Keith Vaz 'appalled' at Heathrow Airport queues

 

Damian Green must explain why half the immigration desks at Heathrow Airport were closed today despite long queues of passengers waiting to enter the country, a Labour MP said.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was appalled at the length of queues at 7am and that he would ask the Immigration Minister to explain the situation to MPs tomorrow.

His comments come just over two weeks before the Olympics start and after shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was a disgrace that international athletes were waiting longer than two hours to pass through immigration control.

Mr Vaz said: "I was appalled by the length of queues in the immigration hall this morning.

"It is now two months since the Immigration Minister promised additional resources and better management.

"The worst aspect was that half of the immigration desks were simply not opened even though the Border Force had prior knowledge of all flight arrivals.

"This creates additional security pressures with luggage piling up in the baggage hall.

"We look forward to hearing the Immigration Minister's explanation for this tomorrow."

Queues at Heathrow Airport were more than an hour for non-EU passengers, despite a 45-minute target, when Mr Vaz visited Terminal 4 at 7am today, his spokeswoman said.

Yesterday, Ms Cooper said many of those forced to wait in long queues were Olympic athletes, who will be arriving ahead of the opening ceremony on July 27 to acclimatise to UK conditions.

A leaked memo reveals that tourists arriving from outside the European Economic Area are repeatedly waiting longer than the 45-minute target time to pass through passport control.

Meanwhile, European visitors are waiting longer than one hour when it should take less than 25 minutes to have their documents checked.

Ms Cooper accused Home Secretary Theresa May of failing to ensure enough staff were employed at peak times.

But Mr Green said the Government's actions to tackle queues "have resulted in real improvement over the last two months - including consistently hitting our targets on UK and EU passengers and reducing waiting times across the board".

"But we're not complacent about some long waiting times, which is why this weekend we have increased staffing numbers by more than 50% at Heathrow to respond to large passengers volumes," he said.

"And by the start of peak Olympic arrivals in less than 10 days, there will be up to 500 additional staff on our rotas across the country - this includes enough staff at Heathrow to cover every desk during busy times.

"Additionally we have special lanes in place designated to Olympic athletes to enable them to pass through the border without delay."

A spokesman for airport operator BAA said: "Immigration waiting times for passengers during peak periods at Heathrow in the last few days have been unacceptably long and the Home Office should be delivering a good experience for regular passengers as well as for Olympic visitors."

He went on: "Immigration is a matter for the Home Office.

"The Home Office has said that from July 15 all Border Force desks at Heathrow will be open during peak Olympic arrival periods."

Official figures showed the wait at immigration control for non-EU passengers this morning was 56 minutes.

A Border Force spokesman insisted Mr Vaz was incorrect.

"Queues at Terminal 4 remained under an hour at all times," he said.

"Staff were quickly redeployed and more than 80% of desks were open to process passengers as quickly as possible."

Later, Mr Vaz urged ministers to inspect Heathrow at peak times.

"I was there at 7am this morning," he told the Commons.

"I was appalled to see people being held in corridors, an immigration hall was full as well as half the kiosks not being opened.

"Could we please start the additional measures for the Olympics immediately?"

Mrs May said ministers visited Heathrow at various times to understand the different circumstances and the extra workers for the Games would start in a week.

She told Mr Vaz: "At Terminal Four today queues were not over an hour as I understand you said they were.

"Staff were being quickly redeployed and more than 80% of desks were open to process passengers as quickly as possible."

PA

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits