Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 155-159)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q155 Chairman: Gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome. I apologise for making you wait, but I am afraid, as you probably realise, we had a number of questions that we wished to ask our previous set of witnesses. Would you be kind enough to identify yourselves for the record.

  Mr Eagles: I am John Eagles, the Technical Chairman for the Association of Licensed Aircraft Engineers. We are the union for the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers.

  Captain Granshaw: Good afternoon, Madam Chairman. My name is Mervyn Granshaw and I am the Chairman of the British Airline Pilots Association. I have been employed in the aviation industry for 29 years and I hold a seat on the CAA's Fixed Wing Advisory Group as a scheduling expert. I am serving my third term as BALPA's elected Chairman. I am still an active pilot.

  Mr Luxton: I am David Luxton, National Secretary of the trade union Prospect and we represent specialists working within the Civil Aviation Authority and also all of the air traffic controllers and air traffic engineers working for NATS.

  Q156  Chairman: Does anybody have something they want to say briefly before we start? Can we go straight to questions then. I am very grateful to you for coming this afternoon. You may have heard some of the questions that we were putting to the previous set of witnesses. Prospect and BALPA have both argued that there are conflicts between the objectives of the CAA, and BALPA has suggested transferring the economic and commercial activities of the CAA to a transport economic regulator, that this would be more efficient, and Prospect has called for greater horizontal integration of the separate organisational structures. What are the relative merits of each of these approaches?

  Mr Luxton: If I may start, Madam Chairman, our concern about the way in which the CAA is organised is that we do sense that there is a sort of stove-pipe approach to their organisational structures so that we have economic regulation, safety regulation, airspace regulation, and consumer protection regulation, all of that acting independently and there is a feeling—

  Q157  Chairman: Independently, so you are suggesting they all operate in parallel lines?

  Mr Luxton: Yes, in this stove-pipe approach. Our view is that there is a case for much closer integration, to have a more joined-up CAA which we believe would be more effective then in fulfilling its overall requirements. The specific example that we have drawn attention to in our submission relates to air traffic delay penalties that were imposed on NATS through the economic regulation and our concern is that that raises a number of safety concerns which we have detailed in our paper and we are not as yet convinced that there has been a full, rigorous safety assessment of that economic regulation requirement and, for that reason, it underpins our view that there needs to be better horizontal integration between the different strands of the CAA.

  Captain Granshaw: I endorse the description, it is very powerful in the Prospect submission, but I think our view is slightly different. We have heard from the CAA today about the difficulties they have had in covering their broad panorama which has led them to, I suggest as a reaction, adopt a lighter touch as opposed to a proactive strategy, and we will probably come on to that later because we have great reservations that the one-size-fits-all type of regulation is suitable for aviation where safety is so important. We feel that they should really focus on their primary role which is of a safety policeman and there is a conflict and it does in addition, through the charges structure, in our view, lead to the airlines having a dominant influence that is difficult and is in competition with safety in the way it is structured at the moment.

  Q158  Chairman: But supposing in fact there was an independent regulator that covered everything, do you not think it would be possible that that body could create policies that were in direct conflict with the need for safety in aviation?

  Captain Granshaw: I think that it would be better handled if the organisations were separate because the role of the separate and independent safety regulator would be paramount. I think we all sense, and I sense, here that there is this feeling of diluted safety and it is there. We have not felt it yet, but it is there.

  Q159  Chairman: Is there any evidence? Is there real, hard evidence of a conflict of interest because the case that you are making really only makes sense, and it is the same for Mr Luxton, if you can actually say, This is more than a gut feeling. We actually can demonstrate that they are moving towards a situation where there is a conflict of interest"?

  Captain Granshaw: Well, an example, and there are several, is in the harmonisation which has happened in Europe with the Scheduling Regulations for my colleague flight crew. I think we know empirically that we are in the safest EU state for our industry and we are fortunate to have a good safety regulator, but that it cannot do better and be structured better is the matter in question. When we have harmonised our Scheduling Regulations, what we have actually done is harmonised down, so there is evidence that, against a fairly aggressive attack from employer trade groups, the economic side does have a very powerful and influencing voice.

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