The firm in charge of the government's £750m e-borders
programme has been axed over delays, Immigration Minister Damian Green has said. Mr Green said the performance of Raytheon Systems Limited had been "extremely disappointing".
But he said e-borders - a system to count everyone entering and leaving the UK - would remain a priority and he was seeking alternative suppliers. E-borders was a key part of Labour's crackdown on illegal immigration.
Raytheon said it was "disappointed" by the decision of the Home Office. E-borders is meant to collect information on all passengers who come into and leave the UK and allow the police and the immigration authorities to check them against "watch lists". The complex system was meant to be fully operational by March 2014.
But Mr Green said that while parts of it were already up and running, others were subject to serious delays. He said: "Over recent weeks we have been examining the progress of the programme and it has been extremely disappointing. "While some elements have been delivered, they have not been delivered on time. Delivery of the next critical parts of the programme are already running at least 12 months late.
"On top of this there remain risks of further delays, and there is no confidence in the current prime supplier - Raytheon Systems Limited - being able to address this situation." The government has so far spent £188m on e-Borders out of a total budget of about £750m. Mr Green said: "We need to know who is coming to the country and who has left so that we are able to stop those who are not allowed to come here. A working e-Borders programme will help us perform all those vital tasks.
'Significant budget constraints'
"That is why we have taken this decision, and why we will ensure that the benefits of e-Borders are delivered through a programme that meets its targets, so that everyone in this country is made safer." In a statement, Raytheon said: "We appreciate the Home Office is operating under significant budget constraints but a default notice is not an appropriate way to achieve the important objectives of this programme."
The company said that, since starting work on the programme, it had significantly improved UK border security. E-borders was first piloted in 2004 and was meant to cover 95% of all journeys by the end of 2010. But critics have said the complexity of the system, which relies on information collected by the carriers, mostly airlines, and passed on to the authorities just before departure, could lead to travel chaos.