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Airports: Policing

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In his Statement on 21 November, the then Secretary of State for Transport announced the Government's intention to commission an independent, wide-ranging review of policing at airports. He subsequently appointed Stephen Boys Smith, a former senior civil servant, to lead the review.

The review was tasked with identifying a sustainable approach to the policing of airports which takes account of the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and, in particular, addresses the need for funding arrangements that are objective and transparent.

The review was about airport policing not airport security, which had already been considered by Sir John Wheeler's review in 2002. Wheeler recognised that the “designation” of airports for policing purposes was an issue and saw the implementation of a multi-agency threat and risk assessment (MATRA) process as fundamental in modernising that process. MATRA is in place at over 40 UK airports and the present review has considered whether the process of designation should now be replaced, given the changes implemented following the Wheeler review.

The review report has now been submitted to both my department and the Home Office. We welcome its broad thrust and will be working closely with key stakeholders to consider the recommendations in detail.

The review has identified areas where we can build on the good work already being done by all stakeholders at our airports. It makes recommendations in a number of areas:

it endorses the principle of joint accountability for airport security and the concept of airports as “communities” where stakeholders must work together in full partnership to protect against a range of threats;

it recommends continued and enhanced liaison between key stakeholders, including government departments, the Police Service and airport operators at both national and local level to maintain a consistent understanding of and response to threats and risks;

it endorses the current multi-agency threat and risk assessment (MATRA) approach already in place at UK airports and recommends that it is strengthened further; and

it recommends that the system of “designation” is discontinued and that policing costs should generally be met by the industry on the basis that policing forms part of an agreed airport “community” response, that costs are clear and transparent, and that policing at airports is brought within the mainstream policing agenda.

Although this review has not focused on aviation security measures, it is concerned with a key element in the wider protection of our airports against a range of threats including from terrorism and serious and organised crime. Given these considerations, it is naturally not a report for public circulation. I intend to make a further statement in due course.