Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
Mr John Vine CBE QPM
17 May 2011
Q75 Chair: We
now change topics for the purposes of a one-off review of the
work of the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA. Mr Vine,
thank you very much for coming today to give evidence. As you
know, we like to, as a Committee, see the Independent Chief Inspector
from time to time. Can I also place on record my thanks to you
and your staff for the work that you do? I think that when you
last appeared before us the Committee was perhaps concerned as
to what your role was, whether it would be independent enough,
whether you could combine the two previous roles that covered
your area, but I think I can say that I have been very impressed
with the work that you have done, both praising and criticising
the Home Officea very difficult feat sometimes and
I think that they have been very helpful. So thank you very much,
and thank you for keeping this Committee informed on a regular
basis as to what you do.
In a report last year, the Ombudsman alleged that
many of the problems of the UKBA were caused by the sudden change
of policy priorities. Do you think that the fact that policy decisions
are now going to be taken in the Home Office itself rather than
the UKBA is going to hinder the process of proper immigration
Mr Vine: Well,
thank you for your opening remarks, Chairman. The question you
pose is not something, of course, I have looked at as part of
my inspection programme. What I am concerned to look at is the
efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation in whatever format
it is configured by policymakers, and I believe at the moment
those changes haven't taken place; no new head of the organisation
has been appointed. So I think it would be difficult for me to
comment and perhaps wrong for me to speculate on whether that
split of function would have an impact on the day-to-day operation
of the agency.
Q76 Chair: The National
Audit Office has today published a report through the auspices
of the Committee of Public AccountsI don't know whether
you have seen this reportwhich estimates that 180,000 workers
who are staying in the UK without permission because their leave
has expired but they haven't renewed their right to be here.
Mr Vine: Yes.
Chair: You are aware of
that figure? Is it a surprise to you?
Mr Vine: No, I
am aware of the figure from the original report that the Committee
received. Of course, I contributed to that debate with my own
report, the Tier 2 report, where I found there was an equal concern
about the Border Agency's capability of identifying those people
who remained in the UK who should have had their leave curtailed.
At the time I did my report the Border Agency weren't able to
tell me how many people were in that category. They subsequently
told me there were 150, and there were 3,000
Q77 Chair: So those are
official figures, 150,000 people?
Mr Vine: No, 150.
Mr Vine: People,
and that was the figure I put in my report.
Chair: Right, okay. That
is a bit different from 181,000.
Mr Vine: It is.
Well, 181,000 of course covers I think the PAC report covered
the whole of the visa categories. I was looking specifically at
Tier 2, but the same issue applies in that the agency couldn't
tell me at the time of inspection how many people remained in
the UK under Tier 2 and who should have had their leave curtailed.
They then came up some months later with a figure of 150, plus
a figure of 3,000 notifications that had been made by sponsoring
employers to the organisation. I believe that figure has now gone
up to 4,000 notifications, and that was in their response to my
recommendations. I think it is unacceptable that the Border Agency
is not able to provide an accurate figure, to know the figure
and, indeed, have a systematic process of enforcing the curtailment
of leave under Tier 2.
Chair: Indeed. I think
you will find that the Committee will find that unsatisfactory
as well, and we will certainly pursue that ourselves.
Q78 Mr Clappison: Just
to take that slightly further, how do you explain, or how do they
explain, the difference between the 4,000 figure and the 150,
because in each case of the 4,000 there would be somebody who
was working here and they should have their leave curtailed?
Mr Vine: Yes. Under
the sponsorship system, the sponsor has a responsibility to notify
the Border Agency of a change in circumstances. That may range
from somebody coming to the end of their time under Tier 2 and
then they have 60 days before their leave needs to be curtailed,
but it could also mean that somebody has moved from that employer
to another employer. So they have to go through that figure to
discover out of that 4,000 figure how many then need to be curtailed,
so that is the difference. It is the same with the Tier 4 sponsorship
system. Where you have a system that relies on sponsorship, the
agency still has a responsibility, I think, to have processes
in place that can ensure that there is compliance with the system.
Q79 Mr Clappison: Yes,
and also with the sponsors. Can I move on to the sponsors, because
you also had things to say about enforcement in terms of inspection
of sponsor employers.
Mr Vine: Yes.
Mr Clappison: What would
be your view of what best practice would be and where improvements
can be made?
