Britain’s border protection ‘neither effective nor efficient’

David Neal
David Neal said inspections found that border posts were left unmanned, staff were distracted and guidance was ignored - House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire

The protection of Britain’s borders and airports is “neither effective nor efficient”, the former immigration inspector has warned, in a series of reports in which he said the Home Office “must do better”.

At an inspection of Heathrow, Stansted and Luton airports, David Neal found that border posts were left unmanned, staff were distracted and guidance was ignored.

Poor communication posed a risk to both the security of the borders and officer safety, he said.

In a report on the use of hotels for asylum seekers, he pointed to a “lack of grip and poor leadership”, with “basic bread and butter checks” in several areas not being completed.

The Government published 13 reports on Thursday, having sacked Mr Neal for “breaching the terms of his appointment” by disclosing “unauthorised” information on border security to the media.

The former chief inspector of borders and immigration had broken ranks to say the department was suppressing 15 reports that exposed security risks. He claimed he was fired “for doing my job” of unveiling “inconvenient” truths about the failings of the system.

After inspecting airport e-gates, he said: “I believe the protection of the border is neither effective nor efficient.”

‘Home Office must do better’

In another report, he wrote there was a “lack of grip and poor leadership in a critical area of business”, saying: “The Home Office must do better.”

The reports come as Rishi Sunak faces a battle to tackle illegal migration, having warned a failure to take action would “destroy the public’s faith” in politicians.

He made “stopping the boats” one of his priorities as Prime Minister, though a poll earlier this year found that three-quarters of voters believe the pledge has gone badly.

New statistics published on Thursday provided a small glimmer of good news, showing the number of people arriving through irregular means - such as on a small boat or stowed in the back of a lorry – has fallen by a third since 2022, to 36,704.

But the total is still significantly higher than it was before the Covid pandemic, with the challenge far from over.

In his report on the three London airports, Mr Neal found posts were unmanned and staff were distracted by “a lack of focus and poor infrastructure”, while Home Office guidance calling for at least two roving officers to 10 or more gates was not followed at all.

In one case, inspectors saw the exit doors on one gate become stuck open, creating an opportunity for a passenger to pass through without checks. This was quickly rectified by a monitoring officer.

A lack of equipment also hindered effective communication, increasing the risk both to officers’ “personal safety” and the “security of the border”.

Officials ‘would put a positive gloss on failure’

At Stansted, Mr Neal reported that staff were so short on radios they were forced to shout messages to each other within earshot of passengers, leading to potential security risks.

In his annual report, covering April 2022 to March 2023, Mr Neal accused the Home Office of a “culture of defensiveness”, claiming he had experienced “significant pushback” while drafting inspection reports, including responses which “have gone way beyond” just checking factual accuracy.

He said officials would be happy to put a “positive gloss” on failures if left to their own devices.

“To put it bluntly, if the Home Office does not want to change, it will not,” he said.

“The only meaningful way of determining whether a recommendation has been delivered is to review it as part of another inspection.”

In a separate report, the former inspector found that customs channels at East Midlands Airport were also left unmanned, with no officers witnessed intercepting passengers.

He warned a “lack of anti-smuggling capability” at Britain’s airports posed a “major concern” – raising questions as to whether the border was “secure from a goods perspective”.

At hotels for asylum seekers, Mr Neal found there was a reliance on private contractors to self-report that DBS checks were in place, with only “periodic spot checks” by the Home Office – which was “really not good enough”.

He pointed to at least 467 cases of children going missing from hotels since 2021, with 147 still unaccounted for as of September last year.

Mr Neal added that there was “no evidence” of a Home Office strategy to end hotel use.

Elsewhere, he pointed to recruitment issues, inadequate training, decision-makers described as “frightening”, and poor quality decisions driving up appeals.

He also noted that some 7,500 asylum seekers had been effectively left in “indefinite limbo” because they were considered for the Government’s Rwanda scheme but couldn’t be sent, with some waiting for decisions for two years.

While the Home Office predicted that it could remove 300 asylum seekers per year under the “inadmissibility process” in the Nationality and Borders Act, only two had been sent away as of October last year, he added.

