Motion lodged for full inquiry into North Sea helicopter safety

Wreckage of the helicopter after the August crash which killed four people is buffeted by the surf off the Shetland mainland
Wreckage of the helicopter after the August crash which killed four people is buffeted by the surf off the Shetland mainland

A motion has been tabled in Westminster calling for a full public inquiry into helicopter safety in the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Frank Doran, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, hopes to win the backing of his colleagues for a judge-led probe into recent crashes offshore.

He also revealed that he has asked the Commons transport select committee to hold its upcoming hearing on helicopter safety in Aberdeen and said the “main focus” of its investigation would be whether to demand an independent inquiry.

Mr Doran has been campaigning on the issue since a crash off Shetland in August, which killed four workers. It was the fifth helicopter incident in the industry in the last four years. He has previously criticised the “piecemeal” approach to addressing safety concerns, with five separate probes currently under way.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is due to publish its findings in January, after a joint inquiry with Norwegian and European investigators.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is also looking into the most recent incident, while a Fatal Accident Inquiry will be held as well. The industry has said it will carry out its own probe, as is the transport committee.

The motion says it “acknowledges the role of the inquiries which have already been announced but believes that only a full, independent public inquiry will examine all aspects of helicopter operations offshore, including the role of the Civil Aviation Authority”.

It also backs the Unite trade union’s “Back Home Safe” campaign, which demands better emergency lighting and seating on all offshore helicopters.

The motion is expected to win the backing of many Labour MPs, with Aberdeen South member Dame Anne Begg among 18 early signatories.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael told the Press and Journal this month that he wanted to wait to see the CAA’s findings, but was “not a great fan” of judicial public inquiries, as they “tend to be long and expensive and not particularly effective”.

Prime Minister David Cameron did not rule out UK Government action when asked about a public inquiry by the P&J in September, saying: “Let us let that (CAA) investigation do its work and let us look at the results of that before taking things further.”