Civil Aviation Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Sarah Thatcher, Judith Boyce, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
‘(3) The CAA must report annually to the Secretary of State and to Parliament on the exercise of its duties under this Part of this Act and on the progress made towards the establishment of an outcome-focused, risk-based aviation security regime.’.—(Graham Stringer.)
(a) The Secretary of State may direct the CAA to implement an outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regime to govern the exercise of the CAA’s functions under this Part of the Act;
(b) if making directions under this subsection, the Secretary of State must by order set out the framework for the introduction of the outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regime;
(c) an order under this subsection must be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’.
‘(2A) In relation to section 78, an order under this section must set a commencement date which is later than the date of the satisfactory introduction of an outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regime.’.
I talked about the concerns raised by the Select Committee on Transport, the industry and, latterly, the staff. I was fair to the Minister by saying that she had pointed out that separating policy making from operation was not unusual and had cited the example of the Home Secretary, whereby the chief constables make operational decisions.
I remain concerned, however, that the decision to transfer aviation security regulatory functions from the Department for Transport to the Civil Aviation Authority was included at a late stage and has not been subject to sufficient pre-legislative consultation or scrutiny. I am
We have been told that 85 staff will transfer, but that involves some major assumptions. Do they all want to transfer? Have we asked them? How many are of an age to choose early retirement? How many will, in the run-up to April 2014, choose to transfer to other Departments rather than be forcibly transferred to the CAA?
We have heard that staff are worried about the terms and conditions, status and redundancy rights that they have built up and may lose in the transfer. I do not think we can safely assume that 85 staff will simply transfer because the Government wish them to.
We should also remember that the staff cannot easily be replaced. I am told that they are highly specialised and experienced—we are not talking about the upstairs maid—and cannot be replaced. Such staff do not hang on the back of doors waiting for us to pick them up. At the risk of stating the obvious, any of us who has worked with and managed large numbers of staff knows that staff simply do not do what we might wish. Even if the Government wish the staff to transfer as a block, slavery has been abolished. Those highly skilled and experienced staff have many other options. We have to accept that any transfer will create gaps. How do the Government plan to fill those gaps?
Before the Bill proceeds, the Minister needs to explain not only to the CAA, but to the aviation industry and others, the detailed division of security responsibilities, how the transfer will happen and how it will operate in the public interest. She has not yet made the case for that transfer, so will she explain how she intends to ensure that ministerial responsibility for aviation security will not be reduced if the Bill is enacted in its current form? What action, if any, has she taken on the Transport Committee’s recommendations? How does she envisage the division of security responsibilities working in practice?
Going back to what I said this morning, I know from my experience of working in children’s services and child protection that tragedies and disasters happen in the gaps between responsibilities. They do not happen in those areas where everybody knows what they are doing; they happen where it is nobody’s responsibility and everybody thinks that somebody else is doing the relevant thing. How will the division of responsibilities work in practice? What evaluation has been made of the risks? What are the Government’s plans for the potential loss of expertise and experience? Finally, how will the proposed detailed division of security responsibilities operate in the public interest?
Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): I, too, share the Transport Committee’s concern about the transfer of duties to the CAA. I share the concern about the loss of expertise that the transfer could entail; I know that that will be discussed further under future clauses. I am also concerned about the total “user pays” principle, because we do not use that for the police or for other safety and security issues and services. The Government need to explore further some of the issues around transferring all that to the “user pays” principle.
I specifically want to discuss my concerns about the outcomes-focused risk-based approach to security. As my colleagues have said, the terrorist has to get through
On costs, the Government say that the freedom of airports to devise their own systems could lead to cost savings, and that worries me hugely. Will that mean airports potentially looking at how they can cut costs, and will they therefore be cutting corners? I am concerned that some airports will be less rigorous. Our biggest concern over the past few years has been about transatlantic services, which are high-prestige targets for terrorists. However, any attack on any airport or airliner—or train, ship or anything else—would be significant and would have that wonderful splash of publicity that terrorists like to see. If we do not prescribe what airports should include in their security services, the risk is that we will not be able to monitor them properly, and some of the smaller airports may become soft targets for terrorists.
On discrimination, security services have talked to us about the profiling of potential offenders, but I am concerned that people with brown skin are more likely than others to be pulled over for more rigorous security checks. I am not yet convinced that that will not occur, and we have certainly seen it happening with stop-and-search on the streets. Will that be replicated in our airports?
Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Is the hon. Lady comparing the stop-and-search of the ’70s and ’80s with the highly intelligent risk-based profiling that goes on in the security system nowadays?
Julie Hilling: I am not talking about the ’70s and ’80s; I am talking about what is happening with stop-and-search on our streets today and about the police targeting certain groups. The percentage of black and minority ethnic people who are stopped and searched by the police is much higher than that for the white population. The police can argue, as can any security service, that certain people are more likely to be involved in street crime and gang-related violence, but the result of that is the capturing of everybody of a certain colour or ethnicity, which becomes worrying.
I want to discuss what was going on in Manchester, because the system there meant that someone would not be targeted because they looked or behaved in a certain way or had a certain background. It was about everybody being treated the same in certain ways, and then people being picked out for extra attention. The issue should not be based on ethnicity, but I am concerned that that will continue.
