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UK Airport Passport Control Delays

Volume 712: debated on Monday 25 April 2022

Easter saw Border Force maintain a secure and effective border, with minor inbound border control disruption, in a period with one of the highest levels of international travel in the past two years. Before Easter, in February and March 2022, more than 85% of queue measurements were under 45 minutes for non-EU passengers.

I thank the Minister for that response. I recently wrote to him regarding the experience that my constituents, the Collins family, had at Newcastle airport when returning from holiday at a quarter to 11 at night a week or two ago. The father is a British-born citizen, and the mother has settled status and is of German origin. The children are both British and German citizens. They describe Border Force, which was not allowing the little boy, Nico, who is five years old, into the country, as being “hostile” and “unpleasant”, and as having an “unsympathetic manner”. That is not the way that anyone should be treated by Border Force, certainly not a five-year-old child. The child had his German passport; his British passport was waiting at home. When the family showed Border Force an email that they had received saying that, they were eventually allowed in—a five-year-old child, who is a British citizen, was eventually allowed into his home. What has the Minister to say? I think an urgent investigation and an unreserved apology to the Collins family are required.

I thank the hon. Lady for bringing that experience to the Floor of the House of Commons. I am, of course, sorry that any such distress was caused to a family, and particularly to a child so young. She will understand that it is difficult for me to talk about a particular case at the Dispatch Box without having all the facts available, but I will be happy to follow up with her separately.

It appears that travellers are experiencing severe delays not only at passport control, but with processing passport applications and renewals. Although I fully understand that the Minister has set out the pressures that staff are facing, can he reassure me that backlogs will be addressed and airport issues will be sorted out before my constituents go on their summer holidays?

I reassure my hon. Friend that, in spite of the fact that there has been a surge in demand, as she would expect considering the patterns that we have seen in the past couple of years and the fact that international travel is now returning, that is absolutely something that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who leads on passport issuing, is across to ensure that the necessary capacity is there.

Passport delays are affecting our constituents’ ability to take holidays and take up jobs abroad. There are ever-lengthening queues at passport control, and generous constituents who signed up for the Homes for Ukraine scheme are having their first experience of the Home Office’s chaos. When will the Home Secretary realise the impact that her Department’s appalling record on managing the gateways into and out of our country is having on the UK’s reputation, here and across the world?

I take extremely seriously the experience of passengers coming through British airports and seaports. There is a distinction between outbound and inbound—

No, there really is. When we talk about Border Force and passport control, that is about inbound. As I said in my answer to the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), there are times when queues grow, and I do not like to see that happen. Sometimes it is because of factors beyond our control, such as so-called flight bunching when lots of flights arrive together or when flights are late. Border Force is working extremely hard to try to project demand as best it can to ensure that the staffing is there, and it is taking considerable measures to match up to that demand.