Rudd Case Shows Sedwill Wrong to Put Civil Servants Above Criticism

Amber Rudd levelled some remarkable accusations at her former civil servants in the Home Office this morning following the publication of a report into the events surrounding her resignation over the Windrush Scandal. Sir Alex Allan’s report, which was completed on May 23rd but not published until today after being leaked to The Times, pointed the finger of blame at civil servants for not providing Rudd with correct briefings which led her to misleading MPs about the existence of removals targets.

Rudd herself went further on Today, effectively accusing senior civil servants of politically-motivated leaks against her:

JW: You were leaked about at the time as well – do you have a sense that this was just incompetence or was there something political as well – was there an attempt to embarrass you?

AR: It certainly felt like the latter as well… yes, there were a series of leaks during the past year at quite a high level that were definitely intended to embarrass me.

The two civil servants singled out for criticism in Allan’s report, Director General for Immigration Hugh Ind and Permanent Secretary Patsy Wilkinson, have simply been moved to other high level jobs within the civil service. Ind is now Director General at the Cabinet Office while Wilkinson has moved into a national security role. Classic civil service promotion for failure.

The whole affair makes a mockery of Mark Sedwill’s protestations only two weeks ago that civil servants should not be subject to scrutiny from the press. It is a basic fact of politics that individual civil servants have agendas and leak to the press for political reasons. It is a basic fact of life that civil servants are not infallible and sometimes make mistakes when carrying out their jobs.

Yet the notion still persists in some quarters that civil servants should be immune to political criticism despite carrying out political attacks of their own, while politicians take the flak for officials’ mistakes even as the Whitehall gravy train ensures that the officials responsible still have a cushy job at the end of it all. Funny how many of those rushing to defend Robbins now want officials’ heads to roll over Rudd…

Saj Drops ‘Hostile Environment’ Rhetoric

First significant change in tone from the new Home Secretary…

Sajid Javid New Home Secretary

The first BAME Home Secretary, a reformer who can help the Tories recover from the Windrush scandal, a Remainer who has since been a strong proponent of leaving the customs union. Astute appointment by May…

James Brokenshire replaces Saj as Housing Secretary.

Rudd Audit Revealed She Missed Operational Targets

Worth noting that it isn’t the Guardian’s leaked memo from yesterday afternoon that brought down Amber Rudd. That referred only to the government’s overall ambition for increasing removal targets.

What Rudd missed was the fact that there were specific operational on the ground targets for deportations – and she knew nothing about them. Guido is told an audit ordered by Rudd over the weekend found numerous mentions of specific operational targets in documents she should have seen.

She missed them, knew they would be leaked, and, despite efforts from Number 10 to keep her in place for obvious reasons, decided she had to go…

Home Secretary Runners and Riders

  • Sajid Javid: Would be astute of May to make her only BAME Cabinet minister Home Secretary in response to the scandals of the last few weeks. Saj made a powerful intervention on Windrush in the Sunday Telegraph. Remainer so wouldn’t upset the Cabinet balance. You get the impression he’s one of the few who could sort the Home Office out.
  • Michael Gove: Has shaken up every department he’s run, and goodness knows the Home Office needs it. Fell out with May while she was there, though relations have thawed since. Being a Brexiter may hold him back. The early bookies’ favourite.
  • Jeremy Hunt: If May’s main concern is allaying Remainers’ fears about losing one of their main Cabinet supporters, she might replace Rudd with the Remain leadership favourite Hunt. He refused to budge from the Department of Health in January though.
  • Karen Bradley: A former junior minister in the Home Office under May, and one of her few allies. Would maintain the gender and Brexit balance of the Cabinet. She’d be a typical uninspiring May hire.
  • David Lidington: Another of May’s most trusted allies, moving Lidders in is the sort of thing she’d do. Though again would hardly be the jolt the Home Office needs.
  • James Brokenshire: Stood down in January after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he has since had successful surgery. Will inevitably return at some point as he is one of May’s key allies. This may have come too soon.
  • Penny Mordaunt: One of the more impressive female Cabinet members, and it would be good to see a proper Brexiter in the Home Office. Not like May to promote ambitious younger talent.
  • Brandon Lewis: Wasn’t Number 10’s first choice for party chairman back in January, and as former immigration minister it’s safe to say Lewis wouldn’t have forgotten about the migrant removal targets. May well be tainted by his time there.
  • Caroline Nokes: Rudd’s deputy in the Home Office. Maybe not.

