HC Deb 23 January 1985 vol 71 cc417-8W
Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Civil Aviation Authority has taken in response to the recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the authority's provision of navigation and air traffic control services to civil aircraft published on 9 November 1983; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Spicer

I am pleased to be able to report that the authority has made good progress in each of the main areas in which the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found scope for improving efficiency and reducing costs.

The authority has responded very positively to the recommendation that first priority should be given to the use of manpower. A field resource planning office has been established to work out ways of improving the cost-effectiveness of field staff; proposals for a revised pay and grade structure for air traffic controllers have been put to the unions; the health factors underlying the rostering of controllers have been reviewed; consultants have reported on how their utilisation might he improved; and a programme to measure staff utilisation at maintenance units has been started. Together these steps represent a sound start to the task of improving the use of staff resources.

To strengthen control of costs a director of finance for air traffic services has been appointed together with appropriate support staff, a value for money auditing team is being established and action has been taken through Eurocontrol to accelerate payments by users.

To deal with weaknesses in investment approval and project management identified by the commission, new procedures have been introduced to improve the control of work and its cost and have been embodied in a new project management manual. Formal criteria for investment appraisal are to be developed in consultation with my Department.

Progress has also been made on the maintenance of equipment and the use of modern labour-saving equipment. Staff savings have already been made through the introduction of remote control and monitoring systems. They have attracted a good deal of interest from other countries, and the authority plans to incorporate similar systems in other major installations when new equipment is installed. The authority has adopted performance indicators which compare the capacity in major parts of the air traffic control system, the actual numbers of aircraft movements, manpower and cost. While capacity and movements have increased substantially, manpower and unit costs have decreased and the authority expects this trend to contunue. The use of performance indicators as a measure of civil air traffic control service efficiency will be extended to cover all major services within the next 18 months.

The authority has put forward detailed proposals for revising and strengthening the membership and terms of reference of the Air Traffic Control Board in response to the MMC's doubts about the effects of the division of responsibility for national air traffic services between the CAA board and the MOD. These are currently under discussion with the authority.

The ultimate test of the action taken is whether or not it results in improvements in efficiency. It is too early to expect measureable improvements, but I am encouraged by the increased awareness which is evident from the response of the importance of controlling costs whilst at the same time maintaining a high standard of service and safety. The Department will be monitoring closely the progress made by the authority as part of the annual discussions of the CAA's corporate plan.

The CAA has prepared a report detailing the action taken, and I have arranged for copies of this to be placed in the Library.