Green attacks Vaz for ‘misleading’ Heathrow Olympics comments

By Georgie Keate

Damian Green has hit out at Keith Vaz for making "misleading" comment about the state of the immigration queues at Heathrow ahead of the Olympics.

The spate broke out after Vaz, the chair of the home affairs committee, visited the airport yesterday and branded the arrangements "appalling".

He highlighted waits of over an hour while half the immigration officer desks sat empty.

Appearing before the committee this morning, the immigration minister defended himself against the statement.

"The idea that there are endless long queues day after day would be misleading," he said.

Green insisted Heathrow will be going into "full Olympics mode" on Sunday with 500 more staff manning the desks.

A Home Office spokesperson also weighed in against Vaz.

"'Keith Vaz is incorrect. Queues at Terminal 4 remained under an hour at all times," they said.

"Staff were quickly redeployed and more than 80 per cent of desks were open to process passengers as quickly as possible."

The committee hearing follows criticism from passengers, Labour and BAA – Heathrow's operator – that the airport is not ready for the Olympics.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said international athletes arriving in time to acclimatise for the Games have been kept waiting for over two hours at immigration.

In the last week, figures from BAA have shown some immigration delays at over an hour and a half, twice the length of their 45 minute target.

Border chiefs are trying to combat the added pressure of the Olympics by creating a fast-track system for passengers arriving from low risk countries.