Mr Neal said: “I think it’s a real positive that these reports have been published. I think it bodes well that the Home Secretary has gripped his officials in getting these reports published so quickly, it’s only a week since I was sacked.

“But I think there are real questions to be asked about why it [took] the sacking of a public official to expose what should be routine.”

The Home Office said it had “delivered” on a promise to publish all overdue reports as soon as possible, adding: “The publication of these reports that scrutinise the activity of the Home Office and make recommendations for improvement is in and of itself a demonstration of transparency and acceptance of independent scrutiny.”

The two final reports will be published “in the established eight-week period” and the process of hiring a replacement watchdog was “already under way”, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner said the Home Office broke the law by forcing migrants to wear electronic tags.

John Edwards said a pilot scheme to place ankle tags on up to 600 migrants on immigration bail to track their location breached UK data protection law.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the Home Office had failed to sufficiently assess the risks posed by the electronic monitoring of people, including the privacy concerns around the continuous collection of a person’s location.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We recognise that independent scrutiny, such as that provided by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), plays an important role in ensuring we have a well-functioning immigration system.

“We take ICIBI reports very seriously and work has been underway to implement the recommendations in these reports since we received them, regardless of the fact they haven’t been published.

“This has included improvements to how we manage information on ePassport gates so that faults are better identified and fixed and improving training materials for asylum casework teams.”

06:28 PM GMT

That’s all for today...

Thanks so much for joining us on another busy and dramatic day in Westminster.

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back in the early hours to guide you through all the fallout of the Rochdale by-election results.

06:10 PM GMT

‘Making a game’ of asylum children

One Home Office team leader described in one of the new reports the process by which they would disclose to the children who would be the next to leave for a placement, writes Amy Gibbons.

This involved “making a game of it”, asking them to guess who would be next, before revealing their name.

Inspectors considered this to be insensitive in the extreme and undoubtedly upsetting to the children.

05:53 PM GMT

‘Culture of defensiveness’ at Home Office

The Home Office annual report found a “culture of defensiveness”, writes my colleague Amy Gibbons, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent.

David Neal found that the department too often tried to “push back” against inspection findings, with responses during the fact-checking process going “way beyond just factual accuracy” and Home Office officials too happy to put a “positive gloss” on failures.

Recommendations were seen as “a blunt tool” and used by Home Office as a “benchmarking process”, rather than improving effectiveness and efficiency.

“Tracking and reporting on recommendations risks becoming a specialist sport all of its own.”

05:43 PM GMT

Home Office annual report: ‘If the Home Office does not want to change, it will not’

“To put it bluntly, if the Home Office does not want to change, it will not.

“The only meaningful way of determining whether a recommendation has been delivered is to review it as part of another inspection.”

05:38 PM GMT

East Midlands airport customs channels were left unmanned

Customs channels at East Midlands airport were left unmanned, an inspection of Border Force’s fast parcel operations found:

The focus on immigration over customs was evident during the inspectors’ visit to East Midlands Airport (EMA). During the two-day onsite at EMA, no officers were observed by inspectors intercepting passengers in the customs channels.

This lack of anti-smuggling capability at airports should be a major concern for Border Force and ministers, and raises questions as to whether the border is secure from a goods perspective.

05:27 PM GMT

467 children have gone missing from asylum hotels

A total of 467 children have gone missing from hotels, with 147 still unaccounted for, writes my colleague Amy Gibbons, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent.

Home Office staff attributed the increase in missing children to greater numbers of Albanian children entering the hotels since the 2022 inspection, who are at much greater risk of going missing.

05:16 PM GMT

‘The Home Office must do better’

The Home Office “must do better” when it comes to hotels used to house unaccompanied asylum seeker children, a newly-released report dating from November found.

It says: “While a year ago hotel staff were living onsite without DBS clearance, this time inspectors found insufficient assurance, with a reliance on private contractors to self-report that DBS checks were in place, and with periodic spot checks by the Home Office. This is really not good enough.

“This is basic building block stuff, which is not being done well, in an area where I have made a clear recommendation before, under ministerial scrutiny and with significant public interest. It points to lack of grip and poor leadership in a critical area of business.

