An MP who accidentally took a knife on to a plane is to demand assurances that airport security has been improved, as she leads a House of Commons debate.
Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) took a fruit knife with her on a two-week holiday in Corsica. The former Health Minister had forgotten it was in a side pocket of her bag, which she had on board as hand luggage.
She discovered the knife, which has a three-inch blade, after arriving in Corsica, and was shocked that she had ever been allowed to take it on to the plane.
Ms Stuart, who had flown from Gatwick Airport, contacted airport owners BAA to tell them what had happened. Eventually, BAA told her it had re-trained the airport’s security staff to ensure nothing like this could happen again. She is today leading a House of Commons debate to urge ministers to launch their own investigation and ensure the airport’s security had improved.
Ms Stuart said: “I have not found the promises made by BAA very reassuring. I will be asking the Government to make its own inquiries, because I want to know that Gatwick has taken the issue seriously and has actually improved its training and procedures. I made a mistake when I forgot the knife was in my bag. But it is very worrying that it got through security in this way.
“When I first tried to tell them about it they dealt with it as a PR problem. Then they said they couldn’t talk about it because it was a matter of national security. Then they made promises to me about making improvements, but frankly I don’t feel reassured.”
Staff at Gatwick also failed to identify replica bombs carried through security by undercover transport inspectors from Brussels, according to reports.
The results of the European Commission security checks have not officially been made public but Ms Stuart said they suggested the airport continues to have problems with security. She said: “I believed the Commission’s findings should be published, and if that is impossible I want the minister at least to look at them. Travellers are asked to turn up two hours early, to go through all sorts of checks and scans and not to bring through any liquids more than 100ml, all in the name of security.”
BAA has apologised to Ms Stuart and held its own investigation. A BAA Gatwick spokesman said: “All security officers have been retrained. Gatwick Airport also undertook a full review of its procedure to respond to customer complaints, including all reports of alleged security incidents. A revised procedure is now in place.”
Ms Stuart will also raise the question of her suitcase, which never arrived in Corsica - leaving her reliant on hand luggage – but mysteriously reappeared at Gatwick when she returned. “If nobody has any idea what has happened to luggage then this raises further concerns about security,” she said.