Simon Calder: Clark's efforts should be cheered, not chided


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The Independent Online

We insist that anyone carrying a passport issued east of Helsinki or south of Gibraltar jumps over multiple hurdles before being admitted to the UK. We demand ever-leaner public services. We also expect not to queue for hours at Heathrow.

The most ridiculous aspect of the furore over allegations that the head of the UK Border Agency asked staff to relax checks on non-EU nationals, is that British travellers are primarily responsible for stretched resources at the body. Millions of us now have passports that work on the automatic gates at Britain's major airports. Yet, the take-up of this option has been a meagre few per cent of those eligible. Instead, we assert our right to stand in line and be examined by an officer who would be better deployed identifying real threats.

Each time I go to the United States, I am deemed to be a terrorist until I can prove otherwise. Britain is better than that. When you hear of a planeload of passengers being waved through Heathrow the knee-jerk reaction is to demand that heads roll.

Instead, we should celebrate the confirmation that we live in a society civilised and confident enough to adopt a light touch.

The system for allowing foreigners into the UK should certainly change: we should make it much easier for tourists from beyond Europe to come here.

You can be confident that the men and women of the UKBA will carry out their thankless tasks perceptively and professionally. And, in his efforts to make Britain a more approachable nation, Brodie Clark should not be suspended and disciplined – he should be applauded and promoted.