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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 914-i
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Capita’s work for the UK Border Agency
Tuesday 29 January 2013
Paul Pindar, Andy Parker and Alistair MacTaggart
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 67
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 29 January 2013
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Paul Pindar, Chief Executive, Capita, Andy Parker, Joint Chief Operating Officer, Capita, and Alistair MacTaggart, Managing Director, Capita’s Secure Border Solutions, Capita, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Mr Pindar, Mr MacTaggart and Mr Parker, thank you very much for coming in today, although we have business in the House, and it may well be that we have a vote. We are not expecting a vote, but if there one, we will suspend the session for the vote and then return and other colleagues will be joining us.
As you probably know, you have been invited here to talk about, in particular, the UKBA contract that you have just taken over. The Committee has been concerned for many years about the very large backlog of cases that have accumulated at the UKBA, and when evidence was given to us last year we discovered the existence of a migration refusal pool. When Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the UKBA gave evidence to us last September, he told us that he was about to sign a contract with Capita and that you were there to assist. The Committee’s position is we welcome any attempt to try to deal with the backlog. If you have read any of our reports, you will know we have been concerned about this for a long time, and every three months we examine the UKBA about its backlogs.
Today we are specifically concerned with what you are doing with the migration refusal pool, but may I can start with a general question to you, Mr Pindar? I know you have asked colleagues here because they have individual expertise about this contract, and we are most grateful to you for coming. In respect of your contracts with the Home Office, this one is worth between £2.5 million and £3 million. You presumably have other contracts with the Home Office that you are currently undertaking. Is that right?
Paul Pindar: We do indeed, yes.
Q2 Chair: Could you give the Committee a global figure as to how much that is in terms of amounts?
Paul Pindar: Yes. Aside from this piece of work we are doing, we have one contract with the Criminal Records Bureau for which we currently bill the Home Office somewhere in the region of £50 million a year, and we have another contract with UK Borders Agency where I think we are billing roughly £40 million.
Chair: That is the total amount?
Paul Pindar: Yes.
Q3 Chair: We appreciate that you came into this reasonably late. You were not involved in dealing with any of these cases until recently, certainly in terms of the migration refusal pool. Prior to you, Serco was involved on a voluntary basis to try to deal with these backlogs. Was any of the information that Serco managed to glean from the UKBA given to you when you started this contract? I think they had information concerning processes that might have been useful to you in prosecuting this contract.
Alistair MacTaggart: We were provided with information about some 2,600 cases where they had outcomes. We were also afforded the opportunity to visit the location that was providing the services in Croydon.
Q4 Chair: I shall start with some of the complaints about the way in which this contract has operated––it has been in the public domain, so you may wish to comment on it. We have specific examples. People have said that when Capita took on this contract, Capita was in touch with people who already had either the right to stay in this country or were seeking leave from another part of the Home Office in order to stay here, so these were not people who ought to have left the country. Are you all aware of these complaints, and would you like to comment and use this opportunity to set the record straight?
Alistair MacTaggart: Is it worth me explaining the process that we go through in the first instance?
Chair: That would be very helpful.
Alistair MacTaggart: Yes. We pull cases from the migration refusal pool that you are aware of, and I think it is some 181,000 cases, as reported by Mr Whiteman in December. We will pull cases on a regular basis from this database. We will then go through a triage exercise. The triage exercise is designed to ensure that we are not contacting anybody inappropriately. We will ensure that there is no barrier to contact and a barrier to contact may be that they have an application in process. We will check a number of systems just to make sure there is no record of any such activity. We will also check the e-Borders system to make sure that the individual has not in fact already left the UK. Once we are happy that the case is good for contact, if you like, then the file will go through to a contact management process.
Q5 Chair: When you say you have access-from your Capita headquarters? From Capita HQ you are able to access all this, or do you have people in the UKBA?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have people properly and securely vetted to operate within the UKBA premises in Vulcan House, Sheffield.
Q6 Chair: How many people do you have there at the moment?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have 83 people altogether on the contract, working between Sheffield and Durham Valley, which is a contact management site.
