Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
11 JANUARY 2006
Q80 Chairman: Very briefly, Mr Bell,
because I do want to get on to the European angle.
Mr Bell: We currently conduct
around 200 of these a year and the plan is to increase that substantially
in the years ahead. When we do them, we check the crews' licences,
we check the condition of the aircraft and we do what we can without
actually flying it. Suffice to say, it is, as you say, not the
in-depth inspection that we might wish, but, without interfering
with the schedules of the airlines for no real purpose, it would
be quite difficult to do more. I think I ought to say that our
main source of intelligence of the serviceability or otherwise
of these comes through our current reporting system. If the maintenance
organisations dealing with them or the aircraft control people
who are running the service on the day pick up the problem, then
we will target that aircraft.
Q81 Mr Goodwill: Do you think it
would be useful in circumstances where you pick up serious question
marks about a particular airline to suggest that you be invited
to their home airport where you can maybe have a more in-depth
scrutiny of their services and facilities, their records, their
staff training and the rest will follow where maybe you finally
put them on a blacklist?
Mr Bell: I think that is a very
interesting point, but I think that politically it would be very
difficult to do. It would open us up of course to the reciprocal
inspection regime and we would be quite interested.
Sir Roy McNulty: But I think it
is a relevant point to what Europe does eventually. As you probably
know, the United States has a programme whereby it reviews the
regulatory set-up and regime in all of the countries which fly
into the United States and that is a big exercise. The United
States does it, and I believe eventually Europe will have to do
it because blacklists and spot-checks are only a part of the solution.
The main thing that needs to be done is to satisfy yourself that
the regulatory regimes in the countries from which these aircraft
come are sound and in a condition as we would wish.
Q82 Chairman: I want to ask you about
that because to get that sort of sweeping power that the FAA have,
which is what you are talking about, which has been expanded over
the last five or six years, we come back to this Single European
Sky. You say you strongly support it, but you also say that the
Commission often fails, or sometimes fails, to follow best regulatory
practice in developing legislation. What do you mean by that?
Sir Roy McNulty: Might I ask John
Arscott to comment on that?
Mr Arscott: We have been involved
with the Department from the outset with the Single European Sky
and I think we envisaged when Madam Palacio was in the Chair in
Brussels a much lighter regime than the one that is emerging now,
but we seek to mitigate the effects of the European legislation
to as great an extent as possible
Q83 Chairman: How?
Mr Arscott: and, generally
speaking, I think we have been successful, although there are
some significant hotspots in terms of perhaps charging and perhaps
overly prescriptive regulation in some parts of the Single European
Q84 Chairman: Well, how well is the
European Commission managing all these constituent parts?
Mr Arscott: Well, the fact that
they are able to get rules through the majority of states in the
Single Sky Committee and there has been no dissension to date
I think they would consider to be a great success, but our objectives
in a European regulatory context are subtly different from a number
of other states'.
Q85 Chairman: So do the Government
not support you or are they simply not very effective in getting
what they want through?
Mr Arscott: The Government take
the lead and we in fact support them in this regard and I think,
as I say, that the Government in the lead and the team that we
have put together in Europe in the Single European Sky has been
effective given the very differing views of the Member States
of the European Union.
Q86 Chairman: So when the Association
of Licensed Aircraft Engineers say your relationship is a master/servant"
situation, that is not an accurate description?
Mr Arscott: I am not familiar
with that particular topic, but it is not a situation that I would
recognise in the areas in which I have expertise.
Q87 Chairman: I see. They say, It
would appear to us that apart from Annex 2 aircraft the task of
safety regulation falls upon the EASA...In our opinion it is this
change of direction from being a stand-alone authority...to that
of a competent national authority under the control of EU commissioners
...that does need an inquiry as to what the remit of the ...CAA
Sir Roy McNulty: Perhaps I might
comment on that because we mistook the earlier question as relating
to the Single European Sky. It is true that there is a change
in the regulatory structure in Europe, but the CAA has not been
a stand-alone regulator for a very long time.
Q88 Chairman: Well, then let me ask
you, is EASA fit for purpose?
Sir Roy McNulty: That is a different
question and my answer to that is so far not yet.
Q89 Chairman: So what is it? Is it
its structure, is it its management, is it its resources? What
is wrong with it?
