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Tight airport security creates new targets - British MPs

Tighter security checks at Britain's airports have created delays and long queues that could put passengers at risk of attack, an influential group of MPs said yesterday.

Parliament's Transport Committee said the attack on Glasgow Airport last month, when a car was rammed into the entrance and set alight, showed how passengers queuing in terminals could become a target.

New rules brought in last summer after anti-terrorism police warned of a suspected plot to blow up passenger planes using liquid explosives have made security checks "lengthy, intrusive and frustrating", the MPs said.

The changes sparked chaos on both sides of the Atlantic, with hundreds of flights cancelled, long delays and widespread confusion over hand luggage rules.

"Moving passengers more swiftly through to airside will, in itself, reduce the threat to the travelling public," the committee said in a report. "Speeding up check-in times and reducing the security queue should be a priority for airports and airlines."

In evidence to the committee, Ian Hutcheson, security chief at airport operator BAA said some passengers are confused by the rules and other try to gnore them.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the Lockerbie plane bombing in 1988, passengers complied with tighter security measures, he added.

But the reasons behind the tighter rules brought in last August quickly faded from people's memories, he said.

"X-ray rage" from irate passengers stuck at security checks has led to a rise in assaults on staff, the MPs heard.

The committee said it was "shocked" by the number of people breaking the ban on carrying liquids through security checks and said the government was too relaxed about the breaches.

The MPs accepted that tighter security was "absolutely fundamental" to passengers' safety. However, they urged the government to do more to help airports cope.

For example, ministers could give airport bosses more information when changes are planned or help with emergency staffing or funding.

Britain's airports have been on heightened alert for years.

Security was tightened at Britain's airports after the Glasgow attack and the discovery of two car bombs in central London hours earlier.

Soldiers and tanks were deployed at Heathrow Airport in 2003 over what one police source described as a threatened al Qaeda rocket attack.

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