Work of the UK Border Agency (August-December 2011) - Home Affairs Committee Contents



1. Since 2006, the Home Affairs Committee has undertaken to examine the UK Border "Agency" on a much more frequent basis than would usually be the case because of the deep concerns about the performance of this organisation which is in fact an integral part of the Home Office and not a separately constituted and managed agency. Since last year, we have received regular updates from the UK Border "Agency" on the issues it faces every four months, including the deportation of Foreign National Prisoners and the backlog in asylum cases. This report covers the period based on the latest letter received in December 2011, and oral evidence given by Mr Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of the UK Border "Agency", and further correspondence as a result of that evidence session. The Committee is, therefore, able to monitor performance of the "Agency" on a number of key indicators and scrutinise the effectiveness of its work.

Staff remuneration

2. The 2010-11 budget for the UK Border "Agency" was £1.705 billion (£1,704,999,000).[1] During that period, the "Agency" employed 23,426 full-time equivalent staff, either directly or indirectly.[2] The Committee has long been concerned that the levels of salary and bonus paid to senior staff are commensurate with their job description and performance. The current remuneration of the senior management is as follows.

Figure 1: Current remuneration of senior management at the UK Border "Agency"
UKBA senior management team Salary


Bonus (in 2010-11)


Rob Whiteman

Chief Executive

175 - 180 N/A
Jonathan Sedgwick

Director International Group

105-110 5-10
Matthew Coats[3]

Director Border Force

Jeremy Oppenheim

Director Immigration Group

Justin Holliday

Director Resource Management Group

130-135 5-10
Joe Dugdale

Director HR & Organisational Development

130-135 5-10
David Wood

Director Enforcement & Crime Group

100-105 5-10
Emma Churchill

Director Strategy and Intelligence


Source: Home Office report and accounts 2010-11

3. Since the last report the organisation has been re-structured into fewer directorates. In addition, the relaxation of border checks in summer 2011 has led to the "Agency" being split and the border force functions returned to the Home Office. The Committee held an inquiry into the relaxation of border controls and our report was published 19 January 2012.[4] Those who are no longer heads of directorates include: Brodie Clark, Martin Peach, Barbara Woodward, Robert Yeldham and Philip Duffy. Those who have taken over directorates are: Jeremy Oppenheim and Emma Churchill. The Committee reiterates that, in these times of austerity, no bonuses should be paid to the senior management team at the "Agency".

Foreign National Prisoners

4. In 2006, it emerged that 1,013 Foreign National Prisoners who had served their sentences were released back into the community without being considered for deportation.[5] Fifty-seven are still to be located, as the breakdown below shows.

Figure 2: Breakdown of cases of Foreign National Prisoners released back into the community in 2006

Source: Ev 13

The "Agency" assumes that many of them will have left the country voluntarily, but there is no way of confirming this.[6] The table below shows that 14 former Foreign National Prisoners were deported in the past year compared with 23 in the previous year.[7] The Committee requests an explanation for the drop in deportations on the previous year to be included in the response to this report.

Figure 3: Numerical breakdown of cases of Foreign National Prisoners released back into the community in 2006
Foreign National Prisoners released in 2006 Sept 2009Oct 2010 Feb 2011Nov 2011
Going through deportation process 135121 110 98
Serving a custodial sentence 2522 2320
Duplicate0 08 8
Deported, or removed 360383 389397
Not located85 7064 57
Concluded but not removed 408417 419433
Total1,013 1,0131,013 1,013

Source: Data compiled from previous reports

5. In 2006 the then Home Secretary announced that 1,013 Foreign National Prisoners had been released without being considered for deportation. Only 397 of the 1,013 have been removed—fifty seven of those prisoners are still in the country and ninety eight are still going through the deportation process. Six years is far too long for this situation to be resolved and these cases should have been concluded long ago. The mistakes made which allowed the release of these prisoners should not be allowed to re-occur in any part of the UK Border "Agency". The UK Borders Act 2007 introduced automatic deportation for non-EEA[8] prisoners serving twelve months or more.[9]


6. The UK Borders Act 2007 introduced an 'automatic deportation' provision whereby the Secretary of State is required to make any non-EEA foreign national prisoner who has received a sentence of 12 months or more, or any custodial sentence for specified serious crimes, subject to a deportation order (with certain exceptions). All Foreign National Prisoners who appear to meet the criteria for deportation should be referred by the prison service to the UK Border "Agency" within 5 days of sentencing. The "Agency" receives approximately 500 of these referrals each month.[10] In the first three quarters of 2011, 3,490 Foreign National Prisoners came to the end of their custodial sentence, as the table below shows.

Figure 4: Breakdown of Foreign National Prisoners coming to the end of their custodial sentences by financial quarter from January-September 2011

Time period Q1 (January-March 2011) Q2 (April-June 2011)Q3 (July-September 2011) Total
Number of Foreign National Prisoners releases 1,2601,080 1,1503,490

Source: Ev 15

7. In September 2010, the Home Secretary reported to us that 28 Foreign National Prisoners had been released from prison during that year before being referred to the UK Border "Agency".[11] The "Agency" is in contact with 25 of them and the other three are, according to the Home Office "currently being traced".[12] The Home Secretary has implemented a number of procedures to further improve the process, including the "Agency" working with partners in the Police, the National Offender Management Service and the Ministry of Justice in order to facilitate the identification of Foreign National Prisoners eligible for deportation.[13] Over the period January to September 2011, there were eight of these cases, one of which was released straight from court. Where there is a failure in reporting referrals, the National Offender Management Service investigates the case.[14] It is not clear to us what happens as a result of any such investigation. In the next report, the Committee will require a report directly from the National Offender Management Service, giving a breakdown of cases that have been investigated, what their findings have been and what action has followed as a result.

8. The Committee welcomes the reduction in the number of prisoners who were released without being referred to the UK Border "Agency" and the Committee will continue to monitor the figures to make sure that this decline is maintained. The Committee notes that further processes are being implemented to ensure that all Foreign National Prisoners eligible for deportation are considered and repeat our basic view that no Foreign National Prisoner should be released without deportation being fully considered.


9. In the financial year 2010-11, some 5,010 Foreign National Prisoners finished serving their sentences. The table below shows a breakdown of this cohort.

Figure 5: Cohort of cases of Foreign National Prisoners, in 2010-11

Cohort of cases finished 2010/11
July 2011 November 2011
Removed3,248 65%3,320 66%
Allowed to remain471 9%  520 10%
Did not meet deportation criteria[15] 00% 1102%
Deportation being pursued 1,30026% 1,06021%
Total5012 5010

Source: Table compiled from Ev 13 and HC 1497-II, Ev 411

The "Agency" has sought to justified the fact that the 21% of prisoners have yet to be deported by stating that there are obstacles to deportation in 1,060 cases. The chart below sets out the "Agency's" assessment of the obstacles to the deportation of those 1,060 which the "Agency" is currently attempting to deport.

Figure 6: "Agency's" assessment of the obstacles to the deportation of Foreign National Prisoners, 2010-11

Source: House of Commons Library

In our previous report, The Committee criticised the fact that the "Agency" classified 27% of cases where deportation was being pursued as having an 'unknown' obstacle to deportation. These figures differ from those published in our previous report, since the "Agency" accepted our earlier recommendation to stop classifying cases as "unknown". The Committee welcomes the fact that this recommendation was accepted but the category shown in the chart are opaque and the Committee require a proper breakdown and explanation with the equivalent chart in the next report.

