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Policy Issues : Transport

Civil Aviation

75. Several bodies concerned with transport matters are under our supervision, though sometimes this is limited to particular functions of the body in question. That is the case with the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA is the United Kingdom's independent aviation regulator. Our supervision is restricted to certain prescribed functions of the CAA, all of them of an adjudicative character and capable of giving rise to oral hearings. Hearings are in fact relatively infrequent, though one of our members was able to visit one in January 2006.

76. In August 2005 the CAA consulted on procedures for allocating scarce bilateral capacity rights. These cases may involve several competing airlines seeking to operate on the same routes. They can be very complex and technical, with a great deal at stake for the parties. Among the matters on which the CAA sought views was whether there might be a case for moving away from the adversarial form of hearing that has hitherto been the norm in such cases. We agreed with the CAA's view that in this instance the case for doing so was not strong. Another issue concerned the treatment of commercially sensitive information. The CAA proposed that it should be free to consider commercially sensitive information from an airline that was not made available to the other parties at a hearing, though giving it less weight. We thought that, in the context of an adversarial hearing, ordinary principles of fairness dictated that each party should have a right to know and comment on all the evidence adduced. The CAA accepted our advice on this matter.

Traffic Commissioners

77. Traffic commissioners are also under our supervision, but not in respect of their executive functions. Appeals from traffic commissioners lie to the Transport Tribunal, a court of record under our supervision and now part of the unified Tribunals Service. One of our members, Steve Mannion, was pleased to be invited to attend and speak at a well structured and useful two day training conference for the traffic commissioners in Edinburgh in November 2005.

78. In December 2005 the Department for Transport issued a consultation paper entitled "Modernising Operator Licensing: A streamlined regulatory system for operators of goods and public service vehicles". We commented on proposals for allocating cases involving multiple licence holders to a lead traffic commissioner. We believe that this should materially assist operators holding licences in more than one traffic area while safeguarding the public interest. We offered suggestions as to how it might best work, emphasising the importance of ensuring that the locally based nature of inquiries is maintained and that there is no adverse impact on local planning considerations.

Parking Adjudicators

79. We also supervise parking adjudicators, road user charging adjudicators and bus lane adjudicators. We were interested in a report on "User Perspectives on the National Parking Adjudication Service" based on research conducted by the University of Birmingham on behalf of the NPAS. While satisfaction among appellants appears to be very high, it is clear that more work needs to be done to educate both potential appellants and local authorities about the nature of the parking adjudicators' role as an independent tribunal.

80. We also noted that the House of Commons Transport Committee had embarked on an inquiry into the current effectiveness of parking provision and enforcement policy. Among the matters examined were whether local authorities are carrying out parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably, and whether the appeals process is fair and effective. Caroline Sheppard, Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales, and Martin Wood, Chief Parking Adjudicator for London, gave evidence to the Committee in December 2005. We look forward to the Committee's report.

81. A concern in this area is the indifferent quality of some local authority decisions following the making of representations by car owners about penalty charges. This emerged not only from the evidence to the Transport Committee but also from a Special Report by the Commission for Local Administration in England on "Parking enforcement by local authorities: Consideration of representations under the Road Traffic Act 1991" (December 2004). The performance of local authorities is not a matter within our present statutory remit, but we have an interest to the extent that poor performance must affect the working of parking adjudicators. This is a matter that we intend to pursue further.