Brodie Clark, the former head of the UK Border Force, broke his silence yesterday to accuse Theresa May of destroying his reputation as he hit back at suggestions he had gone "rogue" in secretly relaxing passport checks.
Mr Clark, who resigned after four decades' service at the Home Office to pursue a case of constructive dismissal against the department, claimed Ms May had misled MPs by telling them he had exceeded his powers.
But the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee was told by his boss at the UK Border Agency, Rob Whiteman, who initially suspended him, that he was being disingenuous in his version of events.
The marathon hearing of the committee ended without Mr Clark landing a wounding blow on Ms May, but a picture emerged of an immigration service still struggling to cope with the pressures it faces. Last night the Home Office was challenged by MPs to release full details of emails and memos that would clarify the conflicting accounts in the controversy. Mr Clark quit last week after complaining it was impossible for him to get a fair hearing because of the public opprobrium being heaped upon him, including the accusation that he was a "rogue officer".
He told MPs yesterday: "Over 40 years I have built up a reputation and over two days that reputation has been destroyed. I believe that has been largely by the contributions made by the Home Secretary." He claimed that both Ms May and Mr Whiteman had conflated two factors when levelling their charges against him.
Mr Clark said Ms May had authorised a pilot scheme this summer when controls were eased on passengers arriving in Britain from the European Economic Area to concentrate on intelligence-led operations, but vetoed plans to relax some fingerprint checks on non-European travellers. Separately, he said, visa checks were eased on health and safety advice on 57 occasions over that period because of queues at Heathrow and congestion on roads around Calais. This action was taken – with his approval – under guidelines laid down four years ago. Mr Clark said he would be very surprised if ministers did not know about that guidance.
But Mr Whiteman said Mr Clark had been "disingenuous" in not outlining to ministers the "full picture" of other policies in operation when the pilot was set up. Mr Whiteman added: "From what I see, the 2007 guidance has been stretched. It is being used on more occasions than in really dire health and safety circumstances."