Home Office say only name has changed

The multi-million pound E-borders programme designed to count everyone in and out of the UK has been downgraded after years of problems, reports the BBC.

It was designed to collect advance passenger information on all scheduled inbound and outbound journeys to and from the UK on one database.

The head of the UK Border Force, Sir Charles Montgomery, told MPs it had been “terminated” in its current form.

The Home Office said the programme’s name had changed but nothing else.

It said the scheme had been “absorbed” into a new Border Systems Procurement exercise – which aims to improve the operation of the Home Office’s Warnings Index check on dangerous individuals and other security programmes.

But Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the influential Commons Home Affairs committee, said the government urgently needed to answer questions about the future of the E-borders scheme.

Tony Blair launched the E-borders programme in 2003. It was originally meant to collect details from passenger lists of all people entering and leaving the UK.

All flights from outside the EU are now part of E-borders. Ports and railway stations are due to follow by 2014. EU flights are meant to be covered by 2015. But that will depend on reaching voluntary agreements with other nations – and solving commercial problems.

The US firm handed a £750m contract by Labour to deliver E-borders, Raytheon, was fired by the coalition in 2010 for “extremely disappointing” performance. The company is seeking £500m in damages from the government.

The E-borders contract was split in two with IBM and Serco given the job of getting a system in place at nine airports before the Olympics.

The scheme, first devised by the previous Labour government in 2003 and expected to cost £536m from 2007-15, has been dogged by problems over the past decade.

It was delayed for several years, its brief changed, and the government has become embroiled in a legal battle with a former contractor, US firm Raytheon, after it was fired in 2010 for what officials said was an “extremely disappointing” performance.

The database, which currently compiles information on flights from outside the European Union, is due to be further rolled out over the next few years.

E-borders was due to be extended to cover all flights from within the EU by 2015 but this depended on reaching voluntary agreements with other nations – and solving previous commercial problems.

Last October, the chief inspector of borders said a major rethink was needed because airports were not meeting those with terrorist alerts against them on arrival, and “not one person” had been stopped boarding a plane to the UK.