COMMONS

Civil Aviation Bill must not harm smaller airports or weaken security says Transport Committee

19 January 2012

MPs have warned the Government to ensure that the viability of smaller airports is not put at risk by the costs of new public information requirements and security changes proposed in the draft Civil Aviation Bill.

 

In a report on its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Government's draft Civil Aviation Bill, the Transport Select Committee also called for Ministers to take a more comprehensive approach to improving the air passenger experience, including services provided by the UK Borders Agency.

Launching the Thirteenth Report of Session 2010–12, Draft Civil Aviation Bill: Pre-Legislative Scrutiny (HC 1694), Louise Ellman, Transport Committee Chair said:

"Reform of the way that airports are regulated is needed. It is important, however, that changes made in this area deliver real benefits for passengers. At the same time, reforms must not push up costs for the aviation industry, particularly for the smaller regional airports which are finding the present economic conditions challenging."

Among other things, the draft bill enables the CAA to require providers of services at all airports to publish information of benefit to passengers or airfreight shippers.

"We also believe that if the Government is serious about improving the passenger experience, it should extend these information requirements to the UK Borders Agency," adds Louise Ellman.

Background

The bill proposes to transfer some 90 security regulation posts currently within the Department for Transport to the Civil Aviation Authority.  The £5 million annual cost would also transfer - from the taxpayer to airports and, ultimately, to air passengers.

"Ministers need to provide greater clarity about how retaining security policy within government but passing operational delivery to the CAA will not jeopardise security standards at UK airports", adds Louise Ellman.

In their evidence to the committee, aviation industry representatives welcomed the draft legislation but expressed concerns about the overall burdens it could place on the sector and some specific aspects of the bill.

Recommendations

The committee recommends

  • That public information requirements imposed on airports by the CAA do not generate unnecessary bureaucracy or cost and be clearly related to matters of importance to airline passengers
  • The special position of airlines, as the direct customers of airports, be recognised in the Bill
  • The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) be given a secondary duty toward airlines, in recognition of their special position as primary customers of airports
  • Measures are put in place to ensure the Competition Commission (or other relevant bodies) can strike out 'vexatious or frivolous appeals' mounted by airline or airports against licensing conditions

Further information

In November 2011 the Government published a draft Civil Aviation Bill. This legislation is intended to reform the way that airports are regulated. The Government says that the changes are designed to put the passenger first and to support economic growth.

The draft legislation has three main elements:

  • changes to the system of economic regulation of airports by the CAA;
  • changes to the CAA's remit, governance structure and powers; and
  • transfer of security operation regulatory functions from the Department for Transport to the CAA.

The bill proposes to introduce a new flexible licensing system for major airports which have substantial market power (currently Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted). Under this new regime the CAA could impose price caps on charges to airlines and operational conditions such as better winter resilience planning.

The Government has now decided to bring forward publication of the bill proper. This has severely shortened the time available for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government is expected to publish the Civil Aviation Bill any day now.

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