Speaking after new rules on flying time limits were rejected in the European Parliament's Transport Committee today, county and West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion commented:
"I am not convinced by the argument put forward by the pilots union that this proposal would lower standards in the UK. The British government was advised by the Civil Aviation Authority on all the safety aspects throughout the negotiations, and I believe they were right in saying that the best balance had already been struck."
Phil Bennion, who is the Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament, called for rapid progress on the proposal, which is now set to be voted on in the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg:
"If we fail to get agreement on this package, we will be stuck with the existing dogs' breakfast of 28 different sets of national rules.
"Applying common rules would mean less unnecessary red tape for airlines, fewer delays for passengers and a more efficient and environmentally sustainable aviation market.
"British passengers travelling on other European airlines will also be far safer in the knowledge that there are robust, common limits on maximum flight time for pilots across the EU.
"When it comes to the way a new regulatory framework affects safety you have to look at the overall package, rather than a set of isolated requirements. The exisitng system imposes complexity and as well as being wasteful that also imposes unnecessary risk.
"A 'Single European Sky' in terms of regulations is clearly the best way to govern air travel - for passengers, pilots, operators and the environment."
Notes to Editors:
The UK government position is to back the European Commission's proposal. A government briefing from UKREP stresses that the regulation will "deliver a significant improvement in safety across the EU as a whole." It added that "there is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of the specific limits established in the Regulation are unsafe," and that "the Government is satisfied that the Regulation will not lead to any diminution in safety in the UK." The briefing concluded that "failure to adopt the Regulation with result in the existing, less effective, EU rules remaining force with no scope for amendment for a number of years."
The Liberal Democrats support a 'Single European Sky' agreement, which will not only improve safety overall but also reduce delays, reduce red tape and reduce the impact of aviation on the environment, through the better allocation and trading of flight slots and an integrated air traffic management system.
Flight and duty time limits are designed to ensure that airline crews do not become too tired to do their jobs safely. Fatigue is cumulative and can be affected by a number of considerations including:
· duty start and finish time
· length of duty periods
· amount of rest between duties
· cumulative (e.g. weekly, monthly) duty time
· time zone crossings
· acclimatisation to local time zone
The Commission Regulation contains detailed limits to address these issues. Daily limits duty periods are important but they need to provide sufficient flexibility to take account of different types of operations (e.g. short haul, multi-sector, long haul), unforeseen delays and so on.
The overall effectiveness of any FTL scheme depends on how the whole package of measures interacts to prevent fatigue. Any set of FTL rules therefore needs to be considered as a whole package rather than a set of individual isolated requirements.
The Government relies on independent technical advice from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in assessing the proposed rules.
Separate legislation exists to deal with the social aspects of working time.