In the first time that he has dedicated all of his six questions to one subject, David Cameron focused on the prisoner release scandal. The Leader of the Opposition highlighted the fact that Home Office ministers were aware last July that overseas national prisoners – including murders, rapists and paedophiles – were being released from UK jails and were not considered for deportation. Why were ministers’ reactions "completely insufficient", he asked?
In a completely inadequate answer, Tony Blair responded by saying that more resources had been invested in the responsible unit at the Home Office and new, appropriate procedures had been introduced.
Mr Cameron asked why the Home Secretary had talked about "very, very few" prisoners having been released when the actual number of released prisoners was a shocking 288? It became clear that Tony Blair did not know about ‘the 288’ when he refused Mr Clarke’s offer of resignation yesterday. Mr Cameron also highlighted the fact that Downing Street had told the press that Mr Clarke had not offered his resignation when he clearly had.
Charles Clarke had been responsible for "systemic failure" and he had "misled people" over the 288 releases since ministers were informed of this scandal, the Tory leader continued. He cannot give the Home Office the leadership it so desperately needs. The Prime Minister backs incompetent ministers. It protects its own backs before it protects the public. It promised to be "tough on crime" but has failed the law-abiding. It said in 1997 that there were only 24 hours to save the NHS but hospitals are now closing. "Enough is enough," said David Cameron.
Ming Campbell said the Government had been guilty of enormous incompetence and Charles Clarke must resign.
The Prime Minister looked a diminished figure today; his government’s incompetence, evident from the nation’s jails and hospitals to the handling of the ‘occupation’ of Iraq, finally catching up with him.