Relaxed UK immigration controls 'shock' MPs

19 Jan 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A group of MPs have expressed their “shock” at the relaxed UK immigration controls that have been implemented on the country's borders during the past year.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee expressed concern at the number of times full UK visa and passport checks were waived at ports and airports during busy periods, with biological checks particularly heavily impacted.

The group flagged up the Home Office as responsible, blaming it for a “lack of supervision” over senior staff after it was confirmed that extra checks were relaxed without ministerial approval towards the end of 2011.

Brodie Clark, head of the UK Border Force, took much of the blame for the lapsed checks. He has since resigned in the wake of the scandal, admitting that he had used guidance that stated fingerprint checks could be suspended during health and safety emergencies, pointing to the large build-up of passengers in arrivals halls.

However, Theresa May, the home secretary, has also received heavy criticism for her lack of awareness regarding the changes in regulation.

The committee report stated that the overuse of the guidance something they were “very concerned” about, noting the remarkable frequency with which it was employed.

The guidance “might be being used inappropriately at local level as a management tool instead of an emergency provision”, the group stated, adding that the chain of communication between ministers, senior management and front-line border staff is “a long and convoluted one, and it seems to have become seriously fragmented”.