The most senior civil servant in the Home Office has received a knighthood in the New Year Honors after overseeing his department which failed to contain the flux of illegal immigrants coming into Britain this year. Matthew Rycroft has seen the number of migrants crossing illegally hitting record highs since he assumed his position as the department’s permanent secretary in March 2020. All three years have recorded record highs – around 46,000 individuals have entered the UK illegally in 2022, up from 29,000 in 2021 and 8,400 in 2020, according to government data.
In recent years, the Home Office’s leadership has come under scrutiny over its failure to tackle the issue of people’s smugglers who are putting migrants’ lives at risk by making the perilous journey from France to Britain.
Mr Rycroft has been singled out on several occasions. In July, the official was accused of wasting time on “woke projects” after his and five other colleagues’ roles as Civil Service diversity and inclusion champions were exposed.
Under his leadership, the processing of passport applications has been plagued by significant backlogs, with one migrant dying at the Manston processing center in Kent in November after reports of overcrowding and outbreaks of disease.
The surge in migrant crossings and the deplorable accommodation settings forced Home Secretary Suella Braverman to admit the government had “failed to control our borders”.
In a damning report conducted in December 2021 and January 2022, David Neal, independent inspector of borders and immigration, called the Home Office out for its “poor” response to a growing number of Channel crossings.
In his conclusions, Mr Neal reported: “The Home Office’s performance in delivering an effective and efficient response to the challenge posed by the increasing volume of migrant arrivals via small boats is poor.
“In my judgment, this arises mainly from a refusal to transition from an emergency response to what has rapidly become steady state, or business as usual. This refusal permeates every aspect of the Home Office’s response.
“Systems, processes and resourcing pathways, which months into the crisis should be routine, codified, auditable and familiar, have been delivered at ‘best effort’.”
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“This is not good enough. Data, the lifeblood of decision-making, is inexcusably awful. Equipment to carry out security checks is often first generation and unreliable”, the report added.
Besides the Home Office’s permanent secretary, other senior mandarins were awarded top honours.
Among them is Sir Thomas Scholar, who was fired as the Treasury’s permanent secretary this autumn by former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng who sought to challenge the department’s “orthodoxy” before his own mini-budget sent Britain’s economy reeling. Sir Thomas has been appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath.
Lord Sedwill, the highest senior civil servant under Theresa May and then Boris Johnson as cabinet secretary, was handed the Order of St Michael and St George.
Jason Knauf, a former royal staffer who accused the Duchess of Sussex of bullying him, has also been honored for his service to the Crown.
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