HL Deb 05 April 1990 vol 517 cc1586-600

3.52 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide another weapon in the fight against international terrorism in the air and at sea. It was almost a year ago that the then Secretary of State for Transport announced in another place that he intended to seek new powers for Parliament in order to secure more effective implementation of aviation security measures. I believe that this Bill provided these powers. It also extends to maritime activities similar powers to those currently available and proposed for aviation security. I shall deal firstly with aviation security and then with maritime security.

I am sure that the mention of aviation security immediately brings the Lockerbie disaster into your Lordships' minds. On 21st December 1988 Pan American Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York crashed at Lockerbie killing 259 people on the aircraft and 11 on the ground. The disaster was caused by a terrorist bomb and was a grisly example of the depths to which these callous individuals will descend. Further evidence of terrorism since Lockerbie has been the destruction by bombs of a UTA aircraft in Niger and an internal flight in Colombia. The Government are totally committed to opposing terrorism whether on the international or the domestic front and will do all they can to eradicate such heinous acts as those I have just mentioned.

The Government are determined to learn all they can from Lockerbie. The police investigation has made impressive progress with the help of outstanding forensic work and unprecedented international co-operation. The Air Accident Investigation Branch is continuing to do valuable work and will report the results of its investigation to my right honourable friend in due course. My noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate has announced his intention to hold a fatal accident inquiry under Scottish legislation. This can be expected to consider the reasonable precautions by which the disaster might have been avoided. The Government have concluded that a confidential independent inquiry should not be held but that established procedures should be followed. In reaching this decision consideration was given to the legal implications, including those for the continuing police investigation, and the implications for foreign relations and security among other things.

Since the Lockerbie disaster the Department of Transport has carried out a major review of aviation security. Immediately after Lockerbie security was tightened for United States airlines operating from this country; in this there was close liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration. New security procedures were also brought in dealing with electrical equipment carried by passengers. In addition, the whole pass system has been tightened up for those employees and vehicles which have to have access to the restricted areas of our four major airports. There are also tighter checks for the issue of passes, the control of vehicles, the searching of staff and vehicles and the control of passes at the gate. Electronic checking of all passes should be in place this month.

The department's Aviation Security Inspectorate has been doubled and" new requirements for recruiting and training security staff have been introduced. The money available for research and development into equipment and techniques has been doubled.

The Commons Transport Select Committee has, also since Lockerbie, conducted a constructive inquiry into airport security. The Government have been able to respond positively to 21 of the committee's 28 recommendations. In spite of all this, it became apparent that aviation security could perhaps be more effectively enforced if the existing powers in the Aviation Security Act 1982 were enhanced.

The Secretary of State is already able under the 1982 Act to direct airports and airlines. Directions under the 1982 Act have been in force for many years. Improvements in security last year were made using these powers, but further powers are needed to give the aviation security inspectors more flexible and effective means to enforce directions, to enable directions to be made to other businesses, as well as airports and airlines, that have access to airports and aircraft and to make it an offence for individuals to do certain things which are prejudicial to security. Because the proposed legislation builds on the 1982 Act the aviation security provisions of this Bill are framed very much as amendments and additions to that Act. The 1982 Act and Part I of this Bill need to be read together and taken as a whole.

The measures to improve aviation security are in Part I of the Bill. Clause 1 enables the Government to ratify the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Montreal Protocol of 1988, which we signed in October 1988. This protocol commits the Goverment to make it an offence under our own law for any person to carry out armed attacks at any international airport and to cause damage or disruption at such an airport. The protocol requires severe penalties for these offences. In relevant cases offenders can be extradited.

Part I of the Bill widens the categories of persons to whom directions can be given. In future as well as giving directions to airport and aircraft operators the Secretary of State will be able to give directions to other businesses which go on to airports. In practice, this means that catering suppliers, cleaning firms, aircraft maintenance and servicing firms and suppliers of aircraft stores will all be brought within the scope of the Act. It will be possible under Clause 2 for the Secretary of State to direct these undertakings to carry out searches of persons or property entering land under their control and under Clause 3 to direct them to take other measures for the protection of aircraft, aerodromes and air navigation installations against acts of violence.

