Examination of Witnesses (Questions 900
WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL 2002
900. Mr Devlin, a long time ago I took down
that you said UK standards exceeded the Chicago Convention. I
have no doubt whatever that that is true. I think it is probably
equally true that security at airports is the responsibility of
a number of elementsthe airlines certainly, Immigration,
Customs, the airport operator and so on and so forth. Notwithstanding
the fact that we have high standards, it is at that operational
level that we need to know how well they all fit together because
if they do not fit together at any point in time, and it is the
wrong time, we have a problem.
(Mr Devlin) Interestingly, that was one of the issues
that was highlighted by these recent robberies and it is an issue
that we are now addressing. For many years the control authoritiesthe
Police, Immigration, Customs & Excisehave been members
of the National Aviation Security Committee which meets, as I
have said, twice yearly, which addresses aviation security policy
issues, but that has probably not been reflected at the airport
level. There is also a requirement under our security programme
for all airports to have an airport security committee and that
airport security committee brings together all the people you
have mentionedthe airports, airlines, the control authorities,
but also the users of the airport. It might be security companies,
it might be commercial organisations. These airport security committees
are a useful body. They are useful for communicating concerns
about security, for example. What we probably have not done is
take a strategic look at security at airports and to co-ordinate
the work of the control authorities, and this is something we
are looking at at the national level. The next time the Aviation
Security Committee meets, which is on 6 May I believe, we will
be setting up a sub-group from the Aviation Security Committee
just for the control authorities, and that will be to provide
strategic co-ordination for the control authorities for what they
do at airports. To mirror that, we will be requiring airports
to have a control authority group which again at the airport level
will co-ordinate what the control authorities do. At the moment,
you are right, there are requirements, there are police requirements,
immigration and customs, and some people have CCTV cameras installed
for a particular purpose. CCTV is a good example where, if we
were better co-ordinated, the standard of the CCTV equipment which
was installed would meet the requirements of all the agencies
and, where possible, where CCTV could meet the requirements of
more than one agency, then it could be installed in a way which
did that rather than just meeting the requirements of the particular
agency which is installing it. So, I think you are right, a more
strategic approach is required both at the airport and at national
901. And because that is probably correct, because
the standards can be as high as they like, if we do not get all
this right down below, it is just a waste of time. Can you let
the Committee know if you have a particular time frame for the
implementation of this rather more strategic view at the operational
(Mr Devlin) As I say, next month the new sub-group
will be set up. I do not think we have a specific time.
902. Because it is a serious issue you must
regard it as being something which should have a fairly short
span of time before you come to some conclusions about what to
(Mr Devlin) Absolutely. These groups can be set up
virtually right away and therefore they can start doing the co-ordination
that is required virtually right away.
903. Why not now then?
(Mr Elbourne) There is work going on now that the
Metropolitan Police are leading on to, first of all, establish
national standards for CCTV. The first step is to say, "What
is the national standard, what is the standard which all installations
need to meet", and that should be achieved by the end of
May. Once that has been achieved, that is the first step to then
say to the industry, "These are the national standards, now
sort yourselves out at each airport and come up with proposals
on how you are going to implement these standards at your airport",
and we will need to set a deadline for each airport to come up
with their proposals. So it will happen by the summer, I would
904. So you regard it as a matter of some urgency?
(Mr Elbourne) It is something which is being brought
forward as quickly as we can.
905. We have seen kites being flowing in the
national press about the fact that a new national government agency,
very similar to that as I understand it which has been established
in the United States, is being considered here. Is that just a
press story or is there substance to that?
(Mr Devlin) I think it is a press story in the sense
that the national agency which has been set up in the United States,
the Transport Security Agency, is in fact a mirror of Transec.
It is a cross-modal agency within the Department of Transportation.
So the Americans have taken aviation security out of the FAA and
put it into the Department of Transportation and made it part
of a cross-modal organisation, so they are doing what we have
been doing for a very long time. In fact I have the head of the
Transport Security Agency, Mr John Magaw, coming to visit me on
Friday to discuss issues and to describe to him how we do it in
906. So the press story is nonsense? There is
no agency, it is all going to be down to you from now on?
(Mr Devlin) As far as I am concerned, yes.
Chairman: Please be careful about your comments
on the US. A very good friend of mine, a Congressman, has just
walked in and he may be offended! He is on the Intelligence Committee
so if you want any additional advice, I think you could ask Congressman
907. I will make sure I do not even mention
our allies. We are aware of the fact, gentlemen, that our own
armed forces have contingency plans particularly for Heathrow
Airport, though I am less certain about other airports, and clearly
there are contingency plans involving our special forces. What
should the role of the armed forces be in airport security?
(Mr Devlin) Up until 11 September, there was very
little involvement of the MoD in transport security issues. Since
then we have had to look at a wider range of potential threats.
908. Can I stop you there? I vividly recall
sitting outside Heathrow Airport for many hours in the 1980s,
if not the 1990s, and mighty bored I was too. Surely there has
been a very heavy involvement by the Ministry of Defence?
(Mr Devlin) There was on the occasion of the IRA attacks
909. No, it was a standard operation, a standard
exercise. I cannot remember the name of the operation but Household
Division troops were used on a frequent basis to practise the
defence of Heathrow Airport.
(Mr Devlin) In terms of exercises, maybe, but not
live, apart from after the IRA attacks.
910. But there was a very deep involvement in
the planning process.
(Mr Devlin) There must have been, yes.
911. If you are suggesting that in recent years
has ceased, I would be very surprised.
(Mr Devlin) I should point out that this is the responsibility
of the Home Office and the police, and the military in those cases
would be acting in support of the civil power which is separate
from what we are doing within the airport, which is the protection
of areas and operations, so we do not really get involved with
that. Certainly in the past we have not got very much involved.
Obviously if aircraft are going to be used as weapons, there may
be a role for the Royal Air Force, so there has been more involvement
of the MoD in aviation security and in maritime security as well.
912. We are aware of a well-worked-up exercise
that the Royal Air Force has to deal with rogue aircraft, how
closely have you been involved in that?
(Mr Devlin) We have been closely involved because
our role in any event like that is really a communication and
facilitation role. We are probably the part of Government which
would first hear about the problem. It might not be, but if there
is a hijack or an attack on an aircraft there is a requirement
to report to Transec, so we will be the first people to hear,
and our role is to pass that information on to central government
to start the machinery moving. Once the machinery is moving, our
role is to provide a link to the industry to provide as much information
as possible about the incident, where it occurred, what was the
aircraft involved, how many passengers, what nationality, all
the vital information that is required in the course of a terrorist
incident. That is mainly where we come into play, with the Home
Office being responsible for the management of the incident if
it is in the UK, or the Foreign Office if it is overseas.
913. And you have been involved in the rehearsals
(Mr Devlin) Yes.
914. Thank you. At this stage we will finish.
We did have questions to ask on maritime issues, railways, London
Underground, the Channel Tunnel, funding, but that would take
us to about 4 o'clock this afternoon. However, before you think
you have got away with it, may I offer two alternatives and perhaps
we could negotiate. One is we will write to you to elicit information
in a letter and/or I think it would be really helpfuland
I visited your predecessor but twoif perhaps myself and
any of the Committee members and certainly a member of staff could
come along and have an informal meeting with you without any transcript
being taken, because this is obviously an incredibly interesting
subject. Our lack of ability to talk about the Channel Tunnel
does not reflect any indifference to it but constraints of time.
Thank you very much for coming. If there is any documentation
you think you could send to us, like annual reports, that would
be very helpful. I wish you well.
(Mr Devlin) Thank you.
(Mr Elbourne) Thank you very much.