10. When questioned about the 520 Foreign National Prisoners classified as 'allowed to remain', Mr Whiteman was unclear about the rights these individuals had. Specifically he was asked whether these individuals, who would be eligible to remain in the country, could apply for settlement and citizenship despite being considered for deportation after committing a serious offence. Indeed, he appeared to confuse the terminology, taking it to mean those who had been released pending deportation:

    Q65 Mr Clappison: I am more concerned about the significant number—520—who had served their sentences, been considered for deportation but had been allowed to remain in the country. Can I take it that those are prisoners who had a sentence of 12 months or more and who had otherwise met the deportation criteria?

      Rob Whiteman: They have met the deportation criteria, Mr Clappison. UKBA's position is that we believe people should remain in detention until the removal takes place. As the Minister made clear yesterday in an urgent question, in 90% of cases where people are not detained pending removal, it is because of the decision of the courts. Our position remains that we think people should remain in detention until the removal takes place.[16]

Mr Whiteman later clarified that the 520 would have been exempt from deportation[17] for one of a number of reasons—because the deportation criteria have not been met; or because the courts; the UK Border "Agency" have decided that deportation would be a breach of the UK's international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights or the Refugee Convention or because the person is British, or otherwise exempt from deportation. This appears to indicate that some prisoners have been wrongly classified as Foreign National Prisoners but the Committee requests a clearer explanation from the "Agency" in the response to this report. In the next report the Committee requires the '"Agency"' to break the figures down under each of these headings and to provide an explanation. For example, it is not enough for the "Agency" to tell us that they have decided that deportation would be a breach of the UK's international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights or the Refugee Convention. They need to tell us which of the two was in danger of being breached, and indicate the article or articles referred to. The Committee needs to be satisfied that a proper interpretation of the law is being made by the "Agency".

11. There appeared to be further confusion about the 110 Foreign National Prisoners who 'did not meet deportation criteria'. As can be seen from the table in paragraph 9, this was not a category which the "Agency" has previously recorded. When asked whether this category applied to prisoners who had served less than 12 months (the statutory minimum in order to be automatically considered for deportation), Mr Whiteman was unable to confirm this and agreed to write to us with the details. In later correspondence, he said that

    These were cases where the sentence served was less than 12 months (or 24 months in EEA cases unless the conviction was for an offence involving drugs, violent or sexual crimes) and the person did not otherwise meet the criteria for deportation.[18]

In follow-up evidence, Mr Whiteman clarified that where an individual does not meet the deportation criteria, they may still be subject to enforcement action. If the offender does not have a legal right to remain in the UK, the case is referred to the Local Immigration Team so that removal under administrative powers can be considered.[19] In the next report the Committee will require a breakdown of what has happened following a referral to the Local Immigration Team. The Committee needs to know how these cases were dealt with subsequent to referral and what outcomes were achieved.

12. The Committee has long suggested that the terminology and figures used by the UK Border "Agency" can be, at best, described as confusing and at worst, misleading. It would seem that, on this occasion, even their Chief Executive had difficulty in following the data provided to the Committee. The work of the "Agency" and any discussion on immigration will necessarily involve the use of statistics. It is vital that, when providing, figures, especially to a Committee of the House, that the information is consistent, clear and accurate. The Committee expects this to be the case in future. It is difficult to see how senior management and ministers can be confident that they know what is going on if the "Agency" cannot be precise in the information it provides to this committee. As The Committee has pointed out on a number of occasions, the "Agency" is an integral part of the Home Office and is not a separate "Agency" with separate systems of accountability. This is therefore a matter for the Permanent Secretary, and as well as receiving reports from the head of the "Agency". The Committee will expect to hear from the Permanent Secretary how she intends to clean up the use of statistics within the Department.


13. As of 28 November 2011 there were 3,940 Foreign National Prisoners living in the community. This is an increase of 165 from the figure of 3,775 recorded in May 2011. During 2010, in an average month, 105 Foreign National Offenders were released from immigration detention while being considered for deportation. Approximately, 90% of these were released by the courts; with the remaining 10% being released by the UK Border "Agency".[20] A breakdown of the time since release from prison is shown below. Overall, Foreign National Prisoners are currently being released into the community at a rate of around 600 a year, down from a total of 1,260 in 2010.

Figure 7: Time since release from prison for Foreign National Prisoners subject to deportation

Time since release from prison
6 months or less270
6-12 months350
Total released within the previous year 620
12-24 months650
Total released within the previous two years 1,270
More than 24 months 2,670
Total 3,940

Source: Ev 12

14. When asked what action was being done to deport individuals released more than two years ago, Mr Whiteman, identified two main problems. Some prisoners gave a false identity, which makes it difficult to establish their country of origin. Some people, although their country of origin is known, do not have travel documents which would allow them to be re-admitted and may not co-operate in applying for them.[21]

In their response to our last report, the "Agency" state that

    We are working on policy solutions to increase FNO removals, including tackling non compliant individuals by making greater use of prosecution powers against FNOs who do not cooperate with the deportation process or breach bail conditions. We are also working hard to reach agreements with other Governments to open up routes of return of their nationals and to streamline documentation processes.[22]

The Committee considers this work to be vital in removing those who ought not to remain in this country. Prior to our next report, the Committee expects to see an assessment of the timescale and the numbers involved in each category referred to in this paragraph.

15. The Committee is deeply concerned that there are 2,670 Foreign National Prisoners living in the community and still awaiting deportation after two years. The Committee recognises that some of this is due to circumstances beyond the "Agency's" control, such as the domestic political situations in some prisoners' countries of origin. However, more could be done to address the problems of false identity and lack of documentation. The Committee recommends that the "Agency" should, as a matter of routine, begin working to establish the identities of Foreign National Prisoners, and ensure that they have the necessary travel documentation, as soon as they are sentenced. The next time the Committee scrutinises the "Agency", we intend to ask how many Foreign National Prisoners were referred to the "Agency" at the point of sentencing.

The Asylum and Migration Backlogs

16. The asylum backlog was first announced by then-Home secretary, John Reid in a statement to the House on 19 July 2006 and was due to be resolved by the summer of 2011. Mr Reid originally told the House that the number of cases that needed to be resolved was between 400,000 - 450,000 cases. [23] Under the legacy programme, the Case Resolution Directorate in fact reviewed 500,500 cases, and the Committee were told by Jonathan Sedgwick that by 12 September 2011, all cases which were in the backlog had received an initial decision.[24] However, 18,000 cases were yet to be fully resolved and were transferred to a new unit, the Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU). A further 98,000 cases where the applicant could not be located were transferred to the 'controlled archive'.[25] The latest outcomes of the concluded cases are shown in the table below.

Figure 8: Outcomes of concluded cases from the asylum backlog
November 2010 March 2011September 2011 November 2011
Allowed to remain139,000 (42%) 161,000 (40%)172,000 (36%) 176,500 (36%)
Removed35,000 (11%) 38,000 (9%)37,500 (8%) 38,200 (8%)
Other(duplicates, errors or controlled


160,500 (48%)205,500 (51%) 268,000 (56%)270,500 (56%)
Total concluded334,500 403,500479,000 485,200

Source: Data compiled from HC 587, HC 929, HC 1497 and Ev 11

Concluded cases in the Asylum backlog

Figure 9: Graph showing the outcome of concluded cases in the asylum backlog

Source: House of Commons Library

17. In October 2009, the UK Border "Agency" announced that it had also found a backlog of 40,000 immigration cases.[26] These were concluded at the same time as the legacy backlog with the majority being transferred to the controlled archive. The table below shows the cases which have not yet been fully concluded as a result of these backlogs.