Clause 4 gives powers to aviation security inspectors to issue enforcement notices where there is a failure to comply with a general requirement of a direction. The person served with an enforcement notice may be required to carry out remedial action. He may alternatively be required to secure that certain operations are stopped until remedial action has been taken. An objection procedure will be available to a person served with an enforcement notice. It will be an offence not to comply with an enforcement notice.

Clause 5 creates new offences relating to security at aerodromes. It brings individuals within the scope of aviation security legislation so that certain acts prejudicial to aviation security become offences. It will be an offence: for a person to give false information in answer to questions relating to baggage, cargo or stores; to give information in relation to an application for or the holding of an identity document; to be in a restricted zone or to go on board an aircraft without proper authority; to refuse to leave a restricted zone or an aircraft when requested to do so; or to obstruct or falsely pretend to be an authorised person.

Clause 6, which was added during earlier consideration of the Bill, enables the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for a list of aviation security approved air cargo agents to be compiled and maintained so that those not already covered can be brought within the direction-making and enforcement notice powers and other provisions in the 1982 Act, as amended by this Bill.

Clause 7, which was also added during earlier consideration of this Bill, enables the Secretary of State to make regulations which would establish an aviation security incident reporting system.

Finally, this part of the Bill, along with Schedule 1, provides for revised information-gathering powers under Section 11 of the 1982 Act. It provides for daily penalties to be imposed for continued refusal or failure to comply with a direction after being convicted of the offence. The procedure to be followed for designating an area of an aerodrome as a restricted zone is also set out in this schedule.

The Bill also deals with maritime security. There is at present no satisfactory legal mechanism by which the Government can ensure that adequate precautions are taken against terrorist threats to maritime activities. Cruise ships and ferry operators and the ports serving them have voluntarily accepted the need to improve their security arrangements. However, individual companies are not well placed to assess the overall threat, and it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that the necessary progress is made in implementing new measures. A rapid response may be needed to new types of threat. The provisions of the Bill will apply equally to both British and foreign ships. When foreign ships enter British ports they will be treated no more and no less favourably than British ships.

Part II of the Bill enables the Government to give effect to the International Maritime Organisation's convention on terrorism at sea and its linked protocol of fixed platforms. It makes it an offence: to hijack any ship or unlawfully to seize or exercise control of a fixed platform; to destroy or damage a ship or fixed platform or to destroy or interfere with any property used for providing maritime navigation facilities or to transmit false navigational information; and to issue threats which could endanger the safety of ships or fixed platforms.

Part III of the Bill extends to maritime activities comparable powers to those available under the Aviation Security Act 1982 or proposed for aviation security in Part I of the Bill. The powers will cover shipping and ports operations and will apply to those handling freight as well as passengers.

The extension of these powers to maritime activities does not imply that the same level of security measures will be required at all ports and on all ships as is presently required at airports and on aircraft. Ships are inherently somewhat less vulnerable than aircraft to the worst effects of terrorist attack. But we must bear in mind the attacks on the "Achille Lauro" and the "City of Poros" and on more than 50 other vessels worldwide during the 1980s.

At present the problem is being tackled by voluntary co-operation with the industry. It is hoped that this will continue. But there is a need for a framework for setting out and enforcing standards for the protection of the travelling public, the crews of ships and others engaged in the maritime industries. The provisions of Part III of the Bill are intended to provide this framework. They will aim to achieve a level of security which is appropriate to the level of threat to shipping.

I turn now to Part IV of the Bill which contains miscellaneous and general provisions. In particular, the Civil Aviation Authority will be enabled to examine and send for analysis the contents of any package or baggage which it believes contains dangerous goods, to seize and detain such goods, to take samples of them and to require related documents to be produced.

A further clause which was added during the earlier stages of the Bill's consideration will enable the Secretary of State to take action against any foreign registered aircraft which lands in the UK from a state which has banned UK registered civil aircraft from its airspace, by restricting access to that aircraft other than that which is necessary to prepare it for its flight out of the UK. The Secretary of State will be able to direct aerodrome managers and other persons on whose land the aircraft is situated to ensure that access to the aircraft is thus restricted.

During your Lordships' consideration of the Bill the Government propose to introduce amendments which will confer express statutory authority on authorised persons to test the effectiveness of security procedures and practices.

In conclusion, I am confident that the measures in the Bill will improve aviation and maritime security still further. It is encouraging to know that the proposals have the backing of the relevant industries and the police. I hope your Lordships will give this important piece of legislation a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.— (Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

4.3 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I think that the House will be grateful to the Minister for having gone through the Bill and explained its purpose. We on this side of the House give our general support to the Bill, especially as it carries out international conventions and protocols. However, as no doubt the Minister expects, there are several matters which we shall wish to raise more fully in Committee.

While considering the Bill we have received from the Select Committee in another place helpful reports on aircraft security which were published in 1986 and 1989. Indeed, the Minister has already referred to them. The 1986 report contained 21 recommendations, while that of 1989 contained 28. Though the Government are not compelled to adopt such recommendations, the Minister stated that they had carried out 21. I am not sure which report those came under. I should be interested to know how many and which of the 49 recommendations have yet to be carried out. Perhaps the Minister could elaborate on that at some point during the Committee stage.

We all want 100 per cent. airport security. We recognise that there are problems particularly in cost and time involved in checking baggage for the hold. I should like to ask the Minister whether research is still being carried out to ascertain some speedy way of carrying out this essential checking. Are we satisfied with the criteria and the system for checking and training staff of the private security firms? If a firm fails to satisfy the inspectorate, the firm should be stopped from operating at the particular airport in question. I wonder whether the Minister can tell us whether this has ever happened. Has a firm of any importance ever been excluded from the contract allowing it to take part in the security work of an airport?

The Commons committee made one or two recommendations. One was that aircraft parked overnight or temporarily unstaffed during turnround should be searched before being brought back into service. Is that being applied?

Both reports recommended the resumption of the aviation security fund, which was set up in 1978 and wound up in 1983. The Government rejected this recommendation, I know, but are we satisfied that all airports can meet the necessary security costs, particularly those in connection with international flights? Do the Government accept the recommendation that cargo should be accepted only from registered shippers?

Turning to the maritime side, the officers' organisation, NUMAST, has expressed serious concern at the use of other persons in addition to the police in carrying out important security functions. The House will recall that concern was expressed at the substitution for British transport police at Harwich of a private security firm. The Minister will also be aware that the General Council of British Shipping has grave doubts about some of the matters of ship security raised by the Bill. It has sent us a number of amendments, most of which we shall table at least for information or for discussion with the Minister when we reach the Report stage.

Under the Bill, private guards are to have powers to arrest and will be able to search both property and people. The Minister, Mr. Portillo, said that it was up to firms to satisfy themselves about the persons they would employ. However, the Police Federation has expressed serious concern at such persons being given these powers. It expressed this in a letter of protest to the Home Secretary. The complaints are particularly relevant to Clauses 21, 22 and 23.

There is also reference in the Bill to unreasonable duties placed on masters and their consequential exposure to penalties. It should be kept in mind that ships are the homes of seafarers as well as their workplaces. Any searches of crew accommodation should be carried out by police only and not by private security staff.

Clause 19 refers to information that must be supplied by a master. The notice to request information must allow seven days. The Minister must surely realise that this is impractical unless the notice is served before the ship arrives in the UK port. Otherwise turnrounds could be unreasonably lengthened in certain circumstances.

Clause 21 deals with keeping people from the proximity of the ships. It is virtually impossible for the master to accept this responsibility. He may not have the resources to institute the necessary searches, nor would he have the authority to make modifications or supply the specified equipment. The master should be separated from the owners and others mentioned in the clause so that, if necessary, he can be directed not to sail.