Mr Vine: I made
recommendations for the agency to go back to its register of sponsors
and check that it was accurate and up to date, because I discovered
in the inspection that at the time of the creation of Tier 2 at
least 6,000 sponsors had been placed on the system without having
a prelicensing visit. So, while all the mandatory checks, the
police checks, had been made in relation to sponsors, there is
a danger that there are sponsors on the system who haven't had
a prelicensing check, and so I think the Border Agency should
go back and relook at the sponsor database. That was the view
of many of the staff who I interviewed when I was conducting the
inspection. Furthermore, they should have a system in place to
ensure that they keep that up to date.
Q80 Mr Clappison: Do
you think the UKBA have the resources to do that?
Mr Vine: I am aware,
of course, that as in every other Government Department, resources
are going to be increasingly tight, but I think it places an obligation
on the Border Agency to work smarter, to take more of an intelligence-led
approach. I know it is a bit of jargon but I think it means that
they have to work smarter to achieve the same result with fewer
resources. So it almost places an obligation on them to do better.
Q81 Bridget Phillipson:
We frequently hear anecdotal evidence about the police picking
up individuals who are then identified as illegal immigrants,
or individuals or colleges or other public bodies making reports
to the UKBA about people they believe have overstayed and should
no longer be in the UK, but the problem with that appears to be
that that is not always followed up, or certainly they don't feel
that they have confidence that those cases are followed up. If
it is not the job for the UKBA, who should be doing it? If it
is their job, why is there such a problem with public confidence
around that area of enforcement?
Mr Vine: I reported
last week. I published two reports, one on the use of intelligence
by the Border Agency and a report, it was a short notice inspection
of an enforcement visit, and I think they go to the heart of your
question. Every year, over 100,000 pieces of information come
in to the Border Agency from the public, from the police and other
organisations. It averages out at about 2,000 a week. I found
the Border Agency had a process of analysing that information,
but couldn't tell me what the outcome of any of it was. So they
couldn't, for example, tell me as a result of the 100,000 pieces
of information they got last year how many immigration offences
had been detected, how many persons had been arrested, how many
individuals had been deported as a result. I said it was unacceptable
in the report; I stick by that comment. I think they need to be
far more outcome-focused in their analysis of information and
intelligence to ensure that the situation you describe improves
dramatically and that people can see as a result of assisting
the Border Agency in this way that something happens as a result:
either immigration offences are detected or there is an outcome.
Clearly there is joint work required between the
police and other agencies and the Border Agency. In my intelligence
report, I did find that the agency were improving the ways in
which they were working with other agencies, particularly with
organisations like the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the
police and others, but I did feel as though there was more intelligence
that could be gleaned through partnerships with colleges, information
perhaps that case workers who are interviewing applicants for
asylum might give them. There is a whole range of information
that I think could be tapped into.
Q82 Bridget Phillipson:
During the course of our inquiry into forced marriage we received
some evidence that in those cases where a victim of forced marriage
may make reports to the UKBA that they didn't want that person
brought into the country, it wasn't a marriage they wanted to
support, it wasn't always possible for them to receive updated
information from the UKBA. I appreciate that there are some difficulties
around this, but whether the UKBA could look to make sure that
where people have shared information, an action has been taken,
that that person, particularly in the rather delicate situation
of forced marriage, could receive information that could make
them a lot safer.
Just to give one further example, when I managed
a women's refuge we would make reports where we had it around
the immigration status of perpetrators of domestic violence. Certainly
I did that on a number of occasions where the woman was very clear
that the person had overstayed. It was impossible to ever receive
any update as to whether action had been taken, which would have
put the victim at a reduced risk of harm and would have given
real reassurance, and could have ultimately helped the police,
helped other agencies.
Mr Vine: Yes, I
entirely accept that, and I found that time and time again in
a number of reports, for example when I looked at the removal
of families who had no right to remain in the UK that was a feature,
the fact that the Border Agency need to tailor much more their
response to the needs of individual families. But you will be
pleased to know that in my inspection plan for this year, I am
proposing to look at sham marriages as a specific thematic inspection.
Q83 Chair: That is very
helpful, but the point that Bridget Phillipson makes is echoed
by the Committee. We are having this long running not dispute
but discussion with the UK Border Agency over data protection
issues. Exactly as she said, if somebody comes into this country
as the spouse of a British citizen and that person has come here
unlawfully and the British citizen complains to the UK Border
Agency about their spouse, they are not even kept informed as
to whether or not that person has been removed from the country.
They hide behind data protection issues. We had the Information
Commissioner here a few weeks ago, and he said that this should
be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Where is the data protection
issue where the person who is in this country is fraudulently
here? Do you understand the point?
