The following Acts were given Royal Assent:
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act,
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act,
Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Act,
Forensic Science Regulator Act,
British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Act,
Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act,
Domestic Abuse Act,
Prisons (Substance Testing) Act,
Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act,
Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act,
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act,
Financial Services Act,
Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act,
Fire Safety Act,
National Security and Investment Act.
The following Measures were given Royal Assent:
Diocesan Boards of Education Measure,
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask all Members to respect social distancing.
There are no counterpropositions to the Commons amendments to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, so the only speakers are those listed and the Minister’s Motion may not be opposed. Short questions of elucidation from listed speakers after the Minister’s response are discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question must email the clerk.
1: Clause 22, page 13, line 30, leave out subsection (2)
2: Schedule 8, page 68, line 29, at end insert—
“(iv) an offence under the law of Scotland which arises under any other provision of the ANO 2016 and relates to unmanned aircraft, except an offence which is triable only summarily;”
My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House for long with my explanation of these amendments, save only to note that the Bill had a relatively incident-free passage through the other place, which I, to a great extent, attribute to the careful consideration it received in your Lordships’ House.
The Bill has returned to enable consideration of two minor amendments made in the other place. The first is Commons Amendment 1, which removed the privilege amendment, as is the norm in these cases. The second amendment—here is the mea culpa—will correct an omission, or an error if you must, in the Bill that resulted from government amendments made in your Lordships’ House on Report.
If I may explain: Schedule 8 provides the police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and custodial institutions with the powers they need to protect the public from the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 8 sets out the meaning of “relevant unmanned aircraft offence”. Prior to the government amendment made in the other place, the offences in the Air Navigation Order 2016—ANO 2016—included in this definition were summary-only offences. In relation to Scotland, this definition should also include offences in ANO 2016 that are triable either way or on indictment. These offences were included in the definition of “relevant offence” in the Bill as introduced in January 2020. They were inadvertently omitted—that was the error, for which I apologise—by the government amendments tabled on Report in the House of Lords when the provisions setting out the definitions that apply in relation to the power to enter and search under warrant and the supplementary power to retain anything seized were restructured. If not moved, there would be no power for a justice of the peace, summary sheriff or a sheriff in Scotland to issue to a constable a warrant to enter and search premises in relation to offences in the ANO 2016 that relate to unmanned aircraft and can be tried under indictment. The supplementary power for a constable to retain items seized using powers in Schedule 8 for forensic examination, for investigation or for use as evidence at a trial would also not apply in relation to these offences.
The policy intention of the Bill remains unchanged and this amendment will not add any offences or powers not already in the Bill as introduced in January 2020. With humility and apologies from the Department for Transport, I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased to support the Commons amendments as technical changes necessary for the functioning of the Bill. The aviation industry is critical to the UK economy, and since any recovery will no doubt be prolonged, I hope the Bill will provide legislative backing for a modernisation strategy that supports that recovery. Any restructuring must be supported with a transitional strategy, for workers and our regional economy, that capitalises on the opportunity to grow industries in green technology. I look forward to the House revisiting this in the future. I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, has engaged with the Opposition Front Bench during the passage of the Bill. I also thank all those from across the House who have taken part in its stages.
My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, for her gracious apology on behalf of the department for its omission. Of course, I accept that the amendments are necessary and, like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I thank all the people who have been associated with the Bill during its fairly long passage. I hope it may now pass into law.
My Lords, I too support these amendments. Finally, this Bill, which started its passage through Parliament in January 2020 is to reach the statute book. I am sure that, with a justified sense of pride and relief, the Minister and all those in her Bill team, who worked so hard to achieve this outcome, deserve the commendation received from all sides of the House.
It is a piece of legislation that will not stand still. The announcement that the CAA has approved trials of beyond-visual-sight operation of drones will need to be reflected in the instructions for policing unmanned aircraft presently set out in this legislation. That process will continue, I hope smoothly, as technology and experience help to chart the way ahead. Meanwhile, I join in commending the efforts made to enact this important business, for air traffic management in particular.
Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee
New Clause 1
Duty to limit noise impacts
‘(1) The CAA must have a primary duty to reduce, minimise or mitigate significant adverse noise impacts of aviation.
(2) The CAA must have a duty to ensure that airport operators promoting an airspace change proposal include options that limit the number and class of aircraft that may use airspace in a managed area to achieve a sustained reduction in aircraft noise.’—(John McDonnell.)
This new clause would place statutory duties on the CAA to reduce, minimise or mitigate significant adverse noise impacts of aviation.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—New CAA general duty: net zero aviation emissions—
‘(1) In subsection 70(2) of the Transport Act 2000, after paragraph (d) insert—
“(da) to ensure the achievement of net zero aviation emissions by 2050 and a progressive and material reduction in aircraft noise impacts, in each case pursuant to guidance to be provided by the Secretary of State.”’
This new clause would amend the CAA’s duties, as set out in the Transport Act 2000, so that it is required to meet net zero emissions and reduce noise impacts.
New clause 3—Reduction of noise from military aircrafts—
‘The Secretary of State must consider in any airspace change proposal the inclusion of measures to reduce the noise pollution arising from military aviation.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to consider including measures to reduce noise pollution from military aviation in any airspace change proposal.
New clause 4—Consultation on airspace change proposals—
‘(1) Where a consultation on an airspace change proposal is underway but not completed before the passing of this Act—
(a) the consultation must be stopped, and
(b) a new consultation must be started.
(2) A consultation under subsection (1) includes a consultation being conducted by an airport or group of airports.
(3) The airspace change proposal that is the subject of the consultation may not be progressed until the new consultation under subsection (1)(b) has been completed.
(4) The new consultation must take account of any externalities arising from the airspace change proposal including—
(a) air pollution,
(b) noise pollution, and
(c) road traffic congestion.”
This new clause would require any consultation on an airspace change proposal underway at the time the Act is passed to be stopped, and a new consultation started. It also specifies externalities the new consultation must take account of.
New clause 5—Financial Impact Assessment on the Airspace Change Organisation Group—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must conduct an impact assessment of the effects of this Act on the costs of the Airspace Change Organisation Group (ACOG) for a period of two years, beginning with the day this Act comes into force.
(2) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report of the impact assessment required by subsection (1) within six months of the day this Act comes into force.
(3) The Secretary of State must include within the report required by subsection (2) a plan to manage the impacts identified within the report.’
This amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to investigate and publicise the financial impact on the air industry of compliance with the Act.
Amendment 3, in clause 2, page 2, line 4 at end insert—
‘(e) prepare an assessment, including a financial assessment, of—
(i) any externalities arising from an airspace change proposal that has been prepared or implemented, and
(ii) the geographic distribution of these externalities.’
This amendment would enable the Secretary of State to direct a person involved in an airspace change proposal to carry out an assessment of any externalities arising from the proposal.
Amendment 4, page 2, line 5, at end insert—
‘(1A) For the purposes of subsection 1(e), “externalities” include—
(a) air pollution,
(b) noise pollution, and
(c) road traffic congestion.’
This amendment is linked to Amendment 3.
Amendment 5, page 2, line 14, at end insert
‘modernisation of controlled airspace as part of the’.
This amendment will narrow the scope of direction by the Secretary of State to cases where a direction relates to airspace modernisation, so that enforcement orders may not be used in cases unrelated to airspace modernisation.
Amendment 6, in clause 3, page 3, line 2, at end insert
‘modernisation of controlled airspace as part of the’.
This amendment will narrow the scope of direction by the Secretary of State to cases where a direction related to airspace modernisation, so that enforcement orders may not be used in cases unrelated to airspace modernisation.
Amendment 2, page 3, line 34, at end insert—
‘(9) When the airspace change proposal relates to airspace used by military aircraft, the Secretary of State for Defence must require the cooperation of Military Air Traffic Control with the CAA to ensure the airspace change proposal incorporates measures to reduce military aircraft—
(a) noise; and
This amendment would require the Secretary of State for Defence to reduce noise and pollution from military aircrafts where an airspace change proposal relates to airspace used by military aircrafts.
Amendment 1, in clause 5, page 4, line 29, at end insert—
‘(6) The CAA must publish emissions, noise and health impact information associated with the airspace change proposal as part of their consultation process.’
This amendment would establish a transparency duty on the CAA to publish emissions, noise and health impact information.
I wish to speak to new clauses 1 and 2 and amendment 1, standing in my name. I will seek to be as brief as possible, Mr Deputy Speaker; with your permission, I will aim to speak for no more than 10 minutes. Over the years, I have tried to use every legislative or policy debate opportunity to place the issues of noise and emissions at the heart of every discussion in this House on the future of aviation policy. These amendments seek once again to do just that.
I think I am the only Member of the Commons who can claim to have attended every major planning public inquiry and court case relating to the expansion of Heathrow airport over the last nearly 50 years. Over the years, I have attended as an interested local resident, then as the local Greater London Council councillor, then as the Member of Parliament for the Heathrow area. In addition to the deeply felt worries of local residents about the demolition of their homes and villages, two issues have been the consistent basis of challenge in these inquiries and legal contests. They are the impact of noise, and the impact of emissions on the community in the immediate area, as well as across large areas of London and now more widely.
At the terminal 4 inquiry, there was general support for limited expansion of the airport, as long as there were conditions attached to any permission to expand in relation to noise. By the time of the terminal 5 inquiry, a great deal of that support had turned to opposition, as the noise agreements had proved so ineffective in guaranteeing people’s quiet enjoyment of their homes, gardens and open spaces. By that time, much more evidence had emerged about the effect of noise on health, and about air pollution as the cause of severe respiratory conditions, vascular problems and cancers. It was because of the environmental impact that the planning inspector recommended that there be no further expansion at Heathrow after terminal 5. Heathrow Airport wrote to me and my constituents saying that if it was granted terminal 5, it would not need or seek a third runway. Of course that was a lie, and within six months it was publicly lobbying for a third runway.
Subsequently, we have also grown aware of the role that emissions play in climate change. I find it hard to comprehend why, despite our facing the existential threat of a climate emergency; despite knowing that 40,000 people a year die from air pollution; and despite all that we now know about the health implications of noise and sleep impairment, consideration is still being given in Government to airport expansion. We need to ensure that all the aviation legislation we consider addresses the critical issues of noise and emissions, which is what these new clauses and amendments seek to do.
I am grateful to the Minister for writing to me explaining the Government’s attitude to my amendments. On a positive note, I see from this correspondence that although the Minister does not support my new clauses or amendments, he does not disagree with the intention behind them. I welcome his commitment to ensuring that the issues raised by them are addressed in any future review of air navigation guidance and noise policy.
Let me briefly run through the new clauses and amendments, and some questions in response to the Minister’s position. New clause 1 would place a statutory duty on the Civil Aviation Authority to reduce, minimise or mitigate significant adverse noise impacts of aviation. The Minister has argued in correspondence that applying a new general duty to all the CAA’s functions is not desirable because safety must remain the primary duty in the context of section 70(1) of the Transport Act 2000. The intention of the new clause is not to reduce safety as a priority, but rather to raise noise and emissions reductions up the priority order. It should be the duty of all public bodies to ensure that we are safe from noise, air pollution and climate change.
The Minister states that the CAA must take account of any guidance on environmental objectives given to it by the Secretary of State, and that is true. However, the effect of the legislation is to subordinate all the environmental matters to section 70(2)(a) and the duty
“to secure the most efficient use of airspace consistent with the safe operation of aircraft and the expeditious flow of air traffic”.
Noise and emissions are always reduced to being second-class citizens in this ranking order.
The Secretary of State has powers under section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 to limit numbers and types of craft active during the night period at Heathrow and the other airports designated under the Act, so one question that needs to be addressed now is whether this section should be amended to include limits on numbers and types of aircraft during the day as well.
The Minister referred in correspondence with me to the consultation on noise caps in the aviation strategy Green Paper, and said that noise reduction would be looked at again as we come through the pandemic. I welcome that, but the Green Paper applied to all airports other than Heathrow, and so does not provide communities under Heathrow flight paths with any certainty for the future. I would welcome it if the Minister considered amending the aviation national policy statement to ensure that a noise cap was considered in relation to Heathrow and potential expansion there.
The Minister has stated that noise restrictions should be placed on airports, and not, as in new clause 1, on the airspace around the airport. He argues that the latter would—I quote—“create a significant burden on the airspace change process and add great complexity to the day-to-day management of airspace.” That response unfortunately highlights my concern that enhancing capacity is prioritised over reducing the harm to overflown communities and the environment. In my view, airspace and airport capacity should be increased only subject to strict noise and emission reduction conditions. That is a role that the CAA should have a hand in playing. Giving permission to expand capacity on the basis of asserted benefits that cannot be translated into conditions, and whose delivery the regulator cannot monitor and enforce, is not consistent with the Government’s stated policy on noise or climate change.
New clause 2 would amend the CAA’s duties, as set out in the Transport Act 2000, to require it to achieve net zero emissions and reduce noise impacts. The Minister has asserted that the Government cannot support this amendment because the word “ensure” would make it difficult for the Civil Aviation Authority to accept any proposal that did not reduce emissions and aircraft noise, regardless of the overall benefits of the proposal. However, section 70(2) of the 2000 Act is intended to list all the factors that the Civil Aviation Authority must consider. None is supposed to have a greater weight than the others, and a variety of language is used for the different objectives—everything from “secure” to “satisfy” and “take account of”. Some hierarchy of responsibility seems to be emerging in the discussions about the role of the Civil Aviation Authority and what should be taken into account. I do not see why “ensure” would be any more problematic than, for example, “secure”. We need clarity about the role that the CAA can play in ensuring that we can move towards net zero emissions, because it plays an important role in tackling climate change by developing an environmental aviation strategy.
Amendment 1 would place a transparency duty on the Civil Aviation Authority to publish emissions, noise and health impact information. The Minister has said that assessments covering noise, health, local air quality and greenhouse gas impacts must be submitted by proposers along with any formal airspace change proposal, and he argues that they are subsequently published on the CAA website. My amendment would simply require this information to be published more clearly, alongside the proposed changes. That would help deepen community understanding of the proposals and the alternative options.
Last week, the Government announced kickstart funding for the airspace modernisation strategy. The Minister must ensure that local communities have a genuine voice in this process. It is vital that the redesign of airspace delivers mutually balanced outcomes for the industry and local communities alike. The Government should commit to publishing assessments of the noise and health impacts of concentrated flightpaths before any final strategy is signed off.
I thank the Minister for the courteous way in which he has responded to my amendments to the Bill in correspondence. He offered a meeting, which unfortunately, due to last-minute business in the House to which I was committed, did not take place. However, the issues we are addressing today go well beyond this legislation, so I hope he will agree to meet me and a few colleagues to take the discussion further, as this is so important to communities living close to airports—and, given the concerns we all have about climate change, all our constituents.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who speaks with great authority on this particular topic. I am also grateful, as he was, to the Minister for his kind consideration of the issues I have raised about the Bill as it has proceeded to this point.
I would like to speak to my amendments: new clause 4, which would seek to halt, or essentially cancel, and then start new consultations on airspace changes that are currently under way; and amendments 3 and 4, which speak to the requirement for the Minister and the reviews he proposes to take into account a financial assessment, and within that particularly to take account of the externalities comprising part of that financial assessment. With your leave, Mr Deputy Speaker, and that of the House, I would like to talk through each of those.
As the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington has said, there are already some concerns that this Bill, although a tremendous step forward, could do more in recognition of some of the environmental impacts—how we reshape our airspace and how we expand, or potentially do not expand, the airports that serve this country. The issue on new clause 4 is that the considerations—those in the Bill and those that have come up as we have proceeded with our discussions—will not apply to any consultation that is already under way.
The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there is a very limited number of consultations currently in process. As far as I am aware, there is only one, and that relates to a consultation on the airspace change between Luton airport and Stansted airport. The effect of it will be to change quite dramatically the flight path of aircraft into Luton airport, moving them away from their current location further north into Huntingdonshire and then down over my constituency. It seems to me to be wrong that the consultation should proceed at this time. It really ought to be halted so that the considerations of this Bill can take effect.
The Minister will know that this consultation has taken place entirely through the covid period, and he will know that there are many concerns that no effective alternatives have been offered to those that were thought of by the presenters in the first place. He will also know—he may not know, but I have certainly said to him—that it does have a number of hallmarks making me think that this is being driven purely by the commercial interests of the airports, not by considerations about those whom the airspace changes will affect.
Many representations have been made to me by constituents and by parish councils that will be affected by this change, and it seems to me to be entirely appropriate that this consultation should be stopped and that a new one should be started under the new provisions of this Bill, as directed by the Minister. If the Minister will not accept that as a new clause in the Bill, perhaps he would use his offices and the powers he already has to seek a renewal and change of that consultation.
Amendments 3 and 4 seek, in a different way from the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, to promote the issues of environmental considerations as part of the responsibilities of airspace changes in the future. In particular, I am seeking to make sure that any assessment the Secretary of State or Minister makes for airspace changes must be a financial assessment that includes an assessment of the externalities arising from airspace change proposals and an understanding of what the geographical distribution may be of any economic externalities. Amendment 4 states that those externalities should include
“air pollution,…noise pollution, and…road traffic congestion.”
To go back to the particular issue of Luton airport, it is of course a privately owned airport, but it is on land owned by Luton council. Luton airport has been growing over the years and it plans to grow even further. Before this debate I looked up the airport revenues and found that in 2009 the revenues were £98 million and that in 2019, just 10 years later, the figure had more than doubled to £226 million. It is a rapidly expanding airport, which means that there is more noise pollution, more environmental pollution, more air pollution and, of course, more congestion. These are natural things that occur when airspace changes are required, usually because airports are increasing the size of their footprint and the number of passengers they carry. The cost of those changes falls disproportionately on people in the surrounding areas—the people of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes—but all the benefits go to those who institute the airspace changes: the airport operators and the people who take a profit or rent from the land. That is not a fair basis for the Minister to proceed on. We really ought to make sure that in future the assessment of airspace changes is required to take account of the externalities that affect the villages and people who suffer because of the congestion, noise pollution, air pollution and other effects.
An additional responsibility comes to light in the case of Luton airport, because the land on which the airport operates is owned by Luton Borough Council, which is part of the public sector. Surely there ought to be an additional responsibility on airports on land that is owned by the state. It is interesting that Luton Borough Council takes £20 million a year directly into its coffers from Luton airport and a further £10 million in charitable contributions that are only for charities based in Luton, while the rest of the people who suffer because of the air pollution, noise pollution and traffic congestion get absolutely nothing.
It would be interesting if the Minister addressed the issue in his winding-up speech. Will he look—in future, if not in the Bill—at the cost of the externalities of airspace changes? Does he believe that airports on land owned by the public sector have an additional responsibility to take wider account of their social responsibilities? If so, will he have a word with his colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who just three or four months ago gave a bail-out to Luton Borough Council that was not available to Central Bedfordshire Council or Bedford Borough Council because they were no longer getting rent money from the airport? Will he request that the Ministry says that if the council wants to continue to benefit from that loan, it must start to share the benefits of its profits from the airport? That would be a way of making sure that those externalities are covered.
I thank all hon. Members who have spoken or will speak on Report today, those who spoke on Second Reading or in Committee, as well as Members in the other place, for their work on the Bill. I remain certain of the requirement for this legislation. The Minister and I have a shared ambition for airspace modernisation in the United Kingdom. As I have said before, the country has been managing its airspace with analogue technology from the previous century, with piecemeal updates as demand has grown—an analogue system in a digital age. The Bill is vital to hasten and co-ordinate an ambitious airspace change programme fit for the 21st century.
Part 2, which involves the regulation of air traffic control services, is very welcome. I am pleased that the Bill is addressing regulation now; all hon. Members present agree that the changes will enable the Civil Aviation Authority to maintain the UK’s excellent flying safety record and continue to be a world-class leader in aviation safety. The Minister and I have discussed airport slots ad nauseam, including on Second Reading and in Committee. Labour has supported the Government on recent statutory instruments to extend the temporary waiver on slot regulations owing to the covid-19 pandemic. I am content that clause 12 will provide the Government with the tools to tackle airport slot allocation issues that arise from the pandemic.
Part 3, which provides further police powers over the use of unmanned aircraft, is long overdue; I am grateful that tonight we are closer to bringing those powers into effect. As technology has moved on, drones have become more and more common, and it was only a matter of time before an incident such as the one at Gatwick airport in 2018 that disrupted air traffic. I am grateful to the Minister for addressing the concerns raised in Committee and am content to support this part of the Bill today.
It would, however, be remiss to speak on this Bill tonight and not mention the current situation in which the aviation sector finds itself. The covid-19 pandemic has devastated the industry. The UK was previously the third largest aviation market in the world, but now we are not so sure. The Government, through neglect and their belief that the markets would be able to support this huge section of our national economy, have hamstrung the entire sector.
Twelve months ago we were led to believe that the Treasury would be offering a bespoke support package for airlines, aerospace, airports and ground-handlers and other support services; a year later no specific aviation deal has emerged. It is vital that when the global travel taskforce reports to the Prime Minister on 12 April the Department for Transport and colleagues across Government roll out a robust and comprehensive plan to enable aviation to lift off into the skies again. This summer will be make or break for the sector, and the ambition presented by this Bill will be for nothing if we cannot maintain our advantage on the world stage with one of our leading industries after the pandemic draws to a close.
It is a genuine pleasure to follow the shadow Minister the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane). This is one of those events where we sit down and think, “This is Parliament at its best.” I served on the Bill Committee, where we rattled through our work—at interceptor pace is the best way to describe it, using an aerospace metaphor.
As the shadow Minister said, this modernisation of our aerospace is long overdue; it is what we need to do to keep our skies open. We need to find a way for co-existence between those interceptors—the Typhoons that fly through our sky and keep us safe— passenger jets and unmanned aircraft, because the sky is becoming an increasingly busy space. I talk about co-existing from a position of fairly strong expertise being the MP for Milton Keynes North, because of course we co-exist with our robots—our delivery robots that wander around delivering groceries and are part of everyday life. Drones are essentially sky robots, and we need to find a way of co-existing. This is a hybrid Parliament, and we now have hybrid skies and hybrid airspace. So if we co-exist with our sky robot friends, we need to find a way of making judgment day a matter for the regulators, not the robots.
Our aerospace is our gateway to the world. Let me deal specifically with the points raised in the Bill Committee and here tonight. This modernisation will make us more efficient. It will make our airspace more efficient, reduce noise, reduce pollution, reduce congestion, and, of course, as others have said eloquently, it will reduce the impact on the communities over which the airspace lies.
I support Government on this Bill. The UK is and will remain a global leader in aerospace, and in fact global MK and global Britain will be open for business because our skies will be open for business.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt). Sadly, my speech will not have any references to Skynet or “Terminator 2”, but I do rise virtually to speak to amendments 5 and 6 and new clause 5 in my name and on behalf of the Scottish National party.
It is fair to say that I have been rather a vocal critic of this Government’s action—or inaction—in relation to the aviation industry. For the industry that has been hardest hit by the pandemic not to merit a single mention in the Chancellor’s Budget speech is quite something. While I will continue to press the Minister and his colleagues on other issues relating to the sector, including support and equal access for UK aviation operators to EU markets, as they do to ours, I thank the Minister for responding to my calls on behalf of the sector to help fund the immediate future of the airspace modernisation strategy.
The work undertaken by the Airspace Change Organising Group is crucial for a sustainable aviation sector and to help drive down emissions in the process. As I have said to the Minister previously, that role should be formally acknowledged by asking ACOG to sit on the Government’s Jet Zero Council.
