Clause 78 - Aviation security directions etc

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:45 am, 8th March 2012

It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair, Sir Roger. Amendment 76 complements and bolsters that tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton. I hope that I can also complement the excellent points he made.

Together, the amendments would ensure that there would be greater parliamentary scrutiny in the event of a significant shift in aviation security due to the proposed move away from a “direct and inspect” security regime to the catchily titled outcomes-focused, risk-based approach. Let me summarise briefly what the risk-based approach  would mean. Under the new regime, rather than directing specific measures that airports must undertake to maintain security, Ministers would specify a number of key risks that need to be mitigated. Airports would then be responsible for undertaking their own risk assessment and analysis of their local vulnerabilities, and then for designing and implementing appropriate mitigating measures.

The Government have chosen to deal with this issue separately from the transfer of responsibility for security from the Department to the Civil Aviation Authority. There has been a separate consultation on the proposed move to a risk-based approach, and there is nothing in the Bill that refers to the major change I have just set out, which we think is an inappropriate omission.

First, as the Minister acknowledged in evidence to the Transport Committee, although on the face of it the moves are separate, there is a clear link between them; they could be “complementary”, as she put it. The oral evidence given to the Transport Committee has highlighted the industry’s belief that the move to a risk-based regime would be an important follow-on from the transfer to the CAA.

We also note that, during pre-legislative scrutiny, the Select Committee found support among airlines and airports for adopting a risk-based regime, which is significant. However, comments made so far suggest that they attach importance to it not primarily because it would enhance security, although some make that case, but because they see it as the only significant way in which they could reduce the cost burden that they will suddenly take on in the event that the responsibility for the function is transferred from the Department to the regulatory body.

I quote from the evidence given by Mr Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the CAA, during the Transport Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny. He said:

“I think there is an industry nervousness that they may get the transfer to the CAA without the benefit of that regime”— the outcomes-focused, risk-based regime. He went on to say:

“That is something we want to work with industry and the Department for Transport to nail. It is certainly outstanding work.”

The Transport Committee has focused on the cost burden and recommended that the move to a risk-based approach should be speeded up by way of minimising that burden. We have considered that and heard the evidence presented to this Committee, and our instinct is to take a different view—I note that the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton proposes that the two be separated out. We think that a credible case has been made that a simultaneous transfer of the function to the CAA and an immediate take-up of a risk-based approach could create unnecessary strain.