Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1260 - 1279)




  1260. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat, do you have any contact with them?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Not directly. Through other parts of DTLR since 11 September, and particularly through the Airport Operators Association, we have had dialogues around contingency plans and our measures to deal with a wide variety of terrorist attacks. We had to reassure DTLR that these plans were in place and co-ordinated with the relevant police service.

  Chairman: I remember having conversations with Mr Jack a few years ago on the directives and regulations. Can you give us a summary of the kind of stuff that comes out of TRANSEC that has an impact upon how you, British Airports Authority—We should all declare an interest. We are all in receipt, or most of us are, of car parking arrangements.

  Jim Knight: I am not.

  Chairman: For which we are grateful and which we have all duly declared in the requisite list of Members' Interests.

  Mr Cran: I have not.

  Chairman: Is it just me? Nobody else?

  Mr Roy: And me.


  1261. And Frank. What kind of instructions would you be getting?
  (Mr Hutcheson) The National Aviation Security Programme and also the directions and regulations which flow from TRANSEC are very wide ranging. They start probably at the perimeter fence and lay down the specification for the perimeter fence. They divide the airport into three distinct areas: landside, which is open to everyone, controlled areas which are open to authorised persons who are not searched on entry and then the restricted area which is open to a further restricted group of staff who are searched on entry every time. Any possessions they may carry are also searched. Then there is a strict regulation as to how the search as of staff should be carried out, both for pedestrians and vehicles. There is a similar regime for passengers which probably most people are familiar with who travel through airports in relation to the type of search, how it should be conducted, how many people should be searched over and above those that alarm the equipment. The equipment that is approved for use is also governed by TRANSEC. There is a separate regime for training and recruitment. Anyone who is employed in security has to go through a very vigorous check, give five years' continuous proof of employment, subject themselves to a counter-terrorist check and then they are given basic training, remedial training if necessary and refresher training. The syllabus is laid down by the National Aviation Security Programme. Over and above that there is daily activity by the Inspectorate of TRANSEC who check for our compliance with the regulations. There is a requirement also to segregate inbound passengers from outbound and to screen hold baggage going on board aircraft. The responsibility is split between airline and airport. In relation to hold baggage, the airport has a legal responsibility to provide the infrastructure, i.e the baggage belts and x-ray machines, to ensure that every piece of baggage being put in the hold of an aircraft is screened by x-ray beforehand. There are issues around passenger and bag match, both passenger bag match and the physical screening are airline responsibilities. It really starts at the perimeter fence and works its way up to the aircraft side to the point that the aircraft takes off. I think it is a very thorough and tough requirement to meet.

  1262. How many security personnel do you have in our in-house BAA operation?
  (Mr Hutcheson) BAA choose to do what we call cabin baggage—

  1263. How many personnel?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Over 3,000.

  1264. What is the minimum training for baggage handlers?
  (Mr Hutcheson) For screeners the minimum training is two weeks and then on top of that they are tested frequently. They do 20 minutes in front of the x-ray machine, that is all they are allowed to do, and then they must have 40 minutes off. During that 20 minutes there will be a test which is electronically generated by the computer.

