UK border checks relaxed to speed up entry, MPs told

Heathrow Terminal 5 Checks have been relaxed to speed up immigration queues

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Immigration checks at British ports and airports have been relaxed to speed up queues, says the UK border force chief.

Parties of schoolchildren from EU countries are being allowed in without full passports checks, Brian Moore told MPs.

He denied it was an end to 100% border controls, saying adults accompanying the children would still be checked.

But committee chairman Keith Vaz said it was a return to the "risk-based" system axed by the home secretary.

Border force chief Brodie Clark was forced out of his job last year after Home Secretary Theresa May accused him of relaxing passport checks further than a pilot scheme she had approved, something he denied.

The pilot scheme allowed the relaxing of full biometric passport checks on groups, such as school children from Europe, but Mr Clark was accused of using "risk based" checks - rather than checking every person in detail - with travellers from further afield.

Mr Clark denied that he had done anything wrong and he received a £250,000 payout in March after settling a constructive unfair dismissal claim against the Home Office, with neither side admitting fault.

Mr Clark's replacement as head of the border force, Brian Moore, told MPs on Tuesday that since July school parties from European Economic Area countries have not had their passports checked against security watch lists, a move he said had speeded up processing of new arrivals at the border.

"Border force staff will do all the checks they are supposed to do in respect of on the accompanying adult," he told MPs.

"But in respect of the children it will not be necessary to open the biometric chip on their passport and run that through our computer systems."

He said the records of "hundreds of thousands" of children had been vetted by security staff before the pilot scheme was launched and "randomised" checks of individual children were still being carried out.

Keith Vaz claimed that the pilot scheme Brodie Clark had been sacked for implementing had effectively been reinstated, as the home affairs committee has been demanding.

"This is no different to what happened before. It's back to the future," he told Mr Moore.

The border force chief replied: "I don't believe what was taking place last year is the same as what is happening now."

Mr Moore has said he will not be applying for the post of border force chief on a permanent basis.

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