Transport security

Statement by:
Rt Hon Lord Andrew Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport
Date delivered:
01 February 2010
Statement type:
Written

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): I would like to update the House on one of the specific decisions made by the Government following the recent review of aviation security – the introduction of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) (also known as bodyscanners) at UK airports.

The requirement to deploy AIT machines at Heathrow and Manchester airports comes into effect today and I expect additional scanners to be deployed at these airports and to be introduced at Birmingham Airport over the course of this month. This will be followed by a nationwide roll-out of scanners in the coming months. These scanners are designed to give airport security staff a much better chance of detecting explosives or other potentially harmful items hidden on a passenger’s body.

The Department for Transport has introduced an Interim Code of Practice covering privacy, health and safety, data protection and equality issues. The Code will require airports to undertake scanning sensitively, having regard to the rights of passengers. This is available in the libraries of the House and on the Department’s website.

Given the current security threat level, the Government believes it essential to start introducing scanners immediately. However I wish to consult widely on the long-term regime for their use, taking full account of the experience of the initial deployment. The Department will, therefore, shortly be launching a full public consultation on the requirements relating to the use of scanners as set out in the Interim Code of Practice and will consider all representations carefully before preparing a Final Code of Practice later in the year. I am grateful for the representations already received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning. If a passenger is selected for scanning, and declines, they will not be permitted to fly. However, the Interim Code of Practice stipulates: “Passengers must not be selected on the basis of personal characteristics (i.e. on a basis that may constitute discrimination such as gender, age, race or ethnic origin)”.