Updating our airspace is long overdue, given that it has not been reviewed and renewed since the 1950s. While we are on the cusp of developing electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, our airspace is stuck in the age of the Vickers Vanguard. Let us forget that the Government are coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that they showed up at all. The group’s work will bring long-needed efficiencies to airspace management and provide a potential boost to regional connectivity as the sustainability of air services outside of London improves, potentially allowing improved connections for airports such as Glasgow in my constituency, with a consequent boost to employment and prosperity for local economies.
The £5.5 million funding announced is a drop in the ocean out of a near £900 billion of public expenditure. It is two Downing Street press briefing rooms. However, if that support had not been provided, the detrimental impact on the aviation sector and connectivity across these islands could have been huge. That being said, £10 million of direct funding to cover the next two years would have been better. Perhaps we will have to come back to that, but credit where it is due. For that reason, I confirm that I will not press new clause 5 to a Division. I look forward to the important work of the Airspace Change Organising Group bearing fruit in the near future.
Given the time pressures, I will speak briefly to amendments 5 and 6, which relate to my concerns about some of the language in the Bill about the powers granted to the DfT, the Secretary of State and the CAA. Clauses 2 and 3 would give the Secretary of State the power to give a direction regarding any aspect of airspace change. That may well be necessary to implement the wholesale change envisaged by the strategy currently under way, but I am hesitant about the Department having the power in the longer term to mandate relatively minor changes to airspace management with potentially no scope for oversight or amendment by the industry, this Parliament or other elected bodies. I would welcome the Minister making an absolute commitment that the powers being granted to his Department are not to be used in the course of ongoing airspace management. I hope that things instead will move forward on a consensual basis alongside the industry.
As I said on Second Reading, I welcome the powers being granted to the police and prison authorities to tackle drone flights specifically aimed at breaking prison regulations. We know about the use of drones in delivering contraband, particularly illegal drugs, into prisons, enriching those in control of the supply. Although it is a smaller problem in Scotland, it is a growing one.
Until now, the power of the police and prison officers to investigate and take action against drone flights has been limited by legislation that predates the technological advances that have resulted in cheap, easy-to-obtain drones. For just a couple of hundred pounds, someone intending to transport drugs into prison can make many multiples of that with just one run. We all know how much damage drugs can do in prison, so stopping supply at source is fundamental.
Despite some high-profile cases over recent years, I do not in any way want to tag drones in a negative light—quite the opposite, in fact. The overwhelming majority of drone users and owners use them responsibly and perfectly legally. Ensuring that the use of these devices is appropriately regulated can only help ensure that the benefits of unmanned vehicles continue for users and consumers alike, including the great pilot initiative to support Scotland’s NHS being carried out at the moment.
To conclude, my caveats about the Secretary of State’s powers aside, the majority of the Bill is progress in the right direction at a time when the aviation industry is in the midst of its biggest challenge since the war—a challenge not helped by the Government’s year-long vow of silence on the Chancellor’s pledge this time last year of sector-specific help for the industry. Bringing our airspace into the modern era and showing our skies are used efficiently and with minimal impact on the environment is to be welcomed, and we will support the Bill’s passage this evening.
The benefits and disbenefits of the proximity to Heathrow airport are two sides of the same coin for my constituency. The issues of air space management and, crucially, noise pollution are of great importance, but this Government —and, I have to say, most previous Governments—have been slow and not done enough. I do not want airspace modernisation being used as an excuse to enable yet more flights into Heathrow, resulting in more hours and days with continuous noise, and yet more traffic congestion and air pollution.
The Civil Aviation Authority is the key statutory authority governing aviation, but it has few powers to control noise, or, for that matter, any other environmental objectives such as the climate crisis and the impact of emissions, all of which are subsumed beneath the objective of safety. I have worked for many years—long before I was elected to this place—with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), and I support his amendment to the Bill to include in the CAA’s remit a duty
“to reduce, minimise or mitigate…noise”.
I regret that it has not been accepted by the Government.
There is a growing body of evidence—referred to in the recent report by the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise—which cites the health and other impacts of aviation noise, from hypertension to cognitive impairment in children. To clarify, in normal times 70% of flights arriving at Heathrow come over my constituency. They are locked into a gradually descending final arrival path. Roughly two thirds of my constituents live within the area of significant noise disturbance, and the other third would do if runway three were to go ahead, or, for that matter, if the CAA approved additional flights by allowing planes to join the final approach late, from the north or south.
In the last 12 months, my constituents and I have noticed a difference to our daily lives, with a 90% cut in arrival flights over our homes. We know that for Heathrow to go back to anything like normal operation, the current noise-free days cannot last, but when it comes to airspace changes, communities affected by aircraft noise should at least be treated with respect, be consulted and have their views treated seriously.
The pandemic has exposed not only how much our noise environment is dominated by aircraft noise, but also how much our local economy has been dependent on the airport. Unemployment in communities around Heathrow has risen by 150% on average, and that is while many people are still furloughed and not yet adding to the unemployment figures. This shows the urgent need for support for our aviation communities, as previous speakers have mentioned. We have been promised an aviation recovery strategy for nine months, but all we have had is silence; yet, aviation is the sector that will take the longest to recover.
To conclude, whether it is on noise or aviation jobs, this Government do not seem willing to listen and act to support airport communities.
It is a pleasure to be here, speaking in the Chamber remotely, at the Report stage of this very important Bill, which the Liberal Democrats have supported all the way through. The provisions it contains are long overdue, particularly those on airspace modernisation.
We welcome the opportunity for the Government to take powers to improve the use of airspace for the benefit, yes, of the aviation industry, but also for the communities who live around airports, as the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) just spelled out in her excellent speech. I, too, represent one of those communities —Richmond Park. We have long been plagued by excessive noise from aircraft. There has been some welcome respite during the pandemic and the lockdown, but my constituents are fearful of what may happen in the future, especially if the Government go ahead with their stated plans to allow expansion at Heathrow. I impress on them that they have the opportunity to put my constituents’ fears at rest on that matter.
We support the airspace modernisation plans in the Bill. However, I reiterate what the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) said: if not through this Bill, then at some time in the future, the CAA ought to be given the power to consider the impact of noise on local communities when designating airspace. It is such an important issue because of the impact that it has on mental health, on physical health, on people’s ability to sleep and on people’s ability to go about their daily lives. That is highlighted to me so often by my constituents. Again, it was discussed very eloquently by the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth.
I also support what the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington said about the impact that climate change is having and the need to give powers in that regard to the CAA. That is a really important point. The Government are not yet being clear about how they expect the aviation industry to contribute to their drive towards net zero. It is absolutely essential that we get more clarity on how that will be achieved. Aviation obviously has an important role to play in our economy. It has had an exceptionally tough year, and we know from announcements made only today that the future of aviation continues to be very unsettled. We look forward to more direction from the Government about how they plan to build back better in aviation.
The Liberal Democrats support this Bill and will continue to support it through its remaining stages.
I hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, you can hear my dulcet tones all the way from Northern Ireland. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this issue.
Of particular interest to me is new clause 12, which seeks to provide temporary powers to amend the retained EU law on airport slot allocation due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 80:20 or “use it or lose it” rule is used to monitor compliance and determine whether airlines can retain their legacy slots. The European Commission has waived the rule for the summer and winter seasons in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic—exceptional times, without a doubt. I absolutely support the Government in their move to make a similar waiver through the use of these temporary powers. Our airline industry is in dire need of support and help—I know the Minister has been very responsive to that and I thank him for it—not only in the short term but in the long term. We need to look at how we can come alongside the industry to work with it.
Particularly for Northern Ireland, it is essential that our routes are protected—our domestic routes, that is, but we have some hopes for the future that we may even have some international routes, which is something we are encouraged by. We are also encouraged by the Government’s commitment on air passenger duty, and we will see how that works for the benefit of all the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Connectivity is vital and must be protected at all costs for the foreseeable future.
I have spoken at length regarding drones, particularly their use in prisons. However, I also recognise the benefit of drones used in the right way. The Government have put in place legislation to prevent unmanned aircraft being able to fly near airports, and technology is in place to neutralise any unmanned aircraft that could breach the quarantine distance around airports, so there are many good things to welcome. Unmanned aircraft must be regulated for many reasons, none being more important than security. I am very pleased that clauses 13 to 18, together with schedules 8 to 11, will give powers to police the misuse of unmanned aircraft. These include, first, the power to ground unmanned aircraft; secondly, the power to stop and search people and vehicles; and thirdly, the power to obtain a warrant to search property. There will be further provision for fixed penalties for certain offences relating to unmanned aircraft. I welcome this further tightening of the law. It is also welcome that those who are using a drone for a purpose that is legal and honourable will not have any issue with these powers or feel threatened in any way at all. However, can the Minister confirm that all necessary discussions have taken place with all regions in the United Kingdom, particularly Northern Ireland?
In this age of technical wonder, it is imperative that we make the best of advances such as drone technology and heat signatures to find lost animals, for example. As someone who lives in the countryside, I know that many of my farming friends, colleagues, partners and neighbours wish to see that. We must also regulate to prevent misuse, and the Bill sets that balance. That is why I support the Government’s intentions and commitment, which I believe are honourable, honest and true.
I thank all Members for their contributions and the constructive way in which they have engaged with the Bill throughout and with the new clauses and amendments before the House. I will address each of the provisions.
New clause 1, tabled by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and supported by the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), seeks to ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority prioritises noise when considering airspace changes by making it a primary duty. The Government recognise the impact that aviation noise has on communities that are overflown, including those in the right hon. Member’s constituency, which may also be impacted when aircraft are on the ground. The Government have in place regulations and policies to mitigate and reduce aircraft noise but cannot, I am afraid, support the new clause.
Subsection (1) of the new clause puts a primary duty on the CAA to
“reduce, minimise or mitigate significant adverse noise impacts of aviation.”
The CAA’s duties include regulation of civil aviation safety, aviation security functions, licensing of airlines and more. Those are in addition to its duties around the use of UK airspace, to which the Bill is more closely linked. Specifically on its duties around air navigation functions, section 70(1) of the Transport Act 2000 states that safety is “to have priority” over the CAA’s other functions. I would like to reassure the right hon. Gentleman and other Members that, in carrying out those air navigation functions, the CAA must take into account guidance on environmental objectives given to it by the Secretary of State. That guidance currently takes the form of the “Air Navigation Guidance 2017”. Altitude-based priorities are clear that the environmental priority in airspace below 7,000 feet is to minimise
“the impact of aviation noise in a manner consistent with the government’s overall policy on aviation noise”.
For the reason that safety must remain the primary duty of the CAA in its air navigation functions, the Government cannot accept subsection (1).
Subsection (2) of new clause 1 seeks to constrain the use of airspace with regard to number and type of aircraft. The frequency of overflight and the type of aircraft are clearly among the most important contributing factors to the noise experienced by communities. There is a wide variety of powers available to Government and airports to reduce noise at airports, including section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, which the Government use to limit numbers and types of aircraft during the night period at Heathrow. I should add that, in the 2018 aviation strategy Green Paper, the Government consulted on a proposal to routinely set noise caps. We expect to look once again at these important issues and will consider whether current policy on noise reduction needs to be strengthened. The Government believe that it is right that any restrictions on noise should be imposed on the airport itself, and that it is not appropriate or practical to restrict the use of airspace around an airport for these purposes, because to do so would add great complexity to the day-to-day management of airspace.
New clause 2 seeks to ensure that the Government meet their target of net zero emissions by 2050 and that aircraft noise is mitigated, even reduced. I am sure the House will agree that those are noble objectives. The Government will consult over the coming months on a net zero aviation strategy, setting out the steps to reach net zero aviation emissions by 2050. However, we are unable to support the new clause because it would have some unintended consequences, which I will briefly explain.
In most airspace change proposals, there is a complex balance of trade-offs between the needs of airspace users, the airports, the military and the environment—it is the co-existence that my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) addressed in his speech and that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Those trade-offs can be further complicated by the competing needs of different types of airspace user, or, in the case of the environment, the desire to reduce emissions or aircraft noise at the expense of the other. It is far from easy for an airspace change proposal to meet everyone’s wishes, and the CAA has to make the best decision that it can based on the available evidence.
Under section 70 of the Transport Act 2000, the CAA is required to exercise its air navigation functions in a manner that it considers best calculated to achieve a number of objectives, which already include a requirement for the CAA to take into account the environmental objectives in guidance given by the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman’s new clause 2 were accepted, the requirement “to ensure” would make it very difficult for the CAA to accept any proposal that did not reduce emissions and aircraft noise, regardless of the overall benefits of the proposal or the other conditions under section 70(2). That would act as a significant constraint on the Government’s airspace modernisation programme, and therefore the Government are unable to accept or support this new clause.
Amendment 1, tabled by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, is motivated by a desire to ensure that communities receive clarity on the emissions, health and noise impact of any airspace change process, and of course I agree that it is vital for communities to have clarity and to understand the implications of how any airspace change might impact them.
I wish to assure the House that the Department’s air navigation guidance to the CAA already requires airspace change sponsors to consider the emission, health and noise impacts of their proposal and to consult with communities on its impacts. The Government consider that there is therefore no need for this amendment, as mechanisms already exist to ensure that communities are suitably informed of the potential impact of airspace change proposals.
I turn to new clause 4, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller). He rightly wishes to reflect the recent airspace change experience of constituents in places such as Potton, Sandy and Biggleswade, as well as others living in nearby constituency areas. He has spoken to me about them, and he has spoken powerfully again about them tonight. I appreciate that communities, wherever they live, are always going to be rightly concerned about any airspace change proposal that may affect them. I hope that he will be reassured by the fact that “Air Navigation Guidance 2017” was produced in response to many concerns that such communities have raised. That is embedded in the Civil Aviation Authority’s CAP1616 process for airspace change—a new process that is only just beginning to have effect. I assure my hon. Friend that the air navigation guidance and CAP1616 require the sponsor to actively engage and consult with key stakeholders, including communities, on their proposals.
I am mindful that my hon. Friend’s new clause would require sponsors to undertake a road traffic congestion assessment in their proposal. That is important, but the Government are not convinced that it is appropriate for a consultation on airspace change proposals to include road traffic congestion.
I am aware of a number of points that my hon. Friend has made with regard to Luton and its development consent order. I hope that he will understand that, as the final decision on that would rest with the Secretary of State for Transport, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it at this stage. I hope that the House and my hon. Friend will agree that the long-established planning system is the right place for communities to have their say on such matters. As we consider aviation policy in the future, I will remember, of course, all the points that he has made.
I turn briefly to my hon. Friend’s amendments 3 and 4, which have the laudable intention of ensuring that air pollution and noise impacts of any airspace change proposal are identified and monetised. He will, I am sure, be relieved to hear that the Department for Transport’s transport analysis guidance assessment tool includes the need to monetise many of those aspects, as the specific location is already an important requirement under the CAP1616 process that I have referred to already.
I am grateful that the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) has indicated that he does not intend to press new clause 5 to a vote, but given that he had the courtesy to table it, I shall deal with it briefly. The Airspace Change Organisation Group is a ring-fenced team that sits within NATS, so is funded by the NATS charging scheme and would not be affected by the costs of airspace change in the way that I anticipate the hon. Gentleman fears.
The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North also tabled amendments 5 and 6, which would narrow the powers in the Bill so that they could be used only for controlled airspace. I remind the House that clauses 2 and 3 will be used only when the Secretary of State considers that their use will assist in the delivery of the CAA’s airspace strategy. Airspace modernisation is not just about the masterplan or controlled airspace, as the hon. Member may feel; those are only two of the 15 initiatives in the CAA’s airspace modernisation strategy. To restrict the powers only to the masterplan or controlled airspace would put at risk the delivery of those other initiatives.
The hon. Member also asked me to confirm the circumstances in which the powers can be used; they are intended to be used as a last resort if the airspace change proposal is not progressed voluntarily. The CAA’s oversight team will work with sponsors to ensure, before it recommends to the Secretary of State that the direction powers be used, that they are not intended to be used if there are factors outside the airspace sponsor’s control. In any event, there are a number of procedural safeguards, such as consultation with the proposed recipient, the direction being in writing and the Secretary of State being of the view that the direction will assist in delivering the airspace modernisation strategy. There is also a provision to allow the recipient to appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal if it is claimed that the decision was based on an error of fact, wrong in law or made in the exercise of a discretion.
I have addressed all the new clauses and amendments; I hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me one or two other words. I do not wish to detain Members any longer than is necessary, but while I am on my feet I thank all Members who have participated in the passage of this Bill. I thank the Committee Chairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) and the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for having expertly guided the Bill through Committee, and I thank the Opposition, and particularly the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane), for their constructive criticism both here and in the other place. I thank the Bill team and all the team at the Department for Transport, the CAA and NATS, and the ministerial teams from the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Ministry of Defence, all of whom have played critical parts in bringing the Bill to the House.
The Bill is critical and, as we have already rehearsed, will bring airspace into the modern age and deal with the opportunities and challenges in respect of drones and a number of other critical aspects of aviation. It has taken us some time to get the Bill all the way through both Houses and to the position we are in today, but it is vital that we have done so. I thank all Members for their part in having brought the Bill to this position and I commend it to the House.
He has confused me as well, Mr Deputy Speaker.
There has been an acknowledgement of the issues raised in the new clauses and amendments. It is clear that we all agree on the objectives, even if we do not agree on the path to achieve them. I am a great believer in the powers or conversion, so we will campaign on, but this evening I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—(Robert Courts.)
I am proud to have Manchester airport in my constituency, as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker; I am proud to be shadow aviation spokesman; and I am proud of this country’s world-class aviation sector, which is the third largest on the planet. We want to protect the sector, grow it and make it better. We want to protect and grow the interlinked aerospace sector, in which the UK has world-leading engine and aircraft manufacturers. Rolls met Royce in the Midland hotel in Manchester—that is where it came from. We want to facilitate the study of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects for all our young people who are looking at careers in this highly skilled, highly paid sector. We want to get past this pandemic, and we will keep our eyes on the horizon. This legislation helps us to do that.
I have already discussed, today and previously, the passion that the Minister and I share for airspace modernisation, and what it brings: increased capacity in our skies. The noise and carbon reduction that it will bring will make aviation in our country better. For the benefit of Members who missed the procedures in the other place, and have not got around to watching the Committee stage in this place, I will repeat my noble Friend Lord Rosser’s point that the provision for drone technology has not been updated since the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990. He pointed out that that is closer to Yuri Gagarin’s first trip into space than it is to today; I will not regale the Minister again with Yuri Gagarin’s trip to Manchester in 1961, as I did in Committee.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you admonished me for going off-piste a few moments ago by talking about the Government’s lack of an aviation-specific deal. I was once given sage advice by the former Member for Buckingham and the previous Speaker of the House of Commons about never allowing bureaucracy a chance to say “no” to us in this place, so on that basis, I thank my caseworker Al Franco, who retires on Wednesday after a lifetime of service to the people of Manchester and Salford. He has worked for the late, great Paul Goggins and me over the past 10 years. Al has been a remarkable support to me, my team, and the communities of Wythenshawe and Sale East. I take this opportunity to thank him, and to wish him a long, happy retirement.
It has been a pleasure to work on this Bill, and I thank all those who the Minister has mentioned who have worked on it. I also thank the Minister for his courtesies during the passage of this Bill, and I will be pleased to see it gain Royal Assent.
I will be mercifully brief as well. I echo the sentiments of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane). I am proud to represent Glasgow airport and to be the Scottish National party transport spokesperson. We have been speaking a lot about aviation over this past year. The UK has the third largest aviation sector in the world, but it is very unlikely to come out of this pandemic with the third largest aviation sector in the world unless the Government make good on their year-long pledge of proper sectoral support. I will be keeping up the pressure on the Minister on that basis.
However, in the meantime and with regard to this Bill, I thank the Minister, the Bill team and the Clerks. In particular, I thank Sarah and her colleagues in the Public Bill Office for their help and patience on issues such as last-minute amendments submitted at the 11th hour on Thursdays. With that, I will say that we support this Bill, and I am glad to see some progress on airspace modernisation: it is about time. I agree that we need to look at the issue of drones in a bit more detail, as the shadow Minister has already outlined.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Third time and passed.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill deals with air traffic management and unmanned aircraft, which I am sure will be of great interest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to all Members of the House as we look towards the future of aviation.
The UK aviation sector is a global leader, and for an island nation it plays a vital role in connecting us to the rest of the world. It is an engine of trade and investment. It allows business to connect and tourists to visit all parts of the UK, and lets our citizens explore the world, and visit family and friends. Aviation has long been at the heart of the United Kingdom’s economic success, which is why the Government’s most immediate priority is to combat covid-19 and get the aviation sector safely up and running once again. We must also look to, and prepare for, the future. Aviation will recover, and it will grow, and grow sustainably, over the years and decades ahead. As passenger demand recovers, it is more important than ever to consider ways to future-proof our air space, which is a key part of our national transport infrastructure.
The Bill will introduce measures to support the much needed modernisation of our airspace, update the air traffic licensing framework to bring it in line with best practice, provide alleviation from the requirement to use slots at co-ordinated airports 80% of the time for them to be retained in the following scheduling period, and provide greater enforcement powers to help the police to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft.
Airspace modernisation is a critical infrastructure programme of national importance. The benefits of redesigning these motorways in the sky are significant for all those who use and are affected by airspace. The UK’s airspace is some of the most complex in the world, yet there has been little change to its overall structure since the 1950s. Upgrading it is essential to open up airspace for all users, including general aviation flyers and new types of aircraft such as drones or, as they are properly called, unmanned aircraft.
The Bill will limit the aircraft noise experienced by local communities, and reduce traffic delays when demand returns. Without change, predictions show that by 2030 a third of flights could be unnecessarily delayed by an average of 30 minutes, which is 72 times higher than in 2015. Critically, the emissions savings that modernisation will deliver are a key component of the UK’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050.
Unquestionably, 2020 was the toughest ever year for commercial aviation, but the need for modernisation has not changed. It is a long-term programme to future-proof against long-term demand, growth and change. However, the route to modernisation will change. In view of the pandemic and its effects on the aviation industry, most airports have temporarily paused their work on airspace change. But there will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, I hope, when the airspace change programme will be revitalised. The provisions in part 1 of the Bill will be critical to the success of that programme when that time comes.
The UK’s airspace is highly interdependent, particularly over the south-east region. For airspace change to take place, airports or other persons involved in airspace change have to work together and take account of the needs of neighbouring airports as well as their own. If one airport pulls out, it could delay the whole modernisation programme. Should that situation occur, neither the Government nor the Civil Aviation Authority currently has the powers to guarantee that airspace change is taken forward. Given the complex and interdependent nature of the airspace change proposals required for modernisation, the powers in the Bill are necessary to avoid any sponsor holding up another airspace change proposal or, potentially, the whole programme.
The current challenges facing the aviation sector are extraordinary, so let me reassure Members that the powers in part 1 of the Bill are only intended to be used as a last resort if airspace changes are not taken forward voluntarily or at the requisite pace. The Government do not intend to use these powers where delays are due to factors outside a sponsor’s control—for example, as a result of covid-19. The Bill also contains procedural safeguards for the potential recipient of a direction to progress or co-operate in an airspace change proposal—an ACP—designed to ensure that any direction is proportionate and robustly justified.
I turn to part 2 of the Bill. It has been more than 20 years since the establishment of an economic regulatory regime for the provision of en route air traffic control services. During that time, the technological and economic landscape of air traffic services has changed dramatically. The provisions in part 2 will modernise the regulatory regime for the provision of en route air traffic services provided by NATS En Route plc—or NERL, as it called —and regulated by the CAA. That will ensure that the framework remains fit for purpose and continues to build on the UK’s excellent safety record.