Q7 Chair: So 83 Capita staff are currently in the UKBA offices who have been properly and appropriately vetted, and they have the right to go and access these files that are in the migration refusal pool, a total of 181,000 cases. How do they choose which cases they should access?
Alistair MacTaggart: There is a broad range, so we will have some old ones and some new ones coming and just a broad mix on a weekly basis.
Q8 Chair: The data is not yours? The data is all UKBA’s?
Alistair MacTaggart: Correct.
Q9 Chair: You talk about a number of checks that go on before you make the call or send the text. What monitoring is there of those checks?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have our own quality framework on the checks that we undertake as well, and we would not allow any of our agents to fully go competent until they achieve a certain benchmark. We also have quality regimes in place with UKBA to check what we are doing is accurate.
Q10 Chair: What do you say to the woman who was reported on the BBC on 3 January who said she had had a British passport for 10 years? She received one of your texts and she was extremely distressed about it.
Alistair MacTaggart: As I say, the information we are pulling is from the UKBA database. Occasionally there will be instances when the data may not be complete, but I must emphasise that is very few cases indeed.
Q11 Chair: How many complaints have you received so far that you have contacted people who are British citizens or have the right to stay here?
Alistair MacTaggart: From what happened in the early stages of this contact process around the Christmas/New Year time, our complaints ratio is running about 0.2%.
Chair: You need to tell us numbers. How many is that? How many complaints have you received?
Alistair MacTaggart: Capita have received some 11 complaints, but I think in total there would have been something in the low 30s.
Q12 Lorraine Fullbrook: You are contacting people by text, e-mail or telephone. Are you being paid for contacting people or for the number of people who have been refused leave to remain and have left the country?
Alistair MacTaggart: We will be paid on three different outcomes. We get paid for outcomes as follows: it could be a departure, and that might be that we recognise a departure from interrogating the e-Borders system; it could be a departure because we have contacted an individual and the individual may well have agreed to leave the UK; or in fact we may be able to convince an individual that they ought to leave the UK voluntarily.
Lorraine Fullbrook: It is all on departure you are paid?
Alistair MacTaggart: On outcomes; so, the outcome will be that they have already departed. The next outcome would be-
Q13 Lorraine Fullbrook: Say you had convinced me to leave on the telephone and I said, "Yes, I will leave", and I put the telephone down and I don’t bother. Do you get paid for that?
Alistair MacTaggart: No, we have to verify the individual has left, so once we have gone-
Q14 Lorraine Fullbrook: How do you do that, by manifest-or what?
Alistair MacTaggart: Once we have gone through the contact process, if somebody decides that they will leave voluntarily, then we go through a voluntary departures process, which is to monitor the systems to ensure that the individual has departed when they confirmed they would depart. If they do not depart, it may well be because of a valid barrier. Then clearly we would work with the UK Border Agency to ensure that barrier is removed. If it is not removed, then potentially that individual will go through to the enforcement process.
Q15 Lorraine Fullbrook: What happens when you have texted someone and said, "You have no right to remain in the country, and you must leave", and they lodge an appeal on various grounds? What happens then?
Alistair MacTaggart: At this stage what you have to remember is we are very early on in the process. We have started the contact process. We are at six weeks now, so we have not gone through the entire process from end to end, because it takes some weeks for that to work through. If somebody was to contact us and say they have a legitimate barrier, we would update the status on the UKBA systems and then UKBA would ensure that, if there were any barriers raised, we would manage them appropriately.
Q16 Lorraine Fullbrook: You as a company, Capita, are being allowed to update the UK Border Agency systems?
Alistair MacTaggart: It is a prerequisite that we update the systems with the outcome, yes.
Lorraine Fullbrook: You are directly updating UK Border Agency systems?
Alistair MacTaggart: Correct.
Q17 Chair: Just following on from what Mrs Fullbrook has said, which is very relevant, you have had this contract for six weeks, and that is the reason why-
Alistair MacTaggart: We have had it slightly longer than that. We signed it on 29 October.
