'Risk-based' border checks proposed
Risk-based checks at the UK's borders should be brought back to help ease airport queues, MPs have said.
A pilot scheme, scrapped in the wake of last year's row over the unauthorised relaxation of security checks, should be brought back and could help process large groups of low-risk school children through immigration much more quickly, a report said.
But the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee warned that risk-based checks must not be allowed to become queue-based checks, where stringent security measures are dropped simply to ease long waiting times.
It also called for the introduction of so-called smart zones, where passengers on low-risk routes are screened before they arrive on the basis of information provided by carriers, to be brought forward from December this year.
The MPs warned that some carriers were "resigning themselves to reducing their revenue because the Border Force does not have the capacity to provide them with an adequate service".
"Any impact on the capacity of goods and passengers to enter the country could have implications for the wider economy, not just the travel industry," the MPs said. "It is imperative that the problems are resolved before more companies find themselves facing the same choice."
They went on: "We believe that it is perfectly possible to maintain robust border controls while operating a risk-based model. The Home Secretary (Theresa May) should start by immediately reintroducing the pilot she suspended in November 2011.
"The pilot was very limited in terms of which checks it authorised officers to drop at their own discretion but would nonetheless have been effective in processing large, low-risk parties such as schoolchildren through immigration much more quickly."
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the committee, said: "Border Force needs to go for gold. It must start taking the actions necessary to ensure passengers clear immigration in a timely manner and that queues are measured accurately. The Home Office must immediately reinstate the risk-based pilot for entry checks that was abandoned by the Home Secretary last November."
A Border Force spokesman said: "The action we have taken to cut queuing times and keep the border secure is already paying dividends and, despite the surge in Olympic visitors, queues at Heathrow in the last week have been almost non-existent. We're also ready for the post-Olympic period - we've been recruiting more officers for several months and our new central control room at Heathrow means mobile teams are now being rapidly redeployed across the airport, wherever they are needed most."