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 217.

    Any EU who wants to come here should only be here if they have enough money to support themselves with housing/education etc. Other countries do it. Many Brits go to other countries but have to pay their own way, including health care. Ausralia wont allow you to stay for a start. Germany only allows unemployment benefits for 1 yr then any job has to be taken. A few do come to work many dont

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    All you have to do is set foot on UK soil and there is little that can be done to remove you thanks to our blind obedience to EU rules that other nations laugh at. We have no one to blame but ourselves for this mess. We need our sovereignty back and fast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Hmmmmm, if our government can't remove a known, unmentioned foreign terrorist from our country, due to 'external European dictate' how can we possibly get to grips with his potential successors? I know of no other country that would not only support, but protect a dangerous resident.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    It took the new labour government 11 years before a border agency was created and they have the audacity to tell the coalition government they are not providing the UK with the security it deserves. Of course why would labour want to prevent immigration, all of these immigrants were and are potential labour voters, that's the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    186 Howls of protest you deserve for proposing a relaxation of the current system which is tougher than you propose. One thing you may think about if someone gets to the immigration desk without a passport how are you going to tell which aircraft they arrived on? They dump all documents including the boarding pass and passport used to get on the plane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    The words 'Barn Door', 'Horse' and 'Bolted' come to mind.

    I don't really have a problem with immigration, but it's kind of worrying that Government so intent on monitoring the people who live here have been so lax in monitoring those who are arriving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Problem is due to human rights and being PC. Border staff conduct stupid random checks on vehicles and people who quite obviously are not trying to smuggle illegal aliens, drugs or terrorists.They have so much experience but are afraid to be over vigilant for fear of be thought to be discriminatory.Less pointless PC time wasting would give them far more time to catch the villains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    It's always been a bit lax, I remember coming home to Manchester Airport in the early hours of the morining back in the early naughties and walked stright out of the Airport without once showing my passport to anyone and no one was present at the customs bit where you have the "Nothing to Declare" etc. thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    I see I have the lowest rated comment for pointing out that the UK has some of the lowest benefit rates in Europe.

    Forgive me for imagining that facts had any place in this discussion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Something radical - I have names for the split agencies - they could be called Customs and Immigration !
    Will Customs Officers ever regain the reputation they lost when forced into the Home Office ?
    One disgruntled ex Customs now 'Border Force' Officer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    This sounds like pre planning for UK Border force (Which is the frontier part of UKBA) to join the National Crime Agency when it appears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    "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...."

    When is this current Labour shambles going to grow a pair and stop blaming everyone else for the 13 years of mess they caused on THEIR watch?

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Perhaps they should have left H M Customs & Excise, as H M Customs & Excise, the Inland Revenue as the Inland Revenue and Immigration as Immigration.

    Oops I forgot these splits were supposed to be progress...

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    The border Agency are trying to do a proper job with too few people ,and the E.U. law is against them in every way. What is needed is to start a new way of dealing with the many thousands of illegals who are allready here as bogus students and others working for shady companys imported here by criminals gangs should be arrested and put into jail and deported This is the only way to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Why not privatise UKBA? Give contracts to three companies and see if competition delivers what the government want. After all that's happening in the NHS, schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I also agree with 173 - I also did not breach house rules yet had a post removed for challenging someone's view who had used derogatory terms. Shame as I made a valid point but hey ho!

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    2squirrels -- In the middle east No one has any rights unless they are Arab or a muslim (varies depending from where)
    I understand your thinking but do you really want to live in a society that belittles everyone but their own?
    The reason why it happens in those countries is because no-one says anything as they control the oil & governments don't want to upset them for fear of losing the oil

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Why can you go through check in security in Morocco (Islamic state) on British Airways with bottles of water in your hand luggage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    there are so many illegal immigrants and legal immigrants without a valid reason that even immigrants with valid reasons are upset about the fact that they use all these benefits unlawfully. completely stopping immigration doesn't have practicality. BUT it could be made a fair system if managed properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Even if illegals are caught then they are released to supposed to register at an office miles away, they of course disapear. What a surprise.This was on instructions of the Home office under Blair/Brown as they did huge cover up as they were letting people in. If they should not be here then take photos/DNA deport straight away. If no identification when coming of plane they must take flight back


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