Terrorism: Aviation and Border Security — Statement

– in the House of Lords at 4:38 pm on 5th January 2010.

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Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport 4:38 pm, 5th January 2010

My Lords, if it is convenient to the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary on aviation and border security.

"On 24 December, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, travelled from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he boarded Northwest 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 United States.

Authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, 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 currently have available, it is not possible to chart with absolute certainty his exact movements after he left the United Kingdom 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 accreditation 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 EEA. 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 this incident has raised, I want to set out today the immediate steps we are taking to tighten aviation security, what measures we are taking to prevent radicalisation in our universities, and 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 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, knives and firearms. However, certain types of explosive without metallic parts, and which can be concealed next to the body, cannot be detected by this 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 this 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 which we can guarantee will be 100 per cent effective against such attacks. 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 this 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 also brought into force new restrictions which tighten up security screening for transit passengers and is reviewing the support we provide for security standards in airports operating direct flights to the United Kingdom. Passengers will also 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' time 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 operational and privacy issues.

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 this, 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 liberty concerns, aware that identity-based profiling has its limitations but conscious of our overriding obligations to protect peoples' lives 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. This 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 United Kingdom.

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 1 million records of known criminals, terrorists, people who have tried to enter the country illegally or been deported, and those whom agencies consider to be a threat to our security. Through the e-Borders programme and through screening passengers against this watch-list, we have made 4,900 arrests for crimes including murder, rape and assault since 2005. In addition, UK Border Agency staff based overseas working with airlines prevented over 65,000 inadequately documented passengers travelling to the United Kingdom 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 security and intelligence agencies into a single index. Although the integrated approach works very well, we want to see whether 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' time, and I will report, subject to security restrictions, the findings to Parliament.

The House will no doubt also 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 and intellectual scrutiny and the freedom of debate and tolerance promoted in higher education are some of the most effective ways of challenging views that 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 this 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 that university management can discuss concerns with. The Prevent strand of our counterterrorism 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 the Government are taking abroad to disrupt al-Qaeda wherever it is 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 United States.

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 while we did, in line with standard procedures, provide information to the US linked to the wider aspect of this case, none of the information we held or shared indicated that Abdulmutallab was about to attempt a terrorist attack against the United States.

This morning, I met Jane Lute, the United States Deputy Secretary of State for Homeland Security. We discussed how, over the coming months, in the light of this failed attack, we will work together with our 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-like 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 counterterrorism strategy is not just to reduce our own vulnerabilities, but also 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 or Somalia, or 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 for a number of years, helping to improve their law-enforcement, intelligence and security apparatus, to disrupt al-Qaeda, and to deny it a safe haven in Yemen for the future. We are also one of the leading donors to Yemeni development-our current commitment stands at £100 million by 2011. We recognise the need to strengthen further our partnership with countries in the region and beyond, so 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. The coming together of the international community in London later this month to discuss Yemen will be an important step towards security there and across the globe.

It is important to reiterate that this was a failed attack by a Nigerian national on the United States, by someone who was refused entry to the United Kingdom and who it seems was radicalised after he left this country. However, there are lessons to be learnt by the international community and the measures I have outlined will provide the United Kingdom greater protection from terrorist attack. Along with our work overseas 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 causes of violent extremism and reduce the threat of future attack".

I commend this Statement to the House.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Jones Baroness Neville-Jones Shadow Security Minister, Home Affairs 4:54 pm, 5th January 2010

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and I am grateful for advanced sight of it.

The failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day was a wake-up call. The terrorist threat continues to evolve, as he rightly said, and to adapt. As I have said before, following the Mumbai attacks, terrorists actively seek to understand and to counter the capabilities of our security services. They innovate tactically to obviate security measures and confuse authorities, so being ahead of them in preventing, responding to and recovering from potential attacks is of the utmost importance. We cannot always be in catch-up mode.

