Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1280 - 1299)



  1280. Have you had the support you need, and are they sharing the information you need with you?
  (Mr Hutcheson) I am quite content with that really. I am the sort of person who would probably protest if it was not there. As I say, in my experience it has all been forthcoming as it was needed.

  1281. Do government departments properly understand the business world in which you are operating?
  (Mr Hutcheson) I would say that over the last four years certainly within TRANSEC there has been a learning curve, and I think there is a fine balance to be struck between delivering effective security which reassures the public and the staff and actually inconveniencing people almost to the extent that you start to do the terrorists' work for them. I think there is a good understanding of the very complicated nature of the aviation industry.

  1282. What impact has devolution had, particularly in Scotland, on your work?
  (Mr Hutcheson) In relation to running the airports, there has been close dialogue between the managing directors of the three Scottish airports and the Scottish Parliament particularly in relation to commerce and the development of Scotland. In relation to security, because security is still very much run from central government and not devolved government, I personally have not been involved in that.


  1283. Could you drop us a note, or your colleague who deals with contingency planning, on where security fits into contingency planning and perhaps how contingency planning operates? The thought logically is that security should be central to that process.
  (Mr Hutcheson) Contingency planning for security does rest within the security function. I suspected the interest was wider in terms of aircraft crashes and public disasters, and the whole thing is covered by the Home Office manual dealing with disasters. I will happily have a note prepared.

  Chairman: Perhaps you would give us the title of that document, so we can try and obtain it, and maybe give us some kind of organisational chart of BAA as to where you fit into the structure, how your department is organised, how the BAA in the airports is organised, and then perhaps where you fit into contingency planning. That would be really helpful.

Jim Knight

  1284. I was interested in your responses to David's questions. Yesterday we heard evidence from the head of ACPO's anti-terrorism unit and we talked a little about airport security, and I understand that you are satisfied with the nature of your response to the various incidents which have happened, but you cannot be satisfied when we have had two breaches of security at Heathrow, which we are going to talk about later. I am interested in what you think the dangers of complacency are, how you guard against complacency. It is not sufficient simply to respond to what the latest incident is and know you can deal with that, it is about now trying to anticipate where the threat may be and it is going to come from somewhere unexpected.
  (Mr Hutcheson) I fully agree with that statement. The only thing I would say is that I am not prepared to talk in public about the two incidents at Heathrow, although I am perfectly willing to talk about them in private. They are both currently being investigated.

  1285. I appreciate that. I am simply saying that they point up that everything is relative. What we discussed yesterday with the police was if somebody can get into an airport in order to carry out a felony, they could get into it for other reasons.
  (Mr Hutcheson) All I would say is that what was reported in the press is not exactly what may have happened, but I am not prepared to say more than that.

  Mr Howarth: Surely not!

  Chairman: We will have a time out for ten minutes. Excuse us, we have to do other things.

  The Committee suspended from 4.57 pm to 5.06 pm for a division in the House

  Chairman: We have some questions now on international security measures and I think, Mr Jack, in your new role you will be well-equipped to talk about this.

Patrick Mercer

  1286. Gentlemen, in your view how robust is the international framework of aviation security?
  (Mr Hutcheson) I think it is patchy. Annex 17 is the document from ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which lays down the standards and practices, and each state is required to set out its own national aviation security programme which takes account of those standards and recommendations. I would say the majority of states follow it to almost a satisfactory element. Some states do not have a national aviation security programme but that does not necessarily mean to say that the security measures delivered at the airport are inadequate. It may well be that the airports, despite a lack of a national aviation security programme, do provide it. America is in the throes of putting its aviation security programme together because 11 September showed that there clearly were deficiencies within their programme. Iain probably has a better knowledge of this from his previous life than I do, but BAA do operate airports in other parts of the world and my experience is that it is patchy and it very much depends on the government concerned.


  1287. Could it be consolidated? You have ICAO, IATA, ECAC, the 1978 Convention, is it all too amorphous?
  (Mr Jack) Shall I explain how it works from top down?

