Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1340 - 1359)



  1340. My question concerns the heightened security measures that Transec have introduced since September 11, what I would describe as long term enhancement to the base line, ie, permanent security measures, as distinct from the enhanced security measures introduced immediately after the 11 September (and you were referring to that distinction) which were designed for a high threat situation and which, if left in place indefinitely, eventually would bring the industry to a halt. The crunch of my question is, how do you balance the need to keep the aviation industry economically viable and operational with the demands of security and find that balance between what is vital, necessary and then acceptable in terms of both the passenger and industry success?
  (Mr Jack) There is a continuous dialogue between the industry and the regulators. The regulators are responsible for assessing the threat. We make representations to ensure that the measures that are required of us are commensurate with the threat because we have a business to run, but we recognise the need to protect our passengers, crew and aircraft against any security threat. We have to balance those requirements against the measures that the Government require us to perform. I do not know if that answers your question.

  1341. I think so, yes, because it is not a question that there is a nice, one-line answer to. There are so many considerations.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I think that through continuous research and development and looking for new technologies and finding smarter ways of doing things you can design processes that allow more people to pass through airports, that is what it is all about. The threat and risk are key and I believe that if the threat is sufficient then airlines would not fly to specific destinations and airports would not operate if the threat was so high and that was the advice from Government. I think you go through an immediate reaction where you are doing absolutely everything. The shoe bomb is a classic example because everybody starts looking at shoes, but my view is that it is not the shoes that are important; it is the methodology of the type of attack and we need to be a bit smarter in how we look at things. How can we use existing technologies in a different way that allows us to screen people? You do find things that will enable you to do that. Some of the solutions are a bit more long term and that is where we are prepared to invest in new technologies that will allow us to continue to operate airports by ensuring the safety of the people that use them.

  Chairman: Perhaps it is ironic when asking these serious questions on airline safety as the Defence Committee are going in the next few weeks on a series of visits which will involve British Airways, Alitalia, British Midland, Tarom Romania, Hemus (Bulgaria), Estonia Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Adria Airlines and Lufthansa. We will talk to you afterwards because we need a scoring card quickly please, speaking for myself.

Patrick Mercer

  1342. Clearly trusted passenger status—I am sure you have thought this through. There are going to be sleepers who are going to be operating long term in some areas of society. I appreciate that it is going to be very difficult to balance against that threat. What thought has been given to that?
  (Mr Hutcheson) That is why there would always be a level of security check. You would never get someone who would be exempt from security irrespective of what status they had. I would argue that the baseline we had pre-September 11 is almost good enough post September 11 because, if you look at September 11, it was a hijack, and the mind set of a passenger hijack before September 11 was, in fact all the corporate security advice was, "Sit quietly, do nothing. It will ultimately be resolved. If you are really unlucky you might be the hostage that gets shot but nine times out of ten you will survive." September 11 changed all that it was a classic example, before September 11 Reid would have been able to detonate those shoes, but post September 11 not only are crew trained to deal with a hijack, but I think other passengers would never allow a plane to be hijacked. I travel a bit, as you probably do. If you watch people, they are much more observant about what is going on in the aeroplane.

  1343. At the moment, yes.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I just think it has changed the whole psyche around hijacking. Maybe we need to be smarter and, as Mr Knight referred to, we need to be conscious of what has gone on in the past but we also need to have an eye as to what could happen in the future and we really need to think out of the box as to who and what we need to combat in the future.


  1344. In your profiling I do not know whether political correctness will enter into your analyses, but I can imagine some representatives of ethnic, religious and social groups may claim that you are discriminating against them. I can see not just the technical decisions you will have to take but there are some other decisions also.
  (Mr Hutcheson) That is why it is not easy and that is why the criteria has to be very carefully designed.

  Mr Howarth: Chairman, perhaps we should put a D notice on your announcement about which airlines we were all flying on.

  Chairman: I have not given the dates.

Mr Howarth

  1345. Mr Hutcheson, you mentioned biometrics and someone has mentioned the work that Qinetiq is doing. Can you tell us a bit more about the biometrics technology? What ones are you looking at most favourably at the moment? Do you see any health risks arising out of particularly the one that assesses your iris?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Basically for me the key biometrics are iris scan, facial recognition, which is a full computerised comparison of points on the face with a photographic database, and fingerprint. These are the biometrics that industry are considering using. The iris scan is being used in an immigration trial and not a security trial. I do believe that we will very soon add a biometric to our access control system. There is even some suggestion that you could use a biometric as part of a passenger profiling system.

