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MPs criticise 'impossible' e-Borders schedule

Legal issues still looming

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An influential group of MPs today claimed the government's timetable for the £1.2bn e-Borders programme is "impossible" and criticised the lack of progress on legal problems.

The Home Affairs Select Committee said that officials have not resolved concerns in Europe.

The e-Borders system aims to register every journey in and out of the UK and is scheduled for completion in 2014. It requires travellers to submit their details before they travel, against EU free movement rules. The data-gathering operation has also prompted privacy concerns from individual nations.

"None of these issues will be resolved within the next few months, and all will have a serious impact on thousands of people," the Committee said.

They warned that as a result journeys to the UK from within the EU may have to be omitted from e-Borders.

The Committee's intervention today follows its report on e-Borders in December, which highlighted the problems.

"We were struck by the fact that, despite the assurances given by the Government in their responses to our original reports, the subsequent evidence we have received reinforces and, in some areas, increases the concerns we felt at the end of last year," the cross-party group of MPs added today.

Election campaign rules mean the Home Office was unable to respond to the renewed criticism. It has previously said e-Borders is on schedule and budget and dismissed legal problems.

Separately, on Tuesday, the government of the Isle of Man announced plans to include itself in e-Borders. The decision means that travellers to the Irish Sea Crown dependency from the UK will continue to not need a passport. However those from Dublin will, effectively breaking up the Common Travel Area.

The Steam Packet Company, which runs ferries to the Isle of Man, raised concerns over the practicality of the plan and its potential impact on the 5,500 passengers it carries from Ireland annually. ®

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