  1265. From the standpoint of the airlines, Mr Jack, what kind of instructions would you be operating under? Would you be responsible to British Airports Authority?
  (Mr Jack) No. The way that the Government directions are aligned makes a clear distinction in responsibility between the airport and the airline. You understand that has to be for reasons of liability. There is no confusion about the responsibility each carries. You started off that question by asking about the immediate follow up to 11 September. BAA is responsible for the majority of the airports in the United Kingdom. My former airline has of course stations all over the world and on 11 September I was fortunate in that I was at Heathrow. I was told about an incident in New York by one of my staff and I was watching the TV when the second aircraft struck. We knew immediately this was no accident and we immediately went into emergency session. I was fortunate to have all my managers in place, I had one manager who looked after UK and legislation in the UK, another who looked after all the international stations, except those in North America and the manager in North America was at his post. This happened at 0905 Eastern Standard Time, 1405 UK time. We were able to pick up the issues immediately because the additional measures which we received for performance in the UK were mirrored by additional requirements for stations outside the UK. In some places, particularly the Middle East and Africa, we went to a higher scale of threat level which required additional measures to be performed to meet that level of threat. We managed this on a continuous basis, and also adjusting as we received additional directions from the Department of Transport affecting operations both from the UK and from other states. I have mentioned already the suspension of services to the US which we were able to restart very quickly in the circumstances. For the rest of the world we maintained our services but we were assisted in implementing the additional measures required. The UK Government has a post holder in each of our overseas embassies or high commissions called the Post Aviation Security Office, PASO, who is normally the Defence Attache and if we have problems in getting co-operation from the local authorities in any state we go to the PASO and ask him to intervene. In extreme cases he will go to the UK Government to ask for their intervention at Government level. I have to say in the aftermath of 11 September the process worked extremely well. I should add also that the UK is, I think frankly, the foremost state in the range of security measures which are applied. The history of this goes back to the post Lockerbie action when the International Civil Aviation Organisation introduced eight standards to be implemented by all signatory states. The UK was foremost in implementing those, particularly amongst them was the 100 per cent hold baggage screening that Mr Hutcheson mentioned.

  1266. When was that completed?
  (Mr Hutcheson) It was finally completed in 1998.

  1267. How long after Lockerbie was that?
  (Mr Hutcheson) That was eight years. Immediately after Lockerbie the technology did not exist. There was a significant period of time spent in actually researching the technology that would do the job, developing it to a point where it would work and then installing it in UK airports, Heathrow being the last because it was the most complicated to install. Most of it was in place by 1995, it was just that Terminal 3 took longer because of its complexity—

  1268. What percentage do you think of US airports have hold baggage screening?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Two per cent if that.

  1269. Two, between nought and two per cent. Very impressive.
  (Mr Jack) The UK was the first state to implement 100 per cent hold baggage screening. Mr Hutcheson mentioned the technical issues because the equipment industry had not developed the specifications and delivery of equipment which could perform this measure to an adequate standard. To give you an idea of progress: the European Civil Aviation Conference States, 38 states, introduced the standard to be complied with by 31 December this year and most of those states have still got some way to go before they achieve that.

  1270. It is rather ironic the Americans issuing instructions to the UK where their own standards in some cases fall significantly behind those of the UK.
  (Mr Hutcheson) The deadline Iain has referred to has just been extended to 2003 for European states and prior to 11 September the deadline for American airports was 2007. The Americans have now set a deadline of 31 December this year which is an impossibility to install what we would call inline screening. They will have to use a variety of measures to screen bags on the concourse before check-in. It is expected it will take them up to five years to deliver inline screening in the same way that we do it in the UK.

  1271. Iain, I interrupted you in full flight.
  (Mr Jack) I was just going to go on to mention the intervention of the European Union in this field. On 14 September last year the Transport Ministers of the 15 EU States met and agreed that the EU should legislate aviation security measures. That process is still under way. There will be a debate in the European Parliament next week and a vote on the articles and measures that are proposed to be introduced. There are some issues that separate the elements of the EU, the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. It may be that the conciliation process will have to be introduced between the Council and the Parliament. One of the big issues that concerns I think airlines and airports equally is that of cost. There is a difference in the way that costs are met across the world and particularly in Europe. The aviation industry position, I am speaking for the aviation industry as a whole because I am a member of something called the Global Aviation Security Action Group which was convened by the International Air Transport Association and they have taken up the position which is ". . . that governments have direct responsibility for aviation security and its funding. This responsibility includes the protection of its citizens (in the air and on the ground) as the security threat against airlines is a manifestation of the threat against the State, the provision and cost of aviation security should be borne by the State". As you will appreciate I am reading and I will be happy to provide this for the record if you so wish.

