Examination of Witnesses (Questions 860
WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL 2002
860. Are you generally confident, apart from
what role CCS is playing, that the co-ordination of efforts across
the government departments is satisfactory?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, I think so. We have had in the past
a fairly free-standing role. Transec's role, as I mentioned, was
to protect travellers and employees of transport companies and
we have been pretty free-standing in that in the past. Since 11
September, it has been necessary to take a wider view. Since aircraft
in this case were used as weapons of mass destruction, it has
been necessary to look at wider aspects of transport security,
what might be done in the area of transport, what the threats
might be and that has largely been co-ordinated by the Committee
I have mentioned. That is chaired by the Home Office and brings
to bear the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office,
MoD and other departments as necessary, Health, Trade and Industry,
so I think there is a good mechanism there for co-ordinating the
preventative side. The other aspect of course is the Civil Contingencies
Committee which deals with the risk management, dealing with the
aftermath of incidents and also there is a committee structure
for that too.
861. Just finally in this area, can I ask you
about what impact devolution has had on your work, particularly
in relation to Scotland? How is it managed now given that transport
and so on is primarily the Scottish Executive's and the Scottish
(Mr Devlin) It certainly has not given us any problems.
It is something that we have to bear in mind if we are amending
legislation and we did, in fact, contribute to the Anti-Terrorism
Act which was brought in just before the end of the year. We introduced
some additional measures in that Act and we had to take account
of the devolution aspects and consult the devolved authorities,
but it has not presented any problem for us.
862. Can I ask you about your responsibilities
with regard to ensuring that the United Kingdom's obligations
under various treaties and agreements are honoured. To what extent
do the security regimes that you are currently operating within
the UK reflect those international agreements?
(Mr Devlin) The main international basis for our security
regime is Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention which deals with
aviation security. We are entirely in compliance with Annex 17,
as you might imagine, and in some areas we have exceeded the requirements
of Annex 17. We are very prominent members of ICAO, in particular
the ICAO AVSEC Panel, as it is known, which is a panel of security
experts from a small number of ICAO countries. There are 187 members
of ICAO and 20 countries represented on the AVSEC Panel. The United
Kingdom has been one of the most active members of that group
in trying to ensure that international standards meet the requirements
and the changing requirements of aviation security. There have
been two urgent meetings of the AVSEC Panel since 11 September
and a number of changes and increases in the requirements have
been introduced as a result of 11 September. So we are in compliance
with the Chicago Convention and we are also in compliance with
the European Civil Aviation Council (ECAC) regulations. ECAC has
a document known as Document 30 which sets out security regulations
on a European-wide basis. I think there are 38 members of ECAC.
863. To save you going through all that could
you send us that detail about the compliance as far as the UK
is concerned. How important then is it in your role to ensure
that our international partners are equally compliant, because
planes coming into the United Kingdom are as big a threat to us
as the ones leaving?
(Mr Devlin) Absolutely. The main reason for our involvement
and participation in ECAC and ICAO is that we want to see international
standards raised to the highest practicable level for the very
reason you mention. There is a danger of hijack from overseas
and bomb attacks or other attacks on British aircraft operating
from overseas' airports. We are always pressing for higher security
measures and security measures that come up to the standards that
we require in this country. How do we do that? Since 11 September
ICAO has adopted a policy of mandatory audit of security programmes.
864. Who polices that?
(Mr Devlin) It will be policed by ICAO itself with
aviation security experts from ICAO and member countries, so we
will be contributing to that. In the past ICAO provided advice,
support and finance to countries that required it. If a country
was poor or did not have the expertise they could go to ICAO and
there was a programme for assisting them but it was voluntary.
Since 11 September a mandatory programme of audit is being introduced
(it is not in place yet) and we are very much supporting and making
available our inspectors who have international experience to
865. If it has not been amended, is it right
that aircraft flying from those airports should be allowed to
land in the UK?
(Mr Devlin) All of our security measures are risk-based.
We are in the business of risk management and the starting point
for that is the threat information that we are given by the security
service. That threat information is related to the various modes
of transport that we cover (so there are separate threat assessments
for each mode of transport) and it is also related to the countries
that British aircraft fly to, for example. So we are aware of
the security service threat assessment for a whole range of countries.
Where the threat is assessed to be "high" or "significant",
in countries where there is an above average threat, if you like,
we send our inspectors to those countries to check on the security
measures that have been applied to British aircraft primarily
but also to check on the general standards of security and to
advise on general standards of security in that country. We have
had quite good results from that in the sense that a number of
countries have taken the opportunity of our visits to improve
their security measures or to buy in equipment that we recommend.
On some occasions we have even been able to provide them with
equipment that they have not had. But you are right, we cannot
be everywhere and there is a risk.
