Stansted Airport customs 'failings' revealed

Stansted Stansted, based to the north-east of London, is the UK's fourth busiest airport

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A lack of resources for customs at Stansted Airport could be allowing Class A drugs, firearms and endangered species into the country, says a report by the Chief Inspector of Borders.

John Vine, in his report, also expresses concern at the "almost total absence" of staff in customs channels.

He was "surprised" to find little visible Border Force presence in the channels during a visit in August.

The government said it accepted the recommendations of the report.

'Little visible presence'

Mr Vine said the requirement to manage 100% checks on arriving passengers, combined with meeting service standards for passenger queuing times, meant insufficient resources were allocated to customs functions.

In addition, inspectors found controls of fast parcels - that is packages brought in by companies like FedEx, UPS - were also adversely affected by the availability of resources.

Targeting of fast-track parcels was not being performed as often as was required and when checks were made, they were often rushed, increasing the likelihood that banned goods might go undetected, the inspector added.

Seizure data from Stansted showed that fast parcels had been used to import a wide range of prohibited and restricted items, from commercial quantities of Class A drugs and tobacco to endangered species and firearms.

Stansted also missed its target for Class A drugs seizures for the year 2012-13. No heroin has been seized since July 2012.

In 2012, more than 17 million passengers used Stansted to travel to 30 countries.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: "We have accepted all the recommendations in the inspection report and many of the issues raised have already been addressed.

"Since we split Border Force from UKBA, it has been making significant improvements in its performance - security has been strengthened and excessive queues are gone."

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