Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am most grateful to those noble Lords taking part in this debate today and for this timely opportunity to draw to your attention some important developments in UK general aviation. GA involves far more aircraft and perhaps twice as many flights per annum as does commercial air transport. These are small aircraft in the main but there are significant gains in terms of economic and social benefit. If we effectively encourage the GA community there could be far more gains. An appropriate regulatory environment is fundamental to this.
Last year, a particularly successful effort was made in the aviation red tape challenge, the RTC. For reinvigorating and driving through this endeavour, I offer my thanks and congratulations to the work of my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio, Grant Shapps, and the chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Andrew Haines.
I am a private pilot and have fully declared my interests in aviation. The General Aviation Alliance, of which I am vice-president, is an important grouping of GA voluntary organisations. It represents, particularly, sports recreation aviation, which includes parachuting, hang-gliding, gliding, ballooning, plus sports and recreation flying in light and microlight aircraft and helicopters. The GA Alliance represents some 72,000 members, including the operators of around 60% of the UK’s registered aircraft fleet, and perhaps 70% of the total fleet.
The GA Alliance engages with the Government, the CAA and other bodies on regulatory matters concerning aviation. Last year there was a strong response to the aviation RTC, identifying many instances of unnecessary restrictions of gold-plated regulations. The CAA, as the UK’s national aviation regulator, had the task of processing this input. To give it credit, its response was generally strong and well considered. It consisted of a document entitled CAP 1123, describing a strategy for improvement. One key change is the setting up of a GA unit within the CAA, recognising the interests of that community and how different it is from the airline focus. I welcome this unit. The GA Alliance now looks forward to an early dialogue and consultation on the promised full reform programme for the sports and recreation sector.
The CAA’s response highlights two guiding principles within a more proportionate, risk-based regulatory regime. I welcome these principles and urge the CAA to hold firmly to them, although I wish to highlight the need to fully evaluate the consequences in consultations with stakeholders.
The CAA’s first principle is to deregulate wherever possible. This contains three aspirations which I strongly support. First, the removal of CAA oversight rule making in areas where the UK has no specific EU obligation. Secondly, identification of areas that could be removed from EASA oversight, primarily those that are nationally based and where previous self-regulation regimes had good safety records—for example, gliding and ballooning. Finally, the CAA wishes to take an evidence and risk-based approach proportionate to the risk appetite of participants. An informed consent concept will move the onus on to participants to demonstrate their awareness of the risks involved in GA activities. To be effective this initiative must reduce opportunities for speculative litigation. At present aviation associations are the targets of litigants seeking damages for unfortunate events that were outside their control.
The CAA’s second principle will maximise delegation of regulatory activities,
“to the extent that industry appetite and competence and resilience are the only constraints”.
The CAA would necessarily retain overall accountability but responsibility for delivery of regulation would be delegated to so-called qualified entities. These might be commercial or they could indeed be the existing GA associations. For example, the Light Aircraft Association—the LAA—of which I am a director, as is my noble friend Lord Goschen, holds an approval to regulate the airworthiness of several thousand aircraft on behalf of the CAA. Interestingly, the CAA charges this association for the privilege of carrying out this work.
I want to see delegation possibilities considered across the entire sports and recreation sector, ranging from CAA oversight through delegated accountability to full delegation where a competent body is available. The GAA’s member associations are mature national bodies with effective governance, run on behalf of their members. They are not commercial organisations and will be concerned by the entry of commercial qualified entries into their sector. Such competitive positioning would inevitably seek to cherry pick the best business opportunities while leaving the less lucrative activities to the associations. This would not promote the social or economic benefits that I referred to. In a worst case scenario, capable voluntary organisations might be damaged to the point of liquidation.
