Advertisement

Sacked border watchdog accuses Home Office of ‘actively’ suppressing his reports

Mr Neal was fired for revealing what the Home Office claimed was sensitive but inaccurate data about the alleged lack of security checks on private jet passengers
Mr Neal was fired for revealing what the Home Office claimed was sensitive but inaccurate data about the alleged lack of security checks on private jet passengers - PA

The sacked border watchdog has accused the Home Office of “actively” suppressing his reports exposing security risks.

David Neal, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, told MPs he was sacked last week “for doing my job” of exposing “inconvenient” truths about failings in UK border controls and the immigration system.

“Just because the reports might be inconvenient, it shouldn’t mean that they’re suppressed,” he told the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Mr Neal, former head of the military police, was fired by James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, for breaching his contract by revealing what the Home Office claimed was sensitive but inaccurate data about the alleged lack of security checks on private jet passengers arriving at London’s City airport.

He told the MPs that he went public because of his frustration at the way the Home Office sat on his reports, with 15 dating back to April last year still unpublished.

He cited a report into the initial processing centre in Dover where small boats migrants arrived “actively suppressed for six months.”

“When that report was finally published, it was accepted by the Home Office and was found to have exposed some of the security risks that were going on at the border,” he said.

Security failings

Mr Neal said that as soon as he discovered the alleged security failings at City Airport, he sought a meeting with immigration minister Tom Pursglove. When it was delayed for a week and then cancelled, he decided to go public “and the rest is history”.

“I don’t think it’s good to go through the prism of senior civil servants because it’s in their interest to protect and play down things. It’s really important that the independent person can communicate directly with ministers and tell them what’s going on. If you can’t do that, then we’re in trouble,” he said.

His tenure as the independent borders watchdog was due to end on March 21 and he claimed No 10 had blocked his reappointment before he was ultimately fired.

He told MPs: “I now know that the Home Office and the ministers supported my reappointment. And the Home Secretary supported my reappointment. That reappointment process was sent to the Cabinet Office and that was sent on to No 10 and it was turned down by No 10. So, I’ve no idea why it was turned down by No 10.”

He denied a suggestion by Mr Cleverly that he had been afforded the opportunity to reapply for his role, telling MPs that was “not the case”.

Asked about the alleged No 10 involvement, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “I’m not getting into conversations or correspondence between No 10 and the department, but how this works is this is a Home Secretary appointment and I think the Home Office made statements at the time when that position was open, to follow a fair recruitment process.”

Mr Neal criticised the “shocking leadership” by the Home Office as he told MPs he had been fired in a Microsoft Teams meeting held online.

The former borders inspector said: “Worse than that, for my high-performing team of 30 civil servants, the notification that I was sacked was in the media before my team or I had had the chance to speak to them, which is just shocking. Shocking leadership.”