866. I want to ask some questions and I have
not got a lot of time. I am interested to know that can you guarantee
to me as a regular traveller that every bag going on any plane
in the United Kingdom, irrespective of whether it is hand luggage
or hold luggage, is X-rayed?
(Mr Devlin) Yes.
867. You can? Are you absolutely sure that that
(Mr Elbourne) As sure as anybody can be.
(Mr Devlin) That is the requirement.
(Mr Elbourne) You can never give absolute guarantees.
868. Any baggage travelling on any aircraft
goes through an X-ray process?
(Mr Devlin) Yes.
869. I think that is important for the record
because it is not the case elsewhere, is it? The next quick question
is about reconciliation of baggage to passengers. Has there been
a significant improvement in that since 11 September and is there
now a greater insistence on airlines demanding that bags do travel
with their passenger and not unaccompanied?
(Mr Elbourne) I am not sure whether I can say there
has been a great improvement since 11 September because it has
been something we have been particularly keen on seeing since
Lockerbie and the Pan Am 103 incident
870. Not very effectively, I might add.
(Mr Elbourne) Our system of reconciling passengers
and bags, making sure that bags do not travel unaccompanied unless
they have been subject to specific security measures is as good
as anywhere in the world, if not better, but, as with all security
regimes, there are no absolute guarantees. Things can go wrong.
You cannot give 100 per cent guarantees. Indeed, we know that
bags do travel without passengers
871. Mine has done it often.
(Mr Elbourne) Anyone who travels knows that bags get
lost, which is why we have a system that requires any unaccompanied
bags that are travelling are recognised as being unaccompanied
and are subjected to additional security.
872. I want to give you two instances, one involving
the whole of this Committee in the United States. We were flying
back from Washington and we were at the British Airways check-in.
As we were checking in there was a fairly substantial wait and
there were 20 or 30 bags completely unattended alongside the check-in.
I was rather surprised. When I got to the check-in there was one
person standing at check-in with a whole handful of tickets who
was checking all these tickets in. I said to the British Airways
clerk, "How can you do this? This is completely out of order.
There is one person checking in 30 or so people with all of their
baggage here." She said, "They are all VIP travellers."
I said, "I do not care who they are. They are on the same
plane as me and if I have to stand here and you have to ask me
questions about my bags, why are you not asking them." This
happened to us. I took this complaint further and asked to see
a British Airways manager. He was too busy with the VIP guests
to discuss this matter. When I returned to the UK I took this
matter up with the Head of BA Security who then investigated.
It was a very busy time, there was a number of VIPs travelling
in Washington, one of whom was a President of an African state
and all of these bags belonged to members of his staff who were
flying on the plane. None of those bags were guarded. Security
said to us there was a security team with those bags the whole
time they were at the airport. Absolute rubbish. There was nobody
with the bags. The Head of BA Security also told me that all of
those people were individually checked in at the desk. Absolute
rubbish. There was one person standing at the desk checking in
all the tickets. I tried to take it further. They did not want
to know. They said they were satisfied that all the procedures
had been dealt with properly. Absolute rubbish. That plane then
came to the UK and was probably in transit and they went on another
plane that flew to Africa. There is every possibility that none
of those bags was ever reconciled to the person whose bag it was
on two flights, one in and out of Heathrow, one from Washington
and one to their final destination. I find that amazing, to say
the least. I was very, very disappointed with the rather complacent
e-mail response I got from British Airways and the conversation
I had with their Head of Security about that. I was alarmed that
transit passengers could have their bags brought into Heathrow.
I want to ask whether transit passenger bags are put through screening
processes at Heathrow when they are taken off a British plane
and put onto another British Airways plane? It is different if
they are moving terminal. I want to know if a plane leaving from
the same terminal with baggage in transit goes through a screening
process at Heathrow?
(Mr Elbourne) All transit baggage is screened at Heathrow.
That was one of the main measures after Pan Am 103.
873. There is a second incident I want to put
on record. I flew home from Istanbul, Turkey on a British Airways'
flight. I checked my bags in earlier in the day and returned to
the airport two hours later to catch the flight home. I was travelling
with my wife. When I got out to the plane all the bags were on
the tarmac and we had to identify our baggage. Surprise, surprise,
my case was not there. More interestingly, there were five bags
on the tarmac which no one claimed. Those bags were loaded onto
the aircraft and I said to them,"How can you load those bags
onto the aircraft? The passengers have not identified these bags.
You would not allow anybody to get on a plane. My bag is not here
and you are not bothered about that." Because I caused a
fuss the pilot came down and I was threatened with arrest by the
Turkish authorities because they were going to lose their slot.