We must also expect that more and more countries will be used as a base by terrorists, particularly as pressure on them in Afghanistan and Pakistan increases. There will be a greater number of points of origin for people travelling to the UK that represent a danger to us and where precautions have to be taken. We welcome the assistance that the Government are providing to Yemen, but it is a pity that the Government made that announcement without telling our American partners that they were going to do so. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are identifying what other countries may need to counter terrorism and in capacity-building assistance? Again, I come back to the point about not always being in catch-up mode.

The Minister mentioned a number of measures that will be introduced to improve airport security, including greater searching of passengers by hand, the increased presence of sniffer dogs and the introduction of full-body scanners. He also mentioned that new restrictions had been introduced for transit passengers, but he did not say what those were. Will he do so? We accept that such additional measures should be put in place at airports, but why has the introduction of some, such as full-body scanners, been so long delayed? To my certain personal knowledge, that technology has been available for at least 10 years.

The Minister said that the first tranche of those scanners will be deployed within three weeks, but I know that at least one key industry player suggests that certain models will be available only between four and six months from now. One wonders how long we will have to wait to reduce vulnerability from that aspect of the threat. There are many months before we get coverage-which, I think everyone agrees, will not of itself necessarily deal with the threat encountered the other day, but will nevertheless reduce the scope for evasion. How long will it be before we have not just the introduction but proper coverage of body scanners at our major airports?

The core of the issue is surely to prevent dangerous passengers getting on to planes in the first place, and preventing them getting on to planes in other countries. Technologies can mitigate that threat, but they are not, we can agree, foolproof. It seems unlikely that the body scanners currently available would have picked up the substance which that young man had put around his body, so I am glad that the Minister agrees that we need a risk-based approach to passenger security checks. That must be intelligence-led, based on assessments of the threats posed by or from within particular countries and by particular travel routes, and on observation of suspicious behaviour. The US, for example, has designated certain flight routes for additional checks. Will the Government also do that?

The second key aspect is international co-operation in preventing the travel of dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals. The Minister referred to the robustness of the UK Border Agency's watch-list. As he said, it has a lot of names on it: 1.3 million. As far as I know, those names are uncategorised. Is it realistic to suppose that our security services can effectively target individuals using that system? Will it be reformed in any way? The Minister said that the Government were looking at that. It would be helpful to know what aspects of it are under consideration.

A related point is the stark fact that the UK does not have a no-fly list, unlike the US. Does the UK have the information and the intelligence base sufficient to put in place such a list, which would then be genuinely useful? There is no point in having a list that does not necessarily have an information base behind it. Is enough advance passenger information being collected by the UK? As I understand it, our systems are not the same as those of the US. The Minister did not make entirely clear when the e-Borders programme will be fully operational. To what extent does he think that that will be helpful in this area?

How have the Government worked with the US Administration, who have conducted their own reviews, to ensure that their findings and the security standards and procedures they are introducing are consistent with developments here? The US is obviously our most important partner in many respects. Particularly on the electronic side, the Americans have been in the lead. It would be helpful to know the extent to which the US reckons that its collaborative partner and the one where the standards have to be met is the UK. What other countries are involved in, or are being drawn into, the findings of these reviews? It is clear that ultimately the issue is international.

This attempted attack also demonstrated the continued challenges posed by radicalisation. The lesson here is that academic institutions have to get real about this challenge and the terrorist threat. No one in this House wishes to see academic freedom reduced, but terrorism poses a threat to the very values that universities stand for, so educational establishments must help in identifying those who are vulnerable to extremism that can lead to violence. If the Minister were able to say what targeted support the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is lending, it would be helpful.

Finally, press reports suggest that the Prime Minister misled the public and the US about the information provided to the US authorities. I note that the Minister is not prepared to go into detail but he told us, correctly, that it is an established and accepted principle that the Government do not routinely comment on intelligence matters. Therefore, one has to wonder why the Prime Minister made these public remarks. It must be uncomfortable for the Government to be told by the White House that they made a mistake. Tackling the terrorist threat that we face requires public trust and confidence and the trust and confidence of international partners. These are the sort of remarks that risk damaging both.

