back to article Home Office 'ring of steel' fails the pig plague test

One unexpected benefit of the Home Office's obsession with 'counting them all in, counting them all out' is that in the event of, say, a flu pandemic it would be simple to grab a list of all the passengers on an affected incoming flight, and check them out for infection. But no, not exactly - that's not quite how it appears to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lol reliance on central databases. In the olden days they'd have just asked the airline for a passanger list. Or a list people who bought tickets for the flight. But now it's "waah not in databasorZ how does we gets information naow!? Need Mashup! Argh ate beef does I got swine flu? Arghhh!"

    Technology makes stupid people stupider.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ring of....

    Ring of steel, ring of wet N1H1 tissue paper more like it

    Paris - ring of steel

  3. Christoph

    Another NuLab win

    Send an email to Aunty Dot, and it's recorded for years. Enter the country to blow things up, and it's forgotten the next day.

  4. Jon


    1. I think possibly that the internet based budget airlines are better placed than some nations airlines to pass the PNR data to the eborders system as many of them user COTS internet booking software with this facilty built in.

    2. What the problem may be in this case is that although the data may have been collected at the time, it may only be checked against the watchlist and dissappear into some poorly mapped database (if kept at all) that only administrators would be able to search by flight as looking for fluey flights was not a requirement for the outsourced GUI for the chumps at gov office to use who will never have seen a command line let alone put together a select request.

  5. Steve Swann

    I've changed my mind....

    No, go on, really, you can have the NID and the ID Cards and stuff....

    ....there's no way you'll ever make effective use of it at this rate. Knock yerself out Jaqui.

    Better still, let me knock you out instead.


  6. michael

    is it just me..

    or dose "ring of steel" remind any boady else of a gay porn flick

  7. Winkypop Silver badge

    Just as well pigs can't fly

    Isn't it?

  8. Pete Silver badge

    1700 arrests - means nothing.

    OK, a little OT, but it needs to be said,

    The number of arrests that a programme produces is irrelevant. Being arrested is not an indication that a person is a criminal, or even that they've done anything wrong. For that to be the case, you have to be charged with something, and then FOUND GUILTY. All it means to be arrested at an airport is that some over-zealous oik has taken a dislike to you and you've missed your flight.

    Similarly with all the powers, resources, time, money, experts, surveillance and forensics available to them, the governments record on actually finding terrorists, charging them and gaining convictions is so low as to constitute harassment - somewhere around 2% of people arrested for terrorism related offences are actually charged (and then usually for some unrelated offence, such as searches of their house/computer, revealing smut or drugs crimes) and even fewer convicted.

    However, big numbers sound impressive - and give the false illusion that progress is being made. What would be nice, but will never happen, is for some enterprising journo to take a step back, stop passively regurgitating government figures, and ask some probing questions such as "that's all very well minister, but how many actual convictions have been made?" We can only hope ...

  9. Dave

    Exit Checks

    They might count them in reasonably reliably, but so far this year the passport check booths at Heathrow T3 have been unmanned more times than they've been manned when I've passed through. That means they don't know who's still here.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Why would they bother?

    > "Like you, we find it difficult to credit that ten days after the event, nobody seems to have had the nous to run a list down."

    If they used elbow grease and common sense, they wouldn't be able to generate an apparent need for yet more "sweeping new powers". I mean, why get off your ass when sweeping new powers can do it for you, and be used for a lot of other things, too. Stand by for the augmented laws and regulations requiring visitors to provide DNA and other samples on arrival "for their own health and safety" and to file (and keep up to date) details of all their intended movements, addresses, contact numbers, and so on. Heck, why don't we just make them all wear GPS-fitted ankle bracelets?

    (OK, so that's a bit over the top, but then, 10 years ago, so were national DNA databases, ID cards and extended detention of suspects without charge).

  11. smudge
    Black Helicopters

    Getting the airlines to play ball

    What's in it for the airlines? Why should they sign up? The problem is that the Government can't offer them a carrot. They can try to shake a stick at the airlines - "if you don't give us the data, we won't let you fly in" - but I wonder if that would be legal from the international point of view.

