Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1320
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
1320. I accept that. In that case, given what
I have said, plastic knives, glass bottles on aeroplanes, a range
of items, I have been on aeroplanes since September 11 where you
are checked for scissors one side of a security barrier and then
Boots are selling them on the other side.
(Mr Hutcheson) Hopefully not any more.
1321. Do you think we should extend the range
of items that are not permitted on aircraft?
(Mr Hutcheson) It is an extremely difficult subject.
It has already been extended significantly post September 11.
For me it is more about educating people who are travelling as
to the items that should not be carried. We are taking sack loads
of what most people see as innocent items at airports. We have
printed cards, over 100,000 of them, and have distributed them
through the travel industry to try and say to people,"Leave
these things at home. Do not bring them to the airport",
but the culture is that when you fly, wherever you go on holiday
or business you need certain things and people just cannot break
the habit. If you extend it you make it more difficult to implement,
more difficult to police, and it is already extremely difficult
to do that. I also believe that innocent, ordinary members of
the public will even try and smuggle things through security because
they feel it is something that they need and that the laws are
inadequate. The laws are inadequate because there is no offence
to attempt to take any of these things into a restricted area.
We have had to resort to byelaws. We have put up a notice to say
that it is an offence to take prohibited items into the area and
it is only once you have done so you have completed the offence
of failing to comply with the notice. It is very difficult to
police. I think we need to have a very common sense approach to
1322. You would advocate more use of profiling
of passengers and so on?
(Mr Hutcheson) Yes.
1323. Again, it will be subject to the variability
of how sophisticated that is according to where people get on
the plane. Even in the States recently I met someone who, simply
because she had a single ticket, was stopped five times and made
to take her shoes off and go through this when trying to get on
a plane. Why a hijacker would not buy a return ticket I do not
(Mr Hutcheson) He probably would.
1324. That was some pretty basic profiling going
(Mr Hutcheson) I say I prefer it. I do not underestimate
how difficult it is to achieve but I do think, given where we
are and where we might have to go to, we should be putting time
and energy into developing a profiling system that works. That
again involves some behavioural scientists. You will eventually
bring aviation to a standstill if you have to have a range of
measures that you apply to every single passenger which has been
up until now, and still is, the UK philosophy. There is a sense
within TRANSEC that we need to look at a whole series of issues
around profiling which guarantee that when Iain Jack checks in
at Heathrow it is actually Iain Jack who is standing there, not
someone else, not somebody using a forged passport. Linked into
that comes some form of profile. As I say, I do not underestimate
how difficult that is but dialogue is starting and I do think
it is somewhere that we will have to go.
1325. We are now straying into the area of stopping
people getting on aircraft. When Mr Devlin came along from Transec
I asked him about IT security and if we are going to go down profiling
then that becomes much more important. It was a sort of, "Oh,
well, ", almost as if he had not thought of it. Are
you doing anything about securing your IT?
(Mr Hutcheson) Yes, we are. We have an IT security
policy. We are vigorously taking steps to protect our information
1326. Have you had any instance where it has
been breached in the last six months?
(Mr Hutcheson) No. Our fire walls have been very successful.
To be fair to Ian Devlin, Richard Doney, who is Head of TRANSEC
technical team, is aware of the issues around information technology
(Mr Jack) Before 11 September the projection of passenger
growth was that there would be a doubling by 2010. There is no
way that the existing terminal facility at airports round the
world could expand adequately to cope with that. Now we have the
11 September and the after-effects but passenger growth of course
is growing again, as it did after the Gulf War. We have to find
some way of accommodating security and also facilitating passenger
movement. Air travel is a key element in the world economy. The
airlines are looking at some way in which a trusted passenger
programme could be established. Why should I have to go through
all the rigorous security checks that someone who may be unknown
has to go through? We will need to find some way of alleviating
the restriction of passenger flow that these increased security
measures are going to impose by having a way of exempting some
passengers from this process. We are already doing this on an
inbound basis but for immigration. You may know that at Heathrow
terminals 3 and 4 there is a process by which passengers who are
registered can pass through immigration by having their iris checked.
1327. We have a paper on that.
(Mr Jack) I saw it happening yesterday when I flew
in from San Francisco and it seems to be very effective.
1328. Speaking to Qinetiq, the people we know
and love, they have new technology with which they are developing
body heat sensors so you can tell if someone is under stress,
various things that you can use as people go down the corridor.
Are you investing in that sort of technology with people like
(Mr Hutcheson) Yes. We have a very close affinity
to Qinetiq through the Department of Transport but, as I said
earlier, the Department must approve any technology for use in
the airport. We work very closely with them to carry out feasibility
tests. We work with Qinetiq on new technology for screening people
and also for finding metal. We are well plugged into Qinetiq.
