London, May 8 : Current security drills at British airports are being questioned by the opposition, as recent reports have indicated that thousands of foreigners are being allowed to work in high security parts without passing proper criminal record checks.
According to The Telegraph, no attempt has been made to check whether foreign workers have committed any offences abroad despite warnings that terrorists would try to recruit people working "airside" in terminals - with direct access to aircraft and baggage.
The vetting process checks only for crimes committed in Britain. Foreign workers - arriving from inside or outside the European Union - are not checked in their country of origin. This means that someone with a conviction for firearms or explosives offences committed abroad could, for example, take a job loading bags on to aircraft at Heathrow, Gatwick or any other airport, provided they had committed no crimes here.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis described this revelation as quite astonishing, and demanded "full and immediate checks".
There are an estimated 200,000 staff in the "airside" parts of airports employed in shops, cafes or as cleaners in the departure lounge. Others may be employed as baggage handlers, security guards or driving buses between aircraft and the terminal.
The Government brought in emergency rules in 2003 to improve airport security after September 11.
Staff working airside are to be vetted to ensure they had no criminal record and had a checkable employment history for the previous five years.
The Government says that it does not want to carry out foreign criminal record checks because it would take too long and involve complicated comparisons between legal systems in different countries.
Last year the Home Office admitted 11,000 illegal immigrants were working in the security industry.
That came months after it emerged that 27,529 records of British nationals convicted of crimes abroad had been left in box files at the Home Office when they should have been entered on a police database.