Government Response |
The Government welcomes the report by the Home Affairs
Select Committee (HASC) into Aviation Security and is grateful
for the opportunity to give evidence to the HASC afforded to both
the Home Office and the Department for Transport.
The Government is also appreciative of the depth
of thought and range of issues covered by the Committee. A number
of recommendations have been made by the Select Committee and
the Government has sought to provide a response to each of these
While this response is prepared by the Department
for Transport, as the Department with lead responsibility for
transport security, the Home Office has also provided input into
it and the response has been shared with the Home Secretary.
1. The wider introduction of full-body scanners
is a welcome development in airport security. We look forward
to improvements in technology which will allow more effective
and quicker scanners and urge the Government to work closely with
industry in developing and introducing newer, improved models
that would be more than 60% effective. We also recommend that
the Government place greater emphasis on varying the measures
put in place rather than relying on a mass deployment of one make
and model. Passengers, and terrorists, should not know what regime
they will face when they arrive at airports; greater unpredictability
and a higher level of deterrence is needed in airport security
We continue to put into place a layered approach
to airport security, which is in line with the Committee's recommendations.
This means that there are variety of methods and techniques in
operation at any one time all designed to detect potential threats
to aviation. Security (body) scanners are an addition to this
Passengers are, therefore, not able to predict the
exact search methods or technologies that will be used for them
individually as they pass through the search comb.
We recognise the need for the introduction of security
scanner technology. Broadly speaking there are currently two main
types of scanner commercially available capable of detecting threat
items concealed on the person. They use either backscatter X-ray
or active millimetre wave technologies. The DfT has approved several
makes and models of technology for use by the industry. The decision
on which specific scanner to deploy is for airports to determine.
We agree with the Committee that it is important
that manufacturers develop new scanners which are quicker, smaller
and cheaper. We are working with the manufacturers to encourage
EC regulations currently restrict the use of security
scanners to being used as an additional measure once passengers
have already been through existing security controlsmetal
detectors and hand searches. However, an EC-approved trial is
being conducted at Manchester airport to use scanners as a means
of resolving alarms generated by existing security controls. The
trial is showing that using scanners in this way can increase
the detection of potential threats, whilst facilitating
the quicker transit of passengers through security and efficiency
savings for the airport operator.
2. The institution of "proportionate"
measures, as described by Paul Clark strikes us as a euphemism
for adopting a wholly reactive stance and waiting for terrorists
to demonstrate their new capabilities before implementing improved
security measures. In view of the ongoing terrorist threat to
airline passengers and staff we urge the Government to constantly
look for further technological measures to improve airport security.
This should be matter of the utmost priority for the Ministers
All transport security measures are kept proportionate
to the prevailing threat from terrorism. This approach balances
the need for security against the need to keep passengers' journeys
as free-flowing as possible. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre
keeps TRANSEC and other stakeholders informed of the prevailing
threat to transport in the UK so that the appropriate security
measures are put in place.
Building on science and technological developments
in the field, TRANSEC works closely with manufacturers to promote
development of new means of screening and takes a leading role
in European and other international fora for developing technologies
in this field. TRANSEC has its own Research Analysis and Development
team and contributes to and benefits from cross departmental CONTEST
Science and Technology Programme.
More generally, the Government is committed to enhancing
technology where this can benefit aviation security, airports,
crowded places and other areas at threat of attack. In the case
of airports we are working to align the technologies and security
checks at our airports in order to strengthen security and improve
passenger flows. Frontline staff at airports, including airport
security staff, the UKBA border force and the police, all play
a vital role. We are working across Government to develop a more
holistic approach incorporating the work by the UK Border Agency
on border checks and identity assurance and cross government work
within the CONTEST Science and Technology programme. This programme
combines detection capabilities, border control measures, passenger
data checks, policing and physical security. Part of this work
includes a large scale technology demonstrator at a trial airport
and a wide ranging engagement with industry and academia to identify
innovative approaches to explosives detection. Together with the
traveller centred approach within immigration, customs and police
controls, this combination of a systems approach and innovation
in key technology areas will help to address new and future threats.
