Home Secretary Priti Patel has refused to meet the immigration inspector since he took up the job over a year ago.
David Neal told the Home Affairs committee of MPs this afternoon he was “disappointed that I’ve not spoken to the Home Secretary and frustrated because I think I have a lot of things to offer from the position that I hold”. Mr Neal, a former head of the military police, was appointed Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in March 2021.
“I’ve asked to speak to her on a number of occasions”, Mr Neal complained. “Prearranged meetings have been cancelled on, I think, five or six occasions now… clearly there’s a reason why I’ve not got that access”.
During a preappointment hearing before the same committee, he had predicted “I would expect to have a regular cadence of meetings with Ministers, including the Home Secretary; I would be surprised if I didn’t. Certainly, in the Ministry of Defence, I never had any difficulty at all with accessing senior officials or getting into Ministers’ offices”.
Mr Neal’s predecessor, David Bolt, didn’t get a single meeting with the Home Secretary either during his last year on the job. But he had two audiences in 2019/20 and one in 2018/19, annual reports show.
The inspector says that he does have decent access to junior ministers, including Kevin Foster and Tom Pursglove, as well as senior officials.
Asked how he has found the Home Office so far, Mr Neal told MPs that “there always seems to be a crisis going on”, but officials have been “open” and “candid”.