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 297.

    What's the point?
    I watch Border Control and it appears that nearly all illegals identified are put on their honour to report to control centres and after release are never seen again.
    Watch how they deal with the same situation in Australia.


  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    "hundreds of thousands of people were let into the country without appropriate checks"

    unionists querry how an independent Scotland could guard her borders?

    Scotland could not do worse than this bunch of clowns!

    These same clowns have a replacement process, what confidence can Scots have it will work?

    Scotland needs control over it's own borders and our own Scottish Passports!

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Is there, in fact, a "special relationship" with the US? The USA is listed as a "low-risk" country by the UK Border Agency website. Yet our son, born in the USA, with a valid US passport & a valid UK student visa, was still given a very unpleasant grilling at Heathrow, for 45 minutes. His brother is a UK taxpayer & we scrupulously avoid any pubic funds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    not forgetting that due to the amount of people, and building in the south east there is a drought condition in February!

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    The Border security business needs more than a management fix. If it had enough resources, it could manage. It doesn't and so it has to cope. In these circumstances, where managers can't manage, it needs better leadership and more imaginative solutions to have effect, rather than marketeering driven end-states and touchy-feely impact statements. It also needs clout and a robust legal capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    These "hundreds of thousands" let into our country. Will they ever be deported. The answer of course will be NO. Time not to vote Conservative, Labour,Lib Dem any more. They have let our once lovely country be ruined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Passport costs went up when they added a biometric chip and now we discover they were not bothering to read the chips so a complete waste of time.

    No one has a clue how many people got in with counterfeit passports { assuming they asked to see a passport }

    It was Labour that set it up so they should accept the majority of the blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    281. H3000

    You'll hopefully be even better forgotten than you are now. How is hell, anyway, old chap?

    Hell!? What, for speaking the truth, and everyone knew it as most Brits supported Powell after his famous rivers of blood speech. It was only the deluded rock against racism lot/uneducated far-left bigots that started a hate campaign against a man who told the politically incorrect TRUTH.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    How can we begin to consider scrapping 5000 UKBA jobs when we cant manage with present staff levels. DOH?
    The excuse of "unusually high volumes" is worn out now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    SpursGirlChelmsford - All you say is in place.All visas issued at embasies say no 'recourse to public funds'. The Immigration Act requires proof of funds to be shown to Entry Clearance Officers at Embassies. Trouble is , you need Entry Clearance Officers at Embassies. they've been cut(wasteful civil service?!)so no interviews for visa applicants. Its not the law its the staff needed to enforce it

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    A fair few wish they hadn't, no one thought it through and once youv'e signed its hard to pull out

    As an island we should find it easier than most but its expensive and some interested parties have been very successful in embedding the suggestion that some how its racist/unfair to manage immigration properly. If we want to manage imigration we need to believe we have a right to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Please can we all agree on one thing: If jobsworth politicians were any good at anything then the infrastructure of the UK would have been 'working' years ago. Oh silly me, that means that the politicians would have nothing left to do! Instead they can carry on meddling and interfering! Do ANY of them have a qualification in what they're supposed to be in charge of? e.g. Gordon Brown!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Methods of engagement at borders are there for many reasons, the top one is to stop would be terrorists, and if any thinks that its alright to let that sort of scum thru, then they better make sure they have good reasons Those AH,s in charge felt it better not to tell Labour and Tory ministers. If there is a shortage of quality staff then I feel sure some ex soldiers/policeman can help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    If a person enters our country illegally then that person is a criminal and therefore should be returned from whence they came, regardless of their stories of how they could be treated. If their entry was via another EU country rules as far as I know state that they can be returned to the first EU country they entered, which pretty much would guarantee wouldn't be ours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Mr Cameron, Mr Milliband, you should read this forum.

    Do we want to be a nation to take the world forward to new levels of peace, prosperity and humanity? Or should meaness, jealousy and spite define us?

    What leadership will you show us & the world? The open hand of generosity or a clenched fist sulking in the pocket, waiting to lash out?

    Take the moral high ground, it's empty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Government and governmental organisations - halfwits in charge of quarter-wits. Staffed by plenty of personnel, financed by too much tax-payers money and led by insufficient talent. Always has been and unfortunately, always will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    266. GhostofEnoch

    I wonder what Britain will look like in 2050, a totally different country to the lovely 1930s.

    You'll hopefully be even better forgotten than you are now. How is hell, anyway, old chap?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Re: signing up to Schengen, that's not the issue- people want to come to the UK - a great compliment- but it's not practical for us to support all? UK in Schengen will just make the ultimate goal of many easier?

    The UK is sought more than EU because maybe their 2nd language is english (not french, german, span.), benefits are too easy to "get" and there are established ethnic communities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Mrs May and Cooper.
    Watch border patrol uk, then border patrol Australia, and play spot the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Look, it's simple. Give the agency enough be paid for by savings in benefits and relief from those denied entry.

    Stop blaming the staff, just provide enough to do the job properly.


Page 15 of 29


More Politics stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.