Theresa May to split up UK Border Agency


Theresa May says the UK Border Force will be "accountable directly to ministers"

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Home Secretary Theresa May has said the UK Border Agency will be split in two following revelations that hundreds of thousands of people were let into the country without appropriate checks.

She told MPs the UK Border Force would become a separate law-enforcement body with its own distinctive "ethos".

Mrs May said officials had abandoned rules and gone further than ministers had recommended in relaxing checks.

Wiltshire Chief Constable Brian Moore will lead the new border force.

His predecessor, Brodie Clark, was suspended and then resigned, saying his position was untenable, after claims he had relaxed checks beyond what had been authorised by ministers.

The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 following Labour Home Secretary John Reid's 2006 declaration that the Home Office's immigration directorate was "not fit for purpose".

It is responsible for securing the UK border at air, rail and sea ports and migration controls, such as the issuing of visas.

Its work was previously carried out by the Border and Immigration Agency, HM Revenue and Customs at the border and the Foreign Office.

Under the new arrangements, immigration policy work will be separated from operational duties.

The UK Border Force, the section of the UKBA that manages entry to the UK will become a separate entity. In addition, from next year the new National Crime Agency will be charged with improving intelligence capability at borders and investigating serious and organised border crime.

'New culture'

Mrs May made a statement to MPs on an investigation into the agency carried out by John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UKBA.


Opinion polls regularly suggest immigration ranks highly among people's top political issues. One person's idea of handling it well will, of course, differ from the next person's.

The perception of a home secretary not knowing what's been going on is very damaging. So, like the Labour government before her, Theresa May has responded to these latest revelations with a demand for structural change within the civil service.

Back in 2006, her predecessor John, now Lord, Reid, described the immigration system as "not fit for purpose" and possessing "inadequate" leadership.

The changes led to the creation of the UK Border Agency, which itself will now be split in two.

Most accept the management of our borders has to be risk-based. On average, a bus load of pensioners returning home from a holiday on the Algarve is likely to pose less danger than a flight arriving from Yemen.

Equally, there is an acceptance from many that the implementation of the Home Office's ideas has to be led by those civil servants actually at the border.

But mistakes will always rebound on an incumbent secretary of state. Immigration is just one of many issues that make being home secretary one of the toughest gigs in government.

She said officials had exceeded their remit on several occasions, under the current government and its Labour predecessor.

Among the findings:

  • Security checks had been suspended regularly and applied inconsistently since at least 2007
  • Checks against the Home Office Warnings Index were not carried out on about 500,000 European Economic Area nationals travelling to the UK on Eurostar services from France
  • An operation was carried out at Heathrow Airport in which students from supposedly low-risk countries were allowed to enter the UK even when they did not have the necessary entry clearance
  • Secure ID checks were suspended 482 times between June 2010 and November 2011, including 463 times at Heathrow
  • Between January and June 2011, prior to the introduction of a pilot which relaxed border checks in specific situations, "the biometric chip reading facility had been deactivated on 14,812 occasions at a number of ports"

Mrs May said: "The Vine report reveals a Border Force that suspended important checks without permission; that spent millions on new technologies but chose not to use them; that was led by managers who did not communicate with their staff; and that sent reports to ministers that were inaccurate, unbalanced and excluded key information.

"The Vine report makes a series of recommendations about how to improve the operation at the border, and I accept them all."

Mrs May added: "I do not believe the answer to the very significant problems exposed in the Vine Report is just a series of management changes.

"The Border Force needs a whole new management culture. There is no getting away from the fact that UKBA, of which the Border Force is part, has been a troubled organisation since it was founded in 2008.

"From foreign national prisoners to the asylum backlog to the removal of illegal immigrants, it has reacted to a series of problems instead of positively managing its responsibilities."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper: "Language from the home secretary's own private office was not clear"

On the splitting up of UKBA, Mrs May said that "the extent of the transformational change required - in the agency's caseworking functions and in the Border Force - is too great for one organisation".

The Border Force would "become a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general, and accountable directly to ministers", she added.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told Mrs May: "It is time for you to stop hiding and to take responsibility for things that have happened on your watch, for the unclear instructions from your office, for the policy decision to downgrade border controls, for the failure to monitor and check what was going on, and the for the failure to take responsibility now.

"This mess got worse and escalated on your watch, every month that went by. Unless you accept responsibility for it, you will fail to sort it out and you will also fail to reassure us that you can cope with future fiascos, and that you as home secretary can keep our borders secure."

