HL Deb 06 February 1986 vol 470 cc1269-71
Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether action is being taken to improve security against terrorists at British airports.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

Yes, my Lords, the security arrangements at British airports are kept under continuous review. Most recently, in January, my department directed Heathrow and Manchester Airport to change the checking-in arrangements for E1 A1 passengers so as to protect them from terrorist attacks.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I do not expect particular measures to be divulged publicly, but are the airport authorities being encouraged to improve the screening of persons starting employment at terminals?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the preface to his question. As the House will realise, I cannot give detailed answers on many points relating to security, but there is going to be a tightening up in the procedure of employment at airports.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I welcome any steps to improve the security at our airports, but will the noble Earl comment on the statement by the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester that if machine guns have to be carried at Manchester Ringway Airport he would prefer them to be carried by the armed forces rather than by the police?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I do not think it would be right for me to comment, but I shall pass on the remarks of the noble Lord to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble Earl recall the Written Answer which appeared in Hansard of the other place on 27th January, in which a very helpful reply was given on the question of airport security? Can he say what results have been achieved in contacting the British Airports Authority regarding the issue of temporary passes and also airside passes?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, my Lords, we are in regular touch with the airports authority. As the House will probably like to know, there are more than 100,000 staff who need to go airside and therefore it is probably impracticable to vet them all. But there is increased vigilance to make sure that such things as addresses correspond with names.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the pictures of machine gun toting policemen and soldiers, however necessary they may be at the airports, is having a disastrous effect on tourists—an effect which is doubtless highly satisfactory to the terrorists, who are our enemies? Can he find a solution to this dilemma?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sure the solution is to rid the world of terrorists.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, with regard to security during the flight of an aircraft, can the noble Earl say whether that could be enhanced if a much more stringent limit were placed upon the amount of baggage passengers are allowed to take upon the aircraft?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, with regard to baggage, since September airlines have been legally required to reconcile passengers boarding their aircraft with hold baggage with those passengers who have checked in, so there has been a stricter control on baggage as from September last year.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, my question related to the amount of luggage passengers were taking on board aircraft. Would it not enhance security if less baggage were taken on board the aircraft?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, in view of the fact that some baggage will have to be taken on board, provided that is carefully screened and can be checked to passengers on board that aircraft I do not think the amount is so relevant when those precautions are taken.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, in considering the possibly disastrous effect that armed police may have on tourists at London Airport, will the noble Earl also bear in mind the deterrent effect that it might have on terrorists?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, indeed, my Lords.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, when considering those rather unlikely press stories about the machine gun toting police and soldiers at London Airport having an adverse effect on tourism, will the noble Earl bear in mind the fact that there have been machine gun toting soldiers at Italian airports for the past 15 years and that tourism into Italy is still at an astronomical level?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, my Lords, we are aware that other airports do have armed police.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, will the noble Earl bear in mind that the reality of the situation is that some of these terrorists, these lunatic types, do not mind and would love to be shot and killed so long as they can blow up hundreds of others? The submission of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is unrealistic and does not count. What really is essential is absolute and thorough searching, so that anyone who appears to be the slightest risk is not allowed on any aircraft.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, as I said earlier in reply to, I think, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, we are tightening up, and we shall continue to tighten up. It is an extremely difficult area, but we shall be vigilant in all respects.

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