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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1647-iii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
BORDER CHECKS DURING SUMMER 2011
THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER 2011
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 431 - 596
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Thursday 8 December 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Jonathan Sedgwick, International Group Director, UK Border Agency, gave evidence.
Q431 Chair: Order. I refer all those present to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, where the interests of members of this Committee are noted. I welcome our witness this morning, Jonathan Sedgwick, as part of our continuing inquiry on the UK Border Agency. Mr Sedgwick, welcome back.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Thank you very much.
Q432 Chair: Congratulations on your new appointment as head of the international section of UKBA.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Thank you.
Q433 Chair: We are not going to delve into too many details of other issues in your portfolio; we are going to concentrate on the UK Border Agency’s approach to the change that occurred-basically, the Brodie Clark issue, to put it mildly and succinctly. That is what we want to talk to you about today. Thank you for the correspondence that you sent this Committee.
I want to start, however, with something that is in the public domain. I am sure that you were aware that I would ask you about this. It is the so-called Lille loophole, which relates to an investigation that the BBC published this morning, which shows that a person can travel from Brussels to Lille and, if they do not leave the train, go on to the United Kingdom and not have their passport checked at all. Do you recognise this scenario?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Thank you for giving me notice of the fact that you would want to raise this issue. I would not call it a loophole, actually. Clearly, we operate under constraints in Belgium; as for persons who intend to travel within the Schengen area, clearly there are limitations on what activity we can conduct in relation to those people, but it is simply not the case that you can travel from Brussels through Lille to the UK without any checks at all. We have a range of operational measures in place. We carefully monitor all trains that stop in Lille. We have arrangements in place to remove passengers from the train at Lille. I think that, over the course of this year to date, up to around 140 people have been removed in that way.
Q434 Chair: Yes, but many hundreds and thousands are coming through without being checked.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not believe that that is the case.
Q435 Chair: Are the passports checked when people get to Lille?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We carefully monitor every train. We look carefully. Clearly we need to do this sensibly on a kind of risk basis, but if we believe that there is someone on the train who is trying to evade our controls then, for example, we might routinely-as we do-have a forged ticket check at St Pancras.
Q436 Chair: Mr Sedgwick, let us get back to the facts here. You said that it was not possible to do this, and that it is not a loophole, but your Minister has said, in effect, that there is a loophole, that it is closed at times, and that you are looking at ways to close it permanently. Is he wrong? Does he think it is a loophole, while you do not?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is of course the case that we would like to improve the arrangements. The Minister is, of course, absolutely right about that.
Q437 Chair: So it is an unsatisfactory arrangement at the moment, because what is being said is that someone can travel from Brussels to Lille and not have their passport checked because they are within the Schengen area; if they remain on the train, they can travel from Lille to London without having their passport checked. That is the case, isn’t it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Except that if we suspected that someone was trying to do that-and, as I say, we carefully monitor those trains-
Q438 Chair: How do you monitor the trains, if you are not on them?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We sometimes are on the trains.
Q439 Chair: How many times a week?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not have those figures, but if we were concerned about somebody whom we had seen boarding a train, we would have discussions with Eurostar-we are working very closely with Eurostar-and that is why we have been able to remove so many people from the train.
Q440 Chair: Mr Sedgwick, those are people whom you know you wish to monitor. That means the vast majority can travel, because they are not people being monitored. You do not have people on the train from the time it leaves Brussels, do you?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I say, it is simply not the case that-
Q441 Chair: Are you satisfied with these arrangements?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No. We would like to strengthen them.
Q442 Chair: So you accept that it is a problem.
Jonathan Sedgwick: We are working very closely with Eurostar and the Belgian authorities to strengthen the arrangements. Indeed, I am planning to go to Brussels next week to try to finalise those arrangements. We think there are practical things that we can do to make it much more watertight than it presently is, so that if someone has bought a ticket for Lille, they need to get off the train at Lille.
If I may, there is just one other figure that you may be interested in, Chair. As I say, we do routinely, where necessary, introduce ticket checks at St Pancras. In the year to date, we have intercepted around 160 people in that way, whom we have been able to return to Belgium.
Q443 Chair: So it is the case that people can travel and not have their passports checked at Lille. It happens occasionally-you used the word "sometimes". The Minister says that the loophole is closed on other occasions. You talk about co-operation, but the BBC also has evidence that when our officials have tried to intervene they have been threatened with arrest by the Belgian police, because the Belgian police will not allow them to intervene. Is that correct? Have you heard of this?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I have heard that the BBC is reporting this point. The reality is that it is a question of not just our officials but, obviously, Eurostar officials, who are also very assiduous in ensuring that people who have Lille tickets only travel as far as Lille. They have an interest in this, and sometimes what we do and what Eurostar does can become confused in the way that it is reported.
Q444 Chair: That is a long answer to a very simple question. Do you know that our officials, in trying to stop this happening, have been threatened with arrest?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I am not aware that we have been threatened with arrest. We have a very close working relationship with the Belgian authorities. We co-operate with them, as you would expect. We operate in Belgium; we need to work closely with them.
Chair: So you have no information on this. Mr Clappison.
Q445Mr Clappison: I am interested in how this happens. I travelled on Tuesday on a train from Brussels to this country that stopped at Lille. Now I know why my ticket was checked by UKBA people on arrival at St Pancras, which I thought was rather odd. I did not understand why they were checking tickets there. Does that happen on every train from Brussels that stops at Lille?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I say, we monitor those trains carefully. If we have concerns, we will institute a ticket check, precisely as you say. That must mean that we had concerns about that train; we will seek to identify anyone who has only a Lille ticket, and then we will return them to Belgium.
Q446 Mr Clappison: So the answer is that not every train is checked.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Not every train is checked. We do it on a risk basis.
Q447 Mr Clappison: How often are they checked?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not have those figures, but we do it when we believe it is necessary.
Q448 Mr Clappison: Speaking from my experience-I use that train with the European Scrutiny Committee when it has to go to Brussels-I would not be as confident as you are of checks being made on the train by Eurostar staff; I make that observation. What happens when people travelling to Lille from Brussels get on the Eurostar train at Brussels? To get on the train, you have to pass through an elaborate security procedure; you are scanned, and you have your passport checked twice-once by UKBA. Do people who are travelling domestically go through that process?
Jonathan Sedgwick: There is a separate process for people who are just going to Lille. As I understand it, there is a separate entrance that obviously goes through the security screening, in terms of baggage and so on, but does not go through the immigration-
Q449 Mr Clappison: Is that a different entrance to the one used by people who are travelling internationally, in the way that I was?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I understand it is, yes.
