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UK Border Agency (CSR)

Volume 522: debated on Monday 24 January 2011

15. What estimate she has made of the likely change in the number of UK Border Agency staff as a result of the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. (35105)

The UK Border Agency has estimated that the number of UK Border Agency staff will reduce by about 5,200 during the spending review period.

We deal with hundreds of immigration cases in my constituency every year. While the situation undoubtedly improved under the previous Government, there are still substantial delays in the UK Border Agency’s dealing with cases. May I suggest to the Minister that we need an increase in staff, not a reduction?

I am interested to hear that those on the Labour Back Benches are still calling for public spending increases. It will be interesting to see what those on the hon. Gentleman’s Front Bench say about that. He is wrong in several respects. The UK Border Agency is getting better, and it will get better still. It will do that in two ways. First, we will replace the costly and outmoded paperwork that it depended on in the past with the appropriate use of new technology. Secondly, the very use of that technology will mean that we can better target our resources of people and money on those who are most likely to cause harm to the UK. So we will be able to provide a better service, even with fewer staff.

What estimates has the Minister made of the number of staff that would be required if the UK Border Agency got its decisions right the first time?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The higher the quality of the initial decision making, the fewer resources of money and people will be needed later. Part of the reason for having the new technology—new ways of applying for visas, for example —is that we will be able to use senior and more experienced staff to take the initial decisions, so that more of them can be got right first time.