Customs checks aimed at thwarting drug and gun smuggling have been overlooked since border security staff came under pressure to cut passenger queues during the London 2012 Olympics, the public spending watchdog has warned.
Border Force officers told the National Audit Office (NAO) that staff shortages and the need to juggle full passport checks with keeping queue times down has often stopped them from duties such as checking for illegal goods.
Nearly 100 per cent of passengers received full passport checks in 2012-13, the NAO said, while more than 99 per cent of European arrivals cleared controls within the 25-minute target time.
But this success was at the expense of activities outside dealing with passengers, as the number of entry refusals, forgery detections, and seizures of cigarettes and counterfeit goods were all below targets.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: “The Border Force did well to reduce queuing times, but it is deeply worrying this came at the expense of its other responsibilities, particularly customs. Border security cannot be an either/or choice.”