Airports: Security

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, whether there are procedures for a person who wishes to complain about the behaviour of an officer searching persons at United Kingdom international airports to ensure that complaints are adequately dealt with when they are made.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, whether a procedure is in place to deal with complaints about officers searching persons at United Kingdom international airports after the event and to ensure any appropriate action is taken.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The UK Border Agency (UKBA) complaints procedure (on the Agency’s internet site at http://www. ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/contact/makingacomplaint/) can be used to complain about the behaviour of a border force officer searching persons at UK international airports. The procedure applies whether the incident relates to a service the border force provided or was provided on the behalf of UKBA. It also applies where the matter relates to the conduct of border force staff or contractors working on the behalf of UKBA.

The complaint may be made at the point of contact with a border force officer who will aim to resolve the complaint; this may include referring the matter to a senior officer if this is deemed appropriate. Alternatively the customer, regardless of nationality, may ask to speak to a senior officer in order to make their complaint or seek resolution. A customer may choose to make their complaint after the event; though a complaint must be made within three months of the incident to which it refers.

The UK border force takes all complaints seriously. The receipt of all complaints is acknowledged in writing and the border force aims to provide a response to the customer within 20 days of receipt. If a customer does not think their complaint has been handled correctly they may ask for the handling to be reviewed. If the customer remains dissatisfied they can ask a UK MP to refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Additionally, customers in Scotland who remain dissatisfied can contact the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland. These escalation steps are “signposted” to customers in the letters they receive about their complaint. If the issue raised within the complaint is of a very serious nature the matter will be referred by UKBA to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for England & Wales.

The UK border force wants to learn from complaints and improve its service to customers wherever possible. The border force considers the complaints not only within the business area that received it but also at the UKBA level so that lessons are learned and good practice shared. For example, the border force may consider making adjustments to the process that led to the complaint, giving their staff extra training or, in serious cases, taking disciplinary action.

Updated: 31/10/2010 — 12:33 PM