Let me say at the outset that I introduced no additions to the Home Secretary’s trial, neither did I extend it or alter it in any way whatsoever; I was meticulous in complete clarity on the Home Secretaries requirements; I briefed them personally. Over the first month of the trial, I reported weekly to the Home Secretary, as she required, and with each briefing I offered a follow up meeting. Aside from teething issues, the trial delivered into the border business exactly as she wished. I did not enlarge, extend or redefine the scope in anyway.
I have not wilfully or knowingly sanctioned an alteration to border checks that contravened existing Home Office policy.
And on queues, despite the pressure from port operators’ carriers and others, I have never sanctioned that the high quality checking arrangement at our border should be adjusted to speed the flow.
The discussion has been confused by a conflation of two things‐ firstly, our long standing Home office policy on dealing with critical health and safety issues at ports, and secondly, the Home Secretary’s recently introduced pilot on risk based activity to improve performance. They are quite simply, separate‐ one a pre existing policy for the management of high risk safety issues, the other, a more improved approach to deploying staff skills to the highest risk activities.
Eight million occasions of checking children against a security watch list produced only one spurious ‘hit’ ‐ I would rather our staff were doing more productive work.
Our border operation is going through constant change. We merged frontline immigration and customs activity 18 months ago; we were required to reduce our head count by 900 staff over the past year in order to deliver the government saving requirement; passenger volumes at Heathrow have risen by 9% and the demand for better customer service continues unabated.
Against that, the Border Force continues to deliver improved security results, with a five year record in volumes of cocaine and heroin and a 3 year record on tobacco seized at the border. Equally, it continues to improve its record of catching clandestines and refusing the harmful.
I have, as I always have over forty years, delivered within the government parameters and I have done so with an absolute determination to strengthen the UK border. We have built a strong agenda of getting the best from our staff; exploiting the most from our technology and focussing strongest on the breal harm and threat to the UK. We have come a long way in three years and it is by no accident that we now rank as one of the most secure border
operations in the world.