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Vehicle Scanning Machines

Volume 588: debated on Monday 17 November 2014

6. How many vehicle scanning machines to identify stowaways at UK ports of entry the Government plan to buy in the next 12 months. (906023)

Border Force operates an array of search techniques as part of its multi-layered search regime, including detection dogs, carbon dioxide monitors, heartbeat detectors and scanners. In the past 12 months nearly £10 million has been invested to support and increase those methods of detection and bolster port security in the UK and at juxtaposed controls. The Government have also committed to invest £12 million at the port of Calais further to enhance security.

May I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that written parliamentary question 213850 on the number of lorries screened by body scanning machines and sniffer dogs when they enter the UK has not been answered? The Government have confirmed that currently just five vehicle scanning machines cover all our ports, including 51 points of entry. Will the Minister clarify why five is an adequate number?

Border Force uses an array of different techniques to secure our border which, as I have highlighted, include body detection dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners, as well as physical searches. I will look into the outstanding parliamentary question highlighted by my hon. Friend. Last year 18,000 people were detected at our juxtaposed controls—a 60% increase. That underlines the focus of our Border Force officers on preventing people who should not be here from coming to this country.

The Minister is right: those pieces of equipment are useful, but they are not 100% effective. As of today, 2,300 illegal migrants are in Calais, seeking to come to the United Kingdom. According to the mayor of Calais, in her evidence to Parliament on 28 October, some will risk their lives to do so. Does the Minister agree that we need to do much more work with the countries at the point of entry—Greece, Turkey and Italy—to prevent people from going there, rather than waiting until they get to Calais when it could be far too late?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in that we need to look beyond the borders of the EU. That is precisely the emphasis that has been given by several countries, including the UK and France. Indeed, Italy is hosting a conference in a few weeks to do precisely that in relation to the horn of Africa. He is right to make that point, but equally the Government are focused on security at Calais, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has agreed with the French Government an investment of £12 million in security at that port.