Q450 Mr Clappison: So we have established that their passports are not checked there.
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I say, we, with the help of Eurostar and the Belgian authorities, obviously maintain a keen interest in people who are travelling to Lille. Clearly we operate on a risk basis, and we have operational insight into the kinds of people who might not be very convincing Lille passengers, for example.
Q451 Mr Clappison: What exactly do people pass through at the Brussels end of the Eurostar if they are travelling to Lille?
Jonathan Sedgwick: They have to pass through the full security screening-the baggage screening and so on. Of course, our staff have some visibility of what is happening in relation to that. As I say, if we have concerns, we can intervene with Eurostar and, if necessary, institute ticket checks at St Pancras.
Q452 Mr Clappison: How can they know on the basis of that whether somebody is travelling from Brussels to Lille and planning not to get off at Lille, but to come to this country when they should not? How can they know that from their luggage?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We have to operate in a risk-based way. The kind of people who travel from Brussels to Lille are often, for example, those who are attending European Commission meetings, the Parliament and so on. If we were to see a large family with huge amounts of luggage, we might want to ask one or two more questions.
Q453 Mr Clappison: May I suggest that it would be a sensible precaution, at least in the interim, to check at St Pancras the tickets for every train that stops at Lille, just as my ticket was checked?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We do that when we believe it is necessary.
Q454 Mr Clappison: Every train.
Jonathan Sedgwick: We do believe that the arrangements need tightening. Ministers are keenly aware of this issue and have raised it with their Belgian counterparts. We are actively pursuing a range of measures to make the system much tighter. I believe we will have new arrangements in place very shortly.
Chair: Mr Sedgwick, Mr Clappison is making the point that this is most unsatisfactory. We would like to see the loophole closed. It is not just a matter of co-operation with the Belgians; it is what we do to secure our borders. It is not acceptable that people can travel in this way.
Q455 Alun Michael: May I simplify the language? Having heard what you have said, Mr Sedgwick, it is quite clear that there is a loophole, isn’t there? It does not have to be 100% of people taking advantage of a loophole for it to be a loophole; if there is a possibility of people coming through, there is a loophole. You mentioned that ticket checks in London have demonstrated that a significant number of people have arrived in London without appropriate travel documents or passports, so can we agree that there is a loophole? The next questions are: how big is the loophole, and what should be done about it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We certainly believe that the arrangements need tightening. We share your view, Chair.
Q456 Alun Michael: Sorry, can we just use the word? "Loophole" means that there is something that allows some people to come in without a passport check. That is the case, isn’t it?
Chair: This is a feature of the evidence that you have given to this Committee whenever you have appeared: you are asked a question by Committee members and you give an answer that is not based on the question that is asked. It would be very helpful-this will be a feature of our questions to you concerning Brodie Clark-if we had straight answers. That would make it much easier for us to come to conclusions. What Mr Michael, Mr Clappison and I have said is that there is clearly a loophole, because people are able to get through the system. We know that you want to improve it-I am sure that you will after today-but as Mr Michael has said, people can come through. Even the Minister accepts that there is a loophole, because he cannot close something that is not a loophole. Yes or no?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Of course, it is perfectly possible that people in some circumstances can get through, but I would not want the Committee to believe-
Alun Michael: That is a yes, then.
Jonathan Sedgwick-that there were no checks that we could carry out, and that we do not carry out checks and fine people, because we do.
Q457 Alun Michael: We did not say that, Mr Sedgwick. It is a loophole. If it is possible for some people to come without a passport check, that is a loophole in the passport checks arrangements. Simple, isn’t it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Well, if that is the word you want to use, I am not going to argue, but I think I have made my point.
Alun Michael: It would be nice if you just agreed, because that would make it simpler.
Chair: Thank you for that final answer.
Q458 Steve McCabe: Mr Sedgwick, you said that you are going to Brussels to try to negotiate some improvements in the arrangements. Which official or member of staff at UKBA is ultimately responsible for the current arrangements?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Mr Whiteman, the chief executive, is obviously ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the Border Agency.
Q459 Steve McCabe: And if I asked him, who would he say he had put in charge?
Jonathan Sedgwick: He has asked me to work with the Belgian authorities-
Q460 Steve McCabe: So Mr Whiteman is ultimately responsible, but this current state of affairs is your responsibility. Is that right?
Jonathan Sedgwick: He has asked me to conduct the negotiations to improve the arrangements.
Q461 Steve McCabe: He has asked you to look at the problem that has been identified, but I am trying to establish who is responsible for the existing state of affairs. Is that also you?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Clearly, this falls to the responsibilities of the border force, which you will be aware, would have been part of Mr Clark’s responsibilities. As Mr Whiteman has told the Committee, Matthew Coats, a senior official, has been put in charge, for an interim period, of the border force-he is responsible for its operation. I am assisting Mr Coats over the next few weeks, and this is one particular area in which I am doing that. I am taking responsibility for the discussions.
Q462 Chair: But for a large part of this time, you were the acting chief executive, so although you are referring to Mr Whiteman, it was your responsibility.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was, yes. I was in Brussels over the summer and I had discussions. I have been very active in trying to resolve these issues.
Q463 Chair: I am surprised that when you last appeared before the Committee you did not tell the Committee about any of this. If you had concerns that you did not have absolute co-operation, is that not something that you should have brought to our attention?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Forgive me if I did not raise it, but I think that we had a number of matters to discuss when I last appeared before you.
Q464 Chair: But you informed Ministers about the problem.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Ministers were well aware of this concern.
Q465 Chair: From when?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I could not be clear about that, but it is certainly something that I have discussed with Ministers over a number of months.
Chair: Thank you.
Q466 Michael Ellis: Mr Sedgwick, I think that it is probably accurate to say that the Belgian Government are responsible for the actions of their police force. That is fair enough, isn’t it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is.
Q467 Michael Ellis: If this BBC report is accurate-if it is a BBC report, originally-it appears that the Belgian authorities are the ones that are not being co-operative with our authorities in Lille.
Jonathan Sedgwick: The Belgian authorities are obviously very concerned to comply, and that anyone operating in Belgium should comply, with the Schengen regulations and with freedom of movement rules.
Q468 Michael Ellis: The British ambassador in Belgium has apparently spoken to the authorities there. Is that right? Is that within your knowledge?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We work very closely with the ambassador to resolve and improve these matters.
