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Lord Gainford: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that most encouraging Answer. As regards the proposals and recommendations, has he any news as to when they can possibly become fact?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, as I said, we hope that the consultation will commence very shortly. I understand that it may be as soon as next month. We hope that it will be taken forward as quickly as possible. There will then be a process to be gone through, depending on the results that come forward, for formal proposals to be developed. It is possible that the rule-making process can begin perhaps in late 1997.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, can my noble friend give me some advice as to the measurements and what dimensions in the aircraft are referred to? I have to declare an interest as a frequent traveller between Edinburgh and London. I find that small is beautiful in climbing in and out of the seats. What exactly is the purpose of the extra eight inches? Will it give me more headroom or legroom?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I do not believe that it will affect my noble friend's physique in any way whatever. Where there are two rigid structures, such as a lavatory on one side and a galley on the other, or two galleys, or whatever, and there is a gap and a barrier which goes right from the floor to the ceiling the present minimum width is 22 inches. The study undertaken at Cranfield shows that the optimum width for that gap in

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order to evacuate people quickly from the aircraft is 30 inches. Any more than that and other problems of crowding arise.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that this improvement is the result of the exercise by the Civil Aviation Authority of its very great experience in aviation matters?

Viscount Goschen: Yes, I can, my Lords. It stems from a recommendation from the Air Accident Investigation Branch which was taken up by the Civil Aviation Authority. It commissioned the Cranfield study, which was a long and serious study. The results have gained very considerable acceptance. The CAA has largely been the driving force behind this change.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is it not a very long time since the Manchester air accident from which these recommendations flow? I understand from the Minister that there is to be further very considerable delay. In view of what is an unsatisfactory situation--and I am in no way denigrating the Civil Aviation Authority, which is a very reliable organisation--what other recommendations by that body flowing from the accident remain unimplemented?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, on the question of time, it is important that these things are done as quickly as possible. I understand that the Cranfield study into physical aspects did not report until 1989; so that was part of the delay. Since then the proposals have been referred to the JAA which we believe is the proper authority if we are to get as wide as possible harmonisation and acceptance of the proposals in order to make them worth while and workable. All that has taken time. We want the matter to be pursued as quickly as possible, and we are pushing hard through the Civil Aviation Authority.

Other recommendations were brought forward for consideration on, for example, cabin water-spray systems for aircraft, as recommended by the AIB. The CAA considered that recommendation but rejected it. The reasoning behind that is lengthy and could perhaps form the subject of another Question. A similar story prevails in relation to smokehoods, but floor lighting has been adopted.

Lord Carr of Hadley: My Lords, given the fact that the aircraft industry is, above all, international, are there automatic provisions to ensure that new requirements apply to all airlines and all aircraft manufacturers, or do they apply only to British ones?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, that is an important point. It is why the proposals have been taken forward through the Joint Aviation Authorities. That will mean that all members of the JAA adopt a harmonised standard. The other very big block, affecting a large part of the industry, is the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. It is looking carefully at what the JAA are doing and there is good liaison between those two bodies.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, following the question from my neighbour, the noble Lord,

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Lord Lyell, are there any regulations about the distance there between seats? I have been in aircraft where I found it impossible to get into the seat--and I would certainly have found it very difficult to get out. Can aircraft manufacturers pack as many people as will tolerate it into an aircraft or is there a limit?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the reasons for the noble Lord's difficulties could be numerous. But there are minimum regulations for airlines. Depending on which class of passenger they carry, they might make different commercial decisions. However, minimum standards are laid down and must be strictly adhered to.

Lord Renton: My Lords, bearing in mind the international responsibilities of the Civil Aviation Authority, is it not strange that it has not converted to the metric system but continues to prefer inches?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I dare say that converting 22 inches and 30 inches into metric measures would be straightforward. Indeed, the conversion is probably concealed somewhere in my brief. However, for the purposes of presentation to your Lordships' House, I think that perhaps inches are preferable.

Northern Ireland Police Authority

11.22 a.m.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the circumstances and what are the implications of the dismissal of the chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Authority, Mr. David Cook, and one of the members, Mr. Chris Ryder, by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has a statutory duty to appoint and maintain a police authority. Following votes of no confidence in Mr. Cook and in Mr. Ryder, and after consideration of the issues involved, the Secretary of State concluded that the authority could not function effectively with Mr. Cook and Mr. Ryder as members. The issues at stake were not substantive policy questions but involved the way in which business was conducted. The deputy chairman, Mr. Pat Armstrong CBE, has been appointed chairman. Members are now continuing their important function of securing an adequate and efficient police force.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Clearly, this is now water under the bridge. But I wonder whether I may ask her in these unhappy circumstances and at this sensitive time in Northern Ireland, first, whether this might not be an opportunity for the Northern Ireland Office and the Government to express their appreciation of two people who have given considerable public service in Northern Ireland over the years and, even more importantly, whether the Minister can reassure the House that the process whereby the authority has been

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driving towards greater accountability for the police in Northern Ireland, which is surely crucial--it proved to be crucial in South Africa in cementing the idea that the police force there was the force for the whole community--should in no way suffer in the change of personnel at the top of the Police Authority.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is precisely because we did not want that important work to be impeded in any way that the Secretary of State took the action that he did. We have just had the most comprehensive review of public opinion on policing in Northern Ireland which has ever been undertaken. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware that 600,000 homes received mailshots and that there were public opinion surveys and a series of meetings. All of that work continues, including a review of the structure of the Police Authority and the police force.

At the forefront of the Secretary of State's mind has to be the proper functioning and credibility of the authority. That is why he took the action that he did. The votes of no confidence were overwhelming and they were followed by interviews with each member of the authority. It became clear that there was so little confidence in those two gentlemen, Mr. Cook and Mr. Ryder, that it was in the best interests of the authority that they should be removed.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in my view the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had no option but to act as he did given what happened on the Police Authority? However, will she indicate to him that I hope that the services of those two men will not be lost? Chris Ryder knows Northern Ireland inside out. He used to work for a British newspaper and it was worth buying that weekend paper because he knew what he was talking about. That is true also of David Cook. Their views on these matters are well worth listening to, even if they did not act wisely on the Police Authority.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, a distinction should be made between the proper functioning and authority of the Police Authority and the particular service of those two gentlemen. It would be improper of me to secondguess how the Secretary of State dealt with the matter when he visited those two gentlemen. He gave them both the opportunity to present their cases to him, and I have no doubt that he would have done that with the utmost courtesy, recognising the positive contributions that they have made. However, for the proper authority of the Police Authority it was important that he took the action that he did.

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