Parliament & Politics: Dobson fears erosion in security at airports

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THE GOVERNMENT'S drive to cut red tape may lead to a relaxation of airport security, according to a document leaked yesterday by Frank Dobson, Labour's transport spokesman.

Mr Dobson released minutes of a meeting of the 'communications and transport deregulation task force', one of the committees working on the deregulation Bill which will be published this month. They reveal that the committee is considering whether airport security is 'overly belt and braces' and whether this creates an unnecessary 'huge cost to industry'.

The committee is also looking at whether aircraft certification is too expensive and duplicates procedures in the EC; at whether restrictions on night flights are too onerous; and at why there are still full immigration controls in spite of the European single market.

Mr Dobson also said the Government had failed to implement a key recommendation of the inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster, a direction to ensure all baggage was matched with passengers. Mr Dobson said the number of passengers whose baggage went to the wrong destination proved much baggage did not accompany its owner.

He said that last February the Government had promised that baggage reconciliation technology would be introduced, but now it had backtracked. British Airways said it was considering computerising the transfer baggage system, which is thought to have been the source of the Lockerbie bomb.

The Department of Transport confirmed that trials were being carried out at three London airports and Manchester and admitted airport security procedures were being reviewed: 'We are keen to develop realistic policies to ensure effective transport security in line with the level of the threat.'

The department pointed out that costs of any security measures were borne by travellers.