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Minister: Heathrow queues too long
Passengers at Heathrow Airport are being made to wait for too long to get into the UK and the Border Force needs to change the way it operates, the Immigration Minister has said.
As the row grew over the impact on the UK's reputation and ability to deal with the 2012 Olympics, Damian Green said 80 extra staff would start work this month to help ease the lengthy queues.
Mr Green insisted it was not just about staff numbers, but about how and when they were deployed, saying the Border Force needed to be more flexible.
Mr Green said: "The problem is that people, at certain times, on certain days, have to wait too long. We're addressing that problem.
"Border Force need to change the way they operate, we need to work better with the operator BAA and with the airlines, and, as of today, we are instituting some changes as the summer starts. During the course of May we're employing 80 more people."
But he denied the problems were caused by the "absolute numbers", saying it was about when and where staff could be deployed. Mobile rapid-response teams, along with new shift patterns, will offer "additional flexibility" to help "cope with the peaks and troughs you can expect to get at any busy airport".
And during this summer's Games, all immigration desks at Heathrow and other key ports and airports in the South East will be fully staffed during peak periods, he said.
David Cameron's official spokesman said the PM saw Home Secretary Theresa May on Tuesday morning, adding: "The Home Office have made clear that they think there is a problem here, that waiting for longer than 90 minutes at passport control is too long and they are deploying resources to deal with that."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said ministers were "showing a shocking level of complacency over the chaos". She said some 1,500 Border Force staff were being cut as "Home Office management of Britain's borders is drifting from one shambles to another".
Ms Cooper added: "The Home Secretary needs to take charge of this chaos and get it sorted out. Leaving families to struggle with tired kids in long queues, or delaying business travellers because of poor management or the scale of cuts is unacceptable."