3. If done correctly, profiling is clearly
a powerful tool against terrorismthe earlier and more precisely
that a threat can be identified, the easier the security operation
will be; terrorist activity does not make a distinction between
people of different origins, faiths or nationality. While we therefore
cautiously recommend the use of profiling, we note that its use
is also fraught with danger, as we have also noted in our Report
into The Cocaine Trade, targeted security should not be perceived
to be undertaken on crude racial or ethnic grounds. The code of
practice announced by Lord Adonis on 1 February is therefore welcome.
The Government should now take steps to publicise its existence
and ensure that airport staff adhere to the guidelines. In addition
to the requirement in the draft code of practice that security
officers must have completed appropriate training, the Government,
should also mandate universal Behaviour Assessment and Security
Screening (BASS) training, or similar, for all airport security
staff at all UK airports, not just those operated by BAA, as a
condition of employment.
The Government makes an important distinction between
'profiling' where passengers are selected on the basis of personal
characteristics, possibly in a potentially discriminatory manner
and "targeting" where selection is made based on prior
information and / or intelligence or on the basis of showing certain
behaviours. Behavioural analysis may be one means of doing this.
The trial currently underway at Heathrow is intended to determine
the effectiveness of this method in a counter-terrorism environment.
We will make decisions, along with airport operators, about whether,
and if so how, it might be more widely deployed in the light of
the independent scientific evaluation of the trial.
The previous Government decided to introduce security
scanners in January given the threat at the time. An 'interim
code of practice for the acceptable use of advanced imaging technology
in an aviation security environment' was produced at the time
to cover that deployment, which provides clear safeguards for
the use of security scanners at airports and addresses concerns
about how people will be chosen for scanning. Passengers must
not be selected on the basis of personal characteristics (i.e.
on a basis that may constitute discrimination such as gender,
age, race or ethnic origin).' It is publicly available on the
Department's website. It is also the responsibility of the airlines
to inform passengers of the terms and conditions of carriage.
We are currently consulting on what a final code
of practice for security scanners should containincluding
in relation to how passengers are selected for scanningand
this consultation document can also be found on the DfT website.
The UK believes that EU regulations should require member states
to produce and publish codes of practice which set out how passengers'
rights will be protected under applicable European and national
4. Given the importance of explosive trace
detection (ETD) equipment, particularly in conjunction with the
introduction of "profiling", we do not understand why
its introduction on a wider scale is not required before 31 December
2010. We still have not received a satisfactory answer as to why
there is such a discrepancy in deadlines between the introduction
of body scanners and trace detection equipment. We recommend that
the Government speed up the deployment of ETD equipment and inform
us why wider deployment will take up to 12 months.
Following the 'Detroit' incident on Christmas Day
the then Secretary of State for Transport considered a number
of options and decided, in consultation with industry, to mandate
the introduction of Electronic Trace Detection and said that all
regulated airports must have ETD deployed no later than 30.12.10.
In doing so he recognised that a) the total number of passengers
currently moving through an airport without ETD was extremely
low, b) that those airports currently without ETD may need time
to fund, purchase and deploy ETD equipment (and the associated
staff training that would form part of the package) and c) doing
nothing 'extra' in the meantime was not an option. As such those
few airports not currently employing ETD are required to conduct
additional searches of passengers and their cabin baggage until
such time as ETD is deployed.
5. While we appreciate that certain technical
measures on the implementation of the proposed lists have yet
to be decided, we are surprised that the Government is unable
to share some relatively basic information on how the new system
will operate. For example, it is disappointing that the Government
cannot estimate, even to a low degree of accuracy, how large such
lists are intended to be. Pending the results of the Home Office
implementation review, we will not comment on the effectiveness
of the "watchlist" measures except to suggest that this
review should be completed as soon as possible and the results
shared with the Committee. While we await this information we
note the statement from Colonel Richard Kemp, a security expert,
on the general effectiveness of watchlists: "These things
are important but are only as good as the intelligence that feeds
into them and only as good as the conscientiousness with which
the information is spread around the place".
