Home Office fires immigration chief inspector David Neal after claims about security risks at major London airport

20 February 2024, 18:20 | Updated: 20 February 2024, 18:54

David Neal has been sacked by the Home Office
David Neal has been sacked by the Home Office. Picture: Alamy/social media
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The borders and immigration chief inspector has been sacked after he "lost the confidence of the Home Secretary", the Home Office has confirmed.

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Mr Neal and the Home Office had become embroiled in a public row about concerns he had raised over security checks taking place at UK airports.

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."

Labour said the move shows "total Tory chaos on borders and immigrations".

David Neal has 'lost the confidence of the Home Secretary'
David Neal has 'lost the confidence of the Home Secretary'. Picture: social media

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said a series of Conservative home secretaries have "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truths revealed by the chief inspector about our broken borders, and shockingly they are still sitting on 15 unpublished reports - stretching back to April last year."

"The Home Secretary must now publish those reports in full," Ms Cooper said.

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

Mr Neal has said it was too soon to comment on the decision.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Tom Pursglove, the immigration minister, told the House of Commons that the Home Office "categorically rejects" Mr Neal's claims.

It had been said that hundreds of high-risk flights landed in the UK without security checks.

Home Secretary, James Cleverly
Home Secretary, James Cleverly. Picture: Getty

Mr Pursglove 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."

Ms Cooper said ministers had been "repeatedly warned about border security risks on private flights", telling MPs: "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."

Mr Pursglove insisted Border Force performed "checks on 100% of scheduled passengers arriving in the UK and risk-based intelligence-led checks on general aviation".

He added: "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 full in the normal way."

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