Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Home Office sacks immigration chief inspector after scathing criticism of border security

Independent chief inspector David Neal breached ‘terms of appointment’, home office says

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 20 February 2024 19:58 GMT
Cleverly hails 'impressive' French efforts on illegal migration

The Home Office has sacked the independent chief inspector for borders and immigration after he criticised the UK Border Force over alleged security failings.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the independent chief inspector, David Neal, had “breached the terms of appointment and lost the confidence of the home secretary”. They added that the planned recruitment process for his replacement was underway.

Mr Neal warned on Tuesday of “dangerous” failings by border force that he claimed were allowing “high-risk” aircraft to land in Britain without security checks.

He said that checks were not being carried out on hundreds of private jets arriving at London City airport. He said that the lapse in security risked organised criminals being able to bring gang members and contraband into the country. Foreign nationals with no right to enter the UK may also have been smuggled in, he said.

He told the Daily Mail: “This is a scandal, and incredibly dangerous for this country’s border security. There should now be a rapid independent inspection of general aviation across the country.”

Independent inspector of borders and immigration Neal has been sacked by the Home Office (ICIBI Corporate Services)

The Home Office had “categorically rejected” the claims, saying that Mr Neal “has chosen to put misleading data into the public domain”. They said there was a specific issue with the way data was recorded at London City airport, which meant high-risk flights should have been classified as low-risk.

Mr Neal was informed on Tuesday that his appointment would be immediately terminated. His term was due to end on 21 March 2024.

Mr Neal had also spoken publicly about abuse of the care worker visa on Monday, revealing that the Home Office had issued 275 visas to a care home that did not exist.

He has submitted 14 reports to the Home Office but they remain unpublished, according to the government website. Despite his role as an independent inspector, the Home Office has power over when the reports are made public.

Mr Neal’s reappointment as chief inspector of borders and immigration had already been blocked despite his predecessors serving two full three-year terms in post.

He recently expressed concerns that the Home Office had not yet found a replacement, meaning that there will likely be no independent inspector as ministers try to force through their controversial Rwanda policy.

Home secretary James Cleverly has sacked the independent immigration inspector (PA)

Mr Neal had said it was “scandalous that such a critical position at a time of such importance for the country is being left vacant”.

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, responding to news that the government had sacked the chief inspector for borders and immigration, said: “This is total Tory chaos on borders and immigration.

“A series of conservative home secretaries have sought to bury uncomfortable truths revealed by the chief inspector about our broken borders, and shockingly they are still sitting on 15 unpublished reports – stretching back to April last year. The home secretary must now publish those reports in full.

“The conservatives have lost control of our borders, are seeking to hide the truth, and are putting border security at risk.”

Ms Cooper’s office is understood to be including the inspector’s annual report in the total number of unpublished reports.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP called on the government to “publish these reports without delay”, saying ministers were “terrified of proper scrutiny”.

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP and member of the home affairs committee, said: “David Neal did a diligent job holding the Home Office to account, but various home secretaries repeatedly failed to respond to his reports or take on his recommendations.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in