Aviation and Border Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 5th January 2010.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:55 pm, 5th January 2010

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the failed attempt to destroy a passenger plane at Detroit airport on Christmas day and its implications for national security. My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will make this statement in the other place.

On 24 December, Umah Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, travelled from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he boarded Northwestern Airlines flight 253 to Detroit. As the flight was approaching Detroit on Christmas day, he detonated a device that was strapped to his upper thigh and groin area which resulted in a fire and a small explosion. He was restrained and subdued by passengers and flight crew and he remains in custody in the US.

Authorities in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Yemen are now doing everything they can to piece together Abdulmutallab's movements shortly before this attack, and are considering what urgent steps need to be taken to prevent further attacks of this nature.

It is an issue of grave concern that the explosive device was not detected by airport security in either Lagos or Amsterdam. As has been widely reported, Abdulmutallab attended University college London between 2005 and 2008, where he completed a degree in engineering. During this time he was known to the Security Service but not as somebody engaged in violent extremism. His family and friends have stated their belief that he turned to this during his time in Yemen.

From the information we have currently, it is not possible to chart with absolute certainty Abdulmutallab's exact movements after he left the UK in 2008. He is known to have spent several months studying international business at a university in Dubai and in August 2009 he travelled to Yemen, where he is thought to have stayed until December before returning to west Africa. He came to the attention of UK authorities again on 28 April 2009 when he applied for a multi-entry student visitor visa to attend an eight-day course provided by Discovery Life Coaching based in east London. The UK Border Agency refused his visa application because Discovery did not hold a valid accreditation with a UKBA-approved body and was not eligible to sponsor international students.

Since March 2009, only institutions which are either tier 4 sponsors or hold valid accreditation are permitted to bring in short-term foreign students from outside the European economic area. Universities and colleges must be able to demonstrate that they are offering genuine courses that will benefit students seeking to study in the UK. This new regime has reduced the number of institutions able to bring students to the UK from over 4,000 to approximately 2,000. Following the refusal of his application, Abdulmutallab's name was added to the UKBA watch list.

In the light of the serious questions that this incident has raised, I want to set out today, first, the immediate steps that we are taking to tighten aviation security, secondly, what measures we are taking to prevent radicalisation in our universities, and thirdly the actions we are taking to disrupt al-Qaeda in countries where it is known to be active, in order to prevent future terrorist attacks, and to improve co-operation with our international partners.

It is of great concern that Abdulmutallab was able to penetrate airport security at Amsterdam. The device he used had clearly been constructed with the precise aim of making detection by existing screening methods extremely difficult.

Abdulmutallab underwent a security check at Schipol airport in Amsterdam, as do all passengers transferring from Nigeria to another flight. Although Schipol airport is trialling body scanners, they were not in use for that flight. He passed through a metal detection gate, which would have detected objects such as explosive devices with metallic components, and knives and firearms. However, certain types of explosive, without metallic parts and which can also concealed next to the body, cannot be detected by that technology, which is the reason why airports also search passengers at random.

To defeat the terrorist threat requires constant vigilance and adaptability. A great deal of progress has been made in enhancing aviation and border security since 9/11; but terrorists are inventive, the scale and nature of the threat changes, and new technology needs to be harnessed to meet new threats, while minimising inconvenience to passengers.

Last year, we issued new public guidance to the industry on our technical requirements for screening and the detection of improvised explosive devices. The Prime Minister instigated an urgent review of airport security following the incident in Detroit. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I have been intensively engaged in the review, and we are today setting out our initial steps.

It is clear that no one measure will be enough to defeat inventive and determined terrorists, and there is no single technology that we can guarantee will be 100 per cent. effective against such attacks. Airport security is multifaceted and needs to adapt constantly to evolving threats. We therefore intend to make changes to our aviation security regime.

Air passengers are already used to being searched by hand, and having their baggage tested for traces of explosives. The Government will direct airports to increase the proportion of passengers searched in that way. There may be some additional delays as airports adapt, but I am sure the travelling public will appreciate the reasons behind this.

The Transport Secretary has brought into force new restrictions that tighten up security screening for transit passengers, and is reviewing the support we provide for security standards in airports operating direct flights to the UK. Passengers will see an increased presence of detection or sniffer dogs at airports to add to our explosives detection capability.

