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By Peter Hoskin
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Forget what your calendars say,
this has been the month of May. It began with Theresa May’s department boasting
that net migration has fallen by a third. It continued with her speech to
ConservativeHome’s Victory 2015 conference. And now, today, it sees her make an
important announcement in the Commons. The dysfunctional UK Border Agency is
effectively going to be abolished, and two new organisations will take its
place. One will deal with immigration and visas. The other will deal with law
enforcement.

The timing of this announcement
is rather opportune: only yesterday, the Home Affairs select committee released a report that was damning about UKBA’s
performance – particularly in building up a backlog of cases that could take up
to 24 years to clear – and about Lin Homer, its former boss. But that’s just a
coincidence. In her statement and the discussion that followed, Theresa May
emphasised that this decision had been taken over many months, and because of
longstanding concerns. How longstanding? “In truth, the Agency was not set up to absorb the level
of mass immigration that we saw under the last government,” she said. 

Yvette Cooper half-welcomed
Theresa May’s announcement and half-attacked it. Her point was that May herself
should take some of the blame for the UKBA’s failings, thanks to the 30 per
cent cuts, etc, etc. But here's the thing: May will take more of the blame
– or praise, as the case may be – under the new system. The new organisations
aren’t being set up as agencies but will report directly to Home Office ministers, and
that’s before we get onto the work the department will now undertake to “modernise
IT across the whole immigration system”. In future, the chain of accountability
will stop at the Home Secretary.

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