Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1647-i
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
BORDER CHECKS DURING SUMMER 2011
TUESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2011
BRODIE CLARK CBE
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 1 - 288
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 15 November 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Brodie Clark CBE, former Head of the UK Border Force, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Mr Clark, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us today. I wrote to you last week to invite you to give evidence, in view of recent events that have occurred concerning the UKBA and indeed your position there. I want to thank you on behalf of the Committee for not giving a series of television, radio and newspaper articles, but coming to the House first and responding to the questions that members of the Committee have.
The way in which I wish to handle this session is that the Committee will want to ask you first about the original pilot and the extension of the pilot, and indeed the unauthorised extension of the pilot, which is what the Home Secretary told the Committee last week. We then wish to discuss the circumstances of your suspension, in the broadest possible terms. We know that you have resigned and we also know that you are seeking a constructive dismissal case against the Government, so we will be cautious in putting those points to you. And finally, there are a number of other issues concerning border checks that have come out of the weekend press, which we will put to you as well. That is the way that I wish to handle the session.
Would you like to start by saying anything to this Committee?
Brodie Clark: Thank you for the opportunity to come and lay forth my side of the story. I have a statement, Mr Chairman, which I wondered if I might make. Let me say at the outset-
Chair: Mr Clark, I am sorry but you will need to speak up a little bit, so that all members of the Committee can hear you.
Brodie Clark: Let me say at the outset that I introduced no additions to the Home Secretary’s trial; neither did I extend it or alter it in any way whatsoever. I was meticulous in ensuring that my top operational team and my senior port managers had complete clarity on the Home Secretary’s requirements. I briefed them personally. Over the first month of the trial, I reported weekly to the Home Secretary, as she had required, and with each briefing I offered a follow-up meeting. Aside from teething issues, the trial delivered into the border business exactly as she had wished. I did not enlarge, extend or redefine the scope in any way. I have not wilfully or knowingly sanctioned an alteration to border checks that has contravened existing Home Office policy. And on queues, despite the pressure from port operators, carriers and others, I have never sanctioned that the high-quality checking arrangement at our border should be adjusted to speed flow.
The discussion has been confused by a conflation of two things: first, our long-standing Home Office policy and practices on dealing with critical health and safety issues at ports; and secondly, the Home Secretary’s recently introduced pilot on risk-based activity to improve performance. They are quite simply separate: one, a pre-existing policy and set of practices for the management of high-risk safety issues; the other, a more improved approach to deploying staff skills to the highest-risk activities. Eight million occasions of checking children against a security watch list produced only one spurious hit. I would rather our staff were doing more productive work.
Our border operation is going through a constant change. We merged front-line immigration and customs activity 18 months ago. We were required to reduce our head count by 900 staff over the past year in order to deliver the Government’s saving requirements. Passenger volumes at Heathrow have risen by 9% and the demand for better customer service continues unabated. Against that the Border Force continues to deliver improved security results with a five-year record in volumes of cocaine and heroin and a three-year record in terms of tobacco seized at the border. Equally, it continues to improve its record of catching clandestines and refusing the harmful.
I have, as I always have over 40 years, delivered within the Government parameters. And I have done so with an absolute determination to strengthen the UK border. We have built a very strong agenda of getting the best from our staff, exploiting the most from our technology and focusing strongest on the real harm and threat to the UK. We have come a long way in three years and it is by no accident that we now rank as one of the most secure border operations in the world. Mr Chairman, I am no rogue officer. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Q2 Chair: Thank you, Mr Clark. Much of what you said just now is in flat contradiction to the evidence given to this Committee by the Home Secretary last week and to the House. It also contradicts what Robert Whiteman has said in statements. We will be speaking to Mr Whiteman after we speak to you. I want to take you back to the original pilot. Is it correct that the Immigration Minister and the Security Minister, Lady Neville-Jones, agreed with the original pilot, along with the Home Secretary or was there any disagreement? I want to concentrate on where you all agree-on the first pilot.
Brodie Clark: I presented the case on three elements of the pilot to the Immigration Minister and the Security Minister in January of this year. Both Ministers agreed-
Q3 Chair: Could you tell us who they are?
Brodie Clark: That was Damian Green and Pauline Neville-Jones. Both Ministers agreed that we should proceed with the pilot which comprised three elements. One was the discretionary checking of EEA children who were part of families or supervised groups. One was the discretionary opening of the biometric chip of EEA nationals and the third element was discretionary checking of the fingerprint matching process for visa nationals.
Q4 Chair: This was your idea that you put to them?
Brodie Clark: This indeed was. We had within UKBA been formulating a much more risk-based approach to delivering our business. I firmly believe that is far more productive in terms of outcomes and results. Indeed, in August this year, as two elements of that trial went forward, the evidence was clear to support that contention.
Q5 Chair: But the Home Secretary did not accept that, did she? She asked for further work to be done. She has made it very clear to the House that she did. Even though Mr Green accepted it and Lady Neville-Jones accepted it, the Home Secretary wanted additional work done.
Brodie Clark: Indeed. Damian Green asked me to proceed with these three elements but I chose at that stage to approach the Home Secretary and ensure that she understood what the plan was to introduce these three elements into our business.
Q6 Chair: Why did you do that? Why did you go over the head of the Immigration Minister straight to the Home Secretary?
Brodie Clark: I was just concerned that everybody needed to know and I wanted to be clear and transparent on what was happening across the border business.
Q7 Chair: What was her reaction?
Brodie Clark: She was very keen to stop the work at that stage for a closer and more careful examination around the three elements and a much broader discussion around the border strategy encompassing a whole range of activities outside of that trial.
Q8 Chair: When did you get final sign-off? So, two Ministers signed it off. The Home Secretary then intervened and said she wanted further work. When did you get the final pilot?
Brodie Clark: In July, the Home Secretary signed off two elements of the three, which were the chips and the children at that stage, and she caveated that by a number of protections around ensuring that it was properly monitored and properly managed and for discrete periods of time, where the redeployment of the staff from those activities could be put to better use within the business. We pulled that together and we briefed the business, and the trial, which was for just over one month, commenced at the beginning of August.
Q9 Chair: And you are telling this Committee that you gave weekly briefings to Ministers about what was going on.
Brodie Clark: The Home Secretary had asked for a weekly briefing. I provided her with a two-to-three-page update, region by region, around my Border Force operation, identifying how frequently the trigger had been played for the trials and identifying what sort of outcomes we had achieved in terms of the redeployment and the discretionary judgments that we were giving to staff in these circumstances.
Q10 Chair: And it was after that that you, in the words of others, went rogue. You then decided that you wanted to extend it beyond the original pilot.
Brodie Clark: Mr Chairman, I never went rogue, and I never extended without the Home Secretary’s authority that initial trial for a further period of September through to November. It was the Home Secretary who clearly, at request and on advice from me, agreed that the trial could continue for a longer period in order to evidence the benefits that it was delivering.
Q11 Chair: But, Mr Clark, do you understand what you are saying to the Committee? You are saying that you had authority to do what you were doing and that the Home Secretary knew what you were doing and that is completely in contradiction to what she said to the House and to this Committee.
Brodie Clark: I just do not understand why she has said that. The continuation or extension of the trial was something that we reported on not on the same weekly basis that we had previously been, but we had incorporated it into the chief executive’s weekly note to the Immigration Minister as an update on how things were going.
Q12 Chair: Did anyone-any senior official-ring you up from the Home Office and tell you, "Goodness. This is in addition to what we originally agreed"? Did you receive an e-mail from the Home Secretary explicitly telling you not to go beyond the original pilot?
Brodie Clark: That never happened. I received instruction from the Home Secretary’s office that the trial was to be extended from September through to November.
Q13 Alun Michael: Mr Whiteman says that you admitted going beyond what the Home Secretary agreed. Did you make such an admission?
Brodie Clark: I met with Mr Whiteman on 2 November and that was in response to information that I had provided to him in previous weeks about checks and adjustments we had had to make at the border over the past two years. It was part of the briefing that I had been providing to Mr Whiteman given that he had only been in the organisation for four to five weeks. The meeting on 2 November was at my instigation, and it was in response to a grid of figures.
Chair: Can I just stop you there? Could you concentrate your answer on Mr Michael’s question, not the meeting, because we will come to that later? Answer specifically on whether you went beyond the original pilot. Did you say that to anybody?
Alun Michael: Did you make the admission that Mr Whiteman has said publicly that you had made?
Brodie Clark: And that is?
Alun Michael: That you had admitted to having gone beyond the terms of the pilot agreed by the Home Secretary.
Brodie Clark: I at no stage told Mr Whiteman that I had gone beyond the terms of the pilot that the Home Secretary had initiated.
Q14 Alun Michael: You also said that you reported weekly to the Home Secretary, as she required. I take it that that was a written report. Did she comment at any stage on any of those weekly reports?
Brodie Clark: No.
Q15 Alun Michael: Did you have any feedback whatsoever on the weekly reports that you made?
Brodie Clark: No.
Q16 Alun Michael: Are you surprised then that this controversy has blown up in this way?
Brodie Clark: Absolutely surprised. I do not understand it. I can only imagine that it has been through a conflation of two different things: policy and practice that has existed in the Border Force for the past two years, and the trial.
Q17 Alun Michael: In your statement you say: "I have not wilfully or knowingly sanctioned an alteration to border checks that contravened existing Home Office policy." In retrospect, do you believe that you unknowingly contravened existing Home Office policy?
Brodie Clark: No.
Q18 Lorraine Fullbrook: The Home Secretary said on Wednesday that she rejected your request to suspend automatic fingerprint checks on visa nationals. Can you tell the Committee whether you have ever authorised the suspension of automatic fingerprint checks of visa nationals?
Brodie Clark: The secure ID programme, which-
Lorraine Fullbrook: Can we just have a "yes" or a "no"?
Brodie Clark: The secure ID programme, which lays out the fingerprint matching process, was introduced in March 2010. Since March 2010, in response to emergency, urgent health and safety contingency arrangements at ports there has been an authority to suspend the fingerprint matching process for the period of those emergencies. That has been in place since 2010. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the trial.
Q19 Lorraine Fullbrook: So you did authorise a suspension of automatic fingerprint checks?
Brodie Clark: The fingerprint checking arrangements, which had been in place since 2010, had been pulled in place by the head of Heathrow airport. I learnt about it in the early part of this year. I accepted it as a very sensible thing to do, and if I may explain, Mr Chairman, I would like to do so.
Chair: Just one second. If you allow Lorraine Fullbrook just to ask her question.
Q20 Lorraine Fullbrook: So you did authorise a suspension. Did you do so before or after the Home Secretary’s rejection of your request, or both?
Brodie Clark: I learned of the suspension under particular circumstances, where there was a risk to passengers at ports, in the early part of 2011.
Q21 Lorraine Fullbrook: Was that before, during or after the Home Secretary’s rejection of your request?
Brodie Clark: I think it was before.
Q22 Lorraine Fullbrook: So you suspended fingerprint checks before you asked the Home Secretary. Is that correct?
Brodie Clark: I asked the Home Secretary on the fingerprint issue in respect of discretionary judgments by front-line staff on fingerprint matching for non-visa holders coming to the UK. That is an entirely different set of circumstances, where we have chosen to suspend fingerprint matching when there are health and safety problems, when there is a risk to people and when something had to change in order to comply with the safety requirements at ports.
Q23 Lorraine Fullbrook: So you did suspend them before your request to the Home Secretary. My understanding is that the capacity for automatic fingerprint checks for visa nationals has become generally available only since 2010. If you abandoned those checks, and if Ministers did not give you authorisation or permission to do so, how can guidance from before 2010 give you permission not to carry them out?
Brodie Clark: I never, as a matter of course, suspended fingerprint matching on visa nationals. This was done under exceptional circumstances within a policy-the Home Office warnings index policy. Within the context of that policy, I agreed, and allowed the lead official at Heathrow to do what was an extremely sensible thing.
Q24 Dr Huppert: You have referred a few times to these health and safety emergencies, and when I looked at the operational instructions it was not clear exactly what they related to. Could you give us a sense of what would constitute a health and safety emergency in this sense? How serious does something have to be for this long-standing process of relaxation to kick in?
Brodie Clark: I think at Heathrow you would be in a position whereby a port manager would be approaching my staff and saying that they were now in a critical position, where there were lengthy queues out the back of the hall, there were either passengers being kept on planes or about to be kept on planes, and there were planes in the sky that were still looking for somewhere to land. That is the kind of set of circumstances that would prompt the head of Heathrow to make the judgment that, for that particular period, the suspension of fingerprint matching should take place.
Q25 Dr Huppert: That is quite an extreme situation, where you have planes unable to land and people being kept on them. How come that happened so frequently?