“The Home Office must do better. There are several areas in this report where basic bread-and-butter checks are not being done.”

04:58 PM GMT

Electronic passport gates report: ‘Our casework increased by 400 per cent after Brexit’

David Neal wrote in his report into electronic passport gates:

Border Force managers at Stansted told inspectors that the amount of casework they undertook had increased 400 per cent since the UK’s departure from the EU, and most cases were initiated from gate referrals.

At Stansted, inspectors noted that the three monitoring officers working at the monitoring station were sharing one radio and had to shout messages to each other within earshot of passengers, which could potentially compromise border security.

04:38 PM GMT

Breaking: Rishi Sunak’s legacy backlog push has led to ‘perverse outcomes’, sacked border chief said

I am concerned that the focus on clearing the legacy backlog ‘at all costs’ has led to perverse outcomes for claimants and staff.

The number of claims that have been withdrawn and counted as ‘outcomes’ has soared – 22 per cent of all decisions made since June 2022 were withdrawals, and, incredibly, only one underwent formal quality assurance. This is not acceptable.

Routine quality assurance on interviews and decisions has also been sacrificed for increased productivity. This has the potential to add to the appeals queue as a result of poor-quality refusals, and to further prolong the length of time a claimant’s life is put on hold.

04:37 PM GMT

Border protection ‘neither effective nor efficient’

A sacked border watchdog said in a report following his re-inspection electronic passport gates that “basic stuff” was “not being done well” and he believed the protection of the UK’s border was “neither effective nor efficient”.

David Neal said: “Inspectors saw border posts left unmanned while officers signalled for attention from their managers. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed urgently.

“Furthermore, this inspection reveals that recommendations from my 2021 inspection report have not been delivered, even when they have been accepted by the Home Office. It is apparent that, even when the Home Office has closed recommendations, monitoring progress through routine assurance activity is inadequate. This is basic stuff that is not being done well.

“On the basis of this inspection, I believe the protection of the border is neither effective nor efficient.”

04:29 PM GMT

Breaking: Home Office publishes 13 reports by sacked border chief

The Home Office has published 13 reports by sacked border chief David Neal.

04:05 PM GMT

‘We’ve been trying to do this as swiftly as possible’

Downing Street has denied planning to publish reports by David Neal, the sacked borders watchdog, on a busy day in an attempt to bury them in the news.

Asked by reporters whether it was a deliberate decision to release them on the same day as an inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard and fresh asylum statistics, a No 10 spokeswoman said: “We wanted to publish them as swiftly as possible following the necessary and appropriate due diligence.”

The spokeswoman added that the Government “regularly” publishes reports and “we’ve been working to try and do that as swiftly as possible”.

04:04 PM GMT

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, guiding you through the rest of the day.

03:43 PM GMT

Hunt ‘could extend windfall tax on oil and gas giants at Budget’

Jeremy Hunt could extend the windfall tax on oil and gas giants in order to raise more revenue for the public coffers, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The Energy Profits Levy was introduced in May 2022 and is due to end in March 2028. It is charged at 35 per cent which when combined with other taxes means the total tax payable on oil and gas profits is 75 per cent.

Bloomberg said extending the levy, potentially for another year, is on a list of potential measures which could be adopted to free up more money for personal tax cuts.

Scrapping the non-dom tax status is on the same list of options. Mr Hunt will deliver his Budget on March 6.

03:40 PM GMT

Embracing AI is the only way to cut civil service jobs, says Deputy PM

Embracing yet-untested artificial intelligence is the only way to cut the size of the Civil Service, Oliver Dowden has insisted, as he outlined plans to save billions of pounds using chatbots.

The Deputy Prime Minister admitted using AI tools in the NHS and Whitehall was the only option for a “sustainable path to headcount reduction” as the Government seeks major spending reductions to pay for tax cuts.

It came as the Cabinet Office unveiled plans to spend £110m on AI tools and technical staff designed to speed up “dogsbody work” in Whitehall, answer taxpayers’ questions and improve the NHS.

You can read the full story here.

