Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q120  Chairman: No, I did not think it was.

  Mr Bell:— gives the current existing standard and, if you felt obliged, you would need to compare that to the standard that was in existence pre-EASA and I think we could make a very good case that we had removed a significant number of regulations which we had decided ourselves were obsolete before we entered the final process.

  Mr Wilshire: Could we ask for a paper on that very subject?

  Q121  Chairman: Well, what I was going to say to you is that I think we need to know a little bit more about transparency generally, do we not, because we have seen evidence saying that the Safety Regulation Group is running down its Safety Research Department because you think it is going to be part of the European remit in the future? Is that true?

  Sir Roy McNulty: I will ask Mr Bell first of all to comment.

  Q122  Chairman: Mr Bell, now you have started on the slippery slope, is it true?

  Mr Bell: Yes.

  Q123  Chairman: Why?

  Mr Bell: Because the EASA Regulation does provide for EASA itself to conduct appropriate safety-based research in the future.

  Q124  Chairman: And it also provides for all of these other things which they are not doing and you have, from your own experience, a clear indication that they are not even capable of doing all the things that they are supposed to be doing, so why would you run down your Research Department before there is very clear evidence that an alternative exists?

  Mr Bell: I think really the simplest way I can answer that is to state that the Regulation which came into force on 28 September 2003 took away from us the power to effect the certification requirements.

  Q125  Chairman: Wait a minute, let me be clear. Say that again—it took away from you?

  Mr Bell: The authority, the legal requirement to effect the certification requirements.

  Q126  Chairman: There is a difference between a legal requirement and an authority, is there not? They may not ask you to follow a persistent programme of research, but presumably, from your own point of view, you would at least like to know what is happening in safety regulation when you know that there is a problem with European institutions.

  Mr Bell: Yes, but, if I may say, the issue is if regulation research is taking place into an area of responsibility of EASA, in our dialogue with our charge-payers and our internal examination of process, we decided we would need to refocus our research project on areas where the CAA had regulatory responsibility and, with that transfer of regulatory responsibility to EASA, there was a very uncomfortable decision, but one which we took, that future regulation on the areas of aircraft certification is EASA's responsibility.

  Q127  Chairman: But it is not working, Mr Bell.

  Mr Bell: It has not started yet is the fact and we are very disappointed about that point.

  Q128  Chairman: Yes, we are all disappointed, Mr Bell, but there is a difference between being disappointed and being safe. I am frequently disappointed. Life disappoints me every day, but it does not mean to say that I take decisions based on that. I do my best to make sure that they based on fact.

  Mr Bell: This is where the Chairman and myself are in full agreement about the uncomfortable situation we are in today and why we were able to say that safety is not being compromised today, but there is an unfortunate interregnum which has occurred in the European countries.

  Chairman: I do not like interregnums, Mr Bell. They make me very unhappy.

  Q129  Mr Wilshire: Chairman, I heard the CAA say they are not doing something because of Regulations. For the record again, can we be clear, do those Regulations say that you do not have to do it or you must not do it?

  Sir Roy McNulty: To the best of my recollection, and I will check, the Regulation we referred to does not forbid us from doing research, but I think it undermines the point of doing the research if it is research into a subject over which we have no jurisdiction.

  Q130  Mr Wilshire: So, in that case, you have chosen not to do research into safety, knowing that the people taking it over will not do it either? Is that correct?

  Sir Roy McNulty: No, I think in the expectation that, perhaps rather slower than we would wish, they will get round to it.

  Q131  Graham Stringer: I think what might help the Committee is if you could tell us, knowing what you know now about the performance, or lack of it, of EASA, what you would have done in the light of that knowledge that you did not have?

  Sir Roy McNulty: What we would have done?

  Q132  Graham Stringer: Yes. Would you have kept the research going on?

  Sir Roy McNulty: I think we would probably have been reducing the research anyway, and the CAA over many years has been reducing research, because almost all technical advances and regulatory advances in aviation have been done on a co-operative basis and I do not think there is a very strong argument for the UK having a complete and independent research capability in things like this. If we may, we will provide a note on the research programme and, when you see that, I think you will see that these are very long-term issues that we are tending to look at in our research programme. They are not near-term safety issues. They are things that are being looked at with a view to rules that might emanate five to 10 years hence.

  Q133  Chairman: But there may be aviation technologies that are emerging with new innovative approaches, may there not?

  Sir Roy McNulty: Some of them are, some of them are to do with operational issues. We will provide the Committee with a note.

  Q134  Chairman: Yes, we will need to have a note on that, Sir Roy.

  Sir Roy McNulty: I think we would have given the wrong impression if we were saying we had stopped it altogether. We are continuing—

  Chairman: No, you have made it very clear that you are running it down and we are also equally clear that we do not think it is a brilliant idea, but we will read what you have got to say.

  Q135  Mr Scott: Can I just clarify that EASA have not started doing this—is that correct?

  Sir Roy McNulty: To the best of my knowledge, they have not started any research yet.

  Q136  Mr Scott: So you are running it down and you have said that you envisage that EASA will not be able to do this role adequately anyway?

  Sir Roy McNulty: No, I have not said that. I think, with proper planning, proper management and proper resources, this is a job that EASA should be capable of doing properly. As of today, they cannot, but bear in mind the conversation that we had earlier about charges, our consultation on charges and the industry's views of our charges. I think we would have great difficulty if we proposed to UK industry today that we keep on with a research programme into activities over which we have no jurisdiction today and keep on working as though nothing has happened. That is exactly what people keep accusing us of doing and actually it is not what we do. We are trying to handle quite a difficult transition in a sensible way, recognising the charges that we levy on the industry.

  Q137  Mr Scott: But these savings which would be made would obviously be helpful.

  Sir Roy McNulty: Yes, it is money which the industry would have to pay for, but we will provide a note on the nature of the research activities, the costs of the research activities—

  Q138  Chairman: You are not altogether convincing us, Sir Roy. I know that will come as a surprise!

  Sir Roy McNulty: I rather sense that!

  Q139  Mrs Ellman: What influence does the CAA have on what EASA will do? At the beginning of your statement earlier on, you said that you could have influence on regulatory matters in Europe. Now, what kind of influence will there be on EASA from the CAA in regard to these aspects?

  Sir Roy McNulty: I want to be sure that I have heard that—what influence will the CAA have on EASA?

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