Figure 10: Live Cases
November 2010 March 2011September 2011 November 2011
Number of 'live' cases 166,00097,000 18,00017,000

Source: Data compiled from HC 587, HC 929, HC 1497 and Ev 15

Figure 11: Controlled Archive
November 2010 March 2011September 2011 November 2011
Number of Asylum legacy cases placed in the controlled archive 18,00040,500 98,00093,000
Number of migration cases in the controlled archive 00 26,00026,000
Total18,000 40,500124,000 119,000

Source: Data compiled from HC 587, HC 929, HC 1497 and Ev 15

Figure 12: Cases not yet fully concluded

Source: House of Commons Library


18. As of November 2011, of the 18,000 cases transferred to the new unit, 7,700 (43%) had been concluded, leaving 10,300 (57%) awaiting resolution. The graph below shows a breakdown of the outcome of the decisions of the concluded cases.

Figure 13: Outcome of concluded cases

Source: Ev 11

19. However, in correspondence relating to the reporting period August-November 2011, the "Agency" confirmed that it had identified a further 1,500 cases which ought to be transferred to the Case Assurance and Audit Unit. This would increase the total of the legacy backlog to 502,000 [27]—some distance from the maximum of 450,000 that John Reid spoke of. The Committee was also informed that there are currently 17,000 live cases which are being worked on by the Unit.[28] The Committee has been provided with no information which indicates as to where approximately 5,000 of these cases have come from although during the evidence session on 20 December, Mr Whiteman referred to the live cases as "old Asylum and Immigration cases".[29] The Committee can therefore conclude that the live cases being examined by the Case Assurance and Audit Unit include some from the 2009 migration backlog. In the next report the Committee expects clarity on this point and better information on progress and projections.

20. In the Committee's previous report the Committee questioned the setting up of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit, and whether the transfer was simply a name change and a bureaucratic method of concealing the fact that the "Agency" was unable to meet the July 2011 deadline. The Government's response, however, explaining the unit is to be based in Liverpool (where one of the Case Resolution units was based) and will 'use experienced staff from the legacy programme to continue [its] work' does not fully address these concerns..'[30]

21. Figures provided to the Committee are unclear. The Government response indicates the Case Assurance and Audit Unit is dealing with 17,000 live cases despite having concluded 7,700 of the 18,000 referred to in the "Agency's" update to the Committee in September 2011. Parliament was originally told that the backlog was a maximum of 450,000 in 2006 yet the numbers given to this Committee suggest that it has now reached 502,000. The "Agency" is providing inconsistent information. The Committee suggests that if the categories within the data differ from those previously supplied to the Committee, an explanation be given in order to avoid any confusion. The "Agency" must rid itself of its bunker mentality and focus on ensuring that Parliament and the public understands its work. Confusion over figures only risks suspicion that the "Agency" is attempting to mislead Parliament and the public over its performance and effectiveness. The only way the Home Office can allay and remove these fears is to clean up and clarify all the figures that are used in these reports.


22. During the resolution of the asylum and migration backlogs, a number of cases were transferred to a "controlled archive" of cases in which, despite its best endeavours, the UK Border "Agency" has been unable to trace the applicant. The cases are checked against watch-lists for a period of six months before they are considered to have been 'concluded'. The table below shows how the total number of asylum cases placed in the controlled archive has changed over the past year.

Figure 14: Total number of asylum cases in the controlled archive from November 2010 to November 2011

November 2010 March 2011September 2011 November 2011
Number of Asylum legacy cases in the controlled archive 18,00040,500 98,00093,000

Source: Data compiled from HC 587, HC 929, HC 1497 and Ev 15

23. Between August and November 2011, initially 6,000 cases were removed from the controlled archive. Of these, approximately 900 were concluded and 5,100 were removed as a result of "data cleansing" which according to the "Agency" is the assessment of files as being "incorrect or duplicate entries".[31] However, in light of the creation of the Case Assurance and Audit Unit, a further 1,300 cases were then moved to the controlled archive. In evidence to us, Mr Whiteman said that he intended to bring this figure down to 50,000 by the end of the next financial year (March 2013).[32]

24. As well as those 93,000 asylum cases, there were 26,000 migration cases which have been allocated to the archive. None of those cases have been resolved since our last report and Mr Whiteman has acknowledged that the fact that the cases were so old made it difficult to resolve them although he stated that the "Agency" were "looking at the arrangements for the team covering that, and the Committee will set targets in order to bring it down."[33] In the Government's response to our last report, the Committee was informed that the "Agency" has implemented a number of procedures in order to deal with cases assigned to the controlled archive. These are:

  • Reassessing files every 6 months, including working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and other public sector and external bodies, comparing information held on databases on a regular basis.
  • Deploying 126 full-time staff to the Case Assurance and Audit Unit to work on the live cases and review files in the controlled archive.
  • Reactivating cases when new intelligence is received which might assist in the tracing of applicants.[34]

25. At present there is a total of 119,000 asylum and migration cases in the controlled archive.[35] At the current rate of resolution (5,000 cases resolved in two months) the UKBA will take 47.6 months, or almost four years, to empty the controlled archive.

26. In correspondence the "Agency" has continually referred to two controlled archives, one for asylum cases and another for immigration cases. Yet they appear to have merged live asylum and immigration cases from the two backlogs in to one 'live cases' category. This has lead to confusion during oral evidence provided by Mr Whiteman. Regardless of how the information is separated out, the "Agency" has an archive of 119,000 lost applicants and 17,000 live cases. This is an unacceptably high figure and the "Agency" should continue to aim for a swift reduction of the cases related to both the asylum and migration backlogs. The Committee welcome Mr Whiteman's commitment to reducing significantly the number of asylum cases in the controlled archive by March 2013. However, at the current rate of resolution it would take almost four years to empty the controlled archive of asylum and migration cases. The Committee has asked the "Agency" to provide us with a sample of examples of typical cases held in the controlled archive so that the Committee can better understand the process.


27. In his evidence to the Committee, Mr Whiteman explained that 59% of initial asylum decisions were being taken within 30 days and that 59% of cases were concluded (i.e. asylum granted or the applicant removed) within 12 months.[36] However, when the Committee inquired as to how long the remaining 41% of asylum decisions took, we were told that 23% were taken within 90 days.[37] There was no further explanation as to how long the remaining 18% of cases waited for a decision but it seems clear that some must have taken well over 90 days, and the Committee can require an explanation and more precise information in the next report.

28. The Committee also questioned Mr Whiteman about two recent reports, Unsafe Return[38] and Out of the Silence[39], which described the experiences of failed asylum seekers from the Congo and Sri Lanka, respectively. The reports suggested that having been returned to their country of origin due to it being considered to be safe, the returnees were subject to torture. Mr Whiteman conceded that

    It is an area where, because of the concerns that have been raised, we clearly do need to look at the conditions of what happens when we make returns. We think that the returns are happening in a proper and humane way. We will, of course, review that in the light of new information.[40]

The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA has also highlighted concerns about the 'country of origin' information used by the "Agency". In his Annual Report 2010-11 he said

    In last year's inspection of asylum, I signalled the need to inspect how country information was used by staff to decide asylum applications. There was positive evidence that decision-makers used the reports produced by the "Agency's" Country of Origin Information Service to make decisions. However, my sampling revealed that country information had been used selectively or otherwise inappropriately in a number of cases. Also, I found that information in the "Agency's" policy documents did not accurately reflect the full country situation and that the number of documents containing such information needed to be rationalised.[41]

29. In the period 2010-11, the "Agency" won 67% of appeals against asylum decisions, which was higher than the average rate across all migration appeals (44%). However, over a quarter (27%) of asylum appeals were lost. In 2008, the Centre for Social Justice published a report showing that Canada lost only 1% of its asylum appeals.[42]

30. Trust in our asylum system is vital, both for the taxpayer and for those seeking a safe haven. Country of origin information is a key tool for those making asylum decisions yet the Independent Chief Inspector has found flaws in the system which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Committee welcome that the "Agency" is successful in 67% of asylum appeals, a figure higher than 44% which is the average appeal win rate—this shows that the "Agency" making the correct decision in the majority of asylum cases. However, the "Agency" must get the decision right first time in a far greater percentage of cases. A failure rate of 33% indicates a considerable waste in administrative assets, the time of the tribunal and a burden on applicants who have been given a wrong decision, so there is financial cost and human cost, both of which need to be cut to the minimum.

