The E-Borders Programme - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1  We are delighted that the airlines' lack of confidence in the e-Borders programme appears to be diminishing as a result of a more positive engagement by UKBA. Without attributing this change entirely to our intervention, we note that the airlines had been raising their concerns with UKBA for at least a year before our inquiry and we cannot but conclude that the subsequent swift response of UKBA was a result of political interest in this technical area. (Paragraph 21)

2  The very senior people, formally in chare of e-Borders do not have day-to-day responsibility for managing the programme, and we understand that turnover amongst those who work more or less full-time on the project has been frequent. We suspect that this instability may have played a significant part in the breakdown of communications between UKBA and the carriers. It may also have led to the perception that UKBA had been 'captured' by its chosen provider and lost sight of what was reasonable and practicable. We hope that there will be greater continuity among the senior officials responsible for day-to-day management of the programme in future. (Paragraph 22)

Juxtaposed Controls

3  We do not understand why it is thought necessary for the ferry operators to send to UKBA the same information from every passenger's passport as UKBA's own officials have done minutes beforehand. If the argument is that, having passed passport control, a vehicle or individual might be found not to have a valid ticket and be turned back or held for a later ferry, then surely in these—presumably fairly infrequent cases—the UK border control official could be informed by the operator that a particular vehicle or passenger was not going to be carried on that ferry. Ferry operators anyway have to send a manifest of their passengers on each sailing, for health and safety reasons. This could be used as the checklist against which the information from the swiped passports is compared—in much the same way as for airlines, which are unable to produce a final list of their passengers until boarding is completed and the plane is ready to depart. (Paragraph 29)

Maritime Sector

4  Anything that significantly slows down transit through the Port of Dover will result in congestion in the port that will overflow into the town, and, in severe cases, onto the approach roads such as the M2. (Paragraph 31)

5  It is difficult to see how customers could be motivated to provide information in advance when, for each passenger, inputting data electronically is more of a chore than waiting for a passport to be swiped, and there is no easy way of fast-tracking those who have complied through the port. The alternative—that ferry companies would no longer operate turn-up-and-go—is something that UKBA itself has stated that it does not want to see. (Paragraph 34)

6  There appears to be complete stalemate between the maritime sector and UKBA. We do not understand why UKBA cannot accommodate some of the practical suggestions made by the ferry and port operators, such as transmitting data from the juxtaposed UK border control in Calais rather than the ferry check-in desk, or putting a requirement to collect passenger data onto coach companies rather than the ferry operators. The problem of the configuration of the Port of Dover also requires co-operation rather than confrontation, and we urge the involvement of the Department of Transport in practical discussions, given the potential for serious consequences elsewhere on the road network. If the only solution in Dover is the rebuilding of facilities, UKBA must recognise that its present timetable for implementation of the programme is not feasible. (Paragraph 35)


7  It is obvious that the e-borders programme will have to be adapted to meet the needs of the railway sector, which is part of a much more integrated transport network, with many more embarkation points, than airlines and ferries. It is also clear that UKBA has only just started to consider the difficulties posed by national data protection regulations and national laws to protect citizens against the spread of state powers beyond a tightly defined cadre of officials. UKBA cannot impose one-size-fits-all requirements on such different sectors as planes, ferries and railways. It would be more productive if, instead of trying to do so, they adapted their requirements more closely to how each sector actually operates. In the case of railways, the unique problem is that of intermediate stops. It is not at all clear to us what is supposed to happen in relation to e-Borders if, for example, a passenger boards a train at Brussels but decides to disembark in France instead of travelling through the Channel Tunnel—or, indeed, to stay on the train instead of disembarking in France. (Paragraph 43)

E-Borders and the EU

8  We conclude that it is only in exceptional cases, based exclusively on the conduct of the individual concerned rather than as part of a blanket requirement, that an EU Member State can impose any requirement other than simple production of a valid identity document to restrict the entry into or exit from that Member State of an EU citizen. The e-Borders programme is therefore, as far as we can ascertain, likely to be illegal under the EU Treaty. (Paragraph 48)

9  Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, we have seen no proof that UKBA's predecessors held serious discussions with the European Commission about the e-Borders programme. More recent and frequent efforts by a variety of carriers to clarify these legal issues with UKBA have met with no success. We suspect that UKBA has only recently started to take these issues seriously, possibly as a result of setbacks such as the forced postponement of the programme in relation to air routes to Germany because of national legislation. This is not good enough. UKBA is imposing expensive requirements on the private sector in the name of urgent public good apparently without having confirmed that the requirements are lawful. UKBA must urgently seek an authoritative opinion from the European Commission on this issue, and must make it a priority to discuss all data protection problems with the relevant national bodies. (Paragraph 49)

10  UKBA must report the results of these discussions to us by, at the latest, the end of February. In the meantime, any proposals to extend 'go live' to further intra-EU routes must be put on hold. (Paragraph 50)

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 18 December 2009