Tory MPs today demanded answers from the head of Border Force over the Heathrow queuing scandal as pressure mounted on Priti Patel to fix the ‘carnage’ at immigration on yet another day of huge waits.
Paul Lincoln, the agency’s director general, has not commented publicly on the issue in recent weeks, while there are increasing calls for his boss, the Home Secretary, to take meaningful action.
Mr Lincoln, a career civil servant who has also served in the Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office, had his salary bumped up from £130,000-£135,000 to between £135,000 and £140,000 in the last financial year, accounts show.
He has overseen a summer of Heathrow border chaos dating back to at least May, when some passengers reported three-hour waits at passport gates.
In July, it was announced he will soon leave his current role, a month after being made an OBE for services to border security.
Today, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith and James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, called on senior officials including Mr Lincoln to explain what is causing the ‘unacceptable’ queues.
‘They should explain what’s happening and why there are delays,’ Mr Duncan-Smith told MailOnline. ‘They are running a public service and they should be open to the public.
‘Number one they’ve got to explain what the problem is and why they weren’t able to cope. Then we can work out what to do about it.’
MPs today demanded answers from Border Force chief as long queues were seen again at Heathrow today (pictured)
Oxford University academic Ayushi Aruna Agarwal and Eshita Sharma, a Twitter user, both complained of long queues today
Mr Gray said: ‘The Home Affairs Select Committee needs to get these people in front of them so we can find out exactly what’s going on. It’s their responsibility.
‘The current situation is complete carnage – there’s no bit of it that’s acceptable.
‘I cannot believe that all these people are self-isolating, I cannot believe there are not enough staff, and I cannot believe Heathrow isn’t kicking and screaming about this.’
The Home Office was today asked to provide a comment from Mr Lincoln.
It came as fresh pictures emerged of brutal queues at Heathrow arrivals, which officials have previously blamed on a lack of Border Force staff and the number of them having to self-isolate.
Travel industry figures have warned the chaotic scenes were blighting the UK’s global reputation while running the risk of a spike in Covid cases – further jeopardising the already crisis-hit tourism sector and stifling business with the post-Brexit UK.
Oxford University academic Ayushi Aruna Agarwal tweeted this morning: ‘Hello from the immigration line at London Heathrow.
‘They plan to make us spend 5 hours in close proximity with people from all over the globe here and then self-isolate for 10 days. Great plan.’
A second passenger, Eshita Sharma, posted: ‘Welcome to UK with a veeeeeeery [sic] long queue and no water (or tea).
‘My immigration bubble at Heathrow terminal 2. Should have brought a tent, a sleeping bag, and a mirror to see myself age in real time.’
Today the Home Office again blamed the queues on the need to check Covid documents – in addition to families with young children not being able to use e-gates because the facial recognition technology does not work with under-12s.
But travellers have insisted their Covid-related paperwork has barely been checked by Border Force guards because most of the work is done by airlines.
Travel journalist Simon Calder told MailOnline: ‘All the evidence I am seeing is that the outsourcing of paperwork checks to airlines, ferry firms and train operators means minimal checks coming into the UK.
‘Because the airline has to check the UK-bound ‘fit to fly’ and passenger locator form – which can’t be completed until a post-arrival test is booked – the Border Force, in my experience, is simply wanting to verify identity.
‘Personally I don’t have a problem with this – last week in Berlin I was checked and re-checked by Ryanair staff before my flight to Stansted, and on arrival I was through in one minute flat.
‘But as a result it’s a stretch claiming that the long queues at Heathrow are down to extra checks.’
A Home Office source told MailOnline that while carriers did carry out checks Border Force guards ‘also had a role’ in scrutinising documents’, including passenger locator forms.
Yesterday, passengers described ‘total chaos’ at Heathrow’s £4.2billion Terminal 5 as rows broke out in passport control and exasperated people who had already spent hours waiting to enter Britain then had to wait in long lines for the car park.
Witnesses said they had ‘never seen anything like it’ as ‘massive queues’ also appeared at Luton and Manchester airports and travellers raged that the country is fast becoming an international ‘laughing stock’.
Under pressure: Home Secretary Priti Patel – who oversees border force – and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary
Pictures shared with MailOnline yesterday showed long snaking lines of hundreds of people packed together tightly waiting at border control, as elderly and more vulnerable passengers wilted
One woman yesterday described rows in arrivals at Heathrow – and to add insult to injury, a wait of 30 minutes just to get into a lift to access their parked cars (pictured)
One woman caught up in the chaos described rows in arrivals at Heathrow – and to add insult to injury, a wait of 30 minutes just to get to their parked cars.
She told MailOnline: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. There were massive queues’, adding there were ‘arguments breaking out with staff about the number of broken e-gates’. ‘It seems like the whole terminal is in total chaos’, she said, adding she had to queue for half an hour just to get in the lift that goes to the car park.
Catriona MacLeod, an academic from the University of Chicago, tweeted that after an hour at the UK border she had ‘not advanced more than 6 inches’. Another woman caught in the chaos wrote: ‘@HeathrowAirport is like Dante’s purgatory’.
The delays have got worse as families returned from their summer holidays for the start of the school term.
One traveller collapsed after landing in London and luggage was seen tumbling from conveyor belts because queues at ‘poorly managed’ arrivals halls were up to five hours with Heathrow bosses blaming the ‘unacceptable’ waiting times this weekend on Border Force staff shortages.
Commenting on the car park queue, a Heathrow source suggested the issue was caused by a large group of people turning up outside the lifts at once, adding that the lines ‘cleared within minutes’.
Today the Home Office maintained its stance that passengers should be prepared to wait.
‘Throughout the pandemic we have been clear that queue times may be longer as we ensure all passengers are compliant with the health measures put in place to keep the UK public safe,’ a spokesman said.
‘This weekend was the busiest of the year for returning passengers, with particularly high numbers of families with children under the age of 12 who cannot use e-gates.
‘We have endeavoured to improve waiting times this week, for example by flexibly deploying staff across Heathrow Airport and continue to work closely with all airports and airlines to make sure all passengers can have a safe and hassle-free journey.’
Passengers, including pregnant women, pensioners and young children, were made to stand in long queues of ‘three to five hours’ into the early hours of the morning amid further disarray at border control at Europe’s busiest airport (seen yesterday)