These attacks remind us that the terrorist threat remains severe. We must continue to be vigilant and united to defeat it. The threat is posed by a small number of deadly extremists who do not speak for the majority of Muslims in this country or around the world. We must make this distinction. People of all faiths have been victims of terrorists over the past decade, and it must be our common endeavour across all communities to overcome them.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson for Transport 5:03 pm, 5th January 2010

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for making it available beforehand. I do not propose to question him about security measures because I do not think he would wish to answer any questions. I realise that this is a very sensitive subject. However, one thing that I reflect on from reading and hearing the Statement is the fact that a great deal of emphasis is being placed on the airport authorities-on BAA-and on delays at airports and the inconvenience to passengers. I wonder to what extent consideration is being given to involving the long-haul airlines more closely. They have passenger manifests days or weeks in advance of the flight. To what extent are those manifests subject to checks to ensure that anybody who is in any way undesirable, and I use that word in its broadest sense, is prevented from flying? If the manifests are checked properly, we should have weeded out most of those who are a danger by the time that people are arriving at the airport. It seems that whatever sophisticated device we install at airports, it is bound to cause trouble, delay and frustration. I feel that we need to make a fresh breakthrough so that we can spot these people before they get in a queue at the airport.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport 5:05 pm, 5th January 2010

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments. The noble Baroness rightly said that this is a wake-up call. The need to adapt is constant because the nature of the terrorist threat changes constantly. Although she is absolutely right to say that some particular areas highlighted by the Detroit attack are important for future development-including body scanners, which she mentioned in particular-I would not accept that we have been slow to adapt. We constantly adapt and change our security apparatus at airports and our security apparatus nationally, including e-borders and the development of the watch-list, to meet the threat.

While none of us is complacent, I am glad to say that, in this particular case, this individual was not granted a visa to come and study in this country. The visa regime did work. The course for which Abdulmutallab applied was not at a properly accredited institution, so he did not get a visa to come to this country. We need to ensure that the robustness of our security regime continues to apply in this way case by case. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that this is a particular issue in respect of aviation security. That is a massive challenge for us. More than a quarter of a million passengers leave British airports every day. There are 110 flights to the United States alone. Ensuring that the system works well and does not fail is a massive undertaking. On behalf of the whole House, I should like to pay tribute to the security staff and the airlines. They make this system work day in, day out. There is also a considerable amount of public pressure in the situations with which they have to deal. They do a splendid job. However, we need constantly to improve the quality of the service that we provide as we deal with new threats.

The noble Baroness asked me a large number of questions and I will go through as many of them as I can. She asked about co-operation with the United States. Jane Lute, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, is in London today. She met my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and me this morning and we exchanged a good deal of useful information about future policy developments. Our relative officials and experts have been in constant dialogue both before Christmas and, since Christmas Day, about the issues raised by Detroit. She was proceeding to Brussels, where she will be consulting further with our European partners. Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary of Homeland Security, plans to meet European Transport Ministers soon to discuss a number of the specific issues being raised by the sorts of changes we need to discuss in aviation security and to exchange the thinking in our respective countries about how to tackle this threat.

I am satisfied that the degree of co-operation and co-ordination is high but we need continually to improve it. It is important, for example, to discuss, bilaterally and multilaterally, many of the issues to do with the regulation of new technology. It is no good us having enhanced security regimes in place at our airports if they are not in place at the airports from which flights are departing to come to this country. A good deal of international activity will therefore be required as well. We provide international aid, assistance and technical advice to countries where we think there may be vulnerabilities in airport security in order to ensure that proper standards are met. We are looking at how we can improve that technical advice and assistance and at how we can do so in a co-ordinated way with the United States and our partners. Good work is taking place in this area, but we need constantly to raise our game. We are not in any way complacent.