I have expanded on the two principles at some length but CAP 1123 also identifies other general areas raised by the RTC. I found the general tone of the CAA and the Department for Transport helpful and flexible, but I also noted how responses sometimes only reiterate the current approach. In two key areas, further change is needed. First, CAA fees and charges are annually brought before its influential Finance Advisory Committee, which has long been dominated by commercial interests. CAP 1123 merely reiterates this status quo without an apparent intent to promote fair stakeholder representation. Better pre-discussion with GA and a wider consideration of CAA costs and their proportionate allocation are essential.
Secondly, I must mention airspace, the allocation of which is a key CAA function. The ever expanding UK controlled airspace is a major concern because it increasingly excludes light aircraft from large areas of our country. Sadly, there is not the time today to discuss the details of this complex issue.
Finally, I should mention implementation. The CAA’s response is strong on announcement and intent but, for real success, it also needs outstanding implementation, including consultation with stakeholders. Currently there is a mechanism—the challenge panel—involving GA experts selected to help the Department for Transport and the CAA to move forward. Timescales for this process are short, and I am concerned that it may run out of time before enough has been achieved.
All parties need clarity on the likely “steady state” shape of regulation in 12 to 18 months’ time. This is essential, as much work will be required from organisations using volunteer resources. Partnership mechanisms must now be established to achieve effective and sustainable change. A dynamic and expanding GA sector can nurture new opportunities and jobs across the country, from a reinvigorated flight training industry, through aircraft manufacturing, to the many professions and industries needed to support thousands of light aircraft.
Overregulation has been one of the main problems faced by general aviation in the UK. It is good that this is now being vigorously addressed. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we cannot allow it to fail.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Rotherwick for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important red tape challenge and the reduction in regulatory burdens on general aviation. From listening to his speech, I can say that it is quite obvious that he knows a great deal more than I do about all the ins and outs of the regulatory burdens.
I have an interest to declare in that I am a private pilot, both fixed wing and rotary. I got the bug after my first lesson on 4 June 1966, and I have enjoyed every moment in the air since. I am also a member of the Air Squadron. There is an old saying in aviation that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but not many old, bold pilots, so I consider myself very lucky and fortunate to be able to take part in this debate today. My noble friend Lord Rotherwick will certainly remember that in the late 1990s we were both part of an Air Squadron wing which took about 12 light aircraft across Europe to the north-east border of Pakistan and back again. Flying over the Himalayas and through the mountain passes was a wonderful experience, not without a few hairy moments, but we all got back safely. The only reason I dare to mention this to your Lordships is that I was flying a Piper Aztec called “Red Tape”. It is one of life’s strange, happy coincidences that I can be here to congratulate the Government and the CAA on their commitment to reduce red tape in civil aviation.
General aviation is worth about £1.4 billion to the UK economy and supports around 50,000 jobs. As a result of the red tape challenge which the Government have initiated, a number of areas have been identified where existing regulations are unduly onerous, as my noble friend has stated. This problem is being addressed with vigour and commitment. I shall quote from a press release, which is slightly old now as it is from 6 November 2013. The chair of the CAA Dame Deirdre Hutton said:
“We are absolutely committed to improving the way we regulate GA. We have made a start, for instance deregulating in some areas and delegating responsibilities in others. But there is much more we can do. The new, dedicated GA Unit is a formal recognition that GA needs a different and less onerous regulatory regime to commercial air transport. It will ensure we understand better the impact of our regulation on the sector, that we are as transparent and efficient as possible in how we go about it, and that we identify opportunities to reduce burdens and costs wherever we can”.
The general aviation sector can ask for no more than that, so we look forward to the unit coming into being in, I think, April. All I can say is that as a pilot I have never encountered an undue amount of red tape in aviation, but I have only been at the controls of aircraft and have not actually had to run a business involved in that sector.
