German airlines could be banned from landing in Britain unless they hand over advance passenger data to security agencies, home office officials have confirmed.
According to The Guardiantalks are due to take place between Britain and other EU countries, including Germany, to pressure their governments into providing authorities with details about travellers.
It follows the announcement in September from UK prime minister David Cameron that requirements on airlines should be tightened and more information shared about passengers than at present. He added that failure to do so could result in planes not being allowed to land in Britain.
Cameron confirmed that if the name of any traveller appears on a 'watchlist', the airline will have to prevent them from boarding.
The US-style measures are seen as important by the government after recent criticism of airlines failing to provide information early enough for British intelligence agencies. Currently, airlines do not release their passenger lists until 30 minutes before departure.
Senior home office official, Mark Sedwill, the department’s permanent secretary, said that the threat applies to all EU airlines but particularly German flights: “We are looking in future legislation at taking mandatory powers. We are working with all the airlines. We have 90% of advanced passenger information,” he told the Commons public accounts committee.
But he disclosed to The Guardian that German airline flights are among the 10% of flights that currently arrive in Britain without providing advanced passenger information.
The issue is expected to be discussed at the G6 meeting in Paris today attended by home secretary Theresa May.
Sedwill told MPs that the issue for some EU countries was data protection legislation. “We are in discussions, which for obvious reasons I have to keep somewhat private, with other EU countries to change their data protection legislation in order to require this data of the carrier,” he said.
“It is our intention to mandate carriers to provide that information and that legislation will also mandate that authority [to ban them from landing]. We are talking to relevant countries about their data protection legislation and the conflict between their legislation and ours in this matter,” Sedwill added.
The advance passenger lists include names and travel plans as well as personal details such as home address, credit card numbers and other data which enable security services to build up a profile of passengers they are interested in.