UK & World News

  • 10 December 2013, 9:51

Border Force Criticised By MPs Over Failings

People could be sneaking into the country illegally on private boats and planes because Border Force officials are too busy checking airport passengers, MPs have warned.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report said the body tasked with securing Britain's air, sea and rail ports was failing to protect national security properly because of poor planning and outdated IT systems.

It said the agency admitted it was failing to meet eight of its 19 performance targets.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said freight went unchecked for illicit goods and illegal immigrants were able to sneak in while officers focused on checking every single passenger coming into Britain.

"The Border Force prioritised passenger checks on arrival at the expense of other duties and weakened the security of our borders," she said.

"The force neglected to examine freight for illicit goods, neglected to check lorries in Calais for concealed illegal entrants, and failed to check passengers coming into Britain on private planes or boats, potentially letting billionaire gangsters off the hook.

"The morale of staff is at rock bottom, threatening the prospect of achieving the increases in productivity and flexibility of workforce which the Border Force so sorely needs.

"Senior management must provide strong and stable leadership capable of providing a sense of purpose."

The PAC said the Border Force needs to set out plans for how it will meet all its obligations from now on.

A clear timescale should also be laid out for improvements to the IT systems assisting the work of officers, the MPs concluded.

Mrs Hodge added: "(Border Force) has a big task ahead of it, given the limited resources it has and the significant growth in demand from forecast increases in passenger numbers and air freight.

"The planning of the Border Force's workforce has been extremely poor.

"A cut in staff of 500 between 2010 and 2012 was immediately followed, when 100% passenger checks were introduced, by spending to increase the number of frontline staff from 7,600 to 8,000.

"Paying out redundancy and then rehiring staff is bad value for money and demonstrates poor planning."

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