Chair: One of the things the Committee was very keen to do was have you in early so we understood how the process worked, so we were able to monitor it as part of our three-monthly review of the UKBA. How many people have left the country as a result of Capita’s involvement––actually physically left the country?
Alistair MacTaggart: I think, as we had outlined before, in Mr Pindar’s letter to you and in fact our e-mail to the Committee yesterday, we-
Chair: Sorry, I have not seen this e-mail.
Alistair MacTaggart: Apologies.
Chair: That is okay. Perhaps you could tell us. How many people since you started the contract, as a result of the excellent work that Capita is doing, have left the country?
Alistair MacTaggart: As outlined in the letter and the e-mail, which unfortunately you have not seen, we are not in a position to provide you with any of the metrics. The agreement we have with our client, UK Border Agency, is that all the performance data will be provided by Mr Whiteman at his next appearance.
Q18 Chair: You do not know, or you are just not prepared to tell us?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have information on our outcomes that we channel through to the UK Border Agency to ensure that there is consistency in the approach with the data that is going to be provided to you, I believe, on 28 February.
Q19 Chair: Right. You have undertaken this contract. You have some information that you have given to Rob Whiteman about the number of people who have left the country as a result of Capita’s involvement. Is that right?
Alistair MacTaggart: We will provide information regularly to colleagues in the UK Border Agency, who will then validate-
Q20 Chair: How often do you provide that information, Mr MacTaggart?
Alistair MacTaggart: We provide that information a minimum of weekly, but every day Steve Lamb and his colleagues have visibility of what we do.
Q21 Chair: Steve Lamb being?
Alistair MacTaggart: The director of RCCD.
Q22 Chair: Each day the director responsible at UKBA, Steve Lamb, receives a report from you that contains what information?
Alistair MacTaggart: He will receive a brief summary of the outcomes of that particular day, and obviously they have to go through and validate these outcomes before they are reported up to you.
Q23 Chair: Of course; so, how many people you contacted, and how many people have left the country––is it that kind of information?
Alistair MacTaggart: That kind of information.
Chair: Excellent. That is very helpful.
Q24 Dr Huppert: You said that the number of inaccurate contacts, which is what triggered this off, was quite small, but nonetheless it does cause concern. Have you spoken to the Information Commissioner about this? Is there anything happening about your processing of information or UKBA’s processing of the information?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have not had any direct contact from the Information Commissioner, but I believe he has contacted the Border Agency.
Dr Huppert: But you have not had anything yet yourselves?
Andy Parker: Just to be clear, given that we are not the data owner, the Information Commissioner would speak directly to the UK Border Agency.
Q25 Dr Huppert: The migration refusal pool is some 180,000, I think, though it varies somewhat. Of course, we have no knowledge that any of these people are still in the country. Do you have a best estimate of how many people you will never be able to remove because they have already gone?
Alistair MacTaggart: I wish we did. It is very early stages in this process, as you will appreciate. As we go through the next few weeks, I am sure we will start to get a better handle on it.
Q26 Dr Huppert: Presumably from a contractual basis you would have wanted to have some handle on that, because presumably you know perfectly well that whatever you do, you can’t make money from the people who are not here. You must have a sense as to whether that is a tiny number and you should ignore it or it is most of them, or else you will spend all your time hunting people who have left.
Alistair MacTaggart: As Mr Vaz said earlier, there was a pilot undertaken by Serco in the early part of last year, and it provided some data on what we should expect. The service levels are based on that Serco pilot. At this stage, it is too early to say whether or not those service levels will be achievable.
Q27 Dr Huppert: Can you tell us what those levels are and what proportion of the people are you expecting to remove? What is the standard that is attainable?
Alistair MacTaggart: That letter has already been sent to Mr Vaz, I think, outlining what those strategic service levels are. Voluntary departures is 20%, no contact is 15% and the balance of 65% is barriers, which will go to case work.
