Checks 'still priority' after e-Borders 'terminated'

Sir Charles Montgomery tells MPs: "The permanent secretary is aware that the e-Borders programme has been terminated"

Related Stories

The Home Office has denied downgrading plans to check all people entering and leaving the UK.

The head of the UK Border Force, Sir Charles Montgomery, told MPs on Tuesday the troubled e-Borders scheme had been "terminated" in its current form.

Officials said the original scheme had been dropped last summer, saying the checks and screening were now incorporated into a new programme.

Home Affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz MP called it a "shambles".

And Labour said ministers needed to "come clean" about what would replace the scheme.

'Full capability'

E-Borders, devised by the Labour government in 2003, was designed to count everyone in and out of the UK by collecting advance passenger information on all scheduled inbound and outbound journeys to and from the UK.

What are E-borders?

  • Tony Blair launched the E-borders programme in 2003
  • It was originally meant to collect details from passenger lists of all people entering and leaving the UK
  • All flights from outside the EU are now part of E-borders
  • Ports and railway stations are due to follow by 2014
  • EU flights are meant to be covered by 2015
  • But that will depend on reaching voluntary agreements with other nations - and solving commercial problems
  • The US firm handed a £750m contract by Labour to deliver E-borders, Raytheon, was fired by the coalition in 2010 for "extremely disappointing" performance
  • The company is seeking £500m in damages from the government
  • The E-borders contract was split in two with IBM and Serco given the job of getting a system in place at nine airports before the Olympics
  • The contract for the post-Olympics element of the programme - the biggest part of it - has yet to be awarded

The system, which was expected to cost £536m from 2007 to 2015, has been dogged by problems over the past decade.

It was delayed for several years, its brief changed, and the government has become embroiled in a legal battle with a former contractor, US firm Raytheon, after it was fired in 2010 for what officials said was an "extremely disappointing" performance.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, director general of the UK Border Force Sir Charles was asked about the future of e-Borders and the government's goal of re-introducing full exit checks on those leaving the UK by the time of the 2015 election.

"The permanent secretary (of the Home Office) is aware that the E-borders programme has been terminated," he said.

While he said he hoped universal exit checks would be in place by next year, he suggested the "full e-Borders capability" - as originally envisaged - would not be.

In response, the Home Office said more priority, not less, was being given to the issue and all the checks and screening involved in e-borders had been incorporated, since last summer, into the Border Systems Programme.

The UK Border Agency, which has been trying to cut a backlog of 450,000 asylum cases Exit checks are currently carried out on 80% of people leaving the UK

This programme incorporates information provided by airlines on passengers in advance of their journeys, the operation of the Warnings Index to identify individuals considered a potential threat, security exit checks and other screening.

Exit checks are currently carried out on 80% of people leaving the UK and the Home Office said the commitment to make this universal by the time of the next election remained in place.

The Home Office said the original business plan for e-Borders had been "changed and improved" after the contract with Raytheon was cancelled.

'Debacle'

But Computer Weekly said a report by Chief Inspector of Borders John Vine, published in October, suggested e-Borders had been using two systems known to contain "critical system vulnerabilities", one of which was understood to be 15 years old.

The report also concluded a major rethink on e-Borders was needed because airports were not meeting those with terrorist alerts against them on arrival.

Start Quote

The ability both to count people in and count them out is vital if we are to secure the borders of the UK”

End Quote David Hanson Shadow immigration minister

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the government still had questions to answer.

"The e-Borders project has ended in a shambles," he told the BBC.

"This debacle has cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds, taken more than a decade and yet we still do not know if the original objectives will ever be achieved."

He added: "Promises have been made that exit checks will be in place by the general election, but given past failures the government need to urgently clarify the timetable for the completion of the rest of the programme and what components of the original e-borders programme have been dropped."

'Best guess'

The Home Office said it had written to Mr Vaz last summer to advise him of the changes to e-Borders and this had been acknowledged in a committee report in November.

Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said the project had been "quietly dropped".

"It is indefensible that ministers have wasted four years in legal battles, hiding details and refusing to answer questions about how secure our borders are," he said.

"The ability both to count people in and count them out is vital if we are to secure the borders of the UK and to have controlled immigration and yet we are further away from that than we have been for a decade."

Business group London First said it threatened the transparency of the immigration system.

"The key question is what has replaced e-Borders? Without a workable alternative, politicians will be making policy based on a best guess, rather than hard fact," said its head of immigration policy Mark Hilton.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    08:31: Not no, but not a yes either Nick Robinson Political editor

    Nick Robinson says David Cameron doesn't want to be seen to be saying "no" to the TV debates - but he's not exactly saying "yes" either.

     
  2.  
    08:30: Ed Milband on election BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader says "Britain can do a lot better" and his party wants to put working people first. "This is a big election, and I'm going to fight for it," he says.

     
  3.  
    08:28: Cameron on TV debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says you can't include SNP and Plaid without having parties from Northern Ireland. He says that he initially was making the point that the Greens should take part, but the broadcasters have gone further. He says he had also had concerns about the debates taking place during the election campaign itself - he thinks they dominate the campaign too much.

     
  4.  
    08:26: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    Explaining how Labour is going to fund an extra £2.5bn a year across the UK for the NHS, Mr Milband says the party has "very clear plans" to raise the cash - from mansion tax, clamping down on tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms' market share.

     
  5.  
    08:23: In quotes: Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today
    David Cameron
     
  6.  
    08:20: Miliband on the sofa BBC Breakfast
    Ed Miliband
     
  7.  
    08:19: Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    "The PM is wriggling and wriggling to get out of these debates - let's make these debates happen," says Ed Miliband.

     
  8.  
    08:16: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader is talking about the NHS again. He tells BBC Breakfast the "iron curtain" between health and social care isn't serving us well. "The NHS has got to start taking an interest in the social care system," he says.

     
  9.  
    08:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says that families subject to the existing benefits cap have been more likely to find work than people not hit by the cap. His party is "unashamedly pro-work and pro- people who work hard". The Conservatives are proposing to lower the cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year and use the money saved to boost apprenticeships.

     
  10.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: "There's horror and there's hope". @Ed_Miliband speaks movingly of his grandfather who died in a Nazi camp & those who were saved @bbc5live

     
  11.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: The most arresting sequence of Ed Miliband's @bbc5live interview was about Labour leader's loss of his grandfather in the Holocaust

     
  12.  
    Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Radio 5 live

    "He gives it the big one about leadership," says Ed Miliband. If so, why is he so scared of the TV debates, the Labour leader asks of David Cameron. Mr Miliband says he'll take part, even if there's an empty chair where the Conservative leader should be.

     
  13.  
    08:00: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    He says the NHS is always going to be a priority for Labour and "staff and patients are crying out for a sense of a plan" for it - adding that his party has "the right policy and the right plan".

     
  14.  
    07:56: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    Labour leader Ed Miliband there is a "big fight on for the future of the NHS" and that he wants to "rescue" it, not weaponise it.

     
  15.  
    07:53: Ed Miliband talking NHS BBC Radio 5 live
    Ed Miliband on 5live
     
  16.  
    07:47: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    The shadow health secretary says the country needs to "rethink" the way we care for older people, who are often "trapped" on hospital beds and subject to "flying 15-minute visits" by social care workers on home visits. "We need to support people with dementia and autism as well as those with cancer," he says.

     
  17.  
    07:39: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, tells BBC's Radio 4's Today programme the Labour Party is planning to "re-set" the NHS in England as the "National Health and Social Care Service".

     
  18.  
    07:25: David Cameron on election choice BBC Breakfast
    David Cameron

    David Cameron ends his Breakfast appearance by being asked about the lessons for the UK from what has happened in Greece. He says the election choice is "competence with the Conservatives", or "chaos with other options".

