Immigration minister 'not sacked'

Home secretary insists immigration minister Tony McNulty was not sacked
Home secretary insists immigration minister Tony McNulty was not sacked

The home secretary has today rejected claims that immigration minister Tony McNulty was sacked because of a series of blunders in his department.

John Reid said the minister, who is now in charge of policing, had been "a stalwart" over the past few weeks, in which the immigration and nationality directorate (IND) was hit by a series of embarrassing revelations.

Last week, a senior figure at the directorate admitted he did not have the "faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants remained in Britain, while this weekend, an IND official was suspended over claims of a sex-for-visas scandal.

An internal Home Office investigation was carried out into similar claims earlier this year, headed by Mr McNulty, but found no major abuses in the system.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said last night that the Home Office reshuffle was "clearly an admission of failure on the part of the government that the original McNulty report into the sex-for-visas scandal was totally inadequate".

"How many other people have suffered after the government's report into the sex-for-visas scandal failed to eradicate the problem?" he asked.

Mr Davis added: "One has to ask, if he is not good enough to run the immigration department, how will he be capable of running the police force?"

However, giving evidence to the home affairs select committee this morning, Mr Reid insisted Mr McNulty's skills in negotiations would be vital in his new job of dealing with the highly controversial issue of police restructuring.

Getting the changes through would involve "politics of persuasion", Mr Reid said, adding: "Someone like Tony McNulty, with experience in parliament, in the whips office and as a councillor, seemed to be particularly strong in that field."

Meanwhile, minister Liam Byrne, who was covering policing but has moved to Mr McNulty's old job overseeing the IND, was picked because of his management experience, Mr Reid said.

When asked why the move had not been announced earlier, the home secretary insisted he had made clear when he took over from Charles Clarke two weeks ago that all ministerial positions were "provisional".

"I work in an old-fashioned basis, and I like to have the facts before I make a decision. Going in on the first day and telling people what to do didn't seem to me to be a good idea," he said.


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