of what the reaction was going to be from the Police Federation. I know full well the Police Federation’s views on some of the changes that the Government is putting through at the moment. I have had meetings with those people from the Police Federation as well as addressing their conference, so I was well aware of that.
Q81 Mr Winnick: So these proposals are not set in concrete, do we take it? There will be a certain amount of flexibility on the part of the Government or am I wrong?
Theresa May: It depends what proposals you are talking about, Mr Winnick.
Mr Winnick: Windsor.
Theresa May: The Windsor proposals are going through the police negotiating body at the moment and I have made that clear. I wait to hear what comes out of the police negotiating body.
Chair: Could I quickly bring in Lorraine Fullbrook, and then we must move on to counter-terrorism?
Q82 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, I listened to your speech yesterday at the ACPO conference in Harrogate. Frankly, I was astounded that there is now one supply that has 1,500 contracts across all forces and that there is around 5,000 staff working on over 2,000 ICT systems across 100 data centres. Do you think this is a waste of time, money and resources?
Chair: That is an easy answer.
Theresa May: Yes, I do. I think we could be doing it much better, hence the ICT company.
Q83 Chair: Okay. Let us move on to the Prevent agenda for the final bit. I do want to end this session, Home Secretary, before the House sits. Can I ask you about Prevent and, first of all, your statement about the radicalisation at universities? Do you have evidence to suggest that it is the universities that are the problem?
Theresa May: What we have, Chairman, is evidence-
Chair: Bearing in mind we have Oxford and Cambridge represented here.
Theresa May: Yes, I am always conscious when I attend this Committee, and indeed in most Home Office questions that we have Oxford and Cambridge represented.
Chair: We all talk about our universities. I am sorry I raised it ; Home Secretary?
Theresa May: We know from surveys, and obviously from evidence that we have, that about 30% of those who have been involved in terrorist-related activity have been through universities or further education colleges. It is not the case-and I have always been clear about this-that all those will have been radicalised at university. There will be those who go to university and have been radicalised outside university, who have been perhaps radicalised before they have been there, or radicalised while there but by people outside the university. But I think it is the case that we certainly have a concern about the potential for radicalisation taking place within our universities and that is why I have said that I believe that Vice Chancellors should not be complacent about this and should recognise, what I believe, is a duty of care to students.
Q84 Chair: What about this definition of British values? You have mentioned this on a number of occasions. Define British values for this Committee?
Theresa May: We are looking at a belief in democracy; in the rule of law; in equality of treatment for people. Those are the sorts of British values that we are talking about.
Q85 Mr Winnick: The line between extremism and terrorism is sometimes blurred. How do you yourself define non-violence extremism?
Theresa May: It is difficult. We have a definition, which we put into the Prevent publication that we put out a few weeks ago, Mr Winnick. I could find and read out that definition to you. What we have been very concerned about addressing is the fact that, I think in the past, what has been assumed is that extremism was not a path to violent extremism in terms of terrorism. It is not the path for everybody but for some it will be, and that is why we think it is important to address extremism as well as the issue of terrorism.
Q86 Mr Winnick: In two days’ time, it will be the sixth anniversary of the mass murder of 52 totally innocent people, some seriously injured. How far, in your view, is the acute terrorist danger, leaving aside the disciplined IRA that is a separate threat to our country, but as far as the Islamist-I think that would be the best way to describe it-terrorist threat to our country, do you believe it is acute, less or more so than six years ago?
Theresa May: We currently have a national threat level that is at "severe", which is that an attack is highly likely. I think we must be ever vigilant against the threat that there is, and some people have asked whether the events in the last few months, notably the death of Osama bin Laden, has reduced that threat or changed that threat. We now see a more diverse group of people and organisations who pose a potential threat to the United Kingdom and, as I say, we must remain ever vigilant against that. If I may say so, our security services and our police do an excellent job, day in and day out, in maintaining that vigilance.
Q87 Dr Huppert: The Prevent Strategy notes that there are allegations that the previous Prevent programmes were used to spy on communities. This had a detrimental effect, a negative view on policing and so forth. Therefore, do you accept the reasons why universities-and I am proud to represent all three in my constituency-are concerned about what they are being asked to do and the effects that could have on increasing radicalisation, and also why GPs and the BMA are concerned that what they are being asked to do is unreasonable, unethical and could prove counterproductive?
