In UK, a Review over Lack of Police at Airports

Couple dub loophole 'farcical' after PCs clock off at 11pm David Hogg A WIDE-RANGING Government investigation is to be launched after it was discovered that passengers using a number of Britain's leading airports including Leeds Bradford are left without police protection when they travel.

Many of Britain's regional and provincial flight centres, through which millions of passengers filter every year as flight costs diminish, are left without a police guard because they are not included on a list of nine major airports deemed to be of higher risk by the Government.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is expected to wait until the new year before announcing the review which could signal an end to current security arrangements in place at British airports.

The nine airports designated as of high priority, and which receive unceasing police protection, are Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Prestwick.

But the security strategy was drawn up by the Government in the 1970s and takes no account of soaring passenger numbers at Britain's booming regional airports. The loophole was labelled "farcical" by passengers on an African flight in early December who had wanted to report a theft from their luggage at Bristol, but were told that police officers had clocked-off at 11pm.

And the current lack of provision was described a "shameful security lapse" by Patrick Mercer, the Conservative Party Homeland Security spokesman.

Placed only 10 miles from the scene of the Beeston terrorist conspiracy which was eventually to lead to the deaths of 52 people in London, Leeds Bradford does not have armed officers on site 24-hours-a-day.

The airport does have armed officers on patrol during times of heightened alert but relies on unarmed security guards from the company G4S - formerly G4 - most of the time.

West Yorkshire Police would only confirm that armed officers could be available to the airport whenever they were needed.

A spokeswoman for the force said as 24-hour police protection of Leeds Bradford had not been deemed necessary funding issues had not been worked through.

She added: "If we needed to draft in much higher capabilities we would incur higher costs and eventually we would look to the Home Office." Leeds Bradford managing director Ed Anderson said passengers were protected by security systems common to the major airports and that West Yorkshire Police responded promptly when called in any case.

"We get police here when the chief constable decides to deploy them," he added.

"An airport is a public place and whether it is more needed to have police there than at a busy shopping centre I do not know. There will be large lengths of time where there is absolutely nothing happening at all (in the airport) because there are no flights coming in." Humberside airport does not have a 24-hour police presence. Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire would not comment on security arrangements.

The cost of paying for the permanent police base at Luton Airport, which handles about three times the volume of Leeds Bradford, has been estimated at GBP400,000-a-year.

But passengers may be expected to pay - in the form of increased fares - for any increase in police provision at the country's provincial airports as a result of the review.

(Yorkshire Post -- 01/02/06)