MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee are to subject the Home Office's second permanent secretary to a second grilling over funding for the Border Force after a session on Wednesday resulted in "extremely unsatisfactory" answers.
Olly Robbins was repeatedly pressed by committee chair Keith Vaz on whether Border Force director general Charles Montgomery had been informed of his organisation’s budget for the year ahead.
However, Robbins – who oversees the Home Office’s immigration directorates – said he could not give a "yes or no" answer to questions about whether Montgomery’s 2016-17 spending powers had been approved, as the director general had told MPs he expected it would.
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Vaz excused Robbins (pictured) from the session after 20 minutes in front of the committee, but requested written responses by 6pm. The deadline passed and Vaz has now written to Robbins (see letter below) asking him to appear again on April 19.
At a session in December, Border Force chief Montgomery told the committee that the Home Office’s Spending Review settlement had yet to be allocated among its agencies, and he was unable to tell MPs whether the Border Force would see its funding increased or cut. He said he “would expect to know before the start of the business year”, however.
Appearing before HASC on Tuesday, Robbins did not directly answer the question about the Border Force budget, prompting Vaz to require him to say “either yes or no” to the question.
Robbins responded by saying that there was “a good amount of certainty” over the figures, but that the Border Force was “trying to manage a whole series of uncertainties”. He also pointed out that the Home Office did not normally publish details of funding settlements below departmental level.
Keith Vaz letter to Olly Robbins