  1346. Can you elaborate on that? How would that work?
  (Mr Hutcheson) You would have a biometric imprint of some description taken at check-in which would be re-checked at the boarding gate to make sure that the passenger that checked in is the passenger that gets on board the aircraft. It is time-consuming and it may not work in practice. If you have to use a threat assessment to make some judgements about which flights you use it for—and you might want to do it for every flight—there are trials currently running at Gatwick which actually works using the fingerprint. I believe that the iris scan is quite popular. There will be people who might be nervous about continually having their eyes scanned. The fingerprint has been around for ever and I think it is a fairly easy biometric to use. Two years ago we ran facial recognition trials at Heathrow where we were trying to track a moving image using facial recognition technology and the results were disappointing. Facial recognition works where the subject is static in front of a camera and again static when the comparison is made. We are working with many different companies to look at different biometrics. I do believe that whatever biometrics are decided it will have to be decided by Government, ie, TRANSEC, because it would be difficult if every airline and every airport was allowed freedom of choice as to which biometric they were going to use. As a passenger and customer you would not actually know what was expected of you. I think there will have to be a decision within TRANSEC as to what the UK biometric will be, certainly for staff. That may well come in the not too distant future. The passenger biometric may be a bit further away but we do see biometrics as a weapon that we can deploy in the fight against terrorism.

  1347. The US immigration and naturalisation service passenger accelerated service system, INSPAS, apparently has been introduced at eight US airports to provide fast immigration processing for organised frequent flyers entering the US and Canada.
  (Mr Jack) That system is first generation. It uses a hand print.

  1348. It is hand geometry, is it not?
  (Mr Jack) Yes. I used it regularly at JFK and it does not work very well. I think the future lies in the types of biometrics that Mr Hutcheson has mentioned. I should like to add something here though, that one of the ICAO standards that was agreed in November last year was to extend the international standards to domestic flights as well. That will mean in the United Kingdom photograph ID for people who are checking in and also for boarding the aircraft. I do not know where the population of the United Kingdom is going to find some form of photographic ID if there are no identity cards when the identity card really is the way to go.

Mr Roy

  1349. Ryanair and Easyjet do it.
  (Mr Jack) They do, but I will tell you why they do it. At the moment they do it for fraud because people book on line and turn up with a credit card to collect their ticket and so they ask for photographic ID to make it clear that they are the person who actually booked the ticket and paid for the ticket. That is why they are doing it now, but this will follow.
  (Mr Hutcheson) They do it for check-in as well.
  (Mr Jack) The facilitation in the UK for domestic flights will be greatly aided if every citizen had an ID card.

  Mr Howarth: I do not think it would be wise, Mr Jack, to mention too far down that road of a mandatory ID card simply to promote this particular business when we all carry cards with our photographs on for membership of the House of Commons and most people have photographic recognition of one form or another.

  Chairman: I see we are all displaying them.

Mr Howarth

  1350. I do not think we should be going down that road. If the Government is to decide on a common system, in order to expedite this and to take advantage of what is perhaps a momentary lull in this relentless growth in aviation activity, are you putting pressure on the Government to come up with a scheme which you rightly say ought to be applied nationally, and is there any sense in which such a biometrics screening system ought to be approved to an international standard, which of course means it would be delayed yet longer?
  (Mr Jack) I think by force majeure this may arrive. I do not know if you are aware that the United States are demanding that passports used for entering the United States should have biometrics, I think, by 2005. I do not know what the response is going to be from other governments but the individual departments in the US, Customs, Immigration and Security, are making these requirements and of course they are using the US Safe Transportation for America Act as the instrument to introduce this.

  1351. What form of biometrics are they going to insist upon?
  (Mr Jack) I do not know.

  1352. So it has got to be done by 2005 but actually they have not decided what the technology ought to be?
  (Mr Jack) No. There should be an international standard, which Mr Hutcheson has already identified.
  (Mr Hutcheson) To answer the part of the question about pressure on Government, there has been a joint Home Office/DTLR Working Party which is linked to aviation security and the use of biometric has been recommended. The trick now is to take that recommendation and implement it but, for the reasons I have already articulated, I think that the specific biometric should come from Government as opposed to from industry to avoid confusion.