Q469 Michael Ellis: So we would hope and expect that our friends and neighbours in Belgium would co-operate with our security protocols and try to prevent our borders being violated by those who are not authorised.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Absolutely. We have close co-operation with them.
Q470 Michael Ellis: And we look forward to further co-operation with them.
Jonathan Sedgwick: We do.
Q471 Michael Ellis: You alluded, in an answer to one of my colleagues a few moments ago, to a hope and expectation, as I interpreted it, that this putative loophole will be closing soon. Do you have any reason to believe that the processes in Lille are about to change?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I believe that they are. We are in very intense discussions with both Eurostar and Belgian colleagues. This is a tripartite matter. It is not just about the Belgian authorities; it is also about Eurostar.
Q472 Michael Ellis: Because Eurostar could decline to carry a passenger, couldn’t they?
Jonathan Sedgwick: They could, yes.
Q473 Michael Ellis: What about our arrangements? Presumably, we will have safeguards at St Pancras, so that if they cannot be checked at Lille, they can be checked at St Pancras.
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is true; you are perfectly right. We could step up those controls.
Michael Ellis: Thank you.
Q474Chair: And you intend to do so?
Jonathan Sedgwick: We intend to introduce tighter controls overall, yes.
Q475 Mr Clappison: May I ask, in the light of that, whether you know at what stage of the journey the tickets are checked by Eurostar staff?
Jonathan Sedgwick: My understanding is that they are checked shortly after departure from the originating terminus, and that there will then be further checks of people who arrive at particular stations along the route. That is exactly the kind of detail that we are working closely with Eurostar on.
Q476 Mr Clappison: My ticket was checked on getting on the train, as a lot of other people’s were. May I suggest that one of the things that you might take up with Eurostar is having a full ticket check both before and after the train has left Lille, so that there are two full ticket checks?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Thank you.
Q477 Chair: Mr Clappison is happy to give advice on this matter on an unpaid basis to UKBA.
This is unsatisfactory and it needs to be sorted out. If we want a secure border, we need to make sure that people’s passports are checked. You understand the concern of this Committee?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I fully understand it and, indeed, fully share the concern. Ministers are in no doubt that we have to improve the arrangements.
Jonathan Sedgwick: But I would not want the Committee to think that there are no arrangements.
Q478 Chair: I think that you made that point. One of the reasons why we are so tough on this area is because of what happened with Brodie Clark. When did you first become aware, Mr Sedgwick, that there was action beyond the authorised pilot by the head of border security?
Jonathan Sedgwick: On Wednesday 2 November, in the evening, Mr Whiteman asked me to go and see him, and he told me that the chief inspector had shared with him concerns that the secure ID checks were not being completed in full at Heathrow. He asked me whether I was aware of that, and whether I had authorised it. He asked me whether Ministers were aware of it, or whether they had authorised it. I was able to tell him clearly that I was not aware, I had not authorised it and Ministers were not aware, and so on.
Q479 Chair: That was the very first time that you were aware of it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: That was the first time that I was aware of it. I was obviously operating at that stage from memory but, as you would expect, I have subsequently carefully reviewed my written record of events-e-mails, notes of meetings, etc. I am very confident that that memory is completely accurate.
Q480 Chair: You are a member of the UKBA strategy board?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I am, yes.
Q481 Chair: We have received a letter, which we are publishing today, dated 24 November 2011 from Brodie Clark-a copy will be given to you-in which he says: "I made a full presentation to the UKBA Strategy Board (chaired by Lin Homer and with David Wood and Jonathan Sedgwick in attendance, along with the rest of the UKBA Board and non-executive members) in December 2010. The subject was ‘Failure to Maintain Robust Border Controls’ which is one of 18 headings on the UKBA Risk Register…It was a 9 page slide presentation and Point 2 on slide 8 focussed on suspension of secure ID and WI suspensions. The subject of the suspensions was considered by the Board in relation to its use to that point, and how collectively to reduce the occurrences." So you were aware, in fact, from December, when Brodie Clark made a full presentation-a full slide presentation-to members of that strategy board.
Jonathan Sedgwick: As a matter of detail, I was not present at the board on that occasion, as I recall. That does not particularly alter matters; clearly, I am a member of the board.
Q482 Chair: Do you get the papers?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do. It is true that Mr Clark made a presentation to the UKBA board that day. He made a presentation about aviation security. We discussed the aviation security review, which had been taking place in the months since the concern about the vulnerability of physical security of aircraft, and that was the focus of the discussion. I understand that there is, frankly, a slightly ambiguous reference to secure ID in one bullet point at the end of one very detailed slide, but that was not discussed by the board, and Mr Clark would know very well that we have clear rules about how things are presented to the board. If you wish an issue to be clearly noted or agreed by the board, you provide a clear submission. There is a well established format for doing that.
Q483 Chair: Mr Sedgwick, that is because this process was going on for some time, and in point 2 on slide 8 of the presentation-you have the documents and the minutes of the meeting-it is clear that this has been going on for some time. Mr Clark was not putting something new to the board. His argument is that members of the board-including David Wood, who is conducting the investigation into him, and Lin Homer, who headed the whole organisation before you took over-were well aware of this, so this was an ongoing practice; it was not something new that needed discussion. Are you saying this was not an ongoing practice?
Jonathan Sedgwick: This was not something that was discussed at the board, or that the board was aware of. I did not recognise this as an ongoing practice. It was a very minor sub-point in a very detailed slide that was probably, as these things often are, circulated at the meeting itself. I was not there, so I cannot recall. We have a very clear process in place if a member of the board wishes to make something clear to the board. This was not discussed with the board.
Q484 Chair: We understand that, but if it is a routine occurrence that has been going on since 2007, and it was a presentation on the failure to maintain robust border controls, why is it that all these very intelligent people sitting on the strategic board did not pick it up?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Because the discussion was about the aviation security review. It was about physical threats to aircraft. That was what we focused on, and that was what we discussed. This was a very minor sub-point.
I might also say this, because I think it is helpful to the Committee: even if it is possible that Mr Clark believed that this was a well-established practice that everyone should be aware of, I cannot understand why he did not remind me of that when we were having the intense discussions that we had about these various pilot proposals, and indeed why he did not ensure that Ministers were aware, as we were having these very intense discussions with them. It was perfectly clear that Ministers did not approve the suspension of secure ID. If Mr Clark genuinely believed that this was accepted practice, he should have ensured that Ministers-and, indeed, I and the rest of the board-were aware of it.
