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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The wrong sort of wind

I answered a question as an Assembly Commissioner a few weeks ago regarding the use of the Assembly estate for growing our own produce. Alas, the Welsh Parliament is situated in a concrete jungle but apparently we do grow our own herbs on one of the Senedd balconies. Naturally, this answer was met with some incredulity and laughter but nowhere near as much as that which Immigration Minister, Damian Green now faces after his explanation for extensive queues at passport control in Heathrow Airport.

As the Independent says, Mr. Green yesterday acknowledged that huge queues at the airport may be damaging Britain's reputation abroad. However, he risked ridicule when he told MPs that the length of time non-European passengers waited to have their passports checked could depend on the direction in which the wind was blowing at the time:

Mr Green told the Commons home affairs select committee yesterday that the extra 70 staff were to be recruited by September to cover for immigration officers taking leave after the end of the London Olympics.

Ministers had intended to appoint the officers in 2014, when building work on Heathrow's Terminal 2 is due to be completed, but the plans have been rushed forward to cope with foreign students arriving in Britain for the new academic year.

Mr Green said: "We have brought forward the first wave of recruitment for the reopening of Terminal 2 to give the border force even more flexibility to secure the border while dealing with record passenger numbers at Heathrow."

The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, told him that UK airports received poor ratings from travellers compared with international competitors and asked whether Britain was suffering "reputational damage" as a result of Heathrow's problems. Mr Green replied: "It's a worry for the Government."

But the minister also said some of the causes of delays were beyond the power of any organisation to tackle. "That will depend on the wind, over which, with the best will in the world, airlines and the Border Force don't have the control," he said.

Yet another problem for the Government to get to grips with.
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