Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Monday, 30 April 2012 17:41 UK

Urgent question: Heathrow

Recent instances of lengthy queues at Heathrow Airport's passport control desk are a "serious embarrassment", Labour MP and Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz has said.

On 30 April 2012, after being granted an urgent question by Speaker John Bercow, Mr Vaz highlighed reports of unmanned desks at immigration during peak times and broken iris scanners.

Some passengers arriving from outside the EU have reportedly had to wait up to three hours to pass through immigration at Heathrow.

Controls either had to be relaxed in certain circumstances, as they were before last year's scandal over border controls, or the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had to employ more officers at immigration desks, Mr Vaz concluded.

Home Office Minister Damian Green agreed: "These times are too long. Passengers demand an efficient service and the British public demands tough border controls. We need both."

A new Border Force central control room is being established at Heathrow to help remedy the situation, he said.

New shift patterns are being introduced for immigration staff, he added, claiming they would "provide additional flexibility so staff can be deployed individually to meet unexpected surges in passengers flows".

Mr Green said the delays last weekend were especially bad because of the severe weather, which had led to flight diversions and the "bunching" of arrivals.

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