• 3rd April 2005. Daily Mail reports that David Blunkett faces new questions over the ‘Fast Tracking’ of his former lover’s visa application.
• Current Home Office Service Levels
• Higher Charges Announced by Home Office
• BBC Reports: Sir Mark Thatcher refused a US visa
Daily Mail reports new investigation into David Blunkett ‘Fast Tracking’ of visa
Revealed: Nanny got visa in 19 days
David Blunkett (pictured above with Kimberly Quinn) faces new questions today with the revelation that an application for UK residency by his lover’s Filipina nanny was mysteriously speeded up.
Kimberly Quinn has accused the Home Secretary of ‘fast tracking’ the visa application and he admits taking papers on her case to his office to be inspected by two senior civil servants
He has categorically denied intervening in any way or putting pressure on officials processing the application.
The nanny, Leoncia ‘Luz’ Casalme, was at first informed by the Home Office that the application could take up to a year to process. Yet the visa guaranteeing her permanent residency was approved and her passport stamped just 19 days later.
The fallout from the three-year affair between Mr Blunkett and Mrs Quinn has become increasingly bitter as he fights for access to her two-year-old son William – who is believed to be the Home Secretary’s child – and the baby she is expecting in early February. With Mrs Quinn’s damaging claim that Mr Blunkett abused his ministerial office to help rush through the visa, this new disclosure heaps fresh pressure on the beleaguered minister.
Home Office documents seen by the Mail will form a pivotal part of the inquiry by former Treasury adviser Sir Alan Budd into the potentially damning claims. For they appear to raise serious questions about the version of events supplied by Mr Blunkett’s officials when the political storm broke at the weekend.
The nanny, who arrived from Jordan in July 1999, was automatically entitled to apply to remain indefinitely after four years working in this country. Home Office rules state that a foreign worker employed as a nanny must renew their visa annually but after four years is entitled to residency.
The four-year rule would have meant that she was entitled to residency in July 2003, but in fact it was approved more than ten weeks before this time elapsed.
Sources close to the Quinn family said that in April 2003 Miss Casalme downloaded an application form from the Home Office website and, after completing it, showed it to her employer. Mr Blunkett’s lover then provided a covering letter confirming that the nanny was still employed to look after William.
Both documents – and the nanny’s Philippines passport – were sent to the immigration offices in Croydon.
Weeks later, officials in the Home Office’s Integrated Casework Directorate dispatched a reply, dated April 23, informing her that the application ‘has been accepted as valid’. The letter warned that ‘because of the high intake of applications and backlog of work’ there would be a lengthy delay. It continued: ‘The waiting period for these cases is about 12 months at the moment. We are doing all we can to reduce it and on current performance we estimate that your application will be decided by January 2004.’
Holiday to Ireland
Friends of Mrs Quinn say she had wanted the nanny to accompany her, her husband Stephen and William on a holiday to Ireland in August 2003. The fact that the nanny’s passport and visa application were with the immigration service meant she would be unable to go.
It is understood that the nanny handed the letter to Mrs Quinn who apparently kept it for the next 24 hours before handing it back to her. It is not known what she did with the letter but it was revealed this week that Mrs Quinn told a friend in an e-mail that ‘David (Blunkett) fast-tracked’ it.
In less than three weeks, Miss Casalme had received her passport and visa. A two-page letter from the Home Office to the nanny, dated May 12 and signed by O Osifodunrin, said: ‘I am writing to say that there are no longer any restrictions on the period for which you may remain in the UK.’
In bold type, it proclaimed: ‘You can now remain indefinitely in the United Kingdom.’
Raft of other claims
What Sir Alan Budd will now want to know is what, if any, part the Home Secretary played in the extraordinary about-turn by immigration officials over the length of time it would take.
Although the nanny’s visa application is the only allegation being investigated, Mr Blunkett faced a raft of other claims at the weekend. They included the misuse of civil servants at a meeting with his lover, claims that ‘pillow talk’ led him to share confidential security information with her, giving his lover two first-class rail tickets, and using government transport to drive her to his Derbyshire home.
According to friends of 44-year-old Mrs Quinn, who was yesterday in hospital said to be suffering from stress, she told them that Mr Blunkett’s assistance with the visa application occurred in the ‘spring of 2003’.
Confronted with Mrs Quinn’s allegations at the weekend, the Home Secretary’s office first said: ‘Kimberly asked David Blunkett for his advice on whether the application was in good order. He said it was. It did not go through his office and she (Miss Casalme) submitted it herself.’
