20/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 17:08

Damian Green: Heathrow immigration queues "acceptable"

Category: England

Published: 10th Jul 2012 15:57:13

Current waiting times for passport control at Heathrow are "not perfect" but they are "acceptable", immigration minister Damian Green has said.

The minister was appearing before the home affairs committee, after chairman Keith Vaz observed "appalling" queues.

Mr Green said he had visited Heathrow Terminal 4, on Tuesday morning, and had found "acceptable" waits of under an hour.

He said staff were on target to achieve waiting times of 45 minutes.

And the airport would be going into "full Olympics mode" from Sunday, with 500 extra staff and all passport control desks to be manned at peak times.

But the Immigration Services Union said the extra relief staff would not be trained to do the full range of border force duties, such as dealing with non-EU arrivals, and so would "not have a very significant impact on waiting times".

Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, warned of a repeat of the public disorder seen in queues at the airport earlier this year when there was jeering of staff and slow hand clapping.

"It is usually started by one person, perhaps someone who has been drinking, but once it has started it is very difficult to stop. It is very distressing.

"There have been no incidences of the border being stormed but there is always that fear that that is going to happen."

She said that at some UK airports there were not enough booths or landing stamps for all the extra staff being drafted in and some would find themselves with nothing to do.

In his evidence to the committee, Mr Green said Heathrow had endured a "bad April" for queues but "the idea that there are endless long queues day after day would be misleading now".

"Once the Olympics start, every desk will be manned at peak times," he added.

He said about 80% of desks for non-EU passport checks were occupied when he visited Terminal 4 at 07:20 BST on Tuesday, and the wait was less than an hour although over the 45 minutes target.

"Forty five minutes is acceptable," he told MPs, adding: "It has got better through May and June, but it is still not perfect."

He refused to commit to keep all desks open at peak times after the Olympics: "The problem is not merely an Olympics problem, but it is a specific Olympics commitment."

He said new staff were being trained to meet demand when students began arriving from overseas in September.

"I am very conscious of what needs to happen after the Olympics. That is why we have brought forward retraining of extra staff," he said.

He also said he wanted to introduce separate lanes for passengers arriving from countries that require intensive pre-boarding checks, such as the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

But he said he did not want to return to Labour's system of "queue-based" immigration controls, which saw checks relaxed for low risk passengers when lines became too long.

Mr Green also confirmed that Brian Moore, head of the UK Border Force, had decided not to apply to take the post permanently.

Mr Moore, who is on secondment from Wiltshire Police, came under fire earlier this year after he told the home affairs committee he could not guarantee queues of less than four hours at Heathrow during the Olympic games.

Mr Green told the committee: "He has decided he will serve out his period as the interim head of border force, which was intended to run until September... but he has not applied for the full time post."

Asked why Mr Moore had changed his mind about applying for the job permanently, Mr Green said he would not "repeat private conversations with members of staff" to the committee.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would write to Mr Moore to find out why he was not applying for the permanent post.

Mr Green also announced that a new database of alleged illegal immigrants would not be launched until September as "we didn't want to do it before the Olympics".

He said the Home Office wanted to "make sure" the National Allegations Database, which already contains 25,000 tip-offs from members of the public, "is going to work" before officers begin using it.

When Mr Vaz visited Terminal 4 at 07:00 BST on Monday, he said he found half the non-EU passport control desks "not opened".

The Labour MP, whose committee is carrying out an inquiry into the work of the UK Border Agency and Border Force, said on Monday: "I was appalled by the length of queues in the immigration hall this morning."

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Damian Green: Heathrow immigration queues "acceptable" [Online] (Updated 10th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1439712/Damian-Green-Heathrow-immigration-queues-acceptable [Accessed 20th Aug 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Second arrest over Tilbury death

    A second person has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter over the death of man in a shipping container in Essex.
  • Girl, six, dies 'after choking' at house in Gwynedd

    A six-year-old girl has died after it is believed she choked while staying with her family at a holiday home in Gwynedd.
  • Buju Banton granted new appeal hearing on drug charges

    Grammy Award-winning reggae star Buju Banton, who is serving 10 years in jail over drugs charges, has been granted a new hearing in his latest appeal.
  • Taxi firm Uber starts same-day grocery delivery service in US

    Taxi and private car hire service Uber has launched a grocery delivery service in the US.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Juddmonte International: Favourite Australia wins at York

    Favourite Australia cruised to a two-and-a-half length win in the Juddmonte International at York's Ebor Festival.