COMMONS

UK Border Controls

08 December 2011

The Home Affairs Committee took evidence from Jonathan Sedgewick, International Group Director of the UK Border Agency, on Thursday 8 December. Several documents were referred to during the course of the meeting. They have been reported to the House for publication on the Committee’s website and are attached to this press notice

Committee Chair Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:

“The Committee’s inquiry into the relaxation of border controls continued with the evidence of Jonathan Sedgwick today. We believe that access to information is key to this inquiry and so in the interests of transparency, we have decided to publish the letters referred to in that evidence session. We hope the Home Secretary will now release the information we requested.”

Correspondence

Written evidence submitted by Mr Brodie Clark

Following my initial evidence to the Committee given orally on 15 November 2011 I have become aware of documents supportive of my explanation that the temporary suspension of secure ID checks was an operational response to front line issues. The response was used openly, known about by Board colleagues and not an unauthorised extension of the Home Secretary’s Pilot.

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. Each risk is examined by the Board throughout the year. 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. It was included under the heading of ‘contingencies’. I believe that inspection of the distribution of documents will confirm that all Board members at the time received the document and that an inspection of the minutes will confirm that the presentation took place with no dissent from colleagues regarding the operational approach or advice to me that ministers should be alerted.

The Committee may also wish to consider that when Mr Vine raised with me, after his visit to Heathrow, the issue of Secure ID suspension he did so in the context of frequency rather than the use of the practice itself. I did however make it clear to him that it was for exceptional use as a contingency measure. Further support, I believe, that this had been an accepted operational approach for some time and separate from the pilot.

I have also attached my letter to Graham Kyle following the Conversation with Mr Vine in support of my earlier oral evidence to the committee. I did speak to Graeme Kyle on the matter prior to him receiving the letter.

There is also further support for my position that this was an entirely separate operational ‘contingency’ arrangement, and that it was widely known about across the business, when the operational instructions regarding the pilot are considered along with the Board paper and the letter to Mr Kyle. The Committee are aware that the operational instruction openly refers to ‘further measures, beyond those listed above’ (those ‘listed above’ were the pilot). Those ‘further measures’ were distinct and separate to the pilot and the instruction was referring to existing operational contingencies which required a higher authority.

I remain concerned that the only independent inquiry into matters is that of the Home Affairs Select Committee. I took from some of the exchanges in evidence with others that the HASC shares some of my concern. The investigation by Mr Wood is unsafe as he is a participant. He was at the Board meeting referred to above and as the committee noted, Mr Vine is a witness.

It was asserted in evidence by Dame Helen Ghosh that my final meetings with Mr Rob Whiteman had a disciplinary context. They were certainly not. They were never described as such to me and my conduct at them was as a conscientious manager trying to explain the above, without the benefit of preparation or evidence to hand to support my explanations. It was a manager and ‘new boss’ conversation. Had they been correctly described to me as disciplinary meetings I would have been afforded the proper preparation and protections, but I was not.

The announcement of a view on my culpability and suspension in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary, in derogatory terms, together with Rob Whiteman telling me I should leave my employment, caused the end of my contract of employment and with it my access to evidence.

It was also asserted in evidence to the committee by Dame Helen Ghosh that my weekly reports should have had reference to the use of suspension of Secure ID Checks. And that further, those weekly reports negated the need for frequent briefing from me to the Home Secretary. There is no logic to that assertion. The weekly reports were in relation to the narrow subject of the pilot not long standing and well known operational practices. The Home Secretary had specifically asked for reports on the pilot, nothing else. It simply was not obvious to me therefore that I should have included such detail or that it would have been appropriate to do so.

Further support for this is that for the Industrial action of 30 June 2011 the Home Secretary did herself sign off the suspension of secure ID checks as a way of mitigating the disruption. On that occasion it was appropriate to seek permission as this was proactive planning for a known event rather than an operational response to an emergency.