Clause 22 contains references to other persons specified in the directions. We should be told who those other persons are. Searches of ships appear not to require a warrant. That makes it even more important that searches should only be carried out by constables and not by private security staff. Obviously Customs staff are in a different class and they would also be entitled to carry out searches.

Clause 24 refers to guarding ships against acts of violence. Who is intended to carry out the guarding? Is it to be the crew members? The words "acts of violence" imply that there is a risk of violence, perhaps by armed individuals. Clause 25 follows on with that point. The qualifications of persons in Clause 25(1) should be defined. In respect of Clause 25(4), surely no one who is unconnected with the Home Office or the police should be able to give authority to constables to carry firearms. It would be interesting to know the views of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation on that point.

One of the most objectionable clauses in the Bill is Clause 29. Despite the Minister's assurance, this clause could put a master in the position of having to comply with directions which are intended to apply to the owner and to others who are mentioned. However, failure to comply exposes a master to offences and penalties under the provisions of Clause 31. Clause 45(8) and (9) appear to me not to make sense when, under Clause 29(3), a copy of an enforcement order overrides the whole provision of that clause.

This Bill also covers the supply by ships to oil platforms. In a news release by the Department of the Environment of 16th March it was stated that Mr. David Trippier, the Minister of State, had announced on 15th March that the Government would support an amendment to the environment protection legislation to be tabled by Roger Knapman MP which would seek to provide additional controls over marine oil pollution.

The owners of registered vessels are to be held accountable for illegal spillages of oil when in UK harbours. The authorities would be able to obtain direct financial leverage against the owner. At present only masters can be brought to court and anti-pollution measures in merchant shipping legislation are generally targeted at masters. The Bill refers to oil spills when a ship is in harbour. However, there is no reference to spillage by a ship in UK waters outwith harbours.

Although I may have sounded rather critical of the Bill, I did not intend to be. There are obviously parts of the Bill that we cannot give total support to. However, anything that can be done to tighten up airport and maritime security will, of course, gain our support. We will discuss the department's suggestions and say whether we think it has got the matter right. It will be our intention to move a number of amendments in Committee. We hope that all our amendments will be treated as constructive.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, the Minister will not be surprised to find that he obtains general approval for the Bill from all around the House today. That was the case in another place. No one in his right mind would stand in the way of legislation which was properly designed to reduce the fear of terrorism, whether in the air, on land or on the sea. The Bill goes some considerable way to tightening up the existing legislation. In passing I should say that it is good to see the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I believe that the Bill was to a certain extent his brainchild so it is good to see him taking it through your Lordships' House.

For once in another place there was very little partisan posing either in Committee or on the Floor of the Chamber. That is perhaps the reason for the Bill arriving in this House having been rather better scrutinised than some Bills.

As another aside, I am fascinated to see the word "aerodrome" in the Bill. It is a splendidly archaic word which I have not seen for a long time.

Also in passing perhaps I may ask the Minister how far the provisions already apply to the Channel Tunnel. It is obviously not proper for that to be included in the Bill but I should be interested to know to what extent the provisions written into the Bill have already been applied to the Channel Tunnel. I ought to know because I spent a great deal of time on the Channel Tunnel Bill in your Lordships' House. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could let me know the answer.

We are glad that the Government are putting into legislation the Montreal Protocol and the Rome Convention. I should like to ask how many other countries have signed those agreements. These are matters which can only be successful if they are carried through on a widespread international basis. How many other nations have signed the protocol and how many, like the British Government, have taken steps to include it in their own legislation?

The Minister will not be surprised to hear that our major worry concerns the question of private security firms taking on the job of police officers. The terrorist attack on the Royal Marines at Deal highlighted the inadequacies of some private security companies. We know that a number of the better ones have first-class employees and take their responsibilities very seriously, both in terms of selection and training of employees. That is by no means the case with every organisation. Such organisations spring up like mushrooms and disappear overnight at an alarming rate. The idea of replacing highly trained police officers with such people, although it may save money, must not be allowed to undermine security.