We also intend to introduce more body scanners. The first scanners will be deployed in around three weeks at Heathrow. Over time, they will be introduced more widely, and we will be requiring all UK airports to introduce explosive trace detection equipment by the end of the year. We are discussing urgently with the airport industry the best way of doing all this, which will include a code of practice dealing with the operational and privacy issues involved.

BAA has started training airport security staff in behavioural analysis techniques, which will help them to spot passengers acting unusually and target them for additional search. Beyond that, we are examining carefully whether additional targeted passenger profiling might help to enhance airport security. We will be considering all the issues involved, mindful of civil liberties concerns, aware that identity-based profiling has its limitations, but conscious of our overriding obligations to protect people's life and liberty.

These measures build on the substantial progress we have made in recent years to strengthen our borders. The roll-out of e-Borders, which will check passengers, including those in transit, against the watch list, will be 95 per cent. complete by the end of this year, and makes us one of only a handful of countries to have the technology that can carry out advanced passenger data checks against our watch list before people travel to the UK. Those who apply for a visa-whether they do so from Bangkok, Lahore or Pretoria-have to provide fingerprints and their records are checked against our watch list, which holds over a million records of known criminals, terrorists, people who have tried to enter the country illegally or been deported, and those who agencies consider a threat to our security.

Through the e-Borders programme and through screening passengers against the watch list, we have since 2005 made 4,900 arrests for crimes including murder, rape and assault. In addition, UK Border Agency staff based overseas, working with airlines, prevented more than 65,000 inadequately documented passengers from travelling to the UK during 2009.

Abdulmutallab's failed attack highlights the importance of information sharing between the various agencies about people who pose a threat to our security. The UK watch list is managed by the UK Border Agency and incorporates intelligence from the law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies into a single index. Nevertheless, although the integrated approach works very well, we want to see if we can further strengthen it. The Home Office will therefore be conducting an urgent review of the robustness of our watch list. The review will report to me in two weeks and, subject to security restrictions, I will report the findings to Parliament.

The House will no doubt be concerned about the possibility that Abdulmutallab's radicalisation may have begun or been fuelled during his time studying at University college London. It is important to remember that the values of openness, intellectual scrutiny and the freedom of debate and tolerance promoted in higher education are one of the most effective ways of challenging views which we may find abhorrent but that remain within the law.

However, we know that a small minority of people supporting violent extremism have actively sought to influence and recruit people through targeting learners in colleges and universities, and we must offer universities the best advice and guidance to help prevent extremism. As part of a measured and effective response to the threat, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published guidance on managing the risk of violent extremism in universities, and is working closely with universities in priority areas to provide targeted support.

Alongside this, each university has a designated police security contact with which university management can discuss concerns. The Prevent strand of Contest, our counter-terrorism strategy, works closely with the higher and further education sectors and funds a full-time Prevent officer at the National Union of Students. As I have said, Abdulmutallab's family believe he turned to violent extremism after leaving the UK, but we need to ensure that this close co-operation continues in our efforts to stop radicalisation of young people in our colleges and universities.

Finally, I want to say something about our work internationally and the steps that the Government are taking abroad to disrupt al-Qaeda wherever they are active. Our success in tackling the international terror threat depends on strong relationships with our international partnerships. In our efforts to thwart al-Qaeda, we have a long-standing, productive partnership with the US.

I am not prepared to go into detail on this particular case about what was shared with the US and when. It is an established and accepted principle that we do not routinely comment on intelligence matters. Moreover, some of these issues are still current and are highly sensitive. However, I would like to clarify that although we did, in line with standard working procedures, provide information to the US linked to the wider aspects of this case, none of the information that we held or shared indicated that Abdulmutallab was about to attempt a terrorist attack against the US.

This morning, I met Jane Lute, the US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security. We discussed how over the coming months, in the light of this failed attack, we will work together with other international partners to maintain public confidence in aviation security and deepen our partnership to disrupt al-Qaeda's activities overseas. Pushed out of Afghanistan and under increasing pressure in the border areas of Pakistan, affiliates and allies of al-Qaeda-such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group claiming responsibility for the Detroit bombing-have raised their profile. With the failed Detroit attack they have again demonstrated their intent to attack innocent people across the world.

The aim of our counter-terrorism strategy is not just to reduce our own vulnerability, but to dismantle those terrorist organisations which pose a threat to the UK, whether at home or abroad.

