Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  The above proposal, which was sifted to Sub-Committee B for scrutiny, was considered at the Sub-Committee's meeting on Thursday 6 November. In addition to your explanatory memorandum of 15 September, the Sub-Committee invited written evidence from British Airways, Britannia Airways and British Midland (as airline representatives), Cabin Crew 89 and the Transport and General Workers' Union (as trades union representatives), and the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA). Copies of these submissions, considered by the Sub-Committee, are attached to this letter.

  The views of the witnesses were broadly divided between the airlines and the cabin crew representatives. British Airways and Britannia Airways supported the view of the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) set out in paragraphs 14-16 of your memorandum. However, the TGWU and Cabin Crew 89 supported the aims of the Directive, especially insofar as it aims to raise safety standards across the industry.

  British Midland stated that they had addressed [their] opinions to the Civil Aviation Authority" and BALPA said that they could not give a considered response within the timescale. The views of the other witnesses can be briefly summarised as follows:

   -   The airlines raised a concern that the proposed Directive overlapped" the existing regulations contained in JAR-OPS (the Joint Aviation Authorities' technical requirements which include training standards for cabin crews). They believed that the ensuing confusion over regulations would lead to increased inefficiencies which would have a detrimental effect on safety levels.

   -   The TGWU and Cabin Crew 89 believed that the present safety system has some weaknesses and that the proposed Directive would improve safety by ensuring consistent standards across the European Community. They also welcomed the Directive as addressing their concerns over the growing conflict between commercial needs and safety obligations in an industry which has undergone liberalisation and deregulation in recent years. The TGWU thought that JAR-OPS needs to be complemented by systems that ensure crews' professional competence, integrity and independence". Britannia Airways expressed the view that if the Commission believes JAR-OPS is not sufficient to ensure safety requirements then this is the issue which should be addressed, and not dealt with by a European Community Directive. Community action would be an anomaly and set a precedent.

   -   British Airways and Britannia Airways felt that imposing centralised standards by means of a Directive would not recognise the differences which exist between each individual airline's training in safety drills, equipment and procedure. These differences arise both from the different models and layouts of aeroplanes used by companies, and from cabin crews' training to act as a representative of the values and standards of their individual employer".

   -   Both airlines agreed that issuing certificates of competence would not facilitate the mobility of cabin crew any more than at present. British Airways believed that there is no automatic ease of transfer between carriers which would in all cases require retraining in their procedures". This view was supported by Britannia Airways, who currently award certificates of competence to successful trainees, but who recognise that they are not valid for, nor accepted by, other airlines".

   -   Cabin Crew 89 were concerned that present regulations made it possible for an airline to operate with a complete cabin crew who, while trained to the legal standard, have no other training and have very little flying experience". They proposed that any change to safety standards should include a provision that each airline should be required to have a percentage of cabin crew trained to a higher standard set independently of the airline.

  The Committee endorses most of the concerns expressed by the airline witnesses and by you in your memorandum. In particular, we question the efficacy of the proposed Directive as a means of harmonising safety standards given the existence of JAR-OPS, and the Commission's claims that the proposed Directive would facilitate movement of labour between airlines.

  We consider that the safety issue would be dealt with more effectively by JAR-OPS and not by a Directive which would overlap with existing regulations. On this point, we concur with the views expressed by some witnesses that the confusion arising from two separate requirements would cause inefficiencies and therefore undermine the safety enhancement the proposed Directive aims to achieve.

  We consider, however, that there may be some merit in considering enhanced safety requirements given the changing nature of the airline industry in recent years. We are sure that the Government will satisfy itself as to weaknesses, if any, in the present system for ensuring safety.

  We take the view that the proposed Directive would set an unsatisfactory precedent for Commission activity in this area. We support the Government's view that it is preferable to treat safety requirements as a whole, rather than separating out this particular aspect. For these reasons we strongly support your view and that of the CAA that the proposed Directive should be opposed.

  This letter lifts the scrutiny reserve and I look forward to receiving your supplementary memorandum in due course.

12 November 1997

Letter from the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 12 November with regard to the Proposal for a Directive on safety requirements and attestation of professional competence for cabin crews in civil aviation.

  I have noted the issues raised by the Sub-Committee with interest and will bear these in mind in future consideration of the Directive.

3 December 1997

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