The UK Border Agency boarding statistics don't distinguish between leisure craft and commercial vessels. Do they seriously not know the legal difference?
More on the Freedom of Information (FOI) request I made to the Home Office regarding the boarding of UK vessels coasting in home waters.
In September, I submitted a written request for statistics about how often patrols from the newly empowered UK Border Agency (UKBA) had stopped coasting British yachts and demanded ID or official papers.
Government agencies can’t randomly stop people on the streets in the UK and demand ID, and we don’t have to carry any. It has always been for authorities to identify themselves to us, not vice versa. So the Royal Yachting Association and others looked at what was happening at sea and expressed serious concern about ‘mission creep’.
The FOI deadline of 20 days passed and I still have not had any written reply. Providing FOI information is a legal requirement of government, and I think that the Home Office thumbing their nose at this tells us something.
When I contacted the Home Office press office to nudge them, I was told that the UKBA has not collated any data distinguishing between commercial and leisure vessels. This is particularly telling, because the legal status is quite different. Yet the Home Office spokesman expressed astonishment that yachts did not have to register and sailors did not have to have any qualifications.
So we are none the wiser (yet) whether these stop-searches and requests for ID are the result of ignorance on the part of the Border Agency and its patrols or an underlying policy.
We’ll keep following up. The Royal Yachting Association is also in contact with the Home Office but has not yet received a written response to questions put this summer to the Secretary of State.
Incidentally, it is your right to ask for and receive recorded information from any public authority or company owned by public authorities. You can submit a request in writing or by email and it may help to mention that it is a Freedom of Information request.