Julie Hilling: That is my concern. I am not saying that it is based on any evidence, but the points on which people will be profiled must be specified. We were told, both at the Select Committee and here, that the issue is also about looking at people’s behaviour—how they purchase tickets, insurance policies and other things. However, I am concerned that a fundamental element underneath that is saying, “But that group of people is
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): On Monday, in Washington, I met Homeland Security officials from the Transportation Security Administration. Profiling carried out by US and British authorities is far more sophisticated than simply profiling people crudely; it includes looking at how tickets are purchased and whether cash is used. Other sophisticated profiling methods are used. That has to be beneficial for the security of the travelling public.
Julie Hilling: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is reassured by all those things. I am not yet reassured. I hope that the Minister will reassure me and colleagues that the proposals will ensure that people are caught and not able to commit atrocities in our skies.
There is an increasing number of complaints from disabled people concerned about how they have been treated at airports, particularly when people with colostomy bags, or other physical attributes, have needed pat-down searches and so on. Again, we must consider how we are going to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against.
I went on a trip to Auschwitz with my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, who was on crutches; he was taken away to be searched because he was on crutches and setting off machines. That demonstrated that somebody with a disability—fortunately, a temporary disability in my hon. Friend’s case—was singled out for different treatment because he was on crutches.
Chris Heaton-Harris: The hon. Lady is so completely wrong that it defies belief. The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness, who was legless at the time, was taken away for a different security procedure precisely because he had crutches on and therefore would set off the machines. To allow everybody else on the plane to feel secure, he had to undergo a special security check. This is what happens. It is not special profiling or discrimination; it is just security.
John Woodcock: Let me explain myself and what happened in the airport on the way back from Auschwitz. I had done my knee in and had a metal strap around it. The problem was that that set off security scanners. In that instance, the airport did the right thing, because I was led off and put in a private room to take my trousers down while officials had a good prod around. [ Laughter .] I will not dwell on that for longer than necessary.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, however. Although Warsaw airport did things right and enabled me to do that in privacy, there are still too many examples of airports that do not allow that, which is why I am glad that my hon. Friends have tabled the amendment.
Julie Hilling: I thank my hon. Friend, because it is about people being treated differently. That has happened to a number of people, and they have certainly written to me—if not to other members of the Committee—about their having medical evidence to prove they have a colostomy bag, for example. That should mean they are not singled out, treated differently and given a pat-down, or subjected to other searches. If a person has a colostomy bag, they should—[ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for North Herefordshire looks puzzled. I hope he is puzzled by the fact that an airport is treating people in such a way, and not by my talking about it.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I would like to give some reassurance. As we will discuss in considering the next set of amendments, it is vital that disabled people be treated with dignity and respect, whether during the security process or in relation to anything else at the airport. It is important, however, that they be subject to the appropriate security checks, both for their safety and that of other passengers. If any group receives special, lighter treatment, it makes them a target for terrorists who might seek to blackmail them into taking explosive devices on planes.
Julie Hilling: I thank the Minister for that intervention. We are in agreement, because it is about the “how”. I absolutely agree that some people should not be treated better than others, but we need to work out how to deal with this issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton has mentioned Manchester airport, and I want to talk about the scheme in place there and the concerns that have emerged. Since 2009, Manchester airport has been trialling body scanners that use backscatter X-ray technology, which has not yet had EU approval. The radiation from a body scan is equivalent to cruising for two minutes at altitude, and the scanners have been approved by the Health Protection Agency. However, when the trial ends in October 2012, unless there is an extension, the airport will not be able to continue using those scanners.
The passenger approval rate for the body scanner is 95%. People much prefer it to the old-fashioned pat-down search, as do security staff. It avoids the need to touch the passenger, and for a lot of bending and stretching. Not everybody goes through the body scanner, but everybody goes through the first security phase. Then, a door opens and people either go through the body scanner, or they go straight ahead. The system has worked, but the concern is that if the EU does not approve it, the investment will be wasted.
On the outcomes-focused, risk-based approach, the Minister seems to be saying that the Bill gives airports the chance to innovate and to look at other ways of reaching the same solution. However, that approach is not working for Manchester airport, because it will not be able to continue using the scanners unless the Government can agree with the EU that that system should continue. That raises an ongoing issue: will airports be less likely to want to innovate? Will they be less likely to want to invest their own money in different security systems—which may reduce costs or be more efficient, for example—if they can be prevented from using them? Even if the outcomes that the Government desire were being achieved, a different input method would be being used. My worry is that there is not a clear enough picture of how we achieve the outcomes-focused, risk-based focus.
Chris Heaton-Harris: I completely understand the hon. Lady’s points. Perhaps she is willing to join the EU Fresh Start cross-party group in this place and vote against certain EU regulations, or to try to repatriate the powers that cause the problems, so that Manchester airport can provide security in the way the Bill envisages. It is not the Bill that will stop innovation in this context; it is the European Union’s regulations.
Julie Hilling: I think I will resist the hon. Gentleman’s invitation to join his group. However, this is a worldwide issue, and we need to make sure that passengers returning to and departing from the UK have stringent security checks. Whether it is across the European Union or globally, we need to have security systems in place that we can all live and work with.
I hope the Minister will come back to this issue. I am not at all convinced that saying that there is an outcomes-focused, risk-based approach will allow innovation or ensure that all our airports have the same level of security. It is not just about EU regulations; we operate globally, and it is a question of ensuring that air passengers, and people on the ground, are safe. Will airports be able to innovate in the current situation, even in the light of this Bill? I suspect that innovation will not happen, which will have all sorts of consequences for us.