The noble Baroness asked me about e-borders. The e-borders scheme will be 95 per cent operational by the end of this year, so we are making very good progress on putting that in place. She asked me about transit passengers. Under the regulations which I brought into force on New Year's Day, transit passengers will henceforth be treated in precisely the same way as transfer passengers. All transit passengers-passengers on a flight which is continuing to a destination beyond the United Kingdom but who are not changing flight-will be subject to the full search and security regime applicable for transfer passengers. They will need to be searched, as will their hand baggage, and they will not be able to proceed on the flight until that has taken place. That will affect about 30 flights a week, so it will be a significant further enhancement of our security arrangements.

The noble Baroness asked me why body scanners had been delayed. We have been trialling body scanners. My noble friend Lord West, whom I am glad to see in his place, last year issued a paper to the industry with innovations and ideas on countering this terrorist threat and highlighting areas in which we wish to see enhanced collaboration between universities, the private sector and the Government on new technologies. A whole part of that document was on screening apparatus, so we have been highlighting this as a priority and trialling the technology.

Other countries were not way ahead of us. As we saw, the Netherlands has since Christmas Day brought full-body screening apparatus into operation where it was not in operation before. We are looking to do the same, and we will move with all deliberate speed in so doing. The first full-body scanners will be operational at Heathrow within a matter of weeks. I cannot give a precise timescale for extending that operation across the airport sector of the UK, but we intend to move as rapidly as we can thereafter, consistent with good operational practice and the industry's ability to develop products that are of sufficiently high quality.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about the work that we do with airlines. There is already a well-established system for notifying passenger data in advance. The watch-list to which the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, referred is an integral part of the process of granting visas, and is in effect a device that allows people to travel or not to travel. Indeed, the watch-list and the data that come from airlines are fully integral to deciding whether people can enter the country and therefore fly.

The radicalisation of students at universities is a very sensitive area. In all my experience, formerly as an Education Minister and as a Transport Secretary now, I have been impressed by the seriousness with which university authorities take this issue. They are in no way complacent. Noble Lords who heard Professor Malcolm Grant, the provost of UCL, interviewed on the "Today" programme a few days ago will have been struck by the seriousness with which he takes his responsibilities in this area. As he said in that interview:

"We are obliged ... to secure freedom of speech on campus", but,

"We walk a very narrow line between ... that", and,

"ensuring that nothing occurs which would result in the incitement of racial hatred", and he spelled out steps which the university had taken, including uninviting radical speakers who might have provided such incitement in the case of his own university.

Other university leaders have similar stories to tell. Universities have the power to ban speakers from their premises when they believe that those speakers will incite hatred. They take these responsibilities seriously. They are working very closely indeed with the Prevent strategy and are directly supporting the work of the National Union of Students and Islamic student organisations to combat the threat that is posed, and we are satisfied that they are extremely vigilant in their responsibilities in this area.

To conclude, it is very important that we make the point loudly and clearly from this House that the Muslim mainstream majority in this country abhors the terrorist threat every bit as much as every other citizen in this country does. We are all united in seeking to combat this threat. No one could have made that clearer than the Muslim Council of Britain, which, on the day after the attack, condemned it in the strongest terms. Its secretary-general, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, said:

"We all have a collective duty to stand against those who wish to perpetrate terror against innocent civilians wherever it may occur. Terror and violence is not the way to convey a message however legitimate the cause may be. It is totally counter-productive".

That is the view of the mainstream Muslim majority in this country and of all other citizens in this country, and we work with the Muslim community as much as with the wider community to combat this threat at its very source.

