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UK Border Agency

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are committed to the swift establishment of a UK Border Agency (UKBA), which will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UK Visas and parts of HM Revenue and Customs at the border. The new agency will work very closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies to improve border controls and security. We will shortly publish our detailed plans for the UKBA's first year of operation, but we are able today to announce key measures to ensure an immediate and seamless operation between the police and the new UKBA.

First, to strengthen effective police co-ordination at a strategic level I am announcing that chief constable Roger Baker of Essex Police will join the UKBA board with immediate effect.

Secondly, to add to the 3,000 police permanently based at our borders, 39 new specialist posts at ports will be funded in 2008-09 to increase Special Branch coverage where it is most needed.

Thirdly, we will publish in April a new framework for inter-agency co-operation at the border. This can progress more quickly than further structural change either within the police service themselves or between the police and the UK Border Agency.

Fourthly, I can confirm that we will seek a new legislative basis and new powers for the UKBA as part of our Immigration Bill in the autumn.

Fifthly, the Government will be discussing with police forces and authorities whether change is necessary in the current regime for special funding of Special Branch posts at ports and airports with a view to implementing a new regime from 2009-10. The Government are also considering how to implement the conclusions of the independent report into airport policing, with the aim of clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the police, airport operators and other agencies to deliver a high level of security at UK airports and we will set out proposals on this later in the year.

Finally, in response to a recommendation in the Cabinet Office report Security in a Global HubEstablishing the UK's New Border Arrangements published last November, the Home Office is working with the Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to consider how policing—which is currently delivered by the local force for each port and airports—may best be organised to deliver a fuller level of integration at the border, taking into consideration the drive for greater collaboration which is at the heart of the Government's programme for improving protective services. There are various models.

The Home Office will also be discussing with the Scottish devolved Administration and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ways of strengthening working relationships between the Scottish police service and the new agency taking into account the devolved nature of policing in Scotland.