It has long been suggested by senior politicians from both main parties that civil servants in the Home Office pick and choose which government policies to implement and which to ignore or undermine.
On the Labour side, David Blunkett once complained of his reforms being ‘swamped by the history and practices of the Home Office’ while John Reid famously branded the section of the department charged with running immigration policy as ‘not fit for purpose’.
On the Tory side, a source ‘close to Amber Rudd’ accused the department’s then Permanent Secretary of having been ‘purposefully opaque’ with her. Priti Patel fell out with the same official, Sir Philip Rutnam, in spectacular style having allegedly nicknamed him ‘Dr No’.
So it probably should not come as a surprise to learn that the government’s flagship attempts to toughen-up asylum processes are simply not reflected in a Home Office manual for staff assessing individual claims.
The guidance, unearthed by the Mail on Sunday, tells staff they cannot simply reject the testimony of a migrant who has been caught lying, should not be sceptical when interviewing asylum applicants from nominally safe countries and are forbidden from asking about ‘sexual preferences or activity’ even when that is pertinent to the application.
UK asylum approval rates have soared in recent years and are now among the highest in Europe – averaging 72 per cent in 2021 compared to just 25 per cent in France. This is despite the government making it a top priority to crackdown on abuse of the asylum system by economic migrants.
It will be interesting to learn whether the current guidance to staff assessing claims was expressly approved by ministers or simply compiled by mandarins behind their backs on the basis that it was an operational matter about which they did not need to know.