HC Deb 20 April 1995 vol 258 c333
14. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the quality of the welcome offered to visitors to the United Kingdom by immigration officers at airports and sea ports. [18368]

Mr. Nicholas Baker

A substantial and independently managed survey conducted at the end of 1992 found that most passengers compared our control favourably with that of other countries, both in speed and efficiency, and in the courtesy shown by immigration officers. Of those interviewed, 97 per cent. said that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment at immigration control.

Mr. Coombs

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the quality of the welcome at airports and sea ports is extremely important for the UK tourism industry. In that context, what more can he do to reduce the length of queues, especially at London Heathrow airport at peak times, and to encourage officials to smile at visitors?

Mr. Baker

We are doing a great deal, leaving aside any instruction particularly to smile, and always observing the duty of the Immigration Service to maintain firm and fair immigration control. We are continually monitoring the queues at the major airports that my hon. Friend mentioned. We have had a quality of service initiative to lead to improvements of various types. We have introduced fast-track channels for business and first-class passengers. In time for the summer season, we are introducing earlier shifts at terminals where delays can occur because of bunching of early-morning flights. My hon. Friend will also want to know that we have a scheme for authorised tour groups of expedited clearance organised by the Immigration Service.