Chris Grayling, the United Kingdom’s Transport Secretary, has downplayed suggestions that a ban on passengers is targeted at specific countries and insisted that it is to do with an “evolving security threat”.
Grayling faced a number of difficult questions in Parliament over the government’s decision to put in place additional luggage restrictions on all inbound direct flights to the UK from six countries.
The ban, which will be in place by March 25 at the latest, follows a similar move by U.S. authorities, although there are differences in the countries covered.
The UK measures apply to inbound flights from: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia; while the U.S. ban covers 10 airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
All the countries affected are majority-Muslim but Grayling didn’t agree with the implication from some MPs that it was targeted at this group.
“Let me also be clear about this point: in recent years, we have seen a whole range of horrendous terrorist events in which Christians, Muslims, Hindus, people of no faith, and many others have died side by side. Our job is to protect every single citizen of the United Kingdom whatever their faith, and this is about protecting every single citizen of the United Kingdom whatever their faith,” he said.
Grayling was asked a number of questions about the ban but declined to go into specific details because he was not at liberty to discuss them publicly. Security is set to become an even bigger issue given that Grayling was speaking on the same day a terrorist attacked and killed a policeman and two others in London (the perpetrator also died).
“The safety and security of the travelling public will always be our paramount concern, and this Government will not hesitate in putting in place any measures that we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate,” Grayling said.
The problem for many of those MPs asking Grayling questions was that while the UK ban was presumably based on similar information to that of the U.S., the two had reached different conclusions on the countries that would be subject to the ban.
“On the difference between the approaches of the United Kingdom and the United States; the approach of the United States is a matter for them. As would be expected, we have considered all the evolving information before us to reach a decision about what we believe is in the interest of the United Kingdom and the protection of our citizens,” Grayling said.
Grayling also washed his hands of the implications for those traveling on hand-baggage only fares, saying that it was up to the individual airlines affected.
There is also the issue of whether insurers will cover lost or stolen electronic items that have been placed in hold luggage.
“I will write today to the Association of British Insurers to ask it to be mindful of this issue,” Grayling said.