As the Windrush debacle unfolds placing the Home Office under justifiable challenge and scrutiny and making Ministers such as Amber Rudd and Caroline Nokes squirm when interviewed, another unconnected issue has emerged from recent reports from Parliament that once again questions the credibility of the immigration department and of the work of Caroline Nokes who is the Immigration Minister. Her twitter image is shown here. Back on 6th March Caroline Nokes was the Minister in the Chair on a discussion which took place on the issue of Yarls Wood detention centre. Coincidentally I wrote about the health contract for that centre a few days ago. The Parliamentary Debate on 6th March took place as a result of a request by Diane Abbot who explained during the debate “The shadow Attorney General and I travelled to Yarl’s Wood detention centre on Friday 23 February to inspect conditions and speak to some of the people detained there. The Minister will be aware that I have been pressing for such access to the centre since the autumn of 2016.” Although Caroline Lucas my MP did not participate in the debate itself, a couple of weeks later on 20th March she asked this question of Caroline Nokes:
CL: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to her oral contribution of 6 March 2017, Official Report, column 560, if she will grant the application made in November 2016 by the hon. Member for Brighton Pavilion to visit Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre.
The response was:
CN: All requests for visits to immigration removal centres (IRC) by Honourable Members require the agreement of the Minister for Immigration, with local constituency MPs generally given priority over non-constituency MPs. In addition to security and safety considerations, visits to view IRCs can affect the regime for detainees and are therefore subject to careful consideration and management to minimise disruption and intrusion. I will consider the Honourable Member’s request.
Now to be fair to Caroline, she has only been the Immigration Minister since 8th January so her involvement regarding this request is relatively recent, her predecessor was Brandon Lewis who took on the job on 11th June and his predecessor was Robert Goodwill, so three Ministers have had the opportunity to grant approval to Caroline Lucas. Anyway a week later Caroline asked a slightly different question:
CL: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the Answer of 20 March 2018 to Question 132345, on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, what the timetable is for a decision to be made.
Sadly the answer was almost word for word the same as the answer on 20th March, so no need to duplicate it.
Then on Monday 16th April Caroline asked yet another question on the same theme:
CL: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the Answer of 26 March 2018 to Question 133714, on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, how many (a) local constituency MPs and (b) non-constituency MPs have (i) applied for and (ii) been granted permission to visit Yarl’s Wood since 1 November 2016; and how many applications in each category remain under consideration.
CN: All requests for visits to immigration removal centres (IRC) by Honourable Members require the agreement of the Minister for Immigration, with local constituency MPs generally given priority over non-constituency MPs. Since 1 November 2016 four Honourable Members (1 constituency and 3 non constituency) have made requests and received Ministerial approval to visit Yarl’s Wood IRC. One request, from the Honourable Member for Brighton, Pavilion, is still under consideration.
I have no idea what Caroline intends to do as part of her visit, however I have met her several times and I have great confidence in her as an MP. It seems deeply concerning that Diane Abbot was denied access to Yarls Wood between Autumn 2016 and February 2018, particularly given that she was a shadow Minister. It is equally concerning that Caroline Lucas has been denied access since November 2016 and that since her first question to Caroline Nokes on 20th March, some four weeks ago, there has been no sense of progression in the decision that needs to be made. What on earth is happening under Caroline Nokes departmental role?