Brodie Clark: I think that it is not such an extreme and rare occasion. Heathrow is an incredibly busy airport. The combination of the range of checks we carry out now on passengers coming through, the length of queues and the sheer volume-the 9% increase in volume-of passengers coming to Heathrow made June, July, August and September very, very busy times, when this frequently happened.
Q26 Chair: Just for the convenience of the Committee, how many times did it happen?
Brodie Clark: Well, for June, July and August-
Chair: Of this year?
Brodie Clark: Of this year. It happened 50 times, or just over 50 times. Sorry, for May, June, July it happened just over 50 times. For August, September and October it reduced to about seven occasions.
Q27 Chair: And this happened last year as well?
Brodie Clark: This happened during 2010 as well.
Q28 Chair: Would Ministers have known when this had happened?
Brodie Clark: I would have fully expected Ministers to understand these pressures. The Home Secretary has visited Heathrow on two occasions. Other Ministers have visited Heathrow. They speak with front-line staff. They make a point of doing that. I would expect Ministers to know that.
Q29 Dr Huppert: I am amazed that things are getting so critical so regularly, and I can see the attractions of an intelligence-led pilot. You spoke about time being spent inefficiently. Are you in agreement with the comments of the Home Secretary that the pilot was a success, other than, of course, for the ending of it? How would you measure that success?
Brodie Clark: I believe the pilot was a success, and I would measure success by the outcomes in terms of seizures of illegal and dangerous goods and the stoppages of dangerous and harmful people to the UK. Actually, through the month of August, the results were astounding. They were exceptional. There was about a 60% increase in class A drugs being detected as a consequence of this. There were increased numbers of clandestines being detected as a consequence of this. I believe it was a success. I firmly, personally, believe that that is the progress that the organisation needs to make. It needs to move away from process-driven activity, for which one is easily accountable, to a much more outcome-focused activity-on results, on delivery, on risk and managing threat and harm to the UK.
Q30 Chair: So, Mr Clark, you are in agreement with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister on one thing, that the pilot, which was apparently your original idea, on which you made a submission to Ministers earlier this year, was a success in respect of what it achieved?
Brodie Clark: Absolutely.
Q31 Chair: So are you surprised that it has now been suspended?
Brodie Clark: I am hugely disappointed that it has now been suspended. I think the record of the success speaks for itself, and I see us now going back to process-driven activity, which I think is wrong. May I give-?
Q32 Chair: What would be helpful is if you just gave us some figures. Some figures were given to the House-I know this is from memory-showing that the number of illegal immigrants detected had gone up by 10%. Do you know what the base figure was? We have been given percentages. Does somebody in the Home Office or the Border Force have those figures if we ask them?
Brodie Clark: Those figures will be available, Mr Chairman. I do not have those, and I would not wish to make a guess.
Q33 Chair: Of course, but there are figures that we can get. Nobody seems to be able to give us these figures.
Brodie Clark: Indeed, there will be figures that you can get.
Chair: Thank you.
Q34 Mr Clappison: Do you agree that after July adults were not checked against the warnings index at Calais?
Brodie Clark: I don’t know, is the answer to that. After July, as a matter of course, adults coming through Calais, of course, would be checked. The only occasion when that would be waived would be if there were a health and safety issue, problem or concern. That is the only reason why people in Calais have any authority whatsoever to suspend checking.
Q35 Mr Clappison: Did such suspension take place, to your knowledge?
Brodie Clark: I do not have information on that.
Q36 Mr Clappison: You do not have information on that. The Home Secretary told the House that "adults were not checked against the warnings index at Calais, without ministerial approval."
Brodie Clark: The Home Office policy, which has been signed off by Ministers, is very clear that, under exceptional circumstances, there is a clear provision-indeed, requirement-in the interests of health and safety, in a systematic and risk-based fashion, to suspend certain of the checking arrangements for people coming through Calais. The trigger for that is, invariably, the French police. We have to understand that we are working on foreign soil. It is a unique set of circumstances. The success of our work in France is enormous. In 2010, 25,000 clandestines were stopped from coming into the UK.
Q37 Mr Clappison: I understand that, but the warnings index is important as well, isn’t it, because it checks people who are suspected criminals, suspected terrorists and people who have been excluded from the UK? That is an important step in itself, isn’t it?
Brodie Clark: And, of course, the policy defines the suspension arrangement in terms of the threat and the risk of groups coming to the UK, to ensure that it is done in a regulated and safe way.
Q38 Mr Clappison: Do you agree that, if it happened, it was not part of the pilot? As you have told us, the pilot was very carefully worked out, with the approval of the Home Secretary, and involved only discretionary checking of EEA children against the watch list.
Brodie Clark: It was not part of the pilot; it has been in place through the Home Office warnings index policy since June 2007. It is a piece of standard practice for the operation in particular times when health and safety begins to present a threat to people who are coming through the border.
Q39 Mr Clappison: Did you raise this with Ministers when you were discussing the pilot, or at any time after that?
Brodie Clark: I don’t recollect that I did.
Q40 Mr Clappison: The discretionary checking of fingerprints on non-visa nationals is an important step as well, because it ensures that the person in possession of the visa is actually that person. That wasn’t authorised by the pilot either, was it?
Brodie Clark: And it wasn’t part of the pilot either.
Q41 Mr Clappison: No, but it did take place at Heathrow, as you have told us, even though it wasn’t part of the pilot.
Brodie Clark: The secure ID fingerprint-matching check is the lowest level check that we have in the suite of nine checks that take place on visa nationals arriving in the UK. Those checks begin overseas. The major high-level checks are biometric checks against criminal and terrorist watch lists, and the warnings index check equally against that criminal and terrorist watch list.
Q42 Mr Clappison: That may be so, but was it part of the pilot that that should be dropped?
Brodie Clark: And it wasn’t incorporated into the pilot.
Q43 Chair: I think what Mr Clappison is trying to get from you, Mr Clark, is that it wasn’t part of the pilot, but it happened. You have been very clear to this Committee that you did not go beyond the pilot and that you didn’t reject any explicit instruction from the Home Secretary, so what he is getting at is, if it wasn’t part of the pilot and it happened, why did it happen?
Brodie Clark: My response is that it has been part of the policy arrangements that have been in place since 2007, which lay out both policy and practical guidance as to how ports operate in terms of adjustments to their checking arrangements in the light of threat and risk to passengers.
Chair: So you are telling the Committee that this happened because it was an existing policy that had been going on until 2010.
Brodie Clark: Correct.
Q44 Mr Clappison: Did you know it was happening?
Brodie Clark: Yes, of course.
Q45 Mr Clappison: Did it occur to you to draw it to the attention of the Home Secretary?
Brodie Clark: I made no connection between the business as usual of our operation under these sorts of circumstances and the pilot. The pilot was a stand-alone piece of activity going forward and it was based on an entirely different premise from these contingency arrangements. The pilot is about a better use of staff for improved performance. The contingency arrangements were long standing and had been in place since 2007, to safeguard passenger and staff risks.
Q46 Chair: Sorry, but did you say 2007 or 2010?
Brodie Clark: 2007.
Q47 Mr Clappison: As you have told us, this was gone into carefully with Ministers and you went to the Home Secretary, so I find it slightly surprising that you had a carefully agreed pilot in place, but contrary to the pilot, different things were happening anyway and you did not draw this to the Home Secretary’s attention. You had a situation where you were not sure you knew whether adults were going through against the warning checks at Calais, but people were coming into this country without their fingerprints being checked. You did not draw that to the attention of the Home Secretary. It looks as though there was a bit of a mix and match of policies that went beyond the pilot. The Home Secretary was thinking she had agreed the pilot, but what she had not agreed to was happening anyway on your watch.
Brodie Clark: I do not believe there was any mix and match of policies. I believe there was absolute clarity of the Home Office warnings index policy, which was signed off in 2007. Overlaid on that came the Home Secretary’s pilot, which was entirely about a different thing, a different premise, a different set of arrangements for a different purpose.
Q48 Steve McCabe: It seems to me that this whole affair hinges on whether someone is lying or there has been a monumental misunderstanding of the Home Secretary’s instructions. She said in Parliament last Wednesday: "I stated explicitly in writing that officials were to go no further than what had been agreed in the pilot." Is there any possibility that you or anyone else could have misunderstood what was in the pilot, or what the Home Secretary intended in that written authorisation?
Brodie Clark: No.
Q49 Steve McCabe: Is there any possibility the Home Secretary herself did not entirely realise what the pilot covered?
Brodie Clark: I would find that hard to imagine.
Q50 Steve McCabe: Is there no chance that anyone was confused about existing practice-people referred to summer pressures, projects or the new national general aviation strategy? Is there any possibility that people at UKBA or at the Home Office confused those activities with the pilot?
Brodie Clark: I am absolutely clear that the operation of the Border Force had not made that confusion, and that they were clear in the terms of the pilot and the two areas that were to be taken forward during that piloting process, through to November. I am absolutely clear that is the basis on which I had instructed across my part of the organisation and on which they were operating. I do, however, think that in some of the debate away from that operational situation, that there has been conflation of those two issues. That has been unhelpful and has mixed two things unhelpfully in terms of seeing a way clear to what has been going on.
Q51 Steve McCabe: Do you mean that conflation has occurred since these events became public?
Brodie Clark: I sensed in my conversation with Rob Whiteman that there was a conflation happening there between previous policy and the new pilot going forward. I wrote to Rob Whiteman on the day after my meeting with him.
Q52 Chair: On 3 November you wrote to him.
Brodie Clark: I wrote to him before 7 o’clock in the morning on 3 November to say that these are different things. On the one hand, these are pre-existing policies from 2007, which are there to protect the safety of people under particular circumstances. That is different from a pilot that was triggered to commence in August of this year, which was there to improve, enhance and bolster the performance of our front-line staff.
Q53 Steve McCabe: Is there any possibility that the Immigration Minister or the Home Secretary could not have understood the detail of the pre-existing policies you referred to?
Brodie Clark: I would be surprised if they did not know of those policies or understand them.
Q54 Chair: Just in response to Mr Clappison: you mentioned the French. Not that we are looking for someone to blame, and we have decided to blame them. You said that one of the reasons why you authorised the use of the health and safety requirements was because pressure was being put on by the French. When I visited the border with you and the MP for Dover, we recognised the fact that the French packed up and went home at 6 o’clock at night. There were no French officials at the border in Calais after 6 o’clock, so if you wanted to jump on a lorry and come over, you would just wait until the gendarmes went home and off you would go. Did anyone make representations to the French to explain that their pressure on us was causing difficulties in respect of people entering our country, or did we feel that we could not do this because they were letting us stay in their country and move our border to Calais?
Brodie Clark: I believe that the French will raise this issue of queues of traffic back out to main roads coming to the port and creating hazards and danger there, and that triggers them to ask us to adjust our controls accordingly. The contact with the French is regular at different levels, both political and official, and the conversations are almost constant. Damian Green was there three weeks ago, at the invitation of Eurotunnel, to talk specifically about queues and traffic-marshalling arrangements around the port of Calais and Coquelles. It is an ongoing conversation, which leads me again to say that I would be surprised if Ministers were not fully aware of these issues and what was happening in Calais.
Q55 Mr Winnick: In order to clarify the situation arising from the questions put by Mr Clappison, as far as your suspension was concerned, am I not right in saying that it was for one reason and one reason only, which is-the allegation being-that you went beyond what the Minister had asked you to do?
Brodie Clark: In truth, I was unclear of the basis for my suspension. I think it was because of the belief that I had extended the pilot in some way. I interpreted that from the conversation that Mr Whiteman had with me on the 3rd in the morning, and therefore I kind of understood that was probably what it was about.
Q56 Mr Winnick: This is what the Home Secretary told the House and the Committee, so we were quite clear that it is not over what happened previously or was alleged to have happened previously. Mr Clark, how long have you been a civil servant?
Brodie Clark: Thirty-eight years.
Q57 Mr Winnick: In those 38 years, how long would you say that you have been in senior positions?
Brodie Clark: Fifteen years.
Q58 Mr Winnick: I think it was last year that you were given a distinction, were you not?
Brodie Clark: Indeed I was-a CBE for services to border and border security issues.
Q59 Mr Winnick: During your career-in those 15 years as a very senior public servant-have you been the subject of disciplinary action of any kind?
Brodie Clark: Never. Absolutely never.
Q60 Mr Winnick: Would it not be the position that if you had been, it is most unlikely that you would have been appointed head of the UK Border Force in April 2008?
Brodie Clark: I agree.
Q61 Mr Winnick: Presumably, the same would apply to the CBE. What I want to ask you is this, Mr Clark: during the last week you have been very much in the news, to say the least. Your reputation has been tarnished; there is no doubt about it. The Home Secretary, one of the most senior people in the Government, has alleged that on your own initiative, without her authorisation, you extended the pilot scheme. To say the least, that is a very serious allegation, which you are challenging. What has been the effect on you and your family as a result of you being very much in the news?