Mr Vine: Yes, I
understand the point. It is not something I have looked at specifically,
but it is something
Q84 Chair: No, but could
we ask you to look at it, and join us in our crusade to try and
get to the bottom of this?
Mr Vine: I am always
willing, Chair, as you know, to listen to anybody who wants to
inform me about where I should prioritise my work, so yes, I will
certainly take that on board.
Chair: Because obviously
we are here to be helpful. If somebody is here unlawfully, they
have abused their wives or their spouses and they should not be
here, they may then get indefinite leave, because the system isn't
perfect, and then bring another spouse into the country. How can
that be helpful?
Mr Vine: Yes, I
Q85 Mark Reckless: It
may be that some of the problems that employers have found with
Tier 2 visas have been under the temporary cap, but I wonder if
there is a longer term issue, and perhaps as you have identified
in your report. Do you think the issue can be dealt with satisfactorily
by UKBA improving its guidance to employers?
Mr Vine: Yes, except
I would say that when I have spoken to staff in relation to the
Tier 2 inspection, invariably they say there is a tremendous amount
of guidance and it changes very regularly. One of the problems
that they feel that they have to cope with is an ever-changing
landscape in terms of the guidance. So, yes, I think the guidance
has improved and the agency has improved its guidance in a number
of areas as a result of the recommendations that I have made,
I am pleased to say. But I was talking to an entry clearance officer
only the other day and one of the issues that they raisedin
fact, they thrust into my hand the latest Tier 2 guidance that
had just come from the Border Agencyand the point that
they were making was, "We have just got used to the guidance.
Sometimes the new guidance doesn't indicate where it has changed
from the old guidance". So it is not received with tracked
changes, so it is difficult for the staff to know. So I think
it could help, but I think there is an issue as well of overburdening
staff with too many changes too frequently.
Q86 Mark Reckless: Could
we deal with the issue of this great complexity of all the guidance
and the difficulty that sponsor employers have with it simply
by auctioning the pool of Tier 2 visas so that firms can sort
of bid and we just have a market clearing price for them?
Mr Vine: I think
the conclusion I came to about the whole systemand it is
endorsed, I think, by the PAC reportis that essentially
it is a very fair and straightforward system if it is applied
consistently, but what I often find, and I think employers find
this as well, is that there is an inconsistency very often in
the way that it is managed. A good example of that was when I
looked at three locations where Tier 2 visas were issued. We looked
at Sheffield, which is the UK hub, Manila and Mumbai. There is
a tremendous disparity of practice between all three locations.
For example, in Sheffield, case workers deal with five cases a
day. In Manila, it is 35 to 40 a day. In Mumbai, it is between
45 and 55 a day. So there is an inconsistency in the approach
to looking at the applications and granting the visas. I think
there needs to be more consistency by the Border Agency across
the piece in the way that it manages the process. That was a recommendation
I made, and the Border Agency have accepted all the recommendations,
so I think they acknowledge that that is an issue.
Q87 Chair: We understand
that some of this work was outsourced and people came in to help
with the case work, is that right, the legacy cases in particular?
Mr Vine: Yes, I
think that is the case.
Q88 Mr Winnick: The latest
quarterly figures, Mr Vine, show that on asylumand I emphasise
asylum casesthe situation is that some 27 cases, appeals,
were allowed, 67 dismissed and six withdrawn. Do you think that
is the right balance considering that over a quarter were allowed?
In other words, the agency lost the case.
Mr Vine: I am concerned
generally about the Border Agency's approach to appeals, and this
is something that concerns me across the whole spectrum of work
I look at, not just asylum. For example, the successful appeal
rate at the moment, I think, in relation to visas is 47%, which
is extremely high.
Mr Winnick: Indeed. Much
higher clearly than asylum, which I have quoted as 27%.
Mr Vine: That is
right. In Tier 2, just going back to the Tier 2 report, I think
it was 36%. So it varies enormously and there seems to be a varying
sort of approach, depending on which parts of the Border Agency
I inspect, as to whether that is something that should be looked
into. For example, it was a very positive aspect of the Tier 2
report that they were very concerned to look at their appeal rate
and learn from it, although what they concluded from that was
that they didn't have enough presenting officers in court and
that is why they were losing the appeals, at least in part.
