The head of Britain’s borders and immigration inspectorate is to step down from his post seven months early, it was announced today.
John Vine, chief inspector of borders and immigration, told the Home Secretary that he will resign in December before his current term is due to end in July 2015.
His departure will be greeted nervously by Theresa May as it will allow Mr Vine to speak out freely about immigration issues in the run up to the election.
The Conservatives intend to make its tough immigration controls a key issue next May and by resigning early Mr Vine will not have to abide by rules that would restrain him from commenting on overtly political issues.
Since being appointed five and a half years ago Mr Vine has published more than 50 inspection reports including findings that exposed Britain’s huge backlogs of asylum applications.
His criticisms led to the abolition of the UK Border Agency and its reintegration within the Home Office.
However, earlier this year he fell out with Ms May over her decision to control the publication date of his reports. Critics accused the Home Secretary of deliberately delaying publication of some reports and releasing several on the same day to lessen negative publicity. But yesterday Mr Vine denied this dispute was responsible for his decision.
Rather, he is said to feel the election will make the role of the inspectorate difficult in the lead up to May and he can better contribute to the immigration debate by leaving early.
He said he believed the “time was right” for him to seek new challenges. “I am immensely proud of establishing this Inspectorate from scratch, and believe it has been a catalyst for significant change and improvement across the UK’s border and immigration functions.
“After publishing over 50 inspection reports and making close to 500 recommendations, the time is right for me to seek a new challenge.
“I have raised my concerns with the change in publication processes with the Home Secretary and the Home Affairs Committee previously, but this is not the reason I have decided to resign,” he said.
But Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was “surprised and disappointed”.
“John Vine turned the Inspector of Borders and Immigration into a first-class organisation and did outstanding work in holding to account those who manage our borders and immigration service. When Mr Vine last appeared before the committee we were very concerned about the number of reports that he had produced which had not been published by the Home Office. All of these must be released immediately.”
David Hanson, Labour immigration spokesman, said Mr Vine’s departure was an indictment of Theresa May’s attempts to “silence his criticisms of her failing immigration system”.
“I’m sad to hear of John’s departure – he did a superb job as Chief Inspector,” he said. “His reports highlighted flaws in the Home Secretary’s immigration regime and instead of rectifying them she sought to increasingly hold back his recommendations.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “I would like to thank John Vine for his hard work and dedication in scrutinising the vital work of controlling immigration and protecting Britain’s borders.”
We were very concerned about the number of reports not published
John Vine was appointed five and a half years ago