Brodie Clark: I think you can only imagine the impact. It is something of a night-
Mr Winnick: You tell us.
Q62 Chair: Could you tell us briefly, because obviously your family is very important to you and to us in general, but apart from that, it is not pertinent to the issue?
Brodie Clark: It is something that has hugely taken over my life over this last 10 days. I cannot move outside of my house without reporters taking photographs and seeking interviews. I have had the newspapers phoning me, e-mailing me, texting me and standing outside my front door. I have had taxi drivers seeking to take my photograph because they know they knew me from somewhere. I have had a whole range of interventions in the absolute privacy of my life, which I can cope with, frankly, because I take that as part of the job that I do. I have always worked in high-risk, difficult, and often dangerous roles across government. I accept that for myself, but not for my family, where the intrusion is enormous.
Q63 Mr Winnick: I want to ask you one final question. Would you have had any reason-any incentive whatsoever-to go beyond what the Home Secretary sanctioned? Perhaps you felt that the queues were not being dealt with swiftly enough. Perhaps you took the view that you knew more than the Home Secretary knew-you were a very senior civil servant, and the rest. Was there, in effect, some reason or incentive to say to yourself, "I’m going beyond what the Home Secretary says because it is in the public interest"?
Brodie Clark: My absolute wish was for the pilot to be a success. I firmly believe in that nature of controls for the UK. I firmly believe that that creates a safer country. That is in my DNA in terms of the security of the country.
Q64 Mr Winnick: But would you want to go beyond that, as alleged?
Brodie Clark: No, I would not jeopardise the trial of the pilot for anything. I wanted that to be a success. I was determined that it would be, and I was meticulous in holding to the conditions and terms that the Home Secretary had put in place.
Mr Winnick: So you deny entirely what the Home Secretary has said?
Chair: Order. I think it is clear that Mr Clark has denied that.
Q65 Michael Ellis: Mr Clark, I have been listening to your evidence to the Committee and I have read your statement of 8 November. I would like to ask you a couple of questions in clarification. First, I want to go back to your meeting, which presumably had a disciplinary flavour, with the chief executive of the Border Agency, Robert Whiteman. I listened carefully to your answer to an earlier question of one of my colleagues on the nature of that conversation, and I think you said that at no point did you tell Mr Whiteman that you went beyond the pilot. But Mr Whiteman, in his statement, which he has made public, said, "Brodie Clark admitted to me on 2 November that on a number of occasions this year he authorised his staff to go further than Ministerial instruction." So did you tell Mr Whiteman that you had gone further than ministerial instruction?
Brodie Clark: I was very clear with Mr Whiteman that I had not exceeded my authority, that I had not breached existing Home Office policy and that I had not exceeded the terms of the pilot.
Q66 Michael Ellis: Sir, please, you have been a civil servant for many years, would you just answer my question directly? Did you say that you did not go beyond ministerial authorisation-those words?
Brodie Clark: I do not remember the words I used in the conversation.
Q67 Michael Ellis: So it is possible you did say that you did not go beyond ministerial authorisation.
Brodie Clark: Can I finish the answer? In terms of authorisation for the pilot, I did not say to Rob Whiteman that I had exceeded and gone beyond that authorisation.
Q68 Michael Ellis: Were there other people present in the room at the time of that conversation?
Brodie Clark: There were two of Mr Whiteman’s note takers.
Q69 Michael Ellis: So a minute will have been made of that meeting?
Brodie Clark: He will have a minute of that meeting.
Q70 Michael Ellis: And those two officials were civil servants?
Brodie Clark: That is correct.
Q71 Michael Ellis: You have also confirmed to one of my colleagues, if not more than one, that you authorised the suspension of fingerprints before you sought ministerial authorisation. Is that correct? You confirmed that to Lorraine Fullbrook.
Brodie Clark: I said that I learned of the suspension of fingerprint matching exercise in the early part of this year and did not stop it. I approved of it continuing.
Q72 Michael Ellis: As far as fingerprints are concerned, I note that in some of your answers you have referred to the Home Office warnings index guidance of 2007. Where health and safety is an issue, extreme circumstances are cited in which, in extremis, certain checks can be avoided, but that warnings index of 2007 is silent on the subject of fingerprints, isn’t it?
Brodie Clark: It is because fingerprint matching had not been introduced until 2009-
Michael Ellis: No. You said earlier in your evidence that fingerprint matching began-
Chair: Order. Sorry, Mr Ellis. Mr Clark, can you start your answer again because it is important?
Brodie Clark: Fingerprint matching had not been introduced anywhere in the business until 2009-10.
Q73 Michael Ellis: Earlier in your evidence you spoke about March 2010 for fingerprint matching in this country. Is that right?
Brodie Clark: That is when it was introduced into Heathrow.
Q74 Michael Ellis: So how can you rely on a 2007 document, which was silent on the subject of fingerprints, in answer to the point as to your explanation for the fingerprints matter?
Brodie Clark: Can I make a number of points on that?
Q75 Chair: Of course. You need to speak up as well. Sorry, Mr Clark.
Brodie Clark: The high-level check on people coming into the UK is the warnings index. That deals with counter-terrorism issues; that deals with crime issues; that deals with security and service issues. That is the principal check, the main check and the one that must never be missed in places like Heathrow.
Q76 Chair: And it has never been missed.
Brodie Clark: It has not been compromised at Heathrow, and it has not been compromised-
Q77 Michael Ellis: Forgive me, that is not the question. We are not talking about that. I am asking you about the fingerprint authorisation. You seem to be relying in your statement, including the statement that you gave to the Committee this morning-which we saw only five minutes before you came in-on the Home Office warnings index guidance from 2007. But you can’t rely on that, as far as fingerprints are concerned, can you? It makes no reference to fingerprints.
Brodie Clark: Can I explain my actions?
Q78 Chair: If you can in the context of-
Brodie Clark: In the context of that question. The warnings index was the key document that we must never compromise, particularly at places like Heathrow. There are nine checks on visa nationals arriving into the UK. The fingerprint matching check is the most recent. It is the least reliable. It is the least effective in terms of delivering against our requirements.
It is a secondary and additional identity check against the face-to-document match, which is internationally accepted as the key identity checker. Therefore, in terms of the Home Office warnings index policy, which required me to suspend watch list checking at Heathrow under health and safety arrangements, the management at Heathrow chose to suspend the fingerprint matching at a lower order check, and that is what I approved.
Q79 Michael Ellis: So are you saying that it is the management at Heathrow’s responsibility?
Brodie Clark: No, I am not saying that. I said I knew of it, and I approved it because it was a very sensible thing.
Q80 Michael Ellis: And after the Home Secretary said "No" to the lifting of fingerprint checks. Well, she said "No" to the lifting of fingerprint checks, didn’t she?
Brodie Clark: She said, in terms of the trial, which was a different use of the fingerprinting option, that it was a discretionary checking arrangement for officers on a case-by-case basis rather than as a contingency plan in order to allow us to safeguard the watch list checking at Heathrow.
Q81 Michael Ellis: So she did say "No". She said "No", and you were responsible. Did you make sure that it never happened?
Brodie Clark: She said "No" on the basis of the trial. She said "No" on the premise that it was being introduced to improve performance in that way. She said "No" as a discretionary piece of process.
She never said "No" to it being part of a contingency arrangement where the risk and threat and the health and safety issues were prominent in ports.
Q82 Michael Ellis: Do you accept that you went outside ministerial authority in relation to fingerprints, after the Home Secretary had said "No", and it was your responsibility to ensure that her instructions were carried out?
Brodie Clark: The Home Secretary said "No" to that element being in the trial. The Home Secretary did not say "No" to using fingerprint-matching suspension as a means of coping with the health and safety problem at a port.
Chair: Thank you. That is clear. Nicola Blackwood.
Q83 Nicola Blackwood: If I could continue asking Mr Clark a little bit about the 2007 warning index guidance. I understand that it is a restricted document, so most of us haven’t seen it apart from you, so it is helpful to hear a little bit from you. When you decided that you thought it was sensible to expand the meaning of the warnings index to include fingerprints, did you seek any ministerial authority for that?
Brodie Clark: I didn’t expand the warnings index document to mean fingerprint matching.
Q84 Nicola Blackwood: Sorry, I thought that that was what you said in answer to my-
Chair: Mr Clark, you are going very soft again. Please could you speak up.
Brodie Clark: The suspensions at Heathrow were in order to preserve the watch list checking at Heathrow. The Home Office warnings index policy would have required us normally to suspend watch list checking. I would never do that, and would do everything I could to avoid doing that. Indeed, the management at Heathrow also took that view. I therefore approved that we suspended the fingerprint matching in order to preserve the watch list checking. I did it to preserve the safety of the UK, not to weaken it.
Q85 Nicola Blackwood: With no ministerial authority?
Brodie Clark: The matter was not raised with the Minister.
Q86 Nicola Blackwood: With no ministerial authority? Yes or no? Did you ask any Minister whether it was possible-
Brodie Clark: No. I did not raise it with any Minister.
Q87 Nicola Blackwood: Okay. That was all I was asking. Secondly, could I ask whether the warnings index guidance allows you to suspend warnings index checks for non-EEA nationals?
Brodie Clark: No it doesn’t.
Q88 Nicola Blackwood: Because some of the allegations are that you authorised the verification of fingerprints of non-EEA nationals to be stopped on regular occasions and also checks on the second photograph in the biometric chip of passports for non-EEA nationals to be regularly stopped. Those are not warnings index checks, but obviously they are checks on non-EEA nationals, so I am wondering what source of authorisation you might claim for those checks to be lifted.
Brodie Clark: I never authorised the suspension of opening the biometric chip in the travel documents of non-EEA nationals.
Q89 Nicola Blackwood: So can you explain how those checks were lifted?
Brodie Clark: I have never sanctioned the lifting of those checks.
Q90 Nicola Blackwood: Okay. And what about the other checks of non-EEA nationals? That was part of the 2010 decision that went ahead without ministerial authority.
Brodie Clark: This is the fingerprint matching check?
Nicola Blackwood: Yes.
Brodie Clark: We have covered that, I think. The fingerprint matching check was suspended on exceptional circumstances to allow us to preserve the warnings index check.
Q91 Nicola Blackwood: Lastly, in the 2007 warnings index, those checks must be suspended at whose request? Is it at the request of a Border Agency official on site? Is it at the request of BAA officials, as has been claimed by some whistleblowers? Is it at the request of the emergency services? Whose request comes forward to make the statement that there is a health and safety emergency, calling for this situation to require a suspension of border checks, on so many occasions, it appears?
Brodie Clark: The initiation of the request invariably comes from a port operator or an emergency service and that is raised with my senior team at the port and a decision is made at that stage to suspend the check.
Q92 Nicola Blackwood: So do you deny the allegations from whistleblowers that BAA officials and other individuals working within ports have been requesting that these checks be lifted for purposes of queue management?
Brodie Clark: I am not aware of those allegations.
Q93 Nicola Blackwood: I didn’t ask that. I said do you deny that that has ever happened?
Brodie Clark: That the checks have simply been raised-
Q94 Nicola Blackwood: For purposes of queue management at the request of persons other than emergency services or officials within the Border Agency.
Brodie Clark: Well, I have not sanctioned that.
Q95 Nicola Blackwood: And you would consider that to be an inappropriate use of the guidance?
Brodie Clark: Unless the queues present in themselves a health and safety case, in which case it falls perfectly within the guidance.
Q96 Mark Reckless: Mr Clark, in the 28 July memo promulgating the pilot to Border Force managers, there is a paragraph that states: "If, for whatever reason, it is considered necessary to take further measures, beyond those listed above, local managers must escalate the Border Force Duty Director to seek authority for their proposed action." Could you explain that paragraph and put that in context for us please?
Brodie Clark: I think that reflects the conversation we have been having about the Home Office warnings index policy and indicating in that instruction that if there is cause for that to be triggered in any way, it has to be done in that way.
Q97 Mark Reckless: Okay, thank you. You may not have seen this letter, but the Home Secretary wrote to the Committee yesterday. She stated to us that between November last year and June of this year she met with you on average at least monthly but since June she has had only one meeting with you. Can you explain to us why those meetings with the Home Secretary stopped?
Brodie Clark: No, not at all. I was keen to meet with the Home Secretary to update her on this particular set of issues. This was important to her and it was important to me. Thus, in the updates I provided for her on a weekly basis, it was always followed with a, "Very happy to come and meet and talk through this and discuss this in more detail". I cannot explain why those invitations were not taken up.