Al-Qaeda will take any opportunity to exploit ungoverned space and instability. Whether the threat is in the Sahel, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan, we must support Governments and work with partners to address both the threat of attack and the underlying causes of extremism and instability. We have been working with the Yemeni Government, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary just said, for a number of years, helping to improve their law-enforcement, intelligence and security apparatus, and to disrupt al-Qaeda and deny them a safe haven in Yemen for the future. We are also one of the leading donors on development in the country-our current commitment standing at £100 million by 2011.

We recognise the need to strengthen further our partnership with countries in the region and beyond so that we can co-ordinate our efforts against al-Qaeda more effectively and provide greater support for the Yemeni people to reject violent extremism. International co-operation is critical to meeting what is a global threat, and the coming together of the international community in London later this month to discuss Yemen will be an important step towards security in Yemen and across the globe.

It is important to reiterate that the incident was a failed attack on the US by a Nigerian national-someone who was refused entry to the UK and who, it seems, was radicalised after he left this country. However, there are lessons to be learned by the international community, and the measures that I have outlined will provide the UK with greater protection from terrorist attack. Along with our work overseas and with our international partners, enhanced airport security and more thorough collation of intelligence, we will be able to strengthen our efforts to tackle the root cause of violent extremism and reduce the threat of future attack.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for providing me with an advance copy of his statement. I shall start with airport security.

We all accept that as we learn the lessons from the recent plot, happily an unsuccessful one, additional security measures will have to be taken. The use of more sophisticated scanning technologies is inevitable, although we will have to make sure that sensible measures are taken to protect privacy. However, the Home Secretary's statement is ambiguous about scanners, so will he clarify whether he plans to make full-body scanners compulsory at all UK airports? He talked about e-Borders, so will he also clarify the situation with the European Union over the use of the e-Borders project? Will there be European legal restrictions on the use of the e-Borders database?

We believe that it is necessary to take a more intelligence-led approach to airport security, as well as to watch carefully for suspicious behaviour by passengers, so the Government will have our support in taking prudent measures to protect passengers. Those matters of judgment must be kept under constant review, even if there is public attention only when the security measures are challenged.

However, the person who should be before the House explaining himself this afternoon is not the Home Secretary but the Prime Minister. Twice in three days the Prime Minister has been caught out making false claims about the contacts that have taken place between Britain and the United States over the airline bomb plot and the security threat to our airports. On Sunday he admitted to the BBC that supposed discussions between himself and President Obama about the bomb plot and the situation in Yemen had not actually taken place. Then, yesterday, he claimed that Britain had supplied to the United States in 2008 intelligence about the bomb suspect and his links to extremists-a claim that Downing Street now admits was untrue. This Government, the House will remember, have systematically misused intelligence data over the years, most notably in relation to the so-called dodgy dossier. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is absolutely unacceptable for the Prime Minister-the man who leads our Government-to exaggerate, mislead on or spin intelligence information, particularly when it relates to a terrorist threat?

The Home Secretary told the House this afternoon: "It is an established and accepted principle that we do not routinely comment on intelligence matters." Why did the Prime Minister and Downing street break that principle this week? Does the Home Secretary agree also that it is damaging to our most important intelligence relationship, with the United States, for Downing street to disseminate information in such an inaccurate and cavalier way?

The entire House will be relieved that on this occasion the bomb plot was unsuccessful. It will serve as a strong reminder to Governments across the world of the ever-present terrorist threat and the fact that we all need to remain vigilant about that threat as well as united in a determination to defeat it.

It is also worth saying that the threat from a small group of Islamic extremists in no way represents the views and beliefs of the vast majority of decent, law-abiding Muslim people in this country and around the world. People of all faiths have been victims of terrorists over the past decade, and we must all stand together against that threat. However, that task has not been helped by the actions of Downing street in recent days.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I regret the fact that the hon. Gentleman uses this very tense time to score cheap party political points. I saw lots of faces among those on the Conservative Benches looking appalled that this situation should be used to make a personal attack on the Prime Minister.

The hon. Gentleman made only three points that I believe are relevant to this issue. First, on the number of full-body scanners, we now need to work with the airline industry to decide how many of these scanners we can have and where we can locate them. As I said, we will have the first ready at Heathrow within three weeks. Thereafter, they will become much more widely available in terms of the capacity to manufacture them and put them in place and the need to get from the various airline companies their authority, agreement and input.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the EU situation. That was clarified just before Christmas when, thankfully, the Commission agreed that there were no Community issues about the transfer of information. That obviously still requires the countries transferring the information to agree their data-processing techniques, but there is no EU issue; that is what the Commission was originally looking at.