Q28 Dr Huppert: Essentially we are saying that of the 180,000 or so, 36,000 you are aiming to remove. The rest have either left or in a huge proportion of the cases your estimate is that whatever you do, you will not be able to remove them?
Alistair MacTaggart: Correct. As I just say, we are not aiming to remove. Our responsibilities are to make sure that the current status is on the systems. Any removals will be undertaken under the authority of the Border Agency rather than us.
Q29 Dr Huppert: It is simply that you are hoping that 36,000 of the 180,000 will leave as a result of your actions?
Alistair MacTaggart: That is what we are hoping to achieve, yes.
Dr Huppert: I am still struck that 65% of the entire pool you expect to find barriers.
Alistair MacTaggart: Potentially, yes.
Q30 Chair: Just two questions that come out of that before I call other colleagues; when applicants sign their application to the UKBA they agree that their information can be passed to other Government departments when they make an application?
Alistair MacTaggart: I believe that is the case, yes.
Q31 Chair: There is no agreement that it should be passed to a private-sector company. Were you aware of that?
Alistair MacTaggart: I was not aware of that.
Chair: The problem being that you are looking at information that the applicant has not consented to you seeing.
Paul Pindar: We are not aware of that, if that is the case.
Chair: No. Obviously I think you should have a look at it to make sure you don’t get into difficulties with the Information Commissioner, since you are not the data owner.
Alistair MacTaggart: I believe the Information Commissioner will be looking at that with UKBA.
Q32 Chair: Excellent. How many former employees of UKBA are working for Capita at this moment on this project?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have one associate that is a former member. I think that is all.
Q33 Chair: You sent your 86 people who have no real experience of immigration and nationality issues or necessarily of case-working, into an organisation that this Committee and others have been very concerned about over a number of years, without anyone who knows about how UKBA operates?
Alistair MacTaggart: Our colleagues in UKBA do know, and what we bring to it is process, rule-based systems, and workflow management tools.
Chair: You mean the people who are there at the moment, the UKBA workforce?
Alistair MacTaggart: Exactly. We are working very closely with colleagues in UKBA.
Chair: They are partners, in effect?
Alistair MacTaggart: Absolutely.
Q34 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would like to go back to this updating the UK border information directly. How secure are you as a company that the information you are inputting to the UK Border Agency systems is correct so that we do not get six months or 12 months down the line to find it is a load of rubbish that has been put in and somebody else has to pick up the problem?
Alistair MacTaggart: We have stringent quality frameworks in place and nobody is allowed to put data in the system unchecked until they have passed certain criteria, and then there are ongoing quality checks on every individual that does anything in the process, to be honest. That is then validated by quality checks that are undertaken by Border Agency staff.
Q35 Lorraine Fullbrook: I know this is a very short period of time, six weeks. From the time that you contact someone either by text, e-mail or telephone, what has been the average time of the person being contacted to leaving the country?
Alistair MacTaggart: It is very early in the process.
Lorraine Fullbrook: I know that, but just-
Alistair MacTaggart: We wouldn’t have had anyone at this stage that has left the country as a consequence of our contact.
Q36 Lorraine Fullbrook: But if you are giving information on a daily basis to the UKBA, you must have some idea of the percentage hits that you have on a daily basis, even in this short timespan.
Alistair MacTaggart: We have a number of people that have indicated that they would wish to leave voluntarily but have not as yet left. It is too early in the process to provide you with a detailed answer, because we are only six weeks in.
Q37 Chair: Mr Pindar, you are a very experienced businessman. You have been chief executive since 1999, I understand, and you have worked for the company for 25 years. This seems to me like a bit of money for old rope. Don’t you sit there and think, "Why couldn’t the UKBA do this themselves?" If it is taking data out of their own computers and ringing people up and sending them texts and making sure they leave the country, is this not core work for the UKBA? Not that I am asking you to give up your contract now you have it, but it seems to me that this is the kind of stuff that they ought to have been doing anyway.
