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Airports (Policing)

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 14 June 2007

In my statement of 20 July 2006, Official Report, column 56-57WS I announced that the Government had accepted the broad thrust of the independent review of Airport Policing by Stephen Boys Smith and outlined some of the report’s key recommendations. I also made a commitment to make a further statement in due course about progress.

The report’s recommendations focused on how police and the aviation industry’s security activities could be better harmonised to improve effectiveness and efficiency. In particular, how to achieve an appropriate balance between the various stakeholders for delivering all aspects of security at airports was considered. The Government fully accept that any policing element of airport security should be transparent and understood as part of a wider package of security measures at airports.

We have welcomed stakeholders’ general support of the report’s diagnosis and their endorsement of its conclusions about the need to define agency accountability; to enhance liaison between stakeholders at all levels; and to further develop the Multi-Agency Threat and Risk Assessment (MATRA) approach that is already in place at airports. All stakeholders recognise the fundamental need for clarity, transparency and agreement of their roles and responsibilities in the complete security package at airports. There has also been wide support for the conclusion that the system of designation be discontinued.

However, the Government do not underestimate concerns about the detail of possible solutions, in particular the identification and calculation of any policing costs to be borne by the industry; the ability of industry to recover agreed costs from passengers; and the affordability of those costs.

Since the report was concluded, constructive dialogue has been ongoing between national representatives of industry, the police and police authorities and Government. A shared security vision for UK airports has been agreed along with the principles to be used to develop the airport security plans to achieve that vision. We welcome the greater mutual awareness, trust and commitment demonstrated by all stakeholders.

Two key areas of work have been identified to be tackled nationally.

First, MATRA remains strongly recommended best practice for all airports. We maintain that such joint agency consideration of threat and risk should be the cornerstone for current and future security activity at airports. BAA and the Metropolitan Police Authority are working together at Heathrow Airport to enhance their MATRA and to develop a shared multi-agency airport security plan. More generally for all airports, work is already underway to deliver national threat assessments to airports so that all suitably security cleared MATRA members can evaluate the security situation from the same knowledge basis. It is acknowledged by all stakeholders that an enhanced MATRA process may identify improved options for tackling particular security issues. Some of these may need to be delivered by the police but it is recognised that a dedicated and permanent police presence may not be required at some airports.

Secondly, existing legislation is being reviewed to clarify the current responsibilities of stakeholders for security at airports to assist in resolving areas of disagreement. We are taking that work forward as quickly as possible with the agencies concerned.

Separately, complementary legislation has been introduced requiring aerodrome managers and police at designated airports to agree necessary dedicated policing resources and to clarify what the cost to the aerodrome manager should be. This is then set out in a Police Services Agreement (PSA). Some airports already have, or have had, service level agreements in place and it may be deemed by the parties to them that they remain fit for purpose and contain the requisite information to comply with the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

All this work is being drawn together to clarify the security responsibilities of all stakeholders at all airports and create the clear and transparent funding process recommended by the review. No legislative changes can be made until that work is complete but we are working to identify a suitable parliamentary opportunity for this.

Although the review did not focus on airport security, it was an examination of a key element in the protection of our airports against a range of threats. It is naturally not a report for public disclosure, however I will make another statement providing further updates in due course.