Category Archives: Home Affairs Select Committee

Proud of our Select Committee

We inquired into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham 18 months ago and were strongly critical of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police, as we saw little evidence of their accepting and addressing their failings, unlike in Rochdale.

We were extremely unimpressed today with the past and present leadership of South Yorkshire Police and required them to give evidence under oath.

Martin Kimber, Rotherham’s Chief Executive became the latest in a long line of senior figures to resign just before a hearing with the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Unfortunately, however, Joyce Thacker, their head of Childrens’ Services, continues to fail to take responsibility for her failings. In my view these are perhaps the most egregious of anyone involved, except of course for the perpetrators themselves, but for now clings to her post, pay and pension.

Surely public service should be about more than that?

As a Committee though I am proud of what we have achieved in seeking to hold properly to account people who are meant to serve the public.

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Tackling the big issues

markreckless (2)It is an honour to represent the Rochester and Strood constituency since being elected as our MP in 2010. I enjoy the opportunity to assist many of my constituents with a wide range of problems. I am sometimes able to use my position to assist constituents personally in situations where the constituent feels they are being treated unfairly by intransigent bodies or powerful individuals. Whist I am not successful in all of my efforts on behalf of constituents, I always try my best to deliver the best possible outcome.n

I was elected to represent my constituents in Parliament – not government in my constituency. Much of my time is spent dealing with local constituency matters but, as a Member of Parliament, and particularly as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I also have the opportunity to focus on some of the big national issues which are of importance to my constituents – immigration, crime, policing.

Over the bank holiday weekend I have been speaking on a number of these issues on local and national media and some of these are reproduced below. If you have an opinion, let me know by leaving a comment below or get in touch.

On Crime

On Prisons

On Islamic Extremists

On Border Controls

VIDEO: Mark Reckless MP quizzes The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, quizzes The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger regarding the Snowden leaks during the Home Affairs Select Committee on 3rd December 2013

VIDEO: Newsnight 3rd December 2013

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, joins Julian Huppert MP and Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s Newsnight programme to discuss Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee

VIDEO: Blind to CPS Failings

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, came to see us yesterday at the Home Affairs Select Committee for what is likely to be his last appearance before us.

Mr Starmer has gone some way to open up the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to greater scrutiny by explaining and reviewing decisions. That is very welcome but the DPP has had greater difficulty accepting the reason why this is necessary – that the CPS sometimes gets things wrong.

That blindness seemed particularly to the fore in my final ten minutes of questioning him, with the DPP seeking to defend the following propositions:

  1. The CPS must be right to have brought a case if it is not struck out at half time by the judge for giving ‘no evidence’. This despite the media criticism in the Le Vell case being that there was ‘no corroborating evidence’ and the requirement for the CPS to prosecute being ‘sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction’ (and it being in the ‘public interest’).
  2. When a case is ‘reviewed’ and a prosecution decision is reversed, neither decision can be considered wrong and, despite this partly depending on whether there is a complaint, celebrities are treated exactly the same, as if every case is reviewed by his principal legal adviser Alison Levitt QC.
  3. Were I to suspect him of criminality in office I should take this to the police, and not just leave it to the Bar Standards Board, although when there is sufficient evidence to prosecute doctors for gender selective abortion, that is not in the public interest because the General Medical Council can be left to deal with it.
  4. Failure by the police and CPS to prosecute anyone for gender selective abortion for over five years, including in a high profile case where the CPS agrees there was ‘sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction’, will make no difference to the number of girls aborted.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to follow up with the DPP on the first issue on which we crossed swords two years ago. That was when the CPS impeded the Metropolitan Police from prosecuting more journalists for phone hacking by advising them that they would have to prove that the message was hacked before the recipient first listened to it. That utterly wrong and deeply damaging CPS advice for which we can blame the whole Leveson circus was finally ruled against by the Court of Appeal last month.

We are still waiting for any apology from the CPS.

BLOG: Met Commissioner says ‘Sorry’ to Andrew Mitchell

I am proud to do have done something for a colleague at today’s Home Affairs Select Committee.

Andrew Mitchell lost his job as our Chief Whip after at least one police officer lied about what happened at Downing Street, where Andrew was accused of calling police officers ‘plebs’.

Later he fought back and got video footage which showed that there was little time for any altercation, and no shocked members of the public, as had been falsely claimed.

However, reports then appeared in the Guardian and on the front page of the Times of 29th March saying that there was no evidence that police had lied as Andrew ‘claimed’.

It then emerged that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe met the journalists concerned before the articles appeared, and that no record was kept of the briefing, notwithstanding all the Leveson recommendations.

Today the Commissioner appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions.

Before I had a chance to speak James Clappison MP pursued Sir Bernard in his usual dogged and persistent fashion. Michael Ellis MP, a fellow barrister, then came in and in his final question got the Commissioner to express ‘regret’. That then gave me the chance to press the Commissioner to say ‘sorry’ to Andrew Mitchell MP for his briefing about Plebgate (now Operation Alice).

The Commissioner did not remember clearly what words he had used and did not know exactly how they were used to justify the stories, but he did say ‘Sorry’.

For me that counts for a lot in a public official, particular one as senior as Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, so I accepted his apology and moved on.

Andrew Mitchell may understandably want to pursue things further, but I am pleased to have at least got the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to say ‘Sorry’.

