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 317.

    What Mrs May has announced takes us back to an immigration service with the task of implementing immigration law at the border and on those subject to that law already here. Good. UKBA is too big, unwieldy and top heavy with a mishmash of responsibilities covering policy, casework and enforcement. If customs and immigration are to be separated too, so much the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    I think that if Westminster is split in two it will work better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    #168 ClarKe was in charge of the Border Force, not the Border Agency, & was there for several years. Lin Homer was Head of the Border Agency. Exactly how well this structure worked & whether it impeded clear communications with Ministers who can tell? (The report doesn't). There's alos the question of the role of Home Office policy officials in all this (also not touche don in the report)

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    As an American, I sincerely hope Teresa May does not only go after those agents who allow people in without adequate clearance, but equally after those who exhibit an excess of zeal impeding the progress of those whose documents are in perfect order. Especially with the Olympics coming up. I also agree the US border should ease up on UK passport holders. Or bring on robots for passport checks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    I'm still trying to work out whether politicians walk round with their head in the sand or whether they are just intensely stupid. Or both. You've only got to walk the streets to see and hear the reality. Those constantly defending anybody's right to come here, regardless of the history or character have vested interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Not sure how any of this works. Every time I go abroad by ferry I'm waiting ages in queues to try and get back in, up to an hour once. I don't fly anymore because I'm sick of airports and airport checks. Then I read that thousands are let in that shouldn't be here. They can have my place with pleasure, I'd sooner live in France!

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    I suppose there is no chance that the 2 new parts will be H.M Customs and H.M Immigration!!!!!

    I think a good name for the new organistaion would be "Queue Busters" who ya gonna call!

    In some ports there are virtually no Customs checks at all because they have to "queue bust" instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    and how much will it cost to create two agencies?
    at times of cutbacks?
    perhaps we could use the home secretaries wages to support it for a while..

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    FAST TRACK FOR BRITS RETURNING FROM ABROAD!!!! What's so difficult to understand dear politicians? We Brits would no longer clog the system for your checks of relevant entrants, we would not feel punished by & second class citizens of our own country, you'd get a lot of frequent (British) flyers on your side & you could do all the checks you wanted with non Brits. Come on, it's not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    290. GhostOfEnoch
    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.

    Actually, that well-known Communist (and bass guitarist with The Clash) Edward Heath sacked Enoch Powell from the shadow cabinet almost immediately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.


    "Watch how they deal with the same situation in Australia."

    Yes, grasping, narrow and shameful aren't they? Odd, because I've met so many really nice Australians. Their immigration policy lets them down. We don't have to sink to their level though.

    At our best (when we're at it) we have what the generosity of spirit that will one day characterise all humanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Lets split the not fit for purpose UKBA into HM Customs & Excise and the Immigration Angency, oh, wait didn't the government merge those two specialist departments at a cost of millions? Brilliant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    anything they do to close all the holes in our boarders and to stop the unwanted immigrants from sneaking in is ok in my book,

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    EVERYBODY - Please read the Immigration Act 1971 and the Customs and Excise Act 1979.All the laws are in place.All the powers are held by Officers. Customs Officers(UKBA) can still search and seize. Immigration Officers(UKBA) can still refuse entry.I used to do one job(Customs)now I do both(cuts).The public want us to do the job yes? So steal our pensions and cut 5000 of us - that should fix it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    295. Maria Ashot

    People from America should be given a free reign here in my opinion. We do nothing to vet Eastern Europeans and yet our closest allies are being interrograted? Trust me, we aren't worried about US benefit claimants here.

    Ps there is no 'special relationship'. It's a complete fallacy dreamed up by deluded British politicians who think the UK has any hold in American affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    I'm repulsed by the way politicians of every party cheerfully & without conscience sacrifice the careers of long serving public servants to save their own miserable, duplicitous hides. Do we really want people with this kind of psychological defect making weighty policy decisions that impact upon our lives? All senior political figures are guilty of this. The great & the good? What a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    As an addition to 285, There are no excuses for relaxing any rules. The time it takes to get thru is totally irelevant. if one has to wait to be safe then surely thats good for all of us. If queues build up then someone needs to create more posts and a better facility to accomondate the rush, but it shouldnt relax to rules and regulations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Better say something the mods like. I am all for complete open access and free immigration as immigrants do us all proud. Only racists oppose open immigration. Down with restrictions on immigration, down with racism, down with Teresa May and Tories who want to close the door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    If immigrants come 2 Britain illegally and do not declare they are seeking asylum or declare themselves they should be deported immediately no matter what, they broke the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Makes me smile all these travellers who never get stopped and searched. Have they ever wondered why ? Nothing to do with them being white is it.


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