Clause 78 - Aviation security directions etc

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Minister of State, Department for Transport 1:30 pm, 8th March 2012

I can only repeat that ethnicity is expressly excluded as a criterion for selecting people for security searches. That is the case now and the Government have no plans to change that. The changes in the Bill would have no impact on that.

On the general issues to do with the security reforms, the Government are committed to reforming how aviation security is regulated and that work features prominently in the Department for Transport’s business plan. I welcome the indication of support in the amendments and from some, although not all, members of the Committee.

We have put together a joint Department for Transport and CAA team with the relevant skills and knowledge to develop, trial and implement the new regime. We have consulted stakeholders and hosted several interactive  events with industry to explain our proposals and understand industry views. Later amendments will give us more opportunity to debate staff transfer in greater detail with the hon. Member for North West Durham, so I will not dwell on that, but we are already engaging with those staff because we fully value the skills that they offer, and we are hoping that as many of them as possible will want to stay in post.

We are analysing the responses to the consultation before making decisions on the next step. We will move forward with our reformed approach to security regulation as quickly as possible, but the priority must be to ensure that aviation security remains robust at all times. The industry asked for the move to an OFRB regime, experts on security regulation expressed support for it in the evidence sessions and it had the support of the previous Government.

The proposal to enable the industry to use security management systems approaches, which would draw on the safety management system approach currently used by the CAA, will have a positive impact on security outcomes. As I said during the evidence sessions, an outcomes-focused approach could deliver important benefits and could well be expected to improve levels of security above the high standards that apply today, because we will be giving more opportunity for the airport industry to develop innovative ways to deliver security outcomes and apply principles of continuous improvement.

A focus on outcomes, with more flexibility for airports to decide the best way to deliver them, should enable security to be delivered in a potentially more passenger-friendly and lower-cost way. Conferring aviation security regulation enforcement functions on the CAA could also benefit industry. With the industry able to deal with only one regulatory body, rather than two, we anticipate that efficiencies could be gained through having aviation security and safety regulation in one place.

The CAA also has valuable experience not only of regulation generally, but of safety management systems designed to manage risks as effectively as possible. Such experience, coupled with the skills and experience of Department for Transport staff, could benefit how we regulate aviation security.

We need to get such things right to ensure that our aviation security is not at risk. The Committee had a reminder of that during the evidence that Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, gave the Committee on 23 February. The amendments ask us to press ahead quickly with outcomes-based security, but he emphasised his concerns about a “one-hit implementation”. In his view, moving regulatory responsibilities at the same time as a big transition to an OFRB approach would be a riskier strategy than a staged approach. It is also not possible to move to an OFRB system in a one-off change; it will take some years to roll out across industry, depending to a significant extent on the pace at which different airports want to deliver new systems and methods.

The new approach is in some senses a cultural change, which will take some time to filter out across the industry. We will press on with reforming the aviation security regime at an appropriate pace, but do so in a way that avoids risking our aviation security by clustering reforms too closely. That is why I am unable to accept amendment 33, which explicitly links the two.

On amendment 34, I assure the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton that section 21 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 already obliges the CAA to make an annual report to the Secretary of State on the performance of its functions during the year. Subsection (2)(d) enables the Secretary of State to specify such information with respect to the plans and the past and present activities of the CAA that shall be included in its annual reports. Subsection (3) requires the Secretary of State to lay a copy of every report made to her before each House of Parliament. The requirements of the 1982 Act are sufficient to achieve the purposes of amendment 34.

The CAA’s aviation security functions, as conferred on it by the Bill, would fall within the scope of section 21 of the 1982 Act. Thus the CAA will be required to report on those to the Secretary of State, who in turn must lay the reports before Parliament. There is nothing to prevent the Secretary of State, when using the powers given to her under section 21 of 1982 Act, from requiring the CAA to report on its work regarding the outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to aviation security.

I hope that that explanation provides the reassurance needed to persuade the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.