Downing Street says the new Home Secretary will be announced on Monday…

Lewis: I Told Rudd About Migrant Removals “Ambition”

So Rudd knew of an “ambition” to increase migrant removals, but Brandon Lewis claims that is different to a “target”. You’d have thought she might have mentioned that to the Home Affairs select committee last week…

Rudd Farce: I Didn’t See It

Amber Rudd is not resigning tonight. Home Office statement:

“I will be making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday in response to legitimate questions that have arisen on targets and illegal migration.

I wasn’t aware of specific removal targets. I accept I should have been and I’m sorry that I wasn’t.

I didn’t see the leaked document, although it was copied to my office as many documents are.

As Home Secretary I will work to ensure that our immigration policy is fair and humane.”

May’s human shield remains in place, but what a farce…

Did Rudd Lie to Home Affairs Select Committee?

Amber Rudd told the Home Affairs select committee on Wednesday: “We don’t have targets for removals… if you’re asking me are there numbers of people we expect to be removed, that’s not how we operate.”

Today the Guardian reveals a memo sent to Rudd last year referred to the Home Office’s “target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18″ and that they were on a “path towards the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the home secretary earlier this year”.

Either she didn’t read the memo and doesn’t have a grip on her department, or she deliberately misled the committee…

Rudd Wrong About Migrant Removal Targets

Amber Rudd told the Home Affairs select committee yesterday: “We don’t have targets for removals… if you’re asking me are there numbers of people we expect to be removed, that’s not how we operate.”

Note the subtle change in line from the Home Office last night: It has never been policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet a target.

… Repeated by Matt Hancock on the Today programme this morning: “As far as I understand it, it has never been Home Office policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet the target.”

Because… this 2015 report sent to then Home Secretary Theresa May by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration shows: “For 2014/15 (10 full months) the Home Office set a target of 7,200 Voluntary Departures, an average of 120 per week, with the weekly target rising to 160 by the end of March 2015. For 2015/16, the annual target was raised to 12,000.”

You would have thought that, between them, the current and former Home Secretaries would know if the Home Office had migrant removal targets. Guess who is scheduled for today’s Press Gallery lunch…

Rudd v Nokes on Windrush Deportations

Amber Rudd tells the Commons “I do not have any evidence” that any Windrush immigrants have been deported. She blames “some media companies” for the reports.

Yet Caroline Nokes told Channel 4 earlier: “Potentially they have been [deported] and I’m conscious that it’s very much in error and that’s an error I want to put right.”

Rudd is rather pathetically blaming the media for accurately reporting Nokes’ words, and simultaneously dumping on Nokes from the despatch box. Nokes looking in trouble…

Rudd Attacks Home Office

“The Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and lost sight of the individual.” A dig at her predecessor. This is looking pretty disastrous for both the current and former Home Secs…

8 Home Office Fiascos Under Rudd

The Windrush fiasco has obviously been handled disastrously by the Home Office – immigration minister Caroline Nokes’ tone-deaf and unapologetic statement made a bad situation worse and she has now given what looks like a disastrous interview to Cathy Newman admitting some have been “deported in error”. For this to happen in the week of CHOGM is almost impressively incompetent. This is the latest in a series of Home Office blunders that have been deeply worrying Tory MPs.