Q98 Mark Reckless: The Permanent Secretary also wrote to us yesterday, and she explained that around August there was a change in structure, such that some policy work that previously went on within the Border Force, or at least UKBA, moved to a special directorate in the Home Office. Could that be one reason why the meetings ceased with the Home Secretary?
Brodie Clark: I would have thought the Home Secretary would want to have continued an interest in the operation of the business.
Q99 Mark Reckless: This issue, at least through the media, is being presented significantly as an issue between you and the Home Secretary, but it was Mr Whiteman who suspended you. The Home Secretary and her Permanent Secretary said yesterday that that was a decision taken by Mr Whiteman without reference to them, and they were only informed of it afterwards. While you told us that Mr Whiteman had conflated these two things that you say were separate; he had only been in the job for five weeks. Would you suggest that it is Mr Whiteman’s actions that are inappropriate?
Brodie Clark: I am just very conscious that over 40 years I have built up a reputation and over two days that reputation has been destroyed. I believe that that has been largely from the contributions made by the Home Secretary.
Q100 Bridget Phillipson: Mr Clark, the Home Secretary has said that the pilot was not introduced to deal with reductions in staffing, and you said it was about effective use of staff resources. Is it the case that it is nothing to do with staffing pressures and everything to do with use of staff time more effectively?
Brodie Clark: I think the introduction of a risk-led approach provides a number of benefits. One of those benefits is an improved performance, one of those is that you can actually deliver more with less, and one of those, in the instance of places like Heathrow, is that it will produce a better passenger set of services.
Q101 Bridget Phillipson: Obviously, the UK Border Force, and the UK Border Agency more generally, are facing a large budget cut and the prospect of losing thousands of staff. Do you anticipate that that will have a negative impact on protecting our borders in the future? Are these kinds of problems inevitable in the future?
Brodie Clark: I think this is very, very difficult stuff and I think the impact of the loss of 900 staff over the past 12 months is considerable. That is why I believe we have to do things in a different way. That is why we have to introduce different methods and approaches to how we deliver our business at the border. That is why, for me, a much more focused, risk-led approach stands greater chance of success than simply falling back to do everything to everybody, and slavishly follow process.
Q102 Chair: I want to move on. Colleagues will have points to clarify, at the end of this session, about the circumstances of your suspension. Now, this only came to light because John Vine, the independent chief inspector, was visiting Heathrow and discovered what he regarded as being an extension of the pilot. He was not involved in any of the pilot negotiations, was he? Mr Vine would not be aware of the pilot, would he?
Brodie Clark: He was doing an inspection of Heathrow. He will have heard about the pilot, but he was never involved in any of the discussion and the planning and the programming and the conversations with the Home Secretary about the pilot.
Q103 Chair: And when did he discover that there was a problem?
Brodie Clark: I met John Vine at Heathrow. It was in-
Q104 Chair: You were there at the time of his visit, were you?
Brodie Clark: I made a point of seeing John when he was coming to the end of his visit at Heathrow.
Q105 Chair: Right. Can you just tell the Committee the date?
Brodie Clark: I can furnish the Committee with that date; I have not got it at the moment. It is was in late September, early October. I met with John at Heathrow. He made two comments. The principal comment he made was that he had a concern about the frequency with which the suspension of the fingerprint matching was happening. He did not seem to me to be contentious on the issue of that it should happen. He seemed to me to be raising the issue of that it was happening more frequently than he imagined it might. I took that and I went back and saw Graeme Kyle, the head of Heathrow, and really laid it out very clearly with him that he must only suspend these arrangements under the kind of circumstances that he and I had previously, earlier in the year, discussed.
Q106 Chair: Right. This was at the end of September or the beginning of October.
Brodie Clark: October. I think that is right
Q107 Chair: Okay. When did you hear about it after that?
Brodie Clark: I heard nothing until the 2 November meeting with Mr Whiteman. In fact, I did not even hear from Rob Whiteman. I simply heard that Rob had met with John Vine and Mike Anderson earlier in that day.
Q108 Chair: And Mike Anderson is?
Brodie Clark: Mike Anderson leads the new policy and strategy department in the Home Office.
Q109 Chair: So from the time that John Vine first met you to 2 November, there was no further activity. Nobody expressed concern. No e-mails were sent.
Brodie Clark: I was not aware of anything during that time.
Q110 Chair: Did Mr Whiteman call you to his office or did the conversation take place on the phone?
Brodie Clark: On 2 November, I instigated the conversation with Mr Whiteman.
Q111 Chair: You instigated the conversation?
Brodie Clark: I did, but it was following up information that I had been providing Mr Whiteman with as part of the ongoing briefing and understanding of the border business as he became familiar with the working of UKBA.
Q112 Chair: Had he visited the border from the time that he had been appointed until the meeting on 2 November?
Brodie Clark: He had visited a number of places at the border over that time, and indeed even in advance of his taking up post.
Q113 Chair: He had presumably visited Heathrow.
Brodie Clark: At that point, he had not visited Heathrow, but he had visited Calais.
Q114 Chair: So you instigated a conversation with Rob Whiteman at about what time on 2 November?
Brodie Clark: I think it was about 5 o’clock.
Q115 Chair: Why did you instigate that conversation?
Brodie Clark: I wanted to bring clarity to the figures that he had had for about a week on issues of checks at the border.
Q116 Chair: Had that been part of your normal weekly submission to Ministers as well?
Brodie Clark: We have submitted to Ministers on occasion where something unplanned happens at the border that causes a reduction in checking. A missed flight, volcanic ash and weather conditions are the kinds of things that we would obviously quickly submit to Ministers on.
Q117 Chair: So you saw him on 2 November. For how long did the meeting last?
Brodie Clark: Between 15 and 20 minutes.
Q118 Chair: Where was it?
Brodie Clark: It was in his office.
Q119 Chair: In Lunar House in Croydon?
Brodie Clark: In Marsham Street in London.
Q120 Chair: Was it then that you were suspended?
Brodie Clark: No. We had a conversation around the figures, and we had a conversation around the risks and the issues that were within the border business. At the end of the meeting, we reflected that we should meet again tomorrow morning to discuss some concerns that he was having in respect of whether this was part of the Home Secretary’s agenda now that would be seen to have been flouted.
Q121 Chair: Then you sent him an e-mail at 7 o’clock in the morning, as you have just told the Committee.
Brodie Clark: I had been concerned about the conflation of the two issues. I sent him-
Q122 Chair: You mean that you felt people did not understand it. You use the word conflation.
Brodie Clark: I thought he had mixed the two issues up in terms of pre-existing policy and practice and the trial or pilot that the Home Secretary was taking forward.
Q123 Chair: So you sent him an e-mail.
Brodie Clark: I sent him an e-mail before 7 o’clock in the morning of 3 November.
Q124 Chair: Would you let the Committee have a copy of this e-mail?
Brodie Clark: I do not have it, and I have no access to it.
Q125 Chair: Is this because it is on a Home Office computer?
Brodie Clark: Correct.
Q126 Chair: What happened after you sent the e-mail?
Brodie Clark: He invited me to see him at about 9.30 and I asked whether he had received the e-mail. He said that he had, but he still thought it was too close to where the Home Secretary would have a difficulty and therefore I was, at that stage, suspended pending an investigation.
Q127 Chair: Is it correct that you were offered retirement from your post at that time?
Brodie Clark: He put it to me that I would be suspended and that an investigation would commence. He said that I could take retirement.
Q128 Chair: At the same meeting as saying you were suspended, he offered you retirement?
Brodie Clark: And he advised that I should take it.
Q129 Chair: So he offered you retirement from the service, and he suggested that you retire.
Brodie Clark: And he asked that I speak with Joe Dugdale of our HR department to look at the terms and arrangements for that retirement.
Q130 Chair: Were you surprised at being suspended and offered retirement in the same meeting?
Brodie Clark: I was just shattered about either of those options as a consequence of the conversation that had happened until that point.
Q131 Chair: Who was present in the room?
Brodie Clark: I do not recollect. I think there was another person in that room.
Q132 Chair: And you then went away, presumably. You could not do anything about the suspension. Was it a verbal suspension, or were you handed a letter?
Brodie Clark: I had no letter. It was a verbal suspension. I was advised on that. Rob Whiteman said he would advise me to retire, there would be a package and he would provide me with a good reference.
Q133 Chair: What package was he offering you?
Brodie Clark: I had to discuss that with the head of HR.
Q134 Chair: And he was going to give you a good reference?
Brodie Clark: He said.
Q135 Chair: Those were his exact words?
Brodie Clark: They were.
Q136 Chair: And what happened to this reference in the package?
Brodie Clark: Well, I saw the head of HR. I came back and saw Rob Whiteman.
Q137 Chair: Where was the head of HR? In Croydon or in Marsham street?
Brodie Clark: In Marsham street. Sorry, I apologise: he was in Croydon, and we spoke on the phone.
Q138 Chair: This is Joe Dugdale.
Brodie Clark: It is. I went back and saw Rob Whiteman at about 3 o’clock.
Q139 Chair: What did you say to the head of personnel? Did you say you were accepting the retirement?
Brodie Clark: I asked what the package might be. He told me. With that knowledge, I went back and saw Rob Whiteman.
Q140 Chair: At 3 o’clock.
Brodie Clark: Around 3 o’clock.
Q141 Chair: And what happened at that meeting?
Brodie Clark: I said I would accept retirement.
Q142 Chair: Right. And then?
Brodie Clark: I cleared things up and I left.
Q143 Chair: Right. And he accepted what you said?
Brodie Clark: He did. He said that it was the right decision. He said he had discussed it with the UKBA board in the afternoon, and it also concurred with that view.
Q144 Chair: That you should accept retirement-your package-and he would write you a good reference?
Brodie Clark: Yes.
Q145 Chair: Did he have the reference letter ready?
Brodie Clark: No.
Q146 Chair: When was that coming?
Brodie Clark: I was advised that would be sent to me with the details of the package.
Q147 Chair: So you cleared your desk?
Brodie Clark: Yes.
Q148 Chair: And went home?
Brodie Clark: Yes.
Q149 Chair: And what happened next?
Brodie Clark: I got a phone call at lunchtime on Friday the 4th from Joe Dugdale, who said, "There’s been a change of mind. The offer has been withdrawn. There is no package. The investigation will proceed."
Q150 Chair: Were you surprised at this extraordinary change of events?
Brodie Clark: Yes.
Q151 Chair: And what was your reaction?
Brodie Clark: I was surprised, I was confused. I wrote to Rob Whiteman asking for an explanation; I got not reply. I then started to work with my trade union to find a way through this.
Q152 Chair: At any time did you consider approaching the Immigration Minister or the Home Secretary.
Brodie Clark: No, I didn’t see it as their business.
Q153 Chair: It was the business of UK Border Force?
Brodie Clark: I thought this was the business of the UK Border Force or the Permanent Secretary. I have no idea who Rob Whiteman had spoken to during these three days, but this felt like the business of the UKBA.
Q154 Chair: Thank you. Could I have any questions on this series of events before we go on to final clarification questions?
Q155 Mark Reckless: Mr Clark, you said that this retirement package had been offered to you and that you had accepted it. How could it then be withdrawn?
Brodie Clark: Well, there was nothing in writing, and I would imagine that until a contract has been put in writing, it can be withdrawn in that way.
Q156 Mark Reckless: You had a verbal agreement?
Brodie Clark: I did.
Q157 Mark Reckless: Can you tell us what that package was that had been offered and accepted?
Brodie Clark: It was a package of nine months’ pay-that was it.
Q158 Mark Reckless: Can I just return to the subject of meetings? You have given us a time line. It does not mention any meetings at all after July, whereas the Home Secretary has told us that you had one. Could I just clarify your section on July 2011? You say, "Revised proposal to the Immigration Minister and Home Secretary." Was that actually a meeting, or was it just written proposals?
Brodie Clark: I think that was a written proposal.
Q159 Mark Reckless: So when the Home Secretary tells us that she met with you nine times between November last year and June this year and once since then, are you saying that is not the case and you have had no meeting with her since 19 May?
Brodie Clark: I cannot recollect whether I have had one meeting or no meetings since that time. I have had meetings with the Home Secretary since then-not on this issue, but on issues around the National Crime Agency and the border policing command. You sort of reflect that meetings are myself and the Home Secretary. Those meetings with the Home Secretary have generally been round a large table, with a number of people discussing a particular issue or element of the forward look of the Home Office. Increasingly, recently, it had been around the National Crime Agency, nothing to do with checks at the border. I am involved in those kinds of discussions with the Home Secretary.
Q160 Mark Reckless: Have you instead been having discussions with the Immigration Minister around these border checks issues?
Brodie Clark: No, I haven’t, and again the invitation has always been there for a discussion.