03:27 PM GMT

HMS Prince of Wales will not be sold, says Navy

The Navy has denied rumours that HMS Prince of Wales will be sold at a knockdown price to raise cash for defence spending.

The denial came after senior naval sources alleged that Britain’s second aircraft carrier was at risk of mothballing after it was revealed that next week’s Budget will not include an increase in military funding.

Sources reportedly told MailOnline that the vessel could be sold to an allied nation as soon as 2028 amid attempts to retain the fleet’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

But a Royal Navy spokesman said: “These claims are categorically incorrect. We are fully committed to operating both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.”

You can read the full story here.

03:12 PM GMT

Shapps urges US Congress to agree military aid package for Ukraine

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, has urged American politicians to support Ukraine and agree a new package of financial support, arguing it is “in the interests of the United States of America”.

After visiting British and Ukrainian soldiers at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire today, Mr Shapps was asked about the ongoing impasse in the US Congress over President Joe Biden’s planned $60 billion dollar (£47.5 billion) military aid package for Kyiv.

Mr Shapps said: “My message to those on Capitol Hill is really simple – I was in the White House and Capitol Hill last month.

“It is: do this because it’s in the interests of the United States of America.”

02:55 PM GMT

Home Office to publish sacked borders watchdog’s outstanding reports

The Home Office will publish 13 of the 15 outstanding reports submitted by sacked borders and immigration watchdog David Neal later this afternoon, according to reports.

During his tenure, Mr Neal had repeatedly raised concerns that the department was too slow to publish his reports.

Mr Neal accused the Home Office of “actively” suppressing his reports exposing security risks when he appeared in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this week.

02:37 PM GMT

‘No democratic consent’ for immigration levels, says Tice

Richard Tice said there is “no democratic consent” for the number of people being allowed to come to the UK.

The Reform UK leader also claimed the Government had “deliberately allowed” immigration numbers to “soar to record levels”.

He said in a video posted on Twitter: “Do you remember the Tory promise back in 2019 to reduce the numbers? Instead they have deliberately allowed them to soar to record levels, well over double what it was in 2019.

“So are you surprised that it is chaos in the NHS, in A&EW, ambulances? Are you surprised about the growth in rents and prices for housing, that you can’t see a GP, you can’t get a dentist appointment?

“Are you surprised the quality of life in the UK is getting worse? We are all financially and culturally worse off because of mass immigration that wasn’t planned for and there is no democratic consent for.”

02:06 PM GMT

Labour criticises Baroness Mone over ‘Grand National disgrace’

It’s a “Grand National disgrace” that Baroness Mone will have a horse running in the famous race at Aintree in April while taxpayers wait “to get their money back”, a Labour frontbencher has told the House of Commons.

Monbeg Genius is owned by the Conservative peer, currently on a leave of absence from the House of Lords, who is being investigated by the National Crime Agency as its probe into PPE firm Medpro continues.

Pat McFadden, a shadow cabinet minister, told the Commons that Baroness Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman had benefited financially from a PPE deal through one of his companies while much of the equipment was “deemed unusable” by the NHS.

He said: “The couple have had a reported £75 million of assets frozen but they also have a horse running in Britain’s favourite horse race, the Grand National.

“Now that’s not racing’s fault, but wouldn’t it be a Grand National disgrace if the owners were able to walk away with winnings while taxpayers are still waiting to get their money back from being sold a mountain of unusable PPE?”

Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, replied: “The Government continues to take robust action to recover any misused funds and indeed, as [Mr McFadden] will be aware, there are both criminal and civil proceedings ongoing so there’s limited things that I can say in respect of the allegations he’s made.”

01:32 PM GMT

NHS waiting lists forecast to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels until 2027

NHS waiting lists are unlikely to drop to pre-pandemic levels even by the end of 2027, a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said.

Experts have forecast how far the current 7.6 million waiting list is likely to fall under the next Government using different scenarios that involve varying levels of NHS productivity.

But even the most optimistic prediction puts the waiting list at 5.2 million by the end of 2027, which is 600,000 higher than it was in December 2019.

You can read the full story here.

