UK Border Agency
Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department
2:30 pm

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Gavin Shuker (Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Luton South, Labour)

What recent assessment she has made of the operational effectiveness of the UK Border Agency.

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

I should like to pay tribute to the many dedicated and hard-working staff of UKBA, who do a good job, working day in, day out to keep our border secure and enforce immigration rules. There is certainly more to be done. The agency’s new chief executive, Rob Whiteman, has a vision to make further improvements. I share that vision.

Photo of Gavin Shuker

Gavin Shuker (Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Luton South, Labour)

Has the Home Secretary yet received the interim internal report on this summer’s security lapse, and if so can she tell me how many people were wrongly allowed into Luton airport in my constituency?

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have made available some figures from the early assessment of the success rate of the pilot that was run in the summer. We are of course awaiting the independent investigation by the chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, which will not be available until the end of January.

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Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire, Conservative)

There has been a warm welcome in the House and the country for the firmer approach being taken by this Government, but can the Home Secretary give us any further information on the ending of the bogus colleges scam, and to what extent the Government are able to influence events in the Mediterranean to ensure that better naval patrolling takes place to turn back boats carrying illegal immigrants?

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that there are now more than 450 colleges that have not been accredited under the scheme or did not apply to be accredited, which gives us a clear message about whether they were actually providing education. On his second point, it is important for this country to work with other countries and help them to improve their border security, so that the problem of people entering Europe and then the United Kingdom is reduced.

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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)

I understand that some 98,000 cases have been put in what the Home Office calls the “controlled archive section”, and it claims that many of the people involved cannot be found or located. As a constituency MP, I have many such people coming to see me, and they are living here and going through an application or appeal, and simply

waiting for a reply from the Home Office. Will the Home Secretary look again at the whole system and ensure that proper efforts are made to find people who are legitimately trying to continue their stay here?

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue and I remind him and other hon. Members that the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee asked Members of Parliament to write to the Home Office to say whether they had any cases of the sort that the hon. Gentleman mentions. The work that we have been doing is of course clearing up the chaotic mess in the asylum system that was left, sadly, by the last Government.

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Don Foster (Bath, Liberal Democrat)

With tourism vital to places such as Bath, it is worrying that the more and more people who travel abroad from countries such as India and China tend not to come to this country because they think that the UKBA is unwelcoming. Should we not at least have a special visa for 2012 to commemorate the Olympics and the diamond jubilee, and have the application forms in the language of the tourist rather than in English?

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

I fully understand the benefits and importance of tourism to certain parts of the United Kingdom such as my right hon. Friend’s constituency. I assure him that special arrangements have been put in place by the UKBA for those who are travelling to be part of or to view the Olympics next summer.

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Diana Johnson (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Kingston upon Hull North, Labour)

Last month, the Home Office claimed that seizures of class A drugs by the UKBA were up. That was described by the chair of the UK Statistics Authority as

“highly selective in its choice of statistics, in order, it seems, to show the UK Border Agency in a good light”.

In reality, official statistics show that UKBA seizures of class A drugs fell last year. Overall, there were barely half the number of seizures than in 2008-09. Given that 452,000 people take ecstasy in the UK each year, does the Home Secretary think that seizing only 300 ecstasy tablets is good enough?

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Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities; Maidenhead, Conservative)

Seizures have gone up in the past six months. If the hon. Lady is as concerned about drugs as she appears to be from her question, I look forward to the Opposition welcoming the drugs strategy that the Government have introduced.