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Border Controls

Volume 545: debated on Monday 21 May 2012

Security of the border is our top priority. In February, the independent chief inspector published his report into border security checks last summer. We have accepted all the report’s recommendations, and we are implementing important changes to improve the effectiveness of UK border controls.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but given that up until as recently as last week people are waiting up to three hours to come into the country through Heathrow, should not the Minister, instead of accepting whatever this week’s excuse is—whether it be the royal wedding, the snow, the rain, the wrong type of rain or the wrong type of wind—accept that it is his responsibility, and get on and sort the problem out before the Olympics?

I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that we have already introduced more staff at peak times and established mobile teams that can be moved around. Within a couple of weeks, a new control room will be operating at Heathrow, which will enable us to have better real-time information about what is happening in each of the terminals. We are already seeing considerable improvements. If the hon. Gentleman does not want to take that from me, he should take it from Colin Matthews, the chief executive of BAA, who said at the Home Affairs Select Committee last week:

“we can detect some improvement in the last week or so since that announcement was made.”

Will the Government take a look at the case for restoring the discretion of immigration officers in countries of origin—a discretion that was undermined by the previous Government, who made it all too easy for the wrong people to enter the country?

Yes, I am happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance not only that we will do that, but that we already are doing it. We have instituted a pilot scheme for extended interviewing in some countries, showing significant positive results in ensuring that people cannot get on a plane to this country if they do not have the right to do so.