01:15 PM GMT

Action to curb legal migration starting to work, claims No 10

Downing Street said it was taking “further measures to reduce legal migration” and the impact was already starting to be seen as it responded to today’s Home Office data.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Obviously, they show a number of things, illegal Channel crossings down by more than a third last year, legacy asylum backlog cleared and forced returns up by two-thirds. We’ve also seen a fall in the number of asylum applications, in particular a sharp fall in applications from Albania.

“And following our returns agreement with Albania we operate returns flights to Albania almost every week and this programme has helped to facilitate a 90 per cent drop in Albania nationals arriving here.

“More broadly, we’re obviously taking further measures to reduce legal migration and in the statistics you see today we’re already starting to see some impact, despite the fact that the stats cover a period before a number of the more recently announced reforms have come in.

“And obviously beyond that, we’re also working to pass our Rwanda Bill so that only those who enter the UK illegally can be quickly removed to a safe third country.”

12:58 PM GMT

Suella Braverman: UK will become ‘unrecognisable’ unless visa and asylum systems change

Suella Braverman said current levels of asylum and immigration “cannot go on” as she warned the UK will become “unrecognisable” unless the number of people coming to the country is brought down.

The former home secretary said the UK does not have enough homes, GPs or schools to support current asylum and immigration levels as she responded to the numbers published this morning by the Home Office.

She reiterated her call for an overall cap on numbers.

She tweeted: “1.4 million people were granted visas here last year. Asylum approvals at a record high. Work & student visa numbers, including many dependents, are appalling. This cannot go on: we don’t have enough homes, GPs or schools to support this level.

“The PM must adopt policies I pushed for that would have prevented this national disaster: we need a cap on overall numbers. Britain will be unrecognisable if this carries on. It’s not what the British people, including me, voted for.”

12:52 PM GMT

No 10 insists police have done ‘excellent job’ despite Sunak warning of ‘mob rule’

No 10 insisted Rishi Sunak believed the police had done an “excellent job” in handling pro-Palestinian protests despite the Prime Minister having warned yesterday that “mob rule is replacing democratic rule”.

Mr Sunak told police chiefs: “There is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule. And we’ve got to collectively, all of us, change that urgently.”

It was suggested to Downing Street at lunchtime today that the Prime Minister could not say the police were doing a good job on protests while also warning of “mob rule”.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “They [the police] have done an excellent job and the Prime Minister is enormously grateful for the work that the police do and indeed the police have made a significant number of arrests at these events in recent weeks and months and they have dealt with these protests firmly and robustly.

“We fully back them in doing so and it is indeed why we have provided them with the new powers that they needed to help them manage unlawful behaviour.”

12:49 PM GMT

UK will remain ‘fully supportive’ of Ukraine despite Putin nuclear threat

Downing Street said the UK will remain “fully supportive” of Ukraine after Vladimir Putin threatened to strike Nato countries with nuclear weapons if they send troops to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I haven’t actually seen the specific reports but obviously, from the UK perspective, we will remain fully supportive and will continue to support Ukraine in their fight against the illegal invasion of their country.

“As discussed yesterday, the UK has a small number of personnel in the country to provide security for our diplomatic presence and to support the armed forces of Ukraine, including through medical training.”

12:40 PM GMT

Nigel Farage: UK visa system ‘completely out of control’

Nigel Farage said the UK’s “population explosion” continues to get “worse and worse” as he responded to today’s visa and asylum numbers.

The former leader of the Brexit Party said the visa system was “completely out of control”.

He claimed that “under this Conservative Government all we have had is 14 years of total and utter lies” on curbing migration.

12:34 PM GMT

Telegraph readers respond to record asylum numbers

Official data published by the Home Office this morning revealed the UK granted asylum to a record number of people in 2023.

Some 62,336 people were granted refugee status or other protection following an asylum application in 2023 (see the post below at 09.55).

Telegraph readers have been offering their thoughts on the figures:

12:07 PM GMT

Pictured: Grant Shapps meets troops during visit to Catterick Garrison

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, is pictured today as he met troops during a visit to Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire
Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, is pictured today as he met troops during a visit to Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire - Owen Humphreys/PA

11:51 AM GMT

Richard Tice accuses Tories of ‘betrayal’ over visa and immigration numbers

Richard Tice accused the Tories of an immigration “betrayal” as he responded to today’s asylum and visa statistics.

