Clause 78 - Aviation security directions etc

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport) 10:15 am, 8th March 2012

I should like the Minister to clarify the outcomes-based security regime. I know that the previous speaker, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness, outlined the case clearly, but I want to outline an example. Through that example, perhaps the Minister can clarify who will have the last say on security.

Outside of the Bill, the Government have consulted on introducing an outcomes-based approach to security regulation. Currently, airports have to follow very prescriptive processes, which are laid down, step by step, in regulation. Those processes specify, for example, the proportion of passengers whose footwear has to be searched and how it is searched, as the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness said. The operator is obliged to follow the procedure set down in regulation and little discretion can be exercised, according to what I have been told.

Under the new proposals, an airport operator could, for example, decide how many people’s footwear should be searched and determine what equipment might be used for that. The requirement would be, for example, to meet a given outcome to screen footwear in accordance with a minimum standard approved by the Government.

Will the Minister let us know whether how that standard is met will be up to the operator? Will she assure this Committee and those outside that security is paramount and cannot be left to a company that might say, “We can get away with a minimum requirement here”? What if the threat outside is higher and it is necessary to have a strict security system in regulation for airports?

The example is footwear, because we can all relate to it. Will the Minister give some indication on who has the last say, the company or the Government? Can the Government suggest to the company, “Here is a regulation that we want you to meet, which we feel is necessary because of the current terrorist threat”? We need clarification on that. Those of us who travel on planes—everyone in this room does, and many outside this room do as well—want to be absolutely secure in our minds that the highest security has been used when we travel on them.