The Chair: I shall now call the Minister. I know that Mr Woodcock wants to come back on some stand part issues. Depending on how the debate then develops, I will call Mr Stringer to wind up and indicate whether he wishes to move his amendment formally.
Mrs Villiers: I am grateful for the opportunity to have a wide-ranging debate on an important issue. I will run through a number of the points made by hon. Members before looking at the wider issues concerning the transfer of functions to the CAA and the nature of the complementary reform, which is a move to an outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to aviation security regulation. In response to points made by a number of Members, including the hon. Members for Barrow and Furness and for Strangford, I can confirm that security is paramount. That is the case under the current system and will remain so under the reformed system. Matters such as cost and passenger convenience are significant ones to consider, but keeping passengers secure will always be the paramount consideration.
The Government would not be putting forward the changes set out in the Bill if we believed they would in any way jeopardise the current high levels of security that we deliver in the UK aviation sector. As I will explain, we believe that combining safety and security regulatory enforcement functions in the same body, and the move to outcomes-focused, risk-based security, have the potential to improve high security levels still further.
In response to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton, yes, it is acknowledged that transferring regulatory enforcement functions to the CAA will mean that the cost of the system is transferred to the aviation industry. That will add some £4.8 million to industry costs, but that is significantly outweighed by the reduction in regulatory costs provided by other parts of the Bill. As I informed the Committee last week, the Bill will deliver a reduction in costs for the aviation sector of approximately £150 million net present value over 20 years. That does not include any potential savings the industry might make as a result of a move to outcomes-focused, risk-based security.
The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton also referred to the 1p and 2p figures in the impact assessment. The net cost per passenger is 1p, and for freight owners the net cost per kilogram of cargo is 0.001p. Where the cost is applied only to passengers, it is 2p. The hon. Gentleman also expressed concern—as did the hon. Member for Bolton West—that the aviation industry had to pay for the costs of security, and he asked for examples of the approach taken overseas. Like the UK, most European countries apply the “user pays” principle. We believe that it is fair to ask those who use and provide aviation services to meet the costs of keeping them secure. The last Government did not propose to change that approach during their 13 years in office; if the Opposition now propose doing so, that would involve a spending commitment of some £1 billion.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned APD. Tempting as it is to trespass on to that turf, taxation matters are of course a matter for the Chancellor, as he will appreciate. He also highlighted the cost of computers, referring to an estimate of £1.5 million. That figure includes some transitional costs, but his point is well made and it will of course be important for this project to be properly managed and scrutinised, as arrangements for the transfer of functions develop. The Department will be making those arrangements with care. The Government take seriously the need to improve the track record we inherited from the previous Administration on IT projects whose costs spiralled out of control.
Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bolton West mentioned the very successful security scanner scheme run by the Manchester Airports Group, involving backscatter technology. As I said in an intervention, the Government have been very impressed by the results of the pilot, although it is currently just a pilot and not authorised as a primary screening method for the purposes of EU regulation. The issue is still under discussion and has been referred for further expert consideration. We continue enthusiastically to support the approval of this type of scanner as a primary screening method for the purposes of EU regulation.
A number of Members—the shadow Minister, and the hon. Member for North West Durham in particular—talked about how the split of responsibilities between
The shadow Minister mentioned the introduction of the rules on liquids and the circumstances that led to their introduction. Under the new system and the proposed transfer of responsibilities to the CAA, such changes would still be decided by the Secretary of State. They would be advised by the CAA, which is the expert regulator dealing with the front line and enforcing the provisions, but the Secretary of State would decide whether additional rules on liquids, for example, were required.
John Woodcock: I had understood that; that was our understanding of what the regime would be. My particular question is about capacity. Once significant efficiencies have been made in a risk-based system, is there not an increased risk that, if such increased stringency suddenly needed to be directed again, a more fragmented and pared-down system would be unable to meet that challenge?
Mrs Villiers: I was going to come to that, actually. The capacity issue is very important. When the liquids rules were introduced, my understanding is that there were certainly issues with capacity, which is why queues lengthened considerably for some time after that. However, I think that I can provide the hon. Gentleman with some reassurance on the point. As in the current regime, ensuring that airports take appropriate steps to deal with contingencies—preparing for them and providing the necessary spare capacity to react to changing circumstances—will form part of the new regime.
I want to give a further illustration of the split of responsibility between the CAA and the DFT. If, for example, problems were to arise, as was the case with the impact of new EU rules on the searching of religious headgear, it would again be entirely open to the Secretary of State under the new system to take exactly the same steps as the former Secretary of State took in that instance—temporarily to suspend the operation of the new EU rules until a way could be found to run a pilot to provide a more culturally sensitive way to ensure that the goals of the EU rules were achieved.
John Woodcock: The Minister is being generous with her time. I was going to touch on that topic in the next debate. As she has brought it up, I should say that she will be aware that, although the trial has been implemented, it is not universal. There are still significant problems in some areas. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) raised the issue with me last night and hoped I would be able to press the Minister on it. Does the Minister think that any change could create another opportunity to get more universal coverage for the issue of Sikh headgear being treated with greater sensitivity, or could it place greater barriers?
Mrs Villiers: As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, a significant majority of the UK’s major airports are participating in the pilot. We have been very impressed with its results so far. We are also ensuring that the European Commission is made aware of progress on the pilot, because we think there is potential for lessons to be learned in relation to the EU rules. I have written to Transport Ministers across Europe, explaining the work we are doing on this and the importance of the issue to minority ethnic communities in the UK.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether similar risk-based approaches are being developed elsewhere; one example is the field of civil nuclear security. He asked whether it was worth going ahead with an outcomes-focused, risk-based—or OFRB—approach in relation to UK rules before the EU rules start to adopt a similar approach.
