‘UK borders are safe in the hands of the British Army’ says Defence Secretary

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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Photographer: PO Phot Dave Jenkins - UK MOD © Crown copyright - News Licence.

UK borders at our airports are safe in the hands of the British Army, the Defence Secretary said today. 

Ben Wallace spoke out as he attended Manchester Airport to witness the job soldiers were doing in the place of striking Border Staff workers.

During an interview at Manchester Airport, Mr Wallace praised the job of the Armed Forces who had stepped in for striking Border Force staff.

Rejecting claims the country’s borders are less secure when they’re being manned by members of the armed forces he told GB News: “The claim is just pure propaganda put out by the unions. That’s not the case. I witnessed it today. And I am the former Security Minister so I know exactly how the borders work. So I think that’s just using propaganda to try and muddy the waters.

“The simple reality is our borders are safe and secure. These individuals are members of the armed forces that come to help out when the strikes are on. They are coming out with a very straightforward function. And of course, they are backed up by computer systems and scans that allow us to identify people of worry coming into the country.”

Asked whether he felt the Armed Forces were more efficient than Border Force Staff he continued: “I’ve been here at Manchester Airport for over an hour and seen queues rapidly decrease. I think it’s pretty efficient, especially here in terminal two of Manchester, which is a brand new facility. 

“I think what it demonstrates is the Armed Forces are managing to substitute for striking workers on the point of entry into the UK. They’re using technology to make sure that it is run efficiently and cleanly through the system and passengers are getting the service that they expect from Manchester Airport and I think overall, we’re not seeing any disruption here to people’s travel. I think that’s a good thing. I think it also shows that ultimately, the government’s responsibility is to secure the border, but also to make sure you people can come back and go about their business unhindered.”

More than 1,000 border staff have resumed strike action at six airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow. However, few delays have been reported as hundreds of military personnel and civil servants were brought in to cover the striking workers. According to official reports many passengers cleared passport control in less than five minutes.

When the strikes began last Friday, passengers claimed passport control was quicker than normal.

One passenger at Birmingham told the Conservative Post:

“I do this route at least once a month for work and I have to say it seems more efficient with the army in control today. Very smooth sailing. No problems whatsoever. Thank you lads for stepping up and once again serving the country.”

A spokesman for Heathrow said:

“Operations continue to run smoothly and the airport is operating as normal. The immigration halls are free-flowing with Border Force and the military contingency providing a good level of service for arriving passengers.”

Meanwhile Mr Wallace also said the UK’s response to China opening up overseas travel is “under review”. 

He said: “The government is going to keep that under review and review whether different countries with COVID outbreaks etc should face different restrictions. As we speak the situation relating to China is being reviewed, and I’ll expect to see some clarification on this point probably today or tomorrow.  The Department of Transport will work out the balance between the medical advice that it receives, and indeed, the flow of traffic. I think it’s very important at this time of year that we make sure those countries that don’t have COVID can travel freely to the United Kingdom and vice versa.”

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