Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840
WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL 2002
840. Can I just pick up in terms of the rules
regarding inspections. Are these inspections actually announced
in the sense that people know you are actually going in or do
you actually do it random, spot, and turn up on the day or do
you actually do what they usually do in the United States which
is actually testing the systems in terms of not making the airport
aware that people are actually testing the systems, for example?
Your response in terms of the sanction against airports or operators
seems again to be the typical British approach in the sense that
it is a step-by-step approach, whereas in, for example, the United
States we have had a lot of publicity recently about threats to
close airports down if they did not actually improve some of their
actual procedures. Have we ever actually used that threat or the
idea of publicity as a way of actually making sure that airports
do take it on board and take this very seriously? Another issue
is about airport staff and you were talking about screening staff.
I know certain airports are very busy, certainly smaller regional
airports, very busy during summer peak periods and they do take
on casual staff to cover those peaks. Are you satisfied that those
casual staff are trained to a higher level to ensure that the
highest standards which you actually want are actually maintained?
(Mr Devlin) Particularly on casual staff, casual staff
will not be employed on security duties unless they have met the
standard in terms of background checks and also standards in terms
of screening. It is possible for casual staff to be employed on
security duties, certain security duties, but these will not be
the sort of front-line, hands-on security duties that require
the background checks. For example, a security duty in which a
casual person might be employed would be feeding bags into an
X-ray machine, which does not take any particular skill. They
might be involved in shepherding queues going into the search
arrangements at the airport.
841. But the important thing there is that they
actually have access, do they not, like other airport security
staff, to the secure area, the airport-side security?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, that is right. At the moment only
security staff who are employed directly on security duties are
subject to full background checks.
842. Do you think that is a deficiency? Certainly
it has been highlighted in the United States, has it not, that
quite a few people would not have actually passed that rigorous
checking, so are you saying that there is an obvious gap there
in the United Kingdom where these people should have stronger
(Mr Devlin) Well, as a result of the recent events,
in fact the robberies at Heathrow, we have been looking again
at the checks that are carried out on people who have access to
the restricted zone and we are actually increasing those and we
are going for further background checks and we will be having
criminal record checks for everyone who enters the restricted
zone in the future because there is a potential weakness there.
843. Yes, but really you can have all the training,
all the expertise and all the machinery you like checking bags,
but if you have got somebody who has actually got access to the
restricted zone, as you call it, who has not got the checks, they
could pass things on to people who have gone through the checks.
(Mr Devlin) Well, the point about the restricted zone
is that everyone entering the restricted zone is searched, screened,
and that is different from what happens in the United States,
for example. In the United States airport staff and airline crew
usually, they do not have a restricted zone, as such, but usually
can get into the sensitive areas of an airport without being searched
and screened. We have always insisted that they should be searched
and screened, therefore, in theory it does not matter who the
person is or what checks they have had; they should not have any
items that they should not have in their possession.
844. I do not accept that. Are you trying to
tell me that everyone who goes into the restricted zone has actually
been searched and goes through a checkpoint at Heathrow Airport?
(Mr Elbourne) They are screened and not necessarily
hand-searched, but they will pass through an archway metal detector.
845. I am not sure that actually happens at
all airports. Having been a director at Newcastle Airport for
five years, our board meetings used to take place on the other
side and we never used to go through screening, but we just used
to have a pass and went through. I was not aware that everyone
on the airport side actually went through an archway metal detectors.
(Mr Elbourne) They should do. If that is a deficiency
at a certain airport, we can certainly look at it.
(Mr Devlin) If they are going into the restricted
zone, it is just possible that there is a difference here between
the restricted zone and the controlled zone. The restricted zone
is obviously behind the search zone and includes the areas where
the aircraft are loaded. The controlled zone is the rest of the
airport within the perimeter. That is left really up to the airport's
discretion and it is not necessary to be searched to go into all
areas of the airport, but certainly the restricted zone it is.
846. That is the point I am making, that you
have a restricted zone where you have baggage which is being checked,
but if you have actual access to the airport side near to the
aircraft or anywhere past that, it really defeats the object,
does it not, of us having well-trained and entitled staff checking
baggage, et cetera, here if someone can get access without having
the stringent background checks that the security staff have as
they could be passing something on to people once they have gone
through all these checks?
(Mr Devlin) Still when they go into the restricted
zone they should be screened and aircraft, for example, which
could be moved into the restricted zone will be searched so that
if something is put on the aircraft outside the restricted zone
because it has been out for servicing, it will be searched before
it is brought into the restricted zone.