I would argue that it is worth making progress even before any changes at EU level. Roughly a third of the rules that we apply in aviation security regulation are UK-based. There is real scope for OFRB to deliver change, even if the EU does not subsequently follow a similar approach. We hope that with engagement the EU will find that an outcomes-focused, risk-based approach could play a positive part in improving security outcomes across Europe.
The hon. Member for Bolton West asked about profiling. We do not use profiling as a means of selecting passengers for security searches. Ethnicity is expressly excluded by the rules as a criterion for selecting people for searches. We have been working with security agencies on what value behavioural analysis could provide in aviation security, but again that focuses not on ethnicity, but on issues such as paying cash for a ticket.
I hope the hon. Lady will be reassured that her fears are not justified by the present system. We have no plans to change that at the moment, and neither the move to the CAA in terms of enforcement of regulation responsibilities nor an OFRB approach to security need have any impact on that general approach.
Julie Hilling: I am confused. Some of the people who gave evidence to us talked very much about this, although “profiling” may be the wrong word to use. In answer to questioning, they talked about looking at the individual in terms of the risk they pose. They seemed to talk very much about profiling, although, as I said, I am not sure that “profiling” in its full sense is the correct word. It is used in the sense that a person fits certain patterns. I am confused by the Minister’s statement that that is not used now and will not be in future.
Mrs Villiers: I can only repeat that ethnicity is expressly excluded as a criterion for selecting people for security searches. That is the case now and the Government have no plans to change that. The changes in the Bill would have no impact on that.
On the general issues to do with the security reforms, the Government are committed to reforming how aviation security is regulated and that work features prominently in the Department for Transport’s business plan. I welcome the indication of support in the amendments and from some, although not all, members of the Committee.
We have put together a joint Department for Transport and CAA team with the relevant skills and knowledge to develop, trial and implement the new regime. We have consulted stakeholders and hosted several interactive
We are analysing the responses to the consultation before making decisions on the next step. We will move forward with our reformed approach to security regulation as quickly as possible, but the priority must be to ensure that aviation security remains robust at all times. The industry asked for the move to an OFRB regime, experts on security regulation expressed support for it in the evidence sessions and it had the support of the previous Government.
The proposal to enable the industry to use security management systems approaches, which would draw on the safety management system approach currently used by the CAA, will have a positive impact on security outcomes. As I said during the evidence sessions, an outcomes-focused approach could deliver important benefits and could well be expected to improve levels of security above the high standards that apply today, because we will be giving more opportunity for the airport industry to develop innovative ways to deliver security outcomes and apply principles of continuous improvement.
A focus on outcomes, with more flexibility for airports to decide the best way to deliver them, should enable security to be delivered in a potentially more passenger-friendly and lower-cost way. Conferring aviation security regulation enforcement functions on the CAA could also benefit industry. With the industry able to deal with only one regulatory body, rather than two, we anticipate that efficiencies could be gained through having aviation security and safety regulation in one place.
The CAA also has valuable experience not only of regulation generally, but of safety management systems designed to manage risks as effectively as possible. Such experience, coupled with the skills and experience of Department for Transport staff, could benefit how we regulate aviation security.
We need to get such things right to ensure that our aviation security is not at risk. The Committee had a reminder of that during the evidence that Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, gave the Committee on 23 February. The amendments ask us to press ahead quickly with outcomes-based security, but he emphasised his concerns about a “one-hit implementation”. In his view, moving regulatory responsibilities at the same time as a big transition to an OFRB approach would be a riskier strategy than a staged approach. It is also not possible to move to an OFRB system in a one-off change; it will take some years to roll out across industry, depending to a significant extent on the pace at which different airports want to deliver new systems and methods.
The new approach is in some senses a cultural change, which will take some time to filter out across the industry. We will press on with reforming the aviation security regime at an appropriate pace, but do so in a way that avoids risking our aviation security by clustering reforms too closely. That is why I am unable to accept amendment 33, which explicitly links the two.
On amendment 34, I assure the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton that section 21 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 already obliges the CAA to make an annual report to the Secretary of State on the performance of its functions during the year. Subsection (2)(d) enables the Secretary of State to specify such information with respect to the plans and the past and present activities of the CAA that shall be included in its annual reports. Subsection (3) requires the Secretary of State to lay a copy of every report made to her before each House of Parliament. The requirements of the 1982 Act are sufficient to achieve the purposes of amendment 34.
The CAA’s aviation security functions, as conferred on it by the Bill, would fall within the scope of section 21 of the 1982 Act. Thus the CAA will be required to report on those to the Secretary of State, who in turn must lay the reports before Parliament. There is nothing to prevent the Secretary of State, when using the powers given to her under section 21 of 1982 Act, from requiring the CAA to report on its work regarding the outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to aviation security.
John Woodcock: Thank you, Sir Roger, for indulging me a little bit further in setting out our general concerns about the clause. I ought to have done so in my first speech, but foolishly I had not anticipated that we would not have a stand part debate.
First, I am disappointed that the Minister rejects our amendment’s proposals for a sensible, greater level of parliamentary scrutiny for the move to a risk-based system. Such scrutiny could be a sensible way to ensure greater confidence in the measure and tease out any further, as yet unknown, problems with the proposal. We will not force the amendment to a vote, but we hope that the Minister will give it serious thought before Report and return with something a bit more measured—I do not suggest that she has not been measured; Committee members know what I mean.
