Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
TUESDAY 20 JUNE 2000
260. Can you just explain how that works?
(Mr Forster) If you are a frequent traveller in the
United States, you can register with the INSPASS system. When
you register you are issued a plastic card of credit card size
which has details in optical character recognition format of your
palm; it is a reading of measurements on your palm. That is encoded
on the card. When you subsequently arrive at the US port of entry
you place the card in a machine and your palm, your hand, on the
reader, and if the two match the gate opens and you are allowed
entry without seeing an immigration official. So clearly there
are efficiency savings there for the immigration authorities in
manpower. However, in the UK, we need to ensure that technology
does not hinder passengers flowing through our airports. If we
look at the consultation paper on the Immigration and Asylum Bill
in respect of flexibility, one can imagine more creative ways
of moving passengers through our airports other than using technology.
Perhaps low risk passengers could be waved through, for example
large groups of Japanese passengers, American tourists. These
could be deemed as low risk passengers and is there a need for
each and every passenger to be interviewed, as has been the practice
in the past. Technology may have a part to play and that should
be considered in the overall scheme of things.
261. Do you see no adverse implications to a
wave-through approach to resolve these kind of problems in terms
(Mr Forster) Clearly if you are relaxing controls
in any way, then security is a consideration, but there has to
be a balance here between addressing the needs of the travelling
public and the future volumes we can expect. I do not think anybody
wants to see passengers queuing for hours at our immigration controls,
which will be the case if we continue with today's practices.
I think the Immigration Service should be applauded for their
new stance on flexibility and the new areas they are looking at.
262. Would you not agree though that it is more
important to increase the capacity to swiftly, safely and securely
get this increased number of passengers through passport controls,
rather than just simply relax the controls?
(Mr Forster) If that were possible, yes, but there
are enormous cost implications for enlarging airports if that
is possible at all. One can look at Terminal 4 and there is no
space to extend the immigration hall there, so that is not an
263. Mr Forster, you said some parts of Europe
have faster entry than others. I just wonder, if I may borrow
from Winston Churchill, whether you could identify any parts which
are the soft under belly of Europe as far as people getting in
illegally is concerned?
(Mr Forster) Perhaps what I said was misunderstood.
I said the carriers' liability legislation is not enforced so
rigorously in other parts of the EU as it is in the UK. When it
comes to entry controls, similar procedures to those in place
in the UK take place at other EU ports of entry.
264. Equally rigorous?
(Mr Forster) In that every passenger is inspected,
265. I want to come on to the question of a
single frontier force which you will have heard mentioned in the
first half of the evidence. Before I do that, however, can I ask
Mr Green for more detail about the idea of drive-through x-ray
scanners at Channel ports? It is an idea that we have explored
with the Home Office and other witnesses and we have been rather
given the impression that it can only be done to a very small
percentage of traffic. I have pointed out that we have walk-through
x-ray scanners for every passenger who boards an aircraft and
I do not understand why it suddenly becomes impossible when you
talk about freight. I was just wondering whether you could put
any figures on this. We have been given a figure of 3 to 5 million
dollars for one of these x-ray or gamma-ray machines which they
use in the United States, which do scan whole lorries, which would
be about £2 to £3 million. If we were to have drive-through
x-ray scanners for all traffic coming across through Channel ports,
have you any idea of the kind of cost which would be involved?
(Mr Green) We have not produced a total figure for
it. The sort of numbers I have heard in relation to the cost of
each piece of equipment is not dissimilar to the figures you have
quoted, perhaps a little bit lessI have heard more like
£1 million per piece of kitbut we are still talking
of substantial sums of money because you clearly would need several
in each location. We have not any figures as to what the total
cost would be but I think it is that sort of level of investment
you have to contemplate if you want to eradicate this practice.
266. This would eradicate both the possibility
of future tragedies such as we have seen this week and indeed
the problem of people coming to claim asylum from Belgium or France?
(Mr Green) Again it is difficult to precisely comment
in respect of the tragedy which occurred this week, but if every
vehicle was subject to an effective check of that sort, that seems
to me to be the sort of deterrent that stands the best chance
of eradicating that practice.
267. Thank you for that. Just coming on to the
question of the single frontier force, you heard the comments
of the British Ports Authority and the airline operators who both
support this solution. Do you yourselves feel, and you are the
most vulnerable of all, that multiple checks by Customs and by
immigration and then possibly by ports police and others causes
a wasteful duplication, or do you find that they work closely
together and it is not a problem?
(Mr Green) To be honest, it is not an issue on which
we have taken a firm opinion. Again, you have to recognise that
there are different issues relating to, for example, trucks coming
through ports from you or I travelling through that port, because
there are documentary procedures which would require to be undertaken.