The current UK watchlisting system was designed and
is still predominantly used for immigration purposes. However
it is also used for listing individuals of interest for a variety
of other purposes including law enforcement, national security
including counter terrorism reasons. The watchlisting system is
a long established tool in helping to detect persons of counter
terrorism interest at the border, especially by police and by
the UK Border Agency through their checks overseas in the
visa issuance process, and their in-country checks on persons
applying for changes to their immigration status when already
within the UK.
The intention in the future is also to use the watchlisting
system as a means for identifying individuals on no fly or enhanced
screening lists before they travel, and to seek to prevent them
from travelling. The issues identified by the Committee in the
report, and also in further correspondence to the then security
minister, are ones which are the subject of ongoing consideration
to ensure that legislation, systems and processes may enable these
new schemes to be operated effectively.
6. International standards in aviation security
must be made tougher and the Government must push for tighter
measures both in the EU and ICAO, while reserving the right to
unilaterally refuse direct flights from countries which are unwilling
to agree tougher standards and encouraging ICAO to be more willing
to impose sanctions where needed. Rather than merely negotiating
a reasonable outcome with the country concerned, the Government
should be more willing to refuse direct flights, which in turn
would create a commercial incentive for all states to improve
their security regime. Help, both financial and technical, should
be provided to help all willing states unable to reach the higher
baseline. During this inquiry we have heard that a full-body scanner
costs in the region of £100,000, it is clear that the funding
allocated to the CTRF could therefore provide much in the way
of equipment and training.
The Government is aware of the rationale for this
recommendation. We are working hard internationallyboth
bilaterally, with our European partners and via ICAO, to drive
up worldwide security standards. While financial constraints mean
that it is difficult to provide direct help to 'all' countries
in need of assistance, we are improving our co-ordination efforts
with other donor states to ensure best use of the £2m we
spend on technical assistance each year. As has been shown through
the decision to suspend direct flights from Yemen, we will not
hesitate to take firm action where necessary.
7. More must be done to tackle terrorism at
the source; it will not be enough merely to improve security at
British airports. Despite the work done by the Department of Transport
overseas it is clear that weak points exist in global airport
security and the security regime in some countries, through a
combination of a lack of resources and training, will be relatively
lax. The British Government should do more, more quickly to improve
airport security across the globe, particularly in identified
"hot spots" of terrorist activity. We therefore welcome
the funding allocated through the CTRF and urge the Government
to ensure a much greater provision of direct help in the form
of body scanners, ETD equipment and training to vulnerable areas.
The Department for Transport has been delivering
aviation security capacity building overseas since 2005 using
the Countering Terrorism and Radicalisation (CTR) Funding with
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Post Detroit the Department for Transport has realigned
its capacity building programme to accelerate and prioritise those
projects most relevant to the low/no metal threat. It has assessed
the state of screening techniques and the need for further projects
in key countries. More than double the CTR funding from
the previous year has been made available in 2010/2011 for direct
help in the form of provision of Explosive Trace Detection equipment
and training in 9 states; X-ray equipment and training in 2 states
and for the delivery of complementary aviation security training
in these and 8 other states. Subject to the CTR Funding
programme review it is hoped that funding will be made available
for further training in another 5 key states.
8. Having witnessed these full-body scanners
working at first-hand, we are confident that the privacy concerns
that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated
and that full body scanners are no more an invasion of privacy
than manual "pat-downs" or searches of bags. Air passengers
already tolerate a large invasion of their privacy and we do not
feel that full body scanners add greatly to this situation. Privacy
concerns should not prevent the deployment of scanners.
The Government welcomes the Committee's view. However
privacy concerns are something that we take extremely seriously.
The interim code of practice seeks to reassure passengers that
suitable safeguards are in place to respect their privacy. We
welcome further comments on this as part of the ongoing consultation.
9. Colonel Richard Kemp, an acknowledged expert
in security matters, was correct to place great importance on
the human aspect of security measures and, while we would not
advocate the Government unilaterally mandating tougher measures
and regulations without the cooperation of the industry, we are
concerned that Lord Adonis' letter of 19 February suggests a somewhat
laissez-faire attitude on the part of the Government towards the
matter of airport security staff.
