Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/11/08/transport_committee_flight_hassles/

Did US terror measures down UK MPs?

Government level blue on blue

By John Lettice

Posted in Bootnotes, 8th November 2004 17:37 GMT

Yesterday the UK Parliament's Transport Select Committee published its report on the Car of the Future, on which we hope to bring you more shortly, but in the annexes at the back of the report, it seems to us there's a tale to tell. Problems with a flight to Washington? Last January? Well, well...

A delegation from the Committee was apparently due to arrive in Washington on 11 January, but, Annex 10's introduction reveals, "The Committee arrived in Washington late on Monday 12 January 2004, missing one day of the scheduled programme, owing to a problem with the flight from London." Should your memory need refreshing, it just so happens that BA's flight 223 to Washington was cancelled with such frequency in the first few weeks of 2004 that BA finally gave up and called it something else. European airlines had started handing over PNR (Passenger Name Record) data to the US authorities, who promptly found copious quantities of suspect passengers to investigate on the list.

We're afraid we can't quite nail 11 January as one of the cancellation days, but it's a tantalising thought, especially when you consider the delegation was headed by Transport Committee chair Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, and that air transport is part of the committee's remit. Our trawl of the public prints around that date reveals her, possibly rashly, denouncing armed air marshals just a few days before her scheduled departure.

And the trip certainly seems to have made a deep impression on her, as evidenced by this useful summary in the New York Times. "It's a sort of general level of arrogant incompetence," the paper quotes her as saying warmly of US security, adding that she complained of being harassed by airport security officials in several cities "during an official visit to the United States last January." Yes, that's the trip we're interested in alright.

And might this shed some light? "In an interview in June, Ms. Dunwoody also criticized what she depicted as increasingly intrusive American demands for personal information about passengers on flight lists. Several British flights to the United States have been delayed for hours as American officials pored over the flight lists, according to pilots and airline officials." So it might perhaps be deduced that current US air transport arrangements have made a deep impression on the most appropriate committee of the UK Parliament. Outstanding. ®