Direct flights from the Yemen to Britain will be banned as a key part of new anti-terrorist measures following the failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner, Gordon Brown announced yesterday.
A new "no-fly" list will also be set up to stop a "high echelon" of terrorist suspects from travelling to the UK while others will be subjected to stringent scrutiny. The PM stated that all major ports and airports would be covered by the Home Office's e-borders scheme by the end of this year. Under the £1.2bn programme, passengers must provide detailed personal information when buying their tickets so they can be checked against watchlists before flying.
The new rules follow the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underpants bomber", who allegedly attempted to detonate an explosive device on a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.
But the flight ban was criticised by experts who said it had little relevance to the plot involving Abdulmutallab who had boarded his plane at Lagos in Nigeria. Robert Emerson, a security consultant, said: "One cannot see how this will stop a determined terrorist. All he or she has to do is get an indirect rather than a direct flight from Yemen.
"Tightening up the checks on suspects is much more effective and if that is done properly there would be no need for a flight ban which really appears to be a gesture." There are also questions about the effectiveness of the e-borders rules as compulsory elements of the scheme breach EU law. European citizens cannot be forced to hand over their personal details because stopping them travelling would breach rules on free movement, according to the European Commission. Mr Brown said that the Home Secretary Alan Johnson will today ask a meeting of EU ministers to allow the UK to, "collect and process data on passenger records including on travel within the EU".
The Prime Minister added: "Some of the intelligence we need to protect our people against attacks will be here in Britain; some will be held by our international partners and passed to us, just as we help them with our information about the threats they face."