Heathrow Gatwick Cars

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bus border checks 'lax since 2007'

Border officials checked only if passport photographs of coach passengers matched the bearers, it was reportedCoach passengers were allowed into the UK without being properly checked by border staff for four years, it has been reported, in another blow for the under-fire Home Office.
A relaxation quietly introduced under the last Labour administration to ease queues at the port of Dover in 2007 was only halted 10 days ago when senior border officials were suspended, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Officials checked only if passport photographs matched the bearers, the newspaper said, and did not cross-check against computer databases of suspected terrorists, criminals and immigration offenders.
The extent of the watering down of security, such as whether it applied to other ports and was only employed at peak periods, remains unclear but the number of arrivals involved was estimated to be in the millions.
A Home Office spokesman said he was unable to discuss the claims because of the ongoing inquiry into unauthorised relaxations of controls, in what appeared to be an indication that they formed part of the probe.
But MPs will seek more information on Tuesday when the Home Affairs Committee questions Brodie Clark, the former head of the UK Border Force who quit his post amid an acrimonious dispute with Home Secretary Theresa May.
Mr Clark was suspended last week by UK Border Agency chief Rob Whiteman, who says he admitted allowing border staff to relax checks beyond the extent of a pilot scheme authorised by Mrs May.
He denies exceeding his authority and has left his post to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Nothing is more important than the integrity of our border in order to protect national security and reduce and control immigration. There are ongoing investigations into allegations regarding the relaxation of border controls without ministerial approval."
Security checks at Heathrow airport were also watered down during a two-day strike by immigration officers in October last year, it was reported. The Home Office said: "UKBA ensured additional trained staff authorised to carry out all necessary checks were in place at the border during the strike last year."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Airport border control 'at breaking point'

Sophy Ridge, political correspondent | Sky News

Queues at Heathrow Airport (PA) 

A  whistleblower who works at Heathrow Airport has told Sky News the system is at breaking point. The immigration officer said it is "frightening" how many people slip through the net and exposed a culture of deceit where employees are bussed in when politicians visit to give the impression of more staff.
He told Sky News he feels security has been "compromised" because of pressure over queues.
The whistleblower, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "We've operated a light touch over the summer for the past couple of years.
"It was never meant as an intelligence-led way of improving security. It's all about the queues."
Home Secretary Theresa May is fighting for her political reputation after it emerged checks on people entering the UK were secretly relaxed over the summer.
She has blamed the former head of the UK border force Brodie Clark for acting without ministerial approval.
Mrs May approved relaxing certain checks on passengers within the EU but accused Mr Clark of going much further.
The Government's pilot aims to deploy resources more effectively by using intelligence-led risk assessments.
But the Terminal 3 worker strongly disputes any suggestion that the looser checks he has witnessed are a better use of resources.
He said: "It's just a way of trying to get people through passport control quickly. It only saves 30 seconds per person, but that adds up to a lot.
"We would only use light touch checks when there were big queues - from around 2.30pm onwards over the summer months.
"For instance, if there was a big flight arriving from Pakistan.
"It makes us very angry because that's the very time when we should be taking time and asking questions.
"But the truth is, there's not enough staff. We can't cope with the number of people.
"There's only five or six of us and we have the worst of the queues at Terminal 3."
The whistleblower does not believe Mrs May was aware of what happened or that she ordered the relaxing of the controls.
He said: "I think Theresa May has been misled by Brodie Clark. He never implemented what she thought. But he may not have been aware of what was happening on the front line either."
But he also has concerns over aspects of the pilot ordered by Mrs May, in particular the flexibility over relaxing checks on children.
He said: "Operating a light touch with children is serious. It's very dangerous.
"If there's a family with four children in tow coming off a long-haul flight, one of those children could have easily been slipped in with that family."
Sky News has asked Heathrow airport if it would like to comment on the whistleblower's claims but it has yet to reply.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

'Months' before the Somerset crash cause is known

The scene of the crashIt may be weeks before police know what caused the M5 pile-up in which seven people were killed, the Transport Secretary has said.
Justine Greening told MPs a total of 37 vehicles were involved in the Friday night horror crash that left seven dead and 51 injured.
Making a Commons statement on the tragedy, she said: "Given the large number of vehicles involved, the need to carefully look at those vehicles recovered and to talk to many of the witnesses, it may be some weeks until the investigation can conclude on any cause or causes of this incident."
Avon and Somerset Police are investigating whether the crash happened as smoke from a rugby club fireworks display drifted on to the M5, affecting drivers' visibility and concentration. Officers are conducting a criminal investigation.
Elderly couple Anthony and Pamela Adams, from Newport, south Wales, were among those killed in the smash.
Lorry driver Terry Brice, from Bristol, was also named as one of the victims, as was Malcolm Beacham, from Woolavington in Somerset.
The crash also left a young woman in a coma and her wheelchair-bound father and sister dead.
Emma Barton, believed to be 19, was said to have been travelling in a car with her boyfriend Christopher Burbull, father Michael and sister Maggie, when they were caught up in the chaos.
The seventh victim was named as Kye Thomas, 38, from Gunnislake, Cornwall.
Ms Greening told MPs: "While Avon and Somerset Police have indicated the presence of smoke on the carriageway is a significant line of inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable (Anthony) Bangham has been clear to me that, in his words to me early today, 'it is far too early to jump to conclusions on the causal factors of this incident'."

Number let into UK unchecked 'not known'

UK passport control PA

The Home Secretary admits she doesn't know how many foreigners entered the UK via relaxed border controls

 Travel to Heathrow and Gatwick Airport

Home Secretary Theresa May has admitted she relaxed border controls at all UK ports during the peak summer period.
But senior officials at the UK's border force went even further, scrapping key checks against a Home Office database without ministerial approval.
The number of suspected terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants who entered the country as a result of the move will never be known, Mrs May said.
Three staff, including the head of the UK border force Brodie Clark, have been suspended and those responsible will be punished "to make sure that border force officials can never take such risks with border security again", she said.
"As a result of these unauthorised actions, we will never know how many people entered the country who should have been prevented from doing so after being flagged by the warnings index."
Mr Clark confirmed he had gone further than the pilot scheme allowed when John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), raised concerns last week, she said.
Biometric checks on European nationals and checks against the Home Office database on children from the European Economic Area (EEA) "were abandoned on a regular basis, without ministerial approval", Mrs May said.
Adults were not checked against the database at Calais and the fingerprints of non-European nationals from countries that require a visa were stopped, all without ministerial approval, she said.
"I did not give my consent or authorisation for any of these decisions," Mrs May told MPs.
"Indeed I told officials explicitly that the pilot was to go no further than we had agreed."