HL Deb 06 April 1995 vol 563 cc313-5

11.15 a.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the proposed European regulations on flight and duty times for airline crews will provide for substantially longer working hours than present United Kingdom regulations and fewer safeguards against undue fatigue on aircrews; and, if so, whether they intend to take any action in view of the serious safety implications.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, the Joint Aviation Authorities have decided to give further consideration to the requirements for flight and duty time limits. Consequently, they were not included in the Joint Aviation Requirement on Aircraft Operations (known as JAR-OPS) which was approved last month. The Civil Aviation Authority, which is our independent expert adviser, will need to satisfy itself that any revised proposals by the JAA will provide an equivalent level of protection against fatigue to that provided under the current United Kingdom requirements.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that satisfactory reply. Will she confirm that Her Majesty's Government will not agree to any extension of flying hours which is not approved by the Civil Aviation Authority?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government will not agree to anything that the Civil Aviation Authority feels is unsafe for this country.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, while acknowledging that the reply given by the noble Baroness is very welcome, will she ensure that there is no way in which an outside organisation can despoil the brilliant record of British aircrews? It has meant the safety of British and other peoples. Others should be taking a lesson from us; they have nothing to teach us.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank the noble Viscount who courteously received a delegation from the British Airline Pilots Association, which I led as its president, on this issue. However, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the most recent exchanges we had on the matter in this House, the Civil Aviation Authority approved the JAA proposals notwithstanding that they mean a diminution of the standards that we deploy in this country? Is the Minister also aware that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration stated that the JAA proposals exceed safe limits by introducing excessive duty times and inadequate rest periods? Is that view shared by the Government?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, first, I shall pass on to the Minister the kind remarks of the noble Lord. He is right in saying that the Civil Aviation Authority agreed the regulations at the JAA. But the JAA took the decision to withhold their report for the time being to allow themselves time to make a full and thorough review of a new memorandum from NASA on flight time limitations. That has now been examined. The JAA have satisfied themselves that there is nothing in the NASA proposals which would cause the JAA proposals to be revisited. I understand that the JAA intend to reach a final decision on the matter by the end of the year. I can only reiterate to the noble Lord that the Government are advised by the Civil Aviation Authority. The authority has its own medical experts and sources of advice, as do the JAA. They take medical advice from all the countries. In those circumstances the noble Lord can rest assured that nothing will happen that is not safe.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, will the Minister tell us what the JAA is and, in particular, what is its legal status?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, JAA stands for the Joint Aviation Authorities. They represent the 24 European states that joined together to agree many of the things they do. With regard to the legal status, I would rather not give my noble friend an answer that may be incorrect. I shall check that matter for him.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Dr. Hans Wegmann, of the DLR Institute of Aviation Medicine in Germany and joint leader of the NASA project, had this to say, Medical advice has largely been ignored in drawing up the new flight time proposals. They are still unsatisfactory in many respects from a medical and safety point of view"? Will the Minister undertake to draw the attention of the CAA to that proposition? It is alarming that the JAA seem immovable on the issue. One wonders, the CAA having already agreed the proposals, whether it will simply fall into line on the matter.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

Yes, my Lords, I shall ask the CAA to look again at what Dr. Wegmann said. But it is not just Dr. Wegmann's views that have to be considered. The Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough, the medical experts in the JAA countries and our own aviation medical experts are absolutely satisfied that the JAA proposals are safe. However, I shall do what I promised.

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