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 577.

    My hot water bottle dog daughter Ellie and her PG Tips boyfriend Biggaboy came off a flight from Ibiza wasted on E's and drunk and managed to skip through Liverpool Airport without showing their passports. They weren't challenged by security staff even after Biggie left a little parcel on the carousel and Ellie dropped her duty free vodka on the concourse. It's a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.


    "We have a government within which the Deputy Prime Minister and one third of the Cabinet are in favour of giving illegal immigrants (criminals) an amnesty and a British passport."

    Really? When was this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    571. IMP- You could always do what I did: Serve as a Royal Navy Officer and experience 'the inner track' of HMG, emigrate and work legally in 4 other countries (20 years), get a degree, then an MA, through researching before opinionating, marry a non-EU woman, see her kept out, see your friends experience the same, tackle the UKBA, read immigration laws for 18 months, live it, be victimised by it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    More dilution of the indigenous stock (combined with rapid emigration of the white working class)... hang on its the New Labour Thought Police Agency at my door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    We have a government within which the Deputy Prime Minister and one third of the Cabinet are in favour of giving illegal immigrants (criminals) an amnesty and a British passport.
    Does anyone believe this government, that is built on compromises, is serious about tackling the problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Now I may be wrong, but wasn't the problem something to do with too few staff to deal with the number of people coming through the border checks (passport control). Surely the answer therefore is to increase the number of staff and add more check points. How will splitting it up make any difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    From what I'm reading you have a full tank already. We aren't anti anybody or racist, just trying to protect the very thing that attracts other nations here. Perhaps when its destroyed they will have nothing to come for. Ironically an Iranian who has lived here for twenty years said to me that the very thing that attracted him here is been destroyed. But what do I know?

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    564. stracepipe

    How obnoxious. You think that rights work on a 'beggars can't be choosers' basis?

    By your reasoning if you get admitted into a hospital with a broken leg and the doctor merely punches you in the face you should say 'thank you sir'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    they spend enough time checking cars/vans/trailers at ports when I go through - seems like the law-abiding are scrutinised ad nauseum, while neer do wells skip through without a care in the world! I dread having to fly anywhere now - but what do all the delays achieve? jobsworth jobs for little hitlers, and woe betide you if you complain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Clearly, when something doesn't work, dismantling it throwing the bits in the air and reassembling it different order will be the answer. Job done!

    Then again, why should we worry about protecting the world from undesirables? I would have thought letting them leave would be in our interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    Someone commented on here that the UKBA always checks incoming passports?
    My wife and I arrived at Heathrow early one Sunday morning and went from airside to groundside, then on to domestic departures without once being checked. As you can imagine, the place was absolutely snowing with foreigners!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    You could power a car on some of the reactionary methane being spouted here by the 'never tried it myself, but I have a friend who knows a man...' brigade. A few more bouts of "I never fought two world wars against Mr. Hitler, so that these Johnny foreigners could come over here and drink our beers..." and I'll have a full tank ♪(´ε` )

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    559. simonsaysjapan. I know what I see touch and fell and I have lived long enough to have witnessed this countries slide into the abyss. Immigration as such is not bad but uncontrolled immigration is not only disastrous for the economy its also dangerous for the security of the nation as we will no doubt feel first hand shortly. Thanks for the lecture, it speaks volumes about you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    How can asylum seekers claim human rights violations for being detained? Surely, if they were genuinely fleeing persecution, they'd be glad to be safe, fed, clothed & have a roof over their head. It just proves that the reason Labour & Libdems love immigrants is that they are a licence for the Guardian reading classes to print money. "Let us line our pockets or you're racist".

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Who is right and who is wrong? Whatever and whoever, with this government's record on looking after our sainted services I wouldn't like to bet my money on May.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    What a shambles , no wonder we are the laughing stock of the world ,our system of welfare is abused by people who should never be here , the governments seem incapable of defending our borders, but any one elses send in the troops! i have never felt so alienated in my own country , our judges and mps are overuled by unelected people in another country , it truly beggars belief , im vey unhappy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    Amusing to see John Reid being cited as the fount of all wisdom with his "not fit for purpose" remark.

    The reason he said that was he took on the job and he simply wasn't up to it. Lending him credence now makes him look like a visionary when he was in fact simply incapable and covering his own back.

    You have the public sector-manned borders you wanted. You can't complain now

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    According to the report, UK border controls have not been operated properly for over 5 years. The UK does not seem to have been adversely effected by this - just as the complete absence of border controls between the UK and Ireland seems to have little effect.

    Our current "let's pretend" border controls are nonsense, so why not join Schengen as it seems to work for everyone else in the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    550. IMP- Never mind your employment history as a build up to validate your opinion. You have a strong opinion on immigration, like most UK citizens, but you should be asking yourself 'on what is my opinion based?'. What are the UK public's opinions based on? I have actually dealt with the UKBA. The immigration law community call them 'the Dark Side'. We experienced know the reality. You don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    Even if we had secure borders that captured every illegal immigrant trying to enter the country, it would only solve a small fraction of the problem. Most people here illegally actually entered the country legally, mainly as tourists. They became illegal by not leaving.
    The availability of cash in hand employment and housing, means that these illegals can "vanish". That is the bigger problem.


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