Former immigration watchdog to stand in after three-month vacancy

Ex-independent chief inspector of borders and immigration David Bolt will temporarily fill the role David Neal was sacked from in February
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The Home Office has appointed a former immigration watchdog to fill his old post temporarily, three months after the last one was sacked.

David Bolt, who was independent chief inspector of borders and immigration from 2015 to 2021, will be interim ICIBI from 3 June until a permanent replacement is found, the department said in a statement.

The role became vacant in February when the home secretary sacked Bolt’s successor, David Neal, over comments he made in the press about border security.

Neal warned in an interview with the Daily Mail that hundreds of high-risk flights were landing in the UK without being checked by border security. 

The Home Office launched an investigation into what it described as the “leak”, accusing Neal of having put “misleading data into the public domain”.

He was sacked two days later because he "breached the terms of appointment and lost the confidence of the home secretary", a Home Office spokesperson said at the time.

In response, Neal said he had released the information because there was a “strong public interest” in doing so and because the Home Office was not publishing his reports.

When Neal was sacked, the Home Office said planned recruitment for the next independent chief inspector of borders and immigration was "in progress". Neal's three-year term had been due to end in March, and he told the Home Affairs Select Committee that before his abrupt removal from the post, No.10 had blocked his reappointment for a second term.

A subsequent recruitment campaign closed in April.

Both Bolt and Neal have spoken out about the Home Office’s failure to publish their independent reports – on matters such as asylum accommodation, immigration and social care, and information published by the Home Office on immigrants' countries of origin – in a timely way. When Neal was sacked, the department had yet to publish any of the 14 reports he had submitted during the 2023-24 calendar year.

In an interview with CSW after stepping down in 2021, Bolt said transparency was a "real issue" at the department.

“I realised after a while that part of the function of my reports was to expose things, to get things into the public domain, in a way that I hoped would mean that people had a better understanding of what was really going on – because the Home Office itself was so poor at explaining itself,” he said.

Before his first stint as ICIBI, Bolt spent five years as chief executive of the International Federation of Spirits Producers, which works to combat the counterfeiting of its members’ distilled spirits internationally.

He previously worked at the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Criminal Intelligence Service, National Crime Agency, two predecessors to the National Crime Agency. Before that he spent 2015 years in MI5.

He has been an independent member of the Parole Board for England and Wales for the last two years.

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