Border Security


31. The Schengen Agreement allows for the free movement of travellers within most European countries, with external border controls for travellers moving in and out of the area, but no internal border controls between Schengen Member States.[43] The UK is not part of the Schengen Area.[44] The Schengen Agreement has a specific impact on Eurostar train services from Brussels to London via Lille—since it prohibits passport checks being carried out on passengers travelling from Belgium to France. A passenger boarding a train in Brussels with a ticket to Lille does not therefore have their passport checked and, by staying on the train as it leaves Lille, they would be able to enter the UK. An invalid ticket might be identified by the ticket inspector on the train, but there is at least the possibility that they might be able to enter the UK illicitly.[45]

32. Border officials tried to close the loophole by carrying out checks on the trains and passengers who did not possess the correct ticket or documentation were put off at Lille. When giving evidence to us on 8 December, Jonathan Sedgwick, International Group Director at the UK Border "Agency", did not agree that the fault in the system could be labelled a 'loophole' stating:

    Q433 Chair: I want to start, however, with something that is in the public domain. I am sure that you were aware that I would ask you about this. It is the so-called Lille loophole, which relates to an investigation that the BBC published this morning, which shows that a person can travel from Brussels to Lille and, if they do not leave the train, go on to the United Kingdom and not have their passport checked at all. Do you recognise this scenario?

      Jonathan Sedgwick: Thank you for giving me notice of the fact that you would want to raise this issue. I would not call it a loophole, actually. Clearly, we operate under constraints in Belgium; as for persons who intend to travel within the Schengen area, clearly there are limitations on what activity we can conduct in relation to those people, but it is simply not the case that you can travel from Brussels through Lille to the UK without any checks at all. We have a range of operational measures in place. We carefully monitor all trains that stop in Lille. We have arrangements in place to remove passengers from the train at Lille. I think that, over the course of this year to date, up to around 140 people have been removed in that way.[46]

33. Mr Sedgwick indicated plans were being finalised with Eurostar and the Belgian authorities to strengthen arrangements. Mr Whiteman, in his evidence to us on 20 December, accepted the flaw in the system was a 'loophole' and clarified:

    We are looking at the operations that take place at the station, what happens on the train itself, what happens during the rest of the operation of the journey to the UK and what we do at St Pancras. We are looking at operational fixes for all those areas. The strategic issue, of course, is that while that loophole is a concern, we must look at this within the framework of a negotiated treaty.[47]

The Committee is puzzled as to why Mr Sedgwick could not bring himself to call this a 'loophole'. The Committee welcomes Mr Whiteman's acceptance of the term and hopes that this is indicative of a new, more communicative attitude at the "Agency". Mr Whiteman also confirmed that at St Pancras in the last year "Agency" staff had stopped 160 people who only had tickets to Lille which, compared with the figure of 140 removals which the Committee was given by Mr Sedgewick, suggests that an attempt to enter the UK in this way is at least as likely to succeed as it is to fail.[48]

34. In a letter sent to the Committee on 22 February 2012, Mr Whiteman announced that Eurostar had ceased selling tickets from Brussels to Lille to all bar season ticket holders. He added that

    Border Control officers will closely monitor the new arrangement while ensuring that adequate resources continue to be deployed to secure the border. Additionally, we will continue to review the efficacy of the new arrangement and discuss with Eurostar and any other additional measures that might be necessary.[49]

35. When Mr Whiteman was asked what had happened with those who were caught attempting to enter the country via the Lille loophole, the Committee was told that the publication of such information had "the potential to jeopardise border security."[50] The Committee considers it unlikely that potential asylum claimants would read our reports in order to discover how to circumvent border security. The law is clear that anyone who arrives on British soil can claim asylum. It is hoped that Ministers at least have been given access to the figures that the Committee has been denied. Our recent inquiry into the relaxation of border checks demonstrated the importance Ministers being made fully aware of the challenges faced by the "Agency". The Committee asks Ministers to provide this information to the committee without delay and for the '"Agency"' to report on progress in the next report.

36. The issue of the 'Lille loophole' had apparently been acknowledged the "Agency" for some time, but the "Agency" did not see fit to disclose this information in its reports to this committee until a BBC investigation brought it to public attention. Within three months of the programme being aired, and following the matter being raised by this Committee with both Jonathan Sedgwick and Mr Whiteman, a temporary solution appeared to have been brokered but the Committee are unaware of whether this has been delivered in practice. At best, this situation underlines the importance of the regular scrutiny of the "Agency". At worst, it indicates that the "Agency" is failing to address problems that have been highlighted internally until they are forced to confront them.

37. If the "Agency" is encountering difficulties which threaten the border security of the UK, such as the Lille loophole, these difficulties should be resolved as a matter of urgency. If the "Agency" is unable to resolve these difficulties quickly, Parliament must be informed. It is unacceptable that this issue of the Lille loophole only appeared to be resolved after a public discussion and scrutiny from this Committee. The Committee has not been told how many of the 160 people who were stopped at St Pancras last year have claimed asylum in the UK. Until this problem has been permanently resolved, the Committee considers it vital that both Ministers and Parliament be regularly updated on the situation. The Committee expects the "Agency" to provide us with full and detailed information in the next and subsequent reports, and for the Permanent Secretary to ensure that this happens in terms of reports to both Ministers and Parliament.


38. A recent report by the Children's Commissioner which examined the treatment of unaccompanied children who arrive in Dover pointed to the existence of a "gentlemen's agreement" between the UK and France which can result in the deportation of unaccompanied minors.[51] In particular, the 'Agreement' states:

    Once a passenger has been refused admission to the state of destination or when he is discovered, not having presented himself to the frontier controls for admission, the authorities responsible for frontier controls in the state of embarkation may not refuse to take him back. The passenger must be sent back to that state of embarkation within a period of 24 hours of his departure from it.[52]

39. The same report revealed that unaccompanied children arriving in Dover were being returned to France within 24 hours if they did not immediately apply for asylum. In November 2011, when it was drawn to his attention by the Children's Commissioner, Mr Whiteman, ended the practice of deporting unaccompanied minors as it conflicted with the "Agency's" duty under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to safeguard children and promote their welfare.[53] Adults are still eligible for deportation under this Agreement.

40. The report highlights the disadvantages children face under current processing arrangements at Dover, including children being interviewed when they are not fit to participate[54] and not having access to legal representation[55] or face-to-face interpretation[56] (telephone interpreters were used) for those interviews, which the UK Border "Agency" then relied on when processing asylum decisions.[57] The report also found that the time between placing a child into detention and releasing them into care was of too long a duration.[58] Correspondence annexed to the report indicates that a similar bi-lateral agreement between the UK and Belgium may also exist.[59] The Committee expects this to be clarified fully by the "Agency" in the next report to this Committee.

41. The extent to which the senior management of the UK Border "Agency" was aware of the 'Gentlemen's Agreement' is also questionable—according to the Children's Commissioner, both Mr Whiteman and the "Agency" Director for London and the South East claimed ignorance of the practice.[60] If this is the case then it would indicate a lack of communication, a theme which was prevalent in our last report on the "Agency".[61] When Mr Whiteman came before the Committee, he cited what he considered to be the issues at the heart of the "Agency".