Q161 Mark Reckless: Finally, I think you mentioned earlier you recalled two note takers present at the 3 November meeting you had with Rob Whiteman. Have you approved any minute of that meeting?
Brodie Clark: I have seen no minute of any meeting that’s been had with me. I have to say, my reaction, Mr Chairman, in terms of the retirement offer and acceptance, the truth is, with 40 years of service in difficult posts across Government, I had become very, very pragmatic, and it was clear to me that there was no place for me in Rob Whiteman’s forward-going UKBA. I also believed that the appointment of Dave Wood to carry out the investigation was improper, given that he was a colleague who sits round the board table and, indeed, conceivably may have been involved in some degree in some of the issues that had been alleged of me. I’m pragmatic. That’s why I accepted the package.
Q162 Chair: And indeed Mr Vine, who is carrying out the investigation, was the person who discovered all this was happening, so in a sense he’s one of the witnesses, isn’t he?
Brodie Clark: I would have thought so, Mr Chairman.
Chair: We now have questions from Mr McCabe and Mr Michael. Then Lorraine Fullbrook has a final supplementary question.
Q163 Steve McCabe: Can I go back to your meeting with Mr Whiteman-I think this is the 3 November meeting-after you had sent him the e-mail? You said to him that you thought he was conflating the Home Secretary’s trial or pilot with existing Government policy and this was the source of his confusion. Did he deny that?
Brodie Clark: I did not say that to him. I believe that is what was happening and as-
Q164 Steve McCabe: Well, you put it to him when you sent him the e-mail. Is that right?
Brodie Clark: I put it to him in the e-mail and I put it to him the following day, when I asked if he had received the e-mail, that I believed these were two entirely separate issues.
Q165 Steve McCabe: Did he deny that they were separate issues?
Brodie Clark: As I recollect his words, he acknowledged he had received my e-mail and he said they were still close enough for it to affect the Home Secretary.
Q166 Steve McCabe: So what you were doing was too close to something that the Home Secretary had objected to, as far as Mr Whiteman was concerned?
Brodie Clark: I understood that to be what he meant.
Chair: Alun Michael. Can we make these questions very brief, colleagues?
Q167 Alun Michael: You referred to being told that you were being suspended and then at the same meeting being offered retirement. Can you tell us a little about the conversation between the first and the second?
Brodie Clark: There was little gap between the first and the second-
Q168 Alun Michael: So he moved straight from telling you or almost straight from telling you that you’d been suspended and that there would be an investigation to making the offer of retirement?
Brodie Clark: That’s correct. At some stage in the meeting, he asked the minute taker or takers to leave the room. That’s the point at which he said that I should consider retirement now and that, if I did so, there would be an offer and so on.
Q169 Alun Michael: So the offer of retirement was made in the absence of the minute takers?
Brodie Clark: I think that is correct.
Q170 Alun Michael: What was the implication of what would be the case if you were not to accept that offer of retirement?
Brodie Clark: I don’t think I heard any explicit implication. If I did not take the retirement, I would be the subject of an investigation; he would announce my suspension from duty and Dave Wood would progress the inquiry.
Q171 Alun Michael: You said that you accepted the offer of retirement because you felt or understood that there was no place for you in the organisation. Is there anything other than this question whether, in the views of Mr Whiteman, you had gone beyond what the Home Secretary has authorised, or was that the only element of any discussion that suggested there was no longer a place for you in the organisation?
Brodie Clark: It is difficult to read things in, having gone through the experience of the past seven to 10 days. I know that Rob Whiteman and I had started to disagree on one or two issues in respect of the business. That ought to be the basis of a good relationship going forward rather than a problem. We had discussed a port-Harwich-and his wish to move that into inland immigration for its governance arrangements. I found that odd; Harwich is essentially staffed by Customs officers; it is that kind of port. I could see no value in Customs officers adding to the complement of enforcement staff inland. I expressed that view. Rob Whiteman was very keen, nevertheless, to do it, and therefore I accepted that it should happen and did so in good grace.
Q172 Alun Michael: My final question is whether there was any reason given for the withdrawal of the offer of retirement.
Chair: Right, yes, that is a pertinent question.
Brodie Clark: I was simply told there had been a change of mind.
Q173 Alun Michael: Not by whom there had been a change of mind?
Brodie Clark: No. I asked the question, "By whom?" and Joe Dugdale did not respond.
Chair: We have some very quick supplementaries on policy issues from Mrs Fullbrook.
Q174 Lorraine Fullbrook: Mr Clark, I should like to go back to the crux of this matter. Did you ever authorise the relaxation of any checks at any port or airport in any circumstances, other than the emergency services of port operators advising you to do for health and safety reasons?
Brodie Clark: I did not.
Q175 Nicola Blackwood: Mr Clark, can I take you back to the beginning of the sequence you were telling us about? When John Vine first raised concerns, having made his inspections of the ports, did he come to you or Rob Whiteman first?
Brodie Clark: Apart from the meeting I had with John Vine at Heathrow at the end of the review he had done, his only further contact was with John Vine. I think he may have met at some stage with Helen Ghosh, but it was certainly not with me. I had not seen John Vine subsequent to that meeting at Heathrow.
Q176 Nicola Blackwood: Subsequent to that meeting and the further meetings that you have had, do you believe that the 2007 guidance and the guidance that you have been using since 2010, which you authorised to lift fingerprint checks, has been used in circumstances other than health and safety emergencies in practice, even if that was not policy you had authorised?
Brodie Clark: I don’t think it has. People are aware of the policy. I have not witnessed it being misused. I cannot say that I have seen that happening around my business.
Q177 Nicola Blackwood: Is that not the substance of what John Vine has alleged?
Brodie Clark: He was saying to me that he believed that it was being used more than he would think necessary. I raised that with Graeme Kyle and said you must be reminded to use this only when absolutely necessary.
Q178 Nicola Blackwood: Do you think it possible that officials at the ports are using this guidance more widely than you were aware of?
Brodie Clark: I don’t know and I don’t believe so. I think the guidance is extremely clear and links closely with a very clear policy on the Home Office warnings index.
Q179 Chair: Mr Clark, I am going to have to bring this session to an end. You were due to give evidence for half an hour and you have been here beyond an hour and a half. Thank you very much for giving evidence today. You have been very clear in what you have said. There may be follow-up questions that the Committee may have of you, and we will write to you. You have problems getting access to your e-mails. We are very keen to see the e-mail you sent at 7 o’clock on 3 November. We will ask to receive a copy. You are welcome to stay for the evidence of Rob Whiteman. If as a result of anything he says you wish to write to us, I am happy to receive any letters from you.
Brodie Clark: Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Chair: Thank you, Mr Clark.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency, gave evidence.
Q180 Chair: Mr Whiteman, welcome. May I congratulate you on your appointment as the new head of the UK Border Agency? We would very much like to have met you in different circumstances as part of our normal look at the agency. As you know, the Committee decided last year, because of the problems with the UK Border Agency, some of which have manifested themselves in this recent set of developments, to monitor the agency on a three-monthly basis. The inquiry we are conducting at the moment will form part of our report, which we will publish in January, into the UK Border Agency and the work that you will have done from July to November 2011.
Rob Whiteman: Thank you, Chairman, for your welcome. I am grateful to you and the Committee for giving me an opportunity very early in my tenure to come and speak to you about these matters. Border security is very important. I am grateful to be able to come today.
Q181 Chair: Just to book your diary, we will have you in in December as part of the normal review that we do, but this session, which has already gone on much longer than I anticipated, deals specifically with the situation concerning the Home Secretary’s pilot, Mr Clark’s suspension and issues relating to that, so we will confine our questions to that. We may have other questions generally that have come up in the public domain since we asked you to come in. This is clearly not Barking and Dagenham. It is a different area of immigration for you. This is something of a baptism of fire. I am sure you did not expect in your first six weeks to be in a position where the head of your Border Force was being suspended. Indeed, other key people at Heathrow and the director of southern and European operations has also been suspended.
May I begin by talking about the pilot? You were not involved in any of these discussions concerning the pilot. What date did you take on your responsibilities as chief executive?
Rob Whiteman: 26 September.
Q182 Chair: So you were not involved in any of the submissions that went from Mr Clark to the immigration Minister and Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones. You were not involved in any discussions the Home Secretary had. This was already in existence when you took up your office on 26 September. Is that right?
Rob Whiteman: That is correct.
Q183 Chair: When did you first discover that there was a pilot going on?
Rob Whiteman: I discovered there was a pilot going on very early in my tenure. I do not know if it would be helpful, Chairman, for me to very briefly set out what checks we do carry out. I am aware that the Government do not often comment on the range of checks. Would it be helpful for me to say what checks we do and then I will talk about what the pilot covered?
Q184 Chair: I think we all understand this. We have had an hour a half of this, so we know the checks. We want to go straight into the pilot. There is a general agreement. We have heard from Mr Clark; he supports the pilot. The Prime Minister supports the pilot. The Home Secretary supports the pilot. The pilot was massively successful, we are told, though we would like some statistics on this. Everyone loves the pilot. Presumably, you like the pilot, too.
Rob Whiteman: I was aware of the pilot very early on in post. The pilot focuses on two areas, as you know: not always checking children against the warnings index, and similarly not always opening up the chip where the photograph can be compared. As people come through the border, their passport is scanned in, which makes the warnings index check, but the pilot was to not always open the chip, because in 50% of cases, 50% of passports do not have a chip, but we open them up to compare the photograph.
Q185 Chair: As we have heard, this is about chips and children. When did you first discover-who told you-that the pilot had been extended?
Rob Whiteman: I was aware on joining the agency that prior to my arrival, earlier in that month, the pilot had been extended for a further period to November.
Q186 Chair: An authorised extension by the Home Secretary, signed off by Ministers.
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q187 Chair: When did you discover that there was possibly unauthorised activity going on?
Rob Whiteman: On 2 November, John Vine raised with me that he thought there was confusion on the ground with regards to what checks were taking place.
Q188 Chair: John Vine being the independent chief inspector.
Rob Whiteman: I am very sorry-being the independent chief inspector of UKBA.
Q189 Chair: How did he raise this with you? Did he come and see you in Marsham Street or did he ring you up?
Rob Whiteman: It was a prearranged meeting. John Vine and I will meet regularly, so this was a prearranged meeting-in fact, probably the first-and we will have regular meetings.
Q190 Chair: So it was your first ever meeting with John Vine?
Rob Whiteman: I had met him before, but this was our first formal meeting.
Q191 Chair: He came to you and said he believed there was confusion on the ground. What did you take that to mean?
Rob Whiteman: And more than that, he said that secure ID, which is the fingerprint check, was not being taken for non-EEA cases and that he thought that went beyond any ministerial approval with regards to the pilot.
Q192 Chair: How would John Vine have known about the ministerial approval, bearing in mind the fact that he was not involved in policy issues?
Rob Whiteman: I think John Vine was interested in the pilot. He was carrying out field work at the time for part of his next report to UKBA.
Q193 Chair: As a result of his concern, what did you then do?
Rob Whiteman: I asked Brodie Clark that evening whether it was correct.
Q194 Chair: Sorry. We need to be very specific here, because we have had specific evidence. Did he come and see you at Marsham Street or did you speak to him on the phone?
Rob Whiteman: Brodie Clark and I both work in Marsham Street. We had a prearranged meeting for that evening, so we had a one-to-one meeting arranged for after I had had an earlier meeting with John Vine.
Q195 Chair: What time was the John Vine meeting?
Rob Whiteman: The John Vine meeting was at 4.30 pm. My meeting with Brodie Clark was at 6 or 6.30 pm.
Q196 Chair: Between 4.30 and 6.30 pm, you did not need to speak to anyone else about this matter? You did not contact the Home Office?
Rob Whiteman: The meeting with John Vine-I can give the exact times, Chair-I think started at 4.30 pm and finished some time after, so there was not a lengthy time between my meeting with John Vine and the meeting with-
Q197 Chair: But you had no conversations with anybody else about this?
Rob Whiteman: No.
Q198 Chair: You saw, at a prearranged meeting, Brodie Clark. What happened at that meeting?
Rob Whiteman: At the meeting, I asked Brodie-Mr Clark-if it was the case that secure ID was not always being checked, and he said that was the case. I asked, if it was the case, whether Ministers had specifically not given authority that those checks should not be taken, and he confirmed to me that Ministers had explicitly wanted secure ID to be checked. Therefore, I made him aware that this was a very serious matter, and that I would want to see him first thing the next morning.
Q199 Chair: Did you have note takers in the room at this stage?
Rob Whiteman: I had two private secretaries. As is common for meetings, I had two private secretaries who produced a note of the meeting.
Q200 Chair: You are telling this Committee that, at that meeting, Mr Clark admitted to going beyond the authority given to him by Ministers?