When one reads of the criminal elements which have infiltrated some companies, one recognises the dangers that are inherent in the situation. It may be a flight of fancy, but one could imagine the possibility of a security company falling into the hands of a foreign power which would use it as a means of infiltrating terrorists into the docks and harbours. That may be fanciful, but until there is an acceptable code of practice—and there is nothing written into the Bill—for the recruitment and training of security officers those worries will continue.

After all, the security firms have to undertake some onerous tasks as well as the more mundane ones. The Bill makes provision for property searches both inside and outside ports and harbours. People living in houses inside a dock area could be searched by the private security firms in their own homes. People who work in the ports and live outside could also be searched in their homes. What redress do people have against private security operators undertaking such searches? We know that if the police were to step out of line when carrying out a search the Police Complaints Authority would be brought into operation. There does not appear to be any form of complaints authority overseeing security firms. That is, therefore, a most important aspect which has not been dealt with successfully in another place.

The second matter that I wish to raise is one that was raised by my honourable friend the Member for Southport, Mr. Ronnie Fearn, in another place. At the Committee stage he sought an amendment to what was then Clause 23 but which is now Clause 25. He sought to delete from subsection (4) the words from "the direction" to the end of the subsection and to substitute the words: inform the local Chief Constable of the direction given and in consultation with him request that constables be duly authorised to carry firearms when carrying out searches or other measures". The point that he was trying to make was that not everyone should be able to institute the carrying of firearms. In general, the questions asked about the right to carry firearms were adequately answered in another place by the Minister, but this matter is still outstanding. The noble Lord will perhaps recall that on Third Reading my honourable friend raised the matter again, having had an assurance from the Minister, Mr. Portillo, in Standing Committee that his amendment had "considerable attraction" and that the Minister intended to reconsider the phraseology of that part of the Bill, although he said that he was not sure that the proposal was strictly necessary. He went on to say: A specific fault in the hon. Gentleman's wording is that it would require constables to be authorised to carry firearms, but that is not enough. We want to ensure that they actually carry them, if that has been specified in the direction. For that reason, I shall not accept his wording. However, I should like to review it to see whether we can provide something better".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee A, 15/2/90; col. 139.] On Third Reading my honourable friend again asked what had happened to the amendment and there was no reply because the Minister did not reply at the end of the Third Reading debate. Will the Minister, either now or at a later stage in our proceedings, let me know whether the Government have taken a view on the amendment or are prepared to return with one of their own, or whether they consider that the provision is unnecessary?

The question of private security firms is worrying because civil liberties comes into it. The number of searches carried out by those people will be far greater than the number carried out by members of the normal police force. Perhaps I may reiterate once again that we are extremely worried that there appears to be no enforceable code of practice for dealing with such matters. However, having said that—we shall no doubt return to the matter at a later stage of the Bill —let me say that the Bill as a whole has our full support from these Benches. We wish it well and hope that it will go a long way to discouraging terrorists and incidents such as the one at Lockerbie and that involving the "Achille Lauro" to which the Minister referred.

4.23 p.m.

Lord Greenway

My Lords, perhaps I may also say how pleased I am to see the Minister reverting to his former incarnation on this Bill, if only temporarily.

I shall confine my brief remarks to the maritime section of the Bill. The Minister has already pointed out a number of recent occasions when terrorists have attacked ships. The memories of some noble Lords may go back a little further to 1961 when a Portuguese passenger liner, the "Santa Maria", was effectively hijacked by rebels. It was at sea for over a week before being tracked down and finally forced into port in Brazil. Thankfully, terrorist events are rarer at sea than they are in the air. There are several obvious reasons for that. It is more difficult to seize a ship. They are not as standard in layout as aircraft; indeed, hardly any two ships are the same. In addition, an aircraft can normally be steered towards what I might term a friendly country within a comparatively short period of time, whereas a ship might need perhaps two or three days' steaming to reach a friendly country, with the added risk of running out of fuel on the way.