Photo of Lord Gilbert Lord Gilbert Labour 5:15 pm, 5th January 2010

My Lords, while I welcome what my noble friend said about profiling, I thought I heard him say not that he was going to introduce a system of profiling, but that he was going to start a study on the introduction on such a system. If that is the case, will we have to go through a period of consultation? How long is that likely to be and who is going to be consulted? Moreover, can we take it that in no way will Her Majesty's Government be put off from introducing a profiling system, which can be of enormous benefit to honest, regular travellers who are unnecessarily being hugely inconvenienced these days, merely by complaints from certain people who think they might be unfairly treated?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, as I said in the Statement, BAA has from this week started training staff in the identification of suspicious behaviour and seeing to it that all passengers exhibiting such behaviour are fully screened and, where necessary, subject to further procedures. So we are not holding back at all from action in this area. However, we need to ensure that it is the right action, and that is what we are considering seriously. I can assure my noble friend that we are not holding back from taking appropriate action because of concerns about how this might be regarded by the public, because we have no doubt at all that they will welcome proportionate steps that safeguard their security as they pass through our airports.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Spokesperson for Health

My Lords, I declare an interest as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Would the Minister agree with me that tactical profiling has in fact been in use by the police and the intelligence services in this country to great effect for a very considerable time and is well developed? Further, would he join with me in welcoming the spread of tactical profiling by teaching behavioural analysis to airline staff? Does he share the view that tactical profiling has been dealt with sensibly by the control authorities in this country in consultation at times with black and minority ethnic groups? Does he also share the view that scanners and other machinery, as well as detection dogs, although useful, are no more than a supplement to well-organised, accurate, properly funded and appropriately shared intelligence?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, I agree completely that scanners and all forms of aviation security are only one part of the effort that we need in this area. There must be constant vigilance in terms of our security efforts including, as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said, looking to see how we can improve the way that we maintain and deploy the watch-list, and we need vigilance in all the institutions where there might be a danger of extremist activity taking place. Those responsible for running the institutions should take appropriate action to nip in the bud extremist activity as soon as it exhibits itself.

On prioritising passengers about whom there may be concerns for search at airports, as I made very clear in the Statement, we welcome unreservedly the decision of BAA to start systematically training airport staff in the identification of suspicious behaviour and seeing that such passengers are properly targeted for search procedures, and we are looking at how such techniques could be extended more widely.

Photo of Lord Mawhinney Lord Mawhinney Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement, which a lot of us will have found encouraging in the difficult circumstances. I want to ask him two questions that arise from it. First, if my memory is right, the Minister said that the operation of the new security arrangements was going to be subject to a code of practice. Those of us who have been privileged to serve in government will have been disheartened by that because a code of practice is probably the least effective and most lax arrangement that can be chosen. Would he be willing to reconsider that and put in place a more robust framework for these important new security operations?

Secondly, I shall also turn to the question of profiling. As someone who once held the Minister's post, I am well aware of the debate about profiling, but I think the time has come to get on with it. BAA is introducing something that as far as it goes is fine, but the Government cannot stand aside and let a commercial organisation take responsibility for profiling, not least because BAA does not run all the airports in the country. Therefore I encourage the Minister to let it be known that profiling is government policy and to put his shoulder behind a variety of efforts, all of which should be based on profiling given the intelligence that is available to him, and not to conduct any more public debates about it. He should just do it; that is what the public want.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, as the noble Lord said, he has held my office in the past and I therefore take very seriously any comments he makes about airport security and how we should take it forward.

On the code of practice, I should make it clear that we are talking about the regime in which full-body scanning will operate. Because a number of sensitive issues are raised by the practice of full-body scanning, the airport authorities look to the Government to put in place a regime within which they can provide the proper training of staff and the supervision that will be required for the operation of full-body scanning equipment. This is not a substitute for a robust system of applying full-body scanning; it is the means by which such a system will come into operation. Obviously there are important issues about how staff are trained and supervised-for example, how images are treated and what happens to them after they have been made-which are of concern to the public. Such issues do not stand in the way of the introduction of full-body scanning but Parliament would expect the Government to pay proper attention to the regime to ensure that full-body scanning is done in a responsible way in which the public can have confidence, and that the practice of full-body scanning and its images is not abused. That is what the code of practice will do.