My hon. Friends have mentioned concerns about the clause, but it is worth stressing the manner in which the changes have appeared, which increases our concern about the process and therefore, potentially, the outcome of the changes. The proposal to transfer security is one of the most significant changes in the Bill, so we are slightly at a loss about the haphazard way in which it has evolved. It is worth stressing that, at the time of the Queen’s Speech, the Government had no intention to include security in the Bill. The pre-legislative scrutiny report makes it clear that industry witnesses told the Committee that there had been no discussion with them about that aspect of the Bill.
Thus far the Minister has not adequately explained why the Government have chosen to go about the process in so rushed a way. Why does she believe that now is the right time to make the change, given that, as we have already discussed, a consultation is under way on moving to risk-based security? How will the new system overcome the challenge of increased fragmentation in moving security functions to the CAA, while retaining security policy and direction with the Secretary of State? That is important.
Again, we are not necessarily opposed to such a move. As the Select Committee mentioned, there may be welcome synergies in placing safety and security
The Minister rightly suggested that there would be greater discussion about this matter in debates on future clauses, but there are widely acknowledged difficulties to do with the staff transfer involved. I hope that she can tell us, either now or in future debates, how she has such apparent confidence—at the moment, frankly, we do not share it—in the ability of the Department and the CAA to manage the process of transfer effectively so that we end up with the right result.
The concerns of the trade union representative have been well set out, and it is worth adding a flavour of similar concerns that airline and airport representatives have expressed about the lack of clarity. For example, David Hart of British Airways told the Transport Committee:
My final point concerns timing. On Second Reading, the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), raised concerns about the proposed time scale for the transfer. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), responded to the debate, because it was on the day or just after—
John Woodcock: The Minister was on the operating table at the time, and for some reason seemed unwilling to make the commitment to do her duties in the House. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport responded to the question in writing, stating that the DFT was aiming for a transfer of function to the CAA in spring 2014.
I feel a little indelicate about doing so, but it is important to point out that the Department has got itself a bit of a reputation for tardiness under the stewardship of the Minister and her colleagues. We have these brand spanking new departmental business plans, but the deadlines that they loving set out regularly sail past without the Department’s raising so much as an eyebrow.
The Secretary of State has just finished setting out the Government’s rail strategy, which was originally timetabled for November last year, and there is still no sign of a policy on airport capacity. The fact that Ministers regularly fail to meet deadlines set only a few months in advance means that we must surely treat the spring 2014 deadline with some scepticism.
Will the Minister give us a whizz-bang, copper-bottomed guarantee in this debate that that deadline will be met, or will she at least set out her continued commitment to the time scale given by the Under-Secretary of State for
Mrs Villiers: I will respond briefly. I spared the Committee my technical concerns about amendment 76, but as the shadow Minister is keen to press the point, I will return to them. I do not see that amendment 76 would produce the enhanced parliamentary scrutiny that he feels it would. It seems to suggest that the Civil Aviation Authority could implement the outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regulatory regime. That is a misunderstanding of how aviation security regulation is implemented, and how it would be implemented under the new arrangements in the Bill. Part 2 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 sets out the Secretary of State’s powers to give directions to industry for the purposes of that part of the Act. Those powers broadly cover the protection of civil aviation against acts of violence. It is those powers that the Secretary of State intends to use to implement the requirements relating to outcomes-focused, risk-based regulation.
Clause 78 inserts new section 14A into the 1982 Act, which confers on the CAA a duty to review the aviation security directions currently in force and make recommendations to the Secretary of State about them and about giving further directions. The clause also amends the definition of “authorised person” in section 24A of the 1982 Act, so that it can mean a person authorised in writing by the Secretary of State or the CAA. Authorised persons—that is, inspectors—monitor and enforce compliance with the directions in force.
The CAA will not, therefore, have the power to give aviation security regulation directions to industry. As I have said, that is a matter for the Secretary of State under the current and proposed regimes. There would, therefore, be no point in the Secretary of State directing the CAA in the terms suggested in amendment 76.
John Woodcock: I am grateful to the Minister for picking up on what she believes is our imperfect drafting. I would be delighted if she wanted to take the amendment away to her splendid team of civil servants and bring back something that she believes would do the trick on Report. I would be happy to withdraw the amendment in those circumstances.
Mrs Villiers: I am afraid that I do not find that an attractive option, because I have not found the shadow Minister’s arguments convincing. As I say, I find it surprising that Labour has made another U-turn, because it supported this general approach in government. It has certainly changed its approach.
Consultation has taken place on a possible move to an outcomes-focused, risk-based security approach. The transfer to the CAA proposed in the Bill was referred to
The shadow Minister persists in the allegation that the outcomes-focused, risk-based security approach will lead to lower standards and increased fragmentation. I do not believe that it will. As I have said on numerous occasions, there are good arguments that the new approach could improve security as well as making it more passenger-friendly. We have an example of where such an approach has worked well. The CAA’s safety management system has much in common with the security management system that will be an important part of an OFRB approach. The safety management system has been incredibly successful in protecting and keeping safe passengers on aircraft in this country.
The shadow Minister persists in concern about the division of responsibility. We have sought to provide further detail as the process goes forward. We will provide further details nearer to the implementation of the transfer, but the reality is that our proposals are not out of line with other regulatory contexts where Ministers set policy and give directions and enforcement is left to expert independent regulators.
Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): This debate has ranged widely from European regulations to the prodding of my hon. Friend the shadow Minister by security staff. I intend to address just four issues, if my arithmetic is right.
Will the Minister—I will happily give way to her—agree to put in the Library or provide to members of this Committee the information that she was relying on when she said that the funding basis for security in other European airports was akin to the proposals in the Bill? I have no reason to disbelieve her, as she has always been straightforward in her dealings with me, the Transport Committee and this Committee, but I would like to see the evidence.
I was less convinced by the Minister’s belief that the aviation industry would have fewer costs at the end of the process. As any reading of the regulatory impact assessment will show, that view is at odds with the information in that assessment. At best there is ambiguity, and as we have debated the issue in Committee, the ambiguity on cost has increased. We do not understand how the CAA will approach its regulatory asset base. We do not even know why certain elements, such as hotels in terminals, are included. There is much that we do not know and cannot be sure about. The CAA may have a different approach to the economic regulation of airports, and the Minister’s argument rests on there being less regulation. I hope that she is right, because that would be the right direction to go in. However, she has not offered any reassurance that convinces me that that is definitely the case.
Sir Roger, I am sure that you will not let me get into a debate on European regulation, but we should all be worried about the transfer of functions from the CAA
Those points bring me back to costs and what is really happening in the Bill. At the start of the debate, I read from a 2006 Transport Committee report that basically asked why, if many safety functions are transferred from the CAA to EASA, and if the general direction is to have less regulated airports, which I think the Committee would welcome, there will be more staff at the CAA at the end of the process than when it had two major functions. If the Minister looks at the evidence given to the Transport Committee, she will find that the CAA will grow, not diminish, despite the significant losses and the addition of the security service.
I will not repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness said about the security services, but my worries are similar. The Transport Committee clearly stated that the proposal was added to the Bill at the last minute. It is not wrong in principle, but sufficient thought has perhaps not been given to it. As the trade unions said, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it? To put that in a different way, if an awful thing happened because of a security lapse, and there was successful terrorist attack in this country, who would be to blame? Under the regulations, is it easier to know whether the Secretary of State, the chair of the CAA or its chief executive are to blame? There is a balance to be struck between the synergies of putting the security and safety functions together in the CAA, which the Minister has talked about, and the transparency of the line of responsibility up to the Cabinet and the Secretary of State for Transport. I am unconvinced that adding the measure quickly at the end of the process will provide clarification or improvement. That is a different way of saying that if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?
Finally, the only difference between the Minister and me on amendment 34—she accepts the principle—is whether it should be in the Bill. The difference is not, as she said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, about the speed of implementation. The amendment could be implemented at any speed. Rather than leaving the matter to the discretion of the Secretary of State, the amendment states that the principle is of sufficient importance to be in the Bill.
Having said that, this has been a wide-ranging debate, and I am certain that we will return to the subject of security on Report. I hope that the Minister will fair-mindedly reflect on the points raised. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
‘(2A) The CAA may also provide advice and assistance to such persons in connection with maintaining the dignity of disabled users of civil air services who are subject to security checks.’.
The amendment is in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop), who, on 1 February, introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on the subject, drawing on his constituents’ experience.
Air travel is now commonplace for many people, but it is still stressful, whether they are travelling for leisure or business. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham told the Committee of her family’s experience of how such stresses may manifest themselves from time to time. Treating people, whatever their particular needs, with courtesy and dignity, and as individuals, is crucial, and they should be respected by airport security personnel when those personnel are carrying out their proper and important duties.
Security and individual needs need to be balanced, so that both imperatives are properly delivered. Earlier, there was a useful exchange between my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West and the hon. Member for Daventry that, in a sense, illustrated the need for both requirements to be well met. We were treated to more information than we really wanted on the trials and tribulations of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness. Security personnel should handle issues appropriately and properly, so as to allow dignity to be recognised while security needs are met.
Amendment 32 would allow the Civil Aviation Authority to provide advice to ensure that the dignity of stoma bag users and other disabled people is protected at airport security checkpoints throughout the United Kingdom and the European Union. I will draw heavily on the information provided by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. In his ten-minute rule Bill, he drew attention to the fact that many people who have faced life-threatening health conditions, such as bowel cancer, bladder cancer and Crohn’s disease, have had to undergo colostomies and urostomies. Such surgery should not, and does not, end their right to travel, whether for business, pleasure, or to see friends and family. Nor should it end their right to be treated with dignity while travelling.
Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong—perhaps more often than we would wish. My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland drew attention to the experience of one of his constituents, who had cancer and now requires both urostomy and colostomy pouches. She was humiliated by her experience in several airports. At Budapest airport, she explained to security personnel that she had a difficulty. They were far from sympathetic. After a pat-down search, they wanted to examine her underwear, despite her attempts to explain that she had colostomy pouches. She was required to attempt to explain to them in front of fellow holidaymakers in the security queue, and she found the experience, as we all would, totally degrading.
Sadly, such practices and such a lack of sympathy are not unique. The constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland described similar poor treatment at an airport in the north-east. The purpose of the amendment is to address these concerns. Despite the fact that my hon. Friend’s constituent had a card and a doctor’s letter with an explanation of her situation in several languages, she none the less encountered difficulties. She was also separated from her hand luggage, which added to her problems. A man from Ballymena also had a letter signed by his doctor, and even offered to be searched privately. His letter and request were apparently ignored by the guard. Sadly, those are the sorts of practices that take place, and we would all agree that they need to be addressed properly.