The Bill will allow the CAA to take a more direct and independent approach. It will enable changes to licence conditions considered necessary to protect consumers and respond to changes in air traffic services over time. It also updates the enforcement and penalties regime to ensure that the CAA can effectively regulate NERL in the interests of users and consumers. That includes the introduction of proportionate sanctions, which brings the regulatory regime into line with other modern regulatory systems.
Part 2 of the Bill also includes provisions relating to airport slot alleviation specifically in response to the covid-19 pandemic. The alleviation of slots at capacity-constrained airports is governed by retained EU regulation 95/93. There are eight slot co-ordinated or level 3 airports in the UK: Birmingham, Bristol, Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester and Stansted. Regulation 95/93 requires airlines with allocated slots at level 3 airports to use those slots at least 80% of the time in the preceding scheduling period in order to retain their slot in the upcoming equivalent period. In ordinary circumstances, that 80:20 rule, or “use it or lose it” rule, encourages the efficient use of scarce airport capacity, while allowing airlines a degree of flexibility in their operations. However, owing to the unprecedented impact of covid-19, the European Commission waived the 80:20 rule for the summer 2020 season. That was subsequently extended to cover winter 2020-21. The UK supported the European Commission’s position. That alleviation has helped to protect future connectivity and airline finances and reduce the risk of ghost flights being run to retain slots, with all the consequent environmental impact and unnecessary expenditure that that would have.
However, it is with regret that the Government anticipate that the effects of covid-19 on the aviation industry will continue for some time to come. Passenger demand is not predicted to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023, and the retained powers of regulation 95/93 were expressly limited to 2 April 2021. Part 2 therefore provides the Secretary of State with a power, exercisable until 24 August 2024, to waive the 80:20 rule beyond 2 April 2021. It also includes a power to set alternative ratios to the 80:20 rule for a specified scheduling period or season, and allows the Secretary of State to apply conditions to an alleviation of the 80:20 rule, such as by setting a deadline for the return of slots not intended for operation. As we expect disruption to air travel to continue for several years, it is imperative that the UK has the necessary powers at its disposal to provide alleviation beyond the summer 2021 season should the evidence suggest that it is warranted.
I now turn to part 3. Hon. Members will have seen the positive uses of unmanned aircraft, often referred to as drones, during the covid-19 pandemic, such as trialling the flying of medical supplies to the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Wight. The Government are committed to harnessing the positive impacts of unmanned aircraft and supporting this growing industry, but it must be done in a way that protects the safety and security of people, other aircraft, and sensitive sites. The careless, inconsiderate and malicious use of drones and other unmanned aircraft continues to pose a safety risk to others.
The provisions in part 3 therefore provide new and additional police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. The police will be able to issue a fixed penalty notice for less serious offending—for example, where a person had flown too close to uninvolved people but not caused, or intended to cause, any harm. They will also be given the necessary powers to require an unmanned aircraft to be grounded, to use stop and search, and to enter and search premises under warrant for certain offences relating to unmanned aircraft.
In addition, we are providing for the use of counter-unmanned aircraft technology that interferes with property or wireless telegraphy for the purposes of detecting and preventing certain offences involving unmanned aircraft. We are adding the civil nuclear constabulary and senior management for prisons to the list of those who can authorise the use of this technology, allowing them better to protect sites such as nuclear sites and prisons. The provisions in part 3 have been developed with the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs Council on behalf of UK police forces. They will address operational gaps in police powers and ensure that offenders who use unmanned aircraft for unlawful purposes are dealt with more effectively and appropriately in order to maintain public safety and security.
In summary, this Bill will future-proof the aviation sector by creating simpler and more efficient routes, reduce congestion while assisting aviation to meet its climate change targets, and ensure the safe use of our skies. At a time when we are so often concerned with the cares of the present, this is an opportunity to shape the future of aviation. I warmly welcome the House’s attention to the Bill.
Before I call Mr Kane, let me say that some very sad news has broken that Captain Sir Tom Moore has sadly died. On behalf of the House of Commons, can I pass on our deepest condolences to his family? He brought joy to the nation. He was an inspiration to everybody in this country, and his achievement was properly recognised by a knighthood, which was movingly presented by Her Majesty the Queen in person at a special ceremony. I know that the entire nation will mourn his passing.
Mr Deputy Speaker, that is very sad news indeed. Some people are born great, some people achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I think Sir Tom was probably all three of those things; I am sure the Minister will concur when he comes back to the Dispatch Box a little later. He was an inspiration to the whole nation at a time of crisis, and a real candle in the gloom for the British people. I wholeheartedly concur with your comments, Mr Deputy Speaker.
It is great that you are chairing this debate, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I know personally of your aviation expertise. You have been a great support to me, as the constituency MP for Manchester airport over the years, as I chaired the friends of Manchester airport group. I have been genuinely grateful for all your help throughout that time.
Turning to the matter at hand, I must first thank Members of the other place for their tireless and diligent work in getting this important Bill through to this stage. It was certainly a long process there, but we can all largely agree that it was well worth it in the end. As the Minister has said, the Bill will grant the Government powers to modernise UK airspace, update the licensing of air traffic control and give police new powers over the misuse of drones. Those three areas have all been in need of updating in recent years, so I am pleased to support the Bill receiving its Second Reading today and look forward to it completing its remaining stages.
I share the Minister’s ambition for airspace modernisation. The country has essentially been managing its airspace with analogue technology from the previous century, with piecemeal updates as demand ballooned over the past few decades—an analogue system in a digital age.
I commend the Civil Aviation Authority, which is nearing its 50th anniversary, for everything it has done and continues to do to maintain exemplary safety standards in the sector, such that, as the now-cliched line goes, the riskiest part of flying has become going to and from the airport. Our creaking airspace management has many inefficiencies, most importantly constraints on the volume of flights and needless burning of extra fuel as jets circle round and round before landing. Clearly, few of us need convincing that modernising the airspace should be a priority, and the Bill provides the Department for Transport with powers to ensure that that happens. I fully support that principle.
The second part of the Bill, which involves the regulation of air traffic control services, is also welcome, though the circumstances that brought it about are not: two recent air traffic system failures, a voice communication system failure in December 2013 and a computer system failure in December 2014. I was thankful that there were no accidents or safety concerns over the handling of the incidents themselves.
The Minister and I have discussed airport slots at length, including during consideration of a recent statutory instrument on the temporary extension of a waiver on slot regulations owing to the covid-19 pandemic. I am content that the Bill, through clause 12, will continue to provide the Government with the tools to tackle airport slot allocations issues arising from the pandemic.
The third part of the Bill—providing further police powers over the use of unmanned aircraft—is long overdue. As technology has moved on, drones have become more common, and it was only a matter of time before an incident such as that at Gatwick airport in 2018 disrupted air traffic. Such incidents and others, at prisons and elsewhere, will only increase if the use of drones is not more adequately policed. I therefore welcome the additional police powers in the Bill.
We support the principles in the Bill, but there are a few areas of concern, which I hope to work on with the Minister and Members in Committee. Principally, I have concerns about the scope of the powers that will be conferred on the Secretary of State for Transport by part 1; the Minister referred to that in his speech. If a specific definition of the Government’s enforcement powers is not set down, this Department, or a future Department, might be able to use them for other airspace purposes. That issue was raised by the Airport Operators Association and I ask the Minister to address it. Why is the scope of the power so broad?
The second issue, bluntly, is where the money will come from for this airspace change programme. I understand that this is not a money Bill and things might have changed recently, but ACOG—the Airspace Change Organising Group, which is managing this ambitious modernisation programme—has not received full funding promised by the Government to proceed with its work. The Minister might care to address that point.
It is necessary to acknowledge that capital spending is at a record low in an aviation sector that has been so thoroughly gutted by the covid-19 pandemic. It may be a step too far to require airports to stump up the cash for this at the current time. It seems to me that the Government could start the process. Has the Minister considered funding phase 1 of the programme? Is he looking at mechanisms to finance this vital airspace change programme?
Finally for today, I would like to raise a query about the Bill providing the police with greater powers to enforce unmanned aircraft safety. My concerns are that this is not matched with the appropriate resource to effectively use these new powers. While this is out of the scope of the Bill, I ask the Minister what further steps he and his Department will take to ensure that the correct investment and resource are made available by Government. I look forward to working with the Minister and Members of the House to bring this important and timely Bill through to the next stages.
I am very pleased to be able to speak on this Bill, because London Luton airport employs a great number of my constituents. The town of Leighton Buzzard and the villages of Heath and Reach, Billington, Stanbridge, Tilsworth, Eaton Bray and, in particular, Whipsnade, Studham and Kensworth are all overflown by planes coming in to land at London Luton airport. Indeed, I see them from my garden. I was delighted to learn on Friday that London Luton airport is able to claim up to £8 million from the airport and ground operations support scheme. That is much needed and very good news for our area.
I initiated the Westminster Hall debate on the work of the Jet Zero Council on 14 October last year. It was during my research for that debate that I realised the contribution of airspace modernisation to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. I met the Airspace Change Organising Group, which first alerted me to the fact that flight paths are now part of our critical national infrastructure and are, as the Minister said, highways in the sky. However, I would be grateful if he can confirm that the ACOG will get the money it needs to finish the job. I think the matter may be with our friends at the Treasury, and if he wants some assistance with that, I am sure that we would all be delighted to give him a hand.
If we get airspace change right, there are huge benefits to be realised. As the Minister said, aircraft frequently fly further than necessary on routes that follow sub-optimal climb and descent profiles, burning more fuel and creating additional greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental benefits of getting this right are enormous. Aircraft will be able to fly more direct routes, with quicker climbs to energy-efficient cruising altitudes and later descents to help to reduce emissions as well as provide opportunities to reduce the noise footprint on the ground. That will be hugely welcomed by many of my constituents, as indeed will the work of Dame Ann Dowling’s silent aircraft initiative in Cambridge.
Upgrading our airspace is a key part of building back better and contributing to a cleaner recovery for the UK economy. Current forecasts show that modernising airspace in the UK offers the potential to reduce future aviation emissions by up to 20%—a fifth—by 2050, which would be one of the most substantive contributions. It is also crucial for supporting the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. It will ensure that our future air transport networks deliver the necessary resilience to shocks and the efficiency to underpin aviation’s vital role in driving the UK’s global connectivity and economic recovery.
For the millions of passengers who will return to the skies in the future, upgrading UK airspace will help to prevent potential delays, reduce congestion and make travel easier and more efficient for us all. As the Minister said—and it bears repetition—failure to take action would mean that one in three flights arriving or leaving an airport was likely to be delayed by an average of half an hour by 2030. That would be 72 times worse than it was in 2015 and would be very damaging for passengers, businesses and the environment.
The airspace change programme will also strengthen the sustainability, resilience and competitiveness of regional air travel, which serves towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom. Regional air travel is a very important enabler for a balanced economic recovery, empowering local tourism, business, and international trade. I want us to get to jet zero as soon as possible, which is why the work of the new Whittle laboratory in Cambridge and companies such as Zero Avia, which is based in Bedfordshire and completed the world’s first hydrogen passenger flight last September, are so important. Sustainable aviation fuels obviously play a key role, as well.
The airspace change programme will also enable the United Kingdom to integrate seamlessly into the global system, and it is essential to accommodate unmanned aircraft systems and electric urban mobility aircraft as well. I want to ask the Minister about the UK’s plans for satellite air traffic control, because I understand from Dr Adam Camilletti of the Whittle laboratory that aircraft can now be tracked anywhere in the world by orbiting satellites, which until recently was only possible when they were close to a land-based air traffic control. Specifically, this means that aircraft can be actively rerouted, allowing them to use the jet stream more optimally and avoid areas where aircraft-induced clouds are most harmful. The separation between aircraft over the oceans can also be reduced, which would allow planes to use the jet stream more efficiently. What is really important is that these changes could significantly reduce the climate effects of aviation in the relatively short term.
The relevance of these new possibilities is that, as the Government now own OneWeb, that system could be used as a global aircraft tracking constellation. This would allow the United Kingdom to show leadership in tackling climate change while capitalising on our investment in OneWeb. I am aware that the UK national air traffic systems are already pioneering a similar approach with a Canadian company, Aireon. If the UK has first-mover advantage with this satellite technology, we could create a lot of jobs, which has never been more necessary than as we emerge from this pandemic. I would be very grateful if the Minister could address this issue in his closing remarks.
On behalf of the SNP, I very much echo the comments about Captain Sir Tom Moore. He led an extraordinary life with an absolutely wonderful finale, and his work over this past year will never be forgotten. My condolences to his family and friends.
I welcome the fact that the legislation to put airspace change and modernisation on a statutory footing is finally before us, and I agree with any extension of the 80/20 slots rule as well. I would prefer it, however, if other factors such as employment conditions were also used as criteria when allocating slots. I also welcome the increase in powers for the police and prison officers to tackle drone flights. While drone supply flights into prisons is not currently a big problem in Scotland, it is growing, with more than half of Scottish prisons recording incidents involving drones, as well as evidence from the recovery of drug packages that other flights are going undetected.
The carnage caused by drug addiction in wider society is magnified still further in prison. Drone technology has allowed those who profit from this misery to evade security measures in our prisons, so giving the police and prison authorities the power to intervene and stop the supply at its source is a welcome development that will receive approval from the Scottish Parliament after Royal Assent. I also hope there will be improved investment for police forces and the Prison Service in England and Wales, to allow them to use these powers properly and proportionately, and allowing Scotland the Barnett consequentials to make the same investment.
The flipside of the harmful use of drones is their positive use in logistics and distribution if properly managed and regulated, and I hope that the Bill will do just that. AGS Airports, which owns and manages Glasgow airport in my constituency, along with Aberdeen and Southampton airports, is leading a consortium that will develop and trial what will be the UK’s first national distribution network to use drones to transport essential medicines, blood, organs and other medical supplies throughout Scotland. The consortium of 14 organisations, including the University of Strathclyde, NATS and Connected Places Catapult, has secured £1.5 million from the industrial strategy future flight challenge fund to demonstrate how autonomous drone technology can enhance access to essential medical supplies, particularly in rural parts of Scotland.
The project started in December last year and will involve live drone flight trials in addition to developing the ground infrastructure needed to recharge the drones and the systems to control them. A key aspect of the project, which dovetails rather well with other parts of the Bill, will be designing pathways to ensure that drones can safely share airspace with civil aviation. Derek Provan, the chief executive of AGS, has said:
“This project has the potential to completely revolutionise the way in which healthcare services are delivered in Scotland.”
Karen Bell, the head of research and development for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, has said:
“NHS Ayrshire & Arran are excited to be leading on the delivery of this project on behalf of the West of Scotland Innovation Hub. This is an opportunity to work with aviation colleagues to explore the innovative use of drone technology to address some of the potential challenges facing daily delivery of NHS services, not only within NHS Ayrshire & Arran but across the West of Scotland.”
We often hear of drones in a negative light, be that in their use in warfare, in closing airports as we saw at Gatwick, or in reported near misses with aircraft, but it is clear that they can provide many positives within a fairly and well-regulated framework.
The changes to airspace that the Bill paves the way for are absolutely vital, as previous speakers and the Minister have outlined. Given the exponential growth in aviation over the decades, it will come as a surprise to many that the management of our skies dates back to a plan conceived and implemented in the 1950s, before the age of the super jumbo, when British European Airways and BOAC ruled the skies over the UK. There can be no argument but that the airspace management framework currently in place requires urgent review and a new policy and plan that will hopefully last for the long run.
Of course, many of the necessary technical improvements have been put in place or are in the pipeline, including the ITEC system at NATS in Prestwick. ITEC stands for interoperability through European collaboration, and it forms the basis of the two equal parts of the next generation of traffic management: software technology, including flight data processing; and the controller working position. This technology will strengthen safety and increase efficiency, and therefore improve the environmental impact of flights through more detailed planning of all flights’ trajectories. It will also enhance interoperability between European control centres, allowing us to share those detailed trajectories to optimise aircraft flights across borders.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that we have a modern and efficient airspace fit for the 21st century, but I am concerned about the gap that has been left in the plans for airspace management. Giving the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport legal authority and powers is one thing—I take the Minister at his word on hoping not to use them—but that will mean nothing if there are no actual plans to implement. That is the danger caused by the pandemic that is faced by the Airspace Change Organising Group. The financial devastation unleashed on the industry has meant a funding shortfall of around £8 million from what was needed for the group to continue and complete its work. That work has been ongoing for three years now. Given the sums sloshing about the Treasury in recent months, £8 million is a comparative drop in the ocean, and the economic boost and increase in efficiency that the airspace modernisation programme will bring is far in excess of that. It would be ludicrous if the last three years’ work by the group had to be binned for lack of that bridging cash to allow the group to finish its work and ensure that our airspace was fit for the 21st century.
Another strong point that has been alluded to is that, like the rest of our transport infrastructure, aviation needs investment and renewal for the long term. Given the rebuilding of our economic future that is needed as we come out of the pandemic, strategic support is crucial to a sustainable future for aviation and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports.
Airports and the wider industry want to see a more efficient use of airspace, not simply to funnel more flights in, but to minimise the impact of noise and pollution on local communities and to ensure the best environment so that direct links from regional airports to Europe and beyond can be viable, reducing unnecessary transit at overloaded hub airports such as Heathrow. Penny-pinching by the Treasury simply will not cut it, and I hope this will not happen. I urge the Minister to lobby his colleagues to come up with the cash to allow this crucial work to be done properly and come to a proper conclusion. While he is doing so, he could look at the precipice that the industry is staring over, without any real prospect of recovery even beginning until late summer or more likely the autumn. The sector needs proper support, and it needed it yesterday.
I take this opportunity again to urge the Secretary of State to ensure that the Airspace Change Organising Group is given a seat at the Jet Zero table. One key outcome of the airspace modernisation strategy will be a reduction in carbon emissions through increased efficiency in the skies. It is also the cheapest and easiest win with regard to carbon reduction. It seems an oversight, therefore, to leave the group out of top-tier discussions about how aviation can contribute to a low and zero-carbon future, particularly as we approach the COP26 summit in Glasgow. I hope that is on the Department’s radar and a clear mistake can be remedied as soon as possible.
In concluding, the Scottish Parliament passed a legislative consent motion on a previous incarnation of the Bill, and I hope that, pending discussions between the UK and Scottish Governments on police and Prison Service powers, the Scottish Parliament will again give consent for the measures in the Bill.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), and I welcome his support for this Bill. I start by congratulating the Minister on his appointment to this important role, on his contribution this afternoon and on explaining so clearly the objectives of this necessary Bill.
Like many in the House, I welcome the objectives of the Bill to update the legislative framework for the control of civilian UK airspace. Through the modernisation of airspace, we can reduce carbon emissions from aviation, reduce the impact of flightpaths and tackle the misuse of unmanned aircraft, such as drones. It is particularly fitting that after some years of delay, largely through the intervention of the general election in 2019, this Bill is being brought to the House on the very day that Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta publishes his seminal review on the economics of biodiversity.
Aviation plays a vital part in our economy, but it is crucial that we find a way to reduce its environmental impact. While that is not the primary purpose of the Bill, it is a necessary and fundamental ancillary benefit. Inefficient flightpaths set some decades ago will lead to longer travel times for passengers and freight traffic and therefore greater carbon dioxide emissions from flights. Airspace modernisation, if robust, can play a part in helping the UK meet our net zero obligations by 2050.
I want to use my brief contribution today to highlight the potential impact of flightpaths over those parts of our landmass that have a special place in nature and are designated as areas of special significance, including the national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest. They are areas that we as a nation have designated as being of sufficient importance to warrant additional protection. It seems to me that when the impact of noise pollution is well known, we should ensure that such areas continue to be protected as much as possible through any changes to flightpaths.
I place on record my thanks to my noble Friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge for tabling an amendment to this Bill that would have precluded aircraft from flying below 7,000 feet over areas of outstanding natural beauty, except for the purposes of safety or landing and take-off from airports and airfields. Seven thousand feet is the point at which noise is considered by the Civil Aviation Authority to be a pertinent consideration when designing flightpaths.
While Lord Randall did not press the amendment to a Division, he did refer in the debate on 22 January in the other place to some written questions I had asked of the then Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst), and I will briefly comment on her responses. I am aware that existing air navigation guidance suggests that
“where practicable, it is desirable that airspace routes below 7,000 feet should seek to avoid flying over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks.”
That is welcome, so far as it goes, but it frankly does not go very far. Many people would like to see the limit raised to a higher threshold. Even at the existing height restriction, there appears to be almost nothing in the way of sanction should the advice be ignored. I recognise that it will not be possible for flights to avoid all AONBs and national parks—Gatwick is surrounded by them, for example—but I would like further reassurance from the Minister about the redress or sanctions available should civilian aircraft fly lower than they should.
There may be a tool at hand to help him. I warmly welcome the establishment in 2019 of the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, under the leadership of head commissioner Rob Light, to provide some transparent and independent advice in the aircraft noise debate. While it is clearly early days, ICCAN’s ambitions are welcome.
In the foreword to his first corporate strategy, Mr Light said:
“Welcome action is being taken by UK Government, the aviation industry and others to address climate change and reduce carbon emissions. I believe that aviation noise must also be considered by the industry and Government as a major issue, alongside climate change.”
I agree with him. Given that we are proposing changing flight paths, it is prudent for us to have robust information about how noise will impact the public and the natural world that we are trying to protect on the ground. While not interfering with its independence, I urge the Minister to ensure that ICCAN’s remit includes engaging not only with communities adjacent to airports, airfields and their flight paths, but those responsible for managing our designated landscapes, national parks and AONBs, and wider areas likely to be impacted adversely by noise.
I have been contacted by a number of constituents over the past couple of years complaining of increased civilian air traffic. They live within the Shropshire Hills AONB, which covers some 300 square miles—half of my constituency of Ludlow. They have seen, and in some cases recorded, an increase in flight numbers, particularly during the summer of 2019, which was prior to the pandemic—flight numbers will clearly have declined during the pandemic. They found it very difficult to secure information on the cause of the increase, details of aircraft movements at different heights or what could be done about it. Given that challenge, with exemptions to freedom of information requests for several civil aviation bodies, I urge the Minister to consider whether the application of FOI exemptions in this area remains appropriate, for the sake of greater public transparency.
I welcome the measures concerning unmanned aircraft and drones in part 3 of the Bill. It is clear that this nascent but rapidly growing industry has a strong future with huge applications, from which we will all derive significant benefit. I am particularly interested to see how, for example, drones are already being used to monitor environmental change and the impact of pollution.
However, we have already seen the ability of drones to disrupt people’s lives, including the notable incident at Gatwick airport in 2018, when more than 1,000 flights were impacted by a drone siting close to the runway, so we must consider carefully how we can maintain public safety from malicious actors using drones in ways that are dangerous to public health or safety. I welcome the measures in the Bill to do that, but I urge the Minister to ensure that he has sufficient flexibility through the Bill and its regulations to keep up to date with emerging technology, to ensure small unmanned aircraft or drones can be identified in flight and safely grounded, if necessary, by police, prison or other relevant security services. I look forward to supporting the Bill this evening.
Like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to express my sadness at the loss of Captain Tom Moore and send my condolences to his family.
It is a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), who has campaigned so steadily on these issues to protect our environment.
Let me be clear. I welcome the aim of the Bill, which, as it states in the briefing, is:
“to deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys.”
