HC Deb 24 October 2001 vol 373 cc290-1W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken at British airports to examine more closely the documentation of transit passengers into and out of the UK; and what guidance he gives relating to screening luggage of such passengers on arrival and departure. [7431]

Angela Eagle

Large numbers of passengers who transit the United Kingdom do not pass through United Kingdom immigration controls if they are proceeding without delay on a flight from the same airport.

At times of heightened security airport authorities are required by aviation security directions to route all passengers through immigration controls. This happened for six days after the attacks on the United States of America on 11 September.

Those passengers who are transiting the United Kingdom but depart from another airport or the next day are presented to the United Kingdom immigration controls where they are examined by an immigration officer before being allowed into the United Kingdom.

That examination includes checking personal details against the immigration service warnings index. The warnings index computer system is the primary tool for providing information to staff operating the immigration entry control. All immigration service staff at control points have access to the warning index and portable equipment is available for use elsewhere when needed. All arriving non-European economic area (EEA) passengers are checked against the system.

Aviation security is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and I am advised that the Department does not require screening of incoming baggage on arrival in the United Kingdom. I am, however, advised that all airlines flying from the United Kingdom are directed to screen all departing baggage whether from any passenger transferring through a United Kingdom airport or an originating passenger. In addition, at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration, all passenger baggage on transit flights to the United States of America and Canada is screened at United Kingdom airports.

The Government are putting forward new legislation to counter the threat from international terrorism, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on Monday 15 October 2001, and are looking at the existing legislation on the collection of passenger information and the sharing of that information between the law enforcement agencies.