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Airline Flights (Security)

Volume 886: debated on Monday 17 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has plans to introduce sky marshals as security guards on passenger flights of British airline companies; and if he will make a statement.

I have given careful consideration to the use of armed guards on flights of British airlines, but I am not satisfied at present that this would on balance be in the interests of the safety of the passengers and crew.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the Middle East at least one national carrier has introduced sky marshals with conspicuous success? Should he not give further consideration to introducing sky marshals equipped, for example, with low-velocity rifles? They would seem on the evidence so far to have improved security on some Middle East carriers.

I am aware of success in this respect concerning E1 A1. That is unquestionably the case. However, each Government must make their own decision on the basis of the threat or the risk as it appears to them. Unhappily the position of Israeli aircraft is unique. United States airlines which deployed the use of sky marshals for some little time have now, so far as I am aware, abandoned the concept in the interests of passenger safety and because of the pressure exerted by crews. Our own crews are distinctly worried about the possibility of sky marshals being carried. That is the position even if we were to take into account the possibility of the use of different weapons such as those the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.