Q485 Chair: Mr Sedgwick, you had been at the Home Office for a long time, I understand. A previous Home Secretary has told me that he was well aware that this was the practice of the UK Border Agency; the Committee has written to him to get that information from him. If that is the case, surely you-as someone who has been sitting on the strategic board for some time-and Mr Wood and Lin Homer would have been aware of it.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I find that slightly strange, because, of course, secure ID was completed in full only in March 2010, very shortly before the general election. I would be very surprised if this specific check and practice around it was evident to a Minister in a previous Government.
Chair: Thank you. Mr Winnick?
Q486 Mr Winnick: You worked with Brodie Clark for some time, didn’t you? You joined the UKBA as deputy chief executive in 2008; am I right?
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is correct.
Q487 Mr Winnick: Had you known Brodie Clark before, when you worked at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I had not worked closely with him, but I had known of him, and had dealings with him.
Q488 Mr Winnick: So it would be true to say that from the time you were a deputy director-and later, as acting director-you would have worked pretty closely?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Yes.
Q489 Mr Winnick: I said "pretty", but you worked closely with Brodie Clark.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Yes, of course; he was a board colleague.
Q490 Mr Winnick: Did you at any time have any feelings of a lack of confidence in his work-in his wish to maintain immigration control effectively at all times? It is a simple question.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is. I think the Committee will understand that it is quite difficult for me to comment on my views about a former colleague who has taken legal action against the Department. That legal action is pending.
Mr Winnick: Let me put it a different way-
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not mean to be obstructive, but I do not think that is an unreasonable position for me to take.
Mr Winnick: I am not altogether satisfied.
Chair: Order. One second: Mr Winnick is not seeking your views on the legal issues; he is seeking your personal views on someone who has worked with you. That is all.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is quite hard to draw a line between those.
Chair: Well, try to draw the line and answer his question.
Q491 Mr Winnick: I will put it differently. When you were fulfilling your position as deputy at UKBA and later as acting director, did you at any time or stage-prior to what occurred with the Home Secretary-have any necessity to criticise Mr Clark over his position?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Yes.
Q492 Chair: In what respect?
Jonathan Sedgwick: For example, during the pilot period I insisted on having a very detailed weekly report, because I thought it important to have utter transparency on what we were doing. On two occasions in relation to that report, I raised concerns with him about what was happening.
Q493 Mr Winnick: When was that?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I guess it seemed to me to be important to have utter transparency.
Q494 Chair: Sorry, Mr Winnick wants to know when it was.
Jonathan Sedgwick: When it was? I certainly raised concerns after the first weekly report that I received, because it appeared to me that the pilot measures were being used too routinely at Heathrow. I told him that. He took my concern and spoke to the staff at Heathrow and changes were made.
I visited Heathrow myself in August, and I was concerned to discover that the e-gates were not working in the terminal I was visiting. I had given specific instructions, as had Ministers, that we were to maximise our use of the e-gates, because of course the e-gate completes the full check, including the chip, so I was very dismayed to see that the e-gates were not working. Again, I gave him very clear instructions that that was not to happen again. Our use of e-gates over the period of the pilot increased very substantially.
Q495 Mr Winnick: All that you have just been telling us happened this year; am I right?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Those two events certainly did, yes, of course.
Q496 Mr Winnick: Before 2011-the current year-did you have any reason at any time to criticise him and take him to task for whatever reason?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Of course, in the rough and tumble of being a board colleague, one always has disagreements, concerns and issues that are discussed, as you would expect in that kind of fairly robust operational environment. We had disagreements.
Q497 Mr Winnick: Of course; that is perfectly understandable in any organisation. Did it ever occur to you that disciplinary action should be taken against Mr Clark?
Jonathan Sedgwick: He had never done anything prior to these events that made me think that disciplinary action should be taken. Had there been, I would have initiated such action.
Q498 Mr Winnick: So robust disagreements as in any organisation; we understand that. I now come to my final question in this series. There is a lot of controversy over the relaxation of 2007. We were told by the Permanent Secretary that the Minister was not aware of what one of her predecessors had done in what we know as the relaxation, or whatever, of 2007. In your position at the time, did you know all about that and implement it accordingly?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I knew about the existence of the HOWI policy-the policy on how existing controls should be done. Yes, I was aware of that; I knew about it. It is one of many hundreds, possibly thousands, of pieces of operational guidance that govern the way we do our work.
Q499 Mr Winnick: Mr Clark says that what he did was within the framework of what was agreed to in 2007.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not see how he could possibly believe that. The 2007 warning index guidance is specifically about EEA nationals. Secure ID checks related to non-EEA nationals-
Q500 Mr Winnick: He disagrees with you.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is simply a matter of fact. I do not think that he disagrees, and in giving evidence to Nicola Blackwood-I think-he clearly confirmed that the HOWI policy relates to EEA nationals.
Chair: Thank you. We may come back to that, but a number of Members are seeking to intervene.
Q501 Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): It seems that there has been a lack of clarity about a lot of the arrangements in UKBA and UKBF, and it also seems particularly interesting and striking that this whole thing blew up just after Mr Whiteman came into post. When he spoke to you to ask for your advice, how clear was he about the distinction between the risk-based trial, the HOWI guidance and other relaxations? Was he clear on all the differences, or was he perhaps slightly confused as well?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No, I do not believe that he was confused. I think he knew very well what had been agreed during the summer pilots, and he had heard from the chief inspector that further measures had been taken. He knew that they were not part of the pilot process, and I suspect he would have been aware of the broader HOWI policy as it related to EEA nationals and low-risk travellers. I do not believe that he would have been confused. His purpose in asking to speak to me was obviously to confirm exactly what had and had not been authorised by me and by Ministers.
Q502 Dr Huppert: So you think it is pure coincidence that this happened in the very early days of the tenure of a new chief executive? It had not come from within the organisation?
Jonathan Sedgwick: The causation is not the arrival of Mr Whiteman; the causation is the fact that Mr Vine was conducting an inspection at Heathrow.
Q503 Dr Huppert: Mr Vine is obviously doing a detailed piece of work at the moment, which will report. What is your judgment as to whether the problems ultimately came with the leadership at the top of UKBF and the instructions given, or is it simply the fact that different people within UKBA and UKBF-both seem to do this-make different decisions and have different understandings of rules? I suspect that I am not alone on the Committee in having had experience of visa and other immigration issues. Do you think it is a fundamental problem with the whole organisation that there is a lack of clarity between the people on the ground making the decisions?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Of course one can always improve on that kind of clarity, and we are always trying to improve matters. In this case, however, there was a very specific, particular, and-in my experience-unique failure to translate a clear policy and ministerial instruction into effective operational action.
