Who comes there? UK border controls give a new meaning to privatisation

UK governments talk loudly about controlling immigration but seem unable even to count in who visits Britain. Now, it seems, private incomers have been waived through in advance. Who were they?
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
15 November 2011

The news that through the summer of a fraught financial meltdown passengers on private planes were not even being seen by officials from UK border controls is going to lead to a classic Westminster row. The opposition sees a wonderful opportunity to appear 'strong' and oppositional at no cost to itself, and win welcome tabloid plaudits. A relatively competent Home Secretary, and the leading woman in a very make Coalition, could be hounded from office for trying to blame her civil servants (Peter Oborne has a good account). But nobody seems to be ask 'who gains?'. Who do you know who flies into the UK on a private plane? Who are these lucky thousands? Are they the 'bogus asylum seekers' that threaten to 'swamp' our social services? In private planes? I suspect not.

My friends don't seem to qualify, but I can tell you this. If I wanted to find people who owned and flew or chartered private planes I'd ask someone who might know someone who did own or lease such a plane, because the law of life says that the people who have private planes know people who have private planes. For a start, who else could they show them off too?

Which means that when border controls on those who travel around Europe in such vehicles are lifted, the word goes out. Open door in the UK! It is hard not to conclude that Greeks bearing Euros were among the lucky passengers not being checked in and the recapitalisation of the banking system was somehow being helped.  

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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