I am sure that the Minister will reassure me that the matter will be taken seriously as the Bill proceeds, so that we can address the concerns of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and others, and ensure that this does not happen in future.
Mrs Villiers: I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman on the crucial importance of ensuring that passengers are treated with dignity in their journey through the airport and onwards. Of course, that includes those who have disabilities and those with medical conditions requiring stoma bags and so on. The incidents he described are distressing, and involve behaviour that falls well below the standards that we expect from those running airport security systems. I fully agree about the importance of the matter for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. I hope that I can provide the Committee and the hon. Member for Scunthorpe with some of the reassurance that he sought: the goals that the amendment is designed to achieve are delivered by existing legislation.
Airports are regulated by European and domestic regulations when it comes to undertaking security checks on all passengers. It is the responsibility of airports to ensure that their customers are treated with respect and dignity. Some passengers may well worry about security checks and feel uncomfortable at being subjected to searches. It is important that the searches are conducted in such a way as to maintain the dignity of the passenger. It is important that such searches are carried out if security is to be maintained in the face of a real and continuing threat from terrorist groups that seek to do us harm. European regulation 1107 of 2006 covers the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. It imposes legal obligations on airports and airlines, and penalties may be imposed for non-compliance.
The Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2007 provide for the enforcement of regulation 1107 by the CAA. In addition, the Department for Transport has produced a comprehensive code of practice, which aims to provide assistance and guidance to the travel and aviation industry in meeting its obligations under
Moreover, clause 80 of the Bill inserts a new section, 21I, into the Aviation Security Act 1982 which requires the CAA to provide aviation security advice to airports, airlines and other groups set out in new subsection (3). In giving such advice, the CAA has to have regard to the purpose of Part 2 of the 1982 Act, which, broadly, is the protection of civil aviation against acts of violence. If the CAA considered it appropriate, that certainly could include advice about passengers with disabilities, mobility issues or the conditions referred to by the hon. Member for Scunthorpe. For example, it could relate to the Department for Transport’s code of practice on security checks.
I hope those comments reassure the hon. Gentleman, whose arguments I have listened to carefully. The Government place the same importance on ensuring that passengers are treated fairly and with dignity through airport security checks. There are provisions in the Bill and in previous legislation to provide appropriate protection.
Nic Dakin: I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply. I am sure that between now and consideration on Report, there will be the opportunity to reflect on all the assurances she has given, and in particular on how, through proposed new section 21I, the CAA can ensure that the advice that the amendment would have led it to put place will be put in place and monitored. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
‘(a) the CAA;
(b) the individuals referred to in subsection 1(a); and
(c) trade unions representing the individuals referred to in subsection 1(a).’.
The amendment is intended to probe the Government a little further on the concerns about staff transfer, which have already been extensively debated, so I will not go over that ground again. I want to draw out a few more specifics that I hope the Minister can give clarity on.
Can the Minister assure the Committee that the transfer will not lead to a loss of expertise, which has been widely discussed thus far as a possibility? Specifically, why are secondments not seen as a better option for staff? What do Ministers intend to do beyond simply hoping that staff will stay on, which is effectively what her colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes, set out in his letter to the shadow Secretary of State?
The amendment would also give departmental employees who might be transferred to the CAA by the Bill—I think there are 84 posts—and their representatives the right to be consulted by the Secretary of State before any such transfer. Without provisions to give more support to staff who might be transferred, any such process could lead to a serious loss of expertise as employees leave before being transferred.
When the Minister address that issue will she also, as a brief hangover from the previous debate, give an example of when the previous Government supported a risk-based system for aviation security? That would be quite helpful, because she keeps accusing me of making U-turns, and I am not clear that I have done so
Mrs Villiers: On that last point, I can provide some further information. That was the advice I was given on arriving at the Department for Transport. I seem to recollect that the previous Government made statements on this issue when I was in opposition; I will investigate further and provide the hon. Gentleman with an indication of the work done by the previous Government.
The Department for Transport has already begun engaging with staff and their trade union representatives on the proposed transfer to the CAA. The Department’s human resources unit has formally engaged with the trade unions—Public and Commercial Services, and Prospect—on matters relating to the proposed transfer of posts and post-holders to the CAA.
There have been briefing events for staff, including a joint event with the CAA on 31 January. We shall continue to engage with staff and their trade union representatives as we develop the transfer arrangements over the coming months and up until the planned transfer in spring 2014. Engagement with staff is vital, not least because we want to ensure that as many as possible transfer to the CAA, taking their skills and experience with them.
Our debates today have highlighted the crucial importance of aviation security. The Government very much value the skills, expertise and dedication of the people who carry out the work needed to ensure that security is appropriately and effectively regulated.
Julie Hilling: The Transport Committee report recommended that the Department for Transport and the CAA should investigate employment arrangements—possibly including secondments, rather than transfers—to avoid losing experienced staff. Has the Minister looked at the possibility of secondments? She has talked about consultations taking place regarding transfers. What about alternative models? Have they been examined?
As I said to the Transport Committee in December last year, we hope that as many of our current staff as possible will want to stay in post following the transfer of their posts to the CAA. We will be working with them to provide as much visibility and clarity as possible about the transfer. I am afraid that we cannot answer all their questions yet, but I will reflect carefully on the points made today and on any made on the next set of amendments. All those will be passed back to the Secretary of State and the team dealing with the transition of posts from the Department for Transport to the CAA.
