Private jets and flights at 28 airports were let off border checks

 

Theresa May suffered a fresh setback last night over Britain's chaotic frontier controls after leaked documents disclosed that passengers on private jets have for months routinely been allowed into Britain without passport checks.

Further private memos emerged which showed that full biometric checks were waived hundreds of times over the summer as border staff struggled to cope with queues at ports and airports.

The Home Secretary has previously refused to say how often full checks were abandoned over that period, although she revealed last night that 28 ports and airports had been involved in a limited pilot scheme under which controls were eased.

The disclosures piled pressure on Ms May ahead of today's appearance before MPs by Brodie Clark, the former head of the border force, who is engaged in a bitter public row with her.

She has accused him of relaxing controls on non-EU citizens without her permission, while Mr Clark has rejected her claims and quit his post to set out his version of events.

He is expected to insist that he only ever eased passport controls to non-EU citizens on police advice as, for the first time, he details his case at a hearing of the Commons home affairs select committee.

Internal UK Border Agency (UKBA) emails leaked to Labour showed that immigration staff were worried about the relaxation of checks on private jets arriving at Durham Tees Valley airport.

The policy meant passports were not examined and passengers were not checked against check-lists of terrorists and international criminals.

One union official complained in March: "It would seem that you are relying on the fact that anyone operating a private charter has the best interests of the UK at heart and will therefore always declared everyone and everything on board."

Management replied that the practice was "in line with many airports across the country", including those in Liverpool and Newcastle.

In June officials complained of a "situation where we are not able to secure the border as robustly as we would like to, for no justifiable reason". The following day they were told a new national risk-based approach to handling private flights was being brought in across the county.

A separate email exchange indicated that controversial light-touch checks were used hundreds of times over the summer.

Ms May says she authorised a trial scheme to relax the checks on low-risk passengers, but says it was dramatically increased on Mr Clark's instructions.

She has been unable to produce figures to say how often the controls were eased.

A batch of internal UKBA emails says they were relaxed on 100, 165 and 260 occasions in individual weeks, implying that they were eased more than 2,000 times over the period the pilot scheme operated until it was scrapped.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Ten days on, there are even more questions than answers about what on earth was going on at our borders this summer.

"Last week the Home Secretary told us no one had been waived through without checks this summer. But these documents show passengers on private flights weren't even seen.

"Last week the Home Office wouldn't admit to having figures about how often checks were downgraded. Now we know those figures exist and that checks were downgraded 260 times in one week alone, potentially for hours each time."

Two days ago it emerged that coach passengers arriving at Dover were allowed into Britain without being properly checked by border staff.

The relaxation, introduced under the last government, was only halted two weeks ago.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
healthMeet the volunteer users helping to see if the banned drug can help cure depression and addiction
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
News
Foo Fighters lead man Dave Grohl talks about the band's forthcoming HBO documentary series
people
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards