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Aviation: Regulatory Framework

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 30 March 2010

Question

Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the consultation on proposals to update the regulatory framework for aviation complies with the criteria set out by the Better Regulation Executive.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare an interest as a director of the Light Aviation Association and vice-president of the General Aviation Alliance, both of which are non-paid.

My Lords, this consultation has been conducted in accordance with Better Regulation Executive criteria. A wide range of stakeholders have been consulted over a 14-week period, targeting those likely to be most affected by proposals. These include events in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and with consumer and general aviation bodies.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. This consultation on the implementation of Sir Joseph Pilling’s views on the strategic review of the CAA 2008 will result in major changes to the mandate of the CAA by including consumer interests, as well as its existing role of safety regulator. Why was there no consultation on Pilling’s major changes with Better Regulation Executive guidelines? The Government, by sleight of hand here, have moved on to the implementation stage without consulting on the major changes they intend.

My Lords, it is entirely open to those responding to the consultation to offer any views they wish on the strategic issues as well as implementation issues. The consultation ran for 14 weeks. It was extended by a week for consultees unable to meet the original deadline and the responses suggest that the general aviation sector, which the noble Lord represents, has been able to respond. Of the 132 responses received, 57 are from the general aviation sector.

Does the noble Lord consider that the remit of the CAA sufficiently covers the general aviation sector? With the railways, there is a specific person responsible for dealing with the more peripheral aspects of the industry, if I might call it that. The CAA remit needs to be broadened to ensure that it includes an important sector like general aviation.

My Lords, those are views that can be expressed in the consultation, and we will take full account of them when we respond.

What is the usual length of time between the feasibility study or consultation and the laying of a regulation? Is the Secretary of State aware that in some respects the Department for Transport seems to allow years to elapse before it comes through with a regulation change?

My Lords, I cannot give the noble Baroness that information, but the consultation ended only on 18 March so it will be some time before we are able to respond and draw up appropriate regulations.

My Lords, does the Secretary of State agree that the proposition that the Civil Aviation Authority should in future be responsible for the conflicting interests of the consumers on the one hand and of the providers on the other is fundamentally flawed and must be reconsidered?

My Lords, those responding to the consultation can express that view. However, I should make clear that in his report Sir Joseph Pilling concluded that the CAA was a highly successful organisation, but, as he says,

“its framework and approach could arguably be modernised and improved, taking account of the lessons to be learned from relative newcomers in the regulatory field”.

If the noble Lord has concerns about the extensive analysis which Sir Joseph Pilling conducted in his review, I would be happy to hear them.

My Lords, I declare an interest of sorts as a humble private pilot. Will the Secretary of State take full account of the views of general aviation in considering the responses to the Pilling proposals? General aviation is a very important part of the overall aviation sector. It is the framework from which new pilots come in to the industry. It is very important that the regulator of that field focuses on safety as its primary consideration and that the focus of the authority is not lost within a wider remit.

I can give the noble Viscount the assurance that he seeks. I can also tell him that, when the consultation document was published, it was sent to 11 general aviation representative organisations which were identified as those most likely to be affected by the proposals. However, at their suggestion, we have since forwarded the consultation to 29 other general aviation organisations and, as I say, we extended the consultation period to give them greater time to respond. They have been fully engaged in the consultation. As I said in response to an earlier question, a very large number of general aviation organisations and individuals have responded and we will take full account of their views.