Top of the Home Office clearly confused

15 November 2011
(For immediate release)

After today's Home Affairs Select Committee, Paul Whiteman, the FDA national officer assisting ex-head of the UK Border Force Brodie Clark, said:

"It is clear from Brodie Clark's evidence that there is complete confusion at the top of UKBA. Chief executive Rob Whiteman was unable to make the distinction between a specific pilot authorised by Ministers designed to introduce more efficient working on a day-to-day basis, and long-standing operational policies and procedures covering health and safety emergencies. Brodie Clark was the only one to speak with any conviction and clarity today.

"Mr Clark, in candid evidence to the Select Committee, did not shy away from his responsibilities. He clearly described what was happening on the ground and explained that adjustments to checking entrants into the UK were made under existing operational policies and procedures covering health and safety emergencies. Those operational procedures were not hidden from anyone. Indeed, John Vine, the independent inspector, raised with Mr Clark not the use of the procedures themselves, but rather their frequency of use.

"Mr Clarke is surprised that Ministers claim that they were not aware of the health and safety policies, given that they should have been thoroughly briefed on taking up their ministerial posts and have heard from staff on the ground during their regular visits to ports.

"Rob Whiteman's decision to suspend Clark was based on flimsy grounds that disregarded Clark's written explanation and was evidence more of panic by a chief executive with only a few weeks in post. Rob Whiteman confirmed to the Select Committee today that he did not put any allegation of wrongdoing directly to Mr Clarke but proceeded to suspend in any event. The Home Secretary then felt able to announce his suspension and rubbish his reputation in the House of Commons before Mr Clark had any opportunity to answer. Such a cavalier act would be unacceptable in any circumstances and particularly when considering Mr Clark's distinguished career."

Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union and professional body representing 18,000 of the UK's senior civil and public servants. Our members include policy advisors, senior managers, tax inspectors, economists, statisticians, accountants, special advisers, government lawyers, diplomats, crown prosecutors and NHS managers.

2. Members in HMRC are represented by the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC), a section of the FDA.

3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".

4. For further information contact:

  • Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555.
  • Paul Whiteman, FDA national officer, tel: 020 7401 5555.
  • Oliver Rowe, Communications Manager, tel: 020 7401 5588.