There is not an issue as to profiling. I could not have made more clear in my Statement that it is right that passengers who fall into defined risk categories should be subject to appropriate screening. The question is how one identifies that. The most obvious case is those who exhibit behaviour at an airport that gives rise to concern. The whole process of the watch-list and how that regime operates acts as a way of identifying risk groups even before they get to the airport.

Photo of Lord Clinton-Davis Lord Clinton-Davis Labour

My Lords, I should say, first, that I am the president of the British Airline Pilots' Association. Who of those involved directly with aviation have been or will be consulted about the issues that concern the House of Lords today? As to BALPA, does the Minister agree that airline pilots are probably the most uniquely well-qualified to advise on what can best be achieved on or within aircraft? Secondly, how is the European Cockpit Association-which is the umbrella organisation for European pilots-to be consulted? It is most important that it should be.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, TRANSEC, which is the transport security division of my department, consults widely with the aviation industry before making changes in security practice. I cannot tell my noble friend precisely which organisations have been consulted or whether they include the ones that he mentions. However, I note the point he makes about the great expertise that airline pilots have in this area and I shall ensure that that is taken full account of.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Deputy Leader in the House of Lords, Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, I welcome the Government's Statement on this issue; it is right and proper that they should do everything possible to protect their citizens. I have two questions. The Minister has just referred to body scans, which are an intrusion into the privacy of an individual. It is for this reason that some communities are culturally sensitive as to what could happen to them. What kind of training programme will be available for those responsible for taking the scan and, more importantly, will the code of practice be available for us to see to make sure that such scans are not abused?

Secondly, there is a need to take great care over racial stereotyping. As I have been advised again and again, and as the Minister knows, this could be against the Race Relations Act. Will the Minister ensure that much of the scanning and requirements regarding the passengers are based on intelligence received and that stereotyping will in no way form a part? If not, we will have the same problem as we had in relation to stop and search in this country with regard to black and ethnic minority communities.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, the noble Lord's last remarks were very well made and I fully endorse them.

I shall make the code of practice on the conduct of full body scanning available to the noble Lord and to the House as soon as it is available. It is the responsibility of the airport operators themselves to train their security staff, or to see that they are properly trained, when they engage staff on a contract basis, to see that they meet the standards that apply. My department has a large team of inspectors who visit the airports frequently. They observe and report on the quality of the security staffing arrangements in place, and where they have concerns they are reported immediately to the airport operators and remedial action is expected to be taken.

Photo of The Bishop of Bradford The Bishop of Bradford Bishop

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for referring to the care that the universities have taken. I know that that is particularly true of the University of Bradford, where there is a large minority of Muslim students. Does the Minister agree that those suggesting that Abdul Mutallab was radicalised in the Yemen were being slightly ingenuous? Radicalisation does not happen overnight or in a few weeks but over several months and several years. I was in Pakistan in December, which was an interesting and not very comfortable experience, given that terrorist bombs were going off practically every day, although mercifully not where I was. I was interested to speak to a large group of students in one of the universities there, and was aware of the intense anti-American feeling among students. The majority of Muslims in this country are under 25. They are young people. While universities might ban meetings of Hizb ut Tahrir, these meetings then take place elsewhere, privately. Leaders of mosques tell me that there is no radicalisation taking place there, but there are the radicals across the road waiting to meet young students to try to affect them.

