Would be interested to get some views on this...
About 18 months ago, I got one of those new-fangled fancy UK passports which should be able to scan through automatic gates when re-entering the UK as it recognises your face. I've tried this a few times but it's never worked, but I didn't think much of it as plenty of others seem to have the same problem and I just put it down to faulty contraptions.
However, I went to Australia over Christmas and when I returned via Heathrow, I tried my passport in the E-gate and it again failed to let me through. I went to the desk with the immigration official checking passports manually and said that I'd tried the gates 3 or 4 times since I'd received the passport and it had never worked. The young lady on the desk started to say that some of the newer passports can be faulty (pretty shoddy if true given what you have to pay for them), but stopped after looking at her computer screen and said:
"Ah right - you won't ever be able to use those automatic gates and will have to come to the manned desk every time you re-enter the UK from abroad. There's a security reason but you haven't done anything wrong and it doesn't affect your ability to travel smoothly. I can't tell you any more than that I'm afraid."
I was a bit taken aback and asked if it was because I have dual British/Australian nationality. That seemed to be news to her so I assume it hadn't flashed up on her screen. She said that wasn't the reason and repeated that she couldn't tell me any more. I was tired from a 24 hour journey with little sleep, so I let it go and moved on, but I still don't know what the hell it was about.
A quick search around the internet hasn't turned up others with similar experiences. I assume that she told me too much just by mentioning that there was a security issue, as I tried to ask an official at Gatwick last week after coming back from Barcelona why my passport wouldn't scan in the E-gates - all he said was that it worked on his computer and that the chip must be faulty.
My previous passport had several visas and stamps for the likes of Russia, China and Venezuela in it from my travels over the last few years. Are they perhaps countries that you end up on a watch-list for visiting? The UK doesn't exactly look on them very well diplomatically, even if it sucks up to China for economic reasons. It's fairly absurd if this is the reason, but that's all I can think of.
In reality, it's not a big deal, but a bit bloody annoying to be told that there is a security issue surrounding me and to have to use the manual desks each time when the E-gates are so much faster. What's the silly secrecy about too? "There's a security issue but I can't tell you what it is."
Bit silly seen as you are the owner of the passport. Its not like information will pour out into the general public or anything, besides wouldn't it be better if you knew.