One of my worries in legislation of this kind regarding terrorism and security is that any benefits accruing from it, however necessary the legislation might be, are largely negated if applied on a unilateral basis. For example, what is the use of one port at one end of a regular ferry service having the latest and most sophisticated equipment if the port at the other end does not have the equipment to match it? We in this country are perhaps more advanced than most in that respect. Indeed, the passenger facility at the port of Tilbury has the most sophisticated X-ray machinery available. It can search every single item of baggage that goes aboard a ship, whether cabin or hold baggage. That is very admirable, but we must ensure that the standard of equipment used by the ports is used on a worldwide basis; otherwise, there is no point in proceeding. I feel that it is perhaps better to proceed on a broad basis working through the International Maritime Organisation, for instance, rather than on a unilateral or even an EC basis.

I share the anxieties voiced by the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Tordoff, regarding the creation of a new inspectorate which is to be given very wide powers of search, detention of ships and interrogation. The inspectors' qualifications are not spelt out in the Bill, and their duties would seem to me to be of a kind much better carried out by the police.

I agree with other remarks that have already been made regarding the issue of firearms. I am sure that we shall revert to those points at the Committee stage. I shall touch briefly on one other matter; namely, that directions can be given to extend the search of persons or property to those who have access to a port. That includes a very wide range of people, such as hauliers, freight forwarders and so on. Such searches could cover the whole country. I believe that that is a function to be carried out by the police in the normal course of their duties. It is a matter perhaps best dealt with by the Home Secretary rather than the Secretary of State for Transport.

In these uncertain times it is wise to be prepared and safe rather than sorry. Therefore I wish the Bill well. However, I again emphasise that common policies and common standards of protection, enforced worldwide by means of an IMO convention, are perhaps the best and ultimately the safest way of achieving the desired result. I hope that the Government will proceed along those lines.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, one way or another I can support every noble Lord who has so far spoken. It is interesting to note that when the transport specialists get together their speeches interrelate much more than in the adversarial discussions that we sometimes have in this Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, spoke in particular about the duties imposed on ships' masters. At the back of my mind is the question of whether it would not be worth going back five or six years to look at an early football Bill and the duties that we imposed on coach drivers with regard to their passengers. Noble Lords will remember that we did not impose by means of an amendment the same duties upon locomotive drivers of passenger trains who were felt to be in a more remote position.

My welcome for the Bill is tinged with some regret because of the sorry pass we have come to in needing such legislation in the first place. Sadly we are potentially all victims of terrorism. We need the Bill. I have regrets; nevertheless I congratulate my noble friend on having brought the Bill forward.

I have three reservations about the measure —one fairly global and touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the other two somewhat closer to home. It seems to me that aviation security is a chain, not least because there is so much transit traffic through London's intercontinental airports. Are the Government satisfied that the actions that we are discussing today will be mirrored throughout the world? It is one thing to devise a convention or protocal. It is a second thing to get the signatories to it. That can take a long time. And even when one has the signatories it is a third thing beyond our jurisdiction to make sure that they abide by the document that they have signed and undertake the activities to which they have committed themselves.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, mentioned common standards when discussing ports on this side of the Channel and ports on the other side. The main reason that I wish to raise the matter is because of the debate that we had last month on the report of our Select Committee on Overseas Aid. It came across very strongly that it is no good giving people in some countries of the third world high technology equipment —and high technology equipment comes within the remit of the Bill—if they do not have the ability to use or maintain it and if they do not have hard currency resources to buy spare parts when needed.

A simple example stems from a friend on mine who was until recently our deputy high commissioner in Kaduna, Nigeria. I asked him, "How are Nigerian railways?" He said, "They are in terrible trouble." The reason is lack of skills to maintain the locomotives and lack of resources to buy the parts for such maintenance. A railway locomotive is a relatively unsophisticated piece of equipment compared with the high technology that will be needed around the world in support of the proposals in the Bill. Are the Government convinced that the common standards to which the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Greenway, in their different ways, have touched upon will be available to us?