  1272. To save time you could ask your successor or perhaps you could drop us a note on what instructions you as head of security for British Airways were or are under in terms of security? It would be particularly interesting to explain to the Committee whether you have the obligations or the BAA has obligations about the security companies? Who would hire the many security companies operating? How many security companies would British Airways have? How many security companies are operating in Heathrow? What standards are imposed on them? Are the standards imposed directly on security companies or are there standards imposed on the operators like British Airways or on the organisations like BAA?
  (Mr Jack) That is very interesting, Chairman, perhaps I will answer it as BAA have an in-house security workforce and British Airways employs contract security. The specifications that we deliver to our contract security company are based, of course, on the security directions which come from the Department of Transport. One of the benefits that derives from the relationship between the contractor and the supplier is the monitoring of standards. My branch, when I was with British Airways, was responsible for ensuring delivery. This is I think a very important aspect of the management of security. I contrast that with a situation where the security functions are performed by state employees because the industry then has no way of ensuring delivery. I can quote some cases where someone would arrive in the UK with an article which should not have been in their hand baggage, picked up by BAA in the flight connection centre and I would go back to the station manager where this passenger has come from and say "How did this happen?" and he will say "It was the police who allowed it. They just told me to go forth and va-t'en in other words". You can manage security much more positively when you are dealing with a contractor as opposed to a state authority or employee. Does that answer your question?

  1273. Yes. If you think of anything else perhaps you could ask your successor to drop us a note.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I would just like to add to that. Although BAA employ their own direct workforce to discharge their security responsibilities, some other UK airports do not and choose to use contractors. The regulations are on the airport and the airline, they are not on the private security company. Although the same standards apply, to be employed in aviation security the training requirement is the same, the background check is the same. That responsibility rests with the client and the contractor must conform to it. There is no regulation directly on the private security companies. The Department are in the process currently of drawing up a programme to list security companies, airports and airlines will only be allowed to employ security companies from those lists but it is expected it will be later this year before that comes into operation.

  Chairman: About time too.

Syd Rapson

  1274. Mike Granatt of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat said one of their functions is to carry out horizon scanning in which they try " spot trends which may lead departments to think about whether there are cross cutting issues or issues which combine to create cross-cutting problems." Have you been involved in any way, either of you, with the idea of searching out cross-cutting problems between departments which would help?
  (Mr Hutcheson) No.

  Syd Rapson: None at all?


  1275. Perhaps not create them but resolve them.
  (Mr Jack) I would respond to that by saying certainly in British Airways cost is never an issue in security. If the need is there then the costs are met.

  Chairman: Cross-cutting not cost cutting.

Syd Rapson

  1276. Across departments. A central figure will have a magic wand for taking down the silos and saying "We will all work together". He has a vision, he has to view the horizon and see if anything is coming up. I do not know if they have involved you in that or not?
  (Mr Hutcheson) No, I have not been involved in that. I think the UK model works very well, having been involved in it for four years now. The Americans are currently pursuing the single silo of putting everything in one department and it is creating many problems in America. In aviation security the only two departments where there could be a cross would be between Home Office and DTLR but so far I have not come across any major problems.

  1277. Is it just DTLR and the Home Office?
  (Mr Hutcheson) They are the two government departments who really have an interest in aviation security, I would suggest.

  1278. No involvement by the MoD?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Only in the ultimate security threat. Stansted is, and has been, used for receiving hijacked aircraft into the UK.

  Chairman: We will come on to the MoD later, and we will also come on to cost-cutting, which does not exist, which is very reassuring, later on.

Mr Crausby

  1279. Beyond the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and TRANSEC, are you generally confident that the co-ordination of efforts across government departments is satisfactory?
  (Mr Hutcheson) I do believe that. I have just come from the National Aviation Security Committee which meets twice a year and sits at the top of several working groups where all the different agencies are represented. In drawing together the emergency orders and the contingency plans for UK airports, I think the full range of agencies are involved including local authorities, and I think the links into government do not just come from a single entity such as the airports but from local authorities, from police, fire and ambulance. There are annual exercises held. Even when there were chemical attacks in Amercia and we revisited arrangements, I think we were reassured that the contingency plans we had in place worked. Speaking purely from a BAA point of view, in the four years I have been with the company—and I am sure it is nothing to do with me—we have had an air crash, we have had a major fire in the roof of Terminal 1, and the contingency plans worked well, there was no loss of life, there was no serious injury, and the business was recovered within reasonable periods of time which allowed people to resume their lives in a normal fashion. So I think there have been sufficient real incidents and exercises to give me some confidence in saying that our contingency planning, which does not necessarily sit under my directorate, does work and the liaison with local government and central government is adequate.

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