Theresa May: This is not about spying. Let us be absolutely clear. We are not talking about universities or GPs spying on individuals. What we are talking about is them recognising their duty of care to individuals, and if they have a situation where somebody, for example, talks to a GP or a mental health specialist about their desire to do something, to act in a form of terrorism, I would think it entirely appropriate that that should be referred so that appropriate action can be taken. So it is not about spying, it is about helping those who may be vulnerable, or in a position where they may be subject to radicalisation, and giving them the necessary support and working with them.
Q88 Michael Ellis: Home Secretary, do we know who is going to take the lead on the Prevent Strategy yet, and more detail about some of the activities it will be involved in? There is reference to preventative work to negate terrorist threats, some detail on what type of preventative work that might be.
Theresa May: There will be, I would say, two types of work that will be undertaken. The Home Office will be leading on that work, which is about working with individuals through, for example, the Channel Project, which is identifying people who are vulnerable and perhaps on the path to radicalisation and working with them to move them away from that, and obviously looking at that slightly more widely within communities. What I would call the more integration aspect, or aspect of participation in society, which is about Prevent, will be lead by the Department of Communities and Local Government. I think it is the mixture of those two aspects of the work, under the Home Office in the past, that has led to some of the actions that were taken, which were more of an issue around participation in society and integration in society, getting a bad name because it was stained with being part of what people did perceive was spying on them.
Q89 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, given the fiasco of the bail situation and the problems with Mr Salah, are you confident you have your eye on the ball when it comes to e-borders and the Olympic security operation?
Theresa May: Yes, we do. Extremely hard work has being done in recent years and continues to be done, in relation to the Olympics and in relation to e-borders. Of course, on e-borders, we did terminate the contract with Raytheon and are letting further contracts. I think we currently have 90% of non-EU entrants to the UK being put the e-border system. That will very soon rise to 100%, so that system is there and been put in place and we are, I can assure you, watching that very closely and what happens there. On the Olympics, I was at the National Olympic Co-ordination Centre at New Scotland Yard this morning talking to them about what they are doing, and talking about the necessary process that we will now go through. An awful lot of planning has been done. We now go through a programme of testing and exercising over the coming months in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics, to ensure that the processes and the plans that have been put in place are right, to learn from those tests and exercises to see if any fine tuning is necessary in order to ensure that we are able to deliver what we all want, which is a safe and secure Games.
Q90 Chair: Can I ask you two final quick questions? The counter-terrorism portfolio, should that remain with the Metropolitan Police or should it be put into the National Crime Agency?
Theresa May: We have been very clear that it will remain. We will not be making any change to counter-terrorism policing in its structure in advance of the Olympics or the setting up of the National Crime Agency.
Chair: So it could be afterwards?
Theresa May: We will want to look at the relationship afterwards but we will not make any change before the Olympics or the NCA.
Q91 Chair: You are off to Washington very shortly, I understand.
Theresa May : I expect to be.
Chair: I am sure the case of Gary McKinnon is going to come up. Why has it taken a year for you to make a decision about Gary McKinnon, because when I was there a couple of years ago, there was no huge demand in Washington to have Gary McKinnon returned?
Theresa May: It has taken some time. We have been-and currently are, and I would hope that we will be able to conclude this soon-looking at who is appropriate to ask to give me independent medical advice, in relation to Gary McKinnon and his state of health. We have been discussing quite closely with Gary McKinnon’s lawyers obviously, who those appropriate people might be and, indeed, I have been taking advice from the Chief Medical Officer.
Q92 Chair: Mr Winnick is keen to know from you how the 14 days policy will apply when the House is not sitting.
Mr Winnick: 14 days plus.
Theresa May: 14 days plus. I have looked at the report of the Joint Committee on this particular matter, and I have accepted that there is a particular problem when the dissolution of Parliament occurs-so between the dissolution and a new Parliament being formed-and have decided that, for that period, there should be an order making power for the Home Secretary to be able to introduce the 28 days, but purely for that period.
Chair: Is that the new position now?
Theresa May: Yes.
Chair: It is.
Q93 Mr Winnick: There is no possibility that you will reconsider and just leave it at 14 days, if the House approves it?
Theresa May: Yes. I have always said that, personally, my preference is 14 days. I believe that in virtually all circumstances 14 days is right. I think the reason we have this possibility of extra legislation being brought in, with what I have said for the period of Parliament-I mentioned dissolution-is to cover those potentially very exceptional circumstances where it may be necessary.
Q94 Mr Winnick: I am just wondering if you will show some flexibility with the position.
Theresa May: The position has not changed, Mr Winnick.
Chair: Anyway, we will not open this up now. Home Secretary, you have been here for an hour and a half. You have answered over 100 questions, so we are most grateful and we look forward to seeing you in the House on Thursday.