Tuesday 31 January 2012

John Vine, Brodie Clark, Keith Vaz, Theresa May, Damian Green and Helen Ghosh

Today's the day. The deadline for John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, to submit his report on the Brodie Clark affair to the Home Office.

Will the public be allowed to see it? This matter concerns our border security and it concerns the safety of the 2012 Olympics. It's a matter of public interest.

But don't get your hopes up. Look what happened to the Home Affairs Committee.

Along with the three investigations into the Brodie Clark affair launched by the Home Office, the Home Affairs Committee looked into it and published their report a couple of weeks ago, Inquiry into the provision of UK Border Controls:
2. The precise facts of the case are disputed and the Home Office has denied us access to original documents that would have helped us to clarify the sequence of events ...

9. The Home Office has refused to provide us with a copy of the HOWI Guidance, a document we believe to be of importance as it has been discussed extensively in oral evidence to this Committee, as well as in the House itself ...

18. ... We have requested a copy of the slide presentation from the Home Office, which again has been refused. Without access to the slide, we are unable to comment on ...

27. Despite agreeing to make both the Home Office Warnings Index Guidelines and the periodic updates available to us when she came before us on 8 November, the Home Secretary has since refused to provide us with these documents ... notwithstanding any internal departmental investigations, these documents would have assisted our inquiry in confirming witness accounts and we would normally expect a Government of any party to acquiesce to such a request from a Select Committee. We recommend that the Home Secretary deposit copies of all the documents that have been made available to the three internal investigations in the Library of this House. This will allow this Committee to reach an informed conclusion of our own and would be consistent with the Government's commitment to transparency and accountability ...
The House of Commons, in the form of the Home Affairs Committee, can go hang. Parliament may call itself "supreme", but the Executive is unmoved. They will spend our money on useless technology – £491,304,533.51 and counting – and (constructively) dismiss anyone who dares to tell us that it is useless and there is nothing that Parliament can do about it.


Anonymous said...

The Home Office website says :

Report by the independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency - WMS

This written ministerial stement was laid in the House of Commons on 31 January 2012 by Theresa May, and in the House of Lords by Lord Henley.

Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May): Following the resignation of Brodie Clark, a senior UK Border Agency official, last November, I asked John Vine, the independent chief inspector of the UK Border Agency, to carry out an independent investigation into border checks conducted by the UK Border Agency. Mr Vine has asked for more time to complete his investigation. Once I have received his final report I will update the House after constituency recess on both the findings of the report and on the action the government will take.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Date: Tue Jan 31 10:09:48 GMT 2012

David Moss said...

Thank you very much indeed for that information.

Anonymous said...

The FT reports that BAA reckon that Heathrow e-gates project has slowed down since the Brodie Clark inquiries got underway.

David Moss said...

Thank you very much indeed, Anonymous, for that information, which is available here, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f5c44c0e-4e87-11e1-ada2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1lY2bnaOT

The FT attribute the delay in part to the Brodie Clark affair:

Decisions are being delayed until the results of an inquiry into a political furore last year over the relaxation of border controls at UK ports ...

There is an additional problem.

Readers of UK Border Agency News magazine will know from the May 2011 edition that:

At the end of 2011 the Immigration and Asylum Biometric System (IABS) will replace the agency’s current fingerprint system and will also support biometric capture at the Olympic and Paralympic Games ...

The programme is working closely with its suppliers IBM, Morpho, Home Office IT, Fujitsu and Atos to successfully deliver the latest biometric matching technology for the agency.

By the time of the November 2011 edition of the magazine, the scheduled implementation date for IABS had slipped two months to February 2012 (and the Olympics bit of IABS will now be delayed until March 2012).

Quite independently of the brodie Clark report(s), eGates progress is likely to be hindered by problems with IABS.

Another Whitehall success story for IBM, Morpho, Home Office IT, Fujitsu and Atos?

Hard to answer. Here we are, 5 February 2012, and the January edition of UK Border Agency News still hasn't appeared.

virtual office said...

There are a lot of issues regarding the report. It has to be investigated fairly.

Anonymous said...

The airlines are increasingly twitchy over how we are to cope without Brodie's risk-based approach :


UK Border Controls

Since November 2011 all passengers arriving at the UK border have been subject to100% passport verification. This is irrespective of any checks or procedures whichthey or their passenger information may have gone through before, or as part of their journey. It is also a move which disregards any intelligence or behaviour led profiling and treats every traveller as a potential risk to the UK border.We support and benefit from tough border control standards, but they can be achieved more pragmatically, through a variety of complementary methods, ratherthan relying on a 100% frontline check which risks bringing Britain’s airports to a standstill and frustrating the travelling public.Over recent years, the Home Office has taken positive steps to ‘export the border’ by moving some elements of passenger immigration checks overseas. This has been achieved by mandating biometric collection when travellers apply for a UK visa,requiring transport providers to provide passenger information on departure to the eBorders Programme and engaging airline commitment to an Authority to Carry regime where UK government agencies will allow or deny passengers the right to board their flight based on security and immigration decisions.The UK Border Force has been streamlined in recent years with 25% fewer border officers and an increasing emphasis on technology such as passenger e-gates. We fear that this level of resource is incompatible with a return to 100% checks and if left unaddressed will cause congestion at UK airports.

