Skip to main content

Aviation: Liquid Ban

Volume 695: debated on Monday 29 October 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When they last considered the effectiveness of the ban on passengers taking liquids aboard commercial aircraft.

My Lords, the ban on passengers taking liquids on to commercial aircraft was lifted on 6 November 2006, following the introduction of European Union regulations applying across all member states. There remains a restriction on the quantities that passengers are permitted.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. No one doubts the need for a high level of aviation security. Does the Minister agree with his colleague, the Danish transport Minister, who has called for a,

“thorough evaluation, review and risk analysis of the current aviation security measures … so that [they] can be designed and implemented in a balanced and efficient way”?

The measures, which are secret and are not published—both the liquid ban and that on hand luggage—cause considerable inconvenience. Would it not be better if there was a review that was shared with parliamentary representatives, rather than us being asked to take on trust that they are the only way to properly ensure passenger safety? Might there not be other measures that are more proportionate and at least as effective?

My Lords, I understand why some passengers feel that they experience inconvenience when they go through the security protocols at airports, but we have to bear in mind the fact that the threat of terrorism is real and present. It is right that we should take the best advised measures. I ought also to put on record the fact that we continuously monitor the effectiveness of, in particular, the liquid security measures, as well as all the other measures that have been taken to ensure that security is at its tightest. The fact that there has not been a serious incident involving liquid explosives indicates, I would have thought, that the measures that we have put in place so far have been very effective.

My Lords, does the noble Lord not think that Ministers should set an example in co-operating with security officials at airports and not complain publicly about their treatment, however much they are inconvenienced?

My Lords, the noble Lord is probably right; we should not complain too loudly. I always celebrate the fact that there is effective security at airports, as I am sure the noble Lord does.

My Lords, when did the Government last consider the effectiveness of the ban on passengers taking more than one piece of hand luggage on board commercial aircraft? That ban is particularly irksome to those passengers transferring internationally at UK airports and is commercially damaging to UK carriers.

My Lords, we have been reviewing the number of pieces of hand luggage that people can take on board an aeroplane. I think that it was one of the issues that were looked at as a product of the summit on the matter in July this year.

My Lords, who has the responsibility for determining the safety of liquids that are bought airside in airports, which can be taken on aircraft? What is the Minister’s estimate of the cost of that testing?

My Lords, I do not have an estimate of the cost of that testing. Clearly, the responsibility lies with the airports and those that they seek advice from in managing airside sales and distribution.

My Lords, when the Government consider the issue that has been raised, do they consult the chairmen and chief executives of the airlines and the relevant trade unions, in particular the British Airline Pilots Association?

My Lords, I understand that extensive consultations are undertaken on these matters, as it is in everyone’s interests that we get it right.

My Lords, when these measures were first introduced, there was a complete prohibition on taking tubes of toothpaste or any liquids. This was subsequently changed. Why?

My Lords, I can only assume that it was because the level of threat from a tube of toothpaste was considered rather less than that from a bottle of liquid. A friend of mine had two jars of Marmite confiscated, which I thought was a bit tough at the time, but these are the things that we have to put up with.

My Lords, what progress has been made in developing screening equipment to distinguish between dangerous and harmless liquids?

My Lords, testing regimes are in place and my understanding is that they have proved to be extremely effective. Having those liquid testing regimes in place was made a statutory requirement on 1 May this year.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the best ways of avoiding the problems of security at airports is not to fly at all? Perhaps his department might discourage people from flying rather than encouraging them to get round the security problems.

My Lords, I know that my noble friend has a particular thing about flying and I entirely respect her point of view. However, I think that we would all recognise that aviation plays an important part in the life of our country.

My Lords, what damage can be done by 105 millilitres of liquid that cannot be done by 100 millilitres of liquid?

My Lords, my briefing does not extend to that extra five millilitres, but I suspect that this is based on science. I know that that is an inadequacy in the brief, for which I apologise to your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, does not the Minister’s flippant response convey the great need for assessing the proportionality of the measures—