Action promised as Heathrow queues blamed on rain

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The Government promised action to deal with “too long” queues at Heathrow but blamed the rain for recent troubles and insisted claims of two-hour waits were a “wild” exaggeration.

Immigration Minister Damian Green launched a robust defence of performance at the UK’s busiest airport as London Mayor Boris Johnson joined mounting criticism.

Mr Johnson said visitors were being given “a terrible impression of the UK” .

Despite efforts by border chiefs to prevent passengers taking pictures of queues, social media sites were full over the weekend with complaints about excessive waits.

Labour, which forced Mr Green to the Commons to account for the problems, said maximum wait times had been breached 107 times in the first half of April.

The Minister told MPs the “vast majority” of passengers were processed quickly and that it was important not in any way to compromise border security.

Despite targets being missed on occasion, 99 per cent of UK and other European Union nationals got through within the 25-minute maximum and 96 per cent of the rest inside a 45-minute limit.

And the longest recorded wait was 90 minutes, he added.

Mr Green admitted: “Over the weekend there were some breaches of acceptable waiting times.

“This was caused mainly by the severe weather leading to flight diversions and changing flight schedules and the bunching of arrivals. Our information shows that queueing times bore no resemblance to the more wild suggestions.” Mr Green said a number of measures were in hand to improve the service at Heathrow.

Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant accused the Government of running out of alibis. “They can’t blame it on the weather when there were 107 breaches of their target in the first 15 days of April,” he said.