In the last few weeks alone Amber Rudd was nowhere on the Salisbury attack, was forced to deny seeing a leaked Home Office report on soaring violent crime, then her violent crime launch largely bombed as a result. The Home Office capitulation on immigration during the transition period – in which the government conceded new EU migrants will have a right to permanent residency after Brexit – has caused major concerns among Leave MPs. Disquiet with the Home Office goes back to the student numbers mess, Rudd’s infamous 2016 conference speech in which she once again got the tone completely wrong, not to mention her plan to force companies to list foreign workers. Of even more concern is the Immigration Bill, on which no progress of any note has been made. Leavers fear it is being delayed so immigration can be used as a card to give away in the Brexit negotiations. Tory colleagues have noted at least eight serious errors by the Home Office under Rudd’s tenure.

It is messing up more than any other department at the moment, and has no victories of note under its belt. The Windrush clusterf**k needs to focus minds…

UPDATE: Nokes tells ITV that some Windrush immigrants have been deported in error, but she doesn’t know how many:

Act That Tried to Ban “Poppers” Bites

blunt-poppers

Crispin Blunt will be breathing a sigh of relief today, as figures released by the Home Office reveal the Psychoactive Substances Act stopped 332 “headshops” selling the contraband and shutdown 24 altogether, with 186 arrests. The act gained notoriety earlier this year when it was revealed that the government was to attempt a blanket ban on then “legal highs”, including popular “poppers”. This led to a memorable intervention from Crispin Blunt, saving “poppers” from the ban and a potential two years in prison simply for possession. He didn’t stop the government banning hundreds of other substances, though, flying in the face of increasingly pro-drug legislators in Ireland, Europe, and even the USA. If only they could take something to broaden their thinking…

How Tough Was May on Immigration?

may immigration

Theresa May has so far spent most of her campaign talking tough on immigration, including a threat to EU migrants currently living in the UK. Her team know this is her weak spot – in the next two months we will hear a lot about how May failed to deliver on immigration while in office. The above graph is a snapshot of all fourth quarter immigration estimates during her time as Home Secretary. An estimated 3,443,000 migrants entered the UK, with 1.2 million of those coming directly from EU states. Since 2012, EU immigration has increased every single year, with 2015 proving the highest year since records began in 2006. May’s campaign thinks a few “Go Home” vans are enough to secure her credentials as the strongest candidate on immigration… 

Unfortnuate Home Office Press Release

Capture

Excellent Home Office spelling mistake in this morning’s announcement about English language tests for migrants. Are they going to deport whoever wrote the press release?

Hat-tip Sophy Ridge

Vaz Spins Hacking Line in Yet Another Passport Scandal

Keith Vaz

The timing of Keith Vaz’s latest passport scandal is rather suspicious given the forthcoming Select Committee elections:

The former head of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, has been reported to the parliamentary standards commissioner after lobbying visa officials on behalf of a controversial cricketing tycoon.

The senior Labour MP wrote to Sarah Rapson, the director-general of UK visas and immigration, asking whether IPL cricket league founder Lalit Modi’s “travel document could be made available”, the Sunday Times revealed.

You would have thought alarm bells would ring for Vaz the second he put pen to paper regarding a passport, but the man is – at best – brazen.

The only thing more suspicious than the timing is the ‘I woz hacked’ line, just published on Vaz’s website:

Hacked!

I have recently become aware that my email address may have been hacked, and confidential emails may have been downloaded. The hacking of computers is a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

When communicating with me or my office, the only email addresses which should be used are keith.vaz.mp@parliament.uk or casework@live.co.uk

It’s far more likely he was done in by a rival candidate for Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, or a Home Office insider…

Home Office: Nerdy Kids are Dangerous

AWEstation

Is your child spending too much time with their computer games? Are they interested in computer programming and do they spend all their time chatting on Facebook? According to the Home Office, they might be at risk of being drawn into Serious and Organised Crime.

A Home Office guide released today aims to help the police, schools and voluntary groups identify individuals who might be at risk of being drawn into criminality.  Apparently it’s their “specialist skills” we need to worry about. The Home Office claim that young people who show signs of interest in computers are increasingly being targeted and recruited by criminal gangs.

Watch out: “early behaviours could include modifications to games or software and sharing online.”

