May 4, 2012 • 1:16 pm

The length of time people arriving at Heathrow are having to wait before getting through border control has become a political hot potato this week, with Immigration Minister Damian Green facing some stiff questions about the staffing and policies of the UK Border Agency.

When Mr Green appeared before the Commons on Monday he told MPs that “Border Force data shows the longest queuing time for immigration control was one and a half hours on Friday night at Terminal 5 for non EU nationals. And times for UK and EU nationals were significantly lower.”

Speaking on the Today programme on Tuesday, the Immigration Minister repeated the claim that this was the maximum wait, adding that even the Labour Party couldn’t find figures supporting any higher waiting times.

However when Full Fact checked this earlier in the week, we found that the Labour Party was more circumspect, and claimed that the figures being referenced by the Minister were not for last Friday at all, but in fact covered a much earlier period.

The problem we faced in assessing these claims was that neither of the sources cited in the debate – UK Border Agency and BAA figures – were publicly available.

Since then however BAA – which manages Heathrow airport – has put out some further information. For example the Independent said yesterday that:

“Figures show that on April 30 there were passport-check queues of up to three hours at Heathrow’s Terminal 4.”

Furthermore, this new information now appears to have been accepted by Mr Green, in contrast to what he told Parliament earlier in the week:

“I don’t dispute the BAA figures but on BAA figures of border force figures its too long.”

(Damien Green, Newsnight, 3 May 2012 – 26 minutes)

So what is this new information?

On 3 May BAA release a document comparing immigration waiting at Heathrow airport with official targets in April.

This shows waiting times at immigration for EEA (European Economic Area) and non-EEA citizens in April. As you can see waiting times targets were met for EEA citizens. For non-EEA residents though waiting time targets were missed at terminals one, three, four and five. At terminal five only 75.7 per cent of passengers were in a queue for less than 45 minutes.

However this doesn’t provide us with the maximum waiting time, which is the figure that grabbed the headlines.

We asked BAA where this information had come from and they told us that they had supplied additional figures which were not published online. They were kind enough to supply us with the same information which has been presented below.

Non-EEA maximum wait time: 

Terminal 1

1 hour and 14 minutes measure on 12 April

Terminal 3

2 hours and 20 minutes measured on 25 April

Terminal 4

3 hours measured on 30 April

Terminal 5

2 hours 35 minutes measured on 17 April

EEA maximum wait time: 

Terminal 1

30 minutes measured on 22 April

Terminal 3

42 minutes measured on 15 April

Terminal 4

45 minutes measured on 17 April

Terminal 5

1 hour 2 minutes measured on 10 April

Number of days on which more than 5 per cent of non-EEA queue times exceeded 45 minutes:

Terminal 1

12 out of 30 days

Terminal 3

21 out of 30 days

Terminal 4

21 out of 30 days

Terminal 5

23 out of 30 days

Number of days on which more than 5 per cent of EEA queue times exceeded 45 minutes: 

Terminal 1

12 out of 30 days

Terminal 3

21 out of 30 days

Terminal 4

21 out of 30 days

Terminal 5

23 out of 30 days

 

None of these figures cover immigration waiting times at Heathrow Terminal 5 on 27 April, the source of the original argument, so we cannot say how long people were queueing that day. Nonetheless these figures add further weight to the suggestion that the one and a half hour maximum wait that was originally quoted by Damian Green was some way short of the mark.

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