The third point was about our use of intelligence and our co-operation with the United States. As I said, the Prime Minister was absolutely right that we did share information with the US. We do not routinely comment on the nature of such information or the information itself. None of that information suggested that Abdulmutallab was planning a terrorist plot. Incidentally, as I mentioned, I met Jane Lute, the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security, this morning, and she did not mention this matter at all. We spoke about the productive way we can work together to deal with these issues. There is absolutely no relationship in the world stronger than the relationship between the UK and the US, particularly on counter-terrorism, where we work closely together and will continue to do so in the light of this latest threat.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Home Secretary

I, too, thank the Home Secretary for early sight of his statement.

The Home Secretary's announcement that scanners are to be rolled out quickly at British airports is certainly welcome. However, his statement raises several questions. First, can he confirm that such scanners would have been effective in detecting the substances carried by Umah Farouk Abdulmutallab? Secondly, why has it taken him so long to act, given that these scanners have already been trialled and that four are reported to be in storage at Heathrow? Thirdly, will he respect those who may have a deep-felt objection to the scanners by allowing them to opt instead for a body-pat search, for example as part of his code of conduct? What assurance will he give that images of children and others will not be stored?

The Home Secretary opens the door to profiling, but what does this mean? If he means additional searches for those with suspicious travel patterns, then I am sure that I speak for everybody in this House when I ask who could object? But if he means stopping everyone who looks Asian, then I fear that he will alienate exactly those communities whose co-operation we need in the fight against terrorism. Which is it?

Then there is information sharing, which the Home Secretary really cannot dismiss by saying that the Government do not comment on intelligence matters, particularly in the light of recent events in Downing street. Can he confirm the account of a Downing street spokesman that Britain told US intelligence more than a year ago that the Detroit bomber had links to extremists? Can he confirm-this is not an intelligence matter-that the US was informed after that person was placed on a UK watch list? In the light of those contradictions and the open spat with our closest ally, what measures are the Government taking to improve liaison with the United States, or possibly with the Prime Minister's press operation?

Given that the Detroit bomber transited through Schiphol, were the Dutch authorities notified bilaterally of our concerns at any point? Had we shared our information with our European partners through either Europol or other routes, and what mechanism is there for one EU country to become aware of such intelligence on a suspected radical held or collected by another EU country? Do we routinely share information about our watch lists with our European counterparts even for passengers who are only in transit? In the light of the attempted attack, do those systems need to be improved?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

On whether scanners would have been effective in relation to Abdulmutallab, the indications are that given where the PETN was placed, there would have been a 50 to 60 per cent. chance of its being detected. That is the view of most people who operate the scanners, so the scanners themselves are not the magic bullet. A British company, Smiths Industries, is developing the technology all the time, and we need the next wave of technology with explosive detection as well as body imaging to move ahead very quickly.

I do not accept that we took a long time to act. This happened on Christmas day, and over the Christmas period my colleague the Secretary of State for Transport has been discussing with the airlines the availability of equipment. There was one body scanner at Manchester and a number have been mothballed in Heathrow on a trial basis, but whether they are serviceable or need to be updated has been the subject of the conversation. Today's announcement is the earliest possible time to get moving.

The issue of privacy will be important, but all the images are destroyed immediately and the person responsible for the scanning is in a completely separate room, as anybody who has seen the system in Manchester or the version in Glasgow operating will know, so there is no immediate contact between the person doing the imaging and the person being imaged. Privacy considerations are important, but I believe that we can ensure that those who have concerns can be satisfied. I do not foresee a situation in which people can simply object to a body scan. We need to use the scanners perhaps not as the first line of our defence but as the second line, on a random basis.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the important issue of profiling. I said in my statement that I recognised the sensitivities of that matter. Anyone can examine the case of Anne Mary Murphy in 1986, who was a pregnant woman inveigled by her Syrian boyfriend to carry a bomb on to a flight to London. She would not have matched any profile, and in the case of someone like Richard Reid the name would not have alerted anyone. Nevertheless, whether we can deal with sensitivity issues must be part of our consideration of any defence that we can find to address the gap in our defences that Abdulmutallab found, although he was thankfully unsuccessful. We need to consider profiling while recognising the concerns and civil rights issues involved.