Q504 Alun Michael: Would you be surprised to know that from the outside it looks as if this is another example of linguistic muddle, rather than clarity?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Which aspect of it?
Alun Michael: All of it. It looks as if people inside the UK Border Agency were not communicating well with each other, and therefore a lot of different people had different ideas about what had been decided, and what were the appropriate procedures to follow.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Perfectly clearly, I would not disagree with you that there has been a failure to communicate within the agency the Minister’s clear policy intention and instruction.
Chair: Apart from the Minister, I think Mr Michael is referring to a wider failure to communicate.
Q505Alun Michael: I am referring to people within the UK Border Agency.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I am saying that in this instance we did fail as an organisation to translate those directions clearly into operational practice.
Q506 Alun Michael: Okay. The UK Border Agency is a part of the Home Office.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is.
Q507 Alun Michael: What are the responsibilities of the members of the strategic board?
Jonathan Sedgwick: The UKBA’s strategy board consists of our non-executive directors-that is the UKBA non-executive directors, not the Home Office non-executive directors-and the executive members of the board.
Q508 Alun Michael: That tells me the composition of the board. I asked what the responsibilities of the members are.
Jonathan Sedgwick: The oversight of the agency; the delivery of the operations; the financial propriety, etcetera; the risk management: all of those aspects as you would expect to be properly overseen by the board.
Q509 Alun Michael: So it would be a responsibility of each of the members of the board to contribute to ensuring that was undertaken?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is a collective responsibility. Obviously, individual members of the board have their own specific responsibilities, and it is the responsibility of individuals to raise issues with the board where there are concerns.
Q510 Alun Michael: You were previously the deputy and then the acting chief executive, and you have been a member of the board for some time. Is that right? How long was that?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It will be four years next year.
Q511 Alun Michael: Is it the responsibility of members of the board to question procedures and make sure that they fully understand exactly the way that policy is decided, either at the level of Ministers or at the level of the Home Office board, and translated into actions and procedures within the UK Border Agency?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is our job collectively to ensure that ministerial directions are clearly translated into operational practice. But, of course, there is a particular responsibility on the member of the board who is responsible for that area of business to ensure that if there are doubts, challenges, risks, issues around that area, it is brought to the board’s attention for discussion. There is no other way in which a board can operate other than by ensuring that individual members responsible open up issues in areas for discussion.
Q512 Alun Michael: Referring back to the evidence that we have now been given by Brodie Clark of his reference within a document given to that strategic board to what he understood to be normal practice and to be known by everybody, do you not find it surprising, firstly that there does not seem to have been knowledge within the strategic board level and secondly that neither you nor anybody else appears to have questioned this?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I say, the discussion on that occasion was about aviation security-
Q513 Alun Michael: I have taken that into account.
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I understand it, this was a throwaway reference at the end of a very detailed document. It was simply not the case that this issue had been raised with the board.
Q514 Alun Michael: If the board was briefed on that occasion, and there now seems to be some doubt as to whether you were actually present, you would have received the papers.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I was not. But I don’t hang very much on that. As I said, I am a member of the board.
Q515 Alun Michael: But you would have received the papers.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I would have received them, yes.
Q516 Alun Michael: And did the throwaway remark, as you describe it, which is obviously not the way that Brodie Clark described it, not alert you to the need to ask questions?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Well, as I say, the substance of the discussion on that day and the substance of the presentation was about the security of aircraft.
Alun Michael: No, I understand that
Jonathan Sedgwick It is a pretty meaty subject.
Q517 Alun Michael: Mr Sedgwick, very frequently as Members of Parliament we get documents in which issues are raised almost extraneously. The comments in this document, which presumably we will see at some point, did not raise any concerns in your mind?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Sorry, I really do not mean to be unhelpful, but the focus of the discussion was-
Q518 Alun Michael: No, I know about the focus of the discussion. I have taken that into account. When that discussion, which you were not present for, focused on the document, the fact that the issue was referred to in the document did not raise any concerns?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not believe it did on that occasion. It would have been perfectly open and proper for Mr Clark, particularly as these matters became more and more relevant, if he had been so clear about it. It was incumbent on him, I believe, to ensure that the board was briefed on it and was aware of it, and I do not believe he did that.
Q519 Michael Ellis: Mr Sedgwick, you have worked at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for 18 years, is it, in a number of different roles?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Something of that kind.
Q520 Michael Ellis: And you joined the Border Agency in 2008 as a deputy chief executive?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Yes.
Q521 Michael Ellis: I want to go back to something I think you said in answer to a question by one of my colleagues a few minutes ago. You described the episode with Mr Clark that the Committee has been questioning you on as, in your assessment, a unique failure to follow ministerial instruction.
Jonathan Sedgwick: In my direct personal experience.
Q522 Michael Ellis: In your direct personal experience, you consider this to have been a unique failure to follow what you consider to be clear ministerial instruction?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As a board member and as a colleague-that was the question that was being asked-yes.
Q523 Michael Ellis: Do you stand by that?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Yes.
Q524 Michael Ellis: With reference to the so-called HOWI-the Home Office Warnings Index-document that dates from 2007, the biometric fingerprints were not being taken in 2007 because the technology was not available.
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is correct.
Q525 Michael Ellis: In fact, it only took place in the early part of 2011.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was fully rolled out, I think, from March 2010.
Q526 Michael Ellis: So any so-called misunderstanding in relation to the Home Office Warnings Index document from 2007 could not relate, in your assessment, to the failure to comply with instructions on the taking of fingerprints? The HOWI document is silent on the subject of biometric fingerprints, is it not?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is, but it is extremely relevant that the HOWI document is very clear on the subject of EEA nationals.
Q527 Michael Ellis: That too.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It allows a scaling back of checks in relation to low-risk EEA nationals.
Q528 Michael Ellis: Yes, I was about to ask you about that. The Home Office Warnings Index document from 2007 refers specifically to EEA nationals.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It does.
Q529 Michael Ellis: But it is also silent on the issue of biometric fingerprints because they were not around in 2007.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is, but, of course, they are not taken on EEA nationals, either.
Q530 Michael Ellis: No, that is accepted. Is it, in your assessment, perfectly clear that Ministers did not want to continue the practice that was actually continuing?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is perfectly clear that Ministers wanted secure ID checks to be carried out on every occasion.
Q531 Michael Ellis: And that that was not happening?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was not clear to me at that stage. It was not clear to me until 2 November that that was not happening.
