1. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the independent
regulator for civil aviation in the UK. It was set up in 1972
as a public corporation responsible for:
- economic regulation of the
- air safety regulation;
- airspace regulation; and
- aviation consumer protection.
In addition, the CAA advises the Government on aviation
issues, produces statistical data and provides specialist services.
The specific objectives and functions of the CAA are set out in
the Civil Aviation Act 1982, the Airports Act 1986, the Transport
Act 2000 and the directions given under section 66 of the Transport
2. In October 2005, we announced that we intended
to undertake an inquiry into the work of the CAA.
We sought to consider the full scope of the CAA's operations other
than its involvement in the financial protection of air travellerswhich
we had previously looked at.
More specifically, we intended to consider:
- the remit, structure and powers
of the CAA;
- the performance of the CAA in relation to its
statutory objectives and functions;
- the effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA's
- the effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA in
the general discharge of its duties; and
- the effect of growing international and European
Union co-operation on the work of the CAA.
We received memoranda from 64 organisations and individuals
and a list of those giving oral evidence is provided on page 68.
We are grateful for the assistance provided throughout this inquiry
by the Scrutiny Unit and by our specialist advisers: Mr Peter
Morrell, Director of Research at Cranfield University's School
of Engineering, and Mr Peter Vass, Senior Lecturer at the University
of Bath's School of Management.
3. The civil aviation sector has grown substantially
in size since the establishment of the CAA: between 1972 and 2005,
the number of civil air traffic movements at UK airports increased
from 0.7 million to 2.3 million, while the number of passengers
travelling to and from UK airports rose from 57 million to 228
million. The remit of
the CAA has also changed somewhat in recent years, particularly
following the privatisation and separation from the CAA of National
Air Traffic Services (NATS) in 2001 and the establishment of the
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2003. The Government's
recent Air Transport White Paper also has significant implications
4. The Sponsorship Statement for the CAA, first formulated
in 2002, includes a duty for the Department for Transport and
the CAA to review critically the CAA at unspecified intervals
to examine the continuing need for the CAA's regulatory activity
and the extent to which its functions, could be more effectively
undertaken in other ways, as well as considering the efficiency
and effectiveness with which the CAA carries out its functions
and uses its resources.
We were unable to identify such a critical review having ever
taken place. The Chairman of the CAA, Sir Roy McNulty, explained
to us that, while the CAA undertook an annual review process,
a more in-depth consideration of whether its statutory framework
remained appropriate had not been embarked upon.
We were further told by the Department that, while a strategic
review of the CAA's role might happen in time, particularly in
reaction to the current change in the regulatory framework in
the EU, it had no specific plans to undertake this in the immediate
5. The aviation sector has undergone significant
changes since the creation of the CAA, but there have been few
adjustments to the CAA's framework. The
Government has been negligent in its failure to undertake strategic
reviews of the role, remit and objectives of the CAA as required
by the Sponsorship Statement. We recommend that the Department
for Transport carry out a root and branch review to examine the
continuing need for the CAA and the extent to which its functions
could be more effectively undertaken in other ways.
We expect the Department to carry out a similar review at least
once every ten years.
6. While operating generally well against its remit,
our inquiry identified a number of challenges for the CAA resulting
from the ongoing development of the UK aviation sector. The CAA
must modify its role and its structure due to the transfer of
responsibilities to EASA, for example. However, the present inability
of EASA to satisfactorily undertake many of these responsibilities
complicates the situation and makes it vital that the CAA does
not relinquish control of any aspect of safety regulation in the
UK prior to EASA achieving a suitable standard of operability.
In addition, the overall expansion in the market means that the
CAA must serve, communicate with and be accountable to, an increasing
number of regulated organisations and interested parties. In particular,
the CAA faces growing calls to give regard to the concerns of
the general aviation sector and environmental groups.