Theresa May to split up UK Border Agency


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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Could it be that this is the beginning of the end for this nefarious coalition?
    Let's hope so
    NHS privatisation, a massive increase in illegal immigrants, tuition fees trebled, VAT 20%, record unemployment, lies lies lies, fudging of figures..

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Some years ago I worked for a S.African he came here on a student visa, set up a company with 25 staff. He was on a student visa and was deported, he tried to get back here via Eurostar and was sent packing. Now lives in Australia and has the same model company there and is the leader in his sector. We are nuts in this country, deporting highly talented people and keeping criminal etc on the dole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Bring back HM Customs & Excise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    If the Border Agency needs a new management culture from the top down does it mean she is resigning due to incompetence ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    I would make it simple!
    If you cannot proove your here legally you are automatically flown to a holding facility on the Falklands and you stay there until you can.
    That should put them off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I paid the considerable extra cost for a biometric passport. Despite travelling abroad around 8 times a year I have NEVER seen the scanning machines at UK airports in operation! We should use the same system as Australia, Canada, the US; rigorously enforced points based entry criteria and NO entry for anyone with a criminal record. It works for them. We're a small island how hard can it be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Teresa May should have resigned. This is surely the main task of a Home Secretary protection of our borders and internal security. She is now waffling on about "plans for the future" But some of the comments below suggest that nothing much has changed since the story broke. Yvette Cooper should stay very quiet about this topic given the lunacy of Labours Immigration record.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Take a very old saying and change it to:

    "You can take the staff out of the Home Office, but you can't take the Home Office (culture) out of the staff" and you have the core of the problem.

    I, and it seems, no-one else has the answer, but it's apparent the Home Office and its successors/fragmented bits remains unfit for purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Sheer incompetence on the part of May - she should resign forthwith!

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    The other side of the coin? Legal entry made time-consuming and difficult. I am British but my wife is Ukrainian, with a 10-year visitor visa. To obtain this visa she had an iris scan and her fingerprints taken. But at Gatwick there was no fast track for such people, and no technology available - the UKBA officer was reduced to asking my wife for her date of birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Does the new border force have control over leaving the EU or not?

    Big elephant in the room. We're gonna stop immigration. Except immigration from the EU, which accounts for about 90% of immigration. Good logic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    No Visa or Passport = No entry and you get put back on the Carrier that brought you in - at their cost. They allowed them on board in the first instance with questionable or no documentation! Also no access to the benefit system for the first, say, 12 months after being allowed into the UK.That should thin out the economic migrants. Howls of protest?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    This is the problem with our country, we are too relaxed on people getting into the country - if you look at any other country, austrailia for example if you are not cleared to enter you are put on the first plane back to where you came from without question...

    ... Here we let any tom dick or harry in, or if someone is an illegal immigrant and say they have no passport we let them in anyway??

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    I'm proud of being a citizen of Great Britain. For all our flaws (yes, they are many) we are often a beacon of civility, freedom & justice compared to so many countries, many of whom admire us.

    Undoubtedly we get ripped off and used. But that's not weakness; it takes moral courage to open the door to the needy, if some frauds sneak in I don't care a jot. I'd rather keep the 'Great' in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    To all anti immigrant comments. I am an immigrant, I have paid more taxes in the last few years I have been in this country then some local people will pay in their whole lives. I have not claimed a single penny in benefits. In fact I have spent my overseas money in this country. I am sorry to say but this world should be a free place for peaceful, hard working, socially cohesive Human Beings !

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    But will it stop so called asylum seekers being let into the country ,they are so poor yet can travel across the world to come to the UK and even travel through france,italy,germany which all have more jobs and money than us. Surely if your a real asylum seeker you would stop at your nearest safe country. At least eastern europeans come ere to work and not for the state benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    None of this is anything to do with immigration: it's all a process to recover her reputation using the usual false alternative that only 'tougher' rules will deter terrorists and illegals. I lost my passport abroad last week and had to travel miles and stay 3 days to get a replacement. Before the Teresa May Fiasco I could have used alternative ID - now we have to suffer to make her look good.

  • Comment number 180.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    @ 154.roy

    You've rather missed the point. If someone were emmigrating for benefits alone picking the UK would be a very bad choice. My sister in Ireland claims some E200 a week in JSA with HB on top (the Irish equivilent of). In the UK she'd get £65 JSA.

    Also I'd prefer the UK avoided the mass homelessness and tent cities of the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    This appears to be another ridiculous waste of tax payers money.

    HM Customs and Excise
    HM Revenue ad Customs
    HM Immigration Service
    UK Border and Immigration Agency
    UK Immigration Service............ the list goes on!!
    What next???
    No way to run a business let alone a vital Governmental Function


Page 20 of 29


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.