Closer to home, I ask a much simpler question. The Bill deals with airports, planes, ports and ships. Can my noble friend assure me that it also deals with what I might call new technology means of crossing water such as hovercraft and catamarans?

Several noble Lords wish to see common standards. I have a reservation relating to the islands off our coasts. I think of the Isle of Wight, the Scillies and the Scottish islands. We are looking for universal standards world wide. I am concerned about the effect upon places such as Bembridge airfield, Fishbourne, Land's End airfield, or perhaps I may call it aerodrome, St. Mary's in the Isles of Scilly, and the ferry ports and airports of the inner and outer Scottish islands such as Barra, Benbecula, and Campbeltown. We could be in danger. The cost of applying necessary standards —and people fly from Barra to Glasgow, to Heathrow and elsewhere—could penalise those passengers and freight shippers who depend upon the Isles of Scilly steamship company, the Isle of Wight ferry, the Isles of Scilly skybus aviation operation, or, Caledonian MacBrayne. These carriers are essential to the livelihoods of the island communities which they serve. I therefore ask my noble friend for an assurance that these islands' terminals and carriers will not be so directed as a result of the Bill that passengers and freight are penalised. With those questions I am happy to support the Bill.

4.34 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am very pleased to note that there has been such a generally warm welcome for the Bill. I believe that it is important that there should be no significant differences of opinion about the proposals in the Bill so that we in your Lordships' House can demonstrate a united approach in the fight against international terrorism. I am grateful also to those who welcomed me back to this role. However, I cannot help being reminded of the night of the Lockerbie accident, which was one of the most harrowing events that I have ever had to attend.

A number of points were raised during the short debate and I shall attempt to deal with as many as possible. However, I suspect that I must deal with some of the detailed points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Tordoff in Committee. At this stage I shall try to deal with many of the points in a general manner.

Both noble Lords rightly asked about the quality of security staff and the use of private security firms. The Government make the rules and set the standards for security. It is for industry to implement those requirements and standards. The Department of Transport lays down a code of practice for the recruitment of directly employed security staff, the training to be given and the prescribed physical standards to be fulfilled. The department carries out inspections to ensure that satisfactory standards are achieved.

Where private security firms are used for aviation security they must be members of the British Security Industry Association or the International Professional Security Association. They must be bound by their terms of contracts to comply with the associations' rules. Subject to that, it is not the Government's function to say which particular firms an airline or an airport may employ. It is not realistic to employ the police throughout airports inspecting baggage, operating archway metal detectors and so forth—

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I accept what he said about airports. Is he saying that the same provisions will apply to ports and harbours?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am not sure whether the requirements relating to membership of the various associations, training and so forth will apply to ports. I must come back to the noble Lord about that.

The noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Tordoff, asked about ports police. Nothing proposed in the Bill will have any effect on the powers or status of port police forces. We have agreed to full consultation with the industry and other interested parties on the future of port police forces.

In association with that I turn to the arming of police forces. Again nothing in the Bill will require, allow or lead to the arming of police forces. The authority to carry firearms can be given only by the chief constable. The other persons to carry out security functions would be specified by the Secretary of State. He will endeavour to use the procedures which have served the aviation industry over many years in the same way for the maritime industry. Perhaps that answers in part the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. There is no reason to believe that the private security procedures used in the aviation industry are unsuitable for equivalent maritime settings.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, raised the old question of the aviation security fund. As he is aware, the Bill contains no provisions to revive the fund. The Government do not accept the idea that there must be a centrally run fund to ensure that security improvements are implemented. The absence of the fund since 1983, when it was wound up, has in no way prejudiced the implementation of measures in the aviation security programme. If the fund were to be re-established, the administrative costs of running it would have to be met from the moneys raised. A nationally administered fund would provide no incentive for efficiency. The Government remain convinced that aviation security should be funded by airlines, airports and others in the industry. They should foot the Bill because security is for the benefit of passengers and air crew. There is no evidence to show that airports have lacked money to implement security measures.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, also asked whether the searching of aircraft parked overnight, as recommended by the Select Committee, was being enforced. Yes, it is a requirement of the national aviation security programme that such aircraft should be checked before being brought back into service. The noble Lord also asked whether cargo should be accepted only from known shippers. Again the national aviation security programme requires cargo other than that from known shippers to be subject to security screening procedures.

