HC Deb 18 November 1999 vol 339 cc5-6W
Ms Kelly

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the preparations of the international aviation industry towards achieving millennium compliance. [98438]

Mr. Hill

The aviation industry in this country—airlines, airports and air traffic control—has been independently assessed and been declared by the Civil Aviation Authority to be millennium compliant.

Internationally, the aviation industry has adopted a comprehensive approach towards the Y2k problem. The major international aviation organizations—the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) representing the world airlines, and other organisations covering the world's airports and air traffic control systems—have all conducted detailed surveys. Compliance programmes are in the final stages of completion. Current information shows that the international aviation industry is on track for compliance and that airlines will be able to operate services as normal over the Millennium period, should they wish to do so.

As regards foreign aircraft operating to the UK, permits are only granted to airlines if they comply with international safety standards. The Government have advised foreign airlines that permits may be suspended over the Millennium if they are not satisfied there are no Y2k safety related risks.

The Government will not, for Y2k reasons, try to prevent any UK airlines from operating to particular destinations or flying over particular regions. IATA's worldwide project on behalf of its member airlines has produced an exhaustive database to provide its member airlines with an authoritative basis upon which to make informed decisions about the services they provide.

The industry is also engaged on the preparation of national and global contingency plans to deal with any unexpected Y2k problems over the Millennium. On the night of 31 December, special procedures will be in place across the world to monitor the situation and provide for rapid and effective communications between government and industry. Although traffic levels over the period are expected to be considerably reduced compared with previous years, the industry is formulating contingency plans to provide capacity as if air traffic was operating at peak levels, even though it is likely to be one twentieth of this volume. Key facilities such as air traffic control centres will be staffed at higher levels than normal to deal with any unexpected problems.