Smoke Hoods

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar 12:00 am, 14th March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to introduce a mandatory requirement for British airlines to carry passenger protection smoke hoods.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Policy on air safety is for the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA decided in December against making smoke hoods mandatory at present. It is continuing to work on improved standards of cabin fire safety.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

Two and half years after the incident at Manchester airport, when there was considerable loss of life through smoke suffocation, is it not about time that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport leant somewhat on the Civil Aviation Authority? The CAA's attitude appears to be that until there is a perfect smoke hood it should continue to drag its feet. Surely that is not sensible in the interests of safety.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I understand also that the CAA hopes to finalise the specification soon. The CAA has made it clear that the final decision will be based on safety, not on cost.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

Does my hon. Friend agree that until there is international acceptance of a specification for smoke hoods it would he wrong to insist on mandatory carrying of them by airlines and that the working draft paper, recently issued by the CAA, is a welcome step forward? Will my hon. Friend confirm that comments on that paper are required by 31 March? Finally, does my hon. Friend agree that this will assist British industry to capitalise on its technical lead?

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right about the deadline for comments. It is important to build on the joint research with the other major aviation nations. The point is to get practicable safety measures for passengers.