Home Office data revealed that 3.4 million entry visas were granted in 2023 which was 20 per cent higher than 2022, with 337,240 work visas granted which was 26 per cent higher than in 2022. A record of 62,336 asylum applications were granted.

The leader of Reform UK labelled it a “toxic Tory immigration betrayal”.

His party tweeted: “The Tories have LOST control. Year after year, they lie about wanting to control our borders. They have betrayed Britain. Only Reform UK will fix borderless Britain.”

11:46 AM GMT

Akshata Murthy welcomes Olena Zelenska to No 10

Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, has been welcomed to 10 Downing Street by Akshata Murty, the wife of Rishi Sunak, this morning.

Mrs Murty greeted the wife of Volodymyr Zelensky with a smile at the door to No 10.

After embracing, the pair turned to the cameras, held hands and waved before turning to enter.

The pair last met outside No 10 Downing Street on May 4 2023, during a visit which saw Mrs Zelenska attend the coronation of the King at Westminster Abbey.

Akshata Murty welcomes Olena Zelenska to No 10 Downing Street this morning
Akshata Murty welcomes Olena Zelenska to No 10 Downing Street this morning - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

11:28 AM GMT

Government will ‘thoroughly consider’ recommendations of Angiolini inquiry

The Government will “thoroughly consider the recommendations” made by Lady Elish Angiolini in her report into Sarah Everard’s murder by Wayne Couzens, the Home Office said.

“Since 2021, the Government has been driving forward a body of work to strengthen the way police officers are vetted, scrutinised and disciplined, and more broadly, efforts to put a stop to violence against women and girls,” the department said in its response to the inquiry.

“However, the report today highlights the need for further action and the Government, in tandem with policing partners, will thoroughly consider the recommendations made by Lady Elish and respond in full in due course.”

11:21 AM GMT

James Cleverly: Sarah Everard was ‘failed in more ways than one’

James Cleverly said Sarah Everard was “failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe” as he responded to the damning findings of an inquiry into her murder by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens.

The Home Secretary said: “The act of pure evil committed against Sarah shocked the nation to its core. My heart goes out to Sarah’s family and to all the brave victims who came forward to help inform this report and drive change.

“The man who committed these crimes is not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers working day in, day out to help people. But Sarah was failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe, and it laid bare wider issues in policing and society that need to be urgently fixed.

“In the three years since, a root-and-stem clean-up of the policing workforce has been underway and we have made huge strides – as well as making tackling violence against women and girls a national policing priority to be treated on par with terrorism.

“But we will continue to do everything in our power to protect women and girls. I am grateful to Lady Elish for her meticulous investigation. Her insights will be invaluable as we move forward in supporting our police to build forces of the highest standards of integrity and regain the trust of the British public.”

You can read the full story on Lady Elish Angiolini’s inquiry here.

11:14 AM GMT

Labour criticise Government over ‘damning’ asylum statistics

Rishi Sunak has vowed to stop housing asylum seekers in hotels but today’s statistics published by the Home Office showed there were 45,768 people still in such accommodation.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, described the statistic as “damning” and claimed it showed how “Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have lost control of our immigration system and our border security - and have no plan to turn it around”.

She said: “A year after promising to end their use, almost 46,000 people are still stuck in hotels. The Tories’ failure to clear the backlog and return small boats arrivals has blown a £4 billion hole in the Home Office budget, paid at taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile, work visas are soaring due to their failure to train people here in the UK.

“Labour has a plan to restore order to the border, fix our broken asylum system and increase returns, and improve skills and conditions here at home. Only Labour can deliver the change we need.”

11:08 AM GMT

Michael Gove under investigation by Commons standards watchdog

Michael Gove has been placed under investigation by Parliament’s standards watchdog.

The probe, opened on Wednesday, relates to the Housing Secretary’s register of financial interests, according to the Standards Commissioner’s website.

It is not known specifically what the investigation relates to.