Nic Dakin: I recognise from what she is saying that the Minister’s hope and wish is for people to stay in these roles. When the process has gone through, what percentage of people not transferring would she find concerning?
Mrs Villiers: We are working to ensure that as many of the current post-holders transfer as possible. I do not think it would be productive to talk about percentages. We are making every effort to ensure that we retain as much expertise as possible when the current staff transfer to the CAA.
The engagement and consultation provided for in amendment 66 are already happening, so I hope that will persuade the shadow Minister to withdraw it. On the points made about secondment by the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Bolton West, I appreciate that similar points were made by the Transport Committee and, of course, by the Public and Commercial Services Union in evidence to this Committee. We can and are looking at how secondments might be used as we develop our plans for the proposed transfer. However, we consider that seconding Department for Transport staff to the CAA instead of transferring them is unlikely to help ensure that experienced staff remain with the CAA when the secondments end. We do not see that as necessarily providing a solution, but we are prepared to consider whether it could play a part in the transitional arrangements.
Julie Hilling: I am interested in the point that the Minister just made about when the secondment ends. My understanding is that, in the civil service, people are seconded to another Department on a long-term basis, so it would not be unusual to do that for the CAA. It is not about, “You’re seconded for 12 months”, but someone’s post is effectively seconded over, obviously with the finance for it coming out of a CAA budget rather than a DFT budget. It is not a question of, "You're seconded for 12 months"; a post is effectively seconded over, with the finance for it obviously coming out of a CAA budget, rather than a DFT budget. It is not that, when the secondment ends, that person would be lost, because the secondment in that case—and, as I understand it, across the civil service—does not end until contractual arrangements with the Department actually change.
Mrs Villiers: The key limitation on the use of secondments to try to respond to the concerns expressed by Opposition Members is that the Bill provides for these posts to transfer over. The posts will transfer over, even if there might be scope for using secondments as temporary measures. I see no way that we could achieve the result using secondments that the Bill provides for, namely a transfer of posts to the CAA. We hope that as many people as are in those posts currently will choose to stay in them when they transfer over to the CAA and we will continue to engage with the work force to seek to bring that about. On that basis, I cannot support the amendments but, as I emphasised, what they require the Government to do is already under way.
John Woodcock: These final two amendments on the security provisions are both probing amendments. Amendment 67 seeks to question further what actions will be taken if an individual employed in the Department is transferred to the CAA but objects to that transfer. I hope that the Minister can explain what measures the Department will take to ensure that such an objection will not arise, because the Bill currently does not allow for the employee or their representative to be consulted before a transfer.
I suggest to the Minister that if the Government are serious about preserving the expertise that has been built up in the Department, they need to say more fully why they have chosen not to have this measure and also say whether they would consider making it part of a provision of a transfer process.
I hope that she can tell us what that means and to whom it would apply. Is that measure there simply to prevent those who are on secondment from being seconded more than once? Or could it potentially refer to those being paid through single-person companies to avoid tax, as unfortunately we have recently found out was the case with 25 senior staff at the Department of Health?
Mrs Villiers: I am grateful for the indication that these are probing amendments; in that case, I will not dwell on some of the technical problems that I find with them. The substance of the shadow Minister’s points is consistent and in line with our discussion on the previous set of amendments. As I said then, we very much hope that the staff in posts due to be transferred will want to continue working in aviation security and will take their skills and experience to the CAA.
We have begun engaging staff and their representatives in the trade union movement on the transfer, including a briefing session from the chief executive of the CAA. We are developing the transfer arrangements and hope that the majority of staff will consider the package on offer and decide to go to the CAA when their roles
However, when the date of transfer comes, people in roles that are transferring to the CAA cannot opt to remain in the DFT, because their jobs will be with the CAA. We believe that that provision is necessary in order to provide as much certainty as possible that the CAA will inherit staff with the skills and experience required to undertake its new aviation security functions.
On amendment 68, the shadow Minister referred to people who are employed on terms that do not constitute a contract of employment. We have not yet undertaken an assessment of whether any staff—or how many—currently in the posts due to transfer are employed on terms that do not constitute a contract of employment. In any case, that number could change between now and spring 2014. The shadow Minister asked what the relevant provision in the schedule is designed to ensure: it aims to ensure that if any individuals are employed on such terms, their posts will be able to be transferred.
Other issues about the terms of transfer have been raised. In respect of pensions, we of course understand that staff want clarity on important matters such as pension rights. The principal civil service pension scheme and the CAA pension scheme are under review, and I am afraid that we cannot say at this point what pension rights transferring staff might expect. None the less, the Government’s fair deal policy on pensions provides that transferring staff should be offered a broadly comparable pension in the CAA. We will ensure that staff pension rights are provided as per Government policy at the point of transfer.
On redundancy rights, we are intending to apply the TUPE principles to the transfer. The application of TUPE principles will mean that continuity of employment for transferred staff will be preserved. In relation to whether there will be any specific entitlement of transferred staff to receive a particular level of redundancy payments in the event of redundancy at the CAA, no decision has yet been made on whether the transfer scheme will contain such a provision. I appreciate the importance of that to the individuals concerned. It was raised in evidence, and the Department will endeavour to provide clarity as soon as is practical. As I have mentioned, we are some way off the transition to the new system and we have time in which to resolve those matters. We will seek to do so as soon as we can, and with that, I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing his amendment.