Power failure at Defra data centre caused ‘no significant border delays’, minister says

Outage of key government service for sharing data between agencies operating at UK border lasted four days
Photo: Monica Wells/Alamy

By Sam Trendall

30 May 2024

An outage of a key government service for sharing data between agencies operating at the UK border did not result in any “significant delays” to import checks, a minister has claimed.

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The Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS) provides a platform for cross-referencing data from traders of animal and plant goods respectively submitted to HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. If data can be successfully matched, the system is able to automatically clear the goods for release.

According to Sir Mark Spencer, the food, farming and fisheries minister, the ALVS platform was unavailable between 7.46am on Saturday 11 May and 8.50pm on Tuesday14 May. This outage was caused by “a power outage at a privately owned data centre that Defra uses, [which] affected several Defra digital services” over the weekend in question.

But the minister claimed that, despite being out of action for the office hours of more than four full days, the shutdown had not cause a major impact to the flow of goods through the UK border.

“Business continuity plans were implemented as soon as the disruption to the service was identified,” he said. “There have been no significant delays to border checks and we continue to protect our high standards of biosecurity in the UK through effective monitoring across all imports. We have contingency arrangements in place for clearance of affected vehicles and consignments at the border, working alongside HMRC and Border Force.”

Spencer – who was answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Stella Creasy – will formally vacate his role as both a minister and an MP on Thursday, when parliament is dissolved ahead of the upcoming general election.

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