Immigration Minister Damian Green has said that "individual passenger experience" at border security is necessary in order to avoid 'potential damage' to the UK's reputation.
Mr Green accepted that some passengers had been forced to stand in line for up to 90 minutes in breach of Border Force targets and pledged action to tackle the problem. He said:
"We have to ensure the border is secure. Security is the number one priority. But after that we have to make sure that the personal experience is as smooth as possible."
The Prime Minister grilled the Home Secretary Theresa May this morning over what his spokesman said were "unacceptable"delays for passengers arriving at Heathrow. No 10 said people should nothave to wait as long as they had been to get through passport control.
Yesterday Mr Cameron's spokesman blamed the "severe weather " for the delays. Today he said ninety minutes was too long for anyone to be kept waiting:
"Clearly whether they are holidaymakers or business people visiting the UK, these people do not want to queue for a long time.
We understand their frustrations. We want to do everything we can to deal with those problems."
– Damian Green, Immigration Minister
The problem is that people, at certain times, on certain days, have to wait too long. We're addressing that problem. Border Force need to change the way they operate, we need to work better with the operator BAA and with the airlines, and, as of today, we are instituting some changes as the summer starts. During the course of May we're employing 80 more people... You need the right people at the right time in the right terminal.
- Mobile rapid-response teams will be brought in
- New shift patterns to offer 'additional flexibility'
- During the Olympics all immigration desks at Heathrow and other key ports and airports in the South East will be fully staffed during peak periods
The Immigration Minister says passengers at Heathrow Airport are being made to wait for too long to get into the UK and the Border Force needs to change the way it operates. Damian Green said:
- 80 extra staff would start work this month to help ease the lengthy queues
- It's not just about staff numbers, but about how and when they were deployed
- Mr Green says the Border Force needed to be more flexible
The Immigration Minister Damian Green has blamed the rain for the length of queues at Heathrow airport, saying: "This was caused mainly by the severe weather leading to flight diversions and changing flight schedules and the bunching of arrivals."
The lengthy queues have been criticised by the shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant, London Mayor Boris Johnson and airlines.
The Immigration Minister has conceived that some people have queued for too long at immigration at Heathrow airport, but hit out at "wild" reports of two-hour delays.
Damian Green said that the "vast majority" of passengers were processed quickly and that despite some breaches of acceptable waiting times, the problem had been exaggerated:
- 99% of UK and EU nationals queued for no more than 25 minutes
- 96% of the rest queued for no more than 45 minutes
- The longest recorded wait was 90 minutes
The Immigration Minister Damian Green has stressed the need for airlines to work with the government-run Border Force to reduce the queues at Heathrow airport.
He has come under criticism from Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, for what he called "inadequate" immigration services.
Speaking on the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Green said:
Of course there is a problem...What's really important in this is that airlines, airport operators and Border Force need to work together. That is the way we solve it; that is the way passengers will have a better experience. Official Border Force figures show that it is about an hour and a half. I agree that that is too long...We are taking significant steps to make sure that Border Force is more flexible so that we have the right people in the right place at the right time.
The Immigration Minister Damian Green admitted today that there is a "problem" with delays at passport control at Heathrow, and pledged to take action to tackle the problem.
He said he accepted that some passengers had been forced to stand in line for up to 90 minutes in breach of Border Force targets and pledged action to tackle the problem.
The director of Employment and Skills policy at CBI, a business lobbying organisation has said that delays at the Heathrow border were "not acceptable". Neil Carberry commented on the recent pressure on the UK border:
– Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy
“Not only do these queues project the wrong image about the UK being open to business and visitors alike, they risk undermining our reputation as a global trading hub. Of course our border security must be the number one priority, but this should not be incompatible with ensuring a good passenger experience.
Immigration Minister Damian Green has said that the Border Agency will strive to work with UK Airports in order to keep it "running smoothly", and that it will be "staffed fully" during the London 2012 Games.