Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-154)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q140  Mrs Ellman: Yes.

  Sir Roy McNulty: The CAA indirectly has no influence other than we are obviously a player in the European aviation regulatory system and we do some work for EASA, but the primary influence on EASA comes from two sources: one is the European Commission itself; and the other is the EASA Management Board. It is through the UK representation on the Management Board that we have the most opportunity to influence things, but, as I have said in my recital of problems to do with EASA, that Management Board and the governance it provides is not yet up to standard.

  Q141  Chairman: You are one vote in 23, Sir Roy? Is that what you are telling us?

  Sir Roy McNulty: We are one vote in 23.

  Chairman: Thank you, as long as we can establish that.

  Q142  Mr Goodwill: How many of your opposite numbers in these other EU Member States share your reservations and would we have allies if we got a degree of back-tracking before we got ourselves into this parlous situation which you forecast?

  Sir Roy McNulty: I think a year ago I would have said almost nobody. Today I think there are perhaps five to 10 countries that are getting to have a view similar to ours. There are a lot of countries, particularly the new Accession States, who are not in the same area as we are in terms of regulatory experience or anything like that. They do not have aviation industries the size that we in the UK have or France has or Germany has, but I think there is an emerging coalition of views, an emerging common view that there are some serious problems and they need to be addressed, but as yet I would not say the Commission are fully on board and they are obviously very important in this.

  Q143  Chairman: I want to allow you to escape, but we have got so much we could continue to ask you. Have you done any work on the health of cabin crews and crews generally in relation to air quality?

  Mr Bell: You are referring, Madam Chairman, to the air quality issue that has been raised in a number of forums?

  Q144  Chairman: Yes. This Committee was actually on one where air in the cabin became somewhat—

  Mr Bell: We fully recognise that this issue is one of considerable concern to quite a number of people. What we are seeking is better evidence and we have instituted or joined in on a research project which has been conducted and we have an Aviation Health Working Group.

  Q145  Chairman: Have you made that clear to everybody because the pilots did not seem to know it and did not seem to be too happy?

  Mr Bell: Well, I think the problem we have got here is that the UK CAA in this area has not got a specific responsibility any longer for the design of the aircraft and we have instituted requests to EASA to take a look at this as well, as have the pilots' group.

  Q146  Chairman: Have you told anybody what you are doing or is it a secret?

  Mr Bell: No, it is not a secret, but I think it is fair to say that those who have requested us to do something are not satisfied with what we are doing.

  Q147  Chairman: Yes, I do wonder why! What is your approach to complaints on the grounds of abuse of dominant position by an airport operator outside the airports review process?

  Dr Bush: Well, if there were such a complaint, we would consider it under section 41 of the Airports Act, but there are alternative opportunities for people which would also be to go to the OFT which has Competition Act powers in respect of airports.

  Q148  Chairman: You let BAA get its £105 million back on the new runway at Stansted, did you not?

  Dr Bush: Actually no decision has been made about that at all. I know this is probably what you are being told by certain airlines at Stansted, but it is not the case. At the moment we are out to consultation on the criteria we might use in the current airports review to determine how much of that money they will get.

  Q149  Chairman: So it is not correct that you backed off as soon as you were threatened with legal action?

  Dr Bush: We have not backed off anything. We are out to consultation and that is what it means; we have had some responses in and we are now considering them.

  Q150  Chairman: Do you think the regulatory reviews are too expensive and take too long?

  Dr Bush: Well, it comes back to the point that we made earlier, that the Competition Commission element means that they are longer than they might otherwise be and they are probably more expensive than they might otherwise be.

  Q151  Chairman: So is it true to say that you do not understand the economic models underlying modern, low-cost aviation?

  Dr Bush: Well, I do not think it is true to say that. Actually we have published only in December a review of what we think the drivers of demand in the UK are, whether it be price or whether it be income, so we are actually engaged with the underlying economics of the aviation industry. So I think that accusation is unfounded.

  Q152  Chairman: The Airlines' Consultative Committee at Stansted says that there is no appropriate structure for dealing with airline complaints regarding the abuse of dominant position by airports.

  Dr Bush: Well, that is simply untrue. They can either complain to us or they can complain to the OFT, which has the role in relation to the Competition Act, and they have not.

  Q153  Chairman: I think what really, Sir Roy, is very clear is that we are going to have to send you a series of other questions and I would be grateful for a quick turnaround and to have the answers quite quickly.

  Sir Roy McNulty: We will do our very best, Madam Chairman.

  Q154  Chairman: Can I say to you all that you have been very patient and very helpful. I do not know that you have entirely reassured us. In fact, and you will forgive me for saying this, I think you have put the wind up several of us, but we are grateful to you for coming and doubtless we shall meet again, as the witches say in Macbeth. Thank you very much.

  Sir Roy McNulty: We will look forward to that.

  Chairman: I do not know many almost perfect men!

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