The details of investigations by the Standards Commissioner, Daniel Greenberg, are kept confidential until the inquiry is concluded and those under investigation are barred from discussing the allegations.

11:03 AM GMT

‘Quick decisions’ on asylum cases ‘could come back to haunt Home Office’, think tank claims

The Institute for Public Policy Research think tank claimed that “quick decisions” on asylum applications “could come back to haunt the Home Office”.

Marley Morris, IPPR associate director for migration, trade and communities, said: “In a bid to clear the ‘legacy backlog’ at the end of last year, the Home Office has surged through an exceptional number of asylum cases, with a sharp rise in both refusals and withdrawals.

“But these quick decisions could come back to haunt the Home Office. The Government will now have to handle a large caseload of appeals, fresh claims and returns.

“At the same time, the Home Office also needs to decide how to handle the growing ‘perma-backlog’ of asylum claims which would be subject to the duty to remove under the Illegal Migration Act once it is implemented in full. Leaving these claims on hold indefinitely is bad for claimants stuck in limbo and bad for the Home Office, given the ongoing costs of accommodating people in hotels.”

10:58 AM GMT

Lib Dems: Asylum backlog ‘remains sky high’

The Liberal Democrats said the asylum backlog “remains sky high” and it was “time for real action”.

Alistair Carmichael, the Home Affairs spokesman, said: “For all their gimmicks and grandstanding, today’s figures prove that the Conservatives have failed to deliver a credible plan to clear the asylum backlog.

“The backlog remains sky-high, no matter which way you slice it. More than 128,000 people are still waiting for an initial decision on their claim. 128,000 people who are trapped in limbo – unable to work and forced to depend on government funds.

“It’s time for real action from the Home Office. Adopting Liberal Democrat plans for a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making would be a good first start.”

10:56 AM GMT

Asylum backlog falls 20 per cent - but still at almost 130,000

The total backlog of asylum cases stood at 128,786 at the end of December 2023.

That is down significantly (20 per cent) from the backlog recorded at the end of December 2022 when it was 160,919.

However, the latest backlog figure is still significantly higher than five years ago when it was 35,855.

10:45 AM GMT

Home Office accepts bad weather may have played role in fall in small boat crossings

The Home Office has accepted that bad weather at the end of 2023 may have played a role in a reduction in small boat Channel crossings.

It said: “Small boat arrivals from October to December 2023 were 64 per cent lower than in the same three months of 2022.

“This may partly have been due to poorer weather conditions, among other factors.”

10:15 AM GMT

Small boat Channel crossings fell by a third in 2023

Small boat Channel crossings were down by a third in 2023 when compared to 2022, according to new Home Office data.

There were 29,437 small boat arrivals in 2023. That was down 36 per cent on the previous year.

“Afghans were the top small boat arrival nationality, accounting for 20 per cent of small boat arrivals in 2023,” the Home Office said.

09:55 AM GMT

UK granted asylum to record number of people in 2023

The UK granted asylum to a record number of people in 2023, official Home Office statistics published this morning have revealed.

Some 62,336 people were granted refugee status or other protection following an asylum application in 2023, the department said.

“This is the highest number of people granted since records began (in 1984), due to the combination of a high grant rate and high volumes of decisions being made,” it said.

More decisions were made last year because of Rishi Sunak’s focus and pledge to clear the backlog of “legacy” asylum cases - those which were older than June 2022 - by the end of 2023.

The Home Office also said that the number of asylum applications in 2023 was 17 per cent lower in 2023 than in 2022 and “at the end of December 2023, there were 95,252 cases awaiting an initial decision, 28 per cent fewer than at the end of December 2022”.

09:46 AM GMT

Number of work visas in 2023 up by a quarter on 2022

The number of work visas granted for people to come to the UK was more than a quarter higher in 2023 than it was in 2022, according to new data published this morning by the Home Office.

The Home Office said: “There were 337,240 work visas granted to main applicants in 2023, 26 per cent higher than in 2022, and almost two and half times more than prior to the pandemic in 2019.”

Meanwhile, the number of people coming to the UK as a dependant of someone who received a visa also surged.