They later amended their explanation to: ‘Kimberly’s nanny was about to apply for some sort of leave to remain in Britain. Kimberly asked David Blunkett for his advice on whether the application was in good order.
‘David took it with him to the Home Office and said to his principal private secretary (Jonathan Sedgwick) and his deputy (Gareth Redmond), ‘I have got a piece of paper in my pocket, what does it say?’ One of them may well have read it to him and looked it over. There is nothing unusual in this.’
Mr Blunkett’s advisers differ on what happened to the application next. One said that the Home Secretary ‘put it into the system’ himself. But, shortly afterwards, a senior figure corrected that version, saying he ‘gave it back to Kimberly and she then applied and it was processed by the Immigration Service in the normal way. The allegation that he fast-tracked the application is untrue.’
Last night Miss Casalme declined to comment. Now working for another family, she is fully entitled to be in Britain with full residency rights but it is the speed that her application was granted that has fanned the controversy.
Chris Randall, UK national coordinator of the Elena group of human rights and asylum lawyers, said that in his experience the Home Office granted indefinite leave to remain only after precisely 48 months of someone legitimately working in Britain.
Asked if he thought there had been some irregularity, he said: ‘Certainly it is unusual.’
Two leading immigration lawyers said it did appear that the visa had been issued many weeks earlier than normal. They said some limited discretion was built into the system. But, tellingly, that can be exercised only by Ministers and very senior civil servants. A senior spokesman for the Home Secretary refused to comment on the revelations.
‘I think I have to say that Sir Alan Budd is going to be conducting an inquiry and no doubt he will interview everyone he deems fit to be interviewed,’ said the spokesman. ‘He will do a full and detailed job and I think it is right to leave it all to him.’
Meanwhile the rest us have to put up with increasing delays and higher charges.
The Home Office reports their current service levels:
Work Permits and SBS:
Service standard: 70% of applications to be decided within one week of receipt at WP(UK) and 90% within 3 weeks.
Current performance: During February, 75% of new applications were decided within a week and 91% within 3 weeks. If we need to make further checks or seek additional information, your application is more likely to fall into the category that can take up to 3 weeks or even longer.
Limited Leave to Remain
Service standard: 70% of applications to be decided within 3 weeks of receipt in WP(UK) and 90% in 8 weeks.
Current performance: During February, 60% of new applications were decided within 3 weeks and 72% within 8 weeks. If we need to make further checks or seek additional information, your application is more likely to fall into the category that can take up to 8 weeks or even longer.
We are also working through a backlog of older cases as quickly as possible. The oldest applications now being processed were made in the week commencing 1 November 2004.
My own experience suggests that some applications for Further Leaver to Remain have actually taken up to five months, leaving many applicants in ‘limbo’ unable to work or travel.
Higher Charges – Home Office Announcement 14 March 2005
As predicted in our article last year, the Home Office have again increased charges on Leave to Remain Applications, HSMP and PEO service in Croydon.
Leave to Remain Applications have risen to £335.00 (more than double the previous fee) and the premium service to £500. HSMP applications rise to £315. Fortunately, Work Permit fees remain unchanged for the time being.
The higher charges will affect thousands of Filipino Nurses and Senior Carers renewing their Work Permits or changing jobs.
For further details, contact Overseas Consultancy Services
Sir Mark Thatcher
On a lighter note, even sons of former Prime Ministers occasionally have problems obtaining visas!
‘As a result of this decision, I shall make the family home in Europe, not the UK, and my family will be joining me as soon as arrangements are made.’
Sir Mark Thatcher
The BBC reports: ‘Sir Mark Thatcher refused US visa’
Sir Mark Thatcher has been refused a visa to enter the United States in the wake of his conviction in connection with an African coup plot.
The son of the former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher had hoped to be reunited with his family in Texas.
But he said on Sunday: ‘I shall make the family home in Europe, not the UK, and my family will be joining me as soon as arrangements are made.’
Sir Mark, 51, was given a four-year suspended sentence in January. He was also fined by a South African court for offences related to the bungled coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.
Sir Mark, who had lived in South Africa since 1995, came to Britain in February and has been staying with his 79-year-old mother in London.
He had hoped to move to Dallas, Texas to be with his wife Diane, 44, and their two children.
But he said in a statement: ‘It is quite true that my visa application has been rejected. It was always a calculated risk when I plea bargained in South Africa. As a result of this decision, I shall make the family home in Europe, not the UK, and my family will be joining me as soon as arrangements are made. But the children will continue to be educated in America.
A spokesman for Sir Mark said he could re-apply for a US visa after two years.