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Published on November 8th, 2011 | by Ben Phillips
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Theresa May: under pressure. Photo credit: RCS Youth."][/caption] Theresa May, yesterday delivered a statement to the Commons on the scandal now enveloping the UK Border Agency (UKBA). An affair that started on Friday with the Home Affairs Committee reporting that UKBA had lost track of 124,000 asylum and immigration applications escalated with the suspension of Brodie Clark, the head of the UK Border Force, and the revelation in this morning's Telegraph that passport checks at the UK border had, over the summer, been scaled back beyond any degree sanctioned by ministers. Speaking on Radio 4's Today this morning, Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Service Union allowed May precious little wriggle room, insisting that border agency staff had understood the reduction in passport screening to have been a ministerial decision. Moreton nonetheless conceded that such a decision could have been taken by Clark or another comparable to him in seniority. This, for the moment, remains the government's line, with the Telegraph citing a government official claiming that 'the borders scandal was caused by officials exceeding their authority and acting without permission.' May's version of events, as per this evening's statement, is as follows: during this summer, she agreed to the UKBA piloting a risk-based passport screening scheme in which intelligence-led judgement calls saw some passport screening practices eased off and others intensified. Security officials, consulted, had declared themselves content with the scheme, she noted. It had only recently come to her attention that passport screening had been relaxed far beyond the terms of the pilot scheme, with large numbers of arrivals not crosschecked against the 'warnings index' (a list of people considered dangerous by the Home Office). Yet the response to her statement of Yvette Cooper, May's shadow, suggested that more details remain to emerge - note her reference to shredding machines in action and a ban on internal emails in the UKBA. Cooper's contention was simply that whatever the precise details, the Home Office had taken its eye off the ball and produced a security nightmare in so doing. If tonight's outlook doesn't seem good for Theresa May, it's simply because, on the strength of her statement, her responses to the Telegraph's ten questions about the affair would mostly have been passes. Moreover, this is - as David Blunkett pointed out after her statement - a veritable ministerial graveyard of a policy area.

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May faces questions over border security lapses

Theresa May: under pressure. Photo credit: RCS Youth.

Theresa May, yesterday delivered a statement to the Commons on the scandal now enveloping the UK Border Agency (UKBA). An affair that started on Friday with the Home Affairs Committee reporting that UKBA had lost track of 124,000 asylum and immigration applications escalated with the suspension of Brodie Clark, the head of the UK Border Force, and the revelation in this morning’s Telegraph that passport checks at the UK border had, over the summer, been scaled back beyond any degree sanctioned by ministers. Speaking on Radio 4′s Today this morning, Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Service Union allowed May precious little wriggle room, insisting that border agency staff had understood the reduction in passport screening to have been a ministerial decision. Moreton nonetheless conceded that such a decision could have been taken by Clark or another comparable to him in seniority. This, for the moment, remains the government’s line, with the Telegraph citing a government official claiming that ‘the borders scandal was caused by officials exceeding their authority and acting without permission.’

May’s version of events, as per this evening’s statement, is as follows: during this summer, she agreed to the UKBA piloting a risk-based passport screening scheme in which intelligence-led judgement calls saw some passport screening practices eased off and others intensified. Security officials, consulted, had declared themselves content with the scheme, she noted. It had only recently come to her attention that passport screening had been relaxed far beyond the terms of the pilot scheme, with large numbers of arrivals not crosschecked against the ‘warnings index’ (a list of people considered dangerous by the Home Office). Yet the response to her statement of Yvette Cooper, May’s shadow, suggested that more details remain to emerge – note her reference to shredding machines in action and a ban on internal emails in the UKBA. Cooper’s contention was simply that whatever the precise details, the Home Office had taken its eye off the ball and produced a security nightmare in so doing. If tonight’s outlook doesn’t seem good for Theresa May, it’s simply because, on the strength of her statement, her responses to the Telegraph’s ten questions about the affair would mostly have been passes. Moreover, this is – as David Blunkett pointed out after her statement – a veritable ministerial graveyard of a policy area.

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  • Bill Chapman

    Theresa May really has to go. She has lost the confidence of the British people.

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