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q201 Chair: He did not say to you that there are two separate issues here-on the one hand was the pilot, and on the other hand was a long-standing arrangement that goes back to 2007, which allowed the possibility of these checks to be raised due to health and safety issues?
Rob Whiteman: He e-mailed me the next morning.
Q202 Chair: You did not suspend him at that meeting?
Rob Whiteman: No. I suspended him the next-
Q203 Chair: Okay. So you said, "Go home, and I’ll talk about it again with you tomorrow." Is that right or what did you say to him?
Rob Whiteman: I did not suspend him. I said it was a very serious matter, and that I would want to see him the next morning. I also said that I would want further information about what had taken place and that, if the secure ID checks had not taken place, I would want to know more information about where that was.
Q204 Chair: That is very clear. Then you had an e-mail at 7 o’clock in the morning?
Rob Whiteman: If I could add, Chair, that also that evening I discussed this with Jonathan Sedgwick, who had been acting chief executive before I arrived. I wanted absolute clarity on whether Ministers had ever given authority for secure ID-the fingerprint check-not to be taken. Jonathan was very clear with me that he had been in the meetings with Ministers and had been a party to the submissions, and that Ministers had been clear that, whilst they agreed other aspects of the pilot, they thought that fingerprint checking should always take place.
Q205 Chair: But did you ask Brodie Clark why he had gone beyond ministerial authority? This is a very important, very serious matter, as you have said. You were very concerned about it. Wouldn’t the first thing to say to the head of border security be, "Why did you do this?"?
Rob Whiteman: This is a serious breach of ministerial instruction. I discussed the matter with Dame Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary of the Department-
Q206 Chair: When did you discuss it with her?
Rob Whiteman: Before I met Brodie Clark the next morning.
Q207 Chair: So, let’s see whom you talked to: first, you saw Brodie Clark.
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q208 Chair: You then spoke to Jonathan Sedgwick.
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q209 Chair: You then rang Dame Helen Ghosh.
Rob Whiteman: I spoke to her the next morning, before-
Q210 Chair: You spoke to her in person.
Rob Whiteman: In person, before I met-
Q211 Chair: You went to see her in her office.
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q212 Chair: And you said what to her?
Rob Whiteman: I said that Brodie Clark had admitted to me that secure ID was not being checked, even though Ministers had explicitly said that it should be, and that I thought the best way forward was to suspend him from duties so that a thorough investigation could take place.
Q213 Chair: Did you show her a copy of the e-mail?
Rob Whiteman: I did not.
Q214 Chair: Why?
Rob Whiteman: I had only received the e-mail on my BlackBerry coming into work, therefore I had not been into my office to print it off.
Q215 Chair: Because what is very odd is that you asked for further information from Mr Clark, which was provided to you, but you were not able to show that to the Permanent Secretary.
Rob Whiteman: The further information from Mr Clark was that whilst Ministers had not agreed to suspend secure ID checks, there was a pre-existing practice of not taking these checks, of which Ministers were not aware. To me, that was the same point. Ministers had explicitly said, "We think these checks should be taken." Here was an admission to me that ministerial instruction had not been followed. The point I am making is that I suspended Brodie because ministerial instruction had not been followed, whether that was through the pilot or the health and safety policy, it was clear that Ministers had intended that these checks should be taken.
Q216 Chair: Indeed. Would you send the Committee a copy of the e-mail, please?
Rob Whiteman: It will be made available to John Vine’s investigation, as will all other papers.
Q217 Chair: Sorry, Mr Whiteman. This is a Committee of the House, and I have asked that you send us a copy of that e-mail. It is very relevant to the Committee’s consideration.
Rob Whiteman: My understanding of the Government’s position is that all papers will be made available to John Vine’s investigation. I believe the Home Secretary has said in the House that all papers will be made available to John Vine.
Q218 Chair: You obviously did not look at the transcript of the Home Secretary’s evidence to this Committee, in which she says that she would send information to us, so I would like you to send me a copy of that e-mail, please. That is a request from this Committee.
Rob Whiteman: I hear the request, Chair-
Q219 Chair: If you do not do so, Mr Whiteman, we will take other instructions.
Rob Whiteman: If I am in a position to send it to you, I will do so.
Q220 Steve McCabe: Who would stop you being in a position to send it to us?
Mr Winnick: You understand that this is a Select Committee of the House of Commons, Mr Whiteman. When the Chair asks on behalf of this Committee for a paper to be sent, he expects it to be sent-simple, clear.
Chair: Anyway, Mr Whiteman, you will reflect on what I have said.
Rob Whiteman: In no way am I trying to be discourteous to the Committee. I am saying only that I understand that the Home Secretary has said that all papers relating to this will be made available to John Vine.
Q221 Chair: I do understand. Mr Whiteman. I would be grateful if you would go away and reflect on this, and consider what we have said.
May I just finish this line of questioning before I ask colleagues to come in? I am a little concerned now about the evidence we have received from Mr Clark on your second conversation with him, when you suspended him. Did you suggest that he retire from the service?
Rob Whiteman: I didn’t suggest that. We had the meeting in which I suspended him and, as you said earlier, my two private secretaries were there. I appointed David Wood as a-
Q222 Chair: Just go back a second. We are talking about the offer made to Mr Clark when you suspended him.
Rob Whiteman: At the break-up of the meeting, Brodie Clark said that he would talk to HR. He also used a phrase to me-something like, "Is that the formal business done?" My private secretaries left the meeting and we had a brief conversation. In answer to your question, I did not suggest that Brodie retire, but I was aware, during the day, that he had discussions with HR about whether he could take retirement. I discussed that with him later in the day, after HR had spoken to him. What was being discussed with him was a discretionary retirement. This would be where he receives a six-month payment and three months pay in lieu of notice. There were discussions between him, HR and, indeed, myself. My HR director briefed me that he told Mr Clark that although this was being discussed with him-about whether or not that was possible-this was not a formal agreement.
I discussed the matters with Dame Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary, because during the day the seriousness of the allegations was becoming greater. I suspended him on the issues of secure ID, but questions are now being raised about Calais as well. In the meeting I asked whether there was anything else I should know about, and Mr Clark mentioned Calais. Therefore, the decision was that we would not agree to a request for retirement. There had been discussions with him during the day, including with myself and HR, and we had verbally discussed the possibility of doing that. The Permanent Secretary’s position, however, was that any discussion had to be withdrawn because of the seriousness of the case; she felt that it would be wrong to give discretionary benefits to a retirement once a disciplinary action-or an investigation that may lead to a disciplinary action-had started.
Q223 Chair: Basically, you are telling the Committee that you had a discussion about his retirement and you discussed terms-six months plus three. That discussion was ongoing, but then the Permanent Secretary intervened and said that there should be no question of a retirement package being given. Is that right?
Rob Whiteman: That is correct, yes.
Q224 Chair: Is it normal practice in an agency that the Permanent Secretary is able to suggest to the chief executive that he change his position on something? I want to clarify this.
Rob Whiteman: Yes, it is.
Chair: It is. Okay. Thank you.
Q225 Mr Clappison: Mr Brodie Clark has given a lot of very good service, and his retirement issues are a matter of importance in their own way. I want to ask you about what was happening at Calais, which you just touched on. You have dealt with the question of secure fingerprints, but we were told by the Home Secretary that the watch list at Calais in respect of adults had apparently not been followed, although there had been careful discussion during the ministerial pilot on the question of whether or not children travelling in families or school groups should be checked against the warnings index. According to the Home Secretary, it transpires that the warnings index had not been operating in respect of adults travelling through Calais, even though it deals with people who are suspected terrorists or criminals and those who have been excluded from the country. What was happening?
Rob Whiteman: For the purpose of the pilot, the warnings index is always checked for adults. It has become clear that up to 100 times, fears at Calais about health and safety problems at the port led to the suspension of the warnings index being checked against adults. That is what we believe to be the case. That is now being investigated and is something that John Vine will look at in further detail.
The only other point I want to make is about the older policy called HOWI-the Home Office warnings index. That policy clearly applies only to EEA cases, so in no way does it cover secure-ID or non-EEA cases. From what I have seen of the submissions-as you say, Chairman, I was not in post at the time-it is absolutely clear that the older policy that was being used at times was not mentioned to Ministers. It is disingenuous to ask Ministers-
Q226 Chair: Any Ministers? Even those in the previous Government?
Rob Whiteman: I do not know about the previous Government. From the submissions that I have seen over this year, we have been asking Ministers to make decisions on the pilot while not giving them the full picture of other policies that were used at times.
Q227 Mr Clappison: So this was happening after July, and it was not being brought to the attention of Ministers. Is that right?
Rob Whiteman: That is correct, yes.
Q228 Mr Clappison: It was in everybody’s mind that this was being discussed because the question of whether children should be subject to watch-list requirements had been discussed. Ministers were not told that in fact non-EEA adults were not being checked against the list.
Rob Whiteman: My understanding is that in the pilot, Ministers had to consider the balance between mandatory checks and discretionary checks, with regard to how border staff could best focus their attention on the more risky cases. In the case of children, the information from before the pilot started is that some 8 million children were checked against the warnings index in 2010, which led to one alert that proved not to be a problem. Therefore, on a limited basis, Ministers were willing to allow this pilot to take place, because those 8 million checks had not led to an alert, and those staff could be deployed doing other things. Similarly, Ministers considered that opening the chip on EEA cases to check the second photograph before the pilot started had led to very few identified forged documents. Therefore, again on a limited basis and not to be used routinely, that would be used to see whether staff could focus attention,
Ministers were clearly of the view that secure ID is not a secondary check. The fingerprint is taken to ensure that the person presenting themselves at the border is not an imposter, because we’ve taken their fingerprint abroad and therefore, even if they look like the person in the photograph, we have a check. The incidence of that resulting in identification of forgery is low, but in the period April and May, Ministers had been clear that they wanted that check to take place, and I have seen confirmation from the Home Secretary’s office on 22 July that my officials had no authority to go beyond what was being agreed for the pilot.
Q229 Mr Clappison: To be clear, there was no authority to go beyond the pilot, which you have just described, and no authority to do without the checks against the warnings index on non-EEA nationals coming through-
Rob Whiteman: Ministers were not aware in those submissions of an older policy which was being used to not check the warnings index. I haven’t seen any mention of that in any submissions.
Q230 Alun Michael: Can I be clear about your communications with Mr Clark, please? You suspended him, and informed him that a colleague would be undertaking an investigation. Is that correct?
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q231 Alun Michael: He has told us that note-takers left the meeting, and that you then offered him a retirement option. Is that correct?
Rob Whiteman: It is not correct that I offered retirement. It is correct that I discussed retirement with him.
Q232 Alun Michael: Excuse me. Can we be precise about this? Did you suggest a retirement option?
Rob Whiteman: No, but I acknowledge-
Q233 Alun Michael: I want to be quite clear. What was the first reference to a retirement option, and in what terms?
Rob Whiteman: The first reference to the terms of a retirement package that I was aware of was later in the morning at 12.30. I was briefed by my office that Brodie Clark was in discussion with HR, and at approximately 2.30 I met him. He had discussed the package with HR, and I discussed with him that he wanted to retire.
Q234 Alun Michael: Are you saying that his evidence to us that you suggested a retirement option, and, secondly, that you suggested that he speak to Human Resources, is incorrect?
Rob Whiteman: My very clear recollection of events is that at the break-up of the meeting Brodie and I had a conversation when it was discussed that he would talk to HR, which he did. I did not suggest retirement, but I did discuss it with him.
Q235 Alun Michael: I want to be quite clear about this. He said to us that you offered the option of retirement, and that you suggested that he speak to HR.
Rob Whiteman: That’s not my recollection of events.
Q236 Alun Michael: Thank you. Did you withdraw the offer or the option of retirement on your own initiative, or were you instructed to do so?
Rob Whiteman: I discussed the position with the Permanent Secretary, Helen Ghosh, whose formal decision it is, and we agreed jointly that the discussions on pensions should be withdrawn. That is formally her decision, but I agreed that that was the case because of the seriousness with which she felt matters had now progressed.
Q237 Alun Michael: As we understand it, the Border Force records the data about checks-what is done, what is not done, when anything is suspended, and so on. In view of that, did it come as a surprise when you learned the arrangements that had been in place for a considerable period?
Rob Whiteman: In the days or a week or so before John Vine spoke to me on 2 November, I had had discussions with Brodie-Mr Clark-at one-to-one meetings about a range of issues, which included when there were technical problems, ICT issues, with checks and what was happening in terms of the operation of the pilot. I did not understand in any of those meetings that checks such as secure ID were not being taken even though Ministers had expressly said that they should be.
