The Guardian view on asylum failures: David Neal was sacked for telling the truth | Editorial

The chief inspector of borders and immigration angered ministers by exposing an ineffective, cruel system

“There is a role in public life, for sure, for people who speak truth to power,” said David Neal , the sacked UK borders inspector, at a hearing of the home affairs select committee last week. It is a role that Mr Neal, who once commanded the 1st Military Police Brigade, did his best to perform. Independent inspectorates play a vital role in upholding standards – particularly when their job is to inspect places otherwise hidden from view. Often, they reveal problems that make ministers uncomfortable. But the truths unearthed by Mr Neal about the borders and asylum system are ones they do not want even to hear.

Mr Neal found out that 10 private jets a week arrived in London City airport last year without occupants undergoing passport checks. He pointed out that criminal gangs and extremists could exploit such lax arrangements, and said there was a “massive public interest” in exposing this. But the day after his fears were revealed in the Daily Mail, Mr Neal was sacked on a video call. He was due to step down later this month in any case. According to Mr Neal, the renewal of his contract was approved by the Home Office but blocked by Downing Street. His final annual report criticised the Home Office’s “reluctance to engage” and his termination looks like an act of revenge by an administration furious that its failings have been exposed.

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