Lord Filkin: My Lords, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Secretary of State for the Home Department ordered an immediate review of airside security and its interface with landside security at UK airports. A government working group is now considering the issues and will report to Ministers in April. The robbery is, of course, also the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, can he assure the House that the implications for security described in the House will be taken careful note of in the review to which he referred? Can he say anything about the efforts that are being made to retrieve the £4½ million that were stolen?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I can give my noble friend the assurances that he seeks. That is exactly why the working group, chaired by DTLR and including representatives of the Home Office, the police, customs and the immigration service, is working to advise Ministers on what can be done in the light of the robbery.
Although it was a robbery, not a terrorist attack, it was carried out either by unauthorised people who had access to the restricted zone or by authorised staff who were themselves criminals. It must have been one or other of those. As noble Lords would expect, the police are pursuing the people who stole the £4½ million.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, can the Minister tell us who is involved in the government working group? Does it include representatives from the industry, for example the British Airports Authority, or representatives of the airlines? Does the Minister agree that it is particularly worrying, in view of the stringent regime at Heathrow for combating terrorism, that such a thing could happen?
I agree that it is of concern. Despite the United Kingdom's reputation for strong airport security, we must never treat that as sufficient. We must always assume that our security systems are not adequate, without, of course, going so far as to make Heathrow or other airports not commercially operable.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that, on occasion, such offences involve people working on the inside, as it were? Does he believe that things should improve dramatically, once we regulate fully the private security industry in this country? Are the Government in a position to announce the appointment of the chief executive and chairman of the new Security Industry Authority, which will speed up the process of improvement?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, at this stage, the police do not know who carried out the robbery. As my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate implied, it was either inside people or robbers who penetrated the security zone. There have been one or two other issues relating to securityor robberyat airports that involved inside knowledge, and, to an extent, one would always consider that to be a possibility in such cases.
The Government are in the process of moving, under the Terrorism Act 2000, to bring in regulations requiring the registration of all firms providing security services at airports. We are also considering other measures, including the extension of some counter-terrorism checks and employment checks on people who work in all or part of restricted zones.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister assure the House that the European Community will be fully consulted? It is important for our security and that of other member states of the European Union that they be fully consulted about the implications for security beyond the British Isles.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, yes, I am sure that all appropriate consultations will take place. I would hope that the UK was seen as a strong source of advice in some of those respects. The issues which arise as a result of the robbery point not only to the need to have good regulations but, as always, to try to ensure that they are effectively enforced not only at Heathrow but at airports throughout the country.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, in answer to my noble friend's first question, no, but I will write to him. As regards his second question, the police in the airport, whether land side or on the airport side, are the direct responsibility of the police authorities. I am sure that in these circumstances they must be the Metropolitan Police. No, I am not sure and I will check that last point. As regards their normal line of command, they do not come under the command of British Airports Authority management or airport management elsewhere.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the situation in Zimbabwe is fluid. The management of the presidential election, especially the number of polling booths in urban areas, has come under close scrutiny. I understand that there have been legal moves to extend polling for a third day. For obvious reasons, I do not wish to speculate any further at this stage.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that today, Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth has little to celebrate? Does she further agree that the Commonwealth's inaction has caused long-term damage to its credibility as an organisation whose members are committed, in a bitter ironic twist under the Harare Declaration, to observe the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights? In the light of that, do the Government recognise that there is an urgent need for internal reforms to the Commonwealth and will they make it a priority to lead that reform process?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord and others in this House will be aware of our views, which were strongly expressed before we attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and at that meeting. We felt that the Harare principles had been violated and flouted by Zimbabwe and that the evidence existed for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth. However, we also recognised that the Commonwealth operates by consensus. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting agreed a statement and a mechanism to deal with the situation if the observers find that the current elections are judged not to be free and fair.
I would like also to say to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that good things came out of the Commonwealth meeting, including the review of the high level group. Our Prime Minister has played an important part in that group in ensuring that views taken at the meeting, which looked forward to the Commonwealth's role in the 21st century, were taken on board.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the general secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change, Mr Ncube, and his deputy, have been arrested? Is she further aware that the polling stations which were opened as a result of the decision of the high court closed again almost immediately in Harare because an appeal was forthcoming to the supreme court and, when we entered Question Time, had not been finally decided?
Is there any way in which the observers present can inquire as to the grounds on which Mr Ncube was seized and perhaps discover whether there are legitimate grounds for what looks like an extremely troubling further intervention in what one hoped would be a reasonably free and fair election?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I understand that the MDC secretary general, Mr Ncube, was this morning detained by police in Plumtree, which is on the border with Botswana. I also understand that Tendai Biti, the shadow foreign minister, was detained about an hour ago. We have no further information about the grounds on which they have been detained; we are doing our best to obtain it. I shall keep the noble Baroness and other noble Lords informed of any further information we receive.
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