The claptrap of Damian Green

By | Category: Travel rumblings

© Dan Sperrin

In the last couple of weeks or so, the spotlight has turned on the lengthening queues at passport control as you re-enter the UK. In particular it seems to have taken much longer at Heathrow and Gatwick. Some MP’s say that “something must be done.”
But what?
Yesterday the minister – Damian Green – responsible for the Border Force (the arm that is responsible for checking us when we leave and return) had the temerity to suggest that the problems was due to the severe weather. What claptrap! The problem has been getting worse for months. It used to be that returning to this country took no longer than a few minutes for us to get through. Then all EU citizens were treated as UK subjects; the lines grew but it rarely took more than 15 minutes to get through.
But now 30-40 minutes is common and some people claim that it has taken as long as acouple of hours. I cannot vouch for this although I have been through Heathrow and Gatwick six times this year and it has yet to take me longer than 40 minutes. Make no bones; that is no acceptance on my part. It is far too long but compare that to the two hours I have had to wait in New York and Orlando to enter the USA on the only two occasions I have been there in the last two months and I may seem blasé. But there you have fingerprint and photographic evidence to give as well. In Mexico City – not renowned for fast and organised efficiency – it didn’t take more than 30 minutes. In Germany and Spain, just a few minutes.
But, as I have written before, often not all the booths are manned so manpower must be an issue. Now the Labour Party has found out that staffing has been cut by 10%. The Border Agency says that the booths will be fully staffed during the summer peak months thus leaving the impression that at any other time we passengers can just put up with it. Well passengers won’t. Cheering took place when one person stormed through. BAA which owns Heathrow objects as does British Airways. But so does everyone else. At least eighty more officers will be recruited. But given the number of shifts that exist plus the naumber of booths, eighty may not be anywhere near enough. What does it take to change things?
Why doesn’t “someone” do “something?” Both The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have been great on reporting and playing up the issue but have been singularly lacking in ideas to resolve it. By the way has anyone spotted that is the Mail’s defence correspondent, Ian Drury, that writes their articles and not a news or transport or even travel reporter. Has this now become a national security/ fight the terrorists issue rather than letting normal holidaymakers return to their homes? Why? It cannot be due to an increased potential attack during the Olympics regardless of what the government says. This has been getting worse for at least 6 months. They are using that as a cheap excuse to hide incompetence.
Tomorrow I shall suggest a possible solution but in the meantime how about some MP asking the question as to how much of the extortionately high APD we pay is going to pay for staff at the Border Force to man these booths? Or, as we all cynically know, does it just end up in the Exchequer for the government to use on other things. I don’t suppose they would consider ring-fencing some of the cash so that the Border agency can efficiently do what it is supposed to do?

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