    The two big cultural challenges for the next year or so are creating a compliance culture whereby we know that we have proper assurance systems to ensure that the systems, the rules, the procedures and the practices that we put in place are being followed. ... The second issue is the detachment between senior management and staff. Morale is low, and I have really to make sure that senior managers have the competence and the capability not only to be good in terms of management functions such as budgeting and performance management but to be much more closely aligned with staff.[62]

The Committee hopes that Mr Whiteman's attempts to improve the working practices of the "Agency" will resolve the issue of senior managers being unaware of potentially damaging practices.

42. The Committee expects the UK Border "Agency" to comply with the request by the Children's Commissioner for further information on the 'gentleman's agreement'. The Committee also expects the "Agency" to publish full information about this and about any similar bilateral agreements.

43. Again, a lack of communication about working practices has resulted in a situation which is detrimental to the reputation of the "Agency" and, by extension, the Home Office. The Committee have previously recommended that the Chief Inspector of the UKBA carry out a thematic review of the internal communication of the "Agency"—the Committee reiterates the need for such work to take place.

Immigration tribunals

44. In the Committee's last report on the work of the UK Border "Agency" the Committee expressed concern at the high number of successful asylum and migration appeals.[63] In May 2011 there were changes to the appeals system intended to restrict the types of further evidence which can be presented at appeal. Section 19 of the UK Borders Act 2007 came into force on 23 May 2011 and "restricts the evidence an appellant can rely on at such an appeal to that which is submitted to and considered by the UK Border "Agency" in support of an application."[64] The Committee had been informed that changes to the appeals system intended to restrict the type of further evidence which can be presented at appeal, would greatly improve the "Agency's" success rate at appeals.[65] This is contradicted by the figures given to the Committee by the UK Border "Agency" which show that whilst there was a 2% decrease in appeals allowed (from 41% for 2010-11 to 39%), there was no change for the number of appeals dismissed which remained at 44%. A breakdown of the figures for 2010-11 was published in our previous report. The results for the first quarter of 2011-12, produced by the Ministry of Justice are detailed below:

Figure 15: Outcome of immigration tribunal appeals in the first quarter of 2011-12

Allowed (the "Agency" lost) Dismissed (the "Agency" won) Withdrawn
No. % of totalNo. % of totalNo. % of total
Asylum1,000 262,500 64360 9
Managed Migration4,800 503,900 41920 10
Entry Clearance3,300 383,100 362,400 27
Family Visit Visa3,800 345,100 472,100 19
Deport and others63 23180 6630 11
First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) 13,00039 14,80044 5,80017

Source: MoJ figures

45. The "Agency" is still losing almost half of the appeals brought against it, despite its previous assertions that a change in the rules regarding evidence would lead to an improvement. It indicates that the "Agency" is not obeying the law or sticking to its own rules, this is unacceptable and systems must be put in place to improve the "Agency's" appeal figures.

46. The Committee first published a recommendation regarding representation rates at appeals in June last year. The Committee suggested that it was;

    unacceptable for applicants to arrive at a tribunal having waited years for a decision only to find the Home Office is not represented. We believe this undermines the credibility of the appeals system. If the "Agency" does not intend to defend its decision it should inform the other party in order to save court time and taxpayers' money, and to ensure there is a fair, proper and compassionate process.[66]

During the period May-June last year, the "Agency" was represented at 83% of hearings. This appears to have been the average rate for almost a year.[67]

Figure 16: UKBA representation rates at hearing April 2011-June 2011
MonthUKBA representation rate
April 201181%
May 201182%
June 2011 85%

Source: Ev 31

The introduction of restrictions on the admissibility of new evidence at appeals has failed to deliver the big improvement in the "Agency's" success rate that Mr Sedgwick predicted in September 2011. However, there appears to be a consistent correlation between the "Agency's" representation rate and its success at appeals, suggesting that a big improvement might occur if the "Agency" were to increase its representation rate. In correspondence, the Committee were informed that the Appeals Improvement plan would contain performance indicators with representation rates expected to be at 90% and the provision of evidentiary documents to the Court by the due date at 90%.[68] That is better than nothing, but it is a level of performance that would be regarded as unacceptable in a magistrates court and other formal or informal settings. Unless there is a genuine emergency, arising from certain illness or a serious accident on the day of the case—in other words serious events that could not be anticipated attendance should be 100%, a failure should be regarded as unacceptable, and each failure should be a matter of concern for senior management.

47. In his 2010-11 annual report, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border "Agency" observed:

    The inspection of the "Agency's" representation at First-tier appeals in Glasgow found that information on attendance at appeals was inconsistent, with 45% attendance recorded by the locally-based team, but 95% recorded centrally for the same team.[69]

The discrepancy between these two figures is most worrying. At best, it indicates a problem with the recording system—at worst, a deliberate manipulation of the figures. This must be reviewed and rectified.

48. The Chief Inspector of the UK Border "Agency" recently found a difference of 50% between the locally-held and centrally-held data on the "Agency's" representation rate at appeals in Glasgow. The reason for the discrepancy between locally and centrally-recorded figures must be investigated and the Committee requests a full explanation for the difference when the "Agency" next gives evidence.

49. The Independent Chief Inspector also highlighted the importance of a 'right first time' approach in his 2010-11 report. He suggested that error-rates were too high and that an emphasis placed on achieving numerical targets over the quality of decision making results in extra work for the "Agency" through the high levels of appeals.[70] This appears to have been accepted by the "Agency" who, in the Government's response to the Committee's last report, said

    We are aiming to reduce the number of appeals in the system which will enable us to be represented at a greater number of appeals. This will be achieved by embedding a 'right first time approach' and ensuring that all of our decisions have been thoroughly considered in accordance with guidance.[71]

50. In the Government's Response, the Committee were also informed of the creation of a new Appeals Training Team, launched in June 2011, with the task of improving the behaviour and values of staff representing the "Agency" at appeals. In evidence to the Committee, Mr Whiteman, emphasised the need for greater cooperation between the UK Border "Agency" and the judiciary to improve the rules and procedures at appeals.

51. During the first quarter of 2011 the UK Border "Agency" has informed us that its representation rate was, on average, 83%. The aspiration to improve this figure to 90% is only a first step towards correcting the system and the Committee is disappointed that in the first quarter of 2011-12 there has been negligible improvement in the percentage of cases dismissed and allowed. It is crucial the "Agency's" success rates at appeals to increase in the next quarter.


52. The e-Borders programme provides for the electronic collection and analysis by carriers of information on all passengers entering or leaving the UK. The intention was to start first with the airline industry, which was already collecting some of the information required under the programme electronically, and gradually extend it to the maritime and rail sectors whose booking systems were completely different, and also to areas like private aircraft and all leisure shipping.

