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'No progress on Sharm return'

'No progress on Sharm return'

When approached by TTG this week, Jonathan Lord MP, co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Egypt, said he and fellow co-chairman Stephen Timms MP were not aware of any progress on a UK return to Sharm since a Commons debate on the ban in December last year.

 

It is widely accepted that after the £20m safety improvements at Sharm’s airport, it is now considered safe by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Foreign Office (FCO).

 

However, responding to Lord and Timms during the December debate, then minister of state for transport John Hayes MP said the ban on UK flights to Sharm remained in place due to a “wider range of security-related reasons”.

 

The DfT and FCO stance remains that the UK “continues to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security arrangements” and “keeps aviation security under constant review”.

 

Said Lord: "I’m afraid I’m not aware of any progress since the Department for Transport responded to my adjournment debate on Sharm in the House of Commons on December 13 last year.

 

"Lord Stone of Blackheath has continued to table questions on this in the House of Lords to ministers too.

 

"The Egypt APPG still supports strongly the resumption of flights from the UK to Sharm, as outlined in the Commons debate."

 

During the December 13 debate, Mr Lord said security experts in the UK and Egypt were in agreement Sharm was now one of the world’s most secure airports.

 

"In 2016, after three trips to the town, Sir Gerald Howarth, then an MP and chairman of the APPG, told UK travel companies representatives of the Department for Transport had told him that they felt that the conditions to enable flights to resume had been met," he told ministers.

 

Egypt’s £20m investment included replacing outdated security equipment, employing UK aviation security firm Restrata to train 7,000 staff, run background checks on existing staff and introducing new biometric ID systems.

 

The country also spent a further £26m improving security at tourist hotspots and at hotels.

 

The Foreign Office (FCO) does not explicitly advise against travel to Sharm, but does warn nationals to avoid all but essential air travel to the Red Sea resort.

 

It does, however, warn against all travel to the North Sinai region, and states there remains an increased risk of terrorism against aviation.

 

On the flights ban, the FCO adds: "The UK government will continue working with the Egyptian authorities to enable regular flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheikh to resume.

 

"We are also liaising with travel companies so that they are able to resume flights and holidays in Sharm el Sheikh as soon as appropriate security arrangements are in place."

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