In relation to visas, when I had a look, for example,
at the visa regime in Islamabad and Abu Dhabi, I was concerned
to find that there seemed to be no willingness at all to look
at the high appeal rate and the reasons why the Border Agency
were losing so many cases. In fact, at the time I was there they
were losing 52% of all their decisions. As a former chief constable,
if I was losing that sort of number of cases at court I think
I would be having quite a few senior officers around the table
and asking a few difficult questions about whether we knew how
to put evidence together in a court case. So I think I would like
to see much more activity and urgency on the part of the Border
Agency generally in attempting to get the decision right first
time and reducing the number of appeals, perhaps by setting a
target for the reduction of appeals from where it is across a
range of categories at the moment.
Q89 Mr Winnick: The argument
of the Home Office, the presenting officers, or at least the spin
they put on this, is that the situation has changed and while
the adjudicator, according to the immigration rules, should consider
the case as it was when the application was made and refused,
he or shethe adjudicator, or rather the immigration judge
nowadaystakes into consideration as well the present circumstances.
Do you think there is any substance to that argument?
Mr Vine: Yes, there
is some substance to that, but I don't think it accounts for the
high appeal rate generally. I think there is some substance to
that, but I am publishing a report on Friday in relation to a
presenting officers unit in Scotland, which will give more information.
Clearly, I can't talk about that at the moment. I think part of
the problem as well is that when the new asylum model was brought
in to create a new approach to deciding asylum cases, what was
brought in with it was a concept of there being no presenting
officers but the case workers going to the tribunal and presenting
their own cases. I think what the Border Agency has found is that
in practical terms this has not always worked, because it would
mean that many of the case workers would be leaving to travel
some distance in some cases to the court, and obviously not being
there to carry on and deal with their case workload. So what we
have is a mixed approach at the moment. Some parts of the UKBA
have a presenting officers unit still; other parts of the Border
Agency use case workers who go along in accordance with the theory
of the new asylum model.
Q90 Mr Winnick: Mr Vine,
there is speculation aroundor perhaps more than a speculation,
though no official statement has been madethat the Government
is considering abolishing the right of appeal for visitors, which
of course at the moment is restricted, and has been since it was
reintroduced, to family visitors. In that case, if it did come
about, the Government or the appropriate agency, the UKBA, would
be judge and jury in their own case, wouldn't they?
Mr Vine: I go back
to the point I made, that when I have examined these cases, I
would like to see a much better appeal rate than currently exists,
and I think the Border Agency should concentrate on getting the
decision right much more frequently than it does.
Q91 Mr Winnick: But if
there is no appeal, there will be no incentive to do that.
Mr Vine: Well,
yes, if that were the case, but as far as I am aware, that is
not policy, that has been a leaked report to the newspaper and
it is not something, I don't think, I can comment on at the present
Mr Winnick: It wouldn't
have been in the newspapers unless it had been well leaked but,
as you say, that is not your responsibility at the moment.
Q92 Bridget Phillipson:
Just to return to the issue of asylum cases, obviously there is
an important balance to strike between the time taken to reach
a decision and the quality of that decision, and my concern is
that sometimes speed is given precedence over the quality, which
then stores up problems for the UKBA in the long run, because
you end up in a long-running system of an appeal and a tribunal,
which ultimately costs more money. Is pressure being put too much
on staff to reach decisions quickly and therefore the decisions
are not of sufficient quality, and how far are we being dogged
by the mistakes of the past, where decisions took a long time
but we shouldn't necessarily allow that to cloud what is happening
Mr Vine: I absolutely
agree with the premise that you pose. I think there should be
far more emphasis on quality rather than trying to get through
a particular figure. What I have found in my inspection is that
very often there doesn't seem to be any rationale for the performance
targets that I find are in place. So when I ask staff if they
have had any input, for example, into them, if anybody has asked
them whether they think they can deliver what is being asked of
them, invariably they say no. I have commented in many reports
on this. For example, when I went to Islamabad and looked at visas
there, I think the target on the day I was there was 60 cases
per entry clearance officer. When I had a focus group with staff,
they said, "Well, unless you are particularly experienced,
it is unlikely you can get through 60 cases a day, and if you
come across a difficult case then obviously a complex matter takes
longer to consider". I think that worked out at about four
minutes per case. So I agree with you. I think that sometimes
somewhat arbitrary performance targets have been selected without
a clear rationale for them being selected, and that does mitigate
against quality of decision-making, which I think comes round
in terms of extra cost incurred, not just through appeals but
dealing with administrative reviews and also dealing with reapplications,
because some clients won't trust the administrative review process
and they will just advise applicants to reapply, pay another fee.
