David Cameron demands action from the Home Office while BA's Willie Walsh tells Channel 4 News that Damian Green was "misleading" the public over the extent of waiting times at passport control.
Please wait while this video loads. If it doesn't load after a few seconds you may need to have Adobe Flash installed.
David Cameron met Home Secretary Theresa May at Downing Street to discuss the growing pressure on the Home Office to come with a solution to the situation at Heathrow's passport control, particularly ahead of the Olympics.
In a visit to Heathrow on Tuesday, Home Office Minister Damian Green announced that 80 extra staff would be employed to help ease delays at immigration. However Mr Green insisted the problem was not just about staff numbers, but about how and when they were deployed.
Mr Green had previously claimed that the maximum waiting time at Heathrow was 90 minutes - a "misleading" claim, International Airlines Group (IAG) Chief Executive Willie Walsh told Channel 4 News.
"We recorded queues of two and a half hours last Friday. We know how bad it is. This is a situation that needs to be tackled," he said. "I think he was certainly misleading when he told people that the maximum queue was 90 minutes when we know it went well beyond that – and not just on one occasion."
Plans are reportedly afoot to levy higher landing fees from airlines, to fund more border staff. If this goes ahead, Mr Walsh told Channel 4 News that the cost would "inevitably" be passed on to passengers.
"And I think that if people were paying for it you can be sure that they will demand a better service, they will not put up with the standards that the Border Force has set for themselves," he added.
10 per cent of border staff cut
Leaked figures from a management planning paper appear to show that 86 UK Border Force staff have been lost in two years - a 10 per cent reduction - and that there are plans for cuts to a further 1552 posts by 2014/15.
The Public and Commercial Services union warned that drafting in 80 additional staff was "putting a sticking plaster on a serious injury".
Mark Serwotka, the union's general secretary, said: "Drafting in staff from other areas of an already overstretched agency is like putting a sticking plaster on a serious injury, it will do nothing to stop the inevitable from happening."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said there was a "shocking level of complacency" about the situation at Heathow. She called on the Home Office to publish its figures on waiting times at Heathrow terminals.
"The immigration minister's claims that queues are under control are completely at odds with the experience of travellers over the past few weeks, as well as the evidence from airlines," said Ms Cooper. "Time and again we have heard from passengers queuing for hours while most of the immigration desks stood empty."
A Downing Street spokesman said: "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."
'Parliament was misled'
One Heathrow passenger accused immigration minister Damian Green of misleading parliament. Elizabeth Rylance-Watson, who entered the terminal five immigration queue on the night of 29 April and queued for an hour and 40 minutes, said that Mr Green's comments on 30 April 30 bore "absolutely no relation to my direct experience of Terminal 5".
"At 22.40pm, still in the queue, we could see that only five immigration desks were staffed - the overwhelming majority of desks were empty," she said in an email to Damian Green and the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, written in response to Mr Green's statement to the House of Commons.
"I also expect Ministers to arrive at the Despatch Box with a full, up to date and accurate picture of what is happening right now. I feel that parliament is misled if MPs take the Minister's statement at face value."
30 April 2012
06 February 2012