Rt Hon Lord Lilley





    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has called for a change in the law to prevent people convicted of crimes in their absence in their own countries from staying in the United Kingdom.

    Speaking during Home Office questions in the House of Commons, Mr Lilley said: “The vast majority of people who come and settle in this country are decent and law abiding.

    “Does it not sully their reputation and undermine community relations when the government allow people to stay here who have been convicted of crimes in absentia in their own countries – cases as serious as murder – just because the conviction was in absentia?”

    Mr Lilley was referring in particular to complaints by the Albanian authorities that 100 convicted criminals – 80 of them murderers — have been given leave to remain in the UK. He acknowledged that it would require a change in the law to reverse a highly contentious court decision refusing to deport immigrants who had been convicted in their absence.   He demanded to know what the government planned to do to change the law.

    Phil Woolas, the minister responsible for borders and immigration, said he took Mr Lilley’s question very seriously.   But Peter Lilley expressed disappointment that the Minister’s reply “failed to address the issue, which is not one of sharing information, nor setting up a finger print data base but changing the law.”

    This is the full text of the Commons exchange:

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Although far too many people are allowed to come and settle in this country, the vast majority of those who do are decent, law-abiding people, so does it not sully their reputation and undermine community relations when the Government allow to stay in this country people who have been convicted of crimes in absentia in their home countries-crimes as serious as murder-just because that conviction was in absentia? I understand that legal action would be required to override a very dubious court ruling to prevent that practice. What does the Home Secretary propose to do to change the law?

    Mr. Woolas: I take the right hon. Gentleman’s question very seriously indeed. It is right that we deport people who have committed crimes; earlier, I gave the House some figures on successes. In cases such as those he raises, sometimes there are difficulties in data sharing with foreign countries. We are improving that situation significantly, particularly through the EURODAC proposals. On the specific point, if he has a case in mind-he has raised similar issues before-I will be more than happy to look into it. I reassure him and the House that we will do what we can to protect our country.



    Further information from John Allen