The UK Border Agency will be split up at the beginning of next month.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I await the mess at the airports this summer when there is absolutely no relaxation of any of the pointless checks that are meant to show us they are doing something - it has added to the waits at airports and done nothing for border integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Isn't this a bit OTT just to cover up May's cock-up?

  • Comment number 135.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Incompetent politicians...incompetent politicians who couldn't organise a whatsit in a brewery. Do the British people deserve who they have 'leading' them? Common sense and the will of the people seem not to be relevant with today's MPs. The toolbox now is constant change, reduce staffing levels and sell the ensuing chaos in the Houses of Parliament. Help!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.


    Now make sure we keep all of the immigrants out.

    No more room.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    My wife and I are relatively frequent flyers in and out of the UK (to Spain) and have rarely been subject to delays. We'd rather be subject to a little inconvenience if it meant keeping undesirables out - unfortunately it appears for some while the necessary checks haven't always been done. The Border Agency simply had to do their job. Short staffing is not an excuse where Security is involved

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    May's blaming management..Well about 10years or so ago ministers started a program of recruiting from outside (fresh blood, new ideas etc) this led to new graduates & ministerial friend's being appointed at senior levels & those with experience & knowledge of the job sidelined. Result = Emphasis moved from doing the job TO making changes whether needed or not so it could go on CV's as moneysaving

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    No one seems to have questioned - the fingerprint checks were partially suspended BUT how many people have been refused entry due to a dodgy fingerprint result? If none, then I fully support Brodie Clark in his practical assessment of the situation.There is no doubt in my mind that the Home Secretary didnt properly communicate or appreciate the practicalities, blaming others for her shortcomings.

  • Comment number 129.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    We need to STOP giving benefits to every bugger that steps on our soil. Its about time the politicians realise the rest of the world see us as easy money. We have too many 'do-gooders' justifying why illegal immigrants need to be allowed to stay in this country on £50,000 per year benefits, having previously lived in a tent in the desert!

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Try going through passport control on a non-EU passport. The staff are polite and diligent but when you get hit by 2 jets from the asian subcontinent things get strained. Some of us were not entitled to British nationality despite having four British born Grandparents and a British mother. Don't make assumptions. I'm a US citizen and constantly get told that 'I don't mean you' by the whingers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I'm surprised she has the time to do anything except scurry around the Middle East at the behest of the European Court of Human Rights to make sure that one particularly unwelcome racist terrorist does not receive the justice he deserves in his native country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Ah, the leftie snipers out in force again. TM acts to sort the mess left by Liebore, so she gets the blame - brilliant! High time we had an effective border force to keep out the illegals and save us years of trying to get rid of them once they're in. Might also deter others who see UK as an easy touch; we've enough useless work-shy benefit dependants of our own, thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    #102 Not this nonsense about immigrants again. EU immigrants are entitled to work/live here as we are in any EU countries.From a starting point of 100 years ago, I think you will find significantly more than 11% of the UK population are not indigents, and we're much the better for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Simple Arrival and departure cards filled out by everyone computer linked
    to pensions and benifits, that solves a few problems,,works well in New Zealand and Australia

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Well, the last lot messed it up royally and really should say absolutely nothing on the subject.

    And very disappointingly, this lot, who have now been in two years, haven't made much of an impact either. And I had high hopes. But I suppose rhetoric doesn't manage borders...

    I for one feel completely let down by all political parties, none of whom appear to be able to make a difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    @55 StalyVoice - MILITARY police have no jursidiction over civilians except under Martial Law. Typical Tory knee jerk reaction from a woman who wanted to deport someone for owning a cat. She got frustrated over Abu Qatada and wants to shift the charge of incompetence over to UKBA.
    @71 You'll know what standard of job the CS does once it's all been privatised (Like the NHS Cleaners)

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Samantha Pia Owen
    >>About 11% of the UK population are immigrants
    >>And they wonder why so many claim Job-seekers allowance?

    Clever observation, but I'm afraid that you are confusing cause and consequense.

    What stops benefit seekers from lifting their bottoms from sofas and taking the jobs immigrants are taking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.


  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Like most politicians, Theresa May will blame anyone but herself for the mess the BA's in. If she had asked the right people the right questions early on, she would have known what was going on. The fact that she didn't makes her position untenable and she should resign.


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