It is not an issue we have given major thought to. Indeed, when
we consulted our members earlier, prior to submitting the evidence
to you, in general terms we got very encouraging responses from
the transport sector about the efficiency of the UK border controls,
certainly dramatically different from those which can prevail
in other parts of Europe, where I can tell you it can take 24
hours to cross a border, and where you are not talking about two
or three agencies, you can be talking about ten all in their different
268. Can you give us some examples?
(Mr Green) Some of the borders which exist between
Germany and Poland and in that part of the world, or, even worse,
when you get further east than that, between Poland and Byelorussia
or into the Ukraine. There are massive issues there relating to
border controls which put what we are talking about into real
269. What about British Airways? Do you have
any views on the single frontier force?
(Mr Forster) We can obviously see efficiencies associated
with combining the control authorities. By way of example, we
will soon be sharing passenger information with the Immigration
Service and with Customs and possibly the police. This will probably
involve us, although it is too early to say, in loaning computer
equipment to each department. We are having to loan three separate
pieces of equipment
270. Do they not have their own computers?
(Mr Forster) These are specialised. They are not stand-alone
PCs, these are computers which are linked to our central processing
unit of our reservation system, for example. So therefore dedicated
equipment software has to be provided. We are providing that possibly
in triplicate, whereas if there was one agency a single computer
271. Do you have any experience of how this
works in other countries? Do they have simpler procedures?
(Mr Forster) The only example I can cite is in Canada
where the CIC, the Canadian immigration authority, work very closely
with Customs. In fact, I believe it is a Customs official that
mans the immigration desk when you arrive at a Canadian airport.
272. Would it be necessary to have a single
force, a unified force, or do you think there are steps short
of that, such as a much closer co-operation of working without
merging the two organisations?
(Mr Forster) Yes. We are already seeing, I think,
through the Immigration and Asylum Act information-sharing with
the Immigration Service, for example. The Act enables them to
share data with other bodies, so, yes, there are also some efficiencies
273. Mr Green, could you just say something
about the appeals system now that this drivers' liability has
come into place? The letter we had this morning says that neither
the haulier nor the driver is allowed to be present during the
(Mr Green) Can I ask Mr Linington to answer that?
274. Of course.
(Mr Linington) It is one of our fundamental concerns
that the appeals procedure itself is inadequate in giving proper
protection to those who deserve it. One has to draw a distinction
here between areas where it is considered it is right for a prosecution
to be brought and where the evidence would then be tested in the
courts and a proper sentence imposed, and there was power to do
that which existed before the penalty system, and the penalty
system itself. There are a number of areas in the penalty system
which we do not like. Firstly, it is a fixed penalty. That means
to say there is no measure of culpability, we do not know if the
person has been extremely careless or very unlucky, and there
is no measure in imposing the penalty which takes that into account.
More importantly from our point of view, the penalty objection
system, the objection to the penalty, has to be made to the Immigration
Service itself. That has to be in writing. There is no right of
appearance before the person making the decision as to whether
the penalty stands; there is no right of legal representation;
there is no right of disclosure, in other words you do not know
what other evidence the officer making the decision is weighing
against you; and finally there is no direct appeal from that penalty
to any other independent body, so it is very much a closed loop.
In all those areas we believe that the appeal procedure is not
giving proper protection to those who have got a case. We are
not talking about people here who are deliberately smuggling people,
we are talking about those type of cases we have mentioned where
although there have been checks carried out they have not been
able to detect the presence of illegal immigrants, (a) because
they have entered through the roof, (b) because they may have
been in sealed containers, or (c) the means of entry may have
been so well disguised that it is going to take forensic analysis
to find out which rope has been cut and stuck back together.
275. To take you one step further, all that
happens, if the appeal is rejected, it would make sense presumably
in those circumstances for the driver to refuse to pay so that
the proceedings then have to go to court when all this could come
out in the open. It is a very roundabout way of achieving that,
if that is the case.
(Mr Linington) It is a civil penalty and of course
there is more than one person who can be liable. A penalty notice
can be issued against a driver and his employer and possibly even
the person who owns the trailer, even if they were not there.
Yes, if the notice of objection to the penalty is turned down,
then it becomes a debt to be recovered in court if it is not settled.
It seems to me extremely unlikelyand we have had legal
advice on thisthat the court is going to be concerned with
the whys and wherefores of why the penalty was imposed, it is
simply a debt enforcement case.
276. Mr Green, we are going to the German-Czech
border at Waidhaus. Are you familiar with that part of the world?
(Mr Green) I personally am not. Do we know of that
(Mr Linington) We know of the post, not in detail.
277. I just wondered if, either now or later,
you could perhaps drop us a note and let us know what might be
the best time of day or night to go there?
(Mr Green) We will let you have some information.
Chairman: That is very kind. Can I thank you,
British Airways and the Freight Transport Association, for your
help with this inquiry. Thank you very much indeed.