I shall close with one thought. Flying has its own challenges. To deregulate too much would certainly be a mistake. I am really thinking in terms of pilots who have medicals. I am now at the age where I have to have a medical every year. The regulation that I go through and the tests that I am required to undergo, including an ECG every year, are the kinds of things that should not be foregone in the stampede to reduce red tape. Therefore, I welcome the moves that are taking place and we look forward to the general aviation unit being set up this year.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for having introduced this subject. I am not involved in general aviation but I welcome the Government’s commitment to the general aviation sector and the positive steps that have been taken, particularly with the help of my old friend and colleague, Andrew Haines, with whom I worked for many years. He was a career railwayman. I do not know whether that has any implications but he certainly seems to have started off very well.
One thing that I should like to take up is whether the panel is proposing to meet with the Home Office, in particular, to discuss the issues that the general aviation sector has experienced with the UK Border Force. I have some experience of dealing with the UK Border Force in international affairs. Quite frankly, it is very, very difficult to deal with. It is very unyielding and very inflexible, and I should be interested to know how any progress is being made. General aviation shares the property of being the route by which undesirable people or undesirable subjects can get into this country. In particular, I should like to hear whether there is any progress at all in that area.
The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, covered my other question when he mentioned the need for well qualified people to fly planes, and he assured us that he himself is indeed well qualified. I look forward to the recommendations that are likely to be made by the panel. I hope that they will be adopted and will pass whatever legislative rules they have to pass in the not-too-distant future.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Rotherwick on bringing forward this short debate today. There cannot be anyone better qualified in Parliament to discuss the concerns of general aviation. It may not be broadly known that not only is my noble friend a pilot, a board member of the LAA and a vice-president of the General Aviation Alliance but he also builds aeroplanes with his bare hands and then flies them to the ends of the earth. This is adventurous stuff, and we are very lucky to have his wise counsel and guidance this afternoon.
I make a short declaration. I have a UK private pilot’s licence and I operate a vintage aircraft that comes under the Light Aircraft Association permit to fly regime. About a hundred years ago, I had some responsibility for aviation policy in the UK, and I am very pleased to see that considerable progress has been made on the issues that we were grappling with in the mid-1990s.
It is a privilege to be able to fly in the UK and internationally. We talk of the privileges of our licence, and I think that the general aviation community is always aware of that fact. It is a very law-abiding community. The initiative that we have been talking about this afternoon is really about aligning regulation with the safety-critical issues that the GA faces and making sure that there is a proper match.
The CAA has been criticised in the past by the GA community for taking perhaps a too heavy-handed and too costly approach to issues such as airfield regulation. However, the initiative that we are discussing today represents a profound change in approach. While we recognise that the detail of general aviation is of interest to some noble Lords, a real success story in terms of a deregulation initiative—a partnership between the industry, participants, the Department for Transport, the CAA and other areas of government—is really to be highly commended.
All those who have participated and who take an interest in this sphere will feel that real progress has been made, and this is a good news story. We can always guarantee that it will get very little promotion and broader discussion because it is a good news story rather than a bad news story. But the Government say that they are committed to deregulation—Governments have said that for a long time—and will actually bring forward sensible, carefully and clearly thought through proposals that demonstrate that, and they are to be commended. Mr Haines at the CAA is to be commended, too, and the LAA itself, which is a major player in this environment, also needs to take some of the credit. There are lessons to be learnt more broadly, way outside of aviation, for areas where the burden of regulation can be carefully considered and stepped back from in certain areas where there is no loss to safety.
It is well worth reading the documents produced by the Government and the CAA. I shall read a short quote from the foreword to the government document, which says:
“Regulation often appears too prescriptive, impractical and inappropriate for the general aviation sector … Safety regulation should therefore impose the minimum necessary burden and empower individuals to make responsible decisions … The package of measures we have agreed will overhaul the GA regulatory framework, moving it from a prescriptive, bureaucratic regime to a light-touch, proportionate system”.
That is a major change, and I believe that it represents major progress.
The CAA’s initiative of bringing forward its own specialist GA unit is an important one. I was drawn to one sentence that features in Mr Haines’s introduction to the CAA’s document. At the end of the third paragraph, he says that it wants to,
“help create a vibrant and dynamic GA sector in the UK”,
and that it will,
“work with other Government Departments to identify the potential for funding to develop new technology”.
