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Newhaven Port

Volume 611: debated on Monday 13 June 2016

Border Force officers in Newhaven maintain 100% checks of arriving passengers and undertake intelligence-led activity to tackle both people-based and commodity-based threats. They collaborate effectively with the police, the National Crime Agency and their French counterparts in Dieppe to identify and disrupt attempts to smuggle migrants and commodities into the UK illegally through that port.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I recently met Newhaven Port Authority to discuss the future of the Newhaven ferry, and I was told that last year was its most successful ever, with a 50% increase in passengers and freight. That is welcome, but it is putting extreme pressure on the existing Border Force officials. Will the Minister reassure me that this Government are doing everything they can to ensure that this vital travel and trade link is kept secure?

I congratulate the port operators on the work they have done to see the success that my hon. Friend has highlighted, and I am sure her work has given them support, too. I assure her that Border Force’s model operates not only to ensure that we have the necessary core team to tackle business-as-usual activity, but to surge additional resource, in line with intelligence, where we have identified particular threats.

Newhaven is a considerable distance from the constituency of the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure his ingenuity will avail him.

Principal ports—major ferry ports—such as Newhaven and Holyhead in my area are under extreme pressure because Border Force vessels are used in smaller ports in close proximity. May I help the Minister by suggesting that offshore vessels that are not used in the North sea on wind farms could be adapted by Border Force to close these gaps?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in asking the question. The Home Secretary has already responded on the strategic review that is being undertaken, and we are looking at all available Government assets to ensure that we pull them together. The National Maritime Information Centre is designed to assist with that, and we will continue with that work.

The previous coalition Government removed the Border Force staff from my home port of Stranraer, in my constituency, a number of years ago. Given the increased threats that we face from contraband and puppy smuggling from the rest of the European Union, will the Secretary of State commit to re-examine that decision, so that we can have appropriate defences at our port in Stranraer?

The Home Secretary has already indicated that £63 million of additional resource is being made available precisely to focus on smuggling. I am happy to discuss further with the hon. Gentleman any particular issues he may have, but I can assure him about the intelligence-led approach that Border Force takes and how we will deploy resources dynamically to meet any challenges.