Q532 Michael Ellis: But it is clear to you now?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is clear to me now that that was not happening on every occasion.
Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Ellis.
Q533 Steve McCabe: Mr Sedgwick, I want to be absolutely clear about this strategy board meeting on 10 December. Is Mr Clark’s recollection wrong, and you most definitely were not present?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I have consulted a number of my records and the minutes of other meetings. I was not present at that meeting, no.
Q534 Steve McCabe: I just wanted to be clear, because I was not sure why you were saying it was not important.
Who had line management responsibility for the pilot?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is obviously Mr Clark’s area, and I am Mr Clark’s line manager.
Q535 Steve McCabe: So it was you. You were responsible for the pilot?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Well, I was the acting chief executive. I was responsible for everything, but Mr Clark was responsible for the-
Q536 Steve McCabe: We can say everything devolves to Mr Whiteman because he has ultimate responsibility, but in this case you actually had direct line management responsibility.
Jonathan Sedgwick: No, in this case the implementation of the pilot was Mr Clark’s responsibility.
Q537 Steve McCabe: And the person responsible for making sure he was doing his job was you. Is that right?
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is correct.
Q538 Steve McCabe: What questions did you ask? I notice John Vine’s letter refers to the non-uniform implementation of the pilot and the non-uniform relaxation of security checks. What questions did you ask about that? It is a funny pilot. I am intrigued, reading the Permanent Secretary’s letter about how it will be evaluated. It is funny pilot and it is going to be quite a challenge to evaluate it if you did not actually implement it in a uniform fashion. At what point did you become aware that the thing you were responsible for was being implemented in what looks like a rather ad hoc manner?
Jonathan Sedgwick: On 2 November, as I have said.
Q539 Steve McCabe: But surely before 2 November you would have had some responsibility for checking on Mr Clark’s work?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I had insisted on having very detailed weekly notes that set out exactly when we moved to the pilot measures, for how many hours and in what places; that set out what the results of that were, in terms of increased border security activity to recover more drugs, guns, etc.; and that set out that we should be very clear about our use of e-gates. The notes set out all those things.
Q540 Steve McCabe: Were those weekly notes and weekly records accurate, to the best of your knowledge?
Jonathan Sedgwick: They were, to the best of my knowledge. And they contained no reference-
Q541 Steve McCabe: So didn’t you notice that there was something different happening at Heathrow?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I said in response to an earlier question, I did look at those notes carefully and I specifically raised concerns about the fact that I believed that we were moving to the checks too routinely at Heathrow. So I was giving this very careful regular scrutiny and I raised that issue, and Brodie Clark took action about it. But there was no reference in any of the weekly notes to the suspension of secure ID.
Q542 Chair: Thank you. Before I bring in Mr Reckless, you said in answer to Mr McCabe that the implementation of the pilot was basically Brodie Clark’s call.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was his responsibility, yes.
Q543 Chair: Because we have just received an e-mail dated 1 February, a copy of which the Clerk will give you, which was sent on your behalf but signed by you. In that e-mail, you said, "Brodie, Now that the Minister has approved the submission on checks, I would like to reinforce my views on how we should implement the proposition." That is not saying, "By the way, this is what I think." As his boss-because you were the acting chief executive-you were making it very, very clear how you wanted to see it done. And you went on in paragraph 2 to say, "As you know, I am concerned to ensure that we do this in a disciplined way." He replied at 12.14 pm to your e-mail, and the reply is shown above your e-mail: "Jonathan, Absolutely fine…Important that we get some real early clarity on the assurance ‘bar’. So, Justin"-whoever that is-"I would appreciate your early view (by early next week) on the prerequisites and the reasoning. I think much better to get this clear and up front than try and retrofit something clumsily and later." [Interruption.] Maybe Mr Michael is right about linguistics. Here is an absolute request to you as the acting chief executive, following your very strong e-mail saying, "This is what we want to do", and the subject heading is: "Risk-based checks / quick wins submission". He is asking you, you are telling him and he is then asking you again, "What should I do? Clarify it now." What was your response?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I am giving him very clear instructions that I want this to be executed transparently and clearly, and reported fully to Ministers. And that is what happened in those regular weekly notes when the pilots began in July. That underlines, if you like, my point.
Q544 Chair: No, it does not, Mr Sedgwick, because you don’t refer to weekly notes at all in this e-mail. Would you like to look at it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: The weekly notes were a way of putting into effect-
Q545 Chair: But I am referring to this e-mail and your instruction.
Jonathan Sedgwick: This was some months earlier, Mr Vaz.
Chair: Of course.
Jonathan Sedgwick: And by the time that we got to the implementation of the pilot measures, I was very clear at that stage with him that I wanted a weekly note that clearly set out-
Chair: So you will be able to show the Committee appropriate e-mails in which you request that. It would be helpful to have a copy of the e-mail that you sent back to him when he said, "Let’s do it now and let’s not retrofit and be clumsy". If that information could be provided, that would be very helpful.
Q546 Steve McCabe: Who is Justin? Could we just clarify that?
Chair: Yes, who is Justin? And who is xxx, because she has appeared before in these e-mails?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Justin is Mr Holliday-Justin Holliday, who is the resources management director on the UKBA board.
Q547 Chair: And xxx?
Jonathan Sedgwick: xxx was Brodie Clark’s private secretary.
Chair: Right. Thank you.
Q548 Mark Reckless: Mr Sedgwick, you said just now that there was no reference in the meeting notes to the suspension of secure ID. Is that correct?
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is correct.
Q549 Mark Reckless: But Mr Clark said, and I thought that you had just confirmed, that at the December 2010 meeting there was a note saying that secure ID was being suspended.
Jonathan Sedgwick: There was a slide pack that Mr Clark had produced for the board, which had a slightly ambiguous reference on a bullet point at the end of a very long and detailed presentation in the slide pack.
Q550 Mark Reckless: You say it was a very long and detailed slide, and Mr Clark said it was the second point. Perhaps you could show us this nine-slide thing so we can clear the issue up.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I am very conscious of not trying the patience of the Committee, but the point is that this was a discussion about aviation security. This was very much a sub-point, and there are clear measures and rules that are very clearly understood by board members. If you want unambiguously to bring something to the board’s attention, there is a format for that purpose and it is very clear what you have to do. This was not done by Mr Clark on that occasion. This was background information for a discussion about aviation security.
Q551 Mark Reckless: Can you give us these notes on how the UKBA board should deal with these issues, and can you give us this nine-page presentation?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I think you have had discussion with Mr Whiteman and with the Home Secretary-
Q552 Chair: Not about this.
