Persistent and alarming lapses in security at Manchester airport have been exposed by an undercover BBC film, which shows planes left unlocked overnight and falsification of x-ray search records.
The documentary includes secretly filmed x-ray supervisors telling a reporter to "cheat" in order to meet search quotas, and shows the apparent ease with which a terrorist attack could be mounted.
Manchester styles itself as "Britain's No 1 holiday airport". It said yesterday that it had a "robust security net" not reliant on any one element of the defence system, and that any allegations of deficiencies were taken seriously and, where necessary, rectified immediately.
Managers at the airport were unaware until recently that a BBC reporter, Michelle Fox, spent three months working as a security officer. She took hours of film with a concealed camera for the programme, the first in the Whistleblower series, to be shown on BBC1 tomorrow night, four days before the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Despite concern about aviation security following 9/11, the BBC says Manchester cut its security budget by pounds 8m and made a third of its security staff redundant. Local MPs had expressed concern at the budget squeezes, and the BBC decided to place Fox in Manchester following the cuts.