Tuesday, April 16, 2024

UK immigration chief inspector sacked amid row over security checks at airports

Pursglove disputed warnings made by Mr Neal

• February 21, 2024
UK flag
UK flag used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: Flagpoles.co.uk]

The British borders and immigration watchdog, David Neal, has been sacked after he “lost the confidence of the Home Secretary,” the Home Office said.

Mr Neal “breached” the terms of his appointment and was informed his time in post was being immediately terminated on Tuesday, according to the government department.

It comes after Mr Neal and the Home Office became embroiled in a public row about concerns he was raising over security checks at airports.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party branded the move “total Tory chaos on borders and immigrations.’’

A Home Office spokesman said in a statement, “We have terminated the appointment of David Neal, the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, after he breached the terms of appointment and lost the confidence of the Home Secretary. The planned recruitment process for the next independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration is in progress.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said a series of Conservative home secretaries had “sought to bury uncomfortable truths revealed by the chief inspector about our broken borders, and shockingly they are still sitting on 15 unpublished reports – stretching back to April last year”, adding: “The Home Secretary must now publish those reports in full.

“The Conservatives have lost control of our borders, are seeking to hide the truth, and are putting border security at risk.”

Mr Neal, whose tenure was due to end on March 21, said it was too soon to comment on the decision when contacted by the PA news agency.

Earlier, Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove told the House of Commons the Home Office “categorically rejects” claims that hundreds of high-risk flights landed in the UK without security checks.

Pursglove disputed warnings made by Mr Neal, who the Daily Mail reported had received Home Office data showing UK Border Force failed to check the occupants of hundreds of private jets arriving at London City airport.

Responding to an urgent question from Labour in the Commons, Pursglove, who is the Home Office’s minister for legal migration, said, “When it comes to the questions that she raises around these flights at London City airport and the information that has been put in the public domain, the Home Office categorically rejects these claims by David Neal.”

Cooper said ministers had been “repeatedly warned about border security risks on private flights,” telling lawmakers: “The Prime Minister may just think it’s all his own mates, but there are real risks from organised crime, money laundering, drugs, weapons smuggling, trafficking and even terrorism.”

Pursglove insisted Border Force performed “checks on 100 per cent of scheduled passengers arriving in the UK and risk-based intelligence-led checks on general aviation,” adding: “It’s deeply disturbing that information which has no basis in fact was leaked by the independent chief inspector to a national newspaper before the Home Office had the chance to respond.

“We are urgently investigating this breach of confidential information in the normal way.”

He said Mr Neal’s report was submitted to the Home Office last week and underwent fact checking as was “standard practice”, adding: “Mr Neal was made aware of a specific issue in the recording of data at London City airport which meant that a large proportion of flights recorded as high-risk should have been reclassified as low-risk, and it’s disappointing that he’s chosen to put misleading data into the public domain.”

Pursglove also told lawmakers, “The security of the UK border is a top priority for me, for the Home Secretary and for the Home Office. Everything we do in this area is designed to reduce risks to this country and its citizens.”

The Home Office’s “priority is to deliver a safe and secure border, and we will never compromise on this,” he added.


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