  1288. Please.
  (Mr Jack) On the Government side there is the international body called the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO. The industry have a global organisation called the International Air Transport Association. There is a dialogue between those two bodies. You then come down the European track into the government body, the European Civil Aviation Conference, which I have mentioned already, and the airline body which aligns to that is the Association of European Airlines. Until last week I was the chairman of the Association of European Airlines Security Sub-Committee. Then you come down to the national level, and Ian has already mentioned the National Aviation Security Committee, which is the Government body, and there is the British Air Transport Association which represents the airlines. So you have a global, regional, national equation. From the regulation point of view, ICAO have Annex 17 to their policy document which deals with aviation security. I mentioned Lockerbie, and there was agreement to introduce eight measures, some of which were dependent on the development of technology like 100 per cent hold baggage screening. After 11 September ICAO met in November and agreed additional standards. I was present at that meeting representing IATA. One of the measures which you may find interesting is that of background checks. It was agreed that a new standard should be introduced for background checking, that someone holding an airside pass should include a criminal record check. Up to this point past employment references were all that were taken into account. There is a major issue here because criminal records are held by government and can only be accessed by an individual, and in the UK an individual pays £12, goes to a police station and gets after six weeks a certificate of previous criminal convictions. That is a very arduous, time-consuming process. I know the Government is considering their position, whether the basic check is sufficient or whether there should be a standard check which is something only the Government can conduct, and that is an issue that is being looked at at the moment. To expect the industry to have criminal record checks carried out by all job applicants, I believe is very onerous indeed. How many pass holders are there at Heathrow, Ian?
  (Mr Hutcheson) 100,000. There were.

  1289. Have you fired a lot?
  (Mr Hutcheson) We have suspended quite a few.

  1290. The chorus is asking how many.
  (Mr Hutcheson) About 22,000.

  Mr Howarth: 22,000?

Jim Knight

  1291. What time period has it taken to trawl through and suspend that many?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Three days.

  1292. When was the night of the long knives?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Probably immediately after the second incident at Heathrow.


  1293. Obviously some of this is confidential—
  (Mr Hutcheson) The suspension of passes is not really confidential because it is well known within the industry. We had a concern that there were people rightly allocated passes who were not using them. I took the decision that if you had not used your pass for three months, you did not really need it, so we suspended the pass of anyone who had not actually used their pass, and then put in a fairly rigorous re-application process, so that there is no guarantee that if you reapply you would get your pass back.

  1294. Do you take passes away from people you feel would not meet the higher standards?
  (Mr Hutcheson) We do, and on indiscretions, misuse of passes, we take them away immediately. The good thing about the pass system is that it is computerised and you can make an instant decision and as soon as the suspension is they cannot get access.

Patrick Mercer

  1295. You have partially answered this, but what steps have you taken to strengthen the present international arrangements?
  (Mr Jack) I was describing the tiers. The strengthening took place at this ICAO meeting in Montreal at which the UK was represented by TRANSEC. At the European level I have talked already about the EU transport ministers agreeing that the EU should debate aviation security, and that is on its way, and I have told you the debate is happening next week. The other government body in Europe, the European Civil Aviation Conference, immediately after 11 September set up three working parties, one to look at on-board security, in-flight security if you will; ground security and the third working party was looking at auditing, performance monitoring security. Those working parties are still in train. ECAC also have reviewed their policy document which is called Document 30, amongst a whole plethora of other ECAC documents. It deals with security but the security elements there are recommended practice only; there is no legal enforcement under any statute. The statute which will have enforcement status will be the EU. The EU are intending to embody Document 30 into law. That is going to be the basis of the EU regulation. Of course, we have discussed how the UK has reacted and introduced additional directions under the various statutes which legislate aviation security in this country.

  1296. The TRANSEC response to what happened on 11 September states, "It must be borne in mind that the UK baseline measures considerably exceed both international requirements and what is in place in almost every other country in the world." Do you agree with that?
  (Mr Jack) Yes. I took time to think about my response to your original question about the standard of security in other states, and I do not think I can comment on that without breaching diplomacy. I would just say that the UK standards are certainly in compliance with that statement.

  1297. How confident can we be that other countries' security arrangements meet internationally-agreed standards?
  (Mr Jack) That would be a matter for the UK Government to take through the International Civil Aviation Organisation, if they were dissatisfied. Part of the response by ICAO to 11 September is to set up an auditing body which would audit compliance by individual member states. Can I just reassure you that UK-registered airlines and certainly British Airways have measures for compliance that are operating out of other states, so if the host state measures are below our requirements we will raise the game and comply with what the UK needs from that station of origin.

  1298. What about transfers from overseas flights? You have more or less dealt with that.
  (Mr Hutcheson) Any flight arriving in the UK where passengers transfer to another service must be subjected to UK measures, no one can land and transfer until they have been screened to UK standards. At Heathrow, for example, in every terminal there is an arrivals screening you go through before you can transfer. That means that whatever the security was at the originating airport, it is added to by the UK security programme.
  (Mr Jack) I mentioned that incident to illustrate the lack of delivery by some overseas stations where an item was picked up in this transfer process which Mr Hutcheson has referred to.
  (Mr Hutcheson) Post-11 September ICAO have made ten new recommendations, and I am happy to provide that in a note with the other documents you want.

  1299. Can I just deal with that quickly? Baggage?
  (Mr Hutcheson) Hold baggage, yes. 2005 worldwide is the deadline for hold baggage screening, which is the new recommended practice.

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