Home Office rejects claims security checks missed on ‘high-risk’ flights

Minister for legal migration Tom Pursglove said the security of the UK border was ‘a top priority’ for the Home Secretary.

Flora Thompson
Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:52 GMT
The Government was responding to an urgent question from Labour (Carlos Jasso/PA)
The Government was responding to an urgent question from Labour (Carlos Jasso/PA) (PA Wire)

The Home Office “categorically rejects” claims that hundreds of high-risk flights landed in the UK without security checks, according to an immigration minister.

Tom Pursglove disputed warnings made by chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal, who the Daily Mail reported had received Home Office data showing UK Border Force failed to check the occupants of hundreds of private jets arriving at London City airport.

Responding to an urgent question from Labour in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Pursglove, who is the Home Office’s minister for legal migration, said: “When it comes to the questions that she raises around these flights at London City airport and the information that has been put in the public domain, the Home Office categorically rejects these claims by David Neal.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said ministers had been “repeatedly warned about border security risks on private flights”, telling MPs: “The Prime Minister may just think it’s all his own mates but there are real risks from organised crime, money laundering, drugs, weapons smuggling, trafficking and even terrorism.”

Mr Pursglove insisted Border Force performed “checks on 100% of scheduled passengers arriving in the UK and risk-based intelligence-led checks on general aviation”, adding: “It’s deeply disturbing that information which has no basis in fact was leaked by the independent chief inspector to a national newspaper before the Home Office had the chance to respond.

“We are urgently investigating this breach of confidential information in full in the normal way.”

The security of the UK border is a top priority for me, for the Home Secretary and for the Home Office. Everything we do in this area is designed to reduce risks to this country and its citizens

Minister for legal migration Tom Pursglove

He said Mr Neal’s report was submitted to the Home Office last week and underwent fact checking as was “standard practice”, adding: “Mr Neal was made aware of a specific issue in the recording of data at London City airport which meant that a large proportion of flights recorded as high-risk should have been reclassified as low-risk, and it’s disappointing that he’s chosen to put misleading data into the public domain.”

Mr Pursglove also told MPs: “The security of the UK border is a top priority for me, for the Home Secretary and for the Home Office. Everything we do in this area is designed to reduce risks to this country and its citizens.”

The Home Office’s “priority is to deliver a safe and secure border, and we will never compromise on this”, he added.

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