53. Our predecessor committee discovered a significant number of practical problems in implementing the e-Borders programme. These included:

  • Newly developed IT systems designed especially for the programme not meeting industry standards and practices;
  • The UK Border "Agency" giving inconsistent information on when and how data should be transmitted by carriers, whether per passenger or in batches, resulting in some airlines developing systems to meet one requirement, only to have the "Agency" change its instructions;
  • The UK Border "Agency" originally said that for chartered flights, where it was known that the same group of passengers who had left the UK together would be returning together, the data from the outbound flight could be used for the inbound one. The "Agency" then changed its advice, stating airlines had to send the data anew from overseas airports, without making it clear how this was supposed to be fulfilled in the absence of a computer connection;
  • A number of EU Member States and the European Commission questioning whether it was legal to capture the data that the programme required.[72]

54. In their most recent update letter to us, the UK Border "Agency" states that at present e-Borders covers 95% of non-EU aviation and is intended to cover 100% (non-EU) by April 2012.[73] In 2010, 62% of flights to UK airports originated from within the EU[74] and the "Agency" is currently liaising with officials in Europe "to achieve the Government's commitment to collect data on intra-EU flights while complying with the UK's obligations as a member of the EU."[75] The "Agency" expects e-Borders to cover 95% of all aviation traffic by the end of 2013.[76]

55. There is confusion as to how e-Borders will apply to the maritime sector and railways. At present ferry and port operators do not collect the mandatory passenger information that the e-Borders programme requires, since they deal primarily with vehicles rather than individual passengers. There are currently no facilities for registering the required information from individual passports online before the passengers start their journey. In addition, a significant number of ferries conduct their business on a 'turn-up-and-go' basis. The UK Border "Agency" has informed us that they expect e-Borders to cover both maritime and rail traffic by December 2014.[77]

56. Many of the difficulties highlighted in relation to the maritime sector apply to railways. However, the fact that the Channel Tunnel and the services through it are simply part of a Europe-wide rail network poses additional problems, which are likely to multiply with the whole of the European rail network opening to competition from January 2012: Deutsche Bahn has already proposed to run services through the Channel Tunnel from 2015.[78] Indeed, in the December update letter, Mr Whiteman stated that

    At present there is an outstanding legal issue relating to the ability of rail operators to collect data on their passengers. Specialist legal advice has been obtained to enable the Programme to progress in this area. The rail carriers are all impacted by the Freedom of Movement decision of the EU Commission and by the Data Protection issues common to all EU based carriers.[79]

57. As of July 2011, the e-Borders system was collecting details of about 55% of passengers and crew on airlines, with no coverage of ferries or trains.[80] The original target, to collect 95% of passenger and crew details by December 2010 was missed, as were all other previously timetabled deadlines. It is difficult to see how the scheme can be applied to all rail and sea passengers by the dates detailed above, given that air passengers are still not yet fully covered. The Committee believes the assumption that the maritime and rail sectors will implement the system in under two years is overly optimistic. On the other hand, it is difficult to see the point of all these systems—and the costs and bureaucracy involved—if they are not comprehensive. The Committee certainly needs clarity both on the policy of the Home Office in this regard and on the practicalities of achieving a clear and comprehensive system, as well as on the performance of the "Agency".

58. The Committee has been informed that all non-EU aviation will be covered by the e-Borders scheme in time for the 2012 Olympics. The system currently covers 95% of non-EU aviation and the "Agency" hopes that it will cover 100% by April 2012. Given the vast security implications of the Olympics, the Committee will be closely monitoring progress in this area to ensure the "Agency" meets its aims.


59. One of the methods the UK Border "Agency" uses to reduce queuing times is e-Gates which read biometric chips in passports. Since 2006, a chip has been inserted into British passports, which carries biometric and biographical details about the holder and is presented into a "reader" at an airport. The information is verified by a facial recognition camera and if the information is correct the gates open. It is overseen by a UK Border "Agency" official but there are no physical checks of the passport itself. Currently, there are 63 e-Gates, at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Birmingham, East Midlands, Cardiff, Bristol and Manchester airports. At present, UK Border "Agency" staff are responsible for the operation and monitoring of all gates but once machines are fully introduced, staff will not be allocated to oversee the work of the machines.

60. It has been alleged that some of the machines, including iris scanners, are malfunctioning[81] and that "Agency" staff have actively discouraged people from using e-Gates.[82] Members of the Committee have seen for themselves the closure of this facility and confusion of staff about how to manage and direct the flow of travellers, with staff only able to advise that 'it's not working'. When the Committee asked Mr Whiteman why staff were discouraging people from using e-gates, he stated:

    Staff should not feel threatened by e-gates. E-gates and automation will allow us to carry out a more efficient border check in order that our staff can focus on the higher risk cases in which we want secondary checks to take place. ... We need to explain to staff the reasons why we think automation is a good idea, and win them over, to help people feel that it is part of making the "Agency" more efficient.[83]

61. 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.


62. IRIS—the iris recognition immigration system, a fore-runner of e-Gates, was launched in 2006. Frequent travellers were able to register at enrolment centres at airports where a picture of their iris was taken and uploaded to a government database. When the traveller next arrived at immigration, they entered the iris scanner which took a picture of their iris and checked it against the database. IRIS had been criticised by travellers for taking longer than going through passport control. Between 2006 and April 2011, IRIS cost the Home Office £9.1 million. A June 2010 job advert for an immigration officer (staff who are based at ports of entry to examine documents and interview people to establish their eligibility for entry to the UK) puts the starting salary at £21,000-£22,000[84]. This means that roughly 60 immigration officers could have been employed for the six years with the money that IRIS cost.

63. In February 2012, it was reported that the support contract for IRIS would not be renewed and that iris scanners at Manchester and Birmingham would no longer be available. The scanners at Heathrow terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5 and those at Gatwick North would remain in use during the 2012 Olympics but would be disabled after. In October 2011, Lord Henley described IRIS as a "valuable test bed for the next generation of automation."[85]

64. £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. The Committee would also like the "Agency" to inform the Committee as to what it intends to do with the data collected by the IRIS programme and whether the retinal scans will be destroyed following the mothballing of the scanners at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Student visas and Tier 4 sponsors

65. UCAS recently published their analysis of the applications to higher-education' institutions as of the 'equal consideration' deadline of 15 January.[86] Their figures demonstrated a 13% increase in non-EU citizens applying to British Universities.

Figure 17: Number of applications to higher-education institutions
By domicile2011 2012Diff (+/-) Diff (%)
UK506,388 462,507-43,881 -8.7%
Other EU40,790 36,205-4,585 -11.2%
Non EU36,368 41,3614,993 13.7%
Total583,546 540,073-43,473 -7.4%


Recent data released by the Home Office indicate that the number of student visas last year fell by 4% between September 2010 and September 2011, but, as the chart below shows, students are still the largest category of visa holders.

Figure 18: UK entry clearance visas issued, including dependants, by reason (excluding visitor and transit visas), 2005-2011


66. Between 1 August and 30 November, the UK Border "Agency" visited 486 Tier 4 sponsors. Of these, 307 had their licenses revoked, including 233 sponsors whose licences were revoked as they had not applied for 'Highly Trusted Sponsor' status. During the same period, the number of sponsors that had their registration transferred is broken down as follows:

Figure 19: breakdown of registered number of Tier 4 sponsors from August-November 2011

Tier 4 rating No.
From highly-trusted to standard register 34
From standard register to highly-trusted 94
From A rating to B rating (figure only valid for period 1 August to 5 September)[87] 5
From B rating to A rating62

Source: Ev 18

67. Following the evidence session the Committee asked for follow up information on inspections carried out on Tier 4 sponsors. The Committee was originally informed that the "Agency" would not release the information to the questions below because the figures

    would be derived from management information that, while fit for internal management decision making, is not normally considered suitable for formal dissemination[88]

The questions the Committee asked were

  • What is the total number of checks carried out on Tier 4 sponsors in the past 3 months?
  • What is the total number of inspections carried out on Tier 4 colleges in the past 3 months?
  • What is the total number of Tier 4 sponsors found to be breaking the terms of their licence and how many had their licences revoked as a result?
  • What is the total number of Tier 4 colleges found to be bogus and how many have been closed as a result?
  • What is the total number of (a) unannounced (b) announced inspections carried out on Tier 4 colleges, broken down by month, within the last year?
  • What is the total number of students affected by the closure of Tier 4 colleges in the past year?

