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 157.

    "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,"

    How dare these Labour wastrels lecture anyone on immigration after their flocking, floodgate ... 'debacle'? NHS & public services & taxpayers reeling under the strain of the excess in demand

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Walk through any major UK city today and see the 'thousands' of peoples from accross the planet. We are told its good for the country. I disagree. its not home anymore.
    We cannot deport so called 'illegals' if they passed through are inept border controls. I belive we have to accept it is impossible to control and the Home Secretary is simply making the appropriate noises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    102.Samantha Pia Owen

    "2009 figures:"

    And these figures are from the same people who said only 10,000 Poles would come to live in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Boudicca Queen (101).

    We dont have the most genrous benefits???.we are a damn site more generous than Canada,Australia and the U.S.A where they would get a big fat zero.If the benefits,housing,and payouts were stopped we wouldnt have to be talking about tightening border controls because all immigrants would be fleeing in there droves...youll be telling us they coming for the weather next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    how is it illegals are arrested, they say they have lost their passports, so the border agency cannot send them back, why are they then released,
    when someone is stopped at the border and are told they would be sent back how can they appeal against it, just send them back

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    "UK Border Agency will be split in two " won't undesirables just be able to walk through the gap in the middle?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I know UK Border Agency official at Gatwick, the shift rotation changes that the gov. have implemented mean she works a 14 hour shift, then literally goes home only to turn back round again for another 12 hour shift. Their powers to interview suspected illegal entrants into the country have been taken away, and they are completely short staffed. Improve the working practices, don't just rebrand

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Secure ID checks were suspended between June 2010 and November 2011, 463 times at Heathrow
    This means since the tories have been in power almost always heathrow did not have any secure checks in place
    I would say i was suprised but with the level of lies that this government consitantly comes out with, their lie about trying to reduce illegal immigrants is no longer any suprise

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Cat flap May playing the Blame Game again - it's everybody else's fault - the buck always stops before it gets near her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Is it any great surprise that the UK Border Agency is such a shambles when they contract to use a non-UK company (VFS Global, a subsidiary of Swiss multinational – Kuoni Group) to act on their behalf in many countries including China? I can understand (but not agree with) why we may want to privatise many critical government services but why not to a British company?

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    I find the whole situation apalling. One friend of mine requested a visa for a UK holday (second visit) and because they couldnt remember the names of the hotels stayed at and the counties visited three years previously, plus they were not coming for long enough (!), was refused! Yet the news is full of no regulation whatsoever. Are officials are just doing their own thing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Just came back from France at weekend in my van travelling by eurotunnel. No passport checks were made in and out the country. They didn't even look in the back of my van.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Is this going to mean MEANINGFULL control of just Who gets into the Country or is it just another excuse to let any scrounging no good in No passport No entry very simple let others worry about where they get sent

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Just now
    Ah, the leftie snipers out in force again. TM acts to sort the mess left by Liebore, so she gets the blame

    No it was your TM who authorised the relaxing of the rules and the laying off of Border Officers. But never mind she has a few more public servants she can blame before she has to resign herself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Bring back H M Customs & Excise

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    People who had never had a racial thought before have been forced into this awful position. In the middle East and other places the English have NO rights, but anybody comes here and demands their religion, their food there ways of burial in fact their own way which they claim as their rights. The NHS is falling apart, education is overcrowded with dual languages when in Rome do as the Romans do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    If it gets split into two, people will slip through the gap leaving one side to blame the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The UKBA operates with its hands tied by Human Rights legislation and the EU. Also now it is grossly under-staffed. The UKBA can't even guarantee there is enough people to cover the Olympics- but cant admit it. Teresa May time to resign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    every person coming in to the UK should have a DNA sample and have their fingerprints taken and if thay are only allowed into the country for a cur ten time thay should have a tracker attached to them to make shout thay comply with this

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    So Mrs May can't run the UK Border Agency properly; has let it run away without her. The solution - more resources, a tighter watch, better training for staff? No, lets spend money splitting it up, increasing layers of bureaucracy (more management), and changing the name more than the culture. I suppose it will give her more senior figures to point at while crying "it wasn't me" the next time.


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