Dear Department for Transport,
Can you please let me know whether it is legal for me to refuse a x-ray body scan at Gatwick airport, and instead request a 'hand search' for myself and my two children (aged 6 and 11) so that we can still travel to our destination.
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information about x-ray scanners, which has been allocated the reference number F0006629. A response will be issued to you in due course.
Department for Transport
Information Rights Unit
D/04, Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
YOUR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST, REF: F0006629
Thank you for your request for information about security scanners and the position as regards refusing to be scanned.
If selected to undergo a security scan a person may decline to do so.
However, the Government requires airports, in exercise of powers conferred under the Aviation Security Act 1982, to ensure that any passenger who refuses to be scanned is not allowed to proceed past the security area and, thus, will not be able to travel on that occasion.
It may be helpful to explain some background on the use of security scanners.
There are a number of security screening methods in place at UK airports and security scanners are an additional layer of security that will help airport security staff to detect a variety of items that could potentially be used to launch a terrorist attack on an aircraft. Security scanners produce, on a remote screen, a grey image of the human body and any objects concealed on it.
Security scanners deployed by airports in the UK use either active millimetre wave technology, or very low dose x-ray technology. There have been a number of studies in Europe and the USA, including one by the UK Health Protection Agency. The assessments conclude that the x-ray dose received from being scanned is well within the levels allowed in the UK, including for pregnant women and children. The dose does not constitute any unacceptable risks to health and is equivalent to the radiation an individual would receive from just two minutes flying time at high altitude. Active millimetre wave scanners use radio waves at power levels very many times lower than that of mobile phones.
The Government requires airports to select passengers for scanning on a random basis, or if they cause other detection equipment to alarm, such as the walk-through metal detector. Random selection must not be linked to factors such as: race, ethnic origin, gender or age.
Passengers selected to be scanned may request that the remote screen reader is of the same sex as them. In addition:
§ images are viewed remotely from the scanner, and are deleted immediately after analysis. I mages cannot be stored, shared or recovered from the machines. Staff must divest any recording devices e.g. mobile phones, on entry to the image viewing room and are searched to ensure that this is complied with.
§ images do not show any distinguishing features that will enable identification of passengers being scanned; they simply allow the detection of concealed threat items;
§ the passenger being scanned will not be seen by the person that is viewing the scanned image;
An interim code of practice has been produced for the deployment of security scanners. It forms part of the Direction to airport operators who are obliged by law to adhere to it. Department for Transport inspectors conduct regular audits of all security processes and will enforce compliance with the code of practice. The interim code of practice is available via the DfT website at: www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/security/aviation/air...
The Department has also launched a full public consultation to gather views on what should be included in a final code of practice to be published later this year. The consultation closed on 19 July and all representations are being carefully considered.
If you are unhappy with the way the Department has handled your request or with the decisions made in relation to your request you may complain within two calendar months of the date of this letter by writing to the Department's Information Rights Unit at:
Sedlescombe Road North
East Sussex TN37 7GA
E-mail: [email address]
Please see attached details of DfT's complaints procedure and your right to complain to the Information Commissioner.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
Your right to complain to DfT and the Information Commissioner
You have the right to complain within two calendar months of the date of this letter about the way in which your request for information was handled and/or about the decision not to disclose all or part of the information requested. In addition a complaint can be made that DfT has not complied with its FOI publication scheme.
Your complaint will be acknowledged and you will be advised of a target date by which to expect a response. Initially your complaint will be re-considered by the official who dealt with your request for information. If, after careful consideration, that official decides that his/her decision was correct, your complaint will automatically be referred to a senior independent official who will conduct a further review. You will be advised of the outcome of your complaint and if a decision is taken to disclose information originally withheld this will be done as soon as possible.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner's Office