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Immigration Minister backs new government visa service

Immigration Minister Mark Harper has backed the Government's new UK Visas and Immigration Service to clear Britain's backlog of immigration cases.

The UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation for many years, which is why the Home Secretary took the decision to split the agency in March this year.

The new UK Visas and Immigration Service has a clear focus to improve visa performance and customer service, while the Immigration Enforcement Command concentrates on those who break our immigration laws.

Both now report directly to ministers, delivering greater transparency and accountability.

It will take a long time to clear the backlogs we inherited - but through the changes we have made we are in a much stronger position to do so.

Vaz criticises Home Secretary over immigration backlog

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP has criticised Home Secretary Theresa May following the Committee's latest report into the backlog of immigration cases in Britain.

He said:

The backlog of cases has now hit a staggering half a million people. This could fill Wembley Stadium to capacity six times over.

At the current rate it will take 37 years to clear and the Home Office cannot confirm that this is the last of the backlogs.

Theresa May described the UK Border Agency as 'closed, secretive and defensive', however, despite abolition nothing appears to have changed apart from the name. If people at the top are not replaced this will only be an exercise in rebranding as has happened in previous reincarnations.

There should be no more bonuses paid to any senior management at the Home Office until the backlogs are cleared.

After a raft of damning reports, Home Secretary Theresa May abolished the UKBA and replaced it with UK Visas and Immigration and an Immigration Enforcement command, which were brought back under the control of ministers.


UK's immigration backlog 'could take 37 years to clear'

The backlog of immigration cases in the UK could take nearly four decades to clear. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The backlog of immigration cases at Britain's troubled border service has hit a "staggering" half a million people and at the current rate of progress will take nearly four decades to clear, a group of MPs has warned.

A rise in the number of foreign-national offenders living in the community as they await deportation was also discovered by the Home Affairs Select Committee in its latest report into the work of the now-defunct UK Border Agency (UKBA).

The committee warned that a recent move to scrap the agency and replace it with two new divisions - one in charge of immigration and visas, the other with border enforcement - was in danger of being an "exercise in rebranding".

It discovered that in the final quarter of last year, spending on external consultants at the agency rocketed from £27,000 in the previous three months to more than £500,000.

Minority of police guilty of 'corruption and incompetence'

Keith Vaz, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has said that some police are able to "get away with corruption and incompetence" because of "broken systems of accountability". He said:

Broken systems of accountability and a patchwork of police standards and training, have allowed a minority of officers to get away with corruption and incompetence which is blighting an otherwise excellent service with dedicated officers.

The days of Dixon of Dock Green are over. The new landscape of policing requires a new type of police officer ready to meet the new challenges.

Honesty, integrity and transparency are essential components of the policing DNA.

– keith vaz, chair, home affairs select comittee

Qatada costs 'could have paid for 90 new constables'

The Government has been trying to deport Qatada to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999, for around eight years

I am shocked that Abu Qatada's legal costs alone could have employed 90 new constables for a year.

– Keith Vaz MP

US claims could be 'Snooper’s Charter by the back door'

Labout MP Keith Vaz has said he is "astonished" by the allegations about a US programme monitoring communications in and outside of US borders.

Keith Vaz MP said he was astonished by the claims Credit: Ian Vogler/PA Wire

He said: "The most chilling aspect is that ordinary American citizens and potentially British citizens too were apparently unaware that their phone and online interactions could be watched.

"This seems to be the Snooper’s Charter by the back door. I shall be writing to the Home Secretary asking for a full explanation," he added.


Labour: PCC register is 'vital for accountability'

The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee said that a national register for PCCs is "vital for local accountability".

Keith Vaz MP said: "We need to guard against maverick decision-making," he added, "the Government is going to publish a register of chief constables' interests, but has so far refused to do so for PCCs, who share the power over policing."

Labour MP Keith Vaz Credit: Andrew Parsons/PA Archive

Last year PCCs replaced police authorities in 41 force areas across England and Wales, they were handed the power to set force budgets and even hire and fire chief constables.

A report from the Committee said Home Secretary Theresa May was "keen to distance herself from any responsibility to assess the performance of the PCCs", stating that they were ultimately "accountable to the electorate".

Cost of 'plebgate' investigation reaches £144,000

The police investigation in to the "Plebgate" affair which led to the resignation of former chief whip Andrew Mitchell has cost nearly £150,000, it emerged.

Codenamed Operation Alice, the Scotland Yard inquiry was launched after claims that officers may have lied about the dispute with Mr Mitchell when they refused to let him leave Downing Street on his bike via the main gate in September last year.

Andrew Mitchell on his bike Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

In a letter from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, leading the investigation, to Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, it was disclosed the cost of the police investigation had reached £144,000.

DAC Gallan wrote: "It remains that I have 30 officers at my disposal and the Operation Alice is estimated to have cost £144,000 to date."

"Four people have been arrested and no individual is currently charged. The advice file submitted to the CPS by the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) has specifically asked for advice and guidance surrounding the future of the investigation in relation to potential criminal charges."

Government urged to prepare for migrant arrivals

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz is urging the Government to conduct a "full study" into the impact of the lifting of the access restrictions between the UK and Bulgaria and Romania. He said:

Though this report is helpful, what the Government needs to do is to commission a full study into the impact of the raising of transitional arrangements placed on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.

This report contains no estimates of expected arrivals, yet when we deal with immigration it is essential we have the facts and figures.

It would be helpful if Theresa May visited Romania and Bulgaria to gauge the reasons why their citizens would chose to migrate to the UK.

The way we handle this issue will be fundamental in shaping our relationship with the EU, and with future enlargement applicants such as Turkey.

Labour MP calls on party leaders to discuss immigration

Keith Vaz has called for a new consensus on immigration. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images

An influential MP has called for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to formulate a joint policy on immigration to avoid "fringe parties" filling a vacuum.

Keith Vaz, the chair of the home affairs committee, said cross-party talks were needed to avoid an “arms race” towards tougher policies.

In an article for the Sunday Express, Vaz wrote: “Rather as they did for the Royal Charter agreement after Leveson, Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband should now sit down together and talk about this issue.

“By doing this they will deny fringe parties the opportunity to fill the vacuum and demonstrate to the British people they want to engage purposefully and productively in addressing one the most challenging issues that our nation faces.”

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