    The big airlines use central systems like SABRE, Galileo and Amadeus, so getting their data - once you've signed them up - should be easy, and is probably simply an extension of an already-existing interface.

    It's the charter and budget airlines who will be the nightmare. They are likely to have their own systems, to avoid paying SABRE, Galileo, etc. This means many more external interfaces. But first you have to persuade each airline - currently spending all its efforts on simply surviving - to make their data available. Who pays for the changes to the airline's systems? As I said, what's in it for the airline?

  12. Ted Treen
    Thumb Down

    Just when you thought...

    ....they couldn't get any more hopeless & incompetent, they turn round & surprise you.

    How in God's name has this country endured three terms of the most concentrated collection of retards this side of the Bush residence?

    and WHY?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    This is a GOOD thing

    Let's not damn the government for not implementing invasive technology like centralised long term storage of travel lists and invasive immigration controls!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Why would they bother?

    I don't know why you think that's far fetched. Last year I had to give a thumbprint every time I hired a car at Stansted Airport (approx every three weeks).

    We now refer to the UK as "HM Open Prison UK". The sad thing is, that it only appears to be those of us who travel into the UK from outside on a regular basis who seem to notice the deterioration in all the things that once made "Britishness" desirable (things like freedom, decency, tolerance, etc)

    Posting anonymously just in case, by some horrible accident of competence, they know where I live.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    @Ted Treen

    "How in God's name has this country endured three terms of the most concentrated collection of retards this side of the Bush residence"

    Better you than us.

  16. Gilbert Wham

    wait, what?

    Forgive my naiveté, but I kinda assumed that passport control/immigration people counted who came in/went out of the country anyway? Like, all day? Because IT'S THEIR BLOODY JOB?

    I am clearly living in a fool's paradise, am I not?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    they need more drones?

    since the more information you have the more you need to look through, they are probably still looking through records from 5 years ago and that pesky murderer they let through immigration and now dont know were he lives, thatll take another 5 years to look for.

    The best librarian isnt the one who reads all the books, but knows the relationship between texts. the most efficient state doesnt monitor all information, just that which is important .

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5 coughing, sweaty men missing..

    "The passenger list from First Choice Flight 578 from Cancun was reportedly deleted 24 hours after the flight's arrival"

    Is this routine practice?

    If so, no criticism of the airline - the swine flu developed after that - but it does seem a bit soon.

    I don't recall any advertising to the public for passengers on this flight to contact a special number: did I miss it?

  19. Rich

    Charter flights

    Doubt the pax lists are ever very accurate. They'll have the people who booked, minus those that met Mexican guys and stayed in Cancun, plus the people the reps sold cheap tickets to in the pub, etc, etc.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    I might be wrong but...

    Pandemics have been a round for a lot longer than Al-Qaeda or even the IRA. How can the Government justify the money on all this terrorism surveillance when a half-way decent strain of the flu can wipe out millions. Let's not forget that the last major influenza pandemic (1918-1920), which killed anywhere up to 100 Million, in a world considerably less populated than it is now, is still in living memory. Worse, since then international travel has become common place, at a speed that allows the virus to spread before you can apply any sort of quarantine.

    In my opinion our Government has been grossly negligent in this case. If anyone dies from this virus who was infected in this country by someone who brought it in with them, then the senior civil servants in charge of the assorted departments should be brought up on charges of corporate manslaughter.

    Luckily, It looks like we may have got away with this one. Governments are supposed to protect their citizens, but given that we fork out over half of our income to pay for it (12.8% employer's NI, 11% Employee's NI, 22% PAYE, 15% VAT makes ~60%), shouldn't we have the ability to sack some of these non-elected idiots?

    Our police have forgotten that they are there to defend the peaceful protesters against the troublemakers, our health department cannot get a passenger list of potential plague carriers, and we have now put £185Bn into the banks, the failure of which might have actually helped the long term house market in this country since a 15%-20% per annum property price growth is unsustainable in even the medium term, let alone the long term.

  21. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Ofcourse they don't have a list

    How could they engineer a pandemic if it was that easy to stop?

    Further evidence that this is a manufactured problem.

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