The Government is actively involved in working with
the industry in this area. We have jointly completed a number
of risk assessments which are being utilised to inform work on
possible countermeasures. They will also provide information for
work being undertaken this year on a code of practice together
with the wider review of staff measures in relation to aviation
In addition, European regulations introduced this
year included the expansion of overseas criminal record checking
for a wider number of airport staff. The UK continues to enhance
the recruitment requirements imposed under the European regulations
where they feel it merits a greater degree of assurance for those
staff deployed on certain key security duties.
10. The fact that the deployment of staff
is an "operational decision" should not prevent the
Government from imposing improved security measures where it deems
them necessary. In particular, the Government should work more
closely with airport operators and security contractors to ensure
adequate deployment of female security staff at security checkpoints
and to develop and institute an universal improved training regime
for all security staff deployed at all UK airports.
The Department for Transport welcomes the recommendation
on male / female staffing levels at UK airports; however we are
not aware of any particular shortfall in staff of either gender.
As the Committee notes, detailed decisions concerning the recruitment
and deployment of staff are for airport operators themselves to
Training for UK aviation security staff is governed
by European regulations which can be, and are, supplemented where
we consider this is justified. Mandatory training syllabuses detail
how the training requirements should be met. DfT officials
regularly meet with industry stakeholders to review the effectiveness
of security trainingwhere the need for improvements is
identified these are introduced in consultation with industry.
11. The Government is correct not to publicise
every measure that it is taking, but should do more to camouflage
and hide the technical specifications of security equipment. An
initial step that the Government should take would be to insist
that, as far as possible, the outside of security equipment is
standardised and its technical specifications hidden from passengers.
The Department for Transport assesses the detection
performance of security screening equipment used in UK airports,
but does not specify the exact design of the product, since this
could limit the development of innovative new detection systems
and potentially generate unfair commercial barriers. The technical
performance specifications are never visible to passengers, and
whilst advertising and logos could be removed from equipment,
the overall design may still be used to identify the equipment
through internet searches. Given that screening methodologies
are protected from disclosure, we do not anticipate that these
would be shared.
12. The threat of terrorist attacks against
airports and airplanes, as we noted earlier, is very real and
ongoing. We therefore welcome the steps announced in the aftermath
of the attempted attack of 25 December and urge the Government
to speed up the roll-out of body scanners, and, particularly,
Explosive Trace Detection equipment. We are confident that both
of these devices and the other announced measures will form a
better, "multi-layered" security regime.
We would agree that deployment, as a rule, should
be made by the airport operators to reflect the prevailing threat.
That said no one security measure is effective against all threats
and that is why we employ a multi-layered approach to airport
security, meaning that passengers never know exactly what measures
they will face before they fly. As indicated earlier, the use
of Explosive Trace Detection equipment will be a mandated requirement
with effect from the end of the year.
13. Airport security should not be viewed
as something which occurs purely once a passenger steps into an
airport terminal, but should begin the moment that a ticket is
booked. In this context, the demarcation between transport security
("Transec") based in the Department for Transport and
wider counter-terrorism activity, centred in the Office for Security
and Counter-Terrorism, based in the Home Office is unhelpful.
We do not understand why transport security remains institutionally
separate from wider counter-terrorism work and intelligence-gathering,
and we cannot see the benefits of this separation of responsibility.
Close collaboration between Government departments is a poor substitute
for centralising policy and control under one roof. We recommend
that Transec becomes the responsibility of the Home Office under
the auspices of the OSCT.
The Department for Transport is closely involved
in delivering the 'Protect' strand of CONTEST, working closely
with the Home Office and other agencies. As the Department for
Transport is also a security regulator for the transport industry,
there are benefits from organising these regulatory responsibilities
alongside wider responsibility for transport as a whole. In addition
the Department for Transport as a whole has significant and long
established links with the aviation industry and these help TRANSEC
to deliver its regulatory responsibilities.
The Government believes that the best way to deal
with security matters is through effective co-ordination between
the various agencies. There are a number of processes initiated
by the new Government which will be looking across the Counter
Terrorism landscape and reviewing current systems, practices and
organisational structures. In addition to the newly established
National Security Council, the Cabinet Office is leading the 'Strategic
Defence and Security Review' reporting in the autumn.