The Sketch: Ruth Kelly was absent, just like Terminal 5's security

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The Independent Online

There was an Urgent Question on the T5 debacle. Oddly, David Davis came in (it's Theresa Villiers' pigeon). Not oddly, it being her pigeon, Ruth Kelly stayed away. "Where is she?" I asked the press officer. "In Durham, on a pre-arranged visit." But doing what, though? "I don't know. It was political, I'm from the department," the nice woman said.

So that's the form now. Party politics takes priority over national security. Stand-in minister Jim Fitzsomething said that the Government's highest priority was aviation security.

The absence of Kelly suggests the Government's highest priority is something subtly different. Campaigning for the May elections, I wouldn't be surprised.

That was the needle of the issue, in the haystack of Theresa's urgent questions, and, presumably why Davis was there (he's a sort of Dr Death in these matters).

Department officers tested the security of T5 before it opened. The system failed on nine occasions. The urgent question was: were the security tests re-run before the terminal opened?

Jim Fitz didn't answer that at all the first time round and only made a vague pass at it when John Randall asked again. "The department wouldn't have given the green light if security wasn't adequate," he said.

Note two things: "the department" is the operative agent of approval, not "the minister". And there is no affirmative statement that they knew the security was adequate.

Also, on the more substantive question of style, what he said entirely lacked the emphatic boastfulness the Government deploys when they feel any sense of firm ground beneath their feet.

So, the question hangs, urgently, in the air. Did Ruth Kelly order the security system to be tested after it had failed? Or did she allow T5 to open with a security system in the same sort of condition as the baggage handling system?

They will say, as Jim Fitz said, that security details can't be revealed. But that isn't the point at issue. This isn't a question of security but of preventing a ministerial resignation.

Luckily, we have a Prime Minister with a moral compass. Its needle will have swung decisively towards the path of righteousness. So which way will the old twister go? And how will he explain it away? That really is an urgent question.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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