UK ex-border chief hits back in passport row

15th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The former head of Britain's border force accused the interior minister Tuesday of destroying his reputation and denied being a "rogue officer" who relaxed passport checks without ministerial say-so.

Brodie Clark stood down as head of the force last week after it was revealed that passport checks aimed at stopping terror suspects and illegal immigrants from entering the country were relaxed in recent months.

Clark, 60, has insisted that the changes were introduced as part of a government pilot scheme and that checks were eased with ministerial approval, sparking a vitriolic row with Home Secretary Theresa May.

The spat escalated Tuesday as Clark launched a scathing attack on the minister during a tense appearance before a parliamentary committee.

"Over 40 years I have built up a reputation and over two days that reputation has been destroyed and I believe that has been largely because of the contribution made by the home secretary," he said.

"I am no rogue officer. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Clark told lawmakers on the home affairs committee that he had "introduced no additions to the home secretary's trial, neither did I extend it or alter it in any way whatsoever."

But he admitted using guidance designed for health and safety emergencies to suspend fingerprint checks at Britain's ports, a move which had no ministerial authorisation.

Clark, who was first suspended before stepping down, has launched a legal case against the government.

Conservative minister May has faced down calls for her resignation but remains under huge pressure to explain the changes, which allowed thousands of foreigners into Britain with reduced checks.

A stream of revelations is fuelling the scandal.

On Tuesday, the government admitted that passengers on private flights were waved through with no checks, although ministers insisted high-risk flights were still subject to controls.

© 2011 AFP

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