847. You go into a number of issues there really.
I am interested because I know that in Hampshire, to get a security
clearance to work as a teacher or a teaching assistant, it takes
between six and eight weeks, whereas if you were recruiting temporary
staff at a busy regional airport, like Eastleigh, for example,
I would be interested to know when they started to recruit staff
for this summer because if they were going to get full security
clearance, far more than they would to satisfy the local LEA's
regulations, they would have to start their process probably at
Christmas for them to be in place by Easter and I simply do not
believe that happens. I think some people are employed while the
security checks are being carried out. I would like you to give
us an assurance today to say that that simply cannot happen.
(Mr Devlin) Up until now or up until recently people
who are employed in security duties have to go through the full
criminal record checks and counter-terrorist checks.
848. Before they start to work?
(Mr Devlin) Before they start to work, unless they
are supervised at all times by someone who has these.
849. How can you prove that they are?
(Mr Devlin) Well, that is one of the things that our
inspectors check on.
850. Can I come in because that is what the
issue is, that you have your actual staff who are doing security
checks and are actually screened and background-checked, but if
you have actually got people, casual staff, perhaps more casual
staff taking on other duties around the airport who have access
to the airport side of the airport who have not been through these
stringent checks, it really is defeating the object of having
this, let us say, vigorous system of screening bags, if you have
somebody who has not had a background check who then can gain
access to the aircraft and other parts of the airport and can
pass things on to somebody who has actually gone through all these
(Mr Devlin) Well, first of all, we are increasing
the criminal record checks, extending the criminal record checks
to everyone who goes into the restricted zone, but also anything
which goes into the restricted zone or anyone who goes into the
restricted zone should be being screened and checked.
851. Does that cover staff working in duty-free
outlets in airports?
(Mr Devlin) It covers all staff, including staff working
in duty free, staff working in newsagents, WH Smith, all staff
and all the material that is going in. All the goods that are
going in are screened as well, newspapers, et cetera.
Mr Hancock: Are you telling me that when I am
at Gatwick and somebody comes up to me, a demonstrator, trying
to sell me aftershave, that person has been through
Chairman: They are wasting their time!
852. They know I do not shave, but they know
I like to smell nice! They are trying to sell me aftershave and
they are there today and they are in Debenhams the next day selling
the same product. Are you telling me that that person has been
subjected to thorough security checks and she is button-holing
me as I am walking down the corridor to get on the plane? I simply
cannot believe that.
(Mr Devlin) I think I misunderstood you. They will
have come through the security screening process that will go
on before starting work.
853. But they themselves will not have been
(Mr Devlin) They themselves at the moment will not
have been screened, but in the future in order to work airside,
they will have had to have a criminal record check
(Mr Elbourne) If I can just try and clarify, if I
may, Chairman, currently anyone who is in possession of a permanent
restricted zone pass has had their identity checked and has had
personal referees followed up. We have concluded that that is
insufficient and over the next two or three months we will be
introducing requirements for everyone who is issued with a permanent
restricted zone pass to have a full criminal record check. That
is something we are in the process of organising. So those are
the sort of checks on individuals, on ID and background. Everybody
who enters a restricted zone at an airport, be they a passenger,
member of staff, flight crew, shop assistant, aftershave salesperson,
goes through the same level of personal security screening and
checking of both themselves and anything they are carrying.
854. Yes, I understand that. It is about the
individual who decides they are going to be involved because I
am interested in the goods that are sold at airports and I am
interested to know whether cartons of cigarettes, for example,
are put through a screening process and I would like to know that
they were because if the staff there, the casual staff who are
employed on the wrong side of the airport who can approach passengers
and persuade them to take stuff on the plane are not screened
because they have day passes, are the goods that they are pushing
put through a proper X-ray process?
(Mr Elbourne) Well, they are all subject to appropriate
security checks. I could not honestly say to you that every single
item is X-rayed. For example, if you are talking about cigarettes
which I think are generally regarded as bonded goods, they will
themselves in some respects be secure because of where they come
from and the manner in which they are handled. One of the changes
we did introduce after 11 September was to make it very specific
that all items entering restricted zones, including items for
sale, should be subject to security checks.
855. This is really just arising out of the
random inspection thing. You mentioned about criminal records,
but let's say Mr Mercer who has probably got no criminal record
at all, as far as I know, decided to become a terrorist. He is
not going to show up, is he, in that system? What other background
checks will you look at for people rather than just criminal records?