The Home Office said: “There were 279,131 grants to dependants of people who had been granted a work visa, 80 per cent higher than 2022; this was due to the increase in the ‘Health and Care’ worker route - dependants on this route accounted for 73 per cent of all work dependent visas granted.”

09:40 AM GMT

Number of visas issues for people coming to UK surged in 2023

The Home Office has just published its latest wave of immigration statistics and I will post some of the most interesting bits.

First up:

There were 3.4 million entry clearance visas granted in 2023. That was 20 per cent higher than in 2022 and seven per cent higher than before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Home Office said the most recent increase was due to more visitor visas being granted.

09:29 AM GMT

‘The politics of jealousy doesn’t work’

Sir John Redwood said the “politics of jealousy doesn’t work” as he cautioned against scrapping the non-dom tax status.

The Tory former Cabinet minister said the result of axing the status would be that “you will throw rich people out and you will raise less revenue, not more”.

He said that “if you over do it, they will go” and live elsewhere.

He told The Telegraph: “The politics of jealousy doesn’t work.”

09:09 AM GMT

Ex-Cabinet minister warns against scrapping non-dom tax status

Sir John Redwood has warned Jeremy Hunt against scrapping non-dom tax status.

The Tory former Cabinet minister said such a move would result in wealthy people moving abroad and while it might be “popular” it would actually “make the country worse off”.

He pointed out that Mr Hunt had previously spoken against the move. The Chancellor said in November 2022 that changing the rules on the tax treatment of non-domiciled people would “cost us more money than it would make us”.

Sir John tweeted this morning: “I agree with the Chancellor who said he wanted the rich to stay here and to spend their money here. It is easy to do popular things that make the country worse off.”

Mr Hunt is considering scrapping non-dom status to fund tax cuts for millions of workers in the Budget next week. The move is on a list of potential revenue-raising options.

08:44 AM GMT

Jeremy Hunt could scrap non-dom status to fund tax cuts in Budget

Jeremy Hunt is considering scrapping non-dom status to fund tax cuts for millions of workers in the Budget next week, The Telegraph can reveal.

The move is on a list of revenue-raising options drawn up for the Chancellor and Rishi Sunak, after economic estimates left them with less money than expected for tax cuts or spending pledges.

If it is announced, the Conservatives would be poaching one of the Labour Party’s most prominent tax and spend policies.

Non-domiciled status allows foreign nationals who live in the UK, but are officially domiciled overseas, to avoid paying UK tax on their overseas income or capital gains.

You can read the full story here.

08:24 AM GMT

Labour government would inherit worst economic situation ‘since Second World War’

An incoming Labour government would inherit the worst economic situation of any new administration “since the Second World War”, Rachel Reeves has claimed.

The shadow chancellor accused the Tories during a pre-Budget interview with Sky News of “burning the whole house down” in terms of their handling of the economy.

She told the broadcaster: “This is the worst inheritance any incoming government will have had since the Second World War in terms of debt interest payments, growth, living standards and taxation.

“[Former chancellor] George Osborne said in 2010 that they were going to fix the roof. What they’ve done is smash the windows, broken the door down and are burning the whole house down.

“That is the reality for whoever is prime minister and chancellor after the next election – that’s the inheritance that whoever forms the next government is going to have to deal with.”

08:17 AM GMT

Nigel Farage: ‘Close to zero’ chance of me joining the Tories

Nigel Farage said the chances of him joining the current version of the Conservative Party are “pretty close to zero” as he responded to attacks from Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader repeatedly referred to Mr Farage during PMQs yesterday and asked Rishi Sunak if the honorary president of Reform UK would be welcome as a Tory member but the Prime Minister sidestepped the question.

Mr Farage told GB News that he believed the Tories had “let us down in every single way” and claimed that they have been “just as bad as New Labour” on key issues like tax, immigration and crime.

Asked on a scale of one to 10 what the chances are of him joining the Tories, Mr Farage said: “This Conservative Party that I helped so much to win in 2019 a huge majority have let us down in every single way.

“They can talk about low tax and talk about stopping the boats and talk about dealing with issues on our streets.

“They have been just as bad as New Labour on all of these issues. The chances of me right now joining that party? Pretty close to zero.”