We share information all the time on a routine basis, and the US shares information with us. We did not inform the US that Abdulmutallab was on our watch list having been refused a student visa, because the case was not conducted with any concern that he was coming over to commit a terrorism incident. It was an immigration issue, and we would not share such information routinely with the US. We share other information with the US, and we share it routinely with our European partners, although if there were concerns about terrorism we would not wait for a watch list and for the plane to be taking off. It is outside Europe that we have the problem; as the hon. Gentleman well knows, we have a close relationship within the EU, which means that we deal with such security issues straight away. We do not wait for people to come to an airport and try to get on a plane to another country.

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Several hon. Members:

rose -

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. No fewer than 16 hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. As always, I should like to accommodate everybody, and the numbers should be perfectly manageable. I simply remind the House that there are two further statements to follow, and I reiterate my usual appeal for each hon. Member to ask a single, short supplementary question and, of course, for the Home Secretary to provide us with an economical reply.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Home Affairs Committee recently visited both Heathrow and Schiphol, and the Home Secretary is right to consult the airlines and be measured in his response. Of course, in principle, we should have the body scanners, but international co-operation is the most important aspect. I accept what he says about sharing information, but are there any more lessons to be learned about how we can improve the situation?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Doubtless there are. I recognise my right hon. Friend's expertise in the matter. In some countries, there are separate watch lists for security, for policing and crime, for people who have lost their passports and for immigration issues, but an integrated watch list serves us well. With e-Borders continually coming on stream, we can deal with the matter before the person has taken off. That is important, given that Abdulmutallab was not trying to enter a country, but to blow himself up before he landed. Whether he was in transit or his destination was this country did not therefore matter. We need to ensure the tightest possible control. Although it all worked well, I would be the last person to appear complacent. As the Prime Minister said, the incident is a wake-up call-every failed terrorist attempt must be picked to pieces so that we find anything that we can use to strengthen our defences. We intend to do that.

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Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor Conservative, Esher and Walton

Terrorists watch very carefully the technology that we deploy. Does the Home Secretary realise that the term "scanners" covers a wide range of things? Some use millimetre technology; others use terahertz; some require one to go through a box, and others can scan remotely in airport lounges or railway stations. Will the Government please institute a research programme? Several British companies are involved in such research, but the Government never pull through new technologies. We need to stay ahead of the terrorists, not deploy after an incident.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point. I do not accept that we have been slow in dealing with this. We are due to meet Smiths Industries shortly, and the document that Lord West, our security Minister, produced in August 2009 was specifically aimed at the scientific community and innovators to get things moving and find new ways to deal with such matters. It is important to stress that there is a great deal of British technology that we can exploit. We need to ensure that we get the right body scanners-that is one reason for talking to the airlines. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is a variety of scanners, and we need to use the most effective.

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Photo of John Reid John Reid Labour, Airdrie and Shotts

I refer the House to my interests in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. I welcome in particular the way in which the Home Secretary emphasised that there is no magic bullet for solving the problems. I say that in the light of recent media comments, particularly about full body scanners, which still require standardised procedures, are still in trials and so on. A range of search procedures and technologies is required. Above all, as Mr. Taylor said, constant innovation in our thinking must be embedded in everything that we do. Will the Home Secretary therefore build on Lord West's good work and ensure that a partnership of the Government, academia and private industry is given more resources so that we can we stay ahead of the curve and the terrorists' thinking in introducing new ways of terror?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend largely makes the same point as Mr. Taylor. I agree with it. It is perhaps another reason for redoubling our efforts to stay ahead of the terrorists. We will not deal with the matter through body scanners alone. Every day, sniffer dogs come into the Chamber, looking for PETN. Behavioural detection is another method, but even with all the techniques we can use, we can never guarantee 100 per cent. safety-there is no magic bullet. However, a lot of people out there are willing to innovate, work and provide equipment and the technological capacity that can move us to the next level. That is the main lesson of Detroit on 25 December.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

The Home Secretary is the lead on homeland security, but will he acknowledge the debt we owe to the Ministry of Defence personnel and the scientific civil servants working at defence science and technology laboratories at Porton Down in my constituency, and particularly at the Counter Terrorism Science and Technology Centre, who are responsible for the day-by-day innovation that goes on in science and technology? Will he talk to the Ministry of Defence, which has tremendous budget problems, to ensure not only that there is no cut in the defence budget as it affects Porton Down, but that quite the reverse happens? Porton Down should have all the resources it needs to counter terrorism.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is a great advocate for Porton Down. I am talking to the Defence Secretary. This is a cross-Government initiative. All the relevant Departments are working together on this, using all the agencies at their disposal, Porton Down being one of them.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee

Aviation is international. What new steps are being taken to link intelligence information with the best attainable system of security at individual airports?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is the Chairman of the Transport Committee, and I know that she has taken a great interest in this issue. I talked to Jane Lute this morning-she is the US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security-about the best way to have an international gathering to discuss the lessons emerging from this and we are still talking things through. There was a view that we should perhaps get a gathering of Ministers together next week in Brussels. Actually, the opportunity under the Spanish presidency, which is very interested in this matter, comes up in a few weeks' time. More and more we are centring on that as the opportunity to get Transport Ministers, homeland security Ministers and perhaps Defence Ministers together to talk about an integrated programme as to how we can act internationally.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: this will not be solved by us nationally, by its very definition-a Nigerian coming from Nigeria through Holland to bomb Detroit has ramifications for a much wider set of countries. We need to deal with this matter internationally, which is what we intend to do.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

Who authorised the Downing street spokesman to brief so emphatically that information about the Detroit bomber had been passed to the Americans before the bombing?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am not getting into who authorised whom to say what. What the Prime Minister said about us exchanging information with the US was absolutely right. As I said in my statement, none of that information remotely suggested that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack on Detroit.

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Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

One resource we could use better is the eyes and ears of the travelling public. Will my right hon. Friend consider creating a central reporting point for members of the public who spot lapses in security in airports from which they are travelling to the UK?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for people to report such things. There was a programme over Christmas about the 999 emergency service being used spuriously, but certainly for anyone who has the slightest fear that there is a security problem, that is one course of action, and there are others. He makes a good point, and we will look at whether we can make it easier for the travelling public to report any suspicions they have.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

As the Home Secretary is no doubt aware, the only UK airport to be subject to terrorist attack is in Scotland-Glasgow airport. Can Scottish airports therefore expect to be among the first in line for full-body scanners? Will he assure me that he will be working hand in glove with the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish airports are as safe as possible?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can assure the hon. Gentleman on both those points. We need to talk to the airlines about which airports are first. I believe that Heathrow will feature, given the huge amount of transit-we are talking about transit passengers as well because, as we should remember, Abdulmutallab was a transit passenger in Holland and was not searched properly-but other airports, including Glasgow, will be very much part of the discussion. Indeed, I believe discussions with the Scottish Government have already started.

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Photo of Alan Keen Alan Keen Labour, Feltham and Heston

We are obviously concerned today with the immediate threats, but may I pass on a warning to the Home Secretary from constituents of mine who have worked their whole lives in Heathrow airport, and the Unite union, that there has been talk of introducing competition between terminals? Will he ensure that security always comes before competition?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can give that assurance, although I am not sure what my hon. Friend means about competition. Security, whether at terminal 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5, is the absolute priority, not competition between terminals.

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Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

In the wake of the failed bombing, many in the intelligence community have expressed concerns about the activities of schools-or karatus-in northern Nigeria and the role that they play in radicalising young men and preparing them for jihad. In the international strand of the Home Secretary's work, which he mentioned in his statement, can he confirm that those schools will be swept up in that and that he has had discussions with his counterparts in the Foreign Office to ensure that those schools are properly addressed?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Again, the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Of course, Abdulmutallab himself went to a British school, but it is an important issue that I need to discuss with the Foreign Secretary to ensure that we are doing everything that we can, not just on airport security, but-as I said in my statement-to prevent radicalisation taking place in the first instance, whether in this country or abroad.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

There have been some interesting proposals about investing in research on the technology required to detect terror. Although the Home Secretary acknowledged in his statement the risks of identity-based profiling, I am concerned that we will not have sufficiently robust research into the effects of such profiling on young Asian or Muslim men who think that they are expected to behave in a certain way and therefore think, "Why don't I?" Can he assure the House that robust research will be done on the potential consequences of identity-based profiling before any such proposal is introduced?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, but behavioural detection is different from profiling. Behavioural detection is used by British Transport police, who are trained in it, to observe individuals and how they act around uniformed officers as a preliminary to a possible search or questioning. On profiling, I recognise not only the sensitivities and civil liberties issues that were raised by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, but the possibility that the terrorists-who, as we have said, are one step ahead-will use our main weapon against them to their advantage by using people who do not fit the profile, such as pregnant women or old gentlemen like me. That is the other danger of profiling, and we need to be very careful. I am acutely aware of that, but it would be strange if, in response to Detroit, we did not thoroughly explore all the different elements and options-some of which may be discarded.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Shadow Minister (Scotland)

