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Border Controls (Waiting Times)

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

We will not compromise border security, but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand. Our sampling of queues shows that the vast majority of passengers from the European economic area pass through immigration control quickly, but queue lengths have reached unacceptable levels on occasion, and we have introduced a range of measures to combat that.

Data from Heathrow’s terminal 4 show that non-EEA queues exceeded the Government’s target on 21 days out of 30 in June, while at terminal 5 the targets were breached on 18 days. This continued chaos comes at a time when the eyes of the world are on the United Kingdom, and when the increased tourism created by the Olympic games should be incredibly important to our economy. What are the Government doing to deal with this shambolic situation and get a grip on our borders?

The times were unacceptable in April, and anything beyond the service level clearly remains unacceptable. For non-EEA passengers we met our targets 90% of the time in June, an increase from 75% in April. In response to those large passenger volumes, we increased the number of staff at Heathrow by more than 50% this weekend. We now have a new central control room to enable us to deploy people more quickly and efficiently, and we have mobile teams to fill the gaps more speedily than ever before.

I do not trust those statistics, to be honest. [Interruption.] I trust the Minister, but I do not trust the statistics. I went to Stansted last week, and I know that UK Border Agency staff start counting the people in the queue only when they arrive in the hall itself, which physically cannot take more than 20 minutes. They do not count the people who are waiting on the escalators, or the people in the corridor, or the people round two bends or over the bridge or all the way back to the aeroplanes. When will the Government publish proper statistics, involving proper, independent counting, which would show that they are failing in their primary duty?

I am happy to reassure—and, hopefully, calm down—the hon. Gentleman. The figures I was citing were not border force or Home Office figures; they were BAA figures. BAA publishes the monthly figures every month on its website. Those June figures were figures from BAA, not the Government. I hope the hon. Gentleman trusts BAA to produce reliable figures.