Paul Pindar: Firstly, I do not think it is money for old rope. If you look at the essence of what Capita endeavours to do-and my colleagues have hopefully provided some indication of this-the specialisms that we have are all about process management and trying to run operations in the most efficient way that we can. We have worked across the public sector now, as you have kindly reminded me, for over 25 years, and one of the things that hopefully we have done is to build a track record in reliability and also in having those competencies. We have seen a lot of situations, and I think this particular contract is one of them, whereby Capita working in tandem with public sector bodies provides symmetry of contribution. There is a huge amount of expertise sitting within UKBA. If I may say, from the nature of the partnership and the way that it has been initiated, we have a huge amount of respect for what it is trying to do. I think it has inherited a history, some of it going back into pre-2008, of a difficult immigration policy, and they are-
Q38 Chair: It is the policy you think that was wrong?
Paul Pindar: We are probably not here to comment on the policy. I think we are here to try to make sure that we can deliver the cleanest and best service that we possibly can. I have a huge amount of respect for what the team and the current team in UKBA are trying to do, and I think we are working very effectively with them. We just happen to have, by virtue of what we do, a high degree of expertise around process and a high degree of expertise around contact management. We contact over 30 million people a year on behalf of our customers. I think we do it well, and I think the partnership works well.
Chair: Excellent. We will remember that the next time a contract like this comes up.
Q39 Mr Winnick: I am sure UKBA appreciates what you just said about them, and you have the contract from UKBA. The value of the present contract I understand is somewhere between £2.5 million and £3 million. Is that correct, Mr Pindar?
Paul Pindar: That is correct, yes.
Q40 Mr Winnick: How long is it for?
Paul Pindar: It is for an initial term of four years but potentially extendable for a further two.
Q41 Mr Winnick: It may well be we should have been supplied with the information on the sort of aspect that I am going to ask you, but, be that as it may, how did you get involved in doing such work for UKBA?
Paul Pindar: Again, my colleagues will correct me if I am wrong, but the conventional way is for an opportunity to be tendered in the European Journal or advertised in the European Journal. Capita, alongside other potential private sector partners, responded to it, and the UKBA decided that our bid constituted the best value for money.
Q42 Mr Winnick: Yes, that I understand. You have explained that. Coming to the question that the Chair put, prior to that your company did not have contact with immigration matters. Correct me if I am wrong or misunderstood.
Paul Pindar: Correct.
Mr Winnick: This is the first time you have been involved as a company with problems arising from people who want to stay but cannot stay and all the other related issues. Am I right?
Paul Pindar: That would also be correct, but I would add that there are a huge number of things over the last 25 years that Capita has done where that has been the first time that it has done them, but we have still managed to do them in a very proficient and cost-effective manner. If I am frank with you, whether the service is an immigration service or it is working with local government or working with the private sector, the essence of what we are trying to do is to provide the most proficient service, particularly in this case contact management, and do it in the most cost-efficient way, and those are the disciplines that we bring to bear. The expertise specifically about the immigration service we have been provided in spades from our colleagues at UKBA.
Q43 Mr Winnick: Yes. Mr Pindar, obviously one must accept that a company can take on matters that they have not done before. Indeed, it would be rather odd if that was not the case, but as far as immigration is concerned, presumably you knew this was a very sensitive issue, sensitive at election time and between elections, that it provides plenty of tension, to say the least. There are those people who are constantly saying to UKBA they should be allowed to stay. UKBA decide they have no right to stay. It has a mechanism for people to appeal and the rest of it. Was there any initiation from UKBA or the Home Office-presumably not as far as the Home Office is concerned-before you took on or once you took on the contract?
Paul Pindar: If I have understood your question correctly-and you can correct me if I have not-I think what you are saying to us is the potential role that we are taking on is quite a difficult and sensitive task.
Mr Winnick: To say the least.
