Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q100  Mr Leech: Yes.

  Sir Roy McNulty: They have already asked us to charge less and we have said we cannot.

  Q101  Mr Leech: But can you foresee a situation where you will be forced to do that?

  Sir Roy McNulty: No.

  Q102  Mr Goodwill: Would you say that the United Kingdom made a mistake in signing up to this EASA system as opposed to our own system which you have already said is second to none and twice as safe as the United States'?

  Sir Roy McNulty: No, but I think you must remember, as I referred to earlier, that we have not moved from a UK completely self-sufficient system to EASA. The UK was already very much engaged in Europe with the Joint Aviation Authorities which was a sort of club, if you will, which on a voluntary basis agreed the rules which are applied here, and the JAA handled the certification activities on a co-operative basis, so a lot of aviation certification and rule-making has been done in Europe for 20 years or more. We all thought, and I still believe, that the JAA had had significant defects due to the voluntary basis. It could not enforce the rules, so those countries that did not like the rules just ignored them and it was not a very efficient way to proceed, and I think the 1999 hearing that this Committee had into aviation safety underlined that quite emphatically. Therefore, EASA, which is a body which has the legal powers to enforce, which has the ability to standardise and audit what is going on in the Member States, and was intended to put together the resources to handle the certification more efficiently, ought to be a better solution. What nobody, I think, imagined was how much difficulty they would have in getting the show up and running, but none of the problems that they have is insoluble with proper management, proper governance, proper planning and a proper way of running the operation.

  Q103  Chairman: But that is exactly what they have not got.

  Sir Roy McNulty: That has, I think, been the problem, but I do not regard it as an insoluble problem. I think if the Commission—

  Q104  Chairman: One can always pray for better governance. It does not necessarily do a lot.

  Sir Roy McNulty: Well, it has been done and achieved in many organisations in the past and the improvements follow quite quickly. This one urgently needs attention in those areas.

  Chairman: So if we have not got any other hope, we have got God!

  Q105  Mr Wilshire: I am going to amaze myself, Chairman, by resisting the temptation to have a swipe at the EU on this one, even though it is an easy target because it is far too serious. What I am hearing is that the system is slowing down, so certain things are not being done, some things cannot be done because there are not the resources and the system is not well governed and managed. What I want to hear from you is: can you assure me that this change has no safety implications whatsoever for my constituents living near Heathrow because what I am hearing suggests that the safety is being compromised by the problems you are listing and I should be going back to my constituents and telling them that they are at greater risk tonight than they were before I heard what you had to say?

  Sir Roy McNulty: We certainly are not aware of anything that should give your constituents cause for concern today, but we know and this Committee has—

  Q106  Mr Wilshire: How about tomorrow?

  Sir Roy McNulty: Tomorrow is certainly okay, but if EASA was allowed, and I am sure it will not be allowed, to continue along the course it is currently on, I think you could predict some way down the road that safety problems will ensue somewhere. If you have slowed down your rule-making, if you are causing companies problems in getting modest, technical changes processed, if you have not put in place the standardisation and audit of all the regulatory regimes within the European Union, you are asking for trouble some day. I should add though that we are monitoring the implications and effects of all of this in the UK quite carefully, and there is within the EASA regulation the option for a country, where it sees an immediate safety problem, to take immediate action itself and sort it out later with EASA. If we saw a case of them doing something or something happening as a result, we would take that emergency action.

  Q107  Mr Wilshire: Would you tell this Committee or tell Parliament that you had done so?

  Sir Roy McNulty: If it is this Committee's wish to be told, we will tell you.

  Q108  Mr Wilshire: It would certainly be this MP's wish. For the benefit of the record, can I be absolutely clear that I have heard what I think I have heard and that is that if something is not done about this problem, the safety of my constituents at some stage in the future is going to be compromised?

  Sir Roy McNulty: That is what you heard.

  Q109  Chairman: Can I just ask you whether it is correct that, when EASA was set up, you scrapped several thousand additional requirements for import regulations?

  Sir Roy McNulty: I can get you a note of the exact number and 7,000 does not ring a bell, but thousands is the case. The CAA had created a significant amount of additional requirements, particularly for imported aircraft. When EASA came into being, technically all of those were wiped away, but we went through them very carefully and we came up with a list of, I think, between 50 and 100 which we thought were absolutely essential, and EASA has agreed to keep those, but all of the rest have gone and we will get you the exact number.

  Q110  Chairman: So what numbers are we talking about? One witness said 4,000 UK regulations, somebody else said 3,000 plus.

  Sir Roy McNulty: Can I ask Mr Bell for the exact numbers?

  Q111  Chairman: Mr Bell, have you abandoned 3,000 regulations and, if so, why?

  Mr Bell: I am glad to get the opportunity to answer this question because, like a lot of questions, it is certainly not simple. At the onset of EASA—

  Q112  Chairman: Mr Bell, nothing in connection with this Committee is simple!

  Mr Bell: In 2002, we undertook a review of all existing additional requirements for import and additionally our directives which were extant at the time. What we found was that a number of them, when we did an in-depth analysis, had been replaced by manufacturing change and were no longer required. We also lumped a number together into generic groups and then, when EASA arrived and they were removed immediately by the regulation, we replaced them using Article 10(1) of Regulation 1592 to ensure that maintenance of these requirements in the UK continued until the dialogue with EASA could take place. We did that—

  Q113  Chairman: Wait a minute. You abandoned how many—3,000, according to our witnesses? Is that accurate?

  Mr Bell: We brought this down to a number of around 50 to 60.

  Q114  Chairman: You looked at them because they had been around for many years and you discovered that many of them were not necessary anymore because of changes in manufacture?

  Mr Bell: Correct.

  Q115  Chairman: But you did not let them go, you just said, We'll put them down in a different form"?

  Mr Bell: We put them down in a different form and held on to them until we had a dialogue with EASA in each case and EASA has accepted all of the requirements that we felt were essential and some of them, they decided on a legal basis, were outside their jurisdiction, not being air-worthiness, and we apply these by means of operational rules at the moment. Some of these will be very familiar to you.

  Q116  Chairman: So I think it is called, Whatever you do, you're going to win". It is an admirable idea.

  Mr Bell: It is ensuring safety is maintained in the transition and that was our key message throughout.

  Q117  Chairman: Sir Roy, what about transparency? How transparent are the changes? These are very good publications with some very becoming pictures, but supposing this Committee wanted a list of those changes which have come about because of the creation of EASA and the impact on existing rules, where would we find that?

  Sir Roy McNulty: You could find it by asking us.

  Q118  Chairman: I am quite capable of doing that, Sir Roy, but supposing I did not enjoy the helpful, constructive and highly informative relationship that I have with you, how would I find that?

  Sir Roy McNulty: On the website.

  Mr Bell: If you were a customer or a person who is coming to us with an aircraft to register, you would be able to gain that information directly from us.

  Q119  Chairman: And it is quite clear from the website exactly how you are moving away from your existing series of regulations?

  Mr Bell: No, the website—

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