Whether the Bill’s further aim of delivering more capacity is compatible with “quieter and cleaner journeys” has yet to be seen and yet to be proved. Assessing the past performance and the current practice of the aviation industry leads us to be extremely sceptical that the continued expansion of capacity will enable the aviation sector to be cleaner and quieter. As we hopefully bring the covid pandemic under control in the coming period, there is obviously an urgent need now to address the next imminent crisis, which is the existential threat of climate change. If the aviation industry is to play its part in tackling climate change, the Government must be equipped with the powers to drive through the necessary changes to aviation practices.
The Bill does take a first step in seeking those powers and I welcome it in that respect. The problem is that it is yet another piecemeal measure without the context of an overarching strategy for aviation to secure an economically and environmentally viable future for the industry. The Government promised they would publish, in 2020, an aviation White Paper, “Aviation 2050”, to spell out their views and plans for the future of aviation. I appreciate and understand why the impact of the covid crisis has delayed the White Paper—I am happy to cut the Government some slack on that one. However, we have also been repeatedly promised, since last March, that the Government would at least come forward with an interim sector strategy that would see the industry through the pandemic and lay the foundations for the future. It is disappointing that that has not been forthcoming. Instead, there has just been a steady drip of unco-ordinated announcements of short-term support schemes.
Apart from this tardy and piecemeal sticking plaster approach, one of the worst elements of the situation is that the Government’s financial support to the aviation companies has been without any conditions about the behaviour of those companies. That has allowed unprincipled companies like Heathrow Airport Ltd in effect to use taxpayers’ money to treat its staff—many of my constituents—like serfs. They have seized on the crisis to impose fire and rehire tactics, cut wages, undermine working conditions and seek to break the unions.
Instead of this Bill, the Government should bring forward a comprehensive strategy that provides the support and direction to the industry to see it through the tough period it faces over the next 12 months, but also a strategy for the long term: setting out the clear objective of creating an environmentally sustainable aviation sector; setting out the parameters in which the industry will have to operate to achieve that; establishing the decision-making, implementation and regulatory structures that will successfully drive the strategy through; and, of course, identifying the policies and the financial support that will be available to secure what we are arguing for, which is a just transition.
The Bill is a fish out of water. It is impossible to discern how it fits into any clear strategy for a viable future for aviation. It leads to even more confusion over who does what, who leads on what and who decides on what. It fails to inspire confidence that it has taken any account of the most recent research and understanding of the social, health and environmental impacts of expanding aviation, especially the impacts of noise and air pollution. Worryingly, as a constituency MP with an airport in my constituency, it appears to sideline even further the role of local authorities and local communities in decision making.
The Bill will go through its Second Reading tonight, but it just provides yet more evidence that the Government’s whole approach to the aviation industry is increasingly turning into a dog’s breakfast. The people who suffer from this self-evident fiasco, which is ongoing, are, regrettably, my constituents and others. Although the Bill will go through, I hope the Government now recognise their responsibility and their promises to bring forward an aviation strategy paper, so we can properly discuss the long-term future of the sector.
I express my condolences to Sir Tom Moore’s friends and family. He has been special in many ways, and a stellar example of how doing such an apparently small thing has influences that we could not possibly imagine.
This is Sedgefield calling Westminster control, and I apologise for not using my pilot’s headset, as you would prefer, Mr Deputy Speaker. As a private pilot, I guess I should declare an interest. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who work in providing pilots with a safe space in which to operate. Their work is critical not only for pilots, but obviously for their passengers and those on the ground. I have to say that the chances of my flying in most of the airspace we are discussing is somewhere between nil and negligible, but I do retain hope.
I will consider the three parts of this Bill. On part 1, it makes eminent sense to me that there should be a single authority to force co-operation should the parties responsible for the management of airspace be unable to agree. The Secretary of State’s delegation to the CAA is an appropriate reference. Over the years, the geographical influence of the bigger airport corridors has evolved so that potential changes in one corridor are increasingly likely to have impacts on another. I know that when flying in the south-east, even as a recreational pilot, the airspace is increasingly restricted. The Bill gives the Transport Secretary new powers to ensure that airports modernise their airspace, with the power to fine those that do not implement changes quickly enough. I strongly believe that an absolute power to require the parties to progress collaboratively is wholly appropriate should it be required, but only when it is required.
Moving on to part 2, it is clear that anyone who observes traffic at the major airports is well aware of the congestion that can arise and the obvious desire to reduce the need to stack aircraft in a holding pattern awaiting landing, which is so obviously a waste of fuel and an environmentally unfriendly process. By modernising our airspace, we can reduce the time it takes for a plane to land, meaning we cut pollution, reduce noise nuisance for the communities below and reduce delays for passengers. With appropriate tools and systems, the integration of different classes of aviation also becomes much more achievable, which should promote efficiency for all classes without introducing safety concerns. There are many challenges for the air travel business in addressing its carbon footprint and making it possible for flights to have as little wasted time in the air as possible, and this is clearly a step in the right direction.
It is necessary to update the regulatory regime for the provision of en route air traffic control services. The licensing framework under the Transport Act 2000 needs to be modernised to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, and that it continues to build on the UK’s excellent safety record and to be resilient. For those living under the flight paths, the opportunity to have a system in use that provides occasional relief by redirecting flights for specific time periods will, I am sure, be welcome. In addition, there are many busy airports around the world that happily integrate general aviation and commercial flights, and these opportunities should be more achievable under more advanced systems as and when they are introduced.
My main concern today, however, is about the powers on allowing the waiver of the rule that airlines must use their allocated airport slots at least 80% of the time to avoid losing the slots in the next season. While I have no desire to encourage airlines to fly inefficient routes to retain their lucrative allocated landing slots, I must express concern that any latitude offered is restricted in its use and closely monitored.
I support giving a helping hand to airlines during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning they are not forced to fly empty planes, but the ownership of these slots has been abused in the past to frustrate opportunities for regional airports, such as Teesside in my Sedgefield constituency. While I accept that we are in peculiar times, we must still look to deliver appropriate slots for UK regional airports. I would strongly encourage that, in taking the power of the waiver, the Secretary of State recognises that in using it he needs to be cognisant of unintended consequences. It is imperative that, if he chooses to use the power of waiver, he still enables a review of slots, does not allow a full roll-over and retains a mechanism to reallocate some of those, particularly to support regional airports.
In order to level up and economically strengthen the UK’s regions, it is vital that areas such as the Tees Valley are able to offer worldwide connectivity. That can only realistically be achieved by ensuring that our airport is connected to Heathrow. We have been very pleased to restore flights from Teesside to Heathrow this year. That route closed some 11 years ago, when British Midland took the long-standing Teesside slots to use on other routes. Today, the service is provided by Eastern Airways, although the airport is in the process of finalising arrangements with the UK’s largest regional airline, Loganair, for it to take over operation of the route from March 2021, bringing expertise and worldwide connections that will help the route to grow and prosper. Loganair already holds the slots required for the launch in March but is currently on the waiting list for the Heathrow slots in summer 2021 and beyond. An inappropriate or excessive waiver of the “use it or lose it” provisions would risk allowing legacy airlines to sit on slots without using them, wasting air carriage capacity at a time when we must make best use of all the resources of economic strength at our disposal.
It is critical that the UK’s airports are fully utilised and that our regions are well connected. If the wrong decision is made and the regulation is totally waived, it could be hugely damaging to entrepreneurial regional airports. The efforts of the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, to deliver regional investment and the potential relocation of the Treasury to the Tees Valley would be enhanced by a growing opportunity for links to Heathrow, and I hope that those are not frustrated.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Minister and his officials how reforms could be conducted to help ensure that Teesside International airport has the opportunity to secure long-term connections to Heathrow for services to and from UK domestic points. I hope that the laudable efforts to support the airline industry, reduce waste and reduce the carbon footprint do not simultaneously damage the regions of the UK. Finally, having seen the disruption around Gatwick and understanding the risks of drones around prisons, I am pleased to support the measures in part 3 of the Bill. I will not drone on any further, Mr Deputy Speaker.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell). It is with sadness that we hear of the passing of Sir Tom, and I pass on my condolences to the family at this time.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate on the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill. At the outset, I would like to thank the Minister for the opportunity to be involved in two briefing sessions on this yesterday, which were extremely informative.
Since the 1950s, airspace changes have been made in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion, with adjustments being made in response to the growth of traffic levels. Of course, that was pre covid-19, and this is seen as a fairly good time to make changes, when there is a reduction in the number of flights. That has resulted in various inefficiencies that have put constraints on the number of flights that our airspace can accommodate. Technical advances have made it possible to increase capacity, but unfortunately, they have not necessarily made their way through to the regulatory change that the Bill will enable.
In the past, aircraft have ended up circling over airports—stacking. Many of us have sat in planes that are circling, predominantly over the south-east of England, which is probably one of the most congested airspaces in the UK. That adds to the problems of pollution and noise pollution for local residents. This Bill is an opportunity to deal with some of those issues. I represent an area where there is some manufacturing relating to the airline industry. It is important that we encourage innovation and the delivery of improvements in that area. That has been going on, and it can be seen in the form of quieter and more efficient aircraft, which will benefit the environment and those areas that are affected.
I believe that this Bill will deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys. It will also increase capacity and reduce the need for stacking over airports. I listened to some of the comments made earlier with great interest, especially those in relation to the opportunities that may exist for using satellite technology to direct planes. We should make better use of that. Such technology will help to ensure that planes are not burning fuel and that they are using the best routes. Because of technology, the separation that was added in a bygone age will not be necessary, and we should be progressing and moving on with that.
Included in the Bill are provisions to consult communities when airspace changes are being introduced. I welcome that and think that that is something that needs to be addressed. The Minister made reference to what is called “ghost flights”, which is where people fly planes just for the sake of holding a slot. The flexibility that will be introduced in relation to this, at least until August 2024, is to ensure that we are not purposefully wasting fuel, causing additional costs to airlines. As a passenger, I know how important it is to ensure that passengers get the benefit of reduced flight costs if that is possible, but that is one of the add-ons that might take a while to work its way through. I appreciate that any advances in the reduction of running costs and such like will be of benefit to all.
It was with interest that I read in the briefing notes that if we continued on the current trajectory, we would end up—I cannot remember the figure exactly—with a 72 times increase in the number of flights with a delay of more than half an hour by 2030. If that were to happen, it would be a major problem. If we can alleviate that, it would be of great help to everyone.
The second part of the Bill deals with air traffic and the licence modifications. This is an area that brings in the CAA and NATS and those involved in the operating of those modifications. Investment in new and improved radar needs to be put in place. I am working from memory here, but there is a 10-year licence, with an agreement to extend it to 15 years. In doing so, that will provide an opportunity for greater investment, because the payback time is longer. Therefore, there is an opportunity for those who want to invest. We need to encourage the introduction of the latest technology in our aviation industry. I am not saying that our industry is not safe; we have some of the safest airports in the world, and it is important that we maintain that. Bringing forward a Bill such as this will help us to stay at the top of the tree in this area. Those are all positive things.
Let me move on now to the third part of the Bill. Mention has been made of the 2018 debacle at Gatwick Airport and the difficulty that it caused. I and two of my staff were impacted by what happened on that day—that very eventful day. Drones are a wonderful invention and can be very positive, but legislation needs to be put in place to deal with those who want to misuse them. The police require additional powers to enforce that legislation. The idea of no-fly zones for drones also needs to be considered and the Bill goes towards giving us some assurance in this area.
Another issue that needs to be looked at—this was mentioned yesterday in the briefing session—is those who use laser pens. This causes major problems. We have to focus on what is operating in aerospace and the effect on commercial airlines flying over densely populated areas. We need to do everything in our power not only in respect of issuing fines but to give the police and those who are responsible the teeth to be able to go after those who abuse such equipment and create problems. Some people do it wilfully. Mention has been made of being able to identify drones by giving them a specific ID relating to the people who buy them and ensuring that those people are licensed and have adequate competency to use such vehicles. We do not pursue strongly enough those who cause problems and the penalties should definitely reflect how serious the effects could be and how many people’s lives could be affected by such abuse.
The Bill covers those who abuse drones by using them to smuggle things into prisons and all sorts of things. We have to have measures in place and that needs to be covered in the Bill. There is a common-sense approach to many of the issues we have discussed. I believe we should look at every Bill and ask, “Does this make sense?” As far as I am concerned, the Bill goes a long way to address something that needs to be reformed and brought into the 21st century. We need to ensure that the law is fit for purpose. I will support the Bill this evening.
May I associate myself with your comments, Mr Deputy Speaker, about Captain Sir Tom Moore? It is a sad loss for our country and, of course, especially for his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
It is a privilege to speak in this debate as I am the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on general aviation, the Member of Parliament who represents Cornwall Airport Newquay, and a keen supporter of our aviation sector and especially our regional airports. I very much welcome the Bill and will be pleased to support it later this evening. I acknowledge all the work that the Minister and previous Ministers have put in, along with officials in the Department, to get us to this point. It has taken longer than we expected because of a number of factors, but the approach that the Department has taken—to engage and listen to stakeholders across the aviation sector—has been hugely welcomed and, along with the input from the other place, means that the Bill before us is a very good one.
The UK’s airspace is our invisible infrastructure in the sky. It is vital to the success of our aviation sector and the wider economy. It will become increasingly important in the years to come, with the development of clean flights through clean fuels and electric and hydrogen-powered flight. In recent times, there have been those who have prophesised the demise of aviation in the light of the need to reduce our carbon footprint, but I believe that its best days lie ahead. The industry is committed to playing a key part in helping the UK to achieve the Government’s ambitious aims on cutting our carbon emissions, and good progress is being made.
Although the sector has taken a huge hit, both in the UK and globally, because of the pandemic, I have every confidence that it will bounce back with the right support. We should use the current crisis to ensure that the sector is able to accelerate reform to a cleaner future. That is why it is vital that the Government continue to support the sector to ensure that it is able to lead our national recovery. The regional support for airports through the offsetting of business rates is welcome, but it would be remiss of me not to make the case for further sector support for airlines, those in the supply chain and airports at this incredibly challenging time.
We have a world-leading aviation sector of which we should be proud. We have the third-largest aviation network in the world and the second-largest aerospace manufacturing sector, supporting 1 million jobs and with a turnover in excess of £60 billion before the pandemic. Yet despite all the developments and growth in aviation over decades, the UK’s airspace has largely remained unchanged for 60 years. Review and change is long overdue, and the measures in the Bill are welcome and essential.
It is a huge credit to the UK aviation sector that it has maintained the growth it has, despite us lagging behind the rest of the world in airspace management. As aircraft and aviation technologies have advanced in the past 60 years, our airspace management has not kept pace. That has led at times to inefficient use of airspace, which has often contributed to higher pollution and noise.
I have nothing but admiration for those at NATS who manage our airspace in what has been one of the most complex airborne environments in the world, underpinned by an overly bureaucratic system of outdated legislation and complex guidance. The strains on our airspace have become most apparent in recent years. Prior to covid, flight delays in minutes per year had been increasing consistently in the five years leading up to 2020. That coincided with a year-on-year rise in the number of flights in the UK. Most alarmingly, estimates by the DFT suggest that, without the modernising of air traffic, delays could rise by 72 times by 2030, with more than one flight in every three from UK airports expected to depart more than half an hour late. Those estimates were admittedly put together prior to the pandemic, but when we do return to the pre-2019 level of flights in 2023 or 2024 as expected, we are unlikely to see a change in the trend of delayed flights without modernisation of our airspace.
The implementation of the reforms, innovations and technological solutions set out in the Bill are essential for our future prosperity. As we continue to deliver modern airports and state-of-the-art fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft, it would be a missed opportunity for us not also to modernise our airspace in the process. I am pleased that that is exactly what the Bill will bring about. I welcome the Bill also because it is a great example of cross-party parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament working together with Government Departments and relevant civil authorities on issues of common concern that can be addressed only by bringing all stakeholders on board.
The all-party parliamentary group on general aviation, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport started and chaired for many years, has long looked into the issue of airspace change. In summer 2019, the APPG’s dedicated working group on airspace published its report of the inquiry led by the noble Lord Kirkhope on the adequacy of our airspace, especially at the lower—arguably more dangerous—end of below 7,000 feet. One important recommendation from the inquiry to the DFT and CAA was the introduction of a ratchet-down process for removing underused volumes of controlled airspace. It also suggested that the CAA should make a radical shift in its internal processes for airspace change to allow for greater flexibility in future airspace design. I am pleased to see both recommendations incorporated in the Bill and thank Ministers and officials for their proactive and positive engagement with members of the APPG in the consultation process.
The Bill will achieve this modernisation in three main parts. It will allow for an airport or other person involved in airspace change to be compelled to progress or co-operate with an airspace change proposal in line with the overall modernisation strategy. The second part of the Bill will bring in much needed updates to our airspace licensing regime in accordance with best practice. Part 3 relates to unmanned aircraft such as drones, which are no doubt a critical part of the future of aviation; their development is important for our economy for the future.
General aviation is often overlooked in the aviation policies of successive Governments, but general aviation matters. GA contributes over £1 billion to the UK economy, and supports hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs across all regions of the UK. GA is also important as a gateway to the UK’s world-beating commercial aviation sector. General aviation activities such as gliding provide accessible grassroots, which often help to inspire young people into science, technology, maths and engineering subjects. GA platforms are also the best early testbeds for new technologies, such as electric propulsion. Without free airspace to test in, the UK will be at a competitive disadvantage for attracting high-tech aviation companies just as we are seeing the dawn of the new era of sustainable aviation.
General aviation is often overlooked when it comes to airspace management, and often finds itself restricted, or excluded from too much airspace. The Bill grants the Government—and, by extension, the CAA—the power to request that an air navigation service provider change its airspace in a certain way. This will be the first time that our regulator has ever been given this power, which is commonly found in other countries. The Bill will complement the CAA’s airspace modernisation strategy, which aims to rationalise the UK’s airspace system, bringing greater efficiency to air transport. Indeed, alongside the strategy is a commitment to look at reclassifying areas of low airspace that are problematic for general aviation. To improve use of lower airspace, it may be necessary to compel an airport to reduce its area of controlled airspace. This would not be achieved without the powers contained in the Bill.
Finally, I turn to the much discussed Government amendment on the temporary alleviation of the 80:20 usage rule, which requires airlines to use their allocated airport slots at least 80% of the time to retain entitlement to the same slots in the next equivalent scheduling period. I fully understand the rationale behind this. We do not want to see airlines continuing to fly empty or near-empty aircrafts at huge financial and environmental costs for the sake of keeping their slots. When administered well, the reprieve from this rule can form an essential part of the wider package of support for the industry. However, I urge Ministers to ensure that it does not pose any obstacle to maintaining critical connections between regional and national airports, and thus hinder the Government’s agenda to drive regional growth. I seek the Minister’s assurance that we will not miss this opportunity to ensure that slot allocation is not a barrier to growth, and that we grow our essential connectivity to our major airports for regional airports.
The Bill will bring much needed changes to modernise our airspace and improve efficiency of air traffic management. It will help to deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys, which will help to reduce carbon emissions while increasing capacity where needed, increasing the resilience of our airspace and allowing greater access for general aviation. The Bill represents yet another positive step for the future of British aviation. I am pleased to support the Bill and urge colleagues across the House to do so.
I am sorry that you cannot see me, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for updating the House with the very sad news about Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death. I extend the Liberal Democrats’ condolences to the family at this very sad news. His positive and energetic response to the lockdown last summer was an inspiration to many people at a time when we really needed it, and a great sadness at the news of his death will extend far beyond his family and friends.
I am speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrats on this important piece of legislation. It is fantastic that it is finally making its way through the Houses of Parliament. It is a really important and long overdue airspace modernisation Bill, and I welcome its Second Reading today. The Liberal Democrats will be supporting all parts of the Bill. Obviously, anything at all to do with airspace modernisation will be closely monitored in Richmond Park, especially in the light of changes to the aviation industry resulting from covid-19. We have seen an enormous drop in aviation activity; in terms of the overall noise that my residents are experiencing, that is certainly something that we welcome.
We very much welcome the Government taking powers to implement airspace change in part 1 of the Bill, because we hope that by taking control of such changes, they will enable residents who live under flightpaths or near airports to be listened to. Residents should have the opportunity to respond to consultations, and to have the Government respond to their views when changes are proposed. This should not be driven just by the airline industry, and I believe we can get a better balance so that all different and competing interests are reflected in this airspace change which, as other hon. Members have said, is long overdue.
Hon. Members have been speaking about aircraft noise, and about developments such as noise-saving or quieter aircraft. I hope we will be able to bank any improvements in aircraft noise, as that will improve the quality of life for residents everywhere, and certainly for those who live under flight paths and near airports. I hope that can be about a general improvement in quality of life, rather than the proposal, which I have seen, for such improvements just to mean that we have more aircraft, so that we would maintain current levels of noise, but with more, quieter, aircraft. I want to push back against that, and encourage the Minister to think about a gradual alleviation of the burden of noise on residents everywhere.
We welcome the temporary provisions in part 2 of the Bill on slot allocation, which will provide certainty for an industry that has had the most catastrophic year and is looking very much to the future. Airlines will want to know that their slots are protected, and the change in legislation makes a great deal of sense. As others have highlighted, it is absurd that airlines should feel forced to provide empty or half-empty services just to maintain slots. That is not only a waste of money—a precious cost that the industry can ill afford at this time—but the impact on carbon emissions does not need spelling out. We are all committed to reducing unnecessary carbon emissions, and we need the Bill to stop those unnecessary flights. The Bill will introduce welcome flexibility to slot allocation as we go forward and find our way out of the covid pandemic, and particularly when we start to rebuild the aviation industry after the lockdown. That will enable the industry to respond better to changes in demand, with a corresponding saving in costs and carbon emissions.
I welcome the legislation on drones, which is long overdue. Drones have been a feature of UK life for a considerable time, and until now much of the regulation on their use has been contained in CAA regulations. The use of drones should be governed by criminal law, and as we saw with the Gatwick shutdown at Christmas 2018, proper legislation is long overdue. Drones will have a transformative impact on British life over the next 10 to 15 years, and they have clear and proven benefits to our military, police and emergency services. There are emerging applications for drones in our business and creative sectors. Those advantages have also been exploited by criminals and terrorists, and it is right to introduce powers to clamp down on illegal usage and make the fullest positive use of the new technology. Part of that involves building trust among the British public regarding the use of drones and those who use them, so that they know that drones are properly regulated and licensed and that usage is monitored. That will give us the opportunity fully to exploit their potential.
I am concerned that the Bill does not address the pressing issue of privacy and the threat to it that drones represent. Addressing that properly will encourage the British public in their confidence about drone use. I hope the Government will continue to monitor the development of drone use, and be prepared to update legislation accordingly, as and when new uses appear—including potentially negative uses—so that we maintain the British public’s trust in that emerging and exciting new technology.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney). This is a good Bill, and I commend the Minister and his team for its drafting and for bringing it forward at this time. It is a very relevant Bill for Bedfordshire, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said, many people in Bedfordshire work at London Luton airport and in its associated supply chain. Owing to protocol, as a Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries) is not contributing in this debate, but I am sure that she would want to commend to the House the work of Cranfield University. I believe it is the only university with its own airport, and it plays a leading role in our understanding of aircraft, airport and airspace management.
This is also a timely Bill, because although, as the Minister said, most have paused their consultation work on airspace changes, there is an ongoing consultation on airspace at Luton airport, in combination with Stansted. I wish to draw attention to certain features of that as they relate to this Bill. The Bill rightly recognises that in the allocation and sharing of the limited resource of airspace above the United Kingdom there is a considerable public interest. The Bill focuses, correctly, on making sure that in that process overall public interest is achieved to the best extent as quickly and efficiently as possible. In doing so, it brings to the Civil Aviation Authority and to the Department certain additional ways of compelling airports to make changes that will achieve a speedier resolution of airspace allocations, which will in turn achieve some of our other goals.
