HL Deb 31 July 1968 vol 296 cc367-70

[No. 11]

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—

Prevention of theft at aerodromes of British Airports Authority

"—(1)The Board of Trade may by order designate for the purposes of this section any area appearing to the Board to be used wholly or mainly for the storage or handling of cargo in any aerodrome owned or managed by the British Airports Authority.

(2) Any constable appointed under the Airports Authority Act 1965 may—

  1. (a) stop any person who is leaving an area designated for the purposes of this section and inspect any goods carried by that person;
  2. (b) stop and search any vehicle or aircraft which is leaving any such area and inspect the vehicle or aircraft and any goods carried on or in it; and
  3. (c) detain in the area—
    1. (i) any such goods as aforesaid for which there is not produced a document authorising their removal from the area signed by a person authorised in that behalf by the British Airports Authority; and
    2. (ii) any such vehicle or aircraft as aforesaid so long as there are on or in it goods liable to detention under this paragraph.

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) of this section shall be construed as conferring a power to search any person.

(4) In any area designated for the purposes of this section the powers of a constable under section 11(2)(b) of the said Act of 1965 (by virtue of which he has power to stop, search and detain any vehicle carrying a person employed by the Authority or employed to work on any of their aerodromes, and to board and search any aircraft, if he has reasonable grounds to suspect that stolen property is to he found in or on the vehicle or aircraft) shall—

  1. (a) extend to any vehicle whether or not it is carrying such a person as aforesaid; and
  2. (b) include power, not only to board and search an aircraft, but also to stop and detain it.

(5) Any order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament, and may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order under this section."

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment. This Amendment deals with the prevention of theft at aerodromes in the British Airports Authority. This is a clause which it is hoped will improve the security of the goods passing through Heathrow Airport. The noble Earl has asked me on a number of occasions what is the size of the problem with which we are dealing here, and I hope that he will ask me the same question on this Amendment, because I can tell him that the losses by theft are now running at over £300,000 a year at this one airport. It is necessary to do everything that is reasonably possible to reduce this rate of loss. This new clause will enable the air ports' constabulary to search vehicles within a certain area, and the area will be designated by Order.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I again thank the noble Lord. He anticipated my question, but I think in relation to the loss of £300,000, on average, of goods which are stolen, the total value of goods passing through Heathrow every year is something like £1,000 million. Perhaps the noble Lord could indicate what the trend of this theft problem is, and whether it is rising.

Under this clause, as I understand it, the police of the British Airports Authority will be empowered to search any vehicle, to inspect any goods being carried, and to stop, detain and arrest, but not search, any person. These powers are designated for the cargo handling area, and one point that comes to mind is that the cargo handling area, certainly at Heathrow, on occasions combines with passengers. Is it the intention for these designated areas to be clearly marked, and even fenced off from the public, so that there is no question of people who are innocent passengers being stopped under these powers?

My Lords, the second question that I should like to ask is whether a constable will have power under this clause not only to stop someone from leaving the designated area of cargo handling, but also to stop entry of that person, if he appears to act suspiciously. I think this is important, and I think it is a possible gap in this clause. The final question I wish to ask is whether this clause is exactly what the British Airports Authority have asked for.


My Lords, with regard to the last question, it is a clause which has been drafted in consultation with the British Airports Authority. Whether or not they wanted a little more power, I cannot say. I think in this world it is unlikely that any authority gets everything that it wants, but I understand that this is satisfactory to the British Airports Authority. Although I quoted a figure of £300,000 as being the amount of the losses, the noble Earl is quite right in suggesting that the volume of goods going through the airport is very much greater. I should not like to give the impression that it is unsafe to despatch anything through Heathrow Airport. Nevertheless, the loss each year is a large figure. It was increasing, and it is necessary to reduce the trend. It is hoped that these powers will enable the authority to make that reduction.

My Lords, I was asked whether there will be any definition or delineation of the area which will be used by passengers. I am afraid I cannot give the noble Earl an answer to that question. I imagine it is the sort of thing which could be discussed when the Order which defires the area is laid. Nevertheless, I will try to find out the intentions of the Authority in this respect and let him know.

I was also asked whether it is possible to search on entry as well as exit. Again, I am afraid I do not know the answer, but with respect to the noble Earl I should not have thought it was very important, because if the authorities w ant to search anyone entering the cargo area, all they have to do is to stand one yard inside the area, and under this clause they will be able to search and detain any of the goods within the provisions of this clause.

On Question, Motion agreed to.