Q238 Nicola Blackwood: I do not know whether you heard the evidence we have just received from Mr Clark, but he specifically claims that he did not authorise checks on the second photograph in the biometric chip of passports of non-EEA nationals to be regularly stopped. But this is one of the allegations that has been brought forward against him. Could you tell me if, in that meeting or any of the meetings you had with him, he admitted this to you?
Rob Whiteman: No, and the matter of opening the chip to compare the photograph on non-EEA cases is something that John Vine will now be investigating. In my meetings with him, the predominant conversation was with regard to fingerprints as secure ID. As I said earlier, in answer to the Chairman, I also asked Mr Clark, "Is there anything else I should know?" and he made reference to Calais, which we discovered subsequently was about the use of the HOWI policy and the warnings index checks. I am aware that there are concerns, from what people have said, but we did not always open the chip for non-EEA cases. That is now being investigated, as part of John Vine’s review.
Q239 Nicola Blackwood: Could I ask whether you are of the opinion that the 2007 guidance has been used in an inappropriate way, given the evidence that you have received over the past few days?
Rob Whiteman: I would say that the guidance relates to significant health and safety problems. For instance, if at Calais traffic was backing up to the péage, the motorway, or if flights were in the air and, therefore, the operators felt that they could not operate a safe airport, I think that the use of those provisions 100 times is greater than is likely to have been caused by significant health and safety problems. Although, as I said, this is a matter that John Vine will investigate, I think that there was confusion on the ground about what provisions were being used in relation to different checks. I think that the health and safety provisions became used routinely, rather than being used only in those circumstances.
Q240 Nicola Blackwood: Do you think that it is possible that those provisions were used without the knowledge of Brodie Clark and senior officials?
Rob Whiteman: No. I think that Brodie Clark and senior officials will have been aware of that.
Q241 Lorraine Fullbrook: Just to go a bit further than my colleague’s questioning, do you think that Mr Clark is in this position because the 2007 guidance, which was actually designed for emergency situations, has been stretched to become in effect routine guidance?
Rob Whiteman: I think that is possible. I would say two things, if I may, Chairman. First, in terms of my position, this is why-
Lorraine Fullbrook: I mean stretched by Mr Clark-
Rob Whiteman: This is why, of course, I suspended Brodie Clark, in order that these matters would be investigated-because of that very clear risk. That is something that John Vine will now look at through his investigation. To answer your question, I think that, from what I see, the 2007 guidance has been stretched-
Lorraine Fullbrook: To become routine.
Rob Whiteman: To become certainly not unroutine-being used on more occasions than real, health and safety, dire positions. I think that is the case, yes.
Q242 Mr Winnick: When Mr Clark strenuously denies that he went beyond the ministerial authorisation for July, which was extended in September, you are saying that he is lying.
Rob Whiteman: What I am saying is that, at the first meeting, which took place on the evening of 2 September, Brodie Clark confirmed to me that fingerprint checks were not being taken, against the express authorisation of Ministers. I am also saying that, when he e-mailed me the next morning, he was clear that Ministers had no knowledge of the health and safety provisions under which he considered that he was suspending secure ID. They both add up to a clear picture on that morning that ministerial instruction to use secure ID was not being applied. I think that I was right to suspend Mr Clark, so that those matters could be investigated.
Our management procedures are to appoint someone from outside the line between myself and Brodie Clark. I appointed David Wood, who is a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police and our director of crime and enforcement, to carry out that investigation. In our management procedures, it says that suspension is a neutral act. When you think there are allegations, you suspend someone and have it investigated, which is what I did. I stand by that. I was right to do so, because I was given clear evidence that ministerial instruction was not being followed.
Q243 Mr Winnick: As you know, Mr Whiteman, Mr Clark strenuously denies going beyond and he is taking legal action for constructive dismissal. We shall see the outcome if that case goes ahead. His reputation, as he has said in evidence today, has been much tarnished. Indeed, the phrase "a rogue civil servant" has been used. Mr Clark has given 38 years of public service, with 15 years of that in various senior positions. Do you think that there is any justification for how, unofficially and in various ways, it has been said that he is a rogue civil servant?
Chair: You did not say it. You were not part of those briefings.
Mr Winnick: I am not saying that he did.
Rob Whiteman: No, I wasn’t. Clearly, I carefully considered suspending Mr Clark. As you have said, he has a long career and these things are not done lightly.
Q244 Mr Winnick: A distinguished career?
Rob Whiteman: He has a long career, which I am aware of. I did not suspend him lightly, but the role of a senior official is to advise Ministers and implement their direction. It was absolutely clear to me that Ministers wanted fingerprint checks to be taken and that that had not been put into effect. I think that I was right to suspend him under those circumstances. In relation to the other things that you have said, I have no knowledge or role in anything else. I cannot comment on that.
Q245 Mr Winnick: I noticed that you hesitated, to say the least, to use the word distinguished, but he has held senior positions and presumably when you took up your own post as head of UKBA, you would have known of the careers of people like Mr Clark who were going to work very closely with you. Presumably you knew when he was awarded a CBE for public services, so all that was known to you. The question that arises, which is my last, is: why should a person of his service over the years-some would say distinguished-wish to go on his own initiative against what the Minister has authorised? What possible incentive would he have to do that?
Rob Whiteman: I cannot answer that, Mr Winnick.
Q246 Mr Winnick: It would seem strange, wouldn’t it?
Rob Whiteman: It would have been explored through a management investigation and Mr Clark asked why that took place. Since he has resigned from the civil service, that investigation falls.
Q247 Mark Reckless: Mr Whiteman, you say your role is to advise Ministers and implement their directions. Can you tell the Committee, therefore, why you suspended Mr Clark without any reference to Ministers?
Rob Whiteman: Because that is the way these things operate. I discussed the matter with the Permanent Secretary, who is the head of the paid service-the senior civil servant for the Home Office-and decisions to suspend officers are taken by officials, not by Ministers.
Q248 Mark Reckless: Is it also the case in these scenarios that retirement is discussed? Is that a proper process?
Rob Whiteman: The retirement process for officials of this level is, again, a decision for the Permanent Secretary, not for Ministers.
Q249 Mark Reckless: But you say that it was discussed at your meeting with Mr Clark. You deny suggesting it yourself. Are you saying that Mr Clark suggested it?
Rob Whiteman: I did not suggest it, but I am absolutely happy to put on the record that I discussed retirement with Mr Clark. He discussed it with HR, and I was supportive of that if formal agreement would be given. I did not suggest it, but I am absolutely happy to confirm to the Committee that I discussed it with him. Dame Helen Ghosh’s view, when I discussed it with her, is that the issues coming to light about Calais during the day, as I said earlier, meant that it would be inappropriate for discretionary benefits, such as the six-month payment or pay in lieu of notice, to be considered when we are in the position of a disciplinary investigation.
Q250 Mark Reckless: I would like to move on. On 9 November you wrote to the Committee and said that Mr Clark had "authorised his staff to go further than Ministerial instruction. I therefore suspended him from his duties." Can you clarify that? Is your point that he went further than ministerial instruction or further than ministerial authority?
Rob Whiteman: Further than ministerial instruction in that Ministers had instructed that secure ID checks should be taken.
Q251 Mark Reckless: You said earlier that Ministers were not aware of the pre-existing practice of suspending those in certain circumstances. Could you explain to me, then, this paragraph in the 28 July minutes-I raised it with the Home Secretary last Tuesday: "If, for whatever reason, it is considered necessary to take further measures, beyond those listed above, local managers must escalate to the Border Force Duty Director to seek authority for their proposed action"? I said to the Home Secretary, "You say that relates back to some previous guidance about health and safety." The Home Secretary answered, "Yes. When the warnings index was brought into place in 2007 this was in guidance that was there at the time. We are happy to provide a copy of that to the Committee."
Rob Whiteman: The 28 July document is an operating procedure, so this is something that is agreed by senior officials within UKBA because we have to take ministerial instruction or policy decisions and translate that into something on the ground that people will use. The point made in there about "if you want to go further, refer that to your director" undoubtedly does, I now know, refer to the 2007 HOWI policy, but in the submissions that were made around the pilot, no explanation at all was made of the use of that HOWI policy. Even if one does refer to that policy, the policy does not apply to non-EEA explicitly, and it would not apply to fingerprint checks, because they were introduced after the policy. That is why, in my view, the authorisation not to make those checks, if that was done by speaking to a director beyond the pilot, had no direct ministerial authority.
Q252 Mark Reckless: But this was written on 28 July-we are still to find out whether Ministers saw it or not-and it says, "If, for whatever reason, it is considered necessary," and has a process whereby you just have to go up to the Border Force Duty Director. Is it not possible that, actually, Home Office officials and Ministers were well aware of that-that it was the paragraph, as the Home Secretary told me, that had been used again and again in guidance since 2007- and it is just that, five weeks into the job, you were not familiar with it?
Rob Whiteman: No. I discussed this with Mr Sedgwick, the acting chief executive, who, again, confirmed that the position of not taking secure ID was very firmly against ministerial instruction-the position that you say now is rectified for the future. In future meetings I will be very happy to discuss with this Committee how we now get a grip of these issues. We have issued very firm instructions with regard to what is and is not allowed, and obviously in the months ahead, I will want to review operating procedure in order that there is cast-iron clarity because something that we need to do for UKBA is to develop better compliance and assurance.
In answer to your question, I am clear in my mind that Ministers were not aware in any of the submissions they received that secure ID would not be checked. They were asked whether it should be checked. They said that it should be. They had given instruction to that effect, which is why I believe I was right to suspend Mr Clark and have the matter investigated.
Q253 Mark Reckless: Can you explain why the Border Force operations manual has been removed from the UKBA website?
Rob Whiteman: I wasn’t aware that it was not on the website, but clearly now, Mr Reckless, an urgent task for us is to review that operating policy and make sure that it is clear.
Q254 Mark Reckless: Mr Whiteman, you say it is an urgent task for you, but surely it is an urgent task for this Committee. The Home Secretary promised us last week that we would be provided with this information, yet you are now saying that we are not to be and it should just be given to John Vine who is appointed answerable to the Home Secretary, and that he should decide what MPs see. Surely to get to the root of this, we need to see this information and come to a view as to who was at fault to ensure that it does not happen again.
Rob Whiteman: I will refer if I may to the discussion earlier with the Chairman; I will consider what has been said and take advice on it.
Mark Reckless: That is very generous of you, Mr Whiteman.
Chair: We will certainly consider and take advice. Steve McCabe.
Q255 Steve McCabe: There is obviously a significant gulf between your account of events and Mr Clark’s. Helpfully, there is a minute of your meeting with Mr Clark, which would obviously help clarify the situation. Are you under instructions to withhold that minute as well as to withhold the e-mail from Mr Clark? Are you currently under instructions to withhold that, or are we able to see that minute?
Rob Whiteman: As I said earlier, my understanding is that the Home Secretary has said that all documents and relevant e-mails will be made available to John Vine.
Q256 Steve McCabe: So on the minute that would cast a bit of light, currently you believe you are not able to let us have access to it.
Rob Whiteman: I will consider that further, as I said to the Chairman, and take advice on it.
Q257 Steve McCabe: What about your meetings with Helen Ghosh? Were they minuted as well?
Rob Whiteman: No. My meetings with the Permanent Secretary are not.
Q258 Steve McCabe: There may be an obvious explanation for this, but I wondered why you chose to have a minute of your meeting with Mr Clark, but there is no minute of the meeting with Helen Ghosh where you discussed the possible suspension.
Rob Whiteman: It is usual practice for my meetings with all people who report to me-Mr Clark and the other directors-to be minuted by a private secretary because obviously that then forms part of my management or supervision of them. That is standard practice. My meeting with Helen Ghosh was in order to make her aware that I had this information-
Q259 Steve McCabe: Since she is responsible for you, she wouldn’t have kept a minute of that meeting?
Rob Whiteman: The meeting was not minuted.
Q260 Steve McCabe: Tell me about the three people who are going to conduct these inquiries. Did you appoint John Vine, David Wood and Mike Anderson?
Rob Whiteman: I appointed one of them because the one that I appointed is the management investigation. In relation to the disciplinary matters, the procedures are that I suspend the officer, appoint a manager in order to investigate the matter who would then report back to me on whether a disciplinary breach had occurred and whether there should be a disciplinary hearing.
Q261 Steve McCabe: I don’t know what happened in your previous job, but do you find anything slightly strange in the fact that Mr Vine was the person who raised the issue with you immediately, but he now has an investigative role? Mr Wood worked closely alongside Mr Clark and may well have been familiar with some of what is going on, and he has an investigative role. Does it cause you any anxiety about the quality of these investigations that two of the principal investigators are actually part of the issue?
Rob Whiteman: I think that it is right Mr Wood was appointed to carry out the management investigation because that is in line with our HR procedures, and that is what happens in most organisations.
