UK immigration checks lapsed for private passengers

15 Nov 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Home secretary Theresa May is facing further accusations this week regarding the security of the UK immigration system, as it has emerged that passengers travelling in private jets were waved through the system.

The Conservative politician has already come under heavy criticism for a recent pilot and the border chief Brodie Clark lost his job.

Last week it was revealed that a pilot scheme implemented by Ms May to reduce queues during the busy summer allowed certain incoming passengers from European countries to skip some passport checks. However, it was also confirmed that the scheme was unwittingly extended to include some passengers from high-risk destinations.

The home secretary has so far maintained that she knew nothing of the extension to the plans. But Mr Clark has today (November 15th) told the Home Affairs Committee that he did “exactly as she wished” and stated that he updated Ms May on the pilot project on a weekly basis.

Now, leaked internal reports have shown that UK immigration and customs staff were also instructed not to meet passengers on private charter flights and executive jets. With around 80,000 private flights year, carrying two or three passengers each, there is concern that national security has been jeopardised.

The news is the latest detail to come to light of Ms May's 'lighter touch' UK immigration control pilot, which was implemented at a total of 28 ports and airports around the UK, while every port and airport was subject to the 'limited' border checks of the pilot scheme.

The decision to relax border checks appears to be somewhat contradictory to the government's overall plan to reduce immigration down to the tens of thousands a year. But the true results of relaxing the country's borders are yet unknown, along with the security of Ms May's position as home secretary.