One of the most important of those goals is achieving air quality standards and making sure that our aviation industry is sustainable as we seek to achieve our climate change goals. Although the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) was right to say that this Bill is just a part of that and that there is a large whole that we need to consider, I hope he would recognise that the Government are right to bring forward this part of the puzzle; it is a crucial part of our achieving that overall ambition.
The third area of public interest is in the issue of externalities. Although many people work in and use airports, a great number of people are also affected by airports and their use. Airports, by their very nature, can create noise pollution, and they create air pollution and congestion. Those points come to the fore when consultations about airspace changes take place, as is the case currently with the Luton and Stansted airspace changes consultation.
That process is under way and the Minister’s comments in this debate may therefore be curtailed, but I point out to him that many of my constituents feel that their ability as members of the public to participate in that consultation has been curtailed, not just because of covid restrictions, but by the very framework by which the public can voice their opinions about those changes. In trying to move pieces around and achieve an overall picture that works for the country as a whole, our national airspace control is perhaps intrinsically limited in what it can offer as suggestions to the public for their consultation. In the London Luton airport consultation, the public in Bedfordshire have been left with a limited choice of options to be consulted on. They therefore feel that their democratic voice is not being heard. What consideration has the Minister given to ensuring that, as we achieve greater speed in the process, the public truly have a voice in the resolution of deciding on flightpaths?
That takes us on to the sharing of benefits. We are having a consultation in Bedfordshire because Luton airport wishes to expand, which will be very much to the financial benefit of the operator of Luton airport and also of the landlords—that is, one of the local authorities in Bedfordshire, Luton Borough Council. Both the airport operator and Luton Borough Council should anticipate considerable increases in their revenues from that expansion, yet it is the residents of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire who will incur the costs of those externalities, whether that is in air quality, noise pollution or their ability to get around and about because of road congestion. That is not addressed in the Bill and, again, I would be interested in the Minister’s view of whether it is appropriate, as part of the allocation of airspace, to start to see in this Bill consideration of how those affected by the changes can receive compensation from those who benefit from them.
The parts of the Bill that refer to drones are welcome additional legislation. This is a good move for the Government, providing some order in how the criminal uses of drones can be controlled. I was reassured in my conversations with the Minister that the additional burdens and responsibilities on police forces should not be considerable. This is a particular issue in Bedfordshire, again, where police resources are spread so thinly. As other Members have said, it is particularly around airports that the misuse of drones becomes of such great concern to the public. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment further about his expectations of the burden on police time, in order to give additional reassurance to the police.
While I am on the issue of the police, I was interested in the comments made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park about the police use of drones. That is not in the Bill, but I would point out to the Minister that there is considerable advantage in the police being able to use drones in everyday policing. As a Member of Parliament for a largely rural constituency, I know that drones offer an opportunity for response times that other modes of transportation would be unable to accomplish. As part of this overall review of airspace, what consultations has the Minister been having with the Home Office to ensure that any future required use of drones by the police will be adequately covered by the regulations that we are looking at today?
I close by joining colleagues in paying tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, a national hero and an adopted son of Bedfordshire, with these words, which he used to encourage us last April, when we were perhaps at the darkest of times. He said:
“To all those…finding it difficult…the sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away”.
On that note, Madam Deputy Speaker, may I also briefly mention my own sadness at hearing of the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore? I am sure that all our thoughts are with his family, who must be unspeakably proud of the enormous contribution that he has made through his fundraising to our national morale and to the NHS in this most difficult of times.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) in this important and much-delayed debate. Covid-19 has cast light on a number of issues perhaps forgotten and deserving of more attention, and this is one that has been neglected as a result of the pandemic. Airspace has been part of my political career from the moment I was elected—indeed, before then—in 2017. The proposed new flight paths for Edinburgh airport, which are part of the new airspace management proposals, were already controversial. One of the first issues I had to address immediately after my election that year was the proposals following the consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority. Since then, there has been little, if any, progress, and even before covid-19 the process had stalled. The uncertainty and delay around this Bill has created an unfair situation not just for the industry and the airports but for the communities around them. The noise pollution and air pollution created by flightpaths needs to be addressed, and communities must have a say in that.
The last time that management of our astonishingly complex airspace was seriously addressed was, as we have heard, in the 1950s. Decades and decades have passed with nothing close to substantial update or alteration. If that were in any other area—say, our roads or our railways—we would be shocked. We have seen so many advances and it is unimaginable that there has not been modernisation.
As we seek to recover from covid-19, we need this Bill to give people the confidence that we have done, and are doing, all we can to deliver more efficient and greener journeys for everyone. As part of that, we also need to tackle the illegal use of drones and prioritise people’s safety above all else, balancing the rights and liberties of those who use them and the many advantages that we have heard that they can bring. In 2017 alone, there were more than 50 reported near misses. Imagine the devastation and the loss of life that could have been caused if one of those unmanned aircraft collided with, perhaps, a wide-bodied jet at an airport close to a highly populated area. We need geofencing software to make it impossible for these drones to encroach on commercial and military airspace. We need to make sure that all the new powers of enforcement are proportionate and acknowledge that the majority of users are law-abiding. We also need to acknowledge, as previous speakers have mentioned, the advantages that could come from proper and effective use of these unmanned aircraft.
We need to see, as part of this process, the safeguarding of slots. We have heard mention of the 80:20 rule. So many of these slots have been underused over the past year and could have been lost. We must suspend such automatic suspension. The impact in Scotland of failure to maintain those slots could be crucial to our connectivity, not just with the continent and with London but within Scotland itself, between our mainland airports and the islands. For my own airport in Edinburgh, the routes to London are a vital business connection for the economy not just of Edinburgh but of all of Scotland. Over the recent period, we have seen a steep decline in the number of flights—practically to zero at some points. If those slots were to be lost, our economic recovery would be so much more difficult.
All these issues have to be looked at in conjunction with the other major threat that we face: the threat to our climate. We must acknowledge that the aviation industry and its air traffic is crucial to tackling that. In achieving our net zero targets, fossil fuels, emissions and noise pollution must all be addressed.
This Bill has taken too long and we need to make sure that it progresses now. More delays would mean delays to economic progress, air safety and climate action, and all of that would be unacceptable.
May I first, on behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, offer my sincere condolences to Captain Tom’s daughters and family at a very sad time? Every one of us was inspired by his words when we were all perhaps looking inward and thinking negative thoughts. He inspired us at a time that we really needed it. There was not a morning when we heard him speaking on the television that we did not feel a wee bit better. The hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) spoke about some of his words. There is one wee sentence that I remember, and always will—I have quoted it many times in this House and to my friends and people I speak to. He always said that
“tomorrow will be a better day”.
The day that he inspired us all as a nation was a better day for us, and it is something that we will never forget.
Thank you for allowing me to speak briefly on this Bill, Madam Deputy Speaker. The legislation has been a long time coming. We all recall the shutting down of Gatwick airport and the disruption caused a number of years ago by drones. At that stage, it was clear that while there are many wonderful uses for unmanned aircraft, there are also nefarious ones, and these must be addressed in legislation. That is why I welcome this legislation: it addresses those issues, and I thank the Minister and Government in advance for that. Let us thank them when they do things right, and today they have it right.
I welcome the news of the development of drone fighters through the Ministry of Defence at the former Bombardier plant in Northern Ireland by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings. This £30 million design contract is a three-year deal to build a prototype model, which will help to support 100 jobs at the Belfast aero-structures factory by developing so-called “loyal wingman” drones by the end of the decade to serve alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 warplanes. The Royal Air Force’s first unmanned craft would be armed with missiles and carry surveillance and electronic warfare technology.
I have discussed this with the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), and we have worked in conjunction with the Minister to try to ensure that these are the sort of contracts that come. I do not know for definite, but I am sure that the Minister had a role to play in that, and I thank him in advance. We really do appreciate it. At a time when we hear all the negativity about the high street, it is good to know that we have manufacturing jobs in place in Belfast, and that will spin off for my constituents in Strangford as well.
The Bill is necessary and welcome. I understand that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has used drones more than 370 times since June 2013. Figures obtained by BBC News NI showed that the PSNI used drones in wildlife rescues, missing person hunts and VIP visits. They have very much been a necessary tool in search and rescue missions, as well as being used in other areas. The benefits of drones for security and as a tool to help the security forces is very clear, but there must still be regulation. I therefore welcome the fact that the Bill provides protection on all sides for the expanding use of drones. Some people phoned me and asked, “Where can we use drones?”, so this needs to be regulated and, clearly, we have seen many examples where they have not been used in the correct place.
There are also concerns about the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons—this is one of my major concerns. I have asked these questions of Justice Ministers and they always come back with a positive answer. However, these things are happening and the Government have introduced measures to try to stop it.
I read a very interesting report by a prison chief, who openly stated that while the threat to prison security from drones, used to drop consignments into establishments, has been known for several years, it is now the case that
“technology has evolved rapidly to allow the devices to be directed to an”
“cell window using GPS transmitters the size of a little finger.”
Technology has moved on and that is why this legislation is so important. The article by Cahal Milmo for inews.co.uk went on to say that
“while the prison service had developed technology capable of detecting and blocking signals used by drones and encrypted telephones smuggled into prison, the prohibitive cost of the equipment and the training to operate it meant it could only be used at a small number of jails.”
The Minister is not responsible for jails and for justice, but if there are examples of drones being used to bring contraband and illegal substances into prisons, such equipment should be made available to every prison. In Northern Ireland, drones have been used on multiple occasions to drop goods from cigarettes to drugs, and even family photographs, so it is clear that the introduction of new rules in 2019, while welcome, was insufficient. That is why we need the Bill.
I recently contacted my local council to see how I could help someone who was suffering owing to antisocial behaviour, which, by the way, was noise caused by the misuse of a drone in close proximity to his house, as well as a number of other houses in the area. It is clear that our local authorities and police force need more to work with. It is my hope that the Bill will deliver exactly that, and I think it will.
Clauses 13 to 18, together with schedules 8 to 11, will expand the regulatory framework to address misuse of unmanned aircraft. The Bill will provide powers to police the misuse of unmanned aircraft, including grounding unmanned aircraft, stopping and searching people and vehicles, obtaining a warrant to search property, and fixed penalties for certain offences relating to unmanned aircraft.
I look upon the Minister not just as a Minister but as a personal friend, and his energy and interest in the subject are expressed in the way he does his job. I say a big thank you to him for that. I also thank the Government for what they do and for introducing a Bill that encapsulates the strength of the House and brings us together. You know me, Madam Deputy Speaker: I often say that we are better together and better when we work together to make things happen. Today is an example of that.
The proposals are sensible and I support the Government in their aim to enable those using drones for the right reasons to do so legally by licence. Those who use drones for other purposes should understand that there are severe penalties for doing so. I welcome the Bill and its aims.
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Given his weekly commute, he is well placed to comment on air travel. As always, he spoke with great authority.
The Bill is welcome, and I congratulate the Minister and his predecessor on the work they have done in the other place and on bringing the Bill to the House relatively unchanged and with cross-party support. This is a good Bill and I support it.
My constituency sits mid-way between Manchester and Liverpool John Lennon airports, so in the skies above the town we see flights coming from all directions just after take-off or as they come in to land. We are well aware of the need to ensure that there is co-ordination between airport operators when they plan routes. I am also very aware that around 4,000 of my constituents are employed in this sector. This is an important part of the local economy.
I agree with the Minister that there is a need to modernise UK airspace, and I welcome the plan to make journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner. Most important, though, is retaining the essential elements of safety in our skies, which are some of the busiest and most complicated in the world. It is therefore critical that we prepare for the next 50 years. The UK aviation sector is a global leader and an engine for growth, and we need it to be fit for purpose to enable levelling up in our UK regions.
As we know, owing to covid-19, there is only limited air traffic, with most airports running at between 1% and 3% of normal passenger levels. We also know that air travel will return, and we need to ensure that our airspace—our infrastructure; highways in the sky—is fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world.
As someone who lives under the flight path for aircraft leaving Manchester airport, I am particularly pleased to hear that this programme will also have an impact on noise. By simplifying UK airspace, we are making it more efficient. It will deliver more precise and more direct routes, preventing rising delays and reducing congestion. These upgrades to our regulatory infrastructure will be essential in reducing the environmental impact of UK flights by reducing miles flown and carbon dioxide levels, alongside industry efforts to develop more fuel-efficient engines and cleaner, sustainable fuels.
Advances in aircraft and air traffic control capabilities risk other countries pressing ahead with modernising their systems, while we risk lagging behind if we do not do the same and support the Bill. Airspace modernisation, by facilitating emissions savings, is therefore a key component of the UK’s legally binding commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while also benefiting all users of airspace, including general aviation flyers, and tackling the misuse of new types of unmanned aircraft, such as drones, which I will talk about later.
One of the main challenges that might impede the implementation of the Bill and future planning will be the financial state of the industry. I am particularly pleased to welcome the £8 million of UK Government support grant funding for airports such as Manchester and Liverpool announced last week. Airports have seen their revenues disappear almost completely for nearly 12 months now. We cannot ignore this issue. I urge the Minister to continue dialogue with airport operators. It would be remiss of me not to mention the ongoing support that I know the sector will continue to need in the coming months, before it can soar again.
Part 2 of the Bill will modernise regulatory provision relating to air traffic services provided by National Air Traffic Services and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, ensuring that the framework remains fit for purpose and continues to build on the UK’s excellent safety record. The Bill will also enable us to continue to provide alleviation from the requirements to use slots at co-ordinated airports—the 80:20 rule that so many of my colleagues have talked about—for a further time, into 2024. During a pandemic, when flight demand has significantly decreased, we are no longer compelling airlines to run empty flights, costing money and causing pollution just to keep their slots.
Finally, part 3 of the Bill provides new, additional police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. It has been developed in conjunction with the Home Office and police forces.
Unmanned aircraft are increasingly being used across the industry and have huge potential for good. Drones are being put to good use by the emergency services, for example, and more broadly can help to improve efficiency in industries such as construction. However, it is crucial that a careful balance is struck in our approach to this technology, to ensure that the successful uptake of drones is matched by strong safeguards to provide public safety, privacy and security.
There is a real threat to aviation. Just before Christmas, the UK Air Safety Board reported on what was described as the closest ever near miss in the UK, when an EasyJet Airbus flying at 8,000 feet, having just taken off over the Cheshire countryside, came within feet of a 10 kg drone. The consequences of the collision would have been disastrous for passengers, crew and those on the ground. We saw the impact at Gatwick when new technology was used to ground flights. I welcome the additional stop-and-search powers for those suspected of being involved with offences involving unmanned aircrafts.
I spoke recently to the governor of Thorn Cross Prison at Appleton Thorn and I am aware of the challenges that the Prison Service faces from the use of drones illegally delivering contraband to convicted criminals. Governors are having to take measures to protect the prison estate, so the additional steps in the Bill are very welcome indeed.
Having not undergone any significant modernisation since the 1950s, there is no doubt that our airspace is in need of change to meet the increasing demands that will continue when the sector returns to full force. The technological advances in unmanned aircraft also present significant challenges. I will be supporting the Bill today.
I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Captain Sir Tom Moore. He gave us optimism at a time when the country faced a terrible crisis. I think we can all agree that he is the definition of a modern hero.
May I start by associating myself with what my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter) said about Captain Sir Tom Moore? Last year, he really did inspire the nation with his fundraising, but of course he also helped to save the nation over 80 years before. It is a very sad day, and my condolences go to his family. He has really shown us the best of British in what he did last year in responding to coronavirus.
I turn to the subject of today’s debate. After all the Brexit and covid-related legislation that we have been through so far, a Bill such as this is quite refreshing for a new MP. It is a more traditional piece of legislation: an important update that reflects changes in the world and aims to future-proof—as best we can—for the world we are going to get back into once we get past the pandemic. I congratulate the Minister and welcome him to his place, and also congratulate Baroness Vere on all the work she did on the Bill in the Lords. This is a case of proportionate regulation, which is what we always seek to do as a Government and as a Conservative party. We recognise the need for regulation. It needs to be proportionate and to not put undue burdens on businesses, but we need to make sure that things work, and work for the good of the country.
I turn briefly to the first of the Bill’s three parts, on airspace management. It is to be hoped that airports can co-operate without the requirement for the Secretary of State to compel them; perhaps this Bill will make the voluntary process a little more voluntary, if you understand what I mean, Madam Deputy Speaker. However, we have an airspace modernisation strategy and, within that, some airports may need to release underused controlled airspace, for example. As many of my colleagues have said, including my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South, we have a very complex airspace—one of the most complicated in the world. Of course, it is very empty at the moment for the reasons we have discussed, but anything we can do to modernise that and make things work better is obviously something we should be encouraging as a Government. We need quicker, quieter, cleaner journeys. Unnecessary fuel burning on approach is not only ridiculous from a green perspective, but leads to a great deal of noise and inconvenience for individuals.
In itself, that is the source of delays. As we have heard from a number of colleagues, one in three flights might be significantly delayed by 2030 if we do not pass this legislation today. Of course, that also creates more capacity, and although none of us can know exactly what the world is going to look like, I think having that capacity is a good thing: whether we use it or not, it allows us to be more efficient in the way we route our flights and go on holiday, as well as in our world trade, as the Minister said. We are just about to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, one hopes—we are starting the proceedings for that—and we will need our aviation industry to be part of our trade with the rest of the world as well.
The second part is mostly tidying up and modernising, but what it needs to do, and what it does, is reflect our safety record and ensure that we maintain that record. I think that new clause 12, which the Government introduced while the Bill was in the Lords—this is the covid-related aspect of today’s legislation, I suppose—is a very sensible amendment that reflects the situation we are in at present. Personally, I would favour a much more market-based approach to slots in future. However, with the industry on its knees at the moment, now is clearly not the right time for that and in any event it would require global co-operation. The idea that things should be grandfathered down forever and ever does not strike me as a modern way to do things, but I understand that is how we have to operate at the moment, and the proposals in new clause 12 are a sensible suspension of that process while we work through covid.
Part 3 deals with unarmed aircraft or drones. We have heard from many people, including the Minister, that drones are having a huge effect on lots of important areas. They can be a real boon to many industries, including search and rescue and medical supplies, and are also a very engaging hobby, as I have seen for myself when walking up in the Staffordshire moorlands.
I have no desire—nor, I am sure, do the Government—to demonise responsible owners of drones who are having fun with them, getting out and enjoying the great outdoors. However, we need measures to guard against malicious use, and we also need sensitive sites to be able to defend themselves. That includes airports, as we saw at Gatwick, and some of our most sensitive sites, such as nuclear sites; it also includes prisons, as many have said. The idea that drones can get around prisons, or get over and into prisons, is one that nobody should tolerate, and I know the police are very keen for us to get this legislation passed so that we can cut down on what is going on there. We also need a solution so that a single sighting of a drone does not close an airport, and the measures in the Bill mean that we will not see repeats of what happened at Gatwick.
I will conclude, because I can see that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell) is desperate to stand up and make his speech; I can see him grinning. This is a solid piece of legislation. I am glad that it has cross-party support. It has already been tried and tested in the Lords, with amendments incorporated into it. This is how the House should proceed with measures such as this, which are all about ensuring that we are battle-ready for both the present and future in important industries such as aviation that have such an important part to play in our future. I commend the Minister for his opening speech and for all his work on the Bill.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) for his excellent speech. First, I would like to join others in paying tribute to Captain Tom. I felt last year that he was almost a grandfather to the nation. We have definitely lost a member of our British family in the last few hours, and I send my condolences to his family. He was truly one of the best of us.
I will speak primarily to parts 1 and 3. I thank the Ministers and all involved with the Bill, which does something quite transformative for not just the industry but the country. The last major change to legislation in this area happened in the 1950s. It is quite incredible to think that the rules and legislation on this industry have not changed in that time, given that the industry has shaped not just how we live but how we look at the world, how we understand other cultures and how we understand one another, and has made the world a little bit smaller as technology has advanced.
For many years as a student, I worked at an airport. I did everything from cleaning toilets to patrolling car parks—not that I was particularly threatening when walking around in my yellow jacket. What I saw back then was the incredible passion of those who work in the airline industry—everyone from those who made sure that the planes were safe to fly to those who were flying them. It is right for Government to ensure that, as we look to the next 20, 30, 40 and 50 years, we have an ambitious plan that puts security, safety and the traveller at the heart of it. Part 1, which relates to the collaborative approach and the ways in which airlines can work together, does that. It is so important to ensure that passengers are put at the heart of this, and the Bill does that very well.
I mentioned that the last major change was made in the 1950s. That reminds me, as a science fiction fan, of the prediction by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945 of the idea of satellites. Back then, that was truly science fiction. We did not imagine that satellites would exist in the way they do today, and they have transformed our lives in so many ways. With this Bill, and in particular part 3, we are seeing what was science fiction being transformed into science fact.
The role of drones in society over just a few years has been transformative. Organisations such as Amazon use them to deliver parcels. There are medical opportunities —for example, to deliver vaccines, especially in far-flung countries where it is perhaps easier to travel long distances by air, via unmanned vehicles, than it would be in the UK.
With every good move in technology and in the shift from fiction to fact, we have to take into account the impact on real lives. Given the impact that unmanned vehicles could have on society, it is right that the Bill gives the Home Office and the police powers to ensure that these vehicles are used in the right way and do not create more danger and risk to those around us. We have heard excellent speeches about drones being used to drop illicit substances and items into prisons, and we have heard about the dangers of drones at airports, potentially risking lives by flying too close or even flying into manned vehicles.
When we look forward, we have got to look at this issue in the round, and the Bill really does that. It enables additional police powers and creates the ability to have an industry around drones that will put up to £42 billion into the economy by 2030. It is creating a lot of opportunity, but in a safe way.
When people look back in 50 or 60 years’ time to the legislation being put in place now, I believe they will look at this Bill and see how balanced it was, how forward-thinking it was and how it enabled us to ensure that legislation and Bills were in place to protect society, while not binding the hands of those who want to develop new opportunities to create technology that can transform the society we live in.
Before summing up the debate, I would like once again to offer Her Majesty’s official Opposition’s condolences to the family and friends of Sir Tom Moore. While we hurt today, he reminded us that tomorrow will be a better day.
It has been a terrific debate—really well informed and the House at its best. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, it is about co-operation and trying to get our aviation sector to a better place in a difficult time. I thank the Members who have contributed today. The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said that our airways are part of our critical national infrastructure, and that is how we should treat them. Let us make sure that we improve them. If there is a hold-up at Treasury, as he says, let us get past that and do this for the good of the industry and the country.
As the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) said, while drones can be a force for good in the world, they can be a force for evil, with malicious use by the drug barons and others, and that is why we need to have better police powers, which are intended to be in this Bill.
The right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) said it is crucial we find a way to redress the environmental impact of aviation. Nobody would be against that and that is what we all seek to do. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) has grappled with the issues of having one of the world’s major airports in his constituency. The approach is piecemeal to a certain extent, and we do need a comprehensive strategy, and let us hope we get there in the near future.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) has expertise and is a pilot himself. He spoke of a single authority to broker co-operation. That is what the Bill hopes to achieve. Airspace modernisation will be a benefit for small craft such as the one he flies; as it happens, I am sure the Secretary of State will also be pleased by that. He also rightly pointed out the effect of the pandemic on regional airports. While we welcome the business rates support, we know that for some airports that hardly touched the sides, and I will come back to that point in a second.