     
  19.  
    07:24: David Cameron on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    On the subject of TV election debates, Mr Cameron said it was a "good thing" that discussions had been taking place about which parties should be included. Asked if he would take part in the debates if Northern Ireland parties were included, he replied "yes", adding "a deal could be done".

     
  20.  
    07:21: David Cameron on apprenticeships BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron says apprenticeships are "very good" options for young people and the overwhelming majority of apprentices get jobs afterwards. The Conservatives are saying that they can create more using money saved by cutting the benefits cap limit.

     
  21.  
    07:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron tells BBC Breakfast that plans to reduce the benefits cap shows the Conservatives want to build on what he says is a successful policy of getting more people in to work - he says there was criticism in some parts of the country that £26,000 was too high. It's "absolutely crucial" to making sure young people get jobs and build a future for themselves, he says.

     
  22.  
    07:13: David Cameron on Breakfast
    David Cameron

    The Prime Minister David Cameron is appearing on BBC Breakfast from Downing Street.

     
  23.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: Significance of today is not that it's 100 days until an election. It's Holocaust Memorial Day - when we pledge 'Never Again' @HolocaustUK

     
  24.  
    06:59: Party campaigns Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The Tories are going on about the economy, there is a big push from Labour on the NHS today - I can see this going on right up to polling day. We've seen that the NHS is the number one issue for voters, but it has not yet translated to a lift off for Labour, despite the NHS winter crisis - which suggests the strategy appeals to the traditional Labour vote, but doesn't reach out beyond that.

     
  25.  
    06:57: The morning papers

    Meanwhile the Daily Mirror reports a survey which suggests a third of voters haven't made up their minds about how to vote yet.

    Mirror front page
     
  26.  
    06:53: The morning papers

    A bit more on how the 100 days to go point is being marked in the papers. With David Cameron and Ed Miliband appearing face-to-face on its front page, the i asks "where are the parties, what are the hot issues?". It also carries a poll suggesting the Tories have taken the lead over Labour.

    I front page
     
  27.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: David Cameron is on @bbcbreakfast at 0710 and @BBCR4Today at 0810. Ed Miliband is on @bbc5live at 0750 and @bbcbreakfast at 0810.

     
  28.  
    06:42: Breakfast briefing
    Chris Mason on Breakfast

    The two main parties "will be playing their hits today - what they think works with voters", BBC political correspondent Chris Mason tells BBC Breakfast. So Labour's focus is on the NHS and integrating social care. The Conservatives are talking about the economy and the benefits cap - they want to lower the cap and use the money to create more apprenticeships. The Lib Dems and UKIP are both focusing on what impact they might have in partnership with larger parties.

     
  29.  
    06:35: The morning papers

    The Daily Telegraph has an interview with David Cameron in which the prime minister pledges to reduce the annual benefits cap to £23,000 as the first act of a new Conservative government - a theme that also features in the Daily Mail.

    Telegraph front page
     
  30.  
    06:29: The morning papers

    Most of the papers mark the 100 days to go, with the Sun featuring the faces of readers on its front page and setting out its "Sunifesto" in a special edition, saying there are "100 days to save Britain".

    Sun front page
     
  31.  
    06:27: The morning ahead Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    It's an early start for the party leaders with David Cameron and Ed Miliband both appearing on BBC Breakfast and BBC radio between 07:10 GMT and 08:30 GMT. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are also launching an election poster. The economy will take centre stage at 09:30 GMT when the GDP figures are out.

     
  32.  
    06:21: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 100 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Older ladyAge of happiness

    A Russian photographer documents inspirational seniors who are refusing to grow old

Programmes

  • Robbie RogersHARDtalk Watch

    Gay footballer Robbie Rogers on locker room homophobia and the ‘pack mentality’ in soccer

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.