Paul Pindar: And you are asking whether we were aware of what we were taking on. We appreciate it is a difficult and sensitive task, we appreciate that there is the scope to make mistakes, and we appreciate there is the scope to cause offence to people. All we can try to do, and I think my colleagues have done this in partnership with UKBA, is to run the service in the most professional way that we can. The alternative to what you are putting forward is that everybody throws up their hands in despair and says, "This is a difficult problem that the UK as a country has to contend with, but it is too difficult for us to cope with." We did not take that stance. We thought this is a service that needs to be delivered. We think that we can deliver it proficiently. When you see the performance statistics that will be provided to you by Mr Whiteman, I think you will be quite impressed with the way the first six weeks of the contract has been initiated. We took the decision that we were comfortable running this service, given the risks that there were inherent in it. If I may say, that is typical in running any business as I have been doing for 25 years. There are some risks inherent in it, but you have to take a judgment as to whether you think you can manage them.
Q44 Mr Winnick: I think you can accept, Mr Pindar, that I have no such view that because an issue happens to be as difficult and sensitive as immigration, it should not be touched. That could not be further from my views or indeed the views of any politician, because it would not make any sense whatsoever. Since you mentioned sensitivity, can I bring you on to the question of text messages and e-mails? Do you consider that as an appropriate way for the company to contact the people involved who obviously are most reluctant to leave the country?
Paul Pindar: In the day and age that we live in today, I think it is absolutely essential to be able to contact people by text and e-mail, because in many instances it is the only means of communication.
Q45 Mr Winnick: I suppose the alternative is to make contact with them personally. You don’t accept that?
Paul Pindar: That may be another alternative, but again, it depends on whether you can track them down. I do not know if Alistair wants to comment in terms of why we chose or why-
Q46 Mr Winnick: On tracking them down, presumably an e-mail we can get, but all the same, if they are in a situation where they do not want to be known to the authorities, they are hardly going to respond to an e-mail.
Alistair MacTaggart: People do respond to e-mails and texts. In some cases, it may be to confirm their true status and clearly we record the true status on systems. In some cases they may well because they do want to leave the country. But once people are approached, then we are finding that we are having quite a significant number of inbound calls to the contact centre.
Q47 Chair: I know you cannot give us the figures. You have given them to Mr Whiteman, and we will get them off Mr Whiteman. Are you telling this Committee that you have contacted somebody by text to say, "Leave the country", and they have rung back and said, "Thanks very much. I didn’t realise I was still here. I am now going to leave the country"? Is there anecdotal evidence to support that, or am I just making a statement that clearly is not true? Has somebody rung back and said, "Thank you, I am going"?
Alistair MacTaggart: Clearly I cannot comment on what people specifically said.
Q48 Chair: No, but I am not asking for a specific case. I am just saying has somebody, in all the six weeks you have had-you have sent them a text, as you did to this lady who went to the BBC on 3 January, and you have said, "Please leave the country" and she said, "Well, I have been here for 10 years and I have a British passport, so no, I am not leaving the country" and burst into tears, I understand. You are telling this Committee that there is evidence that shows that as a result of the splendid work that Capita has done in texting people-something that the UKBA was unable to do for all the years I have been in Parliament-somebody has just rung up and said, "Thank you very much for telling me. I am going"?
Alistair MacTaggart: I do know that we have inbound contact coming into our contact centre and my-
Chair: I am asking you a question. Has anyone gone as a result of a text?
Alistair MacTaggart: As I said earlier, I think nobody at this stage has gone as a consequence of any of our contacts. It is too early in the process.
Q49 Mr Winnick: Obviously you are not civil servants in any way, and you are a private company. Would you have any objection in telling us your salaries?
Paul Pindar: We would have absolutely no objection in telling you our salaries.
Mr Winnick: Can you start, Mr Pindar?
Paul Pindar: Yes, I would be very happy to. I am interested though, because the heading here is, "Oral evidence: Capita’s work for the UK Border Agency" so I am slightly surprised by the question. I do not know quite how it is relevant to the discussion we are having today, but if it is helpful to you.
Q50 Mr Winnick: It would perhaps be appropriate to the way in which we can compare set salaries. I am not suggesting for one moment that you or those who hold the most senior positions in UKBA, the Home Office and so forth are not entitled to them, but if you are reluctant to do so-
Paul Pindar: No, I am very relaxed about doing it.
