Despite significant progress under this government in retrieving the legacy of the failed IT projects it inherited, Britain still cannot be confident in the systems that currently secure its borders, a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies has found. In Harnessing Entrepreneurship to secure Britain’s Borders, Tom Papworth shows how obsolete technology, a decade past its planned retirement date, suffers regular outages and routinely allows possible smugglers and illegal migrants to enter the country unchecked.
At a time when the potential collapse of the Schengen Zone increases the threat to the UK borders, the Border Force’s replacement programme is officially deemed to be at serious risk of failure and “successful delivery is in doubt”, according to the Major Projects Authority. In addition, the UK’s so-called biometric passports do not meet either the statutory definition of “biometric” or international best practice; official data on flights and passengers is unreliable and inefficiently used; and migration statistics have enormous margins of error. And to implement the Government’s aim of monitoring all departing passengers will cost an extra £1 billion.
Meanwhile, the burdens faced by frontline immigration staff are rising, with passenger numbers set to double while EU border co-operation is on the brink of collapse. And too many arriving travellers have to endure needlessly long immigration queues at Britain’s airports.
At least £830 million has already been wasted in previous attempts to upgrade security. There is a simple alternative: Britain’s border systems can be rapidly and cost-effectively improved by using readily-procurable, state-of-the-art biometric technology. The report shows that the necessary technology is already available affordably on the market, and that Whitehall’s insistence on running its own bespoke IT development programmes is wasting taxpayers ‘ money while failing to deliver.
CPS Director Tim Knox said:
“The government is to be commended for trying to get a grip on the inheritance of failed attempts to digitize Britain’s borders. That stands in stark contrast to Europe’s failure of will to manage its borders, a failure that in turn increases the threats to the UK border. But more can be done.
It is unacceptable that Border Force’s hard-pressed frontline staff are having to work with worn-out tools while yet another government IT programme muddles along. Nor is it fair on millions of legitimate travellers stuck in needless passport queues from Stansted to Gatwick. To keep our border secure and save money, the Government should use existing expertise that is available on the open market. The question is not whether the government should take this step to secure the border better, but why it hasn’t done so already.”