I am very concerned that the Committee obtains a full picture to enable it to conclude its deliberations properly. I hope the above and attached are of assistance and I would be pleased to provide further evidence as the committee feels appropriate.

24 November 2011

Appendix

Memo from Brodie Clark to Graeme Kyle, 11 October 2011

I had a conversation with John Vine recently - part of which was an update on his current review of aspects of the work at Heathrow.

In passing, he mentioned the occasional and temporary cessation of fingerprint verification. I explained that this was rare - it did not surprise me that it had been invoked during the early September period, given the substantial influx of students. I confirmed that under circumstances where the port infrastructure was at risk of collapse or where there was an imminent likelihood of the police or the port operator requiring us to ‘open our gates’ on the basis of order and control problems or health and safety risks, then I had accepted the authority through my Duty Director to approve a temporary relaxation on one aspect of our checking process (in favour of retaining the rest of them).

This is the agreement we had reached and I know that you have taken it seriously and cautiously. Nevertheless, I would be grateful if you could follow up his observation and confirm that the particular measure is not being deployed more than is absolutely necessary for the safety and security of the port.

Correspondence from the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency to the Committee

Thank you for your letter of 23 November requesting information in regard to the Committee’s inquiry into relaxation of security checks by the UK Border Agency. You ask the following questions:

What, specifically, you discovered at Heathrow during your inspection of Terminal 3 which led you to discuss the relaxation of security checks with Rob Whiteman on 2 November?

My inspection at Heathrow formed part of my overall Inspection Plan for 2011/12 as published in March.

The methodology for the inspection included observation of the actions of immigration officers at the Primary Control Point (PCP) together with the examination of records relevant to the PCP. I noted there was inconsistency in the way immigration officers were handling the arrival of both EEA and non-EEA nationals with clear evidence that the fingerprints of non-EEA nationals were not being scanned in all cases.

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.

The evidence I received from staff included that the operation of ‘Level 2’ checks was routine between the hours of 6am-9am and again between 6pm-9pm. In this period immigration officers were instructed not to open the biometric chips on EEA passports or check the passports of children travelling in EEA family groups (or as part of a school party) against the Warnings Index unless the immigration officer perceived there to be a risk. I also established  that immigration officers were instructed not to ask questions of visa nationals whilst ‘Level 2’ was in operation unless they believed this to be a risk.

In addition, and in line with my observations of the PCP, staff indicated that they were instructed to suspend the use of Secure ID Fingerprint scanners on non-EEA nationals with different views as to when this was permitted to happen and under whose authority.

Where my initial findings raise particularly important issues for the safety of individuals or the security of the UK, I believe it is right to bring these to the attention of the Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency in advance of publication. Before doing so, I will verify the findings by checking appropriate records and interviews with staff and managers. The Committee may wish to be aware that I have done this on previous occasions including where my inspection of Manchester Airport indicated the potential for international passengers transferring between terminals to be able to walk out of the airport without passing through the PCP. I formed the view that the inconsistency in checks at Heathrow Terminal 3 was an issue that needed to be highlighted with the Chief Executive and therefore raised this with him at the meeting on 2 November 2011.

Whether you have seen anything similar during previous inspections of UK ports? If yes, how many times and for what duration were the relaxations that you saw implemented?

I have assessed Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Belfast airports and Plymouth and Holyhead seaports. I have also completed an inspection of Gatwick North Terminal and am assessing that evidence before publication in the New Year.

On no occasion at any of the above ports did I observe relaxation of the checks as identified at Heathrow Terminal 3.

Were you previously aware of the 2007 HOWI guidelines? On how many occasions of inspection of UK ports did you see situations which could have legitimately led to the implementation of these guidelines?

I was not aware of the HOWI guidelines when carrying out my inspections at the ports referred to above. In the circumstances I cannot speculate as to occasions when the application of the guidelines might have been legitimate.