Mr Winnick: If you are not reluctant, just state your salary.
Paul Pindar: I am intrigued as to why it is relevant to the debate.
Chair: Could you just tell us?
Paul Pindar: My basic salary is £380,000 year.
Q51 Chair: Thank you. Mr MacTaggart?
Alistair MacTaggart: I differ from Mr Pindar’s views, and I don’t think I would be prepared to say in this forum.
Mr Winnick: I see.
Q52 Chair: Mr Parker?
Andy Parker: My salary is £260,000 a year.
Mr Winnick: Thank you very much.
Chair: Thank you. I think that is the end of that.
Q53 Dr Huppert: I was going to ask a rather smaller-scale question that has more relevance. I just wanted to follow up the consequence. You contact people, and then presumably some of them say, "I have already left." There will be a pool of people like that who get in touch and say that they have left.
Alistair MacTaggart: Yes, they will say that they have already left.
Q54 Dr Huppert: How do you check that that is accurate, given that we do not have exit checks, so we do not have any way of verifying that they have departed?
Alistair MacTaggart: There are a number of ways of checking that have been agreed with the UK Border Agency and I believe a policy that we can verify it from passport number and other identifiers. We have agreed procedures that if we can confirm-three- or four-point checks-to validate that departure, it will be accepted as a valid departure.
Q55 Dr Huppert: When you say it will be accepted, the data will be changed, or you get funded for it?
Alistair MacTaggart: It will be shown as somebody having exited the UK because we would be able to validate three or four-point checks.
Dr Huppert: But would they count towards your service agreements?
Alistair MacTaggart: Clearly, yes, because it would be classified as a departure.
Q56 Dr Huppert: If somebody left a year ago, but the Border Agency did not realise-
Alistair MacTaggart: That would be a departure.
Dr Huppert: That would count as a departure for your funding purposes?
Alistair MacTaggart: Correct.
Q57 Dr Huppert: You are very keen for such people to identify themselves as quickly as possible?
Alistair MacTaggart: Well, for us to identify them-but people are not necessarily going to come forward and say, "I have left", so we have to be able to validate that.
Dr Huppert: Even though they have already gone before you started?
Alistair MacTaggart: Yes.
Q58 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would just like to follow on from Mr Winnick. I am not sure if Mr Winnick has misunderstood. You do not make the decision about whether somebody should remain in the UK or not?
Alistair MacTaggart: Correct.
Q59 Lorraine Fullbrook: What you do is you process the people who have had a decision made for them by the UK Border Agency. I just wanted to clarify that.
Mr Winnick: There is no need for correction from my colleague. I am perfectly aware you work on the basis of information from UKBA.
Alistair MacTaggart: Yes, and we do not make any decisions. You are quite correct.
Mr Winnick: We would be very concerned indeed if you made the decisions. We would be horrified.
Q60 Chair: Mr MacTaggart, we are coming to the end of the session now, and I think it has gone extremely well. Just tell us: your contract with UKBA says that if you do a good job, then you could potentially be earning up to £30 million over the next four years on this contract. Is that right?
Alistair MacTaggart: That is correct, yes.
Q61 Chair: What is the additional amount for? If it is £2.5 million to £3 million, is that a year?
Alistair MacTaggart: The initial contract is for the 150,000 cases in the MRP.
Chair: The 150,000?
Alistair MacTaggart: There are two elements to that. There is the contact management element that we have been describing. We are in the process of developing a casework element that will help prepare cases for decisions to be made by UKBA.
Chair: The £2.5 million to £3 million is for the 150,000 cases?
Alistair MacTaggart: Roughly £2 million for contact management and roughly £2 million for casework, depending on volumes, clearly. It is roughly £4 million for the first tranche of work that we have been contracted to develop.
Q62 Chair: What triggers the £26 million extra?
Alistair MacTaggart: Us doing a good job.
Chair: You doing a good job?