I believe that that represents a significant change as well, in that it takes the CAA’s declared remit more into the promotion of general aviation than the mere observing and regulating of it.
There is also a commitment in the CAA’s document to use the legal process as a “last resort”. I welcome that approach as well. It must be sensible in a detailed technical environment such as this to use regulation when it is really required but in other cases pursue the guiding principles that have been established. Principle one is to deregulate wherever possible. This means that there should be removal of CAA oversight where not required, and that we should,
“identify what within the GA sector might be removed from EASA oversight”—
that is, European oversight—as well as easing,
“the definition of ‘commercial activity’”.
The second guiding principle is to maximise delegations, which have worked very well in the past with the LAA and the BMAA, and I believe will continue to do so.
In the final analysis, this is an ongoing process. It is not a one-off deregulation report saying, “Let’s get on with it”. The Government have set up the CAA and its own panel to prompt it to continue and keep the pressure on, examining everything that comes forward. There is a significant European aspect to this with EASA; it is a highly complex field. We do not have time to talk about it today.
I conclude with genuine congratulations to all those who have been involved. I hope that we can learn broader lessons for regulation in other spheres.
My Lords, I am very grateful to noble Lords for allowing me to speak briefly in the gap. I am not a pilot, but I was interested to hear three pilots speaking about their experiences. I remember when the noble Viscount was a Minister for air and shipping. He reported to the House one day that he had flown over a tanker that had hit a rock in Milford Haven and had saved the day by finding a Chinese takeaway cook who could translate between English, which everyone was using, and Chinese for the tug outside. I did not know that he was flying his own plane. That is terribly impressive.
My interest in this is that I go to the Isles of Scilly quite often. In the winter, the only transport is a small plane that usually goes from St Mary’s to a grass runway at Land’s End, except when it is waterlogged, which it has been for the past month. Costs are high—£70 to £80 for a single fare—so it difficult for people who live on the islands, and I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to have a meeting later this week with some representatives where I hope we can discuss this. I have tabled a few Questions on this. I was very pleased to hear that Bristows will do the medevac service—evacuation to the mainland of people who need urgent medical treatment—after the RAF hands over emergency rescue. That is really good news, and I am grateful for that.
Less good is the problem of taking blood samples to the mainland. I asked a Question more than a year ago about whether the Government would facilitate granting a licence for Skybus to carry these samples to the mainland for testing. The answer came back that they would when an application was received, which was fair. A year later, it has still not happened, so I tabled a Question asking whether an application had been received and, if so, what was the answer. I am not looking for an answer from the Minister today. My question is more fundamental: why do you need a licence at all to carry blood samples between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland, or anywhere else, for testing in a hospital? Why does doing so need a licence? They are not going to blow up or anything. You can put them in a sealed bag and they would be quite happy, but there we are.
Finally, I went to the Scillies just before the new year; I had a bit of a difficult journey, so I did a blog on it which produced quite a few responses, including one from the chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company that runs the service inviting me to meet him, which I did. We did not necessarily agree on customer service, but what he told me about costs was very interesting. He said that a third of the cost of the short, very frequent service, which does not make a big profit, went towards regulation, a third fuel and a third airport charges. That probably justifies the charges, but do they have to be so high? A third of the cost being regulatory seems an awful lot. As for airport charges, Newquay is renowned for having high charges because it likes to call itself an international airport, so it has to cope with the odd international flight with enormous numbers of staff, I believe, for security.
I hope that the Government and the CAA can look at the total charges because if that is correct—and I have no reason to suppose that it is not—an £80 single fare to get home to the Scillies if you live there or to go to the hospital or visit friends seems a bit high, and that is the only way you can get there in winter. If the regulatory cost could come down a little, it would be a great help.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for introducing it in his usual considered terms. He indicated the scale of general aviation and the number of flights; it is an important part of the sporting and recreational interests of the nation and a crucial part of the aviation industry as a whole.
