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Border Blunders Spark Urgent Commons Question

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Border Blunders Spark Urgent Commons Question

Post  Panda on Thu 5 Sep - 11:28

Border Blunders Spark Urgent Commons QuestionYvette Cooper accuses the Home Secretary of "reshuffling the deckchairs" and failing to address problems at UK borders.1:44pm UK, Wednesday 04 September 2013 Video: Yvette Cooper condemns border check fiasco
Enlarge EmailLabour has called on the Government to sort out problems at UK borders after a report revealed pressure to cut queues led to fewer checks.

Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) found raised traffic during the London Olympics led to officials overlooking checks on guns and drug smuggling.

Staff shortages and the need to juggle passport checks with keeping queues down led to shortcuts on key duties such as checking for illegal goods.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Home Secretary Theresa May of "reshuffling the deckchairs" on immigration and dodging the blame.

Yvette Cooper described the report as "shocking"

In an urgent Commons question, she demanded details about how many times checks were stopped and the publication of an internal Home Office audit into the affair.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper insisted the Border Force was hitting seizure targets and detecting illegal immigrants at a higher rate than last year.

But Ms Cooper accused the Government of complacency and issued a fresh jibe about the coalition's controversial immigration advert vans.

"No wonder they have stopped trying to fingerprint stowaways, it seems like they have stopped trying to catch them at all," she said.

Staff shortages mean key checks are not being carried out by officials

"It seems as if the Home Secretary's only answer to illegal immigration is to get a man in a van to drive round in circles with a poster asking if they'd mind going home.

"People don't want gimmicks, they want them to get the basics on border security right.

The Home Secretary can't duck responsibility for this, she ignored the warnings and cut 500 staff from the border force before the Olympics. She is just shunting the problem round in circles.

"First the passport checks, then out of queues, now drops in checks on stowaways, guns and drugs, and still a big drop in illegal migrants being stopped at our border.

"They are not sorting out the fundamental problems. Each time the Home Secretary blames someone else, reshuffles the deck chairs, and sends someone else to answer the question."

The NAO report found nearly 100% of passengers at the border received full passport checks in 2012-13.

More than 99% of European arrivals also cleared controls within the 25-minute target time.

But this success came at the expense of dealing with forgery detections, and seizures of cigarettes and counterfeit goods - which all came in below target.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "The Border Force did well to reduce queuing times both during and after the Olympics, but it is deeply worrying that this came at the expense of its other responsibilities, particularly customs.

"The Border Force must be able to check both goods and passengers at the same time - border security cannot be an 'either/or' choice."

A fifth of the Border Force's 7,600 employees are employed under terms that restrict working hours to fixed periods during the week, stopping it from deploying its workforce flexibly.

At Heathrow this spring less than half the workforce was contractually obliged to work before 5am without being paid extra, despite a significant number of long-distance flights arriving at that time, the NAO said.
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