Home secretary Theresa May played a central role in derailing plans to attract more Chinese tourists by relaxing visa regulations.
She warned that any relaxation of checks on Chinese visitors would pose a threat to national security and bring Chinese criminals and asylum seekers to the UK.
A leaked letter from May’s private secretary shows that she rejected culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposal to let Chinese visitors in tour groups get European and British visas at the same time.
The European Schengen system allows tourists to enter 25 countries on one visa.
Hunt had echoed inbound industry concerns that tourists are being put off coming to Britain by a difficult and expensive visa system.
But May claimed that checks in Europe “do not match the UK decision quality” and claims the British visa controls are a “key tool in protecting the public against significant harm,” according to a Daily Telegraph report.
The leaked letter defends the current system and reportedly blames VisitBritain for failing to market Britain’s scenic natural beauty properly.
The Home Office insists the visa process is “insignificant compared to the price and availability of hotels” and says “the cost of the visa is not a barrier”.
It further criticises Hunt’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport for using “selective statistics” to back up its claims that visa problems are to blame.
Hunt this week pledged to improve visa application system to help triple the number of high spending Chinese tourists by 2015.
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