Simon Carr: The Sketch

Nice man, Sir John Gieve. Shame about his Home Office record
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The Independent Online

That was very disappointing. Sir John Gieve. One of those permanent secretaries who's risen through one disaster after another like an angel (now archangel). He has become deputy governor of the Bank of England. He was called back from Elysium into the secular squalor of the Palace of Westminster to give evidence of his "crimes" when he ran the Home Office.

Having been delighted with what a mealy-mouthed, platitudinous second-rater Gus O'Donnell was, I had hoped to be able to be able to present you with a maquette of this Knight Companion of the Bath, carved out of frozen faecal matter.

Unfortunately he seemed perfectly likeable. He realised that the standard Westminster apology ("I very much regret") is not an apology at all, and adds the words "I'm sorry" without having to extract them surgically from his lower throat. He told us that all large organisations have problems, and there were only 150 serious cases rather than 1,000 and that he wasn't trying to defend the indefensible. Actually, he said: "I'm not trying to defend the indefensible, but ..." before offering his complete, unremitting defence (along with his pleasing apology). He's a smooth, calm character and I dare say interest rates are safe in his care.

I didn't understand Bob Russell's question. He asked: "When these foreign prisoners were considered for deportation, who considered them?" Wasn't the point that the judges said the prisoners be deported at the end of their sentence, not that they be "considered for deportation"? The fact that it was supposed to be automatic makes the failure far more egregious.

Jeremy Brown asked how information was processed into the department and got a very full reply. A report would delivered to the relevant directorate whose director would consult, and research, and prepare a response, and expect a follow-up, and identify actionable points, and prepare an action plan which would be put into a packing case and left in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant. I think that's how it works.

I had to leave for my deadline so I didn't hear whether they'd got fully into the delirium of those days when the Immigration and Nationality Directorate went from 5,000 staff to 17,000 staff and cleared the backlog of several hundred thousand applicants. Didn't they do that by redefining asylum-seekers as economic migrants? Wasn't this when they were persecuting IND whistle-blowers who tried to alert the world to how they were running immigration? Wasn't that all under Sir John Gieve KCB?

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