British taxpayers paid for Libyan security experts to fly to the UK, while British officials met Libyan counterparts at Tripoli airport.
In all five different visits were made to discuss “aviation security” at a total cost to the taxpayer nearly £25,000 between 2007 and 2009.
The Government declined to say what was discussed at the meetings, insisting it does not comment on “specific operational issues”.
The revelations come at a sensitive time, with police reopening the investigation into the 1988 Libyan bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie and fresh questions over the shooting by a Libyan gunman of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984.
Last night relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing said that taking advice from Libyans on airline security was “shocking”, “bizarre and inappropriate”. Daniel Kawczynski MP, chairman of the Commons’ all-party Libya group, described the revelations were “deeply disturbing”.
The details of the controversial programme were disclosed in a response to a Freedom of Information request from The Daily Telegraph.
The details included how six British officials met four Libyan officials in Britain in March last year to discuss “aviation security” and officials from the Department for Transport visited Tripoli airport twice in 2007, and on two more occasions earlier this year.
Other talks have also taken place since 2001 about increasing the number of flights between the UK and the north African country.
Pamela Dix, whose brother, Peter, was killed in the bombing, said that while she was “entirely in favour for a deepening of our links with Libya”, it was “bizarre and inappropriate to receive advice in this way”.
She added: “Whatever the level of responsibility for Lockerbie, they have been responsible for the destruction of other aircraft.
“The idea of the Department for Transport seeking advice on aviation security – let alone paying for it – from Libya is quite shocking.
“I was in favour of diplomatic relations being restored with Libya, in the interests of mutual understanding and to reduce the likelihood of terrorist activity, but not at the expense of good sense and an understanding of the political context.”
Mr Kawczynski added: “It is disturbing, given the proven long term Libyan involvement in terrorist activities in UK and the still-outstanding issues, the UK Government is using our money to pay the Libyans for such advice.
“The Government’s conduct in this extraordinary tale is as crass as it is incompetent. For a Government nurtured and cradled in spin I find this lapse baffling.”
Last night a spokesman at the Department for Transport said the Government would not “comment on specific operational issues”.
He said: “The safety of passengers and airlines is our top priority, and that’s why we have an ongoing programme of work with a wide range of countries to protect UK airlines’ operations overseas.
“This naturally involves drawing on information from local security officials, and providing them with advice and guidance on best practice in the UK where appropriate.” No one at the Libyan Embassy in London could be reached for comment.
Around 140,000 passengers fly regularly between the UK and Libya on three airlines – British Airways, Libyan Arab Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.
Anglo-Libyan relations are under intense scrutiny after Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds in August, a move which was denounced as a “mistake” by US President Barack Obama.
Last month The Daily Telegraph revealed how the Crown Prosecution Service was told by an independent prosecutor in April 2007 that they had sufficient evidence to charge Matouk Mohammed Matouk and Abdulgader Mohammed Baghdadi with conspiracy to cause the death of WPC Fletcher, who was gunned down outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.
No charges have been brought and the Metropolitan Police insists that the investigation is still open.