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UK Government ‘Too Cautious’ Over Ash Cloud, Minister Admits

The Transport Secretary today admitted that the Government had been “too cautious” in its decision to keep British airspace closed for six days, as criticism of the blanket flying ban increased.

Speaking on BBC radio Lord Adonis said: “I think it’s fair to say that we have been too cautious. ‘We’ being the international safety regulators”.

Britain was among the last European countries to lift flying restrictions as the first flight touched down at Heathrow just before 10pm last night.

The airline industry lobbied strongly for an easing of controls since the weekend, citing evidence from test flights that showed aircrafts’ engines had not been damaged by the ash.

Last night the Civil Aviation Authority accepted evidence from airlines and manufacturers that flights could pass through low density ash cloud without risking passengers’ safety.

The lobbying push was led by Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, who on Sunday personally took part in a three-hour test flight over the Atlantic.

Mr Walsh said last night: “I don’t believe it was necessary to impose a blanket ban on all UK airspace last Thursday.

“My personal belief is that we could have safely continued operating for a period of time.”

Peter Long, chief executive of Tui Travel which includes the holiday companies Thomson and First Choice, said: “The Government’s response to the crisis has been a shambles.

“It is clear that they under-estimated the severity of the consequences of the decision for a blanket closure of the airspace for such a protracted period of time.”

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