The hon. Member for South Antrim (Paul Girvan) spoke about quicker, quieter, cleaner journeys, and that is what is required. The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), whom I praise for his work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on general aviation, said that the best days lie ahead for aviation, and I believe that. With electric flights, hydrogen flights and clean fuel flights, there is the opportunity to modernise. Labour has called for a further sector-specific deal, and he echoed that by saying that further support is required and not only in aviation. As he mentioned, we can inspire our young people into STEM subjects and the industry.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) rightly pointed out that we enable residents to have a say through consultation, and that is important. That point was echoed by the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller). It is unimaginable that the airspace above the constituency of the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) has not been modernised since the 1950s. Since then, Yuri Gagarin went into space and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. It is time for this legislation.
As ever, my good friend the hon. Member for Strangford spoke about the immense benefits that drone technology will bring to the Northern Ireland economy. The Minister and I cover maritime as well, and there is just the search and rescue capability we have not even thought of that can be inspired by drone technology and, again, we hope to see that come on stream.
The hon. Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), whose airport lies between Manchester’s in my constituency and John Lennon airport, is right. Our skies are packed in good times, and we need better co-ordination. He said it: we need to set our eyes on the horizon and to be looking 50 years ahead. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) said we need to future-proof our airspace for the world we want to see again. Finally, the hon. Member for Watford (Dean Russell), who has just spoken about his real lived experience of working in an airport—there is nothing quite like it—said that security, safety and the passenger experience have to be at the heart of what we do. I hope that we can explore some of those themes further in the Bill Committee.
With the leave of the House, I would like to sum up the debate for the Government. May I also, at the outset, associate myself and Her Majesty’s Government with the comments from all hon. Members about the very sad passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore? He was perhaps the perfect exemplar of that golden generation. He was a gentleman, an inspiration, a light in the covid darkness and a cheerful ray of hope to all of the country, and of course, above all, to his family, to whom we send our condolences. He will be terribly missed not only by them, but by the whole nation.
I thank hon. Members for all the contributions to the debate we have heard today. I entirely associate myself with the comments the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) has just made: this has been an exceptionally well-informed, constructive and interesting debate. I will turn to as many of the points as I can today without, I hope, droning on too long, but if there are any points that I do not manage to fly through in time or any points that I do not sufficiently land, I will return to hon. Members in writing. [Laughter.] I will stop there, I promise.
I turn first to the funding for airspace change, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and, indeed, the hon. Members for Wythenshawe and Sale East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands). The Government recognise entirely the challenging times the sector is facing due to covid, but the Government are confident, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter) argued, that the sector will recover. While that may take some time, it does not diminish the historic importance and the need for our airspace to be modernised.
The inefficiencies in our existing airspace design, as we have just heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Dean Russell), for example—he spoke about its not having changed since the 1950s—will continue to cause delays for passengers and unnecessary emissions for our environment. That has rightly been a focus of many hon. Members’ speeches today, as we look forward to jet zero and a clean aviation sector in future, as have the problems with noise, which I will turn to in a moment.
It is important for me, however, to be clear up front that, while we recognise the severe impact that covid-19 is having on the aviation sector, the user pays policy principle is an important one: those who stand to benefit from airspace change should pay for the costs of such a change. In the light of the pandemic and its effects, at the moment most airports have paused their work on airspace change, but the modernisation remains critical to deliver that additional capacity and improve access to airspace for different users. I am particularly mindful of the comments that my hon. Friends the Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) and for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) made about other types of air users, including, of course, General Aviation.
This modernisation also brings environmental benefits by reducing emissions, such as from the stacking talked about by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Paul Girvan). The Government have asked the Airspace Change Organising Group to revisit the master plan for airspace change in this light, and to ensure that the benefits of the programme are realised and that the investment already made is not lost.
Engagement with communities is key, and it has rightly been a major part of the debate today. It was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell). As all those Members and others pointed out in today’s debate, there is a need for airspace change to take account not just of the needs of industry, but of the effects on all affected stakeholders, including, of course, local communities. I would therefore like to reassure all Members that this is taken account of already through the Civil Aviation Authority’s CAP 1616 airspace change process. This requires an airspace change proposal, whether part of the airspace modernisation programme or not, to pass a series of gateways, each of which the CAA must approve before it can progress to the next stage. That was introduced in 2018 and replaces the previous CAP 725 process. Some communities and hon. Members are becoming familiar with it.
It is separate from the planning process. CAP 1616 is more comprehensive than the process it succeeds. It provides communities and other interested parties, such as General Aviation, other airports, the Ministry of Defence and commercial aviation, with greater opportunities to comment on and influence airspace changes that could affect them. They will have more opportunities than they have had before. I hope that will be of assistance to all Members who have spoken on that today. The seven steps that an airspace sponsor must go through to facilitate a change in its airspace are laid out there.
If I could turn to some specific points that were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire, I am of course aware of the London Luton airport airspace change proposal, which is currently out for consultation. I have received several representations from hon. Members about that. I met my hon. Friend in December to talk about and listen to his constituents’ concerns. He is a powerful advocate for them and has made their views very clearly heard. As I know he will know, my Department is not involved in the consultation, and I cannot comment on its merits for regulatory and legal reasons. However, I urged his constituents to engage with the consultation and to ensure that Luton airport and NATS are fully alive to their concerns. Both Luton airport and NATS are obliged by the regulatory requirements of CAP 1616 to take such concerns into account as they finalise their proposals. This is a vital requirement of the process.
Another big feature of the debate today has been noise. It was mentioned in particular by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney), but by other Members as well, and it is closely related to the community consultation point. Of course, the Government recognise that noise can have a significant impact on people’s lives, which is why we introduced new metrics and appraisal guidance in October 2017 to assess noise impacts and their effects on health and quality of life. These will ensure that future airspace changes consider noise impacts much further away from airports than they do at present and that new technology to ensure the more efficient use of our airspace will also produce noise reduction benefits.
I will just say a couple of words about performance-based navigations—PBNs—as I think the House will be interested. They basically use the same equipment as satellite navigation systems in our cars and will improve the accuracy of where aircraft fly, rather than in broad corridors as they do at present. That will provide opportunities to avoid, where possible, noise-sensitive areas including villages or towns. However, it is of course true that in some cases airspace modernisation may result in more concentrated air traffic over communities, but in those cases it may be possible to create multiple concentrated PBN routes that are designed to disperse aircraft to some degree and provide known respite to communities exposed to noise. The Government are also considering how to take forward noise proposals that were contained in the Aviation 2050 Green Paper published in 2015.
I would like to say a word or two following the excellent speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) on flights over areas of outstanding natural beauty. I recognise his huge expertise in both the natural world and aviation. He is justly respected for that. Flights over AONBs are not prohibited. The Government’s air navigation guidance issued to the CAA in October 2017 states that aircraft operators should try to avoid flying over AONBs below 7,000 feet when it is practicable to do so. It is not possible to prohibit flights, as a number of UK airports are close to AONBs or national parks, so there are no powers to prevent flying at low altitude over AONBs for a number of reasons. The Government’s air navigation guidance, as my right hon. Friend said, also requires new sponsors of airspace change proposals to take account of AONBs and national parks when designing their flightpaths.
My hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) and for South West Bedfordshire made a number of points about space and satellites. They rightly pointed out that the use of new technologies offers exciting opportunities for the UK and provides the opportunity to reduce emissions. For example, the ability to track aircraft over the high seas, which is currently impossible, will enable the more accurate prediction of arrival times. That is a key aim of the airspace modernisation strategy, for all the reasons related to tackling climate change and to secure the greener future that we all wish to see. I pay tribute to the comments that were made not only by my hon. Friends but by the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine), my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay and others. I assure the House that the Government continue to develop their space policy and we are working hard with our industrial partners to ensure that we maximise the benefits.
A number of Members, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Sedgefield and for St Austell and Newquay, mentioned slots. While demand for aviation remains low, it is critical that we support the aviation sector so that it is able to restart services immediately when the pandemic allows. The provisions on slots in part 2 of the Bill will help to support the aviation sector in the short term, while also reducing the need for environmentally damaging ghost flights and their financial impact.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield and the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North raised specific concerns. For each future scheduling period, instead of a full alleviation we will be able to look at the data and consider whether it is appropriate to set a lower percentage—for example, 50%—for the slot-usage rule. The data will also help us to consider whether and what conditions could be applied to any alleviation relating to the management of slots. I am keen to point out to all Members that this is a necessary, temporary support measure that will help the industry through the coming years.
The conditions to which I refer could enable available capacity to be backfilled with regional connections or additional freight capacity. I am particularly keen to point that out because the hon. Member for Edinburgh West and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield both referred to it. My hon. Friend also asked whether I would be happy to meet; of course I would, as I would be happy to meet any Members who would like to discuss that or any other issue in the Bill in detail over the weeks ahead.
My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay talked about the longer-term reform of slots allocation, the desirability of which I recognise. It will deliver a more dynamic marketplace that is competitive, supports growth and offers high levels of consumer choice. As the UK aviation market recovers from the impacts of covid-19, the Government will need to consider the impact on the industry and reflect that in any review of slots policy. Given the global nature of slots, this work will involve consultation with UK, European and international stakeholders, and the slot-allocation process will be considered in the round with any future review of aviation policy.
Let me return to unmanned aircraft. The hon. Member for South Antrim gave us a vivid and personal description of the difficulties that can be engendered by the malicious use of unmanned aircraft. The Bill will ensure that the police are able to tackle effectively the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft, building on some existing provisions in the Air Navigation Order 2016. It provides them with some new powers, such as the ability to require a person to land an unmanned aircraft, to which I have referred already.
As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) noted, the Bill gives police the powers to investigate criminal offences committed at prisons using drones, while also providing prisons with the powers to use counter-drone technology. The Government have been clear that we will do all we can to ensure that the UK firmly establishes itself as a world leader in unmanned-aircraft technology, but we are alive to the dangers posed by the careless or malicious use of the technology, as the hon. Members for Edinburgh West and for Strangford rightly urged us to be.
One or two Members have recognised the challenges involved for policing, which the Government of course recognise. The police need the tools that are required. We have taken a range of actions to ensure that the police are equipped to tackle the new threat that unmanned aircraft pose, and it is critical that the police have been involved in all stages of the Bill’s development.
Let me turn to some specific points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire and for Warrington South, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East and some others. The Department has worked closely with the Home Office, the police and the CAA to ensure that once the Bill becomes law its powers are realistic to implement. To aid the police in their implementation, we will provide officers with briefings, general guidance and guidance documents. On wider police resourcing, a new team in the National Police Chiefs’ Council working to the national lead has been set up to co-ordinate and govern UK police counter-unmanned aircraft activity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford gave us a vivid description of the future and the benefits that drones can provide. The Government absolutely want to capture the benefits of unmanned aircraft for consumers and aim to provide an agile regulatory landscape for that.
I was asked to respond to some specific points, and I will do so briefly before I conclude. The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) asked me in his opening speech about the powers of the Secretary of State and the safeguards. I point him first towards what is contained in the Bill: it is implicit that a direction should be practically possible to be carried out. There is a duty to consult in clause 2(3) and (4), and there is the appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal in schedule 1. I have engaged with the AOA on the points that he raised at the beginning of his speech. The hon. Member for South Antrim asked me about laser pens. I direct him to articles 240 and 241 of the Air Navigation Order 2016 and the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act 2018, which contain those powers already; hence they are not in the Bill.
I will pause and say a word or two about general aviation because my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay made a particularly inspiring speech. I pay tribute to the work he has done on the all-party parliamentary group on general aviation. He spoke vividly about STEM, which is massively important for us. It was an outstanding speech, and I would really like another debate to respond to that alone—perhaps another time. It is safe to say for now that we want the UK to be the best place in the world for aviation, and that very much starts at the grassroots.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park asked me about privacy and why it is not in the Bill. It is already taken into account in a number of areas such as the Data Protection Act 2018 and the general data protection regulation, but in this sphere the implementing regulation requires all operators who have a sensor able to capture personal data to be registered. I hope that that provides her with some reassurance. She also asked about new offences and keeping the ability to regulate as drone technology increases. Of course, we keep that under review. There is power in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 that enables us to make air navigation orders to address precisely that point.
I thank the House for listening to me for a little longer than usual while I addressed those specific points. The Bill will support the modernisation of our airspace and the air traffic licensing framework, provide alleviation from the 80/20 rule I have referred to and provide enforcement powers to help the police tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. I look forward enormously to working with hon. Members across the House to ensure that this important legislation reaches the statute book shortly. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [Lords] (Programme)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [Lords]:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 23 February 2021.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which they are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(David Rutley.)
Question agreed to.
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [Lords] (Ways and Means)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(David Rutley.)
Question agreed to.
In moving that the Bill do now pass, I shall make some brief observations and reflect on its passage. At the outset, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his patience, focus and good humour in scrutinising the Bill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her very valued input. I also thank the cadre of noble Lords who showed a particular interest in this very important Bill and shared so much of their experience and wisdom in scrutinising it. Contributions and questions from all sides were thorough and searching. We listened to concerns and made changes where needed, and we have a better Bill for it.
The Bill has had a rather longer gestation than I would have liked, but that was to be expected in the circumstances. Having been introduced to your Lordships’ House in January 2020, it entered an unprecedented period which has thrown numerous challenges at the Bill and, of course, the aviation industry. However, the Government are clear that the powers in the Bill remain critical, even in the current Covid-19 context. The need to modernise the UK’s airspace has not changed, and the Bill will help reduce aircraft noise, reduce traffic delays and support the aviation industry’s recovery and growth. Additionally, there are emissions savings from modernisation.
It has been 20 years since the establishment of an economic regulatory regime for the provision of en-route air traffic control services. The Bill will modernise regulatory provisions relating to air traffic services, provided by NATS (En Route) plc, or NERL, and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, ensuring that the framework remains fit for purpose and continues to build on the UK’s excellent safety record. Following Report, the Bill now also enables the Government to continue to provide alleviation from the requirement to use slots at co-ordinated airports 80% of the time for them to be retained. These powers will be temporary, until August 2024, and I thank all noble Lords for their constructive engagement on these amendments. It was far from ideal to bring these amendments to your Lordships’ House before Report; however, Covid-19 has provided many unexpected twists and turns.
Finally, the Bill will give the police new powers to enforce the existing law surrounding unmanned aircraft to ensure the skies above us are safe without damaging the unmanned aircraft industry. There are, as ever, many people beyond your Lordships’ House who have helped shape the Bill—the CAA, NATS, the police and others across government—and, of course, we have a fantastic and more than a little patient Bill team who have had to shepherd the Bill through interesting times. I am very grateful for their hard work and persistence.
Speaking for myself and my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and all her officials and colleagues involved with the Bill for their willingness to have informal meetings to discuss, in an open and helpful way, a range of complex issues relating to the Bill as a whole and Parts 1 and 2 in particular. This has greatly contributed to effective scrutiny, needed technical amendments and useful clarifications and amplifications, including those read into Hansard by the—
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has been cut off, so we will proceed with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and return to the noble Lord if we can.
My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister and her officials for the time and patience they have devoted to explaining the Bill and, in particular, the many amendments. I am very grateful to them, as I am to the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Tunnicliffe, and all noble Lords who added their expertise to our debates.
This Bill is, I believe, the third recent attempt at aviation legislation. On Report, I called the Bill a bit of a mess: it is, indeed, an extraordinary saga, worthy of featuring in one of the excellent briefings we get from our Library about historic aspects of our proceedings. There can rarely have been a year between Committee and Report on a Bill, and certainly not a year of such momentous events. Covid and Brexit have both had a profound effect on aviation, and technological development meant that drone capability has greatly increased.
There are now three elements to the Bill; it started with only two. The modernisation of airspace seemed urgent a year ago—less so now that flights are at a fraction of previous numbers. However, concerns remain for airport operators about the conflict between the CAA’s new enforcement powers and other aspects of their role. There are concerns about the financial costs of modernisation at a time when airports have suffered severely financially, and concern about the requirement to release so-called spare airspace capacity for general aviation.
The wholly new section on slot waivers is a direct result of the pandemic and is welcome in order to avoid environmentally damaging ghost flights, but I remain concerned and hope that the Government will make sure that in future the rules are tightened to ensure fair competition and fair prices for consumers.
The section on unmanned aircraft has been subject to wholesale rewriting because of the changed legal situation. However, it is still far too narrow in scope, concentrating on new police powers rather than on the modern capabilities of drone technology and how drones should be used safely and effectively.
My amendment, which would have ensured a wholesale review, narrowly failed to secure a majority. However, I hope that the Minister and her colleagues will take that approach in the near future, because BALPA, our airports and airlines, as well as many drone manufacturers and commercial operators, believe that more is needed on this. The Bill now goes to the other place and I am sure that many Members there will pick up on the issues that I have referred to.
My Lords, from the Cross Benches, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, and the Bill team. I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak.
As others have pointed out, the Bill must have gained an entry in the Guinness book of records. It started life in your Lordships’ House with its First and Second Readings over a year ago. After Committee in early February, it sat month after Covid month in the pending tray, then, at the last minute, the Bill team had to drag it swiftly into a new framework—one created by that large amendment to ANO 2016 that took effect so close to Report. However much forewarned, it cannot have been a straightforward task to draft and present so faultlessly the plethora of government amendments required to bring the Bill up to date. That was a great effort that all should admire.
For the noble Baroness herself, it must have been a considerable challenge to master her brief on this complex subject so fully and comprehensively, and I pay tribute to her, too. I admit to having been something of a thorn in her side, but she willingly and courteously exchanged, both on and off the Floor, on our respective views. In her reply to my amendment on Report, she got one point spot on: she said that she suspected that I might not be reassured.
I expect the issue to resurface, but honest differences are the meat and drink of legislation. Given the complexity of this subject, the noble Baroness earns credit for her steady determination. When discussing drones a year ago in Committee, she said, referring to the future of manned and unmanned aircraft traffic management, that it would be
“a whole new world of pain.”—[Official Report, 10/2/20; col. 2111.]
I hope that the passage of the Bill has not been too painful for her. From the Cross Benches, I thank her and the Bill team for their efforts.
I call the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who I think is back in contact.
I am afraid that I have little alternative but to start again from the beginning, because I do not know at what stage I got cut off, so I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for that.
Speaking both for myself and for my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and all her officials and colleagues involved with the Bill for their helpful approach and willingness to have informal meetings to discuss in an open and constructive way a range of complex issues relating to the Bill as a whole and Parts 1 and 2 in particular. That has greatly contributed to effective scrutiny, needed amendments and useful clarifications and amplifications, including those read into Hansard by the Minister on Report. I know that my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe has been particularly appreciative of this way of working with the Minister and her team. It has undoubtedly resulted in a better Bill.
I also thank Ben Wood in our office for all his hard work, which has been of real value to me and to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on the Bill. Our thanks go, too, to all other Members of your Lordships’ House and outside organisations with whom we have worked, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.
As has been said, the Bill has not had the quickest of passages through the House. It started out in your Lordships’ House a year ago around the time when, as I remember it, I was temporarily out of action. It now goes to the other place for their consideration, and I am quite sure that the work that we have all done on the Bill will assist its passage through the Commons.
My Lords, once again, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I of course note the points raised and look forward to further debate in the coming months on matters relating to aviation and unmanned aircraft. With that, I think we are done: the Bill is clear for take-off.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
The Secretary of State must exercise his or her functions under this Part in accordance with the general duty under section 1 of the Transport Act 2000.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to exercise functions in respect of airspace change proposals under this Bill in accordance with the Secretary of State’s general duty in respect of air traffic services provided for by the Transport Act 2000.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 1, I shall speak also to the other amendments in my name in this group. Amendment 1
“would require the Secretary of State to exercise functions in respect of airspace change proposals under this Bill in accordance with the Secretary of State’s general duty in respect of air traffic services provided for by the Transport Act 2000.”
Amendment 10 is complementary to this amendment.
Amendment 2 would ensure that
“the Secretary of State must, before making a direction requiring a person to progress an airspace change, consider representations from persons involved in airspace change and be satisfied that the direction is necessary to deliver the CAA’s airspace strategy and is reasonably practicable to comply with.”
Amendment 5 would ensure that, before making direction requiring a person to co-operate in an air- space change, the Secretary of State must consider representations from persons involved in airspace change and be satisfied that it is reasonably practical for the recipient of the direction to comply with it.
Amendment 8 would align the test for the variation of the direction with that applicable to making a direction. Amendment 9 would require the Secretary of State to publish reasons for any direction to progress or co-operate in an airspace change proposal or variations or revocations of such direction made under this part. Amendment 11 would make the Secretary of State responsible for the implementation of the CAA’s airspace strategy and related reports.
Amendment 13 concerns the report on general aviation. General aviation—this was the case in my day, which is now some decades ago, but I think it still persists—particularly light general aviation, is essentially where all our airline pilots are initially trained; that is how they come into the profession and so on. It is important that it is properly facilitated with respect to airspace changes and development. Fortunately, from conversations with the Minister, I believe that she shares that view, and I hope that, in her response, she will set out the Government’s support for general aviation and how its interests will be taken account of in the developing airspace debate. Hopefully, this will leave general aviation properly provided for and, almost as important, feeling that it has been properly consulted in the development.
In summary, this group of amendments seeks to clarify the role of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has a role that is related to the CAA in various processes. It is not entirely clear who is in charge. The Bill as written gives the Secretary of State and the CAA the powers to achieve airspace change, but it is not clear who is actually responsible for getting it done. I would like to hear from the Minister that it is clear that the achievement of improvements and a new airspace capability is down to the Secretary of State, answerable to Parliament, and that his relationship with the CAA may be a partnership but he is the person in the partnership who is held accountable for execution and success.
The rest of the amendments are about requiring appropriate relationships between the parties and the Secretary of State. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the Bill, but I must use this opportunity to say that it is a bit of a mess. That is not surprising, because it has such a long history: the Bill itself is the result of attempts over several years to get legislation of this nature, and of course we had the Committee stage over a year ago.
Since then, there has been a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of the aviation industry—one that we would never have foreseen at the time when we spoke about this last. The impact of coronavirus has undermined all branches of aviation. In addition, of course, since we last spoke we have left the transition period following Brexit, but we are still at the point where we have to adhere to international norms and regulations.
We certainly support the amendments. They are designed to ensure that, when aviation modernisation takes place, the change comes in a realistic and careful manner, and that where the overall cost for an airport is concerned, it receives appropriate compensation if there is a detriment to it. The Airport Operators Association has suggested that the Government need to stimulate the modernisation process by funding the first stage of modernisation, and I would be interested in hearing what the Minister thinks of that proposal. The association also remains concerned about the breadth of the powers that this Bill would give the Government in order to release controlled airspace, to ensure that controlled airspace is released by airports.
There is a clear tension here between the needs of general aviation—I fully appreciate that general aviation itself is not a neat, simple category; there are many different strands to it—and commercial aviation, which is worth many billions of pounds to our economy. That is something that concerns airport operators; they are worried about the lack of limit to the Government’s powers. I shall be listening to the Minister’s response and hoping that she will reassure us about the manner in which the Government will use those powers.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for tabling these amendments. I hope to set out the Government’s rationale for why we believe they are not necessary. I do not expect to speak at length on all groups, but for this group specifically it is important to put on record some commitments that the Government are willing to make and the rationale for them. I will return to the financial concerns of airports, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in the next group.
