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Aviation: Security

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 14 November 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The restriction on the number of cabin bags which passengers are permitted to carry on to an aircraft (the “one-bag rule”) was introduced following the August 2006 security alert. The alleged plot to bomb aircraft on transatlantic flights highlighted a new method of terrorist attack, using relatively small amounts of liquids and other components.

It was clear that in the wake of this new danger, we needed a new regime that would prevent dangerous liquids being taken on board aircraft—and yet would be practical to implement, while also ensuring that security levels would not be compromised. As a result screeners would be looking for a substantially bigger range of potentially dangerous items.

We were clear from the beginning, though, that the one-bag rule was a temporary arrangement—and that the one-bag rule would change once the industry had demonstrated its ability to screen passengers and bags to an acceptable standard, in the light of the new threat.

We have assessed the effectiveness of the one-bag rule over the past year, considering airport investment in new screening technologies, and the improvements that extra security staff and new procedures have made at selected airports around the country.

I am announcing today a new approach to hand baggage security that will be introduced progressively as airports are ready to handle the extra capacity, so we can pass the benefits on to the passenger as quickly as possible.

We are inviting each airport to submit plans to take advantage of new technology, operational innovations, and unexploited capacity in the system to make a real difference to passengers as soon as possible.

Because airports are so busy at Christmas, the earliest date that airports will be able to introduce a new approach to hand luggage will be 7 January 2008. I hope to see rapid progress across the whole country—with all airports submitting plans over the next few months.

This is not about relaxing security. It is about allowing airports to take advantage of smarter technologies and improved processes to deliver a better service to the passenger.