I am sure that the Minister would agree that the whole process of turning young, disaffected Muslims into not only radicals but terrorists is one that the whole of our society needs to counter. I want the Minister to assure me that he takes this radicalisation seriously as something that we need our whole society to be involved in and not simply a few people.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, I take the right reverend Prelate's points very seriously. It is precisely for the reason that he gives that we have the Prevent strategy, which is substantially funded and has been doing excellent work. Only at the end of last year, a big conference in Birmingham was attended by more than 1,000 people, all of them engaged in Prevent, including a large range of Muslim organisations, the police, the Prison Service and others. That demonstrated the wide and very constructive work being done across our universities and our wider civil society to tackle the root causes of extremism and promote those shared values of tolerance and civilised life, which the overwhelming majority of people in this country share in common, whatever their creed or racial background.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham - Shadow Minister, Shadow Minister

We all welcome the co-operation shown in the Statement between the Home Office and the Department of Transport.

The Statement suggests that these are initial steps. Initial steps usually mean that there are follow-on steps. There have been clear indications today about some of those, but does the Minister intend to come back to the House in the relatively near future with indications of any other steps that need to be taken and the value of those that have been taken, particularly with regard to scans, which have been touched on, and which I gather are expensive and not always as robust and useful as they are meant to be? Perhaps we ought to have a look at that and see how widely they are being used.

With regard to fly lists, does this country have the means to obtain sufficient advance passenger information to do that?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, there will be further steps. Some of them will be operational, and therefore it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail in respect of them. Where there are important further steps that have a public policy dimension, however, I will keep the House informed in whatever is the most appropriate way. I have already undertaken that in respect of the full-body scanning, which I know is an issue of sensitivity about which concerns have been raised in the House, the code of practice will be made available with noble Lords. Indeed, I will be happy to discuss with noble Lords, individually or collectively, issues that arise from that.

We believe that we have the means in place to prevent people from coming to this country who we do not wish to see here on the basis of intelligence material made available to us. That is the basis of our watch-list, and we believe that it is sufficiently robust for the purposes.

Photo of Viscount Waverley Viscount Waverley Crossbench

My Lords, this gives me no satisfaction, but I raised this whole matter as a potential scenario in a series of Written Questions in 2007. Is there any concern about bomb-making capabilities being assembled from goods purchased in duty-free shops? How satisfactory is the screening process of goods being delivered for duty-free sales?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, we keep all these matters under review. However, subject to the wider aviation security procedures that are in place-a key proviso-including requirements in respect of the screening of items, we believe that our systems are satisfactory in respect of duty-free goods.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative

My Lords, as a Muslim I totally condemn any form of terrorist activity. We must appreciate that nearly all Muslims are law-abiding citizens, but I accept that we have a problem with a tiny minority. With regard to profiling, I would like to hear from the Secretary of State that Muslims are not going to be targeted with regard to profiling, about which there has been some talk recently in the press.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, as I said a moment ago, there will be no racial stereotyping, so the noble Lord has that assurance.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for explaining the new facilities and tightened security at UK airports, which should mean that flights departing from the UK should be much safer in future. He mentioned the co-operation with airports in other countries worldwide, but I do not believe that he has any powers to ensure or check on the security in those airports, which could be operating flights to the UK. Does he have the powers to ban flights from particular airports in other countries when he thinks that the security is not up to standard?

Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative

My Lords, when the Minister spoke about profiling, he talked about people behaving "unusually". I was puzzled about that phrase. What might it mean? If it means beating out flames on your body, that is one thing, but it might refer to something really quite simple. Will he give us a little more guidance on that?

Secondly, many of us were impressed by the fact that this young man's father had warned the American Government about the dangers of what he was involved with. That must have been a brave and almost shaming thing to have to do. Do we listen to evidence of that kind that is brought to our Government, and do we take any notice of it?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Secretary of State, Department for Transport, The Secretary of State for Transport

My Lords, we take full notice of all information that is given to us that raises security concerns, from whatever source it comes.

With regard to unusual behaviour, unusual travel plans are a specific case in point that could give rise to additional searches-for example, passengers purchasing tickets with large sums of cash and travelling with minimal luggage. Characteristics of that kind could give rise to legitimate concern about an individual and therefore a perfectly proper desire to see that they are properly searched before they proceed on their journey.