UK Airports Accused of Scanner Delays

ALTHOUGH THE European Commission has indicated that the liquids ban applied to carry-on hand baggage should be lifted across the whole of the EU by April 2013, MEP Brian Simpson has accused British airports of using delaying tactics.  Scanners have already been rolled out and certified, but Mr Simpson, who is the EU’s Transport Committee Chairman, has suggested that British airports have pressured the EC to delay the introduction until 2013 on cost grounds.  He believes that they could be put into use much earlier.
Speaking on BBC 5 Live radio he added: “The crucial point for me and my committee on this is that we don’t actually believe it is a security issue, we believe it’s an economic issue.  It’s about the cost of the machines.”
The new scanners can detect and analyse liquids within their containers and identify anything suspicious.  However, they cost between £40,000 (US$64,205) and £50,000 (US$80,257) each.  The liquid restrictions were brought in after a failed plan to use liquid explosives aboard transatlantic flights in 2006.  Only liquids carried in containers of no more than 100ml and in a clear plastic bag can currently be carried on board.
The EC planned to gradually lift the restrictions from April this year for transit passengers passing through EU airports.  However, this was initially delayed by six months as some European countries were not ready because the airports did not have faith in the new equipment.  But at the end of May it then said that the partial lifting was being abandoned and instead it would look to lift the restrictions completely in 2013.
But Mr Simpson remains unconvinced.  He added: “My concerns are that the member states who caused the problem this time around will do exactly the same in 2013 and, using the get-out clause of extra national security measures, will call for the ban at 2013 to carry on.”  Although it wants the restrictions lifted, both to speed up the security check process and to make life easier for passengers, it said that it was “not prepared to compromise on security”.
In response the UK’s Airport Operators Association said that: “We are not convinced that the equipment is up to the job.”  The UK government also restated its position that the partial lifting was abandoned in the UK “in the light of the continuing high threat level [to security].”  It also said that it was committed to the lifting in 2013, but that depended upon the security threat level at that time.