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Pilots in Parliament

by Richard Toomer Head of Communications and External Relations

Pilots join BALPA for a multitude of very good reasons. One of the things we know our members place very highly is our duty to ensure pilots’ voices are heard at the highest echelons of government, and to ensure decision-makers understand the issues that we care about.

That is why we were very pleased to host the 2017 Parliamentary Reception last week in the House of Commons.  With the recent general election it was a great opportunity to meet new MPs as well as to renew old friendships.

As our members will know, BALPA is a truly non-partisan trade union – we work closely with politicians and governments of all stripes, and we were pleased that a good cross-section of MPs attended.

Our pilot representatives from the NEC and Company Councils took the opportunity to speak to MPs about safety issues such as fatigue, drones and lasers, as well as other issues such as fair competition, the punitive Air Passenger Duty, Brexit, and airport capacity.

We were very pleased to welcome the returning Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, who said a few words, and was encouraging in promising urgent and swift action on drones, and promised not to let the laser issue go, despite the disappointing news that the government had dropped its plans for a new criminal offence to be instituted.

We also hosted representatives from industry and airline management, and Simon Laffin, the Chairman of Flybe, spoke on behalf of the industry, and talked about why having a good relationship with BALPA, despite our differences, is important.

And our Chairman, Captain Brendan O’Neal, said that all three types of person in the room – MPs, ministers and civil servants; airline management; and pilots each had a vital duty to ensure flight safety, but that as pilots we are the final guardians of the safety of our passengers and cargo – a duty we take seriously in the air, and back on the ground, which is why our presence in Westminster is important.

We were particularly pleased to welcome the new Aviation Minister, Lord Callanan and the newly-elected Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP. And huge thanks too to the outgoing Chair, Louise Ellman MP, who graciously sponsored our reception.