Sir Roy McNulty: I think it is
in varying degrees all of those things. I think the setting up
of EASA was not well handled and it acquired significant responsibilities
in September 2003 at a time when it only had a handful of staff
and that is not a great way to start up an important regulatory
Q90 Chairman: So what happens if
we finish up with in effect the lowest common denominator in safety
Sir Roy McNulty: I do not think
we are necessarily headed towards the lowest common denominator
thing. EASA inherited a body of rules agreed through the JAA system,
which this Committee I am sure is familiar with, which had been
built up over many years. It took over certification responsibilities
which the JAA had, and was intended to start a standardisation
programme, which is really a system of audit and review of all
of the regulatory set-ups in the various Member States. To date,
it has proceeded with the certification work, but has had to get
the national aviation authorities to do most of the work and,
because of the staffing and resource difficulties, it has struggled
with that certification work. The rule-making, as I
Q91 Chairman: Has it slowed it down
or is it working at the same speed as it would have done when
you had total control?
Sir Roy McNulty: It has slowed
things down compared to the JAA system. There is no doubt that
EASA has brought into the certification and approval system a
range of additional bureaucratic steps, added to its own resource
difficulties which are causing significant delays to manufacturers
in this country. They say that tasks which the CAA used to complete
in days, and nobody ever suggested we were the fastest thing the
world had ever seen, but things that the CAA did in days are taking
EASA months at times to do and this is imposing significant problems
Q92 Chairman: So what are the Government
and what are you doing in order to change that situation?
Sir Roy McNulty: We have been
uncomfortable about the way in which EASA was evolving for a bit
over a year now. We have been in dialogue with the Department
and I think the Department view, I hope they will tell you, is
much the same as our view, that this thing is not evolving satisfactorily.
We have had dialogue with EASA on many occasions. They have sought
to improve some things, but others have in turn got worse. We
have had dialogue with the Commission and the Commission initially
were resistant to the idea that anything was amiss. I think they
Q93 Chairman: They really thought
they were perfectis that it?
Sir Roy McNulty: They thought
they were perfect and that we were `whingeing poms', which is
the phrase which comes to mind, but the Commission would never
say anything as rude as that. Basically we have been trying to
persuade both EASA and the Commission that there is a problem,
and what we need from both of them is action to deal with the
difficulties. All of those difficulties have been exacerbated
in recent times because EASA has a significant budget problem.
The budget that they produced at the end of last year for 2006
showed a big income shortfall. They proposed that this be solved
by slowing down or completely stopping a lot of the certification
work due to be carried out this year. The Management Board very
sensibly said, Get lost! That's a ridiculous idea", and basically
they are proceeding at the moment with a budget which runs out
of money in three or four months' time.
Q94 Chairman: But this is bizarre,
is it not, really? You are telling us that they have taken over
responsibilities which they cannot exercise, they have not got
the staff, they have not got the money and, in order to be able
to say that they are doing the job, they are seriously suggesting
slowing down the work which has a direct impact upon companies
in this country and their only solution is to go cheerfully on
until they run out of money half way through the year. Is that
what is happening?
Sir Roy McNulty: That is a modest
summary of where we are.
Q95 Chairman: And what is the Government's
attitude to this? They are taking the work away from you or are
they continuing to give you more work?
Sir Roy McNulty: We are still
doing a lot of the work, but essentially under sub-contract to
Q96 Chairman: What does that do to
your charging regimes?
Sir Roy McNulty: It has not affected
our charging regimes in a significant way because we charge the
full cost to EASA.
Q97 Chairman: So do the companies
feel they are being double-charged?
Sir Roy McNulty: They occasionally
say it, but it is not correct.
Q98 Chairman: But it must have some
effect on your financial forecast, must it not, in the Corporate
Sir Roy McNulty: The Corporate
Plan reflects, as of last spring, our best guess as to the reduction
in our workload. As I said earlier, the plan that we are currently
finalising will show a somewhat accentuated reduction in our workload,
but we will reduce our resources as our workload goes down. That
is not a problem.
Chairman: Now you have started the dogs
of war running!
Q99 Mr Leech: Can you foresee a situation
where you will be being asked to charge less for the work you
are currently doing?
Sir Roy McNulty: Asked by EASA
to charge less?