Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport

  When we met recently you asked for further details about progress on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and in particular about the meeting on 9 February between Sir Roy McNulty, Daniel Calleja of the European Commission and myself.

  This was not a formal meeting so there has been no record prepared. It was an opportunity for the UK and the Commission to share their thoughts at a senior level on the progress of the Agency, and in particular for us to ensure that the Commission is fully aware of the problems, budgetary and otherwise, the Agency is facing.

  As Karen Buck said in her letter to you of 15 February, Sir Roy was able to go through in some detail the areas in which he considers improvements are necessary, along the same lines that he covered in his evidence to your Committee. These included excessive bureaucracy and delay for certification applicants; overload on EASA technical staff, and the risk of administrative demands distracting their attention from safety issues; the possible deplenishment of the reservoir of skilled manpower as the Agency gradually takes over some functions from National Aviation Authorities (NAAs); the rigidities currently being experienced because of the cumbersome and uncertain contract arrangements between EASA and NAAs; and the rate of progress on the rule-making programme and standardisation. Overhanging all these issues was the state of EASA's budget, which is undermined by a Fees and Charges Regulation which in its present form is structurally inadequate.

  We then discussed how to orchestrate events in the coming six weeks or so, with the Deloitte Report due to issue before the meeting of the Management Board on 16 March, and the need for that meeting to take decisive action on the Agency's 2006 budget and to set in train work to stabilise the budget for 2007 and beyond. Since then the shape of the Deloitte report has begun to emerge. Deloitte will make a variety of helpful recommendations about the Agency's administrative processes and IT systems—with an active programme of development this should help the Agency to sharpen its management information capabilities substantially and improve its speed and standard of response to applicants for certification services. Deloitte will also provide analysis of the Agency's costs and revenues, which will confirm that the current budgetary problems are largely the result of weaknesses in the Fees and Charges Regulation, and point the way in which improvements can be achieved.

  On the immediate issue of the 2006 budget a series of further discussions have taken place between the key players, and there are now reasonable grounds for hope that the Management Board on 16 March will be able to agree a series of measures to balance the budget for this year, without delaying or deferring any certification projects.

  Our work to help EASA become fit for purpose has many strands, and some of the improvements we are seeking will inevitably take time. But I am encouraged by a number of recent comments from UK industry that the Agency is making progress, and that the quality of service it is able to offer is moving in the right direction. If the efforts over the remainder of this year to stabilise its budget are successful that will be another substantial step forward.

  We will continue to argue strongly that with the Agency and the NAAs all having significant roles in the new European aviation safety regime, the key to making the regime a success lies in active and constructive partnership between all the players. I know that we will have the support of the European Commission and other Member States in pressing that view, and we will keep you informed of key developments over the coming months.

17 March 2006

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