I am sure if you actually went through some of the people involved
in 11 September, they would never show up if you actually did
random checks for criminal records. It is one of the issues which
Mike Hancock has raised in terms of teachers where what they are
doing now is not just looking at criminal records with teachers
in terms of possible offences involving children, but they are
actually looking at other records as well, so really a criminal
record is not going to be very helpful, is it?
(Mr Devlin) The criminal record is helpful, but it
is not definitive, yes, you are right. It might indicate that
someone has convictions for acts of violence or it might suggest
that they are corrupt or corruptible, but that does not take you
terribly far, I admit, but then there are not really any record
checks which will take you that much further. Yes, counter-terrorist
checks will check names against indices of known terrorists, but
that probably is not going to get you very far because the majority
of terrorists will be new faces or they will be using new names.
Again it all helps to build up security, but it is not the whole
answer. That is why we screen people and that is why we think
that countries that do not screen individuals every day, day in,
day out, whether they are wearing a uniform or not wearing a uniform
are taking a risk. To go to your other question, which was about
the inspections and how we conduct them, yes, they are unannounced.
Our inspectors do not declare themselves. Usually they will appear
and they will carry out initial inspections without declaring
themselves and then at some stage they will declare themselves
to the management. Their faces do get known, so if we really do
want to test security, we will use someone who has not been to
a particular airport before or we might use someone from the Department
who is not actually an inspector, so we can use people who are
not going to be recognised, so yes, we do. Our inspections are
not random in the sense that, as I mentioned before, we have this
feedback element and we tend to direct our resources where we
think there is a problem, but there is a random element to that
where we will try to visit all airports within the programme certainly
several times a year, but we certainly do not announce the fact
that we are coming.
Chairman: Perhaps you could drop us a
note please or send us copies of any documentation on screening,
vetting, what goes on in the cargo as well because there you are
transferring a lot of responsibility to cargo companies to make
sure that their stuff which goes into your system is secure. I
would be interested to know how you vet cargo.
856. Just on that one thing about staff, do
you know, for example, if somebody had recently been in Pakistan
for the last six months?
(Mr Devlin) The background check involves checking
a person's employment history for five years. Therefore, we would
(Mr Devlin) They are required to produce a form of
identity which may be a passport or it may be something else.
Not everyone has a passport.
858. I want to touch on a rather more tedious
subject really of your relationships with the Civil Contingencies
Secretariat and other government departments. On the one hand,
it seems that your responsibilities, Transec's responsibilities
are directed more at prevention and consequence management, although
your mention of the recent robberies at Heathrow makes me think,
well, obviously, as you said, you came in to review just why and
how that had happened. Can I ask you what your relationship with
the Civil Contingencies Secretariat is, what contact you have
had with them as their focus is primarily on emergency planning
and dealing with an actual incident once it has occurred?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, you are right. We see our role as
being separate from that of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat.
We do have some contact with them. They are members of the Official
Committee on International and Domestic Terrorism, as we are,
so we do see members of the CCS there, but our role is very much
on the preventative side and all our measures, and perhaps I should
have taken the opportunity to say this at the beginning, but our
measures are designed to protect the travelling public and to
protect people who work in the transport industries from acts
of violence essentially, so all our protective measures in all
of the modes of transport are really focused on stopping and preventing
things from happening. Obviously the CCS's role comes in mainly
when something has happened, dealing with the consequences and
then managing those consequences. Our main contact then is through
the Official Committee on Domestic and International Terrorism.
859. The head of CCS, Mike Granatt, told this
Committee that one of the functions of the Secretariat was "horizon
scanning" in which they try to spot trends which may lead
departments to think about whether there are cost-cutting issues
or issues which contribute to form cost-cutting problems. Can
you say whether you have been involved in that type of horizon
(Mr Devlin) Yes, we have. In the immediate aftermath
of 11th September, we set up three working parties to look at
security issues. Two of those working parties looked at aviation
security issues. One looked at pre-flight issues, what could be
done on the ground before a plane takes off and another group
looked at what could be done after a plane takes off to protect
it in the air. Some of the issues that those committees addressed
were sort of blue skies issues in the sense of was it possible,
if terrorists attempted to take over control of a plane, to control
the plane from the ground and bring it back to a safe landing,
very much sort of blue skies, future-scoping issues. That is one
aspect. We also had a third working party which looked sort of
across the board, but at the wider range of transport industries
and fed in directly to the CCS thoughts on possible future security
issues. This was known as the Blue Skies Group and again looked
across the board at security issues, whereas the other two were
focused very much on aviation security issues, so we fed in in
that way as well to the CCS.
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