Don’t get too excited. It’s not happening tomorrow. The EU announced a little while ago- June I think – that the ban on carrying liquids in hand luggage would go in 2013. Now, the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, has said it will end in the UK too. Also in 2013. Nothing surprising in that as there is supposed to be uniformity across the EU. Why it should take another 2-3 years if they have already decided to do away with the problem must be down to the length of time it takes to install new machines that can detect tampered liquids but it still seems a long way off. If we screamed security I bet the kit would be in place in months.
No, the interesting feature of Hammond’s statement was that the ban would start being phased out from April. Does this mean that the machines capable of assessing liquids will be installed in some places – presumably Heathrow- first and then it will take a further 2 and a bit years to cover all the other airports in our countries? But if that happens you will have confusion on where you need to use a plastic bag to put small bottles of liquids in and where not. What happens if I have a litre of water at an airport where I can carry it but then hub in another where I am limited to a 100ml bottle. Do I have it confiscated? Either this hasn’t been thought through or the statement hasn’t explained how this phasing in is going to happen.
As I understand it, the scanner (called the verifier) can tell whether the contents of a bottle matches the label. A different scanner, called an identifier, will then confirm if there is some element in the rejected bottle that could be explosive. What happens in the case where you refill bottles? Take a ridiculous example. I put flat water into a sparkling bottle container. Does it really detect the difference? What if I have an unlabelled bottle? What if I decant some medicinal brandy into a water bottle? Does all this go to the identifier for approval before I can travel? Does it mean we can only carry liquids in previously unopened bottles?
We’ll see if we can find out and let you know. At the moment, all we know is that the ministers’ comments raise more questions than they answer.