Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet



1. This is the response of the Manchester Airports Group Plc (MAG) to the Identity Documents Bill Committee’s call for evidence. MAG is the second largest UK airport operator and comprises the airports of Manchester, East Midlands, Humberside and Bournemouth. MAG handled over 24 million passengers in 2009-10 and 409,000 tonnes of freight. MAG welcomes the opportunity to respond.

2. Anyone who works airside at any UK airport is required to obtain a security pass. This involves a series of personal history and criminal record checks that must be repeated every three to five years and every time a person moves between employers or airports.

3. This process, which can take up to 12-weeks to complete, was perceived to have become a barrier to employment and also to employment mobility.

4. The previous Government had originally proposed that airside workers at UK airports would be amongst the first British citizens to carry Identity Cards. Given that airside workers are obliged to obtain a security pass anyway, MAG believed that the introduction of Identity Cards for airside workers could offer real benefits both to the aviation industry and its employees.

5. In order to maximise these benefits, MAG agreed to work with the Identity and Passport Service at Manchester Airport over a trial period, beginning in October 2009. Our aim was to shape an Identity Card scheme for airside workers that would ultimately replace the current cumbersome security pass application system with an improved, simplified process for identity assurance and security clearance for all airside workers.


6. Manchester Airport held a number of talks with the previous Government on the introduction of ID Cards, to try and ensure that the scheme would add value and streamline the regulatory process.

7. In particular, we wanted to ensure that:

· ID Cards for airside workers would provide a one stop shop for security clearance, cutting red tape whilst enhancing airport security;

· ID Cards would provide flexibility in employment with transferable data for individuals looking to move between airports and aviation companies through a faster clearance process; and

· ID Cards would not impose any additional costs on business

8. Following reassurances received from Government, Manchester Airport (and London City Airport) signed up to an evaluation period for ID cards, which began in October 2009.

9. As noted above, to be able to work airside at a UK airport, individuals must obtain a security pass, which is contingent on them providing satisfactory personal and criminal records checks. Our experience of this process has given us cause for concern in three main areas: lengthy process for employment checks; non-transferability of checks and equality of treatment for UK and foreign nationals.


10. The process of applying for a pass to work airside can be lengthy [8-12 weeks]. Individuals must obtain a certificate from Disclosure Scotland to prove that they have no criminal record, as well as full employment and residency history for the last 5 years.

11. A pass is valid for 3 to 5 years, after which a new application must be made (to ensure that any subsequent criminal activity is revealed).

12. Given these requirements, MAG believed that an ID card could potentially help streamline the process. First, the card would be a reliable proof of identity - that the individual was who they said they were. Second, the link with the national database would mean that any criminal charges could be flagged immediately, and not just via the three to five yearly re-application.

13. During the trial period, the DfT agreed that MAG could issue 10-year, transferable passes – a considerable reduction in bureaucracy and administration costs for MAG and the businesses operating on site at Manchester Airport. It is, as yet, unclear whether we will be able to retain this benefit using the passport as an identity check.


14. A second problem area with the airside pass regime is that passes are not transferable. An airside pass for Manchester Airport is not valid at East Midlands Airport, even though both airports are part of the same airport group. Should an employee from Manchester relocate to East Midlands, they must start the airside pass application from scratch.

15. Similarly, employees working airside for one contractor cannot take their airside pass with them should they wish to move to another employer. Again, they must start the whole pass application from scratch, even though they could be doing exactly the same job. An airside cleaner could not quickly move employer for better pay, forming a barrier to job mobility for the lowest paid. Workers would even need to go through the process all over again if their employer went bust and another took them on.


16. The airside pass process actually works to the disadvantage of UK workers. One of the unintended consequences of the process is that it is quicker and therefore easier for foreign nationals to get an airside pass.

17. This is because, when a foreign worker applies to Disclosure Scotland for a criminal records check, the fact that they have not been UK-based means that there is no criminal record. Disclosure Scotland could, in theory, make enquiries with the worker’s country of origin, but in many cases there are legal barriers to this or there are simply no records to check the applicant against. The result is that the applicant gets a quick response from Disclosure Scotland effectively giving them a clean criminal check.

18. Second, the ID card scheme has been retained for foreign nationals. This means that foreign nationals have a quick and easy way of proving their identity which is not available to UK workers. It should be remembered that many applicants for the lowest paid jobs do not necessarily have a passport to prove their identity. The ID card would have cost applicants £30 (they were issued free to airside workers during the trial period) against a passport costing £77.50.


19. Finally, the existing airport security pass process requires airports to collect and store considerable data on individuals, such as home address, date of birth, national insurance number and so forth. This is held mainly in case Government Agencies need access to it.

20. The creation of an identity database, to which Government Agencies would have access, was seen as a significant opportunity to reduce the personal data held by airports. This was desirable from a data protection standpoint but was also a great help in simplifying the application process.


21. MAG worked closely with the Identity and Passport Service with a view to seeking to improve and streamline the application process for airside passes and to overcome some of the anomalies.

22. MAG would like to see some of the potential benefits of the system retained for airside workers, to help provide an improved, simplified process for the identity assurance and security clearance of all airside workers.

June 2010