On 22 February 2012, after several discussions with Mr Whiteman, the Committee received answers to these questions. The Committee examines this matter further below in paragraphs 79 to 81.

68. In 2011, approximately 900 inspections were carried out on Tier 4 sponsors—half of which were unannounced.. In the same period, 88 sponsors were found to be breaking the terms of their licence and had their licences revoked for non-compliance. The 88 institutions had issued 26,500[89] confirmation of acceptance letters, which allow the recipient to apply for a visa, in 2011 alone.[90] This figure equates to just over 10% of the net migration figure (to June 2011) which was 250,000.[91]

69. Once again, the "Agency" has refused to recognise the term 'bogus colleges' stating that it is open to interpretation. This is a term that has been used by successive governments and is used by the Committee regularly in reports. For the sake of clarity, the Committee presents this as a definition:

  • An establishment set up to facilitate the entrance of a foreign national on a Tier 4 visa, for reasons other than study.

David Cameron used the term bogus college in a speech to the Institute of Government in October last year[92] and Damian Green used the term during Home Office questions on the floor of the House in December last year.[93]

70. It is unacceptable that the "Agency" refuses to recognise a term which is widely recognised within both Government and Parliament. Bogus colleges are harmful to our society—they destroy trust in our immigration system, they facilitate entry to those who have dishonourable motives and they damage the UK's reputation for high quality education. The Committee recommends that the UK Border "Agency" make all inspections visits to Tier 4 sponsors unannounced.

Multiple visa applications

71. The Committee asked the UK Border "Agency" to analyse what percentage of applications were received from the same applicants two, three or more times, between 1 August 2011 to 31 September 2011. The figures are shown below :

Figure 20: Percentage of applications from August-September 2011

Applicants % Total
First323,000 73%
Second84,551 19%
Three or more36,290 8%
Total443,841 100%

Source: Ev 18

72. Extrapolating the figures from August and September 2011, it appears that approximately 700,000 visa applications a year are from people who have applied previously. The Committee recommends that the "Agency" inform us as to whether an applicant could have legitimate reasons for applying for three or more visas and assesses the implications of imposing a limit on the number of times an individual can apply for a visa, within a set period. As the Committee has said previously, the best way of dealing with bogus students, reluctant spouses and sham marriages is to reintroduce face to face interviews with entry clearance officers as a matter of urgency. A major part of our next evidence session will focus on the entry clearance operation.

Administration of the "Agency"


73. The Committee welcomes the decision by Mr Whiteman that he and his 70 most senior managers spend a day a fortnight visiting front-line staff and customers.[94] One of the issues faced by the "Agency" is its lack of internal communication. This can only be improved by the ability of front-line staff to discuss any concerns with their senior managers, a concern the Committee raised in its recent report on the relaxation of border checks.[95] The Committee also welcomes Mr Whiteman's decision to work regularly in offices such as Sheffield, Manchester and Croydon rather than being solely based at the Home Office's Marsham Street building.[96] The Committee has sought to clarify the relationship between staff of the "Agency" and the senior staff of the Home Office, of which the '"Agency"' is an integral part. It is disappointing that the Committee has received little such clarification and we look to both the head of the "Agency" and the Permanent Secretary to satisfy us that they now have a clear and transparent system in place. It is clearly not just a matter of internal communications within the "Agency" but within the Home Office as a whole, without which the Committee cannot be satisfied that Ministers are being properly served, and provided with all the information they need to fulfil their role properly.


74. In its last report on the UK Border "Agency" the Committee highlighted the financial mismanagement at the "Agency", focusing on the overpayments to staff and Asylum seekers and the low priority of collection of civil penalties. In his annual report, the Independent Chief Inspector also examined the approach towards the collection of civil penalties and found that

    The Civil Penalties Compliance Team inspection identified a passive approach towards imposing civil penalties and collecting those imposed. Worse, financial information was misleading, lacked transparency and misrepresented the true position regarding civil penalty collection success: the value of civil penalties collected was only a fraction of the amount imposed.[97]

In the Government's response to our previous report, the "Agency" confirmed that it was taking steps to improve its debt management processes in order to improve its record on debt collection. The "Agency" also disclosed that during November and December the National Audit Office was auditing "the "Agency's" financial management processes and, with central Home Office Finance, we [the "Agency"] are conducting a review of the risk of financial loss that could arise from our debt management processes. These reviews are ongoing, but we [the "Agency"] look forward to their conclusion and we will implement their recommendations as soon as practicable."[98]

75. The Committee welcomes the reviews being undertaken by the NAO and central Home Office Finance into the "Agency's" financial and debt management processes. The Committee expects to receive a copy of both reviews and hope that the changes will be apparent in the annual report and accounts that the "Agency" produces for 2011-12.


76. In our previous report the Committee published a list of account managers of each region for Members to use to obtain information about constituent cases. The UK Border "Agency" is the recipient of a large volume of enquiries from MPs, indeed the Committee believes it to be amongst the largest in Whitehall. The Committee now asks for details of contact between the MP account managers and Members. Between August and September, MP Account Managers dealt with 3,044 inquiries from MP's offices. They also dealt with 441 enquiries referred by the MPs enquiry line. Taking these two figures together, in a two month period, MPs contacted the "Agency" 3,485 times, which is the equivalent of each Member contacting the "Agency" 5 times in 2 months.

77. Over a three year period, the "Agency" has seen a reduction in the number of written enquiries received from Members, as the table below demonstrates.

Figure 21: Number of written enquiries from Members to the UK Border "Agency"

Year2009 20102011
Number of written enquiries 66,32057,651 50,000 (estimated)

Source: Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 15

The Committee believes that as the work of the "Agency" improves, so too will its correspondence rate. In future, the Committee will use the number of enquiries by MPs as a measure of the success of the "Agency". We expect that, as the asylum backlog is almost resolved, the correspondence rate will fall even further. However, this relies on the correct information being given to Members. When Mr Sedgwick came before us on 13 September 2011, he assured us that "all the cases, every single case [in the asylum backlog] has had a decision".[99] When the Committee disputed this, using examples for our own constituencies, he suggested that we write to him with any outstanding cases.[100] When the Committee wrote to Members, asking whether any had cases in the asylum backlog which had not had a decision, we received hundreds of replies.-

78. The Committee welcomes the reduction in the number of letters sent by MPs and peers. The Committee would like to see this reduce further still. The Committee will be conducting a survey to discover how satisfied Members are with the service they are receiving and ask what more can be done to improve it further. The Committee will share the data we gather with the House and the UK Border "Agency".


79. When Mr Whiteman first appeared before this Committee on 15 November 2011, he told us that

    Rob Whiteman: I think this Committee has an important role in holding me to account and also in my being transparent about the good things and the bad things that happen ... I very much want to work on the basis of trust with this Committee.[101]

It is therefore deeply disappointing that on two occasions since our last report, the Committee has been denied access to information. The "Agency" refused to provide us with the outcome of cases of people who arrived at St Pancras via the 'Lille loophole'. The "Agency" also refused to provide us with data regarding inspections of Tier 4 sponsors on the basis that it was 'not fit for wider dissemination'. The latter was an unacceptably vague excuse and the Committee invited Mr Whiteman to come before us to explain his refusal to disclose this information to us. The Committee also wrote to Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK statistics authority, who confirmed that the Authority did not

    advise the Home Office that it should not send your Committee, or otherwise issue, management information about Tier 4 colleges unless it had been quality checked. Our advice is normally restricted to data that are already recognised as official statistics, or which we think should in future be treated as such.[102]

The Committee welcomes the fact that Mr Whiteman changed his mind and provided the data to this Committee.