This is a bit rich from this Government who year on year have cut the research budget that allowed our law enforcement agencies to stay at least one step ahead of the terrorists. When I developed the millimetre wave with the team at QinetiQ, before I came into this House, we had to go to the Americans to get the funding because the Government cut it. What concrete extra resources will the Home Secretary put into the further development of technologies and manning at airports to ensure that our borders are more secure?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I know that the hon. Gentleman has some experience in this field, but I just do not understand the criticism of this Government for what we have invested in science. Mr. Taylor is no longer in his place, but he has continually praised the Government for the 10-year science and innovation project and the fact that, when I was Secretary of State at the old Department of Trade and Industry, more than half of my budget was for science. It was also ring-fenced, which was frustrating at times because I could not touch it for other things. Criticise this Government for many things, but do not criticise us for our investment in science.

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Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Labour, Gloucester

How will my right hon. Friend consult on and communicate any changes that are made in profiling? It is very difficult, because changes need to be made in a way that does not trigger people's knowledge that we are doing such things, but it is also important to avoid unnecessary community tensions.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I take my hon. Friend's point. There would be no benefit in even studying the use of profiling if we were not talking to groups representing different ethnic minorities in this country. We have to take them along with us on this. My hon. Friend Mr. Godsiff actually supports the use of profiling, and there will be different views in different communities and ethnic minorities. All I am saying is that it would be irresponsible not to look at whether profiling can play a part in strengthening our defences.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

If we are to search people more thoroughly and introduce body scanners, we will need far more space and personnel at our airports. Given that most of our airports seem to be crammed full of duty-free boutiques, will the Home Secretary make it clear to airport operators that security matters have to come first?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I see an advantage for our alcohol policy coming up here. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is inviting me to change the use of space at airports. This is one of the important discussions that we have to have with airport authorities and airlines: physically how we can do this properly with the minimum of inconvenience to the public and ensure that people can go about their daily business. That is an important part of these discussions.

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Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Independent, Castle Point

May we have stronger action to deport immediately those people in this country suspected of promoting extremism and of becoming radicalised? May we include in that list those who would hold offensive marches?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We always keep such issues under review. As I said in my statement, it is important that we do not take action simply because people have views that we find abhorrent but which are not illegal. We are a democracy, and there needs to be proper debate on our university campuses. It would be totally counter-productive for us to be heavy-handed in that respect. Through the Prevent strategy we are strengthening institutions, helping individuals and providing information, facts and advice to those who want to counter some of these radical views. As part of that, of course, we deport, and seek to deport, lots of people; many are queuing up for deportation at the moment. However, in a democracy, they have their right to judicial review and to go to the European Court. All of that, of course, is important, but at the end of the day they will be deported, providing we have done our job properly.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Given the strong links that Umah Farouk Abdulmutallab had with Britain, can the Home Secretary tell us whether, in due course, the British police will have an opportunity to question him, particularly with a view to ascertaining any continuing links that he might have with Britons and what those links are all about?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

All I can say at this stage is that two Metropolitan police officers are working with the FBI in America on the case. As the hon. Gentleman will have seen on his television screen over Christmas, the police took immediate action in this country. We do not comment on current police operations, and we will have to wait for them to come to a conclusion. That might well involve the British police wishing to ask questions, but we will have to see how the operation goes.

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Photo of Andrew Pelling Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central

I have had e-mails from constituents expressing concern about health risks and dignity as a result of the use of the scanners. Can the Home Secretary say anything on the public record to reassure people about such matters?

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My understanding is that there is less radiation from a body scanner than from the flight itself. On privacy, as I have mentioned, we can probably think and do more, but at the moment all the images are destroyed immediately and the person operating the machine is remote from the person being scanned, which means that there is no face-to-face contact-they are anonymous while being scanned. However, it is difficult to get around the privacy issues, given where Abdulmutallab was trying to hide his explosives. If that is how terrorists seek to get around such issues, obviously we might have to be a little less delicate about privacy if we are to counter the threat effectively.

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