Immigration minister to give evidence in UK borders row

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Immigration Minister Damian Green will give evidence later to MPs investigating the relaxation of controls at UK borders.

The Home Affairs Select Committee will also hear from Dame Helen Ghosh, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

It is looking into claims that former UK border force head Brodie Clark eased passport checks beyond changes agreed by the home secretary in a trial.

Mr Clark told the committee last week he had not ignored government policy.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said she authorised the relaxation of some checks on children from the European Economic Area (EEA), and some extra checks on EEA adults under “limited circumstances”, at peak times, as part of a pilot project.

But she claims Mr Clark allowed officials to go further, relaxing fingerprint checks on non-EEA nationals without ministerial approval.

Mr Clark was suspended following the allegations and later resigned, saying his position had been made untenable by Mrs May’s statements.

Guidelines
Last week, Mr Clark told the committee he believed the decision by staff at Heathrow to relax fingerprint checks at particularly busy times was a sensible one and he did not stop it.

He admitted he did not inform ministers about it, despite knowing the home secretary had rejected the possibility of relaxing those same checks as part of the pilot scheme.

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We are determined to find out the facts surrounding the events at the UK Border Agency”

Keith Vaz
Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee
He said he believed the Immigration Minister Damian Green and the former security minister, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, would have been told about “practices and activities” at the border during “critical” times.

Mr Clark said guidelines written in 2007 allowed for the relaxation of some checks at busy times.

However, the guidelines do not mention fingerprint checks and do not allow the foregoing of any checks on non-EEA nationals.

Mr Green has told the House of Commons he did not authorise any extension of the pilot project beyond the terms agreed by Mrs May.

The committee also heard last week from Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency – of which the border force is a part, whose decision it was to suspend Mr Clark.

Mr Whiteman said the possibility of Mr Clark retiring rather than facing an internal investigation had been raised.

But he said Permanent Secretary Dame Helen Ghosh had intervened and ruled that retirement with a pay-off would not be appropriate given there was a potential disciplinary matter involved.

Following last week’s session, the committee’s chairman, Keith Vaz, said it remained “concerned by the contradictory information that it has received so far”.

“The integrity of our borders is of the utmost importance. We are determined to find out the facts surrounding the events at the UK Border Agency this summer and have written to the home secretary with further questions.”

from BBC © 2011

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