The UK government is coming under mounting pressure to introduce full body scanners at major airports after the Dutch government announced their deployment on all transatlantic flights within three weeks.
The step-up in security at Schiphol airport was announced five days after a suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound jet after changing planes in Amsterdam.
Nigeria has also announced plans to use the scanners, which are already in use in countries including the US and Germany.
Unlike metal detectors currently used at UK airports, these scanners can see through clothes and project an image of the passenger’s body onto a screen.
But the Dutch press has reported that the new body scanners at Schiphol would not necessarily have detected the explosives carried by Abdulmutallab because al-Qaeda have developed more advanced methods to conceal explosives than can be detected by the scanners.
Furthermore privacy campaigners and MEPs are complained that the scanners infringe human rights as they project a naked image of the passenger on to the screen.
Full body scanners are currently on trial at Manchester airport. A final decision on whether to deploy full body scanners at UK airports will be made by the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis.
A spokesman for the BAA, Britain’s largest airport operator, said: “The introduction of full body scanners would require a change in European legislation. The European Commission is meeting member states next week, and we will watch the outcome of those discussions closely and respond accordingly.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport told The Telegraph that it was “urgently assessing” the results of trials which are being conducted at airports and laboratories.
It is understood that the DfT wants to be convinced that the technology is capable of handling thousands of passengers an hour at busy hubs such as Heathrow.
Almost 7,000 passengers travel daily from Schiphol to seven American destinations. The airport already has 15 scanners which it has been testing.
These scanners will be transferred to the departure gates for USA-bound flights as part of the existing trial.
“It may be that we have to buy more,” an airport spokesman said.
“These machines can look through clothes and if something is seen, then people are taken for a more thorough manual search.”