Home Secretary Theresa May came under renewed pressure to resign yesterday, after former head of the UK Border Force Brodie Clark rebutted her claim that he had relaxed immigration controls beyond what she had agreed to in a trial.
Following May’s accusations earlier this month, Clark resigned, saying his position had become ‘untenable’ and that he would lodge a claim against her at an Employment Tribunal for ‘constructive dismissal’.
Clark told the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday: ‘Thank you for the opportunity to come and lay forth my side of the story. 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.’
Clark continued: ‘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.’
Committee Chairman Keith Vaz MP responded: ‘Mr Clark, do you understand what you are saying to the committee? You are saying you had authority to do what you were doing and the Home Secretary knew what you were doing and that is completely in contradiction to what she has said to the House and to this committee.’
Clark replied: ‘I just do not understand why she has said that . . . I received instruction from the Home Secretary’s office that the trial was to be extended from September through to November.’
Clark’s union, the FDA, said yesterday: ‘Mr Clark’s evidence to the Home Affairs Committee confirms he has not acted improperly.
‘Departments would be well advised in future to investigate matters properly before deciding on the fate of individual civil servants.’
Clive Howard, partner at Russell Jones and Walker, the solicitors engaged by the FDA on Clark’s behalf, said: ‘This is one of the clearest constructive dismissals. The chief executive tells Mr Clark he has to go. Then the Home Secretary announces to the outside world that Mr Clark has to be punished. All before any disciplinary process had even started.
‘How could Mr Clark come to any view other than that his position was untenable? A reputation built up over 40 years was destroyed in two days.’
In the House of Commons, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘Why does the Home Secretary not feel that she should be coming to this House to answer questions about this borders fiasco. She has now refused to come to the House and she has refused to do interviews for nearly two weeks.
‘One email from 14th June refers to “the instruction not to see passengers arriving on private chartered flights for either immigrations or customs purposes we are not allowed to physically see the passengers”.
‘So will the Immigration Minister now agree the Home Secretary was wrong to say that no passengers have been as she put it “waived through on arrival”, will he now correct it?
‘There are 80-90,000 private flights a year according to Treasury figures, can he tell the House how many of those flights went through with no checks on arrival . . .
‘There are now far more questions than answers in this continuing borders fiasco. How on earth can we have any confidence in what the Home Secretary says about what is happening at our borders.’
She concluded: ‘The Home Secretary cannot keep running away. She must come to this House, herself, now and answer these vital questions about the Borders Agency this summer.’
However, Cooper did not call for May’s resignation.