Blog: Mail on Sunday Article on Abu Qatada

Theresa May’s comic career may have begun this week. Unfortunately for me, I was the butt of her joke – a pun on my name. Answering my question in the Commons last week about whether the Government should ask the Supreme Court to rule on a key development in the legal wrangle over terror suspect Abu Qatada, the Home Secretary concluded her reply by saying: ‘Dare I describe urging the Government to break the law as a rather reckless step?’

Of course, I am used to puns on my name, or worse. Indeed, I probably have it easy compared to my family, who are doctors, and particularly my father, who graduated from medical school with a Dr Butcher, a Dr Carver, a Dr Coffin and a Dr De’Ath.

However, I am a lawyer, so was less amused by Mrs May’s suggestion that I was inciting law-breaking.

This was not my first altercation with her. It is my job, as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, to hold the Home Secretary to account and scrutinise her department’s work. Even under the omnipresent chairmanship of Keith Vaz, this is not always an easy task.

Theresa-May-006The first challenge is to get the Home Secretary to appear. Mrs May last offered us a date several weeks ahead, saying it was the first she could possibly accommodate. We only persuaded her to bring it forward to last week when we explained that the later date would mean a joint appearance with London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Select committees are not easy for all Ministers as, unlike in the chamber, MPs can pursue follow-up questions. Members are now elected, so we can hold our ground with Ministers. Under the old system insufficiently deferential MPs could be booted off committees by the Whips.

MPs and Ministers are also face-to-face and pretty much around a table. Some commentators suggest that the Home Secretary has a particular Select Committee style, and will sometimes ‘adopt a Medusa-like countenance’ or, worse, deploy her ‘death stare’.

The second challenge is getting information out of her, as her stratagems for withholding it are legion. The staple stand-by, of course, is ‘security’.

However, another technique of the Home Secretary is to promise information but not provide it, as she did with me regarding reports written by Brodie Clark, the Head of the UK Border Force, on a crucial and hotly disputed pilot programme to relax immigration controls.

Mrs May lost Nick Herbert, her high-profile Policing Minister, shortly before the first Police and Crime Commissioner elections, and her Permanent Secretary shortly afterwards. At the beginning of her tenure there were reports that an official was suspended after allegedly criticising her in private.

However, the fall-out over Mr Clark has probably been her highest-profile personal spat, although Brian Moore, whom she had hailed as his successor, was also quickly out the door, just after telling the Select Committee that he wanted to stay.

Mark RecklessThe Home Secretary’s allegation against Mr Clark was that he relaxed border controls on an unauthorised and clandestine basis. Having identified him, she assured the Commons that officials responsible would be ‘punished’.

Unfortunately for Mrs May, an investigation later found that Mr Clark had referred to his relaxation of controls, both in a presentation to the UK Border Agency board, and in a number of reports written for her and others. It was in this context that I received perhaps the most tetchy response from the Home Secretary – although there have been quite a few – when I asked her if she could confirm whether Mr Clark’s ‘punishment’ had stretched to six figures.

Here she fell back on her least reliable defence – legal advice – and simply refused to answer my question, saying that her lawyers had advised it would be unlawful to give the information. Given that her lawyers in another context were unable to count up a number of days correctly, it will not surprise readers to learn that the law actually required her to provide the information.

So Mrs May later let it slip out, as a footnote to a table of accounts in a rather dense annual report, that Mr Clark received a £225,000 pay-off.

Overall I believe that the Home Secretary is doing a good job. Crime is down and, with the support of able Immigration Ministers, she is delivering on our promise to cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands to just tens of thousands a year. However, on the issue of Abu Qatada I believe that she has got the law wrong.

abu_qSome MPs and many more voters support the ‘just put him on a plane to Jordan’ option. I don’t. I believe that if we cannot do what we want within the law, then we always have the option of changing the law.

However, neither do I support the Home Secretary’s approach, which I have termed ‘a craven surrender to Strasbourg’ and which has left us looking impotent and unable to protect our citizens.

Instead, I support ‘the Judge approach’. Our top judge, the Lord Chief Justice, like me, has a fantastic name for his role – his being Lord Judge.

He has said: ‘The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg do not bind our courts. The statutory obligation is to take account of the decisions of the court in Strasbourg . . . the final word does not rest with Strasbourg, but with our Supreme Court.’

So, instead of just complaining about Strasbourg moving the goalposts, the Home Secretary should follow the Judge approach and do something about it.

She should ask our courts, and ultimately now the Supreme Court, to move the goalposts back to where they should be, and where they were when our own highest court last considered the matter, and said Qatada could be deported.

Extraordinarily, the Home Secretary has stubbornly set her face against this approach, writing to me on December 3, 2012, to say that ‘the strategy in the case has been carefully considered at every stage by Government lawyers and leading counsel’. Given their record, that does not inspire confidence.

Mrs May continued: ‘A decision was taken to adopt the test laid down in January by the Strasbourg court because we considered the domestic courts were bound to follow it.’

So, the Home Secretary has decided to ignore our Lord Chief Justice and instead submit to Strasbourg.

Not only does this mean that Abu Qatada is still here, to our peril and at our expense, but a precedent is set for yet another area of national life. We appear yet again to have conceded sovereignty to Europe.

The Home Secretary has one last chance to put that right with her appeal to the Supreme Court. I hope the Prime Minister will ensure she takes it.

I have one last piece of friendly advice to Mrs May: in future I suggest she leaves the jokes to Boris Johnson, who does them so much better.

Original article – click here