Minister summoned over Heathrow passport queues

Immigration minister Damian Green has been called to appear before the Commons home affairs select committee next week over delays at passport control at Heathrow.

This comes amid growing concerns about the airport’s ability to cope with the influx of millions of tourists and athletes during the Olympics.

Heathrow was reportedly approaching “breaking” point last week, with passengers left so frustrated by delays of up to two hours at Terminal 5.

This situation has got so bad that the Home Office tried to ban Heathrow from informing travellers about the full extent of delays at the airport, according to leaked emails obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

Heathrow owner BAA attempted to defuse tensions with a leaflet apologising to passengers for the “very long delays” and saying people entering the country “deserved a warmer welcome”.

The leaflet suggested that passengers should complain to the Home Office.

But UK Border Agency director of operations at the airport Marc Owen told BAA the leaflet was “inappropriate”. He threatened to “escalate” the matter with ministers who were likely to take a “very dim view,” according to the newspaper.

The row broke out as a series of emails from a senior border official obtained by the Telegraph detailed the extent of the chaos. One manager reportedly listed the errors that occurred last week, when some passengers had to wait more than an hour to pass through check points, leading to complaints.

A Spanish traveller who refused to wait any longer walked through the gate in a bid to bypass the checks. He was intercepted by a Special Branch officer.

The difficulties were exacerbated by a series of technology glitches including the failure of a finger print machine, used to check passengers who require a visa to enter the UK.

A statement jointly issued by BAA and the Border Force said: “The majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly but there are sometimes delays at airports for a range of reasons. We think it’s important passengers are given the full picture.

“We will not compromise border security but we will work together to keep delays to a minimum.”

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