HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc250-1W
Mr. Quinn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to announce the results of the audit of the UK safety oversight system carried out by the International Civil Aviation Safety Organisation in April 1998; and if he will make a statement. [63665]

Ms Glenda Jackson

The United Kingdom was one of the leading nations in pressing the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set up, in 1995, a programme of voluntary safety assessments of its member states. The objective of this programme was to seek to ensure that ICAO Contracting States are adequately discharging their responsibilities for safety oversight in certain specific areas: aircraft operations, the licensing and training of personnel and aircraft airworthiness.

This Government took the initiative in December 1997—the first major aviation state to do so—of asking ICAO to assess the UK safety oversight system. The audit took place from 14–24 April, this year, and focused to a large extent on the role of the Civil Aviation Authority. The final Report, which was agreed with ICAO on 30 October, finds that the 'CAA is an appropriately organised and funded organisation … very effective and efficient for its purpose'.

There are 28 recommendations, relatively few compared with audits of other, smaller authorities, and none questions the performance of the Authority's fundamental safety work. The Government have accepted all but two of the recommendations, which could not have been met within the current legislative structure. We have agreed an Action Plan, drawn up by the CAA, to meet the recommendations; the Plan is included in the Report.

We have also been firm advocates of the need to make the results of ICAO audits more transparent and widely available to the international aviation community and to the public at large. Today, we are happy to make the full ICAO report available on the Internet at the DETR web-site. Printed copies have been placed in the House Libraries.

The UK is one of the leaders in safety oversight, with an excellent reputation world wide. But aviation safety needs constant vigilance; that is why both the Government and the Authority were keen to open its doors to ICAO. The Government welcome the audit results and the CAA's positive response, and will be following closely the implementation of the Action Plan. I am confident that the CAA, and the UK aviation industry as a whole, has benefited from this audit.

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