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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 14:16 GMT
One-bag air travel rule relaxed
Crowds at Heathrow Airport
Critics say the checks have damaged Britain's reputation
Plans to ease baggage restrictions for air travellers have been outlined by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Strict rules were imposed over what could be carried on to flights in 2006 after a series of security alerts.

From 7 January airports will be able to seek permission to let more than one item of hand luggage be taken on board flights by passengers.

Size restrictions on liquids and cabin luggage will remain and Ms Kelly said it was "not about relaxing" security.

In order to be able to relax the "one bag rule", airports will have to apply to the Department for Transport and prove they have the necessary screening measures to handle extra cabin luggage.

Temporary measure

Ms Kelly said an alleged plot to bomb transatlantic flights had illustrated that relatively small amounts of liquids could be used in an attack, leaving a "substantially bigger range of potentially dangerous items" to be screened for at airports.

But she said the "one bag rule" was always meant to be a temporary arrangement, while airports came up with better ways to screen passengers and bags for dangerous liquids.

This is not about relaxing security. It's about allowing airports to take advantage of smarter technologies and improved processes to the passenger
Ruth Kelly

"I am announcing today a new approach to hand baggage security that will be introduced progressively as airports are ready to handle the extra capacity, so we can pass the benefits on to the passenger as quickly as possible," she said.

"We are inviting each airport to submit plans to take advantage of new technology, operational innovations, and unexploited capacity in the system to make a real difference to passengers as soon as possible."

She said the earliest date it could be introduced after the busy Christmas period was 7 January.

"I hope to see rapid progress across the whole country - with all airports submitting plans over the next few months," she said.

"This is not about relaxing security. It's about allowing airports to take advantage of smarter technologies and improved processes to the passenger."

The UK remains the only country to operate a one-bag rule for air passengers.

Curbs were imposed in August 2006 after police said they had foiled a plot to bring down as many as 10 planes.

All hand luggage had to be checked into the hold of aircraft, with only passports and travel documents allowed on board.

The delays resulted in hundreds of cancelled flights, costing the industry millions of pounds.

Weeks later the restrictions were eased and passengers were allowed to take one small item of hand luggage on board.

In October, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said Heathrow was "rapidly becoming a national embarrassment" because of the rules.

And Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, has said the restrictions were "damaging the UK's reputation around the world from a business perspective".

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