Jonathan Sedgwick: About the provision of notes in relation to this investigation. Clearly, I can feed that request back into that process, but I think you are aware of the Home Secretary’s views in relation to that.
Q553 Mark Reckless: The Committee will publish its report and the Home Office will publish its various internal reports, and the public can judge between them. If we do not have the information-if it is not supplied-people may infer, wrongly or rightly, that the evidence does not back up the position the Home Office gives.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I take that point.
Q554 Chair: Would you be kind enough to tell Mr Whiteman, if he is not watching these proceedings, that we would like the slides?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I will, of course.
Q555 Mark Reckless: As I understand it, the allegation against Brodie Clark is that he started suspending the secure ID in an unauthorised extension of the pilot. Is that correct?
Jonathan Sedgwick: My understanding-clearly, I have not talked to him about this-based on certainly having read the transcript of his evidence to the Committee is that he became aware that that was what was happening and that he endorsed that practice.
Q556 Mark Reckless: Were you aware of this, as acting chief executive?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No.
Q557 Mark Reckless: You said earlier to us that it was incumbent on Brodie Clark to secure the country’s borders. Wasn’t in incumbent on you, as the acting chief executive?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was incumbent on me to set a proper framework of controls in which he operated; I believe I did that. That was why I insisted on the weekly note, which made no reference to the suspension of secure ID. There is a limit to what one can do if you are not being given information about practice.
Q558 Mark Reckless: Mr Clark’s position, of course, is that information was given. By example, in passing, in December 2010 we have heard that, apparently, the previous Home Secretary was aware of this in March 2010.
Jonathan Sedgwick: But in that case I find it utterly astonishing, and frankly incomprehensible, that we could be having very detailed discussions, as we were, both with Ministers and bilaterally, about possibilities of various options for pilot measures. If Mr Clark was aware that something was routinely being done that the Home Secretary was expressing very serious doubts about, I find it astonishing that he never referred to that to me, and he did not.
Q559 Mark Reckless: But isn’t that just a conflation between the pilot and the standard operational procedure?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not believe so. If I were an operational manager responsible for an area of an operation, and I was having discussions with my boss or with my Minister about perhaps suspending some checks, and I knew that the Minister did not approve of them, and I knew that under a different heading that was already happening, I would certainly make it my business to tell them. I find it astonishing that he did not.
Q560 Mark Reckless: Finally, what was your involvement in the appointment process for the permanent chief executive position at UKBA?
Jonathan Sedgwick: None. None whatever.
Chair: Mr Clappison had a quick point on what was raised.
Q561 Mr Clappison: Yes, just to follow up. I want to be absolutely clear on pinning this down, the question of the fingerprints. This is one of the three things that happened that should not have happened, apparently. We are talking about the verification of the fingerprints of non-EEA nationals from countries that require a visa.
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is correct.
Q562 Mr Clappison: To check that they are the people who they say they are according to the visa. This was not part of the pilot, was it?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It was not. The Home Secretary could not have been clearer.
Q563 Mr Clappison: It was not part of the pilot. It had not been part of the HOWI business, because it was not possible at that stage.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Correct.
Q564 Mr Clappison: Was this mentioned or not at the meeting that Mr Clark has told us about, in December 2010? I appreciate that you might not have been there. It was not said-
Jonathan Sedgwick: I do not believe it was.
Q565 Chair: How could you know if you were not there?
Jonathan Sedgwick: The minutes would have made that clear-
Q566 Chair: So they are in the minutes-
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I understand it, the discussion was about aviation security.
Q567 Mr Clappison: I want to be clear about this, because it is not clear with the language that has been used so far. Mr Clark tells us in his letter, "Point 2 on slide 8 focused on suspension of secure ID and WI suspensions." But that that did not include the verification of fingerprints.
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is the same thing. Secure ID is the verification of fingerprints.
Q568 Mr Clappison: He has said that. So is it not true, then?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I understand it, it is not true that that matter was discussed by the board or indeed properly raised with the board.
Q569 Mr Clappison: No, I want to be clear about this. Was it mentioned to the board?
Chair: Was it in the slide, Mr Clappison means.
Mr Clappison: Was it mentioned to them? I am not asking whether it was discussed, but was it mentioned?
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is clear that it was in the slide. As I say, my understanding is that it was not discussed; the discussion was about aviation security.
Q570 Chair: I think we are just a little confused about how you all do your slide presentations. Clearly, it is all done in silence, and nobody says anything. Somebody comes along with some slides and shows them. Members of the board are not there, but they know what is being discussed.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Not at all-
Q571 Chair: But there are these slides, so it is quite clear what was-
Jonathan Sedgwick: Slides are often circulated by way of background and context-
Chair: Yes, we have had slides.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Key points are clearly set out, and there is discussion on the key points. It is a perfectly common practice-
Chair: You have not had a chance to read this letter, Mr Sedgwick. You will be able to look at this letter in detail, and if there is anything you want to come back to us on, please do so.
Q572 Mr Winnick: A letter from Brodie Clark that the Committee is publishing today, as the Chair said, makes the point, which arises to some extent from your concluding answers to my earlier questions, over the weekly reports that he made to the Home Secretary. Brodie Clark maintains that the Home Secretary had specifically asked for reports on the pilot, nothing else. You would challenge that, would you?
Jonathan Sedgwick: The reports were about the pilot, but I find it inconceivable that somebody could be providing reports about pilot measures, having asked to include something in those pilot measures that was specifically refused, and not refer to that or make it clear, if he was aware, that those measures were in fact being carried out, in those reports.
Q573 Mr Winnick: That is your view. Mr Brodie Clark has been in public service I would imagine for around the same number of years as yourself.
Jonathan Sedgwick: He is a little older than me, I think, Mr Winnick.
Q574 Mr Winnick: Yes. Would there be any reason for you to doubt his integrity?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As I say, there have been specific occasions when I have challenged him and pressed him on points. I do not think that it is sensible for me to be commenting on the character of someone who is engaged in legal proceedings against my department.
Q575 Mr Winnick: So you are not willing to answer the question?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I think you will understand, Mr Chairman, that legal proceedings are pending-
Q576 Chair: You think you might be a witness and you do not want to compromise yourself.
Jonathan Sedgwick: It is perfectly possible.
Chair: We understand that.