Q262 Steve McCabe: Even if he was familiar with what had gone on beforehand?
Rob Whiteman: And someone from outside the line would be appointed. That is common in organisations. The Home Secretary has appointed John Vine, who is the independent chief inspector of UKBA, to carry out a review. That, to me, seems appropriate. He is the independent chief inspector and he will carry out-
Q263 Steve McCabe: Even though you suspended Mr Clark on the basis of the anxieties that Mr Vine raised with you? He is independent enough still?
Rob Whiteman: Yes, his job is to raise concerns and I am grateful that Mr Vine raised concerns at the earliest opportunity with me. Because we are an agency of the Home Office, the Permanent Secretary has also appointed a director general from the Home Office, Mike Anderson, to oversee the David Wood investigation. So the David Wood investigation is taking place within UKBA management procedures, but a director general from the Home Office gives assurance to the Permanent Secretary that that-
Steve McCabe: One last thing. If the minutes of your meeting with Mr Clark were to be revealed, are you absolutely confident that they would confirm your version of events?
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q264 Chair: Thank you. Just by way of clarification you mentioned the role of Dame Helen Ghosh. You have not seen her letter to this Committee: "Question 5: When were you informed that Brodie Clark had been suspended? Rob Whiteman informed me that he had suspended Brodie Clark." So the decision was yours, not Dame Helen’s?
Rob Whiteman: The decision to suspend was mine.
Q265 Chair: And the decision to take away the package was Dame Helen Ghosh’s?
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q266 Chair: Isn’t that a bit odd?
Rob Whiteman: I have authority to suspend. The pension package I discussed with Helen Ghosh because the Permanent Secretary has authority over senior civil service terms and conditions, so that is correct, Mr Vaz.
Q267 Dr Huppert: There are many fascinating things here. I find it interesting that you said suspension was a neutral activity, which apparently means that somebody cannot get a retirement package. I do think, for your sake, for your credibility on what you are claiming about what was said, that it would be helpful if we could see the e-mails that you say back up what you say. We heard from Mr Clark that there were two issues that were separated that had been conflated. You say that he accepted that they were in fact related. I think we do need to see that to know-
Rob Whiteman: In the first meeting he did. In the e-mail he didn’t. Either way I thought it was going against ministerial instruction.
Q268 Dr Huppert: We look forward to seeing the e-mail. The interim operational instruction of 28 July contains a section about escalation-where you can do more. There is nothing in there at all about EEA, non-EEA or any of those separations. Is that right?
Rob Whiteman: I don’t have the guidance note in front of me, but the pilot note is very clearly about EEA.
Q269 Dr Huppert: You are welcome to have a look, while I speak, at the middle of the second page. I should be very impressed if you could find anything there about the EAA. It does seem that there it is very clear that there is complete opportunity to-it is half way along: is there anything there about EEA and that it is only some things that can be stopped and not others?
Rob Whiteman: "We will cease routinely opening the chip"-
Q270 Dr Huppert: But below that is the section about-
Rob Whiteman: "In EEA cases" and below that it says: "Discretion may be exercised at director level."
Q271 Dr Huppert: And the section slightly below that where it says-
Rob Whiteman: "If, for whatever reason, it is considered necessary to take further measures, beyond those listed above, local managers may escalate to the… Director"
Q272 Dr Huppert: There is nothing there saying, "But only for EEA". There is nothing there saying "only under certain circumstances". Is that correct?
Rob Whiteman: Yes. That is correct about that document, but the point I made earlier is that this document is an operating document drawn up by officials. In my view, that document should be much clearer on these issues in order that Mr Clark has translated what Ministers have instructed through to the operating guidance, which is given on the ground.
Dr Huppert: If I can ask just one more question, Chair, stepping back briefly. There have been a huge number of problems with UKBA and its predecessors for many, many years. There have been catastrophes with asylum and a whole number of other areas. This is just the latest. This Committee has criticised UKBA on countless-although I am sure they can be counted-times. What is going wrong? Is it that there is something fundamental about immigration? Is it something about the quality of staff? Is it about the quality of leadership? Why does this area cause problems so many times for so many Home Secretaries?
Rob Whiteman: I think that the agency is better than it was a few years ago, but nowhere near as good as it needs to be. I would say that, clearly, at one stage there were 500,000 asylum backlog cases and at one stage foreign national prisoners were being released without being referred to UKBA between the Prison Service and UKBA. Clearly, the position now is much more stable and a number of those backlog issues of the past have gone, but the agency is not nearly as good as it needs to be. In answer to your question, I would say that it operates in quite strong silos or blocks for the things that went in-
Q273 Chair: How does it compare with your last two jobs, as deputy chief executive of Lewisham and chief executive of Barking and Dagenham?
Rob Whiteman: More silo based.
Q274 Chair: More efficient?
Rob Whiteman: No. High-quality organisations have good corporate systems in order to check what is going on. It should not be that an area of the business is impenetrable and that we are not quite certain what operating procedures-or I should be able to assure this Committee with independent information, in terms of both numbers and qualitative issues. Urgently, I will now create a new strategy and intelligence directorate in order to have independent figures about different parts of the agency, so I can start to give assurance to this Committee that we get a grip on performance and that we take the agency forward. The answer is that it is better than it was, but it has a long way to go.
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q275 Michael Ellis: Mr Whiteman, on the issue of the two junior officials who were apparently in the room at the time of the disciplinary-style meeting that was in progress with you and Brodie Clark, presumably you could provide the names of those two officials and their positions if the Committee asked for them.
Rob Whiteman: Yes.
Q276 Michael Ellis: Because clearly where there is such a divergence, it may be necessary to seek further inquiries, as well as the minute.
The evidence of Brodie Clark, at least in part, seemed to rely on the Home Office warnings index of 2007 in connection with why what was happening was happening, but the index of 2007 is silent on the issue of fingerprints, isn’t it?
Rob Whiteman: Yes, it is.
Q277 Michael Ellis: Because fingerprints were only being checked in the way we know they now are as recently as early 2010.
Rob Whiteman: They were introduced around March 2010.
Q278 Michael Ellis: Is it within your knowledge that Brodie Clark sought ministerial approval for new pilot measures this year?
Rob Whiteman: In January of this year, Mr Clark asked for three measures-the two that were ultimately agreed around children and chips, and he also asked that fingerprints should not be checked on every occasion for non-EEAs, so he sought approval for that to be part of the pilot. In April, Ministers-the Home Secretary-said no to the proposals as they stood. The proposals were then discussed between Ministers, Mr Sedgwick-the acting chief executive-and Mr Clark in the period of May and June. When the proposals were brought back to Ministers in July, when they did ultimately then agree the pilot, the provisions around fingerprints had been dropped from the proposals, because Ministers had not been willing to agree them in April.
Q279 Michael Ellis: Did he make a second inquiry of Ministers as to the pilot?
Rob Whiteman: To my knowledge, no. As the Chairman said at the beginning, I was not there at the time, but from what I have seen, there were no submissions after that period asking for permission not to take fingerprints.
Q280 Michael Ellis: Thank you. What I am putting to you is that if he was relying on that which was the case in 2007 as to fingerprints, is it not inconsistent with that, in your opinion, that he was seeking ministerial approval in January as to the fingerprints?
Rob Whiteman: It is completely inconsistent. It is completely inconsistent that we put submissions to Ministers and say, "Can we have your permission to do something? By the way, if you say no, I’m doing it anyway, but you don’t know the policy under which I’m doing it." That is completely inconsistent.
Q281 Michael Ellis: Both you and, as you were obviously very new, your predecessor-the acting chief, Jonathan Sedgwick-were of the view that disciplinary matters should follow?
Rob Whiteman: Mr Sedgwick gave me unequivocal advice that Ministers had been clear that the fingerprint should be taken and that no authority had been given to go beyond the two measures that were agreed. The decision to suspend Brodie Clark was mine and not Mr Sedgwick’s, but I had discussed it with him and he agreed with me in relation to the very great seriousness of the fact that one of our senior directors appeared to have authorised or allowed something to take place that Ministers had explicitly said no to, and for that reason I thought it was necessary to suspend him.
Q282 Michael Ellis: It was within your knowledge that Ministers had clearly, explicitly and unambiguously said they wanted the secure ID checks done?
Rob Whiteman: Yes, because I think Ministers’ consideration had been that, although the checks do not lead to many direct alerts, obviously there is a deterrent factor. But also, of course, if somebody is found by that, it is actually quite a high-risk case-if somebody has gone to the position of forging the photograph in comparison with the photograph on the chip-so, although the number might be very low, Ministers were of the view that the risk value of an incident would be high and, therefore, ministerial consideration was not to agree to that proposal.
Q283 Nicola Blackwood: To follow up a little on the issue of the suspension of secure ID, did Mr Clark make it clear to you-when he tried to distinguish between his failure to get authorisation for the suspension of secure ID on limited occasions on a discretionary basis for border officials and this other policy which he had instigated from March 2010 with no ministerial approval at all-that he had never sought ministerial approval for the March 2010 practice which he had put in place from that time?
Rob Whiteman: Yes, that is correct. At the meeting on the evening of 2 November, he was clear to me that Ministers had instructed that secure ID should be taken, and that it was wrong that it had been authorised for it not to be taken. That is the meeting that I referred to earlier, with my private secretaries in the room.
The next morning, he e-mailed me very early in the morning and made this distinction: "Actually, Ministers said no to this proposal and I consider that I complied with that, whilst at the same time there are provisions under which I have authorised it and Ministers have never been aware of those provisions." That is the same effect, isn’t it? What I had was evidence from one of my senior directors that Ministers were not aware of what was going on under that separate provision, even though they had explicitly said what should take place under the provision they were aware of.
Q284 Nicola Blackwood: When you spoke to Mr Clark after receiving that e-mail, which was the meeting in which you informed him of your intention to suspend him, did you ask him if he thought he had the authority to authorise the suspension of secure ID without ministerial approval?
Rob Whiteman: I said that I considered the matters to be very serious, and that ministerial direction had not been followed. He had admitted to me the night before that it was wrong that ministerial direction had not been followed. Therefore, I thought the best course of action was to suspend him in order that these matters would be thoroughly investigated.
Q285 Nicola Blackwood: Did you ask him why he had authorised the removal of secure ID without ministerial authority?
Rob Whiteman: I did not ask him at that meeting, because I did not want to prejudice a disciplinary investigation. The correct procedure to follow at that point is to make the suspension, and then those questions are asked as part of the investigation. If I started to ask them then, there was a risk that I was prejudicing the investigation that will one day come back to me from the investigation officer.
Q286 Chair: Do you not think it would have been helpful to know why, when there was going to be a statement to the House that was going to cause enormous political furore and when the Home Secretary was going to be dragged into it? When you gave an explanation, don’t you think you should have asked why?
Rob Whiteman: I think I did the right thing, Chairman. As soon as I was made aware of these events, I made a suspension in order that they could be investigated and the HR advice to me was not to prejudice the investigation-I had discussed the matter with my HR director, and it was very clear advice to me that, when making a suspension, I should not prejudice the investigation-and that is what the investigation does.
Q287 Chair: Mr Whiteman, you will appear before us on a number of occasions in the future and, obviously, we want a good, strong relationship with the chief executive of the UKBA. I do not know whether you have had a chance to see the report that was published on the very day this crisis developed. In paragraphs 54 and 55 of our report, we specifically say that we expect the UKBA to be transparent and open with this Committee in providing information. We were not very pleased when Ministers wrote to us and said that they would not be providing us with an update of issues of concern. This is exactly why Parliament needs to be kept informed, because Parliament knew nothing about this. Therefore, if we had known, at least we would have been able to have done something about it. Do you hope that in the future, when we write to you about things, you will be able to be open and transparent as, frankly, your predecessors have not been?
Rob Whiteman: It is very much my intention to be so, Chairman. I think this Committee has an important role in holding me to account and also in my being transparent about the good things and the bad things that happen. I am explicitly creating a new strategy and intelligence directorate in order that there is independent information available with regards to what is happening in services. I want to give a cast-iron guarantee to this Committee that we will get a grip of the border and UKBA, and I look forward to working with the Committee in future in order to do so.
Q288 Chair: A demonstration of this commitment will be that when we ask for documents, they are supplied. We know that there are other internal investigations going on, but Parliament has a job to do and we have a job to present Parliament with a full report, so we will be writing to you after this meeting requesting further information. We do not really want to use the powers that the House has to get those documents; we would like it to be done on a basis of trust because, as I am sure you would agree, it is important that Parliament knows what happens.
Rob Whiteman: I very much want to work on the basis of trust with this Committee, Chairman.
Chair: Mr Whiteman, thank you very much for coming in.
Rob Whiteman: Thank you very much indeed.