UK Border Agency Needs 'Root And Branch' Reform After Borders Row
A breakdown in communication and failure to supervise staff led to the UK's national security being put at risk when border controls were relaxed over summer 2011, an influential group of MPs said on Thursday.
MPs have called for a "root and branch" reform of how the UKBA and Home Office interact following last year's immigration scandal where top border agency official Brodie Clarke was ousted after a 40-year-career.
The Home Affairs select committee said that communication failures between the border agency and home office led to a damaging situation where thousands of people were allowed into Britain without their fingerprints being taken.
But Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said the Home Office had failed to provide the committee with "key documents", which inhibited the MPs' investigation.
He told Huff Post UK the committee could not apportion blame for the breakdown in communications without the information, adding that with the relevant documents the report would have been a “one-pager.” The Labour MP accused the home office of being “more Dad’s Army than the A-Team” when asked if they were dysfunctional.
“We can’t take this forward without the documents. With them this report would have been a one-pager,” he said.
The MPs concluded that there was a "lack of supervision" of senior UKBA staff, which meant that the trial where entry conditions were relaxed could turn into a scandal that threatened Home Secretary Theresa May's career.
Brodie Clark, the former head of the UK border force, resigned after being blamed for relaxing border controls beyond May's wishes. The home secretary claimed she was not follow informed about how far pilots to relax immigration controls had gone, and was backed up by prime minister David Cameron. Clark has since lodged a constructive dismissal case against the home office.
Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant accused the home office of taking their eye off the ball and leaving Britain "unprotected" during summer, the busiest time of the year.
“This report is damning. Ministers failed to oversee their own pilot of reduced border checks resulting in a significant fall in those stopped and returned, then kept all official papers from Parliament to make it impossible for the committee to get to the truth.
“It reveals that senior officials were aware for some time of the suspension of border checks, yet the so-called pilot was left to carry on with no oversight from the Immigration Minister or the Home Secretary.
“It shows that the Home Secretary has refused to provide vital official papers to the Select Committee, without which it is difficult for anyone to know the full truth. If Theresa May has nothing to hide, why is she hiding documents?"
And Paul Whiteman, of the FDA union said the report indicated Clark should not have been singled out:
"To have been singled out and scapegoated for an approach properly discussed at board level, and accepted by his boss and colleagues, can only have been for political convenience or the narrow self-protection of others," he said.
"It is very surprising that the Home Office continues to withhold documents from the committee, preventing it from making the full findings that support Clark's position.
"We wonder if a similar approach will be adopted with the employment tribunal now that Clark's case for constructive dismissal has been lodged with it."