Q577 Mr Winnick: Just one other question. If Mr Clark has been involved in public service for so many years in a job, as far as one can tell, despite robust disagreements from time to time, that in no way involved disciplinary action-as you said yourself, Mr Sedgwick, and we agree that it would be like any other organisation-would there be any reason or any incentive for Mr Clark to relax immigration controls, other than in the way that he described and in the circumstances he described?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I think you will have to put that question to him.
Chair: Yes, I agree.
Q578 Alun Michael: A few moments ago, you gave a very robust and comprehensive list of reasons why you now say that you find it astonishing that Mr Brodie Clark did not draw the suspension of fingerprint verification specifically to your attention. Does not that list, and the fact that such an omission would be extraordinary, rather reinforce his evidence that everybody in the Borders Agency knew what was happening? He would hardly need to brief you about something that he believed that you and others at a senior level in the agency knew to be the case.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I don’t agree with that. If you are having intense discussions about whether or not you should do a particular thing, where you’ve got a very clear direction from the Home Secretary, and if you know that that thing is regularly being done, I find it astonishing and incomprehensible that you would not raise that. Otherwise, he would have presumably- I just find it-
Q579 Alun Michael: But Mr Sedgwick, I want to put this to you. Listening to your evidence, it is a conclusion that one is drawn towards. If the discussions were about the pilot and not about existing practice, surely it would not be his responsibility to brief you on all sorts of things that were not part of the pilot, which he understood you to know as being common practice. That is the key element.
Chair: Could we have a quick answer?
Jonathan Sedgwick: You can’t separate the pilot from existing practice. The pilot is grafted on to existing practice. If you have asked for us to do something under the heading of the pilot and you have been told no, and you are aware and you believe that it is being done under existing practice, it is completely incomprehensible that you don’t raise that.
Q580 Chair: It may well be, Mr Sedgwick, because this Committee is at a disadvantage-you have seen papers that we haven’t seen. If we were able to see those papers, we might come to the same conclusion. We simply don’t know.
We are coming to the end of this. Can I put to you the letter we will be publishing today from the independent chief inspector, a copy of which we will give you now? Basically, everyone knew that he was going to do these checks, because he had published the fact that he was going to Heathrow as part of his overall inspection plan. So Mr Clark and you, as the head of the agency, and everybody knew that John Vine was going to end up at Heathrow airport asking these questions. Nobody ran around and tried try to stop it happening. In the third paragraph of his first answer to us, he says: "In subsequent interviews and focus groups with staff and managers at all levels, I noted a degree of confusion amongst both immigration officers and more senior management about what was permitted under ‘Level 2’ measures, resulting in inconsistent implementation." It may well be that this wasn’t a deliberate attempt by individuals to thwart anybody, but at the end of the day, it may be confusion, as the chief inspector has said, and an inconsistent implementation. Could that be a possible solution to what has happened?
Jonathan Sedgwick: As Mr Whiteman would have made clear in what he said to the Committee, there is no suggestion that individual officers at the front line were not acting in good faith.
Q581 Chair: We are not talking about the front line here; we are talking about senior management.
Jonathan Sedgwick: What we are talking about here is a failure at a senior level to translate clear direction into operational policy. The Committee will form its judgment.
Q582 Chair: Mr Sedgwick, with respect, this is the man who is conducting the report. He has written to the Committee and he said that there seem to be measures that were inconsistent in implementation. The chief inspector, as we have asked him to do, publishes his inspection plan at the beginning of the year. Can you satisfy us that, as a result of what has happened, there is consistency now and there is clarity as of today?
Jonathan Sedgwick: There is absolute consistency and clarity about the checks that are conducted at the border, and a regular, I believe, six-hourly report that goes to the head of the border force to ensure exactly what is being done. That has happened almost immediately after these events were uncovered.
Q583 Chair: I have two final points. You were not consulted about the suspension-not your suspension, but that of Brodie Clark-but you were told he was being suspended.
Jonathan Sedgwick: Correct.
Q584 Chair: Was this suspension ratified by the board of the UKBA, consisting of yourself and David Wood?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No. That would not have been appropriate. The suspension is a matter between Mr Whiteman and Mr Clark.
Q585 Chair: Did you know-presumably, you have your office also in Marsham Street-about any of the package of arrangements? Did it come as a surprise to you when you heard the evidence of Dame Helen Ghosh to this Committee that in fact an agreement was made that Mr Clark could leave with his pension intact? Did you know that?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I was aware that there were discussions about-
Q586 Chair: Were you part of those discussions?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No.
Q587 Chair: But you were aware of them?
Jonathan Sedgwick: Mr Whiteman had obviously briefed the board in general terms about-
Q588 Chair: When?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I believe he briefed the board on Thursday 3 November that there was going to be an investigation.
Q589 Chair: He briefed the board before he made the decision to suspend or after?
Jonathan Sedgwick: No. He briefed the board that the chief inspector had raised these concerns and that, as a result of that, there would need to be an investigation.
Q590 Chair: What time was that briefing?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I really cannot remember-probably in the middle of the day.
Q591 Chair: In the middle of the day, he briefed the board?
Jonathan Sedgwick: He briefed the board, as you would expect. You would expect him to keep his senior colleagues apprised of the fact that the chief inspector had raised these concerns and that therefore an investigation was necessary. It was perfectly obvious that, during that investigation, Mr Clark could not continue in his post.
Q592 Chair: But he made the decision to suspend on the Friday morning, as we understand it.
Jonathan Sedgwick: I believe that that is when he made-
Q593 Chair: Yes. But you were aware of the pension arrangement-that he would get a package if he went?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I was aware that that was one of the issues being discussed, but the decision was made and communicated to Mr Clark-and, indeed, to the rest of us-on the Friday.
Q594 Chair: Finally, I have to ask you this question because in the past we have had the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office before us and the next day he took up another appointment that we did not know about. I understand that you are to be offered an ambassadorial position in the Foreign Office. Is this right?
Jonathan Sedgwick: That is the first that I have heard of it, Mr Vaz. I do not believe that that is true. I would be fascinated to know where-
Q595 Chair: We are all very pleased to hear that. How long will you remain in your post doing this job, which is obviously going to be extremely important? The issue of stability at the top of the UK Border Agency is important to this Committee. How long will you remain in post?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I hope to be in my post for some considerable time, for years possibly. Who knows? It is a fascinating, engrossing job. I am very much enjoying it. There is lots to do and, as you say, it is an extremely important and challenging role.
Q596 Chair: So we will see you again?
Jonathan Sedgwick: I hope so.
Chair: Excellent. Mr Sedgwick, thank you very much indeed. The session is concluded.