Amendments 1 and 10 seek to require the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority to act in accordance with the general duty set out in Sections 1 and 2 of the Transport Act 2000 respectively. These duties apply only to the provision of air traffic services and set out various matters to be considered in the exercise of the relevant functions. This includes the words
“to secure that licence holders will not find it unduly difficult to finance activities authorised by their licences”,
which in effect refers solely to NATS (En Route) plc, or NERL, as the UK’s only licence holder. I understand that NERL would like to ensure that the specific duty on the Secretary of State and the CAA is considered when directing NERL with an airspace change proposal, or ACP. It is already a requirement for the Secretary of State and the CAA to consider any licence conditions relating to NERL’s role in airspace modernisation through the lens of its statutory duties under the Transport Act 2000. As with any proposed recipient of a direction, if the licence holder has financial concerns in progressing an ACP then we expect that the CAA’s oversight team will seek to assist in finding potential solutions, such as sharing costs or expertise with other airport operators or assisting the proposed recipient in applying for funding from other sources.
The noble Lord’s amendment would extend the duties of the CAA and the Secretary of State in the Transport Act 2000 to cover other sponsors of airspace change; for example, airports. Relevant duties already apply to air navigation functions which the Secretary of State directs the CAA to carry out. Section 66 of the Transport Act 2000 enables the Secretary of State to give directions to the CAA regarding air navigation, and Section 70 sets out the CAA’s general duty in relation to its air navigation functions.
The amendment would be likely to cause a legislative conflict because, when determining whether to make directions using the powers in the Bill, the Secretary of State will consider advice from the CAA. This advice will take into account how critical the airspace change in question is in contributing to overall airspace modernisation, and the ability of the proposed recipient to progress the change, including the proposed recipient’s financial and other resources.
I turn to Amendments 2, 5, 8 and 9. The purpose of Amendments 2 and 5 is to require the Secretary of State to have regard to representations made by any person involved in airspace change before issuing a direction in order to be satisfied that the direction is necessary to deliver the CAA airspace strategy and that it is reasonably practicable to comply with. Amendments 8 and 9 would require the Secretary of State to ensure that the same considerations applied if the Secretary of State varied a direction and that the reasons for the variation were published. I reassure noble Lords that appropriate conditions are already written into the Bill.
Clause 2(3) states that, before giving a direction, the Secretary of State must consult its proposed recipient. Clause 2(4) states that the Secretary of State may give a direction only if he or she is of the view that it
“will assist in the delivery of the CAA’s airspace strategy.”
Clause 3(2) states that the Secretary of State must consult both the proposed recipient of the direction and
“the person with whom co-operation would be directed.”
On Amendments 8 and 9, Clause 4 requires that directions, and any notice of variation or revocation, given by the Secretary of State under Clauses 2 and 3 are given in writing and are published. As with directions given under Clauses 2 or 3, any variation of a direction must assist in the delivery of the airspace strategy. We also expect the Secretary of State to consider how critical the ACP is and the ability of the sponsor to progress it. Before varying a direction, prior consultation with the relevant parties would be required. The same factors considered when giving a direction would be considered before varying or revoking a direction.
The requirement to consult before giving or varying a direction would inevitably require the Secretary of State to provide reasons for giving or varying a direction and to take advice from the CAA to ensure that the direction or its variation is required to assist in the delivery of the CAA’s strategy. We would expect the reasons for the direction, or variation or revocation, to be given and published alongside the direction or notice of variation or revocation, rather than in the direction or notice of variation itself, although the Bill is not prescriptive on that point.
In the unlikely event that a direction or variation were given where it was not reasonably practicable for the sponsor to carry it out, the sponsor would be able to use its right of appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, under Schedule 1, if the decision was wrong on one or more of the following grounds; namely, if it was based on an error of fact or was wrong in law, or an error was made in the exercise of a discretion.
Amendment 11 would make the Secretary of State responsible for the implementation of the CAA’s airspace strategy. It would also require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a Statement setting out progress towards the implementation of the strategy within 12 months of the Bill being passed, and to lay further reports covering every subsequent 12-month period within six months of those periods ending.
The Civil Aviation Authority (Air Navigation) Directions 2017, issued to the CAA under Section 66(1) of the Transport Act 2000, directs the CAA to
“prepare and maintain a co-ordinated strategy and plan for the use of UK airspace for air navigation up to 2040, including for the modernisation of the use of such airspace.”
This places responsibility on the CAA for preparing the strategy, in consultation with the Secretary of State, and to report annually on the delivery of that strategy, which the CAA does through its airspace modernisation strategy—AMS. However, although the CAA and the DfT, as co-sponsors, are jointly responsible for the programme and for setting out the framework within which modernisation happens, airspace modernisation will ultimately be delivered by aviation stakeholders. Therefore, the legislation makes it clear that the CAA is required by the Secretary of State to prepare and maintain an airspace strategy and publish an annual report on it, and that the Secretary of State will hold the CAA accountable for this.
With regard to the requirement for the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a Statement on the CAA’s progress against the strategy, as I mentioned previously, the CAA is already required to publish an annual report on progress against the AMS through the directions made by the Transport Secretary under the air navigation directions 2017. The latest report was published on 22 December 2020. It is worth noting that an amendment of this nature would widen the scope of the Bill, which provides the Secretary of State with specific powers with regard to airspace change proposals, not responsibility for the AMS as a whole, which is covered by Section 66 of the Transport Act 2000.
Finally, Amendment 13, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, would require the Secretary of State to report on the impact of Parts 1 and 2 on the general aviation—GA—sector. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his constructive engagement on this issue since Committee; his insight and experience have been most welcome.
GA is a key part of the aviation sector and is an important source of pilots, engineers and technicians, who, in turn, contribute to the success of commercial aviation, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. The Government support GA, and we will continue to ensure that its needs are not overlooked at both local and national level when it comes to airspace modernisation.
However, I do not believe that it would benefit the AMS to place a reporting burden on the Secretary of State within 12 months of the Bill becoming an Act, for two reasons. First, Part 1 provides the Secretary of State with powers of direction relating to ACPs. Initially, we intend to use the powers in the Bill only on ACPs that are part of the master plan which is being developed by the Airspace Change Organising Group—ACOG—and formally accepted into the AMS. However, due to the impacts of Covid-19 on the modernisation programme —notably, the financial impacts on industry—the next iteration of the master plan will now not be delivered until later in 2021. That means it is very unlikely that within the 12-month period laid out in Amendment 13 a sponsor would have been directed to undertake an airspace change. If the powers in Part 1 are not used in this timeframe, there will be no impact on GA to be assessed and reported.
Secondly, Part 2 relates to NERL’s licence. NERL is responsible for upper airspace, where GA aircraft, other than business jets, do not routinely fly. An impact assessment, relating to Part 2, of the effects on GA would be very limited in content. The Secretary of State is aware that ACPs can have both positive and negative effects on stakeholders, including the GA community. If an individual ACP were directed, the impacts on GA would be set out in the CAP1616 process and GA bodies would be consulted if there were impacts.
I will revisit some of the things that the Government already do to ensure that the GA sector is fully represented at every level of the airspace modernisation governance structure. First, the Government are grateful to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation for sharing the findings of the inquiry into UK lower airspace led by my noble friend Lord Kirkhope. The Government will continue to consider these recommendations during future updates to the AMS.
Secondly, CAP1711b, the governance annexe of the AMS, lists all the organisations that must be engaged in airspace modernisation. For example, ACOG is required to demonstrate how it has engaged with GA bodies such as the General and Business Aviation Strategic Forum in order for the master plan to be accepted by the CAA. To further strengthen ACOG, two GA representatives now sit on its steering committee.
Additionally, and following the Kirkhope inquiry, the Secretary of State has amended the air navigation directions to require the CAA to undertake a review, in consultation with airspace users, of airspace classification. The review will identify volumes of controlled airspace where the classification could be amended to better reflect the needs of all airspace users. The Secretary of State has also directed the CAA to prioritise ACPs from GA aerodromes relating to global navigation satellite systems—GNSS—approaches.
As demonstrated, we take the contribution of GA very seriously. As a sign of this, and after discussions with the Secretary of State, I can commit to the following further actions. First, we will require that ACOG includes a general assessment of the potential impact on the GA sector in all future iterations of the master plan. The CAA will enshrine this requirement in its guidance to ACOG on what the master plan must contain from a regulatory perspective. Secondly, we will ensure that future iterations of the master plan will be drawn to the attention of both Houses when they are published by placing a copy in the Libraries of both Houses. We will also direct the CAA to include a specific chapter on GA in its annual progress report on the AMS. This will be published, and a copy placed in the Libraries of both Houses accompanied by a Written Ministerial Statement. Additionally, we will require the CAA to provide a report on the impact of Part 1 of the Bill on GA, under Sections 16 and 17 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
These actions that I am committing to achieve the same objective as this amendment. I hope that, based on these reassurances and the commitments I have made, the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. In light of the assurances she has given us, I am happy to withdraw Amendment 1 and send this Bill to the other end, where they will no doubt consider her response in great depth. I shall also not be moving the rest of the amendments in my name in this group.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Direction to progress airspace change proposal
Amendment 2 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 3. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.
3: Clause 2, page 2, line 25, at end insert—
“( ) If a direction given to a person under subsection (1) is predominantly or wholly to enable the air change proposals of a third party to be completed as part of the masterplan for airspace modernisation and not an airspace change proposal of the person itself and would lead to adverse financial impacts for that person, the Secretary of State may compensate that person and may recover the cost of compensation wholly or in part from the third party.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would allow compensation for adverse financial impacts.
I move Amendment 3 and I will speak briefly to the other amendments in this group. Amendment 3 would allow compensation for adverse financial impacts. Amendment 4 would empower the Secretary of State to provide that a person who is directed to progress an airspace change is fairly compensated for doing so, and that the compensation can be recovered from another person involved in airspace change where appropriate. Amendment 6 would empower the Secretary of State to require a person involved in airspace change to compensate another person who had been directed to progress an airspace change. Amendment 7 would allow compensation for adverse financial impacts.
One of the problems of getting organisations to co-operate is that some parties are unwilling to do so and they will use the financial impact on them as their excuse, particularly if one party is required to co-ordinate the activity and invest considerable work but is not likely to gain financially from the changes it is developing. Then it will be reluctant to move. Efforts to improve airflow planning over south-east England have been going on for at least a decade. It is important that, if it is a matter of financial limitations, the Bill allows appropriate mechanisms for money to flow between parties and perhaps from government.
This is important between big players, such as the airports and NATS. It is also important in the case of small airports or airfields on the periphery of the controlled airspace, where small changes may have significant adverse effects on them and they are not equipped—particularly financially—to mount a proper representation to have their voices heard without some recognition of the financial burden on them. Clearly, the movement of monies between the parties as allowed for in this group of amendments may not be necessary, but since we are creating a Bill to address all eventualities in the development of modern airspace it is important at this stage to make sure that there are facilities for money to move about and, in extremis, for government perhaps to finance parts of that development. I beg to move.
My Lords, our airspace modernisation is a complex but necessary process. It is necessary in the modern world because it enables environmental gains in an industry increasingly under fire for its emissions and where the technological solutions are much more long term than they are in the case of, for example, road vehicles. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, has just pointed out, one person’s gain is often another person’s loss. These are useful amendments because there is a real fear of a potential conflict between airports as the modernisation process goes forward.
In Committee, I mentioned that Stansted and Luton airports, for example, are very close geographically. It is not impossible to imagine that what would help Stansted might deprive Luton; for example, a potential airspace route that would cost it money in terms of potential for new services. Since the Committee stage, airports have found themselves in great financial difficulty because of travel restrictions. These amendments are therefore designed to ensure what I assume is an even-handed approach from the Secretary of State down through the CAA and the Airspace Change Organising Group.
The Airport Operators Association remains concerned about the funding of this issue—I raised that in the last group and was delighted to hear that the Minister has agreed to deal with it in her response here. When this matter was raised previously by the Airport Operators Association, the Aviation Minister suggested three sources of funding in a situation where one airport was going to win at the expense of another. The first suggestion was that alternative sponsors might pay. I would be grateful if the Minister would explain exactly what is intended with that proposal.
The second suggestion from the Aviation Minister was that funding might come from the £10-million airspace modernisation fund. That sounds fine but it is actually a relatively small sum so I would be grateful if the Minister could explain whether that is a fixed sum or extra funding would potentially be available.
Thirdly, there was a suggestion of government funding on a case-by-case basis. If the Government have any further thoughts on this, it would be really good to hear them at this stage. I hope that the Minister can put the Government’s intentions on record today to clarify these issues.
My Lords, the purpose of this group of amendments is to enable compensation for the recipient of a direction if the airspace change is predominantly or wholly for the benefit of a third party and if issuing a direction would lead to adverse financial impacts. Amendments 3 and 7 would also allow the Secretary of State to recover the cost of the compensation from the third party.
It is important for me to be clear up front that, while we recognise the severe impact that Covid-19 is having on the aviation sector, the “user pays” policy principle is an important one: those who stand to benefit from airspace change should pay for the costs of such a change. In the light of the pandemic and its effects on the aviation industry, most airports have paused their work on airspace change. However, airspace modernisation remains critical to deliver additional capacity and improve access to airspace for different users; it also brings environmental benefits by reducing emissions.
Therefore, the Government have asked the Airspace Change Organising Group—ACOG—to revisit the master plan for airspace change in this light to ensure that the benefits of the programme are realised and that the investment already made is not lost. In July last year, ACOG published a report on remobilising airspace change. It included 10 recommendations aiming to ensure that the programme advances, while recognising the financial pressures faced by airports and the industry.
The DfT and the CAA immediately accepted recommendations 1, 2 and 4. First, we will ask ACOG to establish clear protocols for the airports that are able to resume work on airspace change, how we engage with those where work has paused and the exit process for those that decide to opt out of the programme, subject to their criticality to the programme as a whole. Secondly, we will ask NERL and ACOG to work together to re-evaluate NERL’s 2018 feasibility report into airspace modernisation to identify the core set of airport-led airspace changes that will be required in the post-Covid world. Lastly, in the short term, the CAA will work with ACOG to ensure that work on airspace change that can still progress does not conflict with or constrain the broader programme.
Officials continue to work closely with the CAA to consider the remaining seven recommendations. One of these includes funding to tackle the short-term airspace change proposal—ACP—funding gaps potentially created by Covid-19. In the light of the pandemic, we recognise that the timescales in which airspace modernisation will take place will necessarily change. ACOG therefore plans to develop the future iteration of the airspace modernisation master plan in 2021.
The powers in the Bill are tied to the airspace modernisation strategy—the AMS—and the master plan. The Secretary of State could make a direction only to persons involved in airspace change based on this strategy. Therefore, it follows that there are no plans to use these powers in the near future while the industry recovers from the pandemic. As I have said, the need to modernise the UK’s airspace has not changed. We will need these powers in future once the master plan has been developed and the modernisation programme has been restarted to ensure that the strategy can be implemented in the years to come.
The Government recognise that there may be occasions when a small airport, or another person involved in airspace change, may require financial assistance to carry out some aspects of an ACP. We expect the CAA’s oversight team to work with the potential sponsor before recommending that the Secretary of State uses the powers to direct an ACP. At this early stage, if the potential sponsor expressed concerns that it did not have sufficient funding to proceed with a particular ACP, we would expect the oversight team to work with the potential sponsor to suggest alternative solutions.
I will set out again those solutions as they currently stand for the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. As she noted, they could include an alternative sponsor paying for the changes. The CAA oversight team could help to identify and seek support from another ACP sponsor most likely to benefit or whose own ACP plans depend on the change in question. When it comes to airspace modernisation, where the airspace of two neighbouring airports overlaps, there will necessarily have to be collaboration. There cannot be one winner and one loser. The CAA will have a key role to play in that, not only in terms of seeking redress for putting the airspace programme in place but also in considering the fairness of the proposals between those two airports.
The second source of funding is the CAA’s airspace modernisation support fund. This fund is intended to support projects that are important to the success of the AMS where there are no other appropriate mechanisms for the recovery of the costs. It should support AMS deployment, including activity that is critical to the implementation of the airspace master plan that ACOG has been commissioned to deliver under the AMS. The noble Baroness mentioned a figure of £10 million and stated that she did not feel it was enough. At the moment, the Government are working on a one-year spending review, and further consideration of the nation’s finances and the availability of funding for this programme will be considered in future spending plans.
Finally, there is potential—it is a last resort—for government funding. The Government could consider, on a case-by-case basis only, whether grant funding under Section 34(1)(b) of the Civil Aviation Act could be provided to allow the airport director sufficient funds to bring forward an ACP. This funding would be subject to Treasury approval and would be provided only if absolutely necessary. Alternative funding mechanisms would be considered in the event that the sponsor is not an airport.
Due to these steps and the considerations of the industry as a result of the pandemic and further options that may be available to us, we do not expect a situation to arise where a potential sponsor would be put in financial difficulty by being directed to progress an ACP. I hope that, on the basis of my explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation and for placing it on the record. I note that the Government are not entirely closed to the idea that financial considerations may be important, and that they may have to act to ease the burden on one party against another or make some arrangement, even if it is not a direction. I found the answers useful; unfortunately, I would have found an answer where she agreed with me entirely more useful. Nevertheless, I think that this has gone far enough for me to be happy to withdraw the amendment, and I give notice that I do not intend to move the other amendments in this group.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Amendment 4 not moved.
Clause 3: Direction to co-operate in airspace change proposal
Amendments 5 to 7 not moved.
Clause 4: Directions under sections 2 and 3: supplemental
Amendments 8 and 9 not moved.
Clause 5: Delegation of functions to CAA
Amendment 10 not moved.
Amendment 11 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 12. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.
Clause 10: Air traffic services licensed under Part 1 of the Transport Act 2020: enforcement
12: Clause 10, page 9, line 25, at end insert—
“(5A) In section 34 (investigations), for subsections (1) and (2) substitute—“(1) A person may make a representation to the CAA about an alleged or apprehended contravention of a section 8 duty or a licence condition.(2) Where a representation is made to the CAA, the CAA may— (a) consider the representation;(b) investigate the alleged or apprehended contravention.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides the Civil Aviation Authority with discretion over whether to investigate alleged or apprehended contraventions of section 8 duties or licence conditions by air traffic services licence holders. This discretionary power would replace the current requirement for the CAA to investigate alleged or apprehended contraventions in certain circumstances.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, NATS and the CAA for their very constructive engagement on this issue, which has resulted in these government amendments. In moving Amendment 12 I will speak also to Amendment 21.
Amendment 12 seeks to amend Section 34 of the Transport Act 2000 to give the CAA greater flexibility to consider representations about an alleged or apprehended contravention—or a complaint—and to ensure that resources are used effectively. Section 34 of the Transport Act 2000 currently places an obligation on the CAA to investigate a complaint if the representation is made by—or on behalf of—a person who appears to have an interest. While this obligation does not apply if the representation appears to the CAA to be frivolous or vexatious, in practice this section as currently worded gives the CAA little discretion not to commence formal investigations. As a result, the licence holder and CAA may be presented with a considerable burden when engaging with an investigation which could potentially have serious resource implications, even where the CAA then decides not to take further enforcement action.
Amendment 12 will provide clarity and flexibility for the CAA and stakeholders as to when investigations should be commenced. This will reduce the potential for unnecessary investigations which have no material effect—or which result in no enforcement action being taken—without watering down the CAA’s powers, or the ability of parties to raise a complaint. The CAA will publish updated enforcement guidance, which can refer to the application of Section 34.
Amendment 21 is a minor, consequential amendment. The Bill already makes a consequential amendment to Section 34 of the Transport Act 2000. That provision would have changed the current reference in Section 34 from “condition of a licence” to “licence condition”. As Section 34 is being amended more substantively, that consequential amendment is no longer required.
I turn briefly to Amendment 19, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I am grateful to the noble Lord for engaging with this. Amendment 19 seeks to ensure that the CAA would impose penalties on the licence holder, NERL, only where the contravention of the licence or Section 8 duty is serious, and it was deemed proportionate to do so. Following extensive engagement with NERL and detailed consideration, the Government are of the view that this amendment is not necessary. There are already sufficient legal checks and balances contained in the Bill, as well as through policy and guidance, to prevent disproportionate fines being levied on a licence holder.
The proposed amendment would also depart from the approach taken in the equivalent provision in the Civil Aviation Act 2012, meaning that the threshold for imposing a penalty relating to NERL would be higher than that for an airport’s economic licence. This would create a disparity in CAA enforcement across the sector. I do, however, appreciate the importance of considering the seriousness of the contravention, along with the proportionality of imposing a fine, and I will take this opportunity to reassure noble Lords of what provision has already been made.
First, the power of the CAA to impose a penalty is discretionary, and it would do so only for the most serious contraventions or as a matter of last resort. All regulators, including the CAA, are already required to consider the better regulation agenda—as well as the Macrory principles of better enforcement—in exercising their regulatory and enforcement functions. The Macrory principles explicitly state that enforcement must be proportionate to the nature of the offence and to the harm caused. In practice, proportionality will be considered at every stage of a stepped process to enforcement, which will be set out in the CAA’s enforcement guidance and statement of policy on penalties. The CAA is required to consult relevant stakeholders on the latter. The CAA will decide whether to impose a penalty, and the level of penalty, by assessing the seriousness and harm caused to users by the contravention, through the lens of its statutory duties under the Transport Act 2000.
If the CAA were to propose a penalty on the licence holder, the Bill contains procedural safeguards, in the form of consultation with the licence holder, before the penalty could be imposed. This would give the licence holder the opportunity to highlight the steps it is taking to mitigate the contravention. The CAA would consider all stakeholder representations ahead of imposing a penalty. If the licence holder were to disagree with an imposed penalty, they could appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which would have to have regard to the financeability duty imposed on the CAA under Section 2 of the Transport Act 2000. This approach is broadly aligned with equivalent provisions in the Civil Aviation Act 2012. The Government’s decision to modernise the air traffic licensing regime recognised that appropriate alignment with similar regulatory regimes would provide stakeholders with greater clarity and certainty and assist the CAA in exercising its regulatory functions and statutory duties in a more effective manner.
Turning to Amendment 20, I think we are agreed that the CAA should have a discretionary power to investigate complaints under Section 34, as set out in Amendment 12. It would therefore be inconsistent to narrow the power for the CAA to obtain information in relation to Section 34. I beg to move.
My Lords, these amendments relate to the CAA’s function to investigate complaints over breaches of licence conditions. Since the CAA has considerable powers, any limitation of those powers needs to be carefully balanced. There are concerns within various parts of the aviation industry about how the dual role of the CAA effectively operates in relation to these issues.
I regret that I am speaking before the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, because I want to listen carefully to the thoughts behind his amendments. It is important to fully understand the purpose of Amendment 20 in narrowing the power to obtain information. I believe it is in the spirit of the other limitations within this group of amendments, which seem entirely sensible.
My Lords, we fully support Amendments 12 and 21. We put forward amendments in Committee, in the light of conversations with the CAA, which we felt made some good points. We put these to the Government, who said, as Governments always do, “We don’t think much of your amendments but we agree with what you’re trying to do. Can we do it our way?” And my view is, yes, we can do it in the way they wish to draft it.
I turn to Amendment 19. In many ways, the Minister has answered the question: will the CAA behave in a responsible and proportionate way? She has basically assured us that it will, and that it is implied in general legislation.
On Amendment 20, we felt that the CAA’s powers were overly wide. I do not have a more specific reason for tabling the amendment, other than that the two concepts in Amendments 19 and 20 stood together.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for a brief and constructive discussion. This is the culmination of many discussions of these issues, and we were very keen to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that we recognised his concerns. We did—in typical government fashion—decide that our amendment was better than his, for which I apologise, but I suspect we were probably right. I am very grateful that the noble Lord is supporting the amendments. I tried very hard to set out exactly what we would expect the CAA to do in relation to his Amendment 19, and I am pleased that I have reassured him.
