Sacked UK borders inspector’s review reveals lack of jet security checks at London airport

An inspection at a busy Londonairport identified “a significant risk to security” after it revealed that jets are landing in the UK without undergoing proper security checks.

The newly published review was written by former independent chief inspector of borders and immigration David Neal, who was sacked last month by the Home Office after publicly sharing his fears about the problem.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the report is “scandalous” and exposes a “Conservative Government which has lost control of our borders and our border security”.

A spot-check inspection carried out by Mr Neal’s team at London City Airport in east London earlier this year found “failings at a local, regional, and national level” in Border Force’s response to general aviation – defined as any civil flight not operating to a specific and published schedule.

The inspection found Border Force staff at the airport missed targets on the number of flights they were supposed to check in person.

But much of the key information from the inspection – including how many general aviation flights had been physically met by Border Force staff – was redacted when it was published by the Home Office on Tuesday.

Sacked borders watchdog David Neal gave evidence to the House of Lords’ Justice and Home Affairs Committee (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

(PA Wire)

“This is shocking and something is clearly very wrong… this needs to be addressed by the Home Office as a matter of urgency,” Mr Neal’s foreword to the report said.

More than 3.4 million passengers passed through the international airport in 2023, according to its website.

A Home Office spokesman said some information had been removed for “national security reasons”.

Border Force guidance designed to keep the country safe directs that all general aviation flights “identified as high risk” are met by Border Force staff, except in exceptional circumstances.

“At London City Airport, only (redacted) were met in 2023,” the published report read, after inspectors examined Border Force data at the London airport.

Independent inspectors who visited London City Airport on January 31 and February 1 also observed “a lack of formal training for Border Force staff”.

Responding to the inspection, Border Force director-general Phil Douglas said: “We will never compromise on border security, and carry out robust security checks on those arriving into the UK, including both scheduled and notified general aviation flights.

“As I previously explained to Mr Neal, some of the information in this report is factually inaccurate. Border security checks were carried out on all general aviation arrivals at London City Airport.”

Responding to the report, Ms Cooper said the failings could mean “allowing high-security-risk flights to swan into the country with zero in-person checks, despite risks from drugs, guns and people smuggling”.

She added: “Even now ministers are hiding the true scale of the flaws, redacting much of the vital information, and slipping the reports out when Parliament can’t respond.

“The public have a right to get answers. We need to know how many high-risk flights arriving at City Airport were not checked in person as they should have been.”

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