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Con-Dems reject helicopter probe

Ministers refuse to hold public inquiry into North Sea crashes

The government rejected a public inquiry yesterday into offshore helicopter safety following five petrochemicals industry crashes in the North Sea since 2009.

Commons transport committee members recommended a "full and independent" inquiry this year after four people died in a Super Puma crash near Sumburgh airport in Shetland in August 2013.

A July committee report said that a recent review into offshore helicopter safety by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had not looked at the impact of commercial pressure on helicopter safety.

Ministers accepted helicopter operators' claims that commercial pressure did not affect safety, despite fears raised by the British Airline Pilots Association, and the government has now said it "does not support" the call for a public inquiry.

Its response said: "It is true that competition for contracts, particularly where contracts are offered at short notice or awarded at a lower price, may impact on the ability of the operator to recruit and train for a new commitment but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case."

But transport committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said: "I am deeply disappointed that ministers have rejected our recommendation they should hold an independent inquiry to investigate offshore helicopter safety.

"This is a regrettable decision for the loved ones and relatives of people killed in offshore helicopter accidents.

"It sends the wrong signal to people who continue to work in the offshore industry."

Offshore union RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT is appalled that the government have point blank refused to hold the full independent and public inquiry into helicopter safety that has been an absolute core demand from the workforce that we represent.

"An inquiry would have gone some way toward dispelling existing concerns which continue to undermine workforce confidence.

"The failure to agree to a public inquiry leads to the obvious question, 'just what have you got to hide?'"

He said RMT would continue campaigning for a public inquiry.


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