Examination of Witnesses (Questions 312
WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2002
JAMIESON MP, MR
312. We are very grateful to you for coming
this afternoon. Would you like to make some preliminary remarks
or would you like to go straight to questions?
(Mr Jamieson) Can I say I am very pleased to be here
this afternoon. Can I firstly ask my two officials to introduce
313. Perhaps they will identify themselves.
(Mr Griffins) I am Roy Griffins, Director General
of Civil Aviation.
(Mr Devlin) I am Ian Devlin, I am the Director of
Transport Security Division.
(Mr Jamieson) Mrs Dunwoody, with your permission if
I can make a few brief introductory remarks. Can I firstly say,
I have been on a select committee for some years, five years,
and this is the first time I have appeared on this side of the
fence, so to speak.
314. I am sure you will enjoy every minute of
(Mr Jamieson) Can I also at this point pay particular
tributes to some of the officials, not only those that are here,
but some of them in the Department and in other parts of our organisation
who have done so very much since 11 September, some of them have
worked very long hours giving advice to airlines and to airports,
they really have done a very special job. I would like to put
that on record. It is not often said, but I am probably one of
the few people who have had the opportunity to see how hard and
loyally some of those people have worked. What I will do, as always,
is endeavour to give you the fullest responses. You will appreciate
this is a highly complex area and I am sure that my officials
on occasions may be able to help perhaps with more of the detail
or if anything that I say may be inaccurate I am sure they will
be rapidly putting me right. Everything that needs to be said
has been said about the tragic events of 11 September. It certainly
ushered in a very critical period for the airline industry. Up
to that point the industry in the United Kingdom particularly
had been a success story. We see now that the government has some
role in trying to restore that industry back into the shape that
it was previously. I think there is an area where we have a legitimate
role. An example of that role that we have is maintaining the
confidence of the travelling public, overseeing the safety and
security arrangements and I think also making sure with our European
colleagues the framework for fair competition for the airlines.
I think the area where the government does not have so much a
role is I do not think we are in a position to buck the market
place or we are not in a position to say how many people should
be flying or to artificially try and boost demand, it would be
wrong for us to do so. I think also there is a danger that we
could find ourselves protecting the industry from long-term trends
of supply and demand which have to take place in the market place.
I think the other area is that we certainly approached the European
Commission on were the state aid issues and we are keeping a very
close contact with them on that. In Section 2 of our written evidence
to you, Chairman, we submitted in November last year we did flag
up that there would be a number of areas, possibly, that would
be out of date by the time we got here to the Committee. If I
could just cover a few of those. There are quite a few areas which
need updating now but if I could just cover a few of those. Certainly
the new European Union Regulation containing Common Rules on Aviation
Safety, we welcome and they are having an effect of securing common
levels of security across the Community. Some of those additional
levels of security, I am pleased to say, were already being carried
out in the UK and we were already compliant. Certainly there has
been a precipitous decline in air traffic since the 11 September.
We are told that the figures for September, comparing September
2000 with September 2001 it is 11.5 per cent reduction for September
for BASorry, it is 14.6 for October, it is 11.5 for November
but 8.5 for December which seems to suggest that there is a slowing
down, if you like, of the fall off of traffic.
315. You are saying specifically for BA?
(Mr Jamieson) For BA, yes.
316. You are not saying for any other airline?
(Mr Jamieson) That is right. Those are the figures
which we think are probably a fairly good proxy for the airlines
in this country. The other thing that is very difficult to assess,
Chairman, at this stage is there is a lot of speculation as to
whether what happened on 11 September would cause a greater or
lesser effect than what happened after the Gulf War. As yet that
is very difficult to make an assessment on but obviously my Department
are keeping very closely in touch with that. I think the two other
areas where we need to just update our written evidence, Chairman,
is on the insurance with the failure of the commercial market
in insurance. We underwrote the insurance cover from late September
and at the moment we have that cover in place until 23 January
this year. We are looking at that, of course, on a week by week,
month by month basis and in our evidence to you, also, we said
that the European Union had set a deadline for the ending of the
Government support for insurance, we had said it was the end of
December, of course they have now moved that to the 31 March.
I think at that time we will probably, ourselves and the European
Union, be in a better position then to see how the Japanese and
the US airlines are supporting their own industry and we will
be in a position then to make an analysis of how we may react.
Chairman, those are my brief opening remarks which I hope are
helpful. If we are not able to answer anything today, either because
of time or a lack of expertise or knowledge here we will be very
happy to write to you or, if you so wish, we will be delighted,
of course, to come back again.
Chairman: That is very helpful, Minister. Can
I begin by saying that I am glad you have paid tribute to those
working in the Civil Service in the aviation industry, particularly
in your own Department. There are many of us who believe that
the expertise in your Department is not only amongst the highest
not only in the transport industry in the United Kingdom but also
in world terms and personally I would be extremely worried if
I thought it was not appreciated in ministerial circles that the
British Civil Service is not only capable of providing very high
standards of support for transport policies but is frequently
far better informed than many of the people with whom it has to
deal. I suppose I should add in parenthesis that we do not always
get the complete information that we should like from your civil
servants but that is undoubtedly a matter of choice and not of
lack of information.
Mr Donohoe: Good training.
317. Good training, yes. Did you as Government
ministers talk to the United States about the level of assistance
that they were offering to their industry before it was announced
or immediately afterwards?
(Mr Jamieson) I am not aware of any discussions that
we had at that time. The United States, Chairman, acted very,
very rapidly indeed and I think unilaterally. I am not aware of
any discussions that the United States had with any other country
about the action they took. They took action which they felt was
appropriate to their own country, some may argue that they over-reacted.
They have a different scale of problem to ourselves. They had
the complete shut down of all of their airlines and, of course,
the scale of their airlines is very substantially greater, particularly
on the domestic market, than our own. They took action which they
felt was appropriate. In the United Kingdom, we have had a little
bit more time to reflect carefully on how we should react and
we are taking what we think is appropriate action.
318. Yes. Nevertheless, of course, because aviation
is an international industry, did you talk to the United States
Government about the package that we were offering to our own
airline industry, Mr Griffins?
(Mr Griffins) Thank you, Chairman. Two responses.
One we did not, as the British Government, talk to the United
States Government. In answer to your previous question, we did
not receive representations or information from the US Government
prior to their aid package. The European Commission, indeed the
Commissioner herself, took up the matter with the US Administration.
319. With respect, I am sure the Commissioner
is an excellent person but is of no concern to the House of Commons
at the present time. Did you get a full briefing from the United
States Government as to the size of the package, what it related
to, how it would or would not distort the amount of state aid
available to the aviation industry or have you subsequently enquired
as to those details?
(Mr Griffins) We have used various channels of information
either directly or through our Embassy in Washington.