1329. Can I just take you back to something
the Chairman was talking about? I am unlucky enough that I have
to fly down here every single week and I genuinely do think that
the companies seem to be paying lip service to security on board,
ie, "We need to do something. We do not really know what
to do so let us show we are thinking about it." In my constituency
the most serious assaults are carried out with broken glass and
bottles and it has been like that for many years. I cannot for
the life of me understand why I have a plastic knife and fork
and spoon with a nice big tall glass and as many bottles as I
want to take on the tray. What is the point?
(Mr Jack) I could list a range of other items that
you could use for offensive purposes on board an aircraft that
you have not mentioned.
1330. But these are actually given to me on
(Mr Jack) I know they are. There will be other things
in your possession that you could use for offensive purposes as
1331. What is the rationale that says, "Give
them a plastic spoon and a plastic knife and fork, but give them
a tall glass and a couple of bottles that they can easily assault
and hold to ransom one of the stewards with"?
(Mr Hutcheson) We have had a very healthy debate with
the Department of Transport about these issues that you are articulating
and I would agree that there is no common sense to it. I think
that you either have enough faith in the security systems that
we have in place and allow life to carry on normally within the
cabin or you almost do not get anything at all and you are just
left to sit there as if you are on a low cost airline.
1332. I still get a glass; I am still drinking
out of it.
(Mr Hutcheson) You have to draw the line somewhere.
I do agree that this is an area that requires further debate between
the industry and the regulator.
1333. The head of British Airways, Rod Eddington,
recently hinted at excessive security in the United States and
emphasised the need to, he said, avoid being drawn into over-reacting.
What in your view, gentlemen, will passengers tolerate in terms
of security measures in this country? Where is the tolerance level
being stretched? What will they tolerate?
(Mr Jack) I flew the Atlantic a number of times after
the 11 September and most recently on Monday out of San Francisco.
There has been a major change in the way that the security is
now being processed. The capacity to cope with numbers was not
there after 11 September and there was huge passenger inconvenience.
I heard the manager of Atlanta Airport say, with some pride in
his voice, that it was taking people an hour and a half to check
through security. That is amazing, but that, from my own personal
experience, has simply evaporated now. They have adjusted their
processes, they have recruited more people and they are now getting
passenger throughput down to an acceptable level. In San Francisco
on Monday it took me ten minutes to go through security.
1334. Just briefly going on to sky marshals,
just to give us a flavour of that, how many sky marshals would
British Airways require? Would it be one per aircraft, two, three,
people in reserve? I saw a figure of 80,000 required in the United
States. Have you done any research on numbers and cost?
(Mr Jack) If we put two on every aircraft we would
1335. And then you would need others, obviously
more than two, per aircraft, on standby?
(Mr Jack) I am basing that on the number of flight
crew that we have on the airline.
1336. What about doubling up flight crew with
some sort of training?
(Mr Hutcheson) That is in place. The Department of
Transport will, within I would say the next six weeks, introduce
a new training programme for flight and cabin crew. It was discussed
at a meeting I was at this afternoon. Just going back to Mr Roy's
question, the level of tolerance in the UK would be a level of
activity that is seen as commensurate with the risks that people
are taking, which comes back to your question that, whatever the
international situation is, it is the measures that we take that
reassure you that it is safe to fly, and that is where the tolerance
1337. Will that diminish over time?
(Mr Hutcheson) It will inevitably diminish through
1338. I hear more people complaining now than
I did six months ago.
(Mr Hutcheson) That is inevitable. We had a period
where the complaint was that it was not sufficient and of course
it is not all visible, but yes, it will diminish in time because
people's memories are short. I think that it is up to us somehow
to remind people of the importance of it.
1339. I would just like to comment on what you
were saying about what people will tolerate. It is difficult.
I have found that when we have been told, when we thought we were
just about to take off, that we have to stay on the runway because
somebody has checked in a bag and the passenger has not appeared,
I have never heard complaints even now because I think Lockerbie
is still fresh in people's minds. My concern, when talking about
the screening process and some people being given approved status,
is that we might think that is attractive for regular travellers
like ourselves, but I would say that I would be concerned that
if people feel they are being unfairly discriminated against that
is when you could get the anger.
(Mr Hutcheson) That is where profiling comes in. There
are no exemptions for hold baggage screening other than for heads
of state. The entourage and everyone else, their bags have to
be screened in the same way as anyone else. There are no exemptions
to screening other than to the principal themselves. We are not
advocating exemption. I think there will be different tracks of
security, so that if you had a trusted flyer or a profiling system
there would be minimum security that was applied that was commensurate
with the threat at the time, other people would actually be subjected
to a higher level. It is discriminatory but as long as people
understand what the profile system isI think people do
complain, but overall people appreciate that aviation security
is very important.