Debate over relaxing airport security hots up

Debate over relaxing airport security hots up

The campaign to reduce passenger airport queues has been reignited by a leading British industrialist.

Speaking in Brussels, Philip Bowman, chief executive of Smiths Group, has criticised European governments for delaying the roll out of new scanning technology that would speed up airport security checks.

Philip Bowman said: “Sometimes I wonder whether the same energy and elan is always applied to relieving restrictions as is usually shown – for very good and understandable reasons – in imposing them.”

Smiths is one of the leading international suppliers of scanning machines for airport security and claims to have already put in place technology that would allow laptops to be screened without being removed from hand baggage.

“Lifting the laptop restriction could make an early, practical improvement to the lives of the travelling public, perhaps halving the length of Europe’s airport queues,” he told The Financial Times.

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However the Department for Transport has disputed Mr Bowman’s claims, saying “while trials have been carried out, no proven technological solution has emerged to enable the easing of this requirement”.

Tightened security measures were introduced at airports in 2006 after security services thwarted a terrorist plot to kill thousands of people using liquid bombs on transatlantic flights. Three British men were jailed for life last week for their part in the plan.

Next April the European Union will make a decision on whether to lift or relax the restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage.

Trials of machines that can detect liquid explosives are being held at UK and European airports.

Smiths claims that its aTix scanners, used at Heathrow and other UK airports, would need only a software upgrade to be capable of finding dangerous liquids.