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Border Security: Minimum Service Levels

Volume 740: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2023

On 6 November, the Government published their response to a recent public consultation on establishing minimum service levels on strike days in the border security sector. The Government are focused on making these hard but necessary long-term decisions to deliver the change that the country needs to put the UK on the right path for the future. That is why the Government have now also laid regulations before Parliament, setting out the border security services which must be provided on a strike day, together with the level of service to be provided.

Under the regulations, the following border security services will be provided: the examination of persons arriving in or leaving the UK; the examination of goods imported to or exported from the UK; the examination of goods entered for exportation or brought to any place in the UK for exportation; the patrol of ports, the sea and other waters within the seaward limits of the territorial sea adjacent to the UK; the collection and dissemination of intelligence in respect of those services; the direction and control of those engaged in providing these services; and such passport services as may be necessary for national security reasons. These services must be provided at a level that means that they are no less effective than if a strike were not taking place.

The ability for staff to take strike action is an integral part of industrial relations. However, the security of our borders is something we cannot compromise. We must also consider the disruption caused to—and the costs incurred by—passengers and businesses, who expect essential services they pay for to be there when they need them.

We also have to consider the impact on those called in to cover for staff who are going on strike, including the impact on members of our armed forces, who have commendably stepped up to fill vital roles during recent industrial action. It would be irresponsible to rely on such short-term solutions to protect our national security.

Minimum service levels exist in a range of countries within Europe, and globally, as a legitimate mechanism to balance the ability to strike with the needs of the public. Outright bans on striking are usually in place where border security is provided by the police or by members of the armed forces. The exact picture is complex and differs from country to country. Minimum service levels are generally negotiated between employers and unions and can also cover issues like the notice period that has to be given before industrial action takes place.

These new border security minimum service levels will ensure a fair balance between delivering the best possible service to the travelling public, maintaining a secure border and the ability of workers to strike. Unions will be required to work with the Government to make sure minimum border security services are met on strike days, to keep our country safe.

A copy of the consultation response and an updated economic impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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