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Immigration Watchdog Sacked After Critical News Stories

Image source, PA Media

Image caption, David Neal “lost the confidence of the home secretary”

Home Secretary James Cleverly has sacked the government’s immigration watchdog after details of critical reports began appearing in newspapers.

The Home Office said David Neal had “breached the terms” of his role.

Mr Neal was quoted in The Daily Mail about security checks on private jets while sources close to him said he was responsible for details of a report, critical of the visa system for care workers, appearing in The Times.

Labour branded it “total Tory chaos”.

The comments made by Mr Neal in the Mail triggered an urgent question in Parliament on Tuesday, with immigration minister Tom Pursglove telling the Commons the Home Office “categorically” rejected claims that hundreds of high-risk flights had landed in the UK without security checks.

Mr Pursglove said UK Border Force performed checks on “100% of scheduled passengers arriving in the UK and risk-based intelligence-led checks on general aviation”.

He described it as “deeply disturbing that information which has no basis in fact was leaked by the independent chief inspector to a national newspaper before the Home Office had the chance to respond”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have terminated the appointment of David Neal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICBI), after he breached the terms of appointment and lost the confidence of the home secretary.

“The planned recruitment process for the next ICBI is in progress.”

Mr Neal, whose tenure was due to end on 21 March, told the PA news agency it was too soon to comment on the decision.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who tabled the question, said this was an example of “total Tory chaos on borders and immigration”.

“A series of Conservative home secretaries have sought to bury uncomfortable truths revealed by the chief inspector about our broken borders, and shockingly they are still sitting on 15 unpublished reports – stretching back to April last year,” she said.

Ms Cooper also called on Mr Cleverly to “publish those reports in full”.

The government website lists 14 ICIBI inspection reports that are awaiting publication. Ms Cooper’s office is understood to be including the inspector’s annual report in the total.

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael also called for the reports to be published “without delay”.

“This is a desperate move from a Conservative government terrified of proper scrutiny of their record of failure on borders and immigration,” he added.

Mr Neal is a former army officer who commanded a brigade of the Royal Military Police.

The report about the social care system – details of which appeared in the Times – is understood to reflect Mr Neal’s concern about the Home Office’s oversight of compliance with the immigration rules by social care employers.