Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 228-239)


18 JANUARY 2006

  Chairman: Lady, gentlemen, may I pray your indulgence while we do some housekeeping. Members of Parliament having an interest to declare?

  Mr Martlew: Member of the Transport & General Workers and General Municipal Workers.

  Clive Efford: Member of the Transport & General Workers.

  Graham Stringer: Member of Amicus and previously a director and chairman of Manchester Airport plc, the predecessor of Manchester Airport Group.

  Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, ASLEF.

  Mrs Ellman: Member of the Transport & General Workers Union.

  Q228  Chairman: Lady and gentlemen, you are most warmly welcome this afternoon. As you came imagine this is the first time an in-depth inquiry has been undertaken into the work of the CAA. We welcome, therefore, your evidence which will be of enormous benefit to us. May I ask you, first, to identify yourselves for the record, starting with Mr Jowett, and then I am going to ask you if you have something to say and cut you off if you say it!

  Mr Jowett: Keith Jowett, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association representing 72 airports across the United Kingdom.

  Ms Burns: Rowena Burns, Strategy Director for the Manchester Airports Group.

  Mr Toms: Mike Toms, Planning and Regulation Director, BAA plc.

  Mr Hall: Ian Hall, Operations Director, NATS.

  Q229  Chairman: I do mean it when I say is there anything any of you would like to say?

  Mr Jowett: I might just state that although we will be holding our own individual positions, which I am sure the Committee will wish to explore, we do subscribe generally to a strong view about the professionalism exhibited by the CAA over many years. We have some concerns, of course, about the developments of the future introduced by Europe's increasing responsibilities in these areas. I am sure those things will come out during our discussion.

  Q230  Chairman: That is helpful, Mr Jowett. I think Sir Roy has admitted he is not entirely perfect, perhaps we can accept there are the odd things we can criticise. Several of you have pointed to the need for a greater degree of integration and co-ordination between the Department for Transport and the CAA, mainly in areas of policy development. How serious is this lack of co-ordination?

  Mr Jowett: May we ask Mr Toms to address that in the first place.

  Mr Toms: The issue is an issue of principle at the moment and how serious it is will become clear in the next year or so. If I may exemplify the potential nature of the problem: the Government's Air Transport White Paper, which was produced after a huge amount of public consultation and a great deal of analysis, set out one specific policy which is the policy that Stansted should have a new runway as soon as possible with a target date of 2012. The CAA has said, quite correctly, that it is not its duty to implement Government policy and that its statutory duties may lead it to a different position. If it was to lead it to a different position on the right date for the development of Stansted's runway that would create a significant policy tension for us because we could build the runway to one date, we could build it to the other but we cannot build it to both.

  Q231  Chairman: Anything else? That is a major problem but any other aspect of their work which strikes you?

  Mr Toms: That is probably the most outstanding one, Chairman.

  Q232  Chairman: Is it a structural problem, this lack of co-ordination?

  Mr Toms: I think it is a combination of structure and conduct. If I can exemplify this slightly. The structural issue is straight forward in as much as the CAA are under some legislative constraint. It has duties and its duties do not include the implementation of Government policy. The tension is built into the system. A bit of tension is not bad in the system but given that tension exists I think that there is a challenge for the CAA and Government to find ways to accommodate each other's policies and find the greatest possible clarity and commonness of ground so they can give clear policy signals to us. The challenge is to work the difference as effectively as possible so we can know where we are.

  Q233  Chairman: You are not saying in effect they do not give you a clear view of a policy, what you are saying is frequently there are conflicting policies?

  Mr Toms: There can be conflicting policies, yes.

  Q234  Chairman: Does the Department take that much notice of the advice that it gets from the CAA, because that is one of their functions after all?

  Mr Toms: I think the Department does take the advice of the CAA. It is interesting though that in the build-up to the Air Transport White Paper, in which we participated a great deal, the CAA was not wholly engaged in the analytical work which led to the determination of policy. Had that level of engagement been greater, the scope for common understanding would have been greater on areas like traffic and market analysis, traffic forecasting.

  Q235  Chairman: Can I ask Manchester Airport Group: we have heard accusations that it is not possible for the CAA as a single organisation to reconcile all these conflicting demands, but particularly in relation to the area of regulation you have said that you think they have got a good balance. Is it an easy one or does it require constant review?

  Ms Burns: I think it requires constant review. I would echo Mike Toms' comments in general about the nature of the tension between the CAA and the DfT. I do not think it is structural. The CAA's primary duty requires it to consider how best the needs of airlines and their users can be promoted through the development of infrastructure and that necessarily means the CAA needs to take a view about the growth in passenger demand. It would make every kind of common sense for the CAA and the DfT to do that in a collaborative fashion.

  Q236  Chairman: You are not suggesting, for example, if its facilities are split up, its regulatory duties are split up, that would be easier for the CAA?

  Ms Burns: No, I think it is a matter of will more than organisational structure.

  Q237  Chairman: Lack of will or direction?

  Ms Burns: The dialogue between the DfT and the CAA on this matter and I think on other issues could be closer. Could the DfT encourage that more than they do, I think possibly yes, they could.

  Q238  Chairman: You are not suggesting a single transport regulator?

  Ms Burns: No.

  Q239  Graham Stringer: Can I ask BAA whether they believe that the CAA should continue to treat the three mainland airports as one body to be regulated or whether they should be economically regulated separately?

  Mr Toms: That is a core issue of policy for the CAA which it will have to determine in the next regulatory review. I would not want to take the time of this Committee in trying to have that review now. I want to make one point about the way in which they approach that issue which is that for around 20 years the Government, the CAA and the Competition Commission have a common view of how pricing should be done in the South East, and that was a system view of pricing. That view was the view which drove the early development of Stansted and the early development of Stansted creates a competitive basis which has delivered lower fares and higher choice to passengers. The CAA changed that policy, despite the preference of the Competition Commission in 2003. It changed it without any analytical evidence as to what the consequences of that change would be.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 8 November 2006