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Questions for Written Answer: Late Answers

Volume 700: debated on Wednesday 23 April 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 26 March (WA 89), what was the reason for the 18-week delay in answering Baroness Valentine's Question; and whether they will arrange for the contents of the substantive reply to be published in the Official Report. [HL2874]

While every effort is made to respond to Written Questions tabled by noble Lords within the deadlines set it is not always possible to do so and I am sorry that this has happened in relation to this Question.

The full text of my Answer to the noble Baroness is as follows.

Staffing requirements for all ports, including Heathrow, are calculated using a workforce planning methodology which takes into account information provided by port operators on scheduling, predicted passenger loads and nationalities, and estimates of transaction times. Staff are also re-deployed according to where the risk is highest.

We have carried out a critical review of how our resources are deployed in order to achieve better value for money and identify efficiencies. This has ensured that warranted staff are deployed only on operational work and that non operational work is undertaken by non-warranted officers.

Since March 2005 we have significantly increased the number of operational grades deployed nationally—by 35 per cent, in fact. This comprises inspectors, chief immigration officers, immigration officers and assistant immigration officers. The number of staff employed at specific ports will vary from day to day. Likewise, there are seasonal variations in line with passenger pressures and peak holiday periods.

BIA is committed to increasing the use of automated technology to facilitate passengers through arrivals controls without compromising border security. An example is the IRIS immigration recognition system (IRIS). IRIS enrolment stations and gates are available at all four Heathrow terminals and to both Gatwick terminals. Two gates will be available at the new Heathrow terminal 5. As at 7 March, 181,460 people had enrolled on IRIS and 909,028 crossings had taken place.

A snapshot of operational grades at Heathrow on 1 January 2006 and 16 October 2007 shows figures of 849 and 829 immigration officers respectively. Recruitment is ongoing to further increase this number, with a total of 385 additional operational staff being recruited across Border Control.