80. The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA, Mr John Vine, has highlighted the poor data management of UKBA on several occasions, most recently in his report 'An investigation into border security checks'. If internal management data is so poor that it does not provide an accurate description of the situation then the "Agency" needs to improve its data collection, not deny access to the Committee.

81. Once again, the UK Border "Agency" were initially obstructive when asked to provide essential information to us, this is unacceptable. Given the criticisms the Committee has made previously about the "Agency's" refusal to provide information to this Committee and the undertakings by Mr Whiteman to work with us, it is also highly disappointing. The Committee takes our scrutiny of the UK Border "Agency" very seriously and will not be deterred by the "Agency's" attempt to circumvent our requests for information. It is in the public interest that this "Agency", charged with implementing the Government's immigration policy, is held to account by Parliament. When Mr Whiteman first appeared before us, he pledged to be to be transparent and work with us on the basis of trust. We welcome those pledges and look forward to them being fulfilled.

1   Pg 32 Home Office report and accounts 2010-11 Back

2   Pg 12 UKBA report and accounts 2010-11 Back

3   The table shows Matthew Coats as the temporary head of the UK Border Force (following the departure of Brodie Clark in 2011). He received the bonus in 2010-11 in his previous role as head of Immigration group. Back

4   Home Affairs Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC 1647 Back

5   As in our previous Reports, we use the term, "foreign national prisoner" to include those who have been released from prison after serving their sentence. Back

6   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2010-12, The work of the UK Border Agency, HC 587, Q41 Back

7   The graph and table both relate to the cohort of 1,013 foreign national prisoners identified in 2006:

The graph shows the current status of that cohort and represents the November 2011 figures in the right-hand column of the table.

The figures in the table for those deported or removed are snapshots of the cumulative total who had been deported by the month in question, so the figure in each column includes the figure from the previous column.

The 14 deportations in the past year is the difference between the 383 who had been deported by October 2010 and the 397 who had been deported by November 2011.

The 23 deportations in the previous year is the difference between the 360 who had been deported by September 2009 and the 383 who had been deported by October 2010. Back

8   European Economic Area Back

9   Sections 32-39, which came into force in August 2008 (The UK Borders Act 2007 (Commencement No. 3 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2008). Back

10   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 2 Back

11   Home Affairs Committee, Sixteenth Report of Session 2010-12, Policing large scale disorder, HC 1456, Q231 Back

12   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 3 Back

13   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 3 Back

14   Ev 15 Back

15   Sentence served was less than 12 months (or 24 months in EEA cases unless the conviction was for an offence involving drugs, violent or sexual crimes) and the person did not otherwise meet the criteria for deportation Back

16   Q65 Back

17   Q93 Back

18   Ev 27 Back

19   Ev 27 Back

20   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 3 Back

21   Ev 8 Back

22   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 3 Back

23   HC Deb 19 July 2006 Col. 324 Back

24   Home Affairs Committee, Fifteenth Report of Session 2010-12, The work of the UK Border Agency (April-July 2011), HC 1497, Ev 12  Back

25   HC (2010-12) 1497, Pg 9 Back

26   Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2009-10, The Work of the UK Border Agency, HC 105-II, Ev 39 Back

27   The figure of 502,000 is the sum of the 500,500 referred to in paragraph 16 and the 1,500 referred to in this paragraph. Back

28   Q52  Back

29   Q55 Back

30   The Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), p 5 Back

31   Ev 11 Back

32   Q49 Back

33   Q41 Back

34   Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 7 Back

35   Q54 Back

36   Q59 Back

37   Ev 27 Back

38   Justice First 'Unsafe return' December 2011 Back

39   Freedom from Torture, 'Sri Lanka - Out of the Silence', November 2011 Back

40   Q61 Back

41   Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, Annual report 2010-11, pg 12 Back

42 (pg 3) Back

43   Article 2 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement actively prohibitsborder controls between Member States, except for a limited period, where public policy or national security so require, and after consultation with other Member States (Official Journal L 239 , 22/09/2000 P. 0019 - 0062). Back

44   Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Republic of Ireland and Romania are also outside the Schengen area. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are in the Schengen Area, although they are not members of the EU. Back

45   Home Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2008-09, The Trade in Human Beings: Human Trafficking in the UK, HC 23-II, Ev 126 Back

46   Home Affairs Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC 1647-I, Ev 42 Back

47   Q10 Back

48   Q12 Back

49   Ev 33 Back

50   Ev 27 Back

51   'Landing in Dover: the immigration process undergone by unaccompanied children arriving in Kent.' The Children's Commissioner, 17 January 2012 Back

52   Pg 58, 'Landing in Dover' The Children's Commissioner, 17 January 2012 Back

53   Pg 69, ibid Back

54   Pg 31-32, ibid Back

55   Pg 34, ibid Back

56   Pg 43, ibid Back

57   Pg 47, ibid Back

58   Pg 42, Landing in Dover' The Children's Commissioner, 17 January 2012 Back

59   Pg 7, Landing in Dover' The Children's Commissioner, 17 January 2012 Back

60   Ev 31  Back

61   Home Affairs Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC 1647 Back

62   Q2 Back

63   HC (2010-12) 1497-I, pg 16 Back

64   HC Deb, 19 May 2011, Col. 33WS Back

65   HC(2010-12) 1497-II, Q8 Back

66   Home Affairs Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2010-12, The work of the UK Border Agency (November 2010-

March 2011), HC 929, Pg 15 Back

67   The "Agency" has previously provided information which put the rate of representation at 84% between August 2010 and January 2011 (HC (2010-12) 929, Ev 20) Back

68   Ev 28 Back

69   Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, Annual report 2010-11, p 11 Back

70   Ibid, p. 6 Back

71   Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 10 Back

72   Home Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2009-10, The E-Borders Programme, HC 170, Pg 9-10 Back

73   Ev 16 Back

74   Ev 29 Back

75   Ev 16 Back

76   Ev 16 Back

77   Ev 16-17 Back

78 Back

79   Ev 17 Back

80   HC (2010-12) 1497-II, Ev 19 Back

81   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2010-12, The work of the UK Border Agency, HC 587, Q34-35 Back

82   HC Deb, 7 November 2011 col.60 Back

83   Ev 8-9 Back

84 Back

85   HL Deb 3 October 2011 Col. WA120 Back

86   Although 15 January is the "equal consideration" deadline, UCAS will still send applications to universities and colleges up until 30 June, with those received later going into Clearing. Last year a further 116,000 people applied through UCAS between 15 January and the end of the cycle. Back

87   The ability for a Tier 4 sponsor to be given a B rating ceased on 5 September 2011. Since that date it is now only possible for a Tier 4 sponsor to be awarded a status of Highly Trusted Sponsor, A rating or legacy. Back

88   Ev 32 Back

89   Ev 33 Back

90   According to the "Agency": some may not have taken up the offer of a place, some may have had their visa application refused, and many will have completed their course, left the UK, switched to another institution or varied their leave to remain in the UK. Back

91 Back

92 Back

93   HC Deb 12 Dec 2011 col.516 Back

94   Q89 Back

95   Home Affairs Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC 1647, pg 15 Back

96   Q91-92 Back

97   Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, Annual report 2010-11,Pg 11 Back

98   Work of the UK Border Agency (April-July), Government response, December 2011 (Cm 8253), pg 2 Back

99   Home Affairs Committee, Fifteenth Report of Session 2010-12, The work of the UK Border Agency (April-July 2011), HC 1497, Q21  Back

100   HC (2010-12) 1497, Q23 Back

101   Home Affairs Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2010-12, UK Border Controls, HC 1647, Q287-288  Back

102   Ev 35 Back

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Prepared 11 April 2012