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Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

'Confusion over lines of accountability' at Border Agency


The former civil servant at the centre of the row with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over border controls will today give his version of events in public for the first time. Last week, Brodie Clark resigned as head of the UK Border Force - the enforcement branch of the UK Border Agency, claiming that Mrs May had made his position "untenable" by accusing him of relaxing passport checks without her authorisation.

Speaking on the programme the former Labour home secretary, Alan Johnson, said that even before the row with Mr Clark, Theresa May had not treated the relaxation of controls as seriously as she should have.

"You'd have had to have worked hard to convince me to do what Theresa May did in the summer, I have to say," he told Today presenter James Naughtie.

"If you did convince me to do it, I'd have been all over it like a rash. I wouldn't have just - I mean, according to Theresa, she didn't go anywhere near an airport or a port during that period. And I would have told the prime minister - this is a crucial political issue.

"And to introduce a measure like that - I'm not saying I wouldn't have been convinced of that, but it would have been bloody tough - and if I had been convinced I would have told the prime minister. So I'm afraid the home secretary, by her own admission, without anything else emerging, has behaved remarkably in these circumstances."

Conservative MP Mark Reckless, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which will be questioning Mr Brodie later this morning said it wanted to resolve the confusion over who was accountable for what at the Home Office.

"Until June, the home secretary was meeting on average at least monthly with Brodie Clark. But there was then a re-organisation in the Home Office - perfectly properly to put policy under control of ministers - and in the four months since then the home secretary only had one meeting with Brodie Clark.

"We would like to understand what the lines of accountability were. And I think it's the confusion about the accountability, who's responsible for what, what the policy is, how much discretion there is or isn't for the senior officials.

"We need to know what those things are, and we as MPs have to be able to call both ministers, and where appropriate when they're making decisions, the senior officials to account."

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