Answering the questions of the home affairs select committee this morning, Brodie Clark delivered a stern defence, both of himself and his agency, which he described as the world’s best border agency. “Mr Chairman, I am no rogue agent,” he said at the end of a prepared statement, “nothing could be further from the truth.”
The row over this summer’s trial relaxation of border checks, which increasingly comes down to a she said/he said between the home secretary and Clark, shows no sign of ending. Answering questions from Committee chairman, Keith Vaz, Clark insisted May authorised the extension of the pilot and that it was not a “rogue” act of his, as she claims.
Crucially for the home secretary, there was no smoking gun at today’s meeting. Clark presented no crucial email or news of a decisive meeting that makes the row more than May’s word against his. May’s job will remain relatively secure if no such revelation emerges.
“Do you understand what you are saying to the committee?” asked chairman, Keith Vaz, “It is in complete contradiction to the words of the Home Secretary.”
In response, Clark said he did not understand why the Home Secretary said what she did.
Clark’s account is undermined by Border Agency head, Rob Whiteman's insistence that Clark admitted to extending May’s pilot without authorisation, in a meeting earlier this month. Whiteman gives evidence immediately after his former colleague at today’s meeting.
As well as establishing exactly what happened when the summer’s pilot scheme was extended, committee members were keen to score party-political points. Conservative committee members leapt to the defence of the Home Secretary while most Labour members questioned less vociferously, helping Clark’s credibility in his disagreement with May.
David Winnick, a Labour MP, asked Clark what the effect of the furore of the last week or so had been on his family.
“I think you can only imagine the impact,” replied Clark, “It has taken over my life over the last ten days... I’ve had a whole range of interventions into my private life which I can cope with because I accept that as part of my job but not when it involves my family."