I was stopped at 7.30 on a Monday morning at Dover, returning from a weekend in France and on my way to work. After being asked to show my ticket and passport, I was passed on to a Benefits Agency officer, who said she was going to ask me "a few questions". She did not tell me that I had the right to refuse to answer, or that I would subsequently be asked to sign a statement on the spot. It was an intimidating situation - I was in a Customs shed, surrounded by people in uniform and facing a locked door. I therefore did not protest at the time, despite feeling that this was a gross invasion of my privacy.
A letter of complaint to the then secretary of State for Social Security was passed to the Benefits Agency in Dover, who replied by saying that, according to their officer, I had been "happy to co-operate". Questions about the taking of statements, the purpose and effectiveness of the operation, and the authority under which it was carried out have not yet been answered.
I was glad to read that I am not alone in finding the Benefits Agency's need to hide behind other people's skirts in order to look for needles in haystacks to be pretty reprehensible.
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