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Offshore Helicopter Safety — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:31 pm on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 3:31 pm, 6th February 2019

I agree that there has been a significant change in the length of time required for an inquiry. In order to learn lessons from these incidents, we must ensure that investigations take place much more quickly than they currently do, so that any required changes or safety improvements are made as quickly as possible to ensure that our industry is as safe as it can be. We are asking people to do a difficult and dangerous job, and to get into helicopters to travel to work. The least we can do is to come out here batting for our constituents and ensure that we have the best safety record and best safety measures for the future. The SNP wants to maximise economic recovery from the North sea, but we will do that only if the workforce are on board, are supported and protected, and have the workers’ rights that enable them to go out and do their job.

I am aware that I do not have much time, so I will speed through a couple of points. The Scottish Government are reviewing whether to back calls for a full public inquiry into this issue, and the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands met union representatives and agreed to raise the issues that were discussed with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Oil and Gas Authority. Aviation safety, including offshore safety, is wholly reserved, but the Scottish Government are asking for a collaborative approach to be taken on safety measures and anything that relates to an inquiry.

For us, the most important thing is that the concerns of offshore workers are heard. I spoke to Airbus about what happened with the Super Puma, and at every opportunity I said that it needed to consult the workforce, because for anything that it wants to do in future with the Super Puma, or any other helicopter, the workforce need to be involved. Airbus needs to hear people’s concerns and not just talk at them, and I made that case in those meetings and will continue to do so.

To add to the point raised by my hon. Friend Hannah Bardell, it is vital that any reduction in spend by companies who have had a lower oil price in recent times compared with previous years does not reduce the frequency of safety inspections or safety indicated repairs, and does not put safety at risk. As the hon. Member for Gordon said, safety is embedded in the culture, but we must ensure that when belts are tightened, safety continues to be the No. 1 concern of those in charge of such matters. Whether that involves the Oil and Gas Authority, the CAA, the UK Government, or the oil and gas companies, safety must continue to be at the forefront to protect our workers.