26 January 2011

Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers, spoke at the Transport Times conference on 26 January 2011 – ‘A New Strategy for Aviation’. The Minister pointed out that the Government continues to reject proposals for new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted because they would have caused an unacceptable level of environmental damage, particularly in relation to noise. She went on to say that aviation must play its part in helping to deliver a low carbon transport system while contributing to sustainable economic growth. Some of the key points of Ms Villiers Speech were:

 South-East Airports Task Force – The remit of the Task Force focuses on improving the passenger experience at airports in the South-East, however, it is hoped this work will also help other airports address the issues affecting passengers. The Government views regional airports as a vital contribution to local economies. The importance that the work of the South-East Airports Task Force benefits the wider industry and regional airports was stated.

 Security – It was stated that the UK’s aviation security regime has performed well over the past thirty years or so and continues to do so. Nethertheless, the Government is analysing ways in which the regulatory framework for aviation security might be reformed with the aim of providing greater efficiency while maintaining the same high levels of passenger security or better. The Government will be implementing a less prescriptive system that will let the industry demand outcomes. The Government is proposing to consult formally on reform proposals soon.

 Resilience and capacity management – A sub-group of the South-East Airports Task Force has been set up for resilience and delays which is looking at ways to make better use of existing capacity both inside and outside the terminal.  The Government wants to tip the balance and place a much stronger focus on resilience rather than capacity to see if better working practices give the airport more breathing space to recover when things go wrong.

 Single European Sky (SES) –The Government believes that closer cooperation with the EU will yield very significant advantages. Progress on the Single European Sky (SES) has real potential to reduce delays, enhance resilience and get airports working more efficiently. Imposing performance obligations on air navigation service providers (ANSPs) across all Member States should provide some important benefits. The UK National Performance Plan is being prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and will be made available for consultation during March and April 2011.

 Airport regulation – The Government views updating the framework for the economic regulation of airports as another way in which the quality of service that airlines and passengers receive can be improved. Ms Villiers stated t the need to replace the existing framework for setting price caps at regulated airports with a more flexible system. The Government will also give the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the powers it needs to become a more responsive regulator throughout the control period. Giving the CAA a primary duty to promote the interest of passengers is also an important part of the regime. However, this does not mean that the voice of airlines will go unheard or disregarded by the regulator.

 Developing a Sustainable Aviation Framework – A draft policy framework will be published for consultation during 2012. The Government is encouraging all stakeholders to take part in the consultation process. It also wants to try to build a wider consensus through a more open and inclusive dialogue and better mutual understanding than the last Government achieved.