'It goes to the very top': Sacked border watchdog slams Home Office and calls for reform after Cleverly row

11 March 2024, 00:01 | Updated: 11 March 2024, 00:02

Sacked borders watchdog David Neal said the Home Office is 'dysfunctional' and needs reform.
Sacked borders watchdog David Neal said the Home Office is 'dysfunctional' and needs reform. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Sacked borders watchdog David Neal said the Home Office is 'dysfunctional' and needs reform.

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Mr Neal was sacked as the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration in February and said that he "paid the price" for speaking out about his concerns.

He insisted that his "conscience is absolutely clear" after losing the confidence of Home Secretary James Cleverly amid claims he breached the terms of his appointment.

Read More: 'It's not racist to want to control our borders' says Nigel Farage's team after fiery clash with Nella Rose

The former inspector had become embroiled in a row with the Home Office about concerns he was raising over security checks at airports.

David Neal, former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration giving evidence to the Home Office Select Committee in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Tuesday February 27, 2024.
Mr Neal was sacked as the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration in February and said that he "paid the price" for speaking out about his concerns. . Picture: Alamy

In a BBC interview, Mr Neal said failings in the immigration system go "right to the top" of the Home Office.

He told The Today Podcast: "The Home Office is dysfunctional, the Home Office needs reform."

After his dismissal, the Home Office published 13 of Mr Neal's reports on the same day as damning findings from an inquiry into Sarah Everard's murder by serving police officer Wayne Couzens, leading to claims the Government was trying to bury bad news.

Mr Neal suggested that his sacking and the lack of a replacement meant there would be less scrutiny of border-related issues, including the Rwanda asylum scheme.

"I've been sacked. So there will be no scrutiny of small boats, there will be no scrutiny of adults at risk in detention which is a controversial area, there will be no publishing of the Rwanda material."

London, England, UK. 6th Mar, 2024. Home Secretary JAMES CLEVERLY, leaves Downing Street after a Cabinet Meeting. (Credit Image: © Thomas Krych/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!
He insisted that his "conscience is absolutely clear" after losing the confidence of Home Secretary James Cleverly amid claims he breached the terms of his appointment. Picture: Alamy
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The former inspector had become embroiled in a row with the Home Office about concerns he was raising over security checks at airports. Picture: Alamy

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is the job of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration to identify challenges in our system, including those proposed by Border Force, so we can take action to address them.

"But by their nature, each of the ICIBI reports will only be a snapshot of what is going on and will not reflect the changes we make as a result of their findings.

"A programme of work is already well under way to reform and strengthen Border Force's capabilities. This is delivering on the Prime Minister's pledge to make our structures and resources as strong as possible.

"The work the Home Office, Border Force and the NCA is doing with international partners to stop the boats is another part of our Border Force reform, and is already having a return with small boat arrivals down by a third when Mr Neal was sacked for leaking sensitive information he was told was inaccurate."

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