Examination of Witnesses (720-735)|
WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE 2003
BUSH CB, MISS
720. Where precisely is the line drawn between
you and the British Airports Authority in the provision of safety
facilities in buildings, on the ground, on the runways and so
(Mr Britton) The BAA's airports are technically aerodromes.
Each aerodrome needs a public use licence so it is licensed by
the CAA for safety purposes. That essentially looks at the physical
criteria. Is it safe to be used by aircraft and is the airspace
surrounding it safe for use by aircraft? Our safety regulation
group deals with that, which is a very separate matter from the
economic regulation side.
721. Safety is one of your key interests, is
(Mr Britton) Very much so.
722. Do you impose detailed safety conditions
when you license an airport or is it left largely to the operator?
(Mr Britton) The CAA will impose detailed safety conditions
on the aerodrome licence. They are reasonably standard. Certain
airports like London City with peculiar characteristics might
well have more than others.
723. On the economic side, you deal with the
charges made by airports to the different airlines who use them.
Is that correct?
(Dr Bush) Not precisely, because there are a small
number of airports where we regulate the price as a matter of
course, which are the three BAA London airports and Manchester.
In other cases where airports have a turnover of over £1
million, it is possible for users to complain to us about the
charges if they are discriminatory or something like that. In
those cases we would investigate but we would look to see how
dominant that airport was in its locality. That would be one of
the key factors we would look at. One of the developments over
the last five to ten years has been a huge growth in competition
between airports, as much as there has been between airlines.
We rarely get complaints and in general it is quite difficult
to prove that the airport is dominant in the locality.
724. In your memorandum under the heading of
"Economic Regulation of Airports" you refer to the allowable
capacity on certain routes. Is this a matter which is decided
by a European body in so far as it concerns your board? Is it
a matter which is decided by you with regard to domestic flights
only? It is page two of your memorandum. I wondered who it was
who allowed the capacity. It is the first paragraph under "Economic
Regulation", the last two lines.
(Mr Britton) I do not think that is ours.
725. I am reading the wrong document. This is
British Airways. The question remains the same. Are you responsible
for allowing the capacity on particular routes?
(Dr Bush) There will be some routes where there is
limited capacity because of what Mr Britton was describing, where
you have a bilateral agreement. It may well be that in those cases
the CAA will be called upon to adjudicate as to who should get
726. Do you limit or control the amount of flights
on any particular route in Britain?
(Dr Bush) Into Britain, yes.
(Mr Britton) Outside the European Union the capacity
will be regulated by the bilateral air services agreement between
the two governments. We might say British Airways can fly to Shanghai
and Virgin can fly to Cape Town but whether there is capacity
on that route for them to fly is a matter for the respective governments.
727. What about inter-UK?
(Mr Britton) Following the liberalisation by the European
Union in the early 1990s, there is free access. There is no allocation
728. Picking up on the earlier discussion about
the extent to which you are independent of government, in your
submission, paragraph 37, you refer to sponsorship and say that
that is recognising that guidance can be issued to you. Is that
the guidance that you are required to have regard toi.e.
you read it but then the decision is yours at the end of the day?
(Mr Britton) Yes. The guidance applies
essentially to airspace decisions and we would have to have regard
to that guidance.
729. It is a fairly standard "have regard
(Mr Britton) Yes. The Secretary of State does of course
have powers of direction over us in relation to international
obligations and national security, but that is separate.
730. One of the points that comes across in
the paper is the particular status you have. You are unusual in
relation to other regulators. You have a very specific status.
I wondered whether you were fairly content with that status. In
other words, if you have the opportunity to change, would you
like to see change? Would you like to have a different status
or are you content with the way things are presently structured?
(Ms Jesnick) If we say we are content with how the
CAA is structured, it could sound a little complacent. However,
the CAA has continually evolved. We used to be a nationalised
industry. We are now a public corporation. There was some talk
when NATS was privatised that we might be an NDPB. When you look
at what an NDPB is, we think that it is potentially more akin
to a government department than our current status. We will over
time evolve as one cohesive regulator. I think we are quite content
with where our status currently sits.
731. Can you in a nutshell tell us your function
in relation to the allocation of airspace and safety? I am getting
a fragmentary picture of your function, for which I apologise,
but that must absorb some of your energy, must it not?
(Mr Britton) The CAA is the airspace
regulator. Prior to the separation of NATS in 2001, it was done
on a joint civil/military basis. We have a directorate of airspace
policy which then was headed up by an MoD officer. On separation
of NATS it was integrated into the CAA and the director of airspace
policy is now very much a civilian. He deals with the allocation
of airspace following consultation with the users. He is also
effectively responsible for ensuring the joint and integrated
nature of the air traffic service as between the military and
the civilian providers. That is very much a CAA function.
732. Air traffic control is under your regulation?
(Mr Britton) It is, both safety and economic regulation.
733. You have some fairly critical safety and
economic decisions to make there. We have touched already on appeals
but is there a satisfactory appeal system within that one piece
of your responsibilities? What happens to complaints?
(Dr Bush) In relation to economic regulation of air
traffic control, the appeal system is the same as other economic
regulators. Complaints are a slightly different issue.
(Mr Britton) There are always complaints. Airspace
has a finite capacity. It is shared out on the basis of consultation
but someone is always going to be unhappy about their particular
share. At the end of the day, a decision has to be made. If we
get it absolutely wrong, there is judicial review.
(Dr Bush) It may be worth adding, in relation to your
point about a fragmentary impression, that this comes down to
the fact that we are a multipurpose aviation regulator. The glue
is aviation and then there are some quite detailed, very distinct
functions that come under that. That is why it may look more fragmentary
than some others because the unifying element is the subject.
734. The 40 people are doing this?
(Dr Bush) The 40 are doing economic regulation. There
are 800 or so doing safety. Safety is the core in terms of numbers
735. You said that if you get it absolutely
wrong there is judicial review. What if you get it wrong but not
absolutely? It is either judicial review or nothing, presumably,
in terms of challenging your decision?
(Mr Britton) Certain airspace decisions
can be appealed to the members of the CAA. If there are directions
about air traffic services we have to consult the Secretary of
State. That is a safeguard to people. There is not a final appeal
against the director of airspace policy's decisions other than
judicial review and he has reserved rights under the Transport
Act. He alone must make those decisions.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for helping
to explain what is quite a complex structure. You are very different
from the other regulators that we have seen. It has been very
helpful for our purposes to look at what is sui generis
in terms of regulation. We are extremely grateful to you for being
with us this afternoon.