Border check management 'troubling'
A highly troubling lack of supervision and failures in communication led to the UK's border checks being relaxed too frequently, MPs have said.
A root-and-branch reform of the way in which the Home Office and the UK Border Agency interact is needed to make the agency fit for purpose, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said.
It launched its investigation after the head of the UK border force Brodie Clark quit his 40-year career in the Home Office last year amid the row over lax border security.
He admitted using guidance designed for health and safety emergencies to suspend fingerprint checks at the UK's ports, actions which had no ministerial authorisation, but accused Home Secretary Theresa May of blaming him for "political convenience".
But he insisted he was "no rogue officer" and launched a constructive dismissal case in which he could net £135,000.
The committee said it was "very concerned" about the overuse of guidance issued five years ago relating to the Home Office Warnings Index (Howi), a watch-list of suspected terrorists.
The guidance, which the Home Office refused to provide to the committee, is understood to detail several emergency health and safety situations which could lead to checks against the list being suspended.
These could include a build-up of passengers in the arrivals hall at an airport, a fire, or queues of vehicles at Calais backed up to the motorway, presenting a road safety risk.
But the MPs said they were "shocked" that the guidance had been invoked at least 50 times between May and July 2011, a further seven times between August and October 2011 and almost 100 times at Calais alone.
"We are very concerned that the Home Office Warnings Index Guidance 2007 might be being used inappropriately at local level as a management tool instead of an emergency provision," the MPs said.