Borrowing Powers of Civil Aviation Authority

Part of Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 10:37 pm on 1st February 1990.

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Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport 10:37 pm, 1st February 1990

I shall respond to as many of the points raised as possible. I begin by welcoming the general approach of the Opposition to the Bill, which is important for the overall future of air traffic control and air safety.

When we discuss air safety, it is important to put in perspective the record of the United Kingdom. We give safety the highest priority. That can never be compromised. There is no doubt that there is sufficient money to cover safety requirements.

The number of air misses related to aircraft flying hours has halved over the past 10 years. I do not take comfort from that, because I should like the number to be much lower. However, it is important to put it in context. We have a reporting system, and all air misses are investigated. I hope that that goes some way to reassuring the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape).

Like the hon. Gentleman, I did not see the television programme to which he referred, but I shall seek to find out a little more about some of the points that were made. I am told that a representative from the CAA said that safety was its business and that it was not concerned just with carrying passengers, but with carrying them safely and making sure that aircraft get from A to B safely. There can be no doubt about our commitment to air safety. That is fundamental.

The hon. Gentleman was critical of our failure to forecast growth as well as might have been done. That is always a problem with forecasting. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. Air traffic has increased by about 48 per cent. during the past 10 years. It would have been a brave person who made that forecast. Air traffic has grown by 7 per cent. in the past 12 months, due partly to our liberalisation policies, which have meant cheaper transport and more people travelling by plane.