Andy Parker: Also, agreeing new levels of work with the UK Border Agency over and above what we have been given to date.
Q63 Chair: Right. So the process on case-working that you will be doing: does that relate to the migration refusal pool, or can it have a read-across to some of the other backlogs that we have seen developing? Is it just to help them get their cases sorted out and get the process going?
Alistair MacTaggart: At this stage, Mr Vaz, we are only focusing on the 150,000 MRP. Clearly what we want to do is create momentum, once we contact people, that we can then prepare a case for UKBA to make a decision in a timely manner. Clearly we are very keen that if we develop systems and processes and rules, that could potentially be used in other areas.
Q64 Chair: Bearing in mind this Committee is very interested in backlogs and getting them cleared, when is your estimate? They must have asked you this question when they gave you the contract.
Andy Parker: These cases are to be worked on for six to nine months. That is our initial-
Chair: You think you will be able to clear it?
Andy Parker: We will have worked the cases in six to nine months.
Chair: You will have gone through the cases, not necessarily cleared them?
Andy Parker: That is the target that the UK Border Agency has set us.
Q65 Chair: What are you doing about the new cases that arrive in the migration refusal pool, because, as you know, this is a pool that gets bigger. Not only are you clearing a historic backlog of 150,000 but, as you know, every day there will be somebody refused who you will need to follow up.
Alistair MacTaggart: Some of these cases may well be in the cases that we pull from the MRP database.
Q66 Chair: What this Committee is interested in is: what do you do with the new cases so that a new backlog does not build up? In other words, if somebody is refused by Steve Lamb’s colleague-say Jeremy Oppenheim decides to turn down a case tomorrow-how long would it wait until it gets to you?
Alistair MacTaggart: I cannot answer that question.
Andy Parker: I do not know the answer to that.
Chair: Could we look into that, because what Damian Green, when he was Minister for Immigration, said to us is that he was not just concerned with the historical backlog. The factor was that the migration refusal pool was building up every day, because somebody is refused every day, and what we would not like to see is a wait of another nine months before these new cases were looked at. Could you look into that?
Alistair MacTaggart: Could I suggest maybe that it is more appropriate for the UK Border Agency to look at?
Chair: But you have not been asked to look at these new refusals?
Andy Parker: That would be part of the difference between the potential £4 million and £30 million. It would be additional work that they could give us, but at the moment we are-
Chair: You are happy to take that on?
Andy Parker: We would be happy to take that on, very happy, but at the moment we are focused on, because that is what we have been contracted to do, the initial migration refusal pool as it stood at the time. We would hope to take more on, but that is not what we have been asked to focus on today.
Q67 Chair: Okay, final two questions. First of all, in answer to Mr Winnick, Mr Pindar, you gave a figure for your salary quite openly. You did not have to, but you did. I am sure this is in the public domain anyway. You do not keep these things secret from your shareholders. It is just in December 2010 when people were talking about your salary, you said that you only earned £14,500 a week. I am afraid my mathematics is very bad. Presumably that multiplied by 52 adds up to £380,000. Just for the record, just to get it right, so there is no-
Paul Pindar: No, I would not mislead the Committee for one second. The question I was asked was what was my basic salary, which I answered, which is £380,000. In fact, when that quote came out I think it was a little bit less than that, but then I also receive a bonus on top of that.
Chair: It is very good of you to tell us.
We are most grateful to you for coming in at short notice, and we appreciate that this is a new and sensitive contract for you, but the Committee is very interested in this area, as you know. We have not just started an interest. We want to make sure, frankly, that this is a success, and one of the ways in which we are going to do this is to monitor your work on a regular basis. We appreciate the fact that you cannot give us the information directly, but we will go to UKBA and we will obtain that information because we have the power as a Committee to call for papers and persons, as you know. Just be aware that we are going to monitor this, because we are not trying to catch you out. We do want to know what is happening, and we want these backlogs to come down. That is what we aim to do, and that is why you are here today, right at the start of this contract. We are most grateful to you.