By a Newsnet reporter
UK Ministers have been urged to ‘get a grip’ after it emerged the UK Border Agency has wasted over £3 million on flight cancellations over the last two years.
Newsnet Scotland can also reveal that in the last four months alone the troubled agency spent almost £600,000 on flight cancellation penalties.
The agency pays for the flights in order to deport failed asylum seekers from the UK. Penalties are incurred when a court issues a temporary injunction preventing removal, or an individual makes a last minute application which has to be considered before removal can proceed.
SNP Home Affairs spokesperson Pete Wishart MP expressed astonishment after a parliamentary question revealed the extent of the penalties.
Commenting, Mr Wishart described the revelation as an “extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money” and claimed that people would be outraged “in a week when public services and jobs have been cut” by the UK coalition to save cash.
Mr Wishart said:
“£3 million for cancelled flights is money down the drain and UK Ministers must take action to end this unbelievable waste. This raises even more questions over the efficiency of the UK Border Agency which must be addressed if we are to have any confidence in its operation.
Further questions by Mr Wishart reveal that the Coalition Government is spending up to £1 million in a month on private flights to deport failed asylum seekers. The cost of deportation comes to more than £2m a month, or £75,000 a day, when including scheduled flights.
Mr Wishart added:
“We need to be certain that public money is being spent with value in mind.
“Nobody would dispute there is a need for removals, but it is not at all clear why the agency believes that chartering private jets is the best use of taxpayers’ money.
“The Chancellor should be cutting Whitehall waste like this before slashing Scotland’s budget, putting jobs, investment and recovery at risk.”
The beleaguered agency was at the centre of a political row recently after it emerged border checks had been relaxed.
The row led to the resignation of agency head Brodie Clark who accused the home secretary, Theresa May, of destroying his reputation.