Immigration Bill

Written evidence from TUI UK & Ireland (IB 29)

Summary: TUI UK & Ireland has a major concern surrounding one specific section of the Immigration Bill currently proceeding through Parliament. The focus of concern is surrounding Clause 58 & Schedule 7 of the Bill which creates a new provision that would allow the Secretary of State to require transport operators to carry out embarkation checks as ‘designated persons’ for all their passengers. TUI UK & Ireland believe this should be removed as it:

· Creates a new precedent of transport operators performing the duty of immigration officers without compensating them for undertaking this core function of the state

· Will have a disproportional impact on carriers, underestimating both the operational and financial burden on the industry

This specific area of the Bill is the only area of major contention. TUI UK & Ireland support the vast majority of the proposals outlined and believe they will assist the UK Border Force to control immigration more effectively and improve removal processes.

1. TUI UK & Ireland is part of TUI Travel PLC, one of the world’s leading international leisure travel groups. The Group operate over 240 trusted brands and serve 30 million customers from 31 source markets. This response represents the views of the brands that operate from the UK.

2. The implications in this bill are particularly relevant for Thomson Airways (the international airline for the group) and Thomson Cruises. Thomson Airways is the UK’s 3rd largest airline, which operates from around 22 UK airports carrying approximately 12 Million passengers each year. Thomson Cruises operates fly-cruises to Mediterranean and Caribbean destinations and only operates occasional departures from UK ports.

3. The major concerns lie within Part 6 (clause 58) and Schedule 7 that would give the Secretary of State powers to require carrier’s staff as ‘designated persons’ to undertake embarkation checks on passengers departing the UK.

4. Fundamentally, we disagree with this proposal on principle. Immigration checks whether inbound or outbound are part of the Government Duty to protect the public and as such these functions are funded by the taxpayer. The proposals will effectively outsource this core function of the state to transport operators (including ships, trains and aircraft). The Government has every right to contract out these services to private business as ‘paid for‘ services but TUI UK & Ireland does not believe it is right or fair to place obligations on private companies to carry out embarkation. These concerns are also felt amongst other representatives across the aviation and maritime industry.

5. We also believe that the proposals surrounding embarkation checks significantly underestimate the operational difficulties that transport operators would face.

6. In the case of Thomson Airways and other airlines, the boarding gate is the last place any carrier wants to refuse carriage for whatever reason and as such refusal inevitably leads to a delay whilst their baggage is found and offloaded. We do not see that embarkation checks would in practice be carried out by the same staff that are boarding the flight, but would be carried out by additional trained staff who were up to date with current processes. This will lead to a double process at the gate and an increased gate processing time, which in turn would lead to reduced airport capacity. Due the fact our ground handling agents would need additional staff to manage the additional process, this would inevitably lead to increased cost of flights and thus an increase in the cost of holidays for the consumer.

7. There are also major concerns for Thomson Airways given its diverse operations across the UK. There will be a significant increase in costs surrounding the regular training requirements that will be needed for members of staff who have to undertake the necessary checks. There will also be significant cost and logistical implications to ensure those staff are always available as well as maintaining currency for all embarkation checks across the 22 UK airports that we operate from.

8. Conversely the cost of embarkation checks for Thomson Cruises is disproportionate for the number of UK departures that we undertake, which is relatively small. We feel that this will hurt the UK cruise industry, as a number of cruise lines, including ourselves, have the option of reducing or eliminating UK calls, in favour of running from other European ports with less onerous immigration requirements.

9. As a company TUI UK & Ireland has been longstanding supporters of Government initiatives to ensure a robust border systems and this can be shown by our commitment to the e-Borders project and compliance with the PDCS scheme. The compliance cost of these two processes for Thomson Airways is £250,000 in transmission and communication costs per annum whilst the programme maintenance costs an additional £100,000 per annum.

10. TUI UK & Ireland believe that the availability of API data via e-borders, enables the Home Office to effectively undertake the necessary embarkation checks within the Immigration Bill.

11. Given this workable solution, we firmly believe that clause 58 and Schedule 7 within the Immigration Bill should be withdrawn in its current form.

November 2013

Prepared 13th November 2013