Clause 78 - Aviation security directions etc

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:00 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West 1:00 pm, 8th March 2012

I, too, share the Transport Committee’s concern about the transfer of duties to the CAA. I share the concern about the loss of expertise that the transfer could entail; I know that that will be discussed further under future clauses. I am also concerned about the total “user pays” principle, because we do not use that for the police or for other safety and security issues and services. The Government need to explore further some of the issues around transferring all that to the “user pays” principle.

I specifically want to discuss my concerns about the outcomes-focused risk-based approach to security. As my colleagues have said, the terrorist has to get through  only once, and we have to be 100% successful at stopping terrorist activity. I am still not convinced that the focus on outcomes will achieve the necessary ends.

On costs, the Government say that the freedom of airports to devise their own systems could lead to cost savings, and that worries me hugely. Will that mean airports potentially looking at how they can cut costs, and will they therefore be cutting corners? I am concerned that some airports will be less rigorous. Our biggest concern over the past few years has been about transatlantic services, which are high-prestige targets for terrorists. However, any attack on any airport or airliner—or train, ship or anything else—would be significant and would have that wonderful splash of publicity that terrorists like to see. If we do not prescribe what airports should include in their security services, the risk is that we will not be able to monitor them properly, and some of the smaller airports may become soft targets for terrorists.

On discrimination, security services have talked to us about the profiling of potential offenders, but I am concerned that people with brown skin are more likely than others to be pulled over for more rigorous security checks. I am not yet convinced that that will not occur, and we have certainly seen it happening with stop-and-search on the streets. Will that be replicated in our airports?