PRESSURE ON GOVERNMENT TO MEET AVIATION SECURITY COSTS

Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins, MEP (North West) and Conservative Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament, strongly criticised the British Government's reluctance to meet all or even part of the hugely increased aviation security costs following the catastrophe of September 11th.

Speaking in the European Parliament Transport Committee, where the Commission's proposals on this vexed subject were discussed, Sir Robert referred to the advice to MEPs from Her Majesty's Government which strongly opposes such support for airlines or airports.

"I have spoken out forcefully against taxpayers' subsidies for ailing airlines such as Sabena or Aer Lingus" he declared, "but aviation terrorism is a manifestation of threats to the State. As such, Governments should, at the very least, help to defray the substantial extra costs of improved and efficient security and War Risk insurance. The US Government recognises this. Why cannot a British Labour Government?"

The former Minister for Aerospace emphasised the implications for the aerospace industry and also for tourism if public confidence was not restored, in good measure and as soon as possible.

"UK citizens know and respect the British Transport Police" commented Sir Robert, "and they are an under-utilised resource. Why cannot the Government expand and improve this Force so that they are used at airports to co-ordinate all aspects of security and passenger protection? That would provide more jobs, better standards and visible evidence of police involvement. It would be a huge boost to public confidence in the inherent safety of air travel."

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