They don’t all turn into Zuckerbergs…

Gobby ‘Turned Down By Home Office’ Before UKIP


It’s taken six months for UKIP to find a new Director of Communications and Paul Lambert has certainly been showing some ankle elsewhere. There was talk of him going to ITV, Sky or even to run Miliband’s operations. Now Guido can reveal Gobby applied to work for Theresa May’s Home Office before accepting the UKIP gig. Both the party and Mr Lambert declined the opportunity to comment. Not so gobby now…

Spooks Investigated Woolwich Terrorists SEVEN TimesIntelligence and Security Committee Report Key Findings+++”Gov counter-terrorism programmes are not working”+++

This is fresh from the Cabinet Office:

  • The two men appeared, between them, in seven different Agency investigations – for the most part as low-level Subjects of Interest. There were errors in these operations, where processes were not followed, decisions not recorded, or delays encountered.
  • However we do not consider that any of these errors, taken individually, were significant enough to have made a difference.
  • We have also considered whether, taken together, these errors may have affected the outcome. We have concluded that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were not in a position to prevent the murder of Fusilier Rigby.
  • Michael Adebolajo was a high priority for MI5 during two operations: they put significant effort into investigating him and employed a broad range of intrusive techniques. None of these revealed any evidence of attack planning.
  • By contrast, Michael Adebowale was never more than a low level SoI and the Agencies took appropriate action based on the rigorous threshold set down in law: they had not received any intelligence that Adebowale was planning an attack and, based on that evidence, more intrusive action would not have been justified.

To put these investigations into perspective, it should be borne in mind that at any one time MI5 is investigating several thousand individuals who are linked to Islamic extremist activities in the UK.

The one issue which we have learned of which, in our view, could have been decisive only came to light after the attack. This was an online exchange in December 2012 between Adebowale and an extremist overseas, in which Adebowale expressed his intent to murder a soldier in the most graphic and emotive manner. This was highly significant. Had MI5 had access to this exchange at the time, Adebowale would have become a top priority. There is then a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack.

We have examined whether the Agencies could have discovered this intelligence before the attack, had they had cause to do so: it is highly unlikely. What is clear is that the one party which could have made a difference was the company on whose system the exchange took place. However, this company does not regard themselves as under any obligation to ensure that they identify such threats, or to report them to the authorities. We find this unacceptable: however unintentionally, they are providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Our Report considers the wider relationship between law enforcement authorities and Communications Service Providers. None of the major US companies we approached proactively monitor and review suspicious content on their systems, largely relying on users to notify them of offensive or suspicious content. We also found that none of them regard themselves as compelled to comply with UK warrants obtained under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Therefore, even if MI5 had sought information – under a warrant – before the attack, the company might not have responded. They appear to accept no responsibility for the services they provide. This is of very serious concern: the capability of the Agencies to access the communications of their targets is essential to their ability to detect and prevent terrorist threats in the UK.

We note that the Government has already started to take action on these issues, through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 and the appointment of the Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing. However, the problem is acute: until it is resolved the British public are exposed to a higher level of threat.

Whilst this is the major issue in our Report, we have also identified a number of lessons which the Agencies must learn. These are listed in the Report in detail. However, I wish to draw attention to two of them today, as they are particularly relevant to the current threats faced by the UK:

  1. i) We have seen in recent months the numbers of young British men and women who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to engage in terrorism. The scale of the problem indicates that the Government‟s counter-terrorism programmes are not working. Successfully diverting individuals from the radicalisation path is essential, yet Prevent programmes have not been given sufficient priority. We strongly urge our colleagues on the Home Affairs or Communities Select Committees to consider this issue as a matter of urgency, given the threat our country currently faces.
  1. ii) In the same context, we have also considered SIS‟s work to disrupt the link between UK extremists and terrorist organisations overseas. In the case of Adebolajo – a British citizen arrested overseas and suspected of trying to join a terrorist organisation – SIS‟s response was inadequate. They considered deportation (or voluntary departure) to be a sufficient solution; they failed to investigate his allegations of mistreatment; and neither they nor MI5 accorded him sufficient priority upon his return to the UK. Given the current situation in Syria and Iraq, we have very significant concerns in this regard.”

 Worrying.

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