Locks and Security News: your weekly locks and security industry newsletter
20th January 2021 Issue no. 541
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Security hole lets criminals fly into Britain with no check
Terrorists and dangerous criminals can take advantage of an "incredible" hole in border security and secretly enter Britain, MPs have warned. Members of the House of Commons' Public accounts committee expressed grave concern about the Home Office's failure to check passports of passengers who arrive in light aircraft or private jets.
Sir Charles Montgomery, director general of the Border Force, told the committee he was working on solutions to improve checks on small planes - known as "general aviation" - but admitted some arrivals are not examined by his officials.
In a session of the committee examining the Border Force's performance, Richard Bacon MP asked: "When a private plane lands at an airport it is possible for someone to get off and get into the country without being checked?" Sir Charles replied: "Yes, it is."
Bacon said the security flaw was "frankly incomprehensible", adding: "I find it very odd that on the 600 million pounds available you can't deploy enough resource to cover all the planes. It is incredible." Steve Barclay MP, another member of the committee, said afterwards: "I think it is staggering that we allow private flights into the country without passenger information being provided and without the occupants of those aircraft being seen by immigration officers. What is to stop a convicted killer or a terrorist coming into this country?" There are an estimated 8,500 private aircraft and up to 500 "landing sites" in Britain, which can range from farmers' fields to regional airports. The security flaw was highlighted in a National Audit Office report, which was discussed by MPs on Wednesday, which said: "At Luton airport, for example, around 1,000 private flights arrive annually.
"The Border Force is aware that advance information it receives on passengers arriving at UK ports by private planes and boats is far from comprehensive and in more than one port we visited, Border Force officers told us that when it was supplied, such passenger information could be inaccurate."
Sir Charles said he was unable to provide a figure on how many general aviation flights arrive in Britain each year. Lord Carlile QC, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, voiced concern about security problems surrounding general aviation in a report in 2006.
Two years later, he said thousands of small, rented planes capable of travelling at high speeds between European Union countries and the UK should be subjected to stricter checks. In the committee session in the Commons, Sir Charles said he was examining whether the Border Force could charge airport operators for providing passport checks for general aviation. --- John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said that dangerous criminals who have been deported are able to fly back to Britain unchecked because of failings in the 500 million pounds e-Borders IT project.
Vine's review also found 650,000 alerts about drug smuggling and other contraband were deleted without being read because border guards have been ordered to prioritise immigration checks.
16th October 2013