The ban on carrying liquids in hand luggage on aircraft is to be eased, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said yesterday. The restrictions could be phased out with the first moves coming as early as April, he said.

The ban has proved unpopular with passengers and airline operators since it was introduced in 2006 after a failed plot to blow up transatlantic aeroplanes. Mr Hammond said that he sympathised with parents with young children who had to taste jars of baby food and drink to prove they were safe. "I have seen mothers tasting it, and doesn't it taste foul?" he said. "The good news is that by 2013 the ban on mush will have ended." Mr Hammond said he planned to make the system more flexible.

The EU signalled earlier this year that the laws would continue until 2013 when mass-screening technology to detect explosives in fluids is perfected.

The ban on liquids came into force in Europe after British police uncovered an al-Qa'ida plot to blow up planes bound for North America using bombs made from liquid explosives.

The security rules have led to scenes of frustration at airport security desks when passengers have been forced to throw away drinks, bottles of perfume and tubes of sun cream before boarding planes.