Our lives in their hands

The death of an Angolan deportee raises questions about government use of private sector security fi

The death this week of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being deported to Angola, has thrown the spotlight on to the private security company that was employed to carry out his deportation. G4S, a FTSE 100-listed company that has operations in over 100 countries and is contracted by the British government to run prisons and carry out deportations on behalf of the Home Office.

Over at OpenDemocracy, Clare Sambrook details a catalogue of concerns about the safety record of G4S and other similar companies:

This year, in March, a report by Baroness Nuala O'Loan into allegations of abuse by G4S and other contractors found, "inadequate management of the use of force by the private sector companies", and made 22 recommendations for change.

Sambrook also highlights the company's links to government:

Under Labour, G4S enjoyed a charmed relationship with government, manifested in the £50,000 a year paid to former Home Secretary John Reid after he had left the Home Office but while he was still a serving MP.

Civil servants, too, seem remarkably loyal to their commercial partners.

The Home Office response to Baroness O'Loan's findings of "inadequate management of the use of force" was to criticise the people who had brought the company's abuses to light. Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, accused doctors and lawyers of, "seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors".

The seeming untouchability of G4S is especially worrying given government plans to outsource more rather than less.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.