Mr Cran

  1353. On to airport security and staff. It seems to me, as we have conducted this inquiry, that standards of security and so on at British airports are among the best as far as I can see, but the problem is always going to be not necessarily at that end of it. It is the end of implementation, so when you think about staff, for instance, many of them are doing vitally important but repetitious jobs and if you are doing a repetitious job what happens is that your effectiveness does reduce quite dramatically. Canter through what you are doing to tackle that end of what I see as the problem.
  (Mr Hutcheson) The most repetitive and probably the most important job is the X-ray screener. In relation to carry-on baggage, that which you take into the cabin, the requirements are that he can only do that job for 20 minutes then they have to be replaced and cannot return for 40 minutes. We deploy people in teams to rotate them around so that they have variety of deployment to try and overcome some of the issues that you raise. In relation to hold baggage screening, because the bags do not come in such a heavy volume, the rotation period is 40 minutes. One of the issues around motivation is feedback: how do you know how well you are doing if you are an X-ray screener? In December 2000 we introduced technology called threat image projection which projects a threat into the normal throughput in the X-ray machine, so your briefcase, your suitcase, will have a weapon of some description or an improvised device projected into the bag so that when it appears before the operator there is a threat that they have to identify. Apart from driving up the performance remarkably, it has really motivated staff because they are not getting feedback from their line managers or their supervisors; they are getting direct feedback from the machine in front of them. We all like to know how well we are doing at work and, as I say, this has provided feedback for screeners. BAA have seconded two members of staff to the Department of Transport to help them work up a programme for certification of X-ray screeners. By April 2003 we will introduce certified screeners. To be deployed as an X-ray screener you will actually have to be given some tests and be certified. We have to have a re training programme for those who cannot meet the standard. I did talk earlier about basic training. We also run tests, our own covert test programme, at each of our airports which I oversee. The mode of tests are set by me. The results for each airport ultimately work through into senior management incentive schemes, which link senior management to grass roots performance. It is by introducing technology such as this that we will address the motivational issues. I think in BAA one of the reasons that we continually insist on employing our own staff is that it is entirely possible to join the company as a security guard and move through other functions in the business to management and that spurs people on to perform and to be part of the company culture.

  1354. You are saying the right things and so on that I can empathise with but again it is the question of knowing what that means. You said driving up performance remarkably.
  (Mr Hutcheson) Yes.

  1355. But that is a non-specific statement. I know what it means but I would like to know how you measure it. For instance, we all have experiences and my little experience was going over to the United States with my wife not too many weeks ago. I had a penknife and scissors in my hand luggage, so had she; it was picked up in my one but not in her one. This is always going to be with us. Therefore, what is the level of toleration that you will put up with?
  (Mr Hutcheson) The answer is that we should not put up with any.

  1356. But life is not like that.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I am glad you said that because I very much subscribe to that view.

  1357. But I am disappointed that you agree with me.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I am in a no-win situation here. We are actually dealing with human beings and no matter what job we do we all make mistakes. We have remedial training in place. In terms of driving up performance I could be much more specific but it is a very confidential area and I can only talk around it in some ways. The threat image projection has threats in three different categories: knives, guns and improvised explosive devices. We are waiting for a move forward in the technology which means we will be able to do it for individuals and that is where the real motivational bit comes in because we will be able to tailor people's training to their own individual performance. Why should I train somebody again to detect knives and guns when they are already very good at it but they are not very good at detecting other things? The next generation of the software, which is just around the corner, will enable us to very much tailor training programmes for the individual. At the moment we track the percentage scores in each of these three categories for the searches in our airports and we did take a benchmark before we started using this technology so we know where performance was when we switched it on and I can tell you where it is now in relation to performance. I have got the two sets of figures which I am not prepared to state in a public arena. It is not a generic off-the-cuff management statement that performance has gone up specifically, I can actually substantiate that with facts and figures.

  1358. And you will be able to do that on a confidential basis to the Committee?
  (Mr Hutcheson) I can do that.

  1359. Clearly that is the important end of all of this. What about other staff employed by the airports authorities, by the airlines and so on, who are not in front line security positions but who nonetheless probably have quite a role to play in overall security as well? How are they vetted and how are they trained, if that question is valid?
  (Mr Hutcheson) We actually do not distinguish, we employ an omni-competent security employee who does the full range of security duties. We need to do that in some ways to maintain the rotation around the X-ray machine if you can only do 20 minutes. Everyone who joins us as a security operative is trained to the same standards and I would say are trained above the Government standards. There is the basic programme and we do more than the basic programme. We also have training built into the line. If someone is found to have made a mistake, as we talked about earlier, they are immediately removed from the function that they are performing and retrained in that particular function before they are allowed to return to that function. The Department also lays down that there is annual refresher training carried out. Over and above that we have specific training for supervisors and managers and that applies to the BAA security workforce. I cannot talk for the private security companies, BAA do not use private security companies, we employ our own labour.

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