Detrimental Impact on Airport Operations

If arriving passengers are unable to proceed efficiently through the UK border then the entire airport operation will be at risk. Passengers arriving late from passport control to collect their luggage will cause congestion in the baggage hall delaying delivery of luggage from later flights. If there is no space in the immigration hall forany more arrivals then airlines will be forced to keep passengers onboard the aircraftthus jeopardising the operation of subsequent flights. This in turn, will delay departing passengers and cause over-crowding in departure areas as a result. Atpeak travel periods, such as the Easter holidays, there is a very real chance of gridlock at UK airports.

Our View

With passenger numbers set to rise and limited space in many airports, VirginAtlantic believes that the only sustainable options to prevent congestion are either to substantially increase UK Border Force resource or return to a sensible risk-based approach to border controls, with more use of pre-departure information and less
emphasis on the arrival check.

Anonymous said...


Sections on e-gates (paragraphs 59-61) and IRIS (62- 64)

e-gates conclusion :
The "Agency" needs to provide convincing evidence, for its own staff as well as the general public, that the e-Gates system is no less reliable than passport checks carried out by a person.

£9 million has been spent on an iris recognition system which has lasted only six years and its sole value appears to have been that it provided data for the e-Gates. This money could have been better spent on border staff—at least 60 immigration officers could have been employed with the money spent on IRIS. The Committee recommends that, in order to avoid another costly investment in equipment which will not last, the "Agency" publish the data it has collected on the e-Gates trials which it is currently running.

David Moss said...

Anonymous, thank you very much indeed for quoting those excerpts from the Home Affairs Committee report.

Anonymous said...

New scanning gates failing ?

Staff not trained to use machines ?

Surely not !

From the Telegraph :


"The difficulties were exacerbated by a series of technology glitches including the failure of a finger print machine, used to check passengers who require a visa to enter Britain.

On other occasions both the Iris recognition and new automatic passport scanning gates failed, adding to the frustration of new arrivals.

“I am unsure but I do not believe our staff are trained to use these machines,” one manager said. “If they were I could have deployed the kit much faster.”

The machinery was very slow and kept failing. Staff found it “impossible” to segregate those with visas in the crowded queueing areas.

David Moss said...

Extraordinary, Anonymous! Quite unheralded.

I predict a stream of letters to the Telegraph along the lines of:

Between the coalition government coming to power and 29 February 2012 – the latest date for which figures are available – the UK Border Agency and the Identity & Passport Service between them spent £248 million on the contractors for the new Immigration and Asylum Biometric System which is in use at Heathrow and which, according to your report, is suffering from "technology glitches". A little less wasted on modern failed IT systems and a little more spent on old-fashioned human Border Force officers, and maybe the queues at Heathrow would be shorter and we could have more confidence in the security of the border and the safety of the Olympics.

The Home Affairs Committee may even be interested in interviewing Jackie Keane and Alex LaHood, two of the officials at the Home Office behind IABS, in addition to Damian Green.

And who knows, they may want to talk to Nicholas Swain of IBM, who account for £186 million of those £248 million.

Meanwhile, there is work for us to do. Who writes the articles in UK Border Agency News? It would be interesting to find out:

Since go-live [of IABS] feedback has been very positive; the transition has been seen as ‘seamless’ and the IABS was described as ‘a significant improvement’.

Whoever it is has a talent for casual lying that would be the envy of the old Kremlin.

Anonymous said...

Personnel Today also reports that the front-line should have a say in where the resources are deployed (and I don't think it would be on machines that don't work !):

"....Philby added that the UK Border Agency would need to ensure that staff care about their jobs so that they take ownership of situations, and make decisions more quickly and effectively.

He explained: "The role of border control is a noble one, protecting Britain, and there is a huge opportunity to create a 'high-level intent' to engage employees. The way to solve the problem is to create an environment where employees feel valued, can work autonomously and the decisions on where to put resource and how to behave is made at the front line by the operational staff."

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, commented: "Drafting in staff from other areas of an already over-stretched agency is like putting a sticking plaster on a serious injury, it will do nothing to stop the inevitable from happening.

"Everyone can see that the Government's obsession with austerity isn't working and that what UK Border Agency needs is more staff, not more cuts."


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