I either had to go back to the terminal under arrest or get on
the plane and fly with unaccompanied, unidentified baggage. In
the end I flew. At Heathrow I reported my baggage lost only to
see my red bag standing in lost luggage. My bag had arrived on
a flight from Istanbul two hours earlier. So not only did I fly
with unaccompanied luggage, people on another plane flew on an
aircraft with my bags, which had not been reconciled to me. I
made a complaint to the Deputy Prime Minister, I asked questions
in Parliament, I took it up with Turkish Airlines. I tried to
get Turkish Airlines banned from flying into Britain until we
were satisfied and I was told, "Absolute nonsense, it happens
all the time." I got absolutely nowhere trying to pursue
that. You are trying to tell me now that everything is alright,
all bags are checked and that lots of these things do not happen.
There are two incidents, one involving the whole of this Committee
who were all witnesses to it involving British Airways, and one
involving myself which is well documented because I wrote to the
Deputy Prime Minister because he was in charge at the time about
the procedures and I wrote to the airlines concerned and I got
nothing but gibberish from any of them, including from your organisation.
Chairman: We have to move on. I am sure
Mr Hancock's picture is going to be in every airport in future
to make sure that he and his bags are reconciled! If you do wish
to write to Mr Hancock and send a copy to this Committee, it would
be very helpful. We have to move on quickly. Syd?
874. I go on to your legal powers. The legal
basis of your work is set out in a raft of Acts and Regulations,
the Aviation Security Act, and also, for example, the Channel
Tunnel Security Orders, 1994, etcetera, etcetera. Does the range
of legislation give the Government sufficient powers to properly
regulate security in all the areas for which you are responsible?
(Mr Devlin) Yes. I have a wide range of powers on
behalf of the Secretary of State. We have not found that there
is a problem. We do not feel we need any more powers. As I mentioned,
we did take some additional powers under the Anti-Terrorism Crime
and Security Act at the end of last year. They were to do with
specific issues mainly about security at airports in restricted
zones and the powers of police to make arrests, and filling some
loopholes that we felt existed. The powers are wide-ranging and
we have not used all of the powers. If we did feel that we required
additional powers then we would not hesitate to propose primary
legislation, but we have not felt that a problem until now.
875. You are satisfied that the range is there;
it has just got to be tightened up?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, the powers are very wide-ranging.
876. On your web site there is specific legislation
quoted on aviation, rail and the Channel Tunnel. They pick those
out in particular but there is nothing in respect of maritime.
Is this an oversight or do you have legally enforceable powers
in the maritime area?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, we do have enforceable powers. They
are very similar to those for aviation and they were picked up
in the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, which added to
the previous Aviation Security Act and brought maritime into the
frame as well. We do have extensive powers there. We have a similar
security regime although it is not as developed as the airport
security regime because the level of threat and nature of threat
is different, but we certainly have the powers, yes.
877. So maritime is covered. In the Transec
document in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September
and what happened after it, you issued instructions to the aviation
industryunderstandably, that was the focusbut only
advice to the other areas that you cover. Am I being rather too
finicky? Is there a specific difference? You came out with the
specific instructions they had to carry out in the aviation industry
but the others were just advised them.
(Mr Devlin) I think it is just the way that it reads.
In some areas we issued instructions in the sense that all modes
of transport that we regulatemaritime, railways and Channel
Tunnelhad their security measures increased as a result
of 11 September. They were all required to step up their security
measures, so it was not just advice. What we have also done is
to extend the advice that we give into areas that we have not
previously regulated. What I am thinking of here is the maritime
industry where all our regulations have been focused essentially
on passenger shipping, ferries and cruise chips, protection of
the passengers and the crews, as I have mentioned. Post 11 September,
looking at the possibility of a wider range of forms of attack
against a wider range of transport, we have extended our advice
to cargo shipping, so the same sort of advice that we give to
protecting ships we have extended to areas that previously we
have not touched. That may be the reason why it refers to advice
rather than direction.
878. Do I take this as a priority list? The
urgency was aviation and you concentrated on instructions straight
away and you are working through on giving advice and tightening
up instructions in maritime?
(Mr Devlin) I would not say that it is that. We took
immediate action on all modes of transport. We stepped up aviation
to the highest possible level of security on 11 September but
that level of security had previously only been applied to one
or two airlines for a very specific short period of time and it
was completely impossible for the airports and airlines to meet
that level of security for more than 72 hours. On 18 September
we issued more specific directions based on consultation with
the aviation industry which they were able to sustain. We also
on 11 September raised the levels of security on the other modes,
so there was an immediate response, but I think it is true that
since then we have been looking more widely outside the area that
we regulate. That has been a more gradual process, that would
be right, so bringing in, for example, the cargo shipping companies
and explaining to them our security regime and what recommendations
we have for making the ships secure, probably did come up a bit
879. In summing up, your powers are adequate
and consistent across all areas?
(Mr Devlin) Yes, we are satisfied with the powers
that we have.
2 Ev. 168. Back
Ev. 169. Back