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Heathrow (Delays)

Volume 545: debated on Monday 21 May 2012

13. What recent reports she has received on the time taken to enter the UK through Heathrow airport; and if she will make a statement. (108039)

I receive daily reports on queuing times at Heathrow. Our sampling of queues shows that the vast majority of European economic area passengers at Heathrow pass through immigration control quickly. However, queue lengths have on occasions reached unacceptable levels and we introduced a range of measures to combat this.

May I welcome the steps that my hon. Friend has taken to improve this situation? However, does he agree that all other law enforcement agencies, including the police and the Revenue, use risk assessment in the normal planned course of their business? As security is such a major issue, will he assure this House that every available desk at Heathrow will be manned at busy times?

My right hon. Friend will know that we have introduced more staff, as well as the range of other measures that I mentioned in answer to an earlier question. BAA—and the airlines themselves, including the head of safety and security at Virgin Atlantic—has said that we have seen some improvement in the last few weeks. I am also able to assure my right hon. Friend and the House that more people are working there this week than last week, and that there will be more next week. As the summer gets busier and busier, there will be an increasing number of staff on the desks.

I thought that the whole point of hosting the Olympics was to try to increase the number of visitors to this country. Our anxiety is not just about the queues now, but about the queues when the Olympics are over. There is one thing that the Minister just does not seem to grasp, so let me ask him a very simple question, which a schoolchild could answer: if it takes 400 passengers 60 minutes to pass through 10 manned controls, how long would it take those passengers to pass through if the number of controls is cut by 20% to eight?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman about the Olympics, as he is, for once, right about that. I, too, am concerned about what happens after the games. That is why I announced last week that we are bringing forward the recruitment of the first wave of people who will be needed for terminal 2 when it reopens, so that they will be available after the Olympics. We will have extra people at the border not only up to and during the Olympics, but after the Olympics. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that his concerns have been fully met.