Ministers have admitted that the Home Office's flagship IT scheme, eBorders, won't be able to provide sufficient levels of information to measure UK immigration.
The £1.2 billion project was designed to overcome the problems with the existing methods of estimating net migration, namely the Passenger Survey, which MPs have already agreed is “not fit for purpose”. However, the new system also appears to have severe limitations.
The main issue with the eBorders plan is the fact that border guards are banned from asking passengers how long they intend to stay in Britain under European Union rules that forbid immigration officers from enquiring about EU residents' travel plans.
Minsters have admitted that they are unable to work around these regulations and the eBorders scheme could face legal challenges if it presses ahead with questions regarding how long people plan to stay in Britain.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, commented on the news: “The eBorders programme has cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds, taken more than a decade and now we know that a key original objective will never be achieved. The public have been badly let down.
“I will be writing again to the Home Secretary to ask for a clear answer on which specific objectives, named in the original business plan, will now not be achieved.”
A Home Office spokesman, however, has said that it was “never part of the business case” for eBorders to compile migration statistics.
An accurate measure of the UK's net migration is yet to be implemented by the Home Office.