Written statement to Parliament

General Aviation Red Tape Challenge: Robert Goodwill's statement, 6 November 2013

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

General Aviation Units within Civil Aviation Authority, Challenge Panels and 'right to reply' consultation announced.

I, together with my Rt Hon friend the member for Welwyn Hatfield, the Minister without Portfolio, wish to inform the House of the changes to the regulation of general aviation following the General Aviation Red Tape Challenge.

The General Aviation (GA) Red Tape Challenge ran from 11 April to 16 May 2013. It received nearly 500 responses, including 298 via e-mail, 3 times as many as any other theme to date. These responses identified many areas where improvements are needed and highlighted the need for a change in approach to regulating GA. As a result of this, the government is launching a substantial programme of reform that will help support a vibrant GA sector. The GA sector currently supports around 50,000 jobs in the UK and makes an overall economic contribution to the UK economy of £1.4 billion per annum. It could and should be able to contribute more.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the independent regulator of civil aviation in the UK, recognises the need to create a culture change in the regulation of the GA sector. As part of this culture change the CAA is setting up a new GA unit within its current structure. This is firm recognition that general aviation requires different, and less onerous, regulation to that of commercial air transport. The CAA’s GA unit will be dedicated to effective and proportionate regulation that supports and encourages growth of the GA sector. The unit will also work with government to identify potential funding for new technologies to support the sector. It will be fully set up within the CAA by April 2014.

The CAA has incorporated the findings of the GA Red Tape Challenge into its own internal review to produce a comprehensive GA Reform Programme. This will support a programme of deregulation and self-regulation for the GA sector. It will also remove complexity, look to deregulate where possible and where not, consider how to allow the GA sector to take on more responsibility and accountability for its own safety where possible and appropriate. This has already started with the launch in September 2013 of a consultation on deregulating for airworthiness purposes all UK-registered single-seat microlights. Starting in November, the CAA will lead a series of workshops with the GA sector to identify other areas that would benefit most from deregulation or self-regulation. These moves represent the start of an ambitious programme of work to follow.

The government has successfully lobbied for an evaluation of the application of commercial aviation safety requirements to non-commercial aviation to be included in the EU regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) programme and welcomes the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) roadmap for general aviation. Both the government and the CAA will engage with the GA community over the coming months to identify priorities for reform and take these forward within the EU’s reform programme.

The CAA will strengthen its engagement with the sector to improve consultative arrangements and ensure effective representation. The CAA is committed to being open and transparent in its engagement and collaboration with the GA community. It will work with a firm objective to support education and compliance rather than regulation and enforcement, using legal instruments and powers only as a last resort.

The CAA will involve the GA sector in the development of a new regulatory framework and its associated policies; there will be opportunities for the sector to challenge the CAA when it believes regulation is unduly burdensome; there will be more scrutiny of the CAA’s fees and charges to provide greater transparency; and the CAA will improve the quality of information it provides. From the responses to the Red Tape Challenge it is clear that regulatory complexity has led to misunderstandings. To address this, the CAA will run a ‘myth-busting’ initiative to clarify what exactly regulations require. For example, it will debunk the myth that the CAA requires all aircraft movements within the UK to be logged.

To facilitate the effective and timely implementation of these measures, the government is appointing an independent ‘Challenge Panel’ including GA industry representatives. This panel will report directly to ministers. It will provide a ‘critical friend’ function to the CAA. The Challenge Panel will run initially for 6 months until April 2014. During this time the panel will monitor and support the implementation of the CAA’s deregulatory programme. It will also be asked to identify further opportunities to deregulate and to promote growth of the sector. It will provide to ministers an interim report in January and a final report in April.

We will task the Challenge Panel to propose ideas, and will also encourage the CAA and government departments such as the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Home Office, to consider where projects might support and encourage an innovative and dynamic GA sector. For example, how best to support a dynamic leisure and training sector, and how to remove outdated paperwork which serves little purpose.

In announcing these measures we are announcing the launch of a ‘right to reply’ consultation by the CAA into its response to the GA Red Tape Challenge. This consultation will run until 6th December and is a good opportunity for the GA sector to make its own assessment of the CAA’s detailed response. The responses to this consultation will be available to the Challenge Panel, which will be able to submit its own views on the CAA response within its January interim report. These reforms mark an important and significant step-change in the approach to GA regulation. The new regulatory regime will be founded on risk-based intervention, proportionate to the safety needs of informed participants whilst protecting uninvolved third parties and supporting and encouraging a flourishing GA sector. We will work closely with the general aviation sector and the GA representative bodies in particular in taking this forward.

General Aviation can and should contribute to the UK’s economic success, whilst providing a safe environment for participants and the public. The Government’s aim is therefore to make the UK the best country in the world for general aviation.

I will place copies of the documents in the libraries of both Houses.