Keith Vaz and Profiteering at Immigration Centres

Earlier this month Keith Vaz in his role as the home affairs select committee chair visited Harmondsworth immigration removal centre after a Channel 4 News undercover investigation revealed worrying conditions inside.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Vaz said that MITIE Corporation which runs the immigration centre, “did take on the contract for 30% less than their predecessors Serco.”

Such undercutting and gutting of public service provision is the logical result of the privatisation of public services. So Mr Vaz would do well to recall that “it was under Labour that companies such as Serco, G4S and Capita dramatically grew in size – benefiting from generous outsourcing contracts across the public sector” (The Independent, December 2013).

Keith Vaz and G4S
Keith Vaz and G4S

MITIE’s chief executive Ruby McGregor-Smith, was certainly well positioned to take over Serco’s numerous contracts to run British immigration centres into the ground, as she had previously worked for Serco (between 1991 and 2000). Mrs McGregor-Smith also happens to be a trustee of the Prince of Wales’ pro-corporate charity, Business in the Community, as is Serco’s current chief executive, Chris Hyman.

Direct Labour Party connections to MITIE come through the ex-chairman of IBM Europe, Larry Hirst CBE, who was appointed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to become a private sector Business Ambassador: Mr Hirst presently serves as a board member of MITIE.

Another MITIE profiteer serving on their current board of directors is Crawford Gillies, who since joining MITIE in 2012, has also served as a board member of Standard Life. This corporate connection is particularly interesting because when Mr Gillies joined Standard Life, two leading lights of the privatisation-orientated political establishment were also retiring from Standard Life’s board room.

These two individuals were New Labour kingpin Baroness McDonagh (who acted as the General Secretary of the Labour Party, 1998-2001), and Standard Life’s long-standing Tory director, Lord Blackwell. Lord Blackwell being the former chairman of the right-wing think-tank (the Centre for Policy Studies) that lobbies hard for the privatisation of all public services.

This brings me full circle back to Keith Vaz and his own predilections for promoting business interests before those of his constituents. I say this because last Thursday Mr Vaz launched a pro-corporate enterprise in Leicester, funded by private energy companies, and is known as Smart Energy GB. And the chairman of this enterprise is none other than New Labour profiteer, Baroness McDonagh.

Maybe Mr Vaz will be taking Baroness McDonagh’s aside in the next few weeks to ask if she will speak to her replacement at Standard Life, MITIE director Crawford Gillies. Baroness McDonagh could perhaps ascertain whether Mr Gillies and MITIE will kindly start treating their detainees like humans.

For further information about MITIE’s destructive role in (mis)running immigration centres in Britain, read Corporate Watch’s excellent 2014 report “’Care & Custody’: Mitie’s detention centre contracts.”


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