Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1380
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
1380. We have become accustomed over the years
to having armed forces at airports in certain circumstances and
there are contingency plans at British airports. Should the role
of the armed forces be an integral and expected one and perhaps
might the Reserves be involved in that? What is your opinion?
I encourage brevity.
(Mr Hutcheson) I have some previous experience of
this from my time in the police service. I think it is quite difficult
to take regular military out of their normal role and just put
them in an airport because the equipment they carry is not conducive
to the environment in which they are working. I am talking about
their firearms power, it is too powerful. The tactics at an airport
are very different from what the military are used to. When the
review was carried out the consensus was that the police were
better equipped to carry out that role than the military. There
is a bit about public reassurance seeing soldiers at key points
within the airport but to actually deploy them in anger, there
was some indecision about the training, their weaponry, and the
familiarity of working in an airport. An airport is a very live
environment and in a short space of time it changes for all sorts
of reasons. I would say knowing the territory is a fundamental
part of any response team.
1381. Presumably you are not referring to Special
Forces in this?
(Mr Hutcheson) I am not referring to Special Forces.
They have a very key role in responding to specific instances
which are clearly defined and well written in the contingency
plans. I was talking about going back to the 1970s almost with
the ring of steel where you would have the Guards Division patrolling
in light tanks and all sorts of things.
1382. I remember it well.
(Mr Hutcheson) I think in a modern day airport that
perhaps there is not any room for that. There may well be a point
where military aid to the civil power needs to be activated. Certainly
before I retired from the police service I was confident that
there were sufficient arrangements in place to deploy the military
in certain scenarios, but it was not in a counter-terrorist role.
1383. We have had some very sensitive and extensive
briefings on the armed forces' response to a rogue aircraft. How
much involvement did you have in that process?
(Mr Hutcheson) Very little.
(Mr Hutcheson) I have been to a couple of meetings
where it was discussed. Are you talking about intervention?
1385. I am talking about a hijacked aircraft
which is flying towards London and has to be dealt with by the
(Mr Hutcheson) Very little. That is not seen as an
airport issue. I was at a meeting where it was initially discussed
but then it was taken up in other forums.
1386. Thank you. What views have you got about
any other roles that the armed forces could play in aviation security,
(Mr Hutcheson) I am kind of stuck for an answer really
because I think if you are going to use people in aviation security
they almost need to be used on a daily basis. I also believe that
the armed forces have got fairly finite resources and it might
not be the best use of those resources to put them in airports
except in extreme emergencies.
1387. And highly specialist roles?
(Mr Hutcheson) Yes.
1388. And reassurance in the event of a major
(Mr Hutcheson) There may well be a stage where to
reassure people that the airport is a safe environment you might
have to deploy them at key installations. If you go back to the
Gulf War, I do not think the military were deployed at the airport
then. The last time the military was seriously deployed at Heathrow,
for example, was in 1985-86 following the incidents at Rome and
Vienna airports when there were the spontaneous attacks on Israeli
passengers at both Rome and Vienna. At that point it was considered
that the police presence at Heathrow was inadequately armed to
deal with a spontaneous armed attack so the military were called
in to give cover for three months whilst the police service were
completely rearmed and taught brand new tactics. I remember that
because I was responsible for it all. I can see that in set circumstances
there are roles. The military are very adaptive, very versatile
in what they do, and I would not be as arrogant to say that they
have not got a role in an airport but I think it is in very specific
and clearly defined circumstances.
1389. Do you believe that the principle that
the aviation industry should pay for the security measures required
by the Government has been challenged since 11 September? As a
second half, an insurance question, who should underwrite terrorism
cover and should national governments get involved in that?
(Mr Jack) If I can respond to the question of Government
funding, I mentioned that issue earlier. I think 11 September
demonstrated that there was a Government responsibility to protect
citizens on the ground as well as in the air. Remember also that
there were people killed on the ground at Lockerbie. The industry
has been required to pay for all the measures to counter the threat,
which actually is not a threat against the industry but is a threat
against the state, and I think that is quite unreasonable. There
are anomalies between States where some States do make contributions
and others, particularly the United Kingdom, do not. In the European
scenario the Parliament are debating on Monday and one of the
issues there is that of State funding. If that is not carried
through and the anomalies remain the Commission is sensitive to
the fact that there will be claims for unfair competition from
the industry because some States are contributing and others are
not. Given the scenario of protecting citizens both in the air
and on the ground the industry view, which I went through earlier,
is very clearly that it should be a State responsibility.
(Mr Hutcheson) Just adding to what Iain said. If that
argument is not an acceptable argument I think there could be
an argument that says as we operate those businesses there is
a responsibility, legal and moral, that we should provide a level
of Safety and Security that reassures our staff and our passengers
but you get to a level as to how much can a private industry support.
If you look at the policing of airports in the UK that is particularly
an issue in that BAA currently pay £40 million for the policing
at UK airports and that is driven by legislation that was first
passed in 1974 and brigaded up into the Aviation Security Act
of 1982. I think there comes a point where reasonableness must
actually apply to say how much more can a business sustain because
there is no exemption from the business rate. The Department of
the Environment and the Treasury view is that the business rate
is a national tax and you cannot equate a national tax with the
provision of services. If you would like to look at it from the
business point of view it is a double-whammy, we pay a tax for
services that other industries get that we do not get, we have
to pay for. It applies to things other than policing, refuse collection
for example. I do believe there comes a point where funding is
almost critical, that you reach a level of expenditure that might
be beyond a business. I am not specifically talking about BAA
here, I am talking about other airports. Expenditure for security
reaches a point where it almost becomes a disincentive to continue
to operate. I think there is a level at which the threat, which
Iain says is a manifestation of the threat against the state,
should be picked up by the state. Where that level is could be
a matter of debate. I am conscious that these issues have been
raised by David Veness within Cabinet Office forums. I was told
this afternoon that there is to be a review of the policing of
airports. Policing of airports is only one element of the overall
security cost. Where we see ourselves disadvantaged is not in
having to pay the cost, it is that we as the leading airport in
the UK, ie Heathrow, are competing with Charles de Gaulle, Schipol
and Frankfurt where there are high levels of state funding, so
we may be disadvantaged in fighting for the rights of UK plc in
that arena. That is all I would like to say about that.
1390. It must involve European legislation as
(Mr Hutcheson) The European legislation is where it
is hung up at this moment in time. The Parliament and the Commission
are agreed that the funding of aviation security should be state
funded but the Council of Ministers, led by the UK, disagree with
that view. My understanding is that there is a plenary session
next Monday and if they cannot reach some form of compromise it
will have to go to conciliation. In many ways the funding issue
is holding up the deliverance of EU legislation.
1391. Gentlemen, thank you both very much, that
was really very interesting indeed. If you have any additional
information or points of view that you would like to pass to us
please do so. There are some areas of interest in terms of conditions
for security staff, training, which would be really helpful, so
perhaps we can come back to you. Good luck, Mr Jack, in your new
career. I suppose there must be another one afterwards. You really
are collecting careers like some footballers collect football
(Mr Jack) I commend a new career to you, it gives
Chairman: I am sure it does. Thank you both