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Immigration: Standards

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps will be taken to reduce queuing and waiting times at ports and borders, as referred to in the UK Borders Agency Business Plan; and if she will make a statement. (200587)

[holding answer 23 April 2008]: The UK Border Agency is committed to improving the customer experience at our borders and we continue to engage with port operators to deliver this. Work on a set of port by port national standards is already under way and this will be rolled out from June 2008.

The UK Border Agency is also working with the Department for Transport to implement an action plan (as published in November 2007), which will set new standards for the processing of passengers on arrival for implementation over the course of 2008.

Also during the course of 2008 we shall be introducing Service Level Agreements with port operators which will include:

agreed port by port targets for major locations and mechanisms for monitoring and reporting performance against them;

ways of best matching the availability of frontline Border offices and predicted passenger flows; and

a more coordinated approach to flight scheduling to prevent unnecessary pressures when large numbers of flights arrive at the same time.

We would expect these plans to be completed in time to deliver real operational benefits over the course of 2008.

In addition to this we have already implemented the following:

queuing levels are continually monitored and managed and are reported regularly to senior officials;

flexible response teams are deployed to port operations during peak periods as was the case last summer; and

we continue to expand and develop new technologies that might add further relief to queue length and enrolment on IRIS now exceeds 190,000 passengers with over one million crossings through the gates to date.

The level of staff engaged in frontline Border Force activity is at an all time high and we are committed to facilitating the passage of legitimate travellers and goods, without delay at all ports.