The noble Lord mentioned the Minister without Portfolio, Grant Shapps. I feel that his ministerial position should be extended slightly and I will describe the necessity for that in my remaining remarks. The noble Lord told us how much the right honourable gentleman had backed the changes to the legislation that were being effected and how, not surprisingly as a Minister, he was very much in favour of them. He does, however, fly from a private airfield near to where I live and where he is in some dispute with the local authority about prospective planning permission with regard to buildings on the airfield. That issue is unresolved—it is due to be resolved in due course—and I do not mind the Minister commenting on it as long as he declares an interest. I wish he had declared an interest that he is a flier from a private airfield. It matters even more when I can attest to the fact that it is his aircraft that causes me to miss my putt on the sixth hole of the local golf course on some weekend mornings. So Grant Shapps and I have a little in common on these issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, made the case for the reduction of regulations to the minimum, but the minimum consistent with safety. The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, mentioned medical tests. It is obviously a great danger if people fly when they are not fit enough to do so. It is dangerous enough if they drive cars on the highway when unfit to do so, but when flying an aircraft it is infinitely more serious. I hope the Minister can reassure us that all the necessary medical requirements are met, particularly against the background where medicine changes in its perspective. I remember being lobbied a few years by a group which was seeking to bring to the Government’s attention the illness of apnoea and the problem of people falling asleep while in control of a motor vehicle—not through excessive activity or a shortage of sleep the night before, but through the development of an illness. That has to be taken seriously in regard to motoring and I hope it is taken equally seriously in regard to aircraft.
There has in recent weeks been great concern about people who, even though they are qualified to drive and feel they are inherently safe drivers, have what is vulgarly called “the jumps”, where they suddenly realise they had lost a moment of concentration and then recovered it. We do not know how many accidents are caused by such a phenomenon, but certainly there are enough for us to be acutely aware of it. We must make sure that we keep a close watch on the development of illnesses of this kind and on the general level of fitness to drive—and whatever applies to fitness to drive must surely apply to fitness to fly.
The point I particularly wanted to pick up on was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, but almost in passing. It concerns the relationship between civil aviation and the Home Office and the control of our borders and space. I am much more concerned than the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who seemed to indicate that the Home Office and the border agency were not too oppressive in their dealings with such flights. Far from being oppressive, from this side of the House it looks as though the border agency has no idea of what is going on with regard to flights. As we all know, there is a large number of aircraft in this sector—the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, referred to this—and a plethora of airfields, at least 520, where aircraft can be landed, but the border agency tells us that it has no idea what is happening with regard to these airports. What is going on? If there is concern about the security of our borders—and my goodness me, the Government have drawn attention to this in recent months with increased anxiety—to have a sector which the border agency says is completely unchecked and in which there is no question of it knowing the number of flights or passengers, who lands and who lands where, is an extraordinary position as far as our overall security is concerned when we are all conscious of the fact that we need to protect ourselves effectively.
It may be said that these regulations have nothing to do with it. If it is not these regulations, will the Minister explain which regulations are being used to tighten up this position? There could certainly be anxieties about the way in which general aviation flights contribute to the problem. We expect the Government to know about the nature of these flights, who is on them and who comes into the country. Otherwise all the checks which are continually drummed up for our ports, at huge inconvenience to passengers going through security who have to wait for hours on occasion, can be completely disregarded by anybody who can get in a private aircraft and arrive at a private airfield. This is something that needs attention. Although the Minister may be sorely tempted to say that regulations do not address the security issue, I do not think we can have a debate about general aviation without her addressing this position.
