HC Deb 22 February 1988 vol 128 cc5-6
2. Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has any plans to review the enforcement of transport safety standards by his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Channon

The safe movement of people and goods is one of my top priorities. Effective enforcement of safety standards is part of that and I keep it under constant review.

Mr. Davies

I should like to return to yesterday's near miss, because the Secretary of State has said that on the one hand it was a near miss and on the other hand no safety implications were attached. Secondly, he said that in any event it is not his responsibility. That is completely unsatisfactory. Does the Secretary of State not understand that when hundreds of lives are put at risk there is a clear need to investigate, not only the original individual circumstances, but the system of reporting that allows such events to take place? Will he give an undertaking that he will launch a thorough and open investigation, not only of individual cases, but of the system of reporting?

Mr. Channon

I have already answered that point twice and I do not know why the hon. Gentleman wants to return to it. He has completely distorted my original answer. The whole House knows that if there is a sighting, or any other incident that should be reported, it must be reported. The vast majority of incidents that are reported are not risk bearing. Surely that must be understood by the House. It seems from preliminary reports that yesterday's incident was such a case.

Mr. Ashby

In matters of transport safety, does my right hon. Friend think it right that the Civil Aviation Authority should investigate itself? Does he also think it right that when the authority produces a report, it produces it to itself? Does he not think that he should be the recipient of that report and that it should be the sort of report that can be debated in the House?

Mr. Channon

In general, air miss reports are widely circulated. I see them because my civil aviation safety adviser wants to discuss them, and it is he who receives the reports from the CAA. Therefore, I have answered my hon. Friend's point. As for the air miss reporting and investigation system, I have told the House four times that the CAA chairman has initiated discussions. I very much welcome that.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Secretary of State not realise that for all inhabitants of London his replies will not be satisfactory? Following the point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), unlike sea or rail safety standards, which are the responsibility of the Secretary of State and which are open and visible, that for the Civil Aviation Authority is not visible or open. The CAA is judge and jury in its own court. Surely that is wrong and we need legislation to change it.

Mr. Channon

As I have said, the CAA chairman has initiated discussions. The House says that the situation is unsatisfactory. I do not wish to politicise the issue, but I must point out that when the Labour Government were in office there were non-risk-bearing air misses. It is important that the House should understand that this is not a new situation.

Mr. Tony Banks

It is getting worse.

Mr. Channon

It is not getting worse. In 1978 there were 119 non-risk-incidents. Traffic has increased since then. For some reason the House will not accept that incidents can be non-risk-bearing. In fact, the numbers of no-risk misses are lower than they were in 1978. So this is not a new phenomenon, and the preliminary reports of the recent incident reveal that there was no risk.