Bans on Passenger Electronics on Aircraft Leave Questions Unanswered


Responding to the announcement, Richard Burden MP, Labour’s Shadow Aviation Minister, commented:

“Safety and security of passengers must always be the overriding priority for Government and for airline operators. If the Government has evidence that the level of security checks on passengers carrying electronic devices is of exceptional concern in the countries they have listed, then it is right that prompt precautionary action should be taken.

“This announcement does however leave a number of important questions unanswered and we are seeking urgent clarification from Ministers on these points. It’s important the Government set out clearly the precautionary steps they have taken in response to advice from security services to reassure passengers and the public. The Government must also work with airline operators to ensure all passengers are given the necessary information and flights can continue where appropriate with as minimal disruption as possible.”

There are key questions the Government need to answer on their new restrictions on electronics on flights:

  1. Does the Government have evidence that the security risk to flights from the countries listed is greater than on flights from other countries? Otherwise, why have flights from these countries alone been targeted for action?
  1. The ban affects flights to the UK rather than outbound flights. Therefore it will require active cooperation from airlines and the airport authorities in the countries concerned to be effective. How confident are ministers that this level of cooperation will be achieved?
  1. This announcement comes straight after an announcement that the USA is also restricting the electronic equipment that passengers boarding flights from specified countries are able to take on board. However, while the UK and US lists overlap, they are not identical. The UK list includes Lebanon and Tunisia whereas the US list does not. The US list however, includes Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the UAE which are not on the UK list. What is the reason for these differences in the two lists of countries affected?
  1. The two announcements are also different in that the UK ban applies to all flights from the countries concerned whereas reports say the US ban only applies to non-US airline flights. This begs the question about whether there has been coordination between the UK and US authorities and, if so, why there is a difference between the rules announced by our two countries?
  1. If the UK is concerned about the security threat posed by passengers boarding flights in the countries listed, are they going to monitor passengers whose journeys originated in one of the countries listed but who change aircraft in third countries which do not have restrictions in place similar to those adopted by the UK?

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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