My Lords, I am delighted to address this Question for Short Debate which my noble friend Lord Rotherwick has introduced on reducing the regulatory burdens on general aviation. I am grateful to the noble Lord for securing the opportunity for this debate to take place. I am aware of his interest and great expertise which far exceeds mine, so I am delighted that he and other noble Lords with experience have spoken in this debate. This is a useful opportunity to update noble Lords on the work which is currently taking place and to address some of the key issues that have been raised today.
Noble Lords may be surprised by the number of activities covered by the general aviation industry, including maintenance and pilot training, gliding and ballooning, as well as the operation of small aircraft for leisure or business purposes. The sector covers a wide spectrum of aircraft types and activities, ranging from paragliders and microlights to business jets. There are around 20,000 civilian aircraft registered in the UK, of which 95% are engaged in what can be described as general aviation activities.
The value of the GA sector and its contribution to the UK economy should not be underestimated. The 2006 strategic review of general aviation, carried out by the CAA, estimated the UK’s GA industry to be worth approximately £1.4 billion in 2005. This highlights the important economic contribution which is made by the GA sector. The sector currently supports around 50,000 jobs in the UK and has a strong track record of providing high value-added employment opportunities across a range of areas and supply chains.
I am sure that noble Lords are aware of the Government’s deregulatory red tape challenge because it has been so well addressed in this debate. In 2012, all existing aviation regulations were scrutinised, but at the start of 2013, the Minister without Portfolio, Grant Shapps, proposed that a further red tape challenge should be undertaken, specific to GA issues. I am sure that Grant Shapps and Andrew Haines will appreciate the warm comments by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, on what they have achieved, which were echoed by the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.
In this context, I assure the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, who raised the issue, that the red tape challenge is being handled in a most judicious way. The concern that they raised about medicals is an area that will certainly be reviewed by the GA panel to see whether there are more proportionate ways of delivering the process of providing and maintaining licences. However, it will be done only with an understanding of the importance of the robustness and safety required. When the panel reports, Ministers will consider very carefully any recommendations in this area and will discuss them in great detail with the CAA.
The GA red tape challenge received nearly 500 responses —three times as many as any other theme to date. The responses identified many areas where improvements are needed and highlighted the need for a change in the approach to regulating GA. In response to this, a substantial programme of reform has recently been launched with the aim of helping to support a vibrant UK GA sector.
The Civil Aviation Authority, the independent regulator, has recognised the need to create a culture change in its regulation of the GA sector. It has incorporated the findings of the GA red tape challenge into its own internal review to produce a comprehensive GA reform programme. This will support a programme of deregulation and self-regulation for the GA sector, remove complexity, look to deregulate and delegate where possible and, where not, consider how to allow the GA sector to take on more responsibility and accountability for its own safety where possible and appropriate.
As part of that programme, the CAA announced the setting up of the specialist unit—which, again, has been widely praised in this debate—dedicated to GA issues. I can confirm that it will indeed be operational from April this year. This recognises that the GA requires different, less onerous regulation compared with that for commercial air transport and it demonstrates the CAA’s commitment to addressing GA issues. It will provide effective and proportionate regulation which supports and encourages the growth of the GA sector. As others have mentioned, Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the CAA, and his team are very committed to making the unit a success.
I assure noble Lords that the CAA will work closely with the GA community as regulations are developed, providing opportunities for the sector to challenge those regulations when it believes that they are unduly burdensome. For example—to take up a point that has been raised—there will be far greater scrutiny of the CAA’s fees and charges in order to provide greater transparency. On the issue of onerous fees, the CAA is committed to reducing the charges that it places on the industry, and it has agreed to work to reduce fees and charges by 3% in real terms by 2015-16. It must also report on issues such as efficiency.
The noble Lord raised a number of specific issues, most of which have already been explored by the CAA. They include informed consent, which would allow members of the public to pay for flights which are not designed to meet the same requirements and standards as a commercial carrier. However, it must be stressed that the CAA will consider this alongside other initiatives intended to bring proportionate oversight to address the safety risks associated with aviation activities.