1 December 2011

Correspondence submitted by Jonathan Sedgewick to the Committee

Thank you for your letter dated 23 November 2011. You asked me to inform the Committee of the answers to the following questions:

1. What specifically, you discussed with Rob Whiteman on 2 November?

As Rob Whiteman told the Committee on 15 November, I met him on the evening of 2 November to discuss comments made by John Vine regarding the level of security checks observed during a recent investigation at Heathrow. Given my previous role as Acting Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman asked me to clarify whether Ministers had ever given authority for secure ID to be suspended. I confirmed that Ministers had been very clear that, whilst they agreed to other aspects of the pilot, fingerprinting should always take place and that I had never authorised any such suspension.

2. Whether you were previously aware of the 'unauthorised' relaxation of security checks?

I was not previously aware of the 'unauthorised' relaxation of security checks for secure ID.

3. In February 2011, Brodie Clark made you aware of serious problems with the length of queues in Calais. What action did you advise him to take?

Mr Clark did make me aware of his concerns regarding the length of queues at Calais in February. We discussed using arrangements under existing criteria within the HOWI policy that permitted targeted checks for coaches carrying school groups of children under 16 years of age subject to certain criteria.

4. Did you ever meet with Brodie Clark to discuss the HOWI 2007 guidelines whilst you were Acting Chief Executive of the UKBA?

Whilst I did not meet with Mr Clark specifically to discuss the HOWI 2007 guidelines, I was aware of the existence of the policy and its potential use in specific circumstances where health and safety concerns were such that it would be necessary.

5. Did you ever make a Home Office official or a Minister aware of the problems that were taking place at Calais or any other UK port related to queues? If yes, on how many occasions did you inform them of these issues?

Concerns about queues were discussed with Ministers and on a number of occasions were referred to in written advice. This was always in the context of our focus on security and targeting of risk to ensure appropriate checks were maintained.

2 December 2011

Written evidence submitted by Mr Brodie Clark

Damian Green’s evidence of two weeks ago did not line up with what I had said on the previous week. I was concerned about that and I did want the Committee to get the clearest picture of the events and decision making processes in early 2010. Please find attached my recollection of events (in line with my evidence to the committee), and a copy of a note from Damian’s office to mine (Kate Evans), together with a note from Jonathan Sedgwick to me – all which seem to reflect a green light to for the changes to take place – without referral to the Home Secretary. At no time did either Pauline Neville-Jones or Damian Green ask or require that the matter be referred to the Home Secretary.

7 December 2011

Appendix

Memo from Damian Green’s private office to Brodie Clark’s private office, 31 January 2011

The Minister has seen the attached submission and is content for the changes to take place as long as the impact on UK citizens (especially children and family groups) is not greater than the impact on other travellers.

Appendix

Memo from Jonathan Sedgwick’s private office to Brodie Clark’s private office, 1 February 2011

Now that the Minister has approved the submission on checks, I would like to reinforce my views on how we should implement the proposition.

As you know, I am concerned to ensure that we do this in a disciplined way; that we continue to generate sufficient evidence to assess whether the judgements set out in the submission continue to be supported by the evidence, and that our staff do not over-interpret the change. I would, therefore, like to see and approve the way in which we are proposing to implement the change and how we are planning to communicate it to staff before the proposal is implemented. I would be grateful if Justin could be included in this process, as I see the Audit Committee playing a key role in maintaining an overview of our evidence gathering and judgements.

Appendix

Memo from Brodie Clark’s private office to Jonathan Sedgwick’s private office, 1 February 2011

Absolutely fine. There is an important opportunity here and-we all need to make sure it works. We will also be developing some phase 2 propositions for presenting back towards the summer. I am keen now to progress these quick wins options - only if I can do that will I be prepared to release the anticipated 300 staff on VERS. I would like to see some of it in place and piloted at Easter time. It will be Kevin and his team who will now lead on the delivery.

Important that we get some real early clarity on the assurance 'bar'. So, Justin 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.

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