Minister admits landing cards are weighed but says method is 'valid'

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Immigration minister Brandon Lewis today admitted passenger landing cards are “weighed” by border staff but claims it is a valid method of calculating UK visitor numbers. 

Rohan Silva, a former adviser to David Cameron and Evening Standard columnist, had claimed Britain’s immigration system is so antiquated that visas are weighed by the boxload.

In a letter published in today’s Standard, Mr Lewis said claims immigration statistics are calculated by weighing visa entry forms were “incorrect”. 

He said: “Migration numbers are produced by the Office for National Statistics using the International Passenger Survey (IPS). 

“Landing cards by contrast are used to record what a passenger has said on arrival … Yes, we weigh them but this is a valid method, which has been used to estimate the large number of forms we receive and has nothing to do with net migration figures.”

The landing card system will switch to a digital system next month.

Meanwhile, Iain Bell, deputy national statistician for the Office for National Statistics, said current demands for migration statistics are pushing the IPS beyond its original purpose.


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