The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is right: the CAA is looking at options for delegating certain functions to industry associations, and he named a number of them. They are well placed to deliver regulatory oversight in a manner proportionate to the needs of the sector. However—and he may be slightly disappointed when I say this—the CAA will seek to introduce market access opportunities for suitable qualified entities because it believes that in some areas where there are no existing arrangements, this will help to provide those new and required opportunities.
The CAA welcomes the GA sector’s involvement in agreeing its charging schemes, as I mentioned earlier, and it recognises some of the concerns expressed about the fees and charges. As a result, it is proposing to establish a GA sub-group of its Finance Advisory Committee specifically to take on the issue of fees to ensure that they are proportionate as well as transparent.
Another specific area of concern is the availability of airspace for GA operators. The community often takes the view that this has been reduced as controlled airspace has grown to favour commercial aircraft. Actually, the opposite may often be the reality. For example, between 2010 and March 2012 the total volume of controlled airspace within the UK was reduced by 214 cubic nautical miles. The CAA is aware of these concerns and ensures that its airspace change process is public and that all decisions made are fully explained. A principal benefit envisaged within the future airspace strategy is the potential to capitalise on the improved performance characteristics of modern commercial aircraft, which will allow other airspace users, including GA, to benefit from the airspace volumes released beneath them.
The GA challenge panel is an important element. It is independent and includes representatives from the GA industry. The panel is providing a “critical friend” function to the CAA and will work with the regulator to challenge its GA reform programme, challenging the CAA to be consistent, transparent and innovative in its approach to GA regulation and supporting the CAA as it strives to deliver genuine change in its approach to GA regulation.
The panel is considering projects which have the potential to promote growth within GA and opportunities for further reducing the regulatory burdens on the sector. It is also considering options for simplifying existing European safety requirements, an issue discussed in the debate, and assessing the progress being made to bring about a culture change within the CAA. The challenge panel will report directly to Ministers Grant Shapps, Robert Goodwill and Mark Harper in the Home Office in April, with an interim report due before then in late January. The panel’s existence will be short term, but the role it is performing and the report it will produce will provide a platform for improving the regulation of the GA sector.
An increasing number of the regulations which impact on GA ultimately derive from the European Aviation Safety Agency. The Government and the CAA have been proactive in lobbying for reform and fully support the EASA road map for general aviation, which came about as a result of the GA sector sharing its concerns about the proportionality of its rules. The EASA has recognised that much of its regulation has been overly burdensome and the road map proposes a series of reforms and changes in approach.
We welcome the fact that the European Commission has accepted the UK's recommendation that an evaluation of the application of commercial aviation safety requirements to general aviation should be included in the rolling regulatory fitness and performance programme. We will continue to work with the European Commission to ensure that this evaluation is both rigorous and evidence-based. Recent announcements such as securing the EU’s agreement to allow the UK to continue issuing the instrument meteorological conditions rating for pilots until April 2019 are encouraging and demonstrate EASA’s willingness to reconsider its regulatory policy in relation to GA. The Government also welcome the CAA’s commitment to eliminating gold-plating of EU regulations and Ministers are due to meet with the EASA next week.
On the serious issues concerning the border agency, I say to the noble Lords, Lord Davies of Oldham and Lord Bradshaw, that the GA challenge panel is meeting with the border agency, hopefully next week. I understand that the issues have been raised and that consideration will be given to whether they are onerous or appropriate. There is a mechanism for taking the issues forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies, raised the question of airfield planning. Planning issues are always contentious but, luckily, they tend to be local issues.
I shall be meeting the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on the Isles of Scilly and I thank him for giving me a heads up on many of the issues he will wish to address in that meeting. However, there is not time for me to deal with them now.
The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, asked about innovation. There is innovation grant funding for GA and the DfT is currently working with the GA challenge panel to identify suitable projects.
There is movement on all fronts. I thank all noble Lords who are present. My time is up. I am not sure that I will be able to take the noble Lord’s question.