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Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne: Why is the Home Office cutting the Border Agency - which is meant to pay its own way?

The current immigration furore is an unwelcome return to the sort of headlines we came to expect under Labour, and had been largely avoided until now by the Coalition government (and it will clearly push immigration up the political agenda). Debate will clearly rumble on about the details, but there is one aspect that no one seems to have addressed: why was the immigration service facing such big budget cuts in the first place? The immigration service raises considerable income through issuing visas, and various other fees for services to immigrants and visitors - indeed, immigration groups often complain about the rising costs. The aim used to be that the service is self-financing - that the charges to immigrants and visitors pay for the cost of border control (with some exceptions, such as asylum). This is under the general principle that immigrants and other visitors should cover their own costs, and not expect to be subsidised by the taxpayer. The Home Office obviously needs to make cuts, but it seems non-sensical to make them to a service that is meant to be paying its own way. The Home Office always had the more politically digestible alternative of closing any funding gap that exists by raising fees.


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