On the maritime side, the noble Lord was concerned about persons other than the police undertaking searching and guarding duties. He was also concerned about the imposition of duties on the master. I recognise that those are important points of concern and we shall have an opportunity to discuss them fully and give them proper consideration in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, asked me how many other countries had signed the two protocols which this Bill covers. Ten have signed the Montreal Protocol and to date six countries have signed the Rome Convention and the protocol. There is every indication that the Rome Convention and the protocol will secure worldwide international support. We hope that our ratification will encourage others to follow us.

In passing, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is aware that this does not affect the Channel Tunnel. However, security arrangements for the Channel Tunnel are still being discussed with Eurotunnel and the railway authorities.

The noble Lord, was concerned about searches of property outside harbour areas under Clause 23(2)(b). A search can only apply to land occupied for the purposes of a business.

Reverting to the constables and firearms issue, the noble Lord asked what happened to the amendment of his honourable friend in another place. That matter is still being examined and I hope to be able to return to it in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and my noble friend Lord Mountevans said that the benefits of the Bill would be negated if measures were applied unilaterally and that we needed to ensure that the measures were applied worldwide. I believe that that was as regards the maritime rather than aviation provisions. The IMO has provided guidance on a worldwide basis. The Government are discussing comparable standards with foreign governments and will be pursuing that on a broader basis as suggested.

Following on from that point, both the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, and my noble friend Lord Mountevans said that security would be wasted if ships were vulnerable in foreign ports. However, the Bill enables the UK to meet the requirements of the IMO and, for aviation security, the IKO. I agree that we must work through those bodies to ensure that standards are applied worldwide. However, responsibility for security in foreign ports and airports must rest with the governments concerned. That said, I assure the House that the Government will spare no effort to encourage other states to adopt those standards and, if invited to do so, to consider how best to advise and help them.

My noble friend Lord Mountevans asked whether the Bill deals with hovercraft, catamarans and other forms of maritime transport. It will do so. He was also concerned about the possible impact of the Bill on smaller domestic flights and short domestic sea voyages. As regards domestic flights, the Secretary of State determines the security procedures to be applied. The present position is that for domestic flights other than those to and from Northern Ireland security measures are implemented in full in respect of all airlines registered or operating in the UK with aircraft having a maximum take-off weight exceeding 15 tonnes. Limited measures apply to domestic flights of small aircraft of a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 15 tonnes. As I said, special security measures apply to flights to and from Northern Ireland.

As regards sea voyages, it is intended that security provisions will apply to domestic seafaring routes on an individual basis. They will be designed to meet the perceived needs of the particular route in question. Clearly some routes are more sensitive than others and while appropriate levels of security will be introduced, we do not wish generally to introduce high levels unless there is a good reason for doing so.

I hope that I have managed to answer some of the questions raised during this afternoon's debate. I have no doubt that we shall revert to some points at the next stage. This new legislation, taken together with the Aviation Security Act 1982, will provide a stronger statutory framework for aviation and maritime security. However, security is only as effective as those in the front line responsible for enforcing it. There is therefore a responsibility on all who work at airports and ports to be eternally vigilant and to co-operate in making security procedures work. Passengers also have their part to play by being co-operative, patient and forbearing; their willingness to do so has been particularly evident since Lockerbie.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying that notes on clauses will be available very shortly and I hope that your Lordships will now give this Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.