Civil Aviation Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport Trade Union Side (CA 01)

1. I am writing to you on behalf of the unions that have members working in DfT aviation security.

Summary Of Our Views

2. We limit our comments to those parts of the bill that propose a transfer of aviation security functions to the CAA whilst the Secretary of State remains responsible for aviation security policy.

3. Now we believe that this proposed transfer is misguided.

4. In reality the government is proposing that the industry pay for security regulations and compliance. The transfer of functions to the CAA is just a consequence of that decision to "tax" the industry.

5. We think that the precautionary principle should apply and that unless a compelling case can be made for the proposed changes then aviation security functions should remain with DfT.

6. We think that the proposed division of labour between the CAA and DfT is a recipe for confusion and added complexity. It also runs the risk that matters will fall between the CAA and DfT stools.

7. There is a real danger that experienced inspectors and other staff will seek not to transfer to the CAA. Of course if this happens then the proposal to transfer security functions to the CAA will be self defeating.

The Real Reason For The Proposed Changes

8. The principal driver for the proposed transfer is the supposed cost savings that could be made. In the policy paper accompanying the draft bill, at 2.54, it claims:

The transfer of aviation security regulation functions is expected to deliver general taxation savings estimated at £24.6m in present value terms over ten years. This cost, if transferred to the passenger, would equate to approximately £0.02 per passenger movement per year, based on the 211 million passengers who moved through UK airports in 2010.

9. Whilst the impact appears to be minimal, it is still not clear how the charging regime will be fairly spread across all aviation entities to properly reflect the level of compliance activity undertaken. At present, the compliance monitoring is not restricted to airports and airlines, there is also a significant regime to look at regulated air cargo agents and suppliers of in-flight catering.

10. In the Impact Assessment associated with the draft bill, it states on page 1:

" Reduce the costs to the taxpayer in line with SR commitments by introducing the user pays principle ".

And on page 2 of the assessment:

" The benefits relate to savings to the taxpayer from no longer funding the aviation security regulation and compliance functions, which are currently provided free to airports and airlines " .

11. In other words there are no efficiencies which "could be gained through having a single regulator for all UK civil aviation specific responsibilities (2.53 of the policy paper)". The savings claimed are because costs for security regulations and compliance are to be put onto the industry.

12. As the CAA already levy charges on the industry, the "security tax" can just be added on. It is for that accountancy reason that security functions are being transferred to the CAA.

13. Therefore we think that the real discussion is whether the industry should in essence be "taxed" for being security checked.

14. Now we don’t believe that the "user pays principle" is applicable to security compliance any more than it would be for law enforcement.

15. That said, if the Committee did believe this principle applied we do not understand why its application necessitates a transfer of security functions to the CAA. If the industry has to be "taxed" then DfT could levy charges just as readily as CAA.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

16. Since Lockerbie, the current aviation security arrangements have prevented further outrages. Consequently to consider moving away from a tried and tested system that works, to an untested one, there has be compelling evidence/reasons to show that the proposed new arrangements would be as safe, if not safer, than the existing ones.

17. Unfortunately no such evidence/reasons have been given. No safety case has been made for the changes: that of course is because the real reason for the changes relates to money, as we mention above.

18. Security is too important to be so casually treated.

Added Complexity

19. This is a variant of the "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" argument made above. The current system works and is well understood by the industry.

20. Now it is proposed that the CAA will be the single regulator for all UK civil aviation specific responsibilities. In reality this will not be true as the Secretary of State remains responsible for aviation security policy. The Secretary of State cannot hope to believe that hiving off compliance to the CAA will some how insulate DfT from getting involved in compliance matters. Experience has shown (e.g. UKBA compliance with entry checks and Teresa May) that in the real world the division between policy and compliance is not a clean divide; the one impacts on the other.

21. We think that the proposed division of labour between the CAA and DfT is a recipe for confusion and added complexity. There is a real danger that the added complexity that will be introduced by separating the regulation and compliance teams from the policy makers in DfT will lead to a reduced level of compliance within industry and could result in aviation being put under increased risk from a terrorist attack. It also runs the risk that matters will fall between the CAA and DfT stools. Furthermore, the policy makers would be further removed from the industry that they are regulating and there is an increased risk of policy being created without a proper understanding of the effect for the aviation industry and passengers.

Losing Experienced Staff

22. Of the pool of staff liable to forcible transfer to the CAA, some will be close to retirement come the date of transfer; naturally they are reluctant to move over. Then there are those who are career civil servants who want to remain in the service and those who are waiting for the CAA to "sell" the transfer to them. Then there are concerns over terms and conditions (e.g. pay and pensions) if staff move to the CAA. A show stopper is the possibly that redundancy rights built up in the civil service will not transfer to the CAA (these rights don’t appear to be contractual and hence will not be covered by a Transfer Scheme of the type envisaged in the Bill).

23. There is a long lead in time before the security functions are transferred to the CAA (current estimate is that the transfer date will be 1 April 2014). This allows staff in security aviation to transfer to other posts in DfT or the wider civil service. Therefore the current proposal to move security functions to the CAA runs the risk of staff "voting with their feet" and moving out of aviation security before the transfer date. If this were to happen then CAA will not be able to perform its functions effectively. Thus, as currently envisaged, the proposed transfer will not work as key staff will not move over in the numbers needed.

Transport Select Committee Findings

24. Some of the concerns expressed in this letter have been taken up by the Transport Select Committee in their report on the then draft Civil Aviation Bill.

25. Section 4 of their report is given over to aviation security and the proposed transfer of security functions from DfT to the CAA. They note at paragraph 71 of their report:

We are concerned that the decision to transfer aviation security regulation functions from the DfT to CAA was included in the draft bill at a late stage and not subject to consultation. The Government needs to explain to the CAA, the aviation industry and others the detailed division of security responsibilities and how it would operate in the public interest before the bill reaches committee stage.

26. Further at paragraph 73 they say:

It is important that the CAA has sufficient security expertise to undertake its new role. The DfT and CAA should investigate employment arrangements, possibly including secondments rather than transfers, to avoid losing experienced staff and expertise in the transfer of posts from the DfT to the CAA.

Conclusion

27. For the reasons given above we believe that proposal is misguided and if it ends up forcing experienced staff to leave the aviation security field, then it is self defeating.

February 2012

Prepared 22nd February 2012