That adds to the workload that the UK Border Agency had in the
Q93 Mr Clappison: Just
very briefly coming back to the point you made a few moments ago
about having, I think you said, a target for the number of appeals
that arose in asylum cases. I understand the point that you have
been making about this, about quality decision-making, but the
decision-maker can't control whether or not the person decides
to make an appeal or not. Surely there must be a danger if you
put that target on them of encouraging the decision-taker to grant
positive outcomes in order to reduce the number of appeals.
Mr Vine: Yes, that
is a very good point. What I would say is that I would like to
see more effort by the Border Agency in addressing the issue.
It is really not for me to come up with, I suppose, solutions
for them; they can come up with their own solutions. But my recommendations
have been aroundwhat has concerned me is that sometimes
the Border Agency has not shown any willingness to look at the
reasons why they are losing so many, and I think that is
Mr Clappison: Yes. A presenting
officer's case, if a presenting officer doesn't turn up, I mean
that probably tells the tribunal all they need to know.
Mr Vine: That is
true, that is true.
Q94 Chair: We have drawn
attention to the fact that I was at York House a few weeks ago
and there is a whole court that consists of just applicants. There
are no presentation officers there, which was bizarre.
Mr Vine: I will
be able to comment more fully after Friday, Chairman.
Q95 Dr Huppert: Can I
first pick up David Winnick's very important point about economic
and family migration appeals? The figures we have been given are
that appeals were successful in 54% of occasions, those figures
from UKBA, and I am sure we would all agree that if you are losing
most of your appeals there is something wrong. Would you agree
with me that as long as there is such a high error rate being
made by UKBA it shows that it is essential to have that appeal
route as an exit?
Mr Vine: The point
that was being made by Mr Winnick was, of course, immigration
judges can decide on the same facts to come to a different conclusion
from an entry clearance officer or from a case worker. So I don't
think that figure of itself indicates that the Border Agency is
making so many errors. They obviously have a very high appeal
rate and that should concern them. There are other factors in
place. My concern is that they should reduce that and provide
a better quality of service to the customer. At the end of the
day they have a customer strategy but I think I would be fair
in saying that, in my view, based on the evidence I have looked
at so far, they have some way to go to making that more of an
Q96 Dr Huppert: Indeed,
and I think your evidence has been quite devastating. There is
a lot of work for whoever takes over running UKBA to do. I think
in Canada, if I am correct, the appeal rate is something like
0.5%, more like 1%, so it shows what can be done.
Just because we are running against time, can I quickly
move on to the backlog of asylum cases, the legacy programme?
Are you comfortable that that will clear soon? Do you think it
has been a good use of public money to clear it and are we at
risk of building up another backlog to clear in the near future?
Mr Vine: When I
looked at this in 2009 and published my report in 2010, I was
of the view that I was really concerned about a new backlog emerging
under the new asylum model. At the time, I found that there were
30,000 cases in a new queue and out of service standard teams
were being put together hastily to try and deal with them, and
I think that is where the emphasis must lie really now. When I
looked at the backlog of cases, we looked at the criteria that
were being used and we found the Border Agency were applying the
criteria, bearing in mind that I did put in the report that Ministers
had changed the criteria to allow the grant of asylum to those
who were in the country for between six and eight years as opposed
to eight and 12 years. So the criteria had been changed but the
Border Agency, to all intents and purposes, were applying those
criteria in accordance with policy. The concern I also had was
that there should be something put in place at the end of this
process, which I believe is being put in place by the Border Agency,
to capture the cases that have not yet been resolved.
One thing that did concern me in that report, and
it is an increasing concern of mine, is that in some cases it
was difficult to see what rationale the Border Agency had used
to grant asylum. In some cases, if you looked at the free text
that was on the file it was difficult there to see why asylum
had been granted. I remember publishing in my report a particular
case study where an individual had applied fraudulently for asylum
under a different name. He had been refused under his original
name, applied fraudulently, asylum was granted but it was not
possible from the casework to discover the rationale behind why
asylum had been granted. That is an increasing problem I find
in looking at grants of visas and other issues. The audit trail
needs to be there in order to safeguard the agency and to safeguard
Q97 Dr Huppert: Is this
a product of trying to mop up the mess that was left by the legacy
programme getting so big? Can I also pin you down on your concerns
about the current growth in the backlog? How big do you think
it is now and are we likely to see similarly poor decision-making
with this new backlog?
