HC Deb 02 November 1999 vol 337 cc75-6W
Mr. Hilary Benn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what arrangements he proposes to put in place in relation to his proposals for National Air Traffic Services to ensure that staff will be able to speak freely about issues relating to safety. [96187]

Mr. Mullin

Staff of National Air Traffic Services Ltd. (NATS) are already given protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Pursuant to the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order (SI 1999–1549) the CAA is prescribed as a body to which a worker may make a protected disclosure in respect of aviation safety. The CAA has nominated its Secretary and Legal Adviser to be its point of contact. He will protect the complainer's anonymity, while ensuring that the complaint is passed to the relevant regulator. A trade union official who raised safety issues as part of his duties would also enjoy additional protection through the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Two other avenues will continue to be available to NATS staff post partnership who may wish to make a disclosure in respect to aviation safety. First, the Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) scheme, where an individual is required to report any occurrence which has, or if not corrected would have, endangered an aircraft, its occupants or any other person. The scheme includes an option for the reportee to submit an MOR direct to the safety regulatory authority, without involving local line management. Second is the UK Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP), which is an independent confidential reporting programme for people employed in the aviation industry to report safety-related incidents and events. In this scheme, the reportees' identities are kept confidential, personal details are not retained and are returned to the reportee.

I have also held a meeting with the NATS unions and the Safety Regulator to discuss safety matters and further meetings are planned with interested parties on this important subject and on other issues related to the PPP.