Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1248 - 1259)




  1248. Mr Jack and Mr Hutcheson, welcome to our inquiry. As you know, we have had a meeting with TRANSEC. We have a session soon with the private security industry and we are looking forward to your evidence. If there is anything you might want to say in private then you should leave it until the end of the public session and you can say it then. There will be a transcript and we will send you the transcript and you can then delete what you would like to delete from the record. Thank you very much for coming along. We have a lot of questions and we are looking forward to hearing your evidence. If I might kick off with a few questions on the role of central Government. What has happened in terms of Government guidance to the civil aviation sector, particularly security, since 11 September?

  (Mr Hutcheson) There were immediate measures implemented on the day which were very informal, arranged over the telephone, as an immediate response to the incident. Then meetings were held the very next day to establish the best way to take the new measures forward. On 26 September these measures were formalised in a new direction on airports and airlines within the UK. These measures have been added to in terms of guidance and new measures as a result of particularly the Richard Reid incident in Paris in December. There is a meeting on the 17th of this month to review a draft direction which after further consultation will supercede the direction of 26 September. Basically all our activity has actually been encompassed within those documents.

  1249. I will come to you, Mr Jack, in a moment. Would that have gone to all airports? BAA do not cover all airports. How would airports that are not owned by the British Airports Authority have been communicated with? Would it have been the same? Would they have had to have communicated with every single airport and every single airline?
  (Mr Hutcheson) They have a communication system with every UK airport. Also they communicate with the Airport Operators Association which is an umbrella organisation representing UK airports. As well as my responsibility for BAA I do chair the security committee for the UK airports within the AOA. We do come at it from two different directions. There are strong communication links within the airports.

  1250. So every airport was covered very swiftly then?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Yes.

  1251. Mr Jack, with your hat as head of security at British Airways?
  (Mr Jack) Yes. Perhaps I should make my status clear to Members of the Committee. I was the head of security at British Airways for eight years until 26 April when my contract came to an end and I moved on. With effect from 1 May I became the senior security advisor to the International Air Transport Association. They are based in Montreal and I have special responsibility for Europe because there is a major aviation security initiative in Europe under the guidance of the European Parliament. I do not know if it would be helpful, Mr Hutcheson has referred to directions, if you have the framework for how aviation security is legislated in the United Kingdom. There is the Aviation Security Act 1982 and the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1991. Under those Acts directions are given to airports and airlines. You heard Mr Hutcheson referring to directions that were given to introduce additional security measures subsequent to 11 September. Those directions are legally binding and they are served on the responsible person in each organisation. In the case of British Airways that is the Chief Executive Officer. When I was head of security I reported to him for the implementation and the performance monitoring of the measures. Mr Hutcheson has described the sequence of events after 11 September. There was another important element that affected airlines and that was the position of the United States Government. As you know the United States closed their air space immediately after the incidents on 11 September. They imposed certain conditions on airlines to reinstate operations to the United States. This was in effect extraterritorial regulation which some years before the United States attempted to impose.

  1252. A form of legislation I remember, proposed legislation.
  (Mr Jack) Yes, a piece of legislation called the Hatch Act. That was passed by Congress, sponsored by Senator Hatch of Utah, however it was never implemented. It was made clear to the United States that if they did implement it the impact would be shared equally amongst all airlines operating out of the United Kingdom and that impact would have been quite severe on the US registered airlines operating out of the United Kingdom. In fact, Mr Hutcheson and I both gave evidence at the hearing in Washington on this issue. Back to the current events. The United States made it clear that they wanted some additional measures to be performed by inbound flights. British Airways went to the Department of Transport Security Division to discuss the issue and a representative from the US Federal Aviation Administration Security Department was called in and these were reviewed. The FAA agreed that the measures in effect in the United Kingdom were equal to those required by the US and so we were able to resume operations once the airports in the United States were cleared individually by the FAA. I think, if I recall, our first flight went to Philadelphia on Friday 14 September.

  1253. American Airlines met the standards required of the UK?
  (Mr Jack) Of course the US airlines have to comply with Host State regulations and that, of course, operating out of the UK they have to comply with UK regulations as well as those required by the US FAA.

  1254. The British were seen as okay then but did they prohibit any airlines whose security they regarded as less than satisfactory?
  (Mr Jack) It took some States longer to establish compliance. The UK was the first, led by British Airways.

  1255. Can I ask a strange question it seems of a Select Committee. We all know what we were doing when we heard, what was your immediate response in terms of security? Did you think "Oh, my God, there could be a hit on a British airline or an airline flying into the UK. Have we got everything right?" Did you need these requests or demands from TRANSEC or the United States to raise your standards or did you feel your standards were adequate in the circumstances?
  (Mr Hutcheson) No. In actual fact we implemented measures without being asked to in terms of additional searching of passengers. We worked very closely with the Metropolitan Police because one of my concerns was that it did seem that not all the aircraft were accounted for. There was a suggestion, even after the Washington and New York incidents, that there may have been another aircraft unaccounted for. We took some action to speak to the airlines to make sure there was nothing inbound from America, particularly for Heathrow or Gatwick, which could cause a similar incident. Over and above that, we had to deal with the additional security being put in. Then of course there was a significant operation to deal with people who were denied flying to their destinations because many aircraft were turned back in flight, many aircraft were diverted to London in flight to the USA from other countries. One of the problems at both Heathrow and Gatwick was finding enough space to park aeroplanes. There was almost an emergency response, to deal with the people, the aircraft and putting additional measures in place until such time as we established lines of communication with TRANSEC. No, we did not have to be asked, we realised the severity of the incident and it required an immediate response from BAA.

  1256. Is TRANSEC your only or your main point of contact with central Government or are there other Departments with which you have to interact: Cabinet Office, Home Office, DTLR?
  (Mr Hutcheson) The airport industry as a whole deals with other parts of DTLR but from a security point of view we deal with TRANSEC. We have dialogue also with the Security Services and then we have a dialogue through the police service, depending on which airport, because, with the exception of Southampton, all BAA's airports are designated and have a resident police force which brings us into contact with six different police forces throughout the UK. The contact is merely at police force level and rarely goes to the Home Office.

  1257. Does Scotland have any implications for you? How many airports do you have in Scotland?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Three: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

  1258. The administration there, does that have any?
  (Mr Hutcheson) No because the National Aviation Security Programme applies right across the UK and there are no changes for Scotland.

Rachel Squire

  1259. Can I just ask, Chairman, does Inverness not count?
  (Mr Hutcheson) No, it is not one of BAA's airports. It does count but it is not one of our airports.

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