Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed today that she would not resign from her Cabinet position, despite the UK Border Agency fiasco that led to an unknown number of people entering the country without proper checks.
The minister told MPs sitting on the Home Affairs committee this lunchtime that "biometric tests were abandoned on a regular basis" without her authority.
May reiterated comments she made in an urgent statement to the House of Commons yesterday, which followed the suspension of UK border force chief Brodie Clark because of his "unauthorised actions" to relax border controls over the summer.
She said that there had been a pilot initiated in July, and that unauthorised actions had taken place where border officials had stopped cross-checking personal information and fingerprints against a Home Office database of terror suspects and illegal immigrants.
"I was not aware that the extension had taken place," said May. "I was not aware that this was what had been done."
Home Affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz asked the Home Secretary why "the good pilot was stopped?"
May said it was because unauthorised actions had been taken alongside the ministerially-endorsed pilot, which she added had been intended to cut through mandatory checks of "low-risk passengers". The idea had been that officials at ports could instead target individuals that posed a higher risk to security.
Vaz had earlier stated that the committee was "worried that your risk-based approach [with the pilot] would have allowed into this country gangs of people with children who are involved in human trafficking [possibly EU nationals]... the public would expect that the border is secure".
May said the government was "committed to stopping the terrible crime of human trafficking".
The Home Secretary added that border guards were expected to use their discretion to check "families" coming in whom they suspected of being organised gangs.
The committee confirmed it would ask immigration minister Damian Green to speak to MPs about the UKBA row. It will also invite Clark to appear for questioning.
"Brodie Clark must take full responsibility for his actions," said May, who gave a one-word response when asked if she would resign from her Home Secretary post.
"No," the Cabinet minister said. ®