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UK Border Agency

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

Our priority remains to secure the border and to control migration while we help to reduce the public deficit. We expect to have reduced by about 5,200 posts from the start of the review period to around 18,000 by March 2015. We are on track to meet our staff reduction target.

Will the Minister tell us how many of those 5,200 staff are being cut from the front line of the border force?

The hon. Lady will know that later this afternoon my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make a statement covering the issues that she is interested in. The reductions in staffing are not affecting the front line because we are improving the front line by, for instance, having airline liaison officers overseas. Over the past few years, that has prevented 60,000 people whom we did not want to travel from travelling in the first place. The use of facial recognition technology and e-gates also makes our borders more secure.

Will the Minister assure the House that the effectiveness of our front-line border controls will not be undermined by pressure to reduce queues at airports?

As I have just explained to the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore), it is important to have intelligent border controls, to use technology and to put the right people in the right places so that we can keep our borders secure. Those are elements of this Government’s transformation of the UKBA to sort out the shambles that we inherited.

The Minister may not know how many people are being removed from the border force, but I do. The numbers are 886 in this financial year and 1,552 before the next general election. He boasts that he is getting a grip, but this year there have been waits of many hours, EU nationals have been waved through in their hundreds and non-EU nationals have waltzed into the country without so much as a by your leave. We would absolutely adore it if he got a grip. Can he really say, hand on heart, that his cuts have nothing to do with the corners that are being cut with our security?

I am delighted to welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position as shadow Minister for Immigration. I remember fondly when, in government, he talked about the

“huff and puff in many of the tabloid newspapers”—[Official Report, 16 June 2003; Vol. 407, c. 15.]

complaining about immigration. I am sure that he will provide a lot of that in future years. I am sorry, but I have already answered his question. It is the way in which we use people that makes our borders more secure. I suggest that he pauses before he keeps using the phrase about waving people through, because nobody has been waved through the border. However, under the previous Government, as he will hear from the Home Secretary later, people were waved through.