Mr Vine: I noted
from the last report that the Chief Executive had given this Committee
that that backlog was not in that update. You would have to ask
him what the state of that is now. I couldn't really comment on
the first part of your question about whether this was a mess
going back. This post wasn't created then and I don't have any
information from inspection in relation to that.
Q98 Mr Clappison: Can
I very briefly comment on that point you are making about the
fraud that you uncovered? Can you just tell us which programme
did you find that fraud in? You told us about a case where an
asylum seeker hadnot an asylum seeker, somebody had applied
fraudulently for asylum under a false name and had been granted
Mr Vine: That was
case study 4 in the report I published in 2009 on asylum, and
what I was pointing out was I had concerns that it was difficult
for an inspector to look at particular cases and discover the
rationale why a decision had been made in that particular case.
I think it is really important from the agency's point of view
that they have systems and procedures that ensure that somebody
inquiring into a case can easily see why a decision was made.
Q99 Mr Clappison: Has
that improved since 2009?
Mr Vine: I would
say not on the basis of my inspection of visas and other parts
of the agency. It is becoming an increasing concern of mine that
in, for example looking at visas that are granted, for example
in my report on Oman that I published two or three weeks ago,
of the 50 cases I looked at where there was a grant of visa, I
felt that in 17 of those cases the decision was made not in accordance
with the evidence.
Q100 Mr Clappison: You
are only looking at a sample of these cases, so could it be possible
that this is much more widespread than just these few cases?
Mr Vine: When I
conduct, for example, a visa inspection, we look at a sample of
350 to 400 cases out of whatever the post manages. In Oman, it
is around 25,000 cases a year so I wouldn't wish to speculate;
I simply would like to say that is what I had in the report.
Q101 Chair: In effect,
an amnesty has been granted to the people on the legacy programme,
because only 9% of the people have been removed.
Mr Vine: Is that
a question then, Chair?
Chair: I am asking you,
Mr Vine: I know
it is only 9%. I know that the figures show that only 9% have
been removed from the backlog.
Chair: Exactly. There
has been a huge amount of public expenditure, the policy changed,
and only 9% were removed of the 400,000 cases.
Mr Vine: As I said,
when I looked specifically at the issue, I found what I have already
described to you.
Q102 Alun Michael: I
think it is just a little bit difficult to get at the process
and improvement issues that you are talking about, the sort of
experience that many of us have of dealing with individual cases
and the feeling sometimes that there are unfairnesses that are
difficult for those working within the system to cope with. Standing
back a little bit from the examination of specific arrangements,
I wonder if you have any wider suggestions of how the whole system
could be improved, given the experience you have had now of looking
at a whole series of individual circumstances?
Mr Vine: That is
a very good question. I have made over 160 recommendations to
date, I think, and since I last appeared before this Committee
I have published 21 reports. I said this last week when I published
one of my reports, when I was a chief constable it was very easy
for people to understand what I did. The Border Agency covers
such a breadth and depth of work that is not encountered by many
ordinary people that I think it is very difficult for them to
convey the extent of the responsibility that they have. I also
think that they have had an awful lot of change and they are still
a very young organisation. So for example, the merger of the Immigration
and Customs cultures is still something that they wrestle with
in terms of joint working at ports and so on. So it is an organisation
that has undergone tremendous change, probably too much change,
I might say, at the moment. They are probably wrestling with an
awful lot of change that any other organisation perhaps might
not be embracing all at once.
Q103 Chair: Are you planning
to do any work on diplomatic passports and the extension of the
rights of the visas of diplomats coming here? Has that ever come
to your attention?
Mr Vine: That is
not an issue that has come to my attention, Chair, no.
Q104 Chair: I may send
you details on that. Finally, if you were giving marks out of
10, John Reid famously said that the Home Office was not fit for
purpose. You were then appointed to do a proper inspection.
Mr Winnick: Arising
from that remark?
would you rate the Home Office now, marks out 10?
Mr Vine: I don't
think it would be very helpful if I gave a mark. I would give
different marks out of 10 depending on the scrutiny that I had
under way at a particular time.
Q105 Chair: But
do you think that they are fit for purpose?
Mr Vine: I think
it is a variable picture. I can see improvements in many aspects
of the work, for example handling of professional standards, nationality
and parts of the Tier 2 report were very good for them as well.
So I think it is a very variable picture. I think slow improvements.
Chair: We all look forward
to the appointment of the next head of the UK Border Agency. You
are not applying?
Mr Vine: I have
not applied, no, Chair.
Chair: Mr Vine, thank
you very much for coming today to give evidence. Thank you for
all your good work.