On Amendment 20, we felt that it would be inconsistent to narrow the power for the CAA to obtain information in relation to Section 34, because the Bill currently includes the power for the CAA
“to obtain information for … carrying out its functions under section 34 and Schedule B1”.
This covers documents or information that the person has or are under their control. It is important to note that:
“The CAA may give a notice under this paragraph only in respect of information or documents that it reasonably requires”—
I suspect that is a bit of narrowing—
“for the purpose of carrying out its functions under section 34 or Schedule B1.”
Therefore, we do not feel that it is necessary to limit the power, as we believe that the Bill is already appropriately drafted. On that basis, I commend the amendment to the House.
Amendment 12 agreed.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 12A. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything else in this group, to a Division must make that clear in debate.
12A: After Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—
“Airport slot allocation(1) Council Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 of 18 January 1993 on common rules for the allocation of slots at United Kingdom airports is amended as follows.(2) After Article 10a insert—“Article 10aaTemporary power to make regulations about airport slot allocation1 The Secretary of State may by regulations amend or modify this Regulation or the Airports Slot Allocation Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/2665) to make provision about the allocation of airport slots to air carriers in respect of specified periods.2 The Secretary of State may make regulations under this Article only if the Secretary of State considers that as a result of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2—(a) there has been a reduction in the level of air traffic in a period compared to the corresponding period in a relevant previous year, and(b) the reduction is likely to persist.3 The power to make regulations under this Article may not be exercised—(a) after 24 August 2024, or(b) in respect of a period after the winter season following 24 August 2024.4 Regulations under this Article may, in particular, make provision—(a) requiring coordinators to consider slots allocated for a specified period as having been operated by the air carrier to which they were initially allocated, subject to any conditions as may be specified in the regulations being met;(b) modifying Articles 8(2), 10(2) and (4) and 14(6) of this Regulation to apply for a specified period as if they contained different percentage figures, subject to any conditions as may be specified in the regulations being met;(c) modifying Article 10(4) of this Regulation to apply for a specified period as if it included additional reasons on the basis of which non-utilisation of slots by an air carrier can be justified;(d) modifying Article 14 of this Regulation to apply for a specified period as if it included a power for the coordinator to withdraw slots from an air carrier for the remainder of a scheduling period where the coordinator determines that the air carrier has ceased its operations at the airport concerned and is no longer able to operate the slots allocated to it;(e) about enforcement of any provision made under this Article, including modifying for a specified period Article 14 of this Regulation or regulations 14 to 19 of the Airports Slot Allocation Regulations 2006;(f) modifying for a specified period any provision of this Regulation relating to the allocation of slots to new entrants (including the definition of new entrant);(g) modifying for a specified period any provision of this Regulation relating to coordination parameters. 5 In paragraph 2(a) “relevant previous year” means any previous year that the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purposes of comparing levels of air traffic.”(3) In Article 13 (regulations)—(a) after paragraph 1 insert—1a A statutory instrument containing regulations under Article 10aa may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”;(b) in paragraph 2, for “Regulations” substitute “Any other regulations”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide the Secretary of State with a temporary power to amend the airport slot allocation provisions in Council Regulation 95/93 and the Airports Slot Allocation Regulations 2006 where, due to coronavirus, there has been a reduction in the level of air traffic that is likely to persist.
My Lords, Amendments 12A, 18A, 18B and 44 are a series of government amendments to provide temporary powers for the alleviation of airport slot usage rules. This will amend retained EU regulation 95/93, which governs the allocation of UK airport slots.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80:20 rule—or the so-called use it or lose it rule—encouraged the efficient use of scarce airport capacity, while allowing airlines a degree of flexibility in their operations. There are eight slot-constrained airports in the UK to which the 80:20 rule applies: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Luton, Stansted, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester. The 80:20 rule mandates that, provided an airline has used its airport capacity at least 80% of the time in the preceding scheduling period—either winter or summer—it is entitled to those slots in the upcoming equivalent period.
Due to the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in March last year the EU Commission took the decision to waive the 80:20 rule. Airport co-ordinators were instructed, when determining slot allocations for the upcoming summer season, to consider slots as having been operated regardless of whether they were actually used. This waiver covered the summer 2020 season and was subsequently extended to cover winter 2020-21. The UK supported the EU’s position.
Without alleviation, airlines may have incurred significant financial costs by operating flights at low load factors merely to retain their slots. Alleviation has helped to protect future connectivity and airline finances and reduced the risk of ghost flights being run to retain slots.
We anticipate that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation industry will continue for some time. Passenger demand is not predicted to return to 2019 levels until at least 2024-25. After we exited the UK-EU transition period on 31 December, regulation 95/93 was retained in UK law. However, when it was retained, the powers of the Commission to extend the period of alleviation from the 80:20 rule—which are being transferred to the Secretary of State—were expressly limited to 2 April 2021. As we expect disruption to air travel to continue for several years, it is therefore imperative that the UK has the necessary powers at its disposal to provide alleviation beyond the summer 2021 season should the evidence suggest that it is warranted.
Amendment 12A inserts a new clause after Clause 11 in Part 2 of the Bill. The new clause would insert a new Article 10aa into retained Council Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 of 18 January 1993 on common rules for the allocation of slots at United Kingdom airports. This would provide the Secretary of State with a power, exercisable until 24 August 2024 and not in respect of a scheduling period after winter 2024-25, to provide air carriers with alleviation from the requirement to operate airport slots allocated to them 80% of the time in order to retain the slots for the next equivalent scheduling period.
To allow for flexibility, this amendment also includes powers to modify the 80% requirement relating to slots usage. This will be an alternative to applying a full alleviation of the 80:20 rule for a specified scheduling period or season. This recognises that there could be alternative ratios, not 80:20, which could be applied to ensure the efficient use of slots. It will also allow the Secretary of State to apply conditions to an alleviation of the 80:20 rule, such as by setting a deadline for the return of slots not intended for operation, or that a waiver will not apply to a series of slots of an airline that, for example, ceases to operate at an airport.
The amendment also allows the Government to make other changes to the operation of the rules relating to the allocation of slots under this regulation for the duration of the relevant scheduling period. For example, the Government could change co-ordination parameters to reflect partial closures of airports, adopt temporary rules for the most efficient allocation of unused slots, and give the slot co-ordinator enforcement powers—for example, where unused slots are not returned with sufficient time to enable them to be effectively reallocated to other carriers. Having the powers to vary the 80:20 ratio and apply conditions to be in place on application of the rule will allow appropriate measures to support the sector’s recovery as passenger demand returns.
The use of this power will require secondary legislation, subject to the affirmative procedure, for any applicable scheduling period in which evidence supports the conclusion that relaxation of the 80:20 rule is appropriate. The nature and extent of any relaxation will be subject to targeted consultation and, of course, there will be a debate in both Houses.
This approach will allow us to use current data and evidence, as well as to consult stakeholders, to make judgments on whether alleviations are required for each period and, if so, to what extent. We will also assess other institutions’ analysis and recommendations on slots usage rules for future seasons, including the Worldwide Airport Slot Board, and proposals from other areas, such as the European Union and the United States.
Amendment 18A is a consequential amendment to Clause 19 to reflect that the new clause on airport slot allocation extends to England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland, where aerodromes are a matter reserved for the devolved Assembly. As noted, however, all slot co-ordinated airports in the United Kingdom are currently in England.
Amendment 18B is a consequential amendment to Clause 20 and provides for the new clause to come into force immediately when the Bill is passed and becomes an Act. This amendment ensures that regulations could be made under the new Clause 11A, relating to airport slot allocation, following Royal Assent, so that they are ready to come into force as soon as appropriate thereafter.
Amendment 44 amends the long title of the Bill to include reference to airport slot allocation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her introduction to these amendments and her explanation of the background. I should explain to the House that for most of my time as a Member of the other House I represented Aberdeen Airport; I say “most of my time” not because the airport relocated, but because my constituency boundaries changed. As a result of that, and of the fact that I commuted weekly by air to Parliament for decades—until lockdown last March, I continued to do so—I have taken an interest in aviation. Until lockdown I was also a frequent traveller around Europe and the rest of the world, and have experience of a variety of airlines and airports, large and small.
The allocation of airline landing slots is controversial, in terms of competition and commercial opportunity, as well as of access from feeder airports to the co-ordinated airports—a particular concern of mine. I completely understand the reason for the current waiver of the 80:20 “use it or lose it” rule, in the present climate. As the Minister said, we are following the same measures as the EU. Since she touched on this, does she foresee any circumstances in which the UK would, or should, take a different approach—for example, in how the proportions are reallocated? What would be the criteria or the conditions for that to happen?
I understand the complexity of managing slots, especially when airlines have seen their incomes decimated, and the fact that, as the Minister said, the predictions are for a long, slow period of recovery. At the same time, airport managers understandably wish to maximise traffic through their airports and resent it if airlines retain slots that they do not use, especially if other airlines are seeking additional slots with the intention of building a service. Given the need to maintain good relations with its airline clients, an airport may be unwilling to express its frustration. Clear, legally enforceable rules would be helpful, so does the Minister think that legal enforceability of the slots rules should be considered?
Access to services to and from London airports is especially critical for Scottish and Northern Ireland airports, both for access to London and for connections to Europe and the rest of the world. Of course services are driven by demand and commercial reality, but it is acknowledged that wider economic consideration for linkages is also important. That was demonstrated by the Government’s intervention on the collapse of Flybe, in relation to certain regional services.
Leaving aside the case for subsidies—I am not engaging with that in this debate, even for lifeline services, as it seems an important but separate issue—there has been a belief among many airport users that feeder routes to London may be profitable, but that the slots could be more profitably used for long-haul routes. The feeder routes were not necessarily uncommercial, but perhaps less profitable. Control and possible hoarding of slots by the larger airlines restricts competition and makes it difficult for other airlines to develop alternative services.
At the height of oil and gas activity in Aberdeen, we had daily flights to not only Heathrow but Gatwick, London City, Luton and Stansted; more recently Loganair trialled a service to Southend, but that did not last long. British Airways pulled out of providing a service to Gatwick and London City years ago. I found that hard to understand, as many of the airline’s holiday flights operate from Gatwick and transfers from Heathrow to Gatwick are not relaxing. EasyJet pulled the last Gatwick link, and Flybe and Eastern ended the City flights. Flybe and Virgin both attempted to offer a Heathrow service but neither became established, although it was Flybe’s demise that ended its Heathrow link.
As of this week, because of the pandemic, we have one or two return flights a day to Heathrow, compared with the six or seven we would expect in normal times. EasyJet will start providing daily flights to Luton from March, and—hallelujah—to Gatwick from May, Covid permitting. No doubt users of Belfast Airport will have a similar story, while Inverness has had to fight to retain links to London. Indeed, the reduction in services to London has seen business switch to Amsterdam and Paris, to which we have direct services, although those services, too, are currently limited.
As has been said, airlines’ recovery post-pandemic is likely to be slow but could also be ruthlessly competitive. Will the Government consider how the allocation of slots can be managed to ensure that it works in the best interests of all stakeholders, including the flying customers and feeder airports? Can airlines be prevented from hoarding routes they do not use, if that keeps out feeder routes or newcomers?
What steps can be taken to ensure that the allocation of slots takes into account the economic and social needs of remote communities, which are by definition more dependent on air links? Just for the record, the train journey from Aberdeen to London takes a minimum of seven hours, and at the moment we have only one direct service without changes; the others take longer. For people living in such areas, flying is not a luxury but an essential part of life.
Could the allocation of medium to long-haul slots be linked to a requirement to apportion and use a minimum allocation of slots from feeder airports to the co-ordinated airports? I repeat that this is not about subsidising those services. The suspicion is that they could be commercial, and probably are, but are just not as profitable. Does the Minister agree that the policy of slot allocation should be closely monitored to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the challenging future we face?
I understand the reason behind the amendments and accept it. But I believe that we should review the role of the allocation of slots, in a holistic way that takes into account the needs of the co-ordinated airports to optimise the use of their space, gives the feeder airports the linkages they need, and gives the passengers —who, after all, are really who the airports exist for—the choice and the services that can be achieved, rather than simply subjecting them to a decision based on the bottom line. Given the dire straits that many airlines are in, it is understandable that they should think in that way, but if the Government have a role, it should be to ensure fairness and social and economic connectivity, not just the profitability of the airlines.
My Lords, this is part two of a discussion that we started earlier this week on the SI on this subject, which gave the Government temporary powers. Since Committee stage, a year ago, we have had the impact of the pandemic and the EU has waived the usual 80:20 rules on slot usage. That was welcome because it avoids ghost flights—empty flights, just to keep slots.
In the amendments the Government are giving themselves powers until 2024 to continue to waive the rules altogether or to vary them, possibly by varying the percentages. That is a whole new issue to have entered the Bill—something that was simply not there a year ago. I wondered about the 2024 date and whether the period was a tad lengthy but time and time again in this pandemic, things have taken much longer to play out than we thought they would. On reflection, 2024 seems to allow a reasonable period ahead to give a level of certainty.
Because we did not have these substantial amendments prior to Report today, however, I have some questions for the Minister. First, Amendment 12A involves temporary powers to make regulations about slot allocation. Paragraph 4(d) of the new article it inserts would allow the co-ordinator to “withdraw slots” from a carrier where it is determined that
“the air carrier has ceased its operations at the airport concerned”.
My question to the Minister is: how would that be determined? I have in mind a question similar to the one I asked earlier in the week about Gatwick. Virgin has announced that it will not fly from Gatwick in future and will no longer have a base there. Indeed, it no longer does have a base there—but it retains its slots. Slots are a very valuable commodity, so how is such a situation likely to be approached in future?
My second question is on the same amendment. Paragraph 2(a) refers to “a relevant previous year”, which is later defined as:
“any previous year that the Secretary of State considers appropriate for … comparing levels of … traffic.”
That is an extraordinarily broad and vague definition, as levels of traffic vary dramatically according to the make-up of carriers from specific airports—with new ones coming and going—and to their commercial decisions. It also uses the term of a year, while slot waivers work in seasons to reflect the patterns of demand, which vary from season to season. Can the Minister confirm that the year as a whole will be the point of comparison?
Another point that I raised in our debate earlier this week is that the number of available slots currently greatly outweighs the capacity of the airlines to fill them, because as the pandemic has progressed they have greatly reduced their staff and the number of planes that they own or rent. How do the Government intend to approach this problem, whereby the number of slots cannot be filled by the current capacity of airlines?
Slot hoarding has to be tackled. The 80:20 rule is designed to maintain the competitiveness of the industry, which means fair ticket prices for passengers. If the waiver is exploited it will be bad for new entrants to the market, bad for passengers, and bad for airports. The powers or conditions that the Government have included here, therefore, and the potential to vary the 80:20 ratio, seem a sensible and welcome approach to the situation that we face, and I look forward to the Minister’s explanations.
My Lords, we generally support these four amendments, and we thank the Minister for tabling them for our examination. Nevertheless, one must recognise that the dilemma brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, in his contribution, is a real one. It is important to see these amendments as quite separate from the general problem. Can the Minister tell the House what examination of this problem the Government expect to conduct in the future?
I know from my own experience, which goes back to the 1980s, that slot allocation is a very difficult and challenging problem in the airline industry. One of the problems in life is that when there are many parties to finding an overall solution to the distribution of a scarce resource the solutions you get become very difficult to change: creating a level of change that would address the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would be in the best “Yes Minister” category—very brave. I hope, nevertheless, that the Minister can lay out some of the plans for addressing this issue.
On the amendments as a whole, I have a few questions. The Minister may have answered them—I was slightly distracted, so I hope the House will forgive me if we go over old ground.
First, my understanding is that each season’s solution, under these amendments, will be subject to an affirmative order. I would value a simple assurance on that.
Secondly, the Heathrow authorities told us that in their view the agreements that were being developed through the Worldwide Airport Slot Board were more optimal than the solution we have had to adopt for the summer of 2021. Should, therefore, the parties—the airlines, airports and other stakeholders—come to a worldwide agreement on slot allocation? These things are co-ordinated on a worldwide basis. Certainly, when I was a senior executive the most important date of my year was the IATA timetable conference in October, which addressed the following summer’s slots. If the airlines and airports produce an overall solution, is there enough flexibility in this proposed solution to allow the Secretary of State—I stress allow, not require—to endorse such a comprehensive, multiagency agreement?
Finally, can the Minister assure the House—and the industry—that there will be adequate consultation with all stakeholders for each season that is managed under these amendments?
I thank all noble Lords for their constructive engagement on these amendments, and I recognise that it is far from ideal to bring them to the House on Report. It is simply the nature of the beast and the situation that we are in: these amendments relate to the Covid-19 pandemic and our hoped-for recovery from it.
I will first address the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. He set out many of the challenges faced by the Government—both the short-term task of building back our aviation industry, and the longer-term strategy for the sector. I recognise that slot allocation is a challenge. I would not say it is controversial—it is just one of the challenges that one has to deal with.
The Government have recognised that this is an issue and carried out a consultation on it, alongside, I think, the consultation on the aviation strategy—which was a little while ago, in perhaps 2018 or 2019. We did, therefore, recognise the issue, and we asked the industry and other parties with an interest in the aviation sector how we might reform slot allocation. It remains the Government’s intention to do a piece of work on the long-term reform of slot allocation. But that is not for now. Now, we have to deal with the current situation by making amendments that are not minor but do not amount to an overhaul of the entire slot allocation process.
We do take into account the challenges that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, raised. The noble Lord asked whether we would take a different approach to the EU, and I suspect that we will, but not that we necessarily will—it depends on the EU’s approach to the periods after summer 2021. We will, however, certainly be looking at other percentages in relation to a waiver, and considering very carefully the conditions that we attach to the regulations.
The noble Lord also mentioned enforcement powers, and I think that I said, in my opening remarks, that we would consider them. There are probably at least three key elements to the way in which we will take this forward. We need to think about: new entrants and whether they are able to get into the market; the needs of passengers, which is a critical element; and—as the noble Lord pointed out to great effect—regional connectivity, particularly to places, such as Aberdeen, where the alternative is very long. Being on a train for seven hours does not sound like huge fun.
I think we will return to many of the points the noble Lord raised when we discuss the regulations that will be put before your Lordships’ House. I look forward to those debates; I think they will be quite challenging, and we will be able to have discussions on all the elements he mentioned.
Turning to issues raised the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I am pleased that she agrees with 2024. Would it not be nice if we did not have to do anything until 2024? But I suspect we may need to be doing something by then, so we are just future-proofing the amendments. The noble Baroness had a number of quite detailed questions about how one, for example, determines that an operator has ceased operations. Those are exactly the things we are asking the sector at the moment. The consultation, as the noble Baroness knows, started right at the end of December—a three-week targeted consultation to try to get to the bottom of these very knotty problems.
The noble Baroness also asked which year should be used as a baseline. Initially, we will use 2019. Will that always be an appropriate baseline? I cannot answer that, but I am fairly sure we will come back to your Lordships’ House when we do the affirmative regulations and have this discussion again. She asked whether we will be looking over a whole year: yes, of course, because summer is compared to summer, and winter is compared to winter, because the flight patterns are different. It is certainly our intention that this is not bad for new entrants or for passengers. That will be front of mind when we make these considerations.
On the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I appreciate that Heathrow recommends that alternative, “oven-ready” proposals are used by the Worldwide Airport Slot Board. For summer 2021, all we have available are the EU powers, and we are able to extend those powers, which, as your Lordships will know, we have already done. We accept, though, that, going forward, international consultation will be very important. An agreement reached internationally by airlines and airports may have a great impact on our thinking. However, I point out that the Government will have other priorities that we would like to insert into our considerations, as I mentioned previously: regional connectivity, passengers and competition at our airports.
So consultation is going to be the watchword. We will be coming back to your Lordships’ House every six months with these regulations for a while, and we will all become fairly expert at discussing the trials and tribulations of slot allocation and how we get the best possible outcome for all the stakeholders involved.
Amendment 12A agreed.
Amendment 13 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 14, and I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.
14: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—
“Review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft
(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft, and whether it provides sufficient protection to individuals.(2) The review should make reference to, but is not limited to—(a) whether privacy legislation is sufficient to cover threats posed to personal privacy by unmanned aircraft;(b) the merits of introducing mandatory remote identification;(c) the merits of introducing mandatory geo-fencing;(d) whether criminal law sufficiently protects against—(i) the modification of unmanned aircraft; and (ii) the weaponisation of unmanned aircraft;(e) whether there should be a minimum age for the purchase and operation of unmanned aircraft, and what the appropriate age would be;(f) whether the CAA’s system for registering operators of unmanned aircraft ensures sufficient supervision for those who are under the age of 18 operating unmanned aircraft;(g) whether a licensing requirement should be introduced for unmanned aircraft above a certain weight;(h) the Government’s strategy for managing risks arising from unmanned aircraft operated from overseas.(3) The review must make a recommendation as to whether the Government should bring forward further legislation in the light of its findings.(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a further review in the same terms every 12 months after the review under subsection (1).”
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 14 and give notice that I am minded to put it to a vote at the end of the debate. As I said earlier, this Bill is a bit of a mess—through no fault of the Minister; it is simply the passage of time, and time has definitely taken its toll. This applies in particular to the clauses on unmanned aircraft.
Since 2016, I have been urging the Government to bring forward legislation on drones. The Minister reminds us from time to time that unmanned aircraft include model aircraft, but I am concerned here solely with drones. In the five years since I first addressed this issue, drone technology has been transformed, and so has the number of drones in operation. They are of massive importance to our military, to the police and other emergency services, and to countless businesses across the UK. It is wonderful, transformative technology; it is also very worrying technology. In the wrong hands, drones carry illegal drugs, take illicit mobile phones into prisons and threaten major loss of life by interfering with flights, as we saw at Gatwick in 2019. “Wrong hands” obviously includes criminals, but also careless and untrained hands.
Since we started this Bill in 2019, EU legislation has been updated, and that is reflected in the details of the amendments here today. But they do not reflect the broader approach that is now needed. The Bill is a wasted opportunity, because it is largely a list of additional powers for the police. That approach is unsatisfactorily narrow, and my amendment outlines the broad approach that I believe needs to be taken. It needs to address the serious concerns of BALPA, the Airport Operators Association and many airlines about safety and security risks from drones. I have specified the range of issues I am worried about, but I do not believe it is an exclusive list. Some of them relate to technical advances, such as the availability of geofencing and remote ID. Others relate to possible shortcomings in criminal law in relation to the deliberate weaponisation of drones. Potential risks from overseas exist now that the technology allows longer-distance flying.
The amendment in this group in the name of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, also raises important issues about commercially used drones, which are often specialist and valuable. My amendment addresses the issue of the appropriate minimum age to be in charge of a drone. EU legislation allows a minimum age of 14, and the Government have supported this. But that is a minimum: it does not have to be that low within the EU rules, and, in any event, we have of course left the EU. Legislation allows drones to be registered to anyone over 18, but they can be flown by people younger than this, and there is no requirement for the registered owner to be present and in the line of sight of the person flying the drone. So, the question is whether this is sufficient supervision.
In preparation for this debate, I spent a long time online looking at adverts for drones, from under £100 to thousands of pounds. In all the adverts I looked at, I saw no reference at all to the rules on registration and supervision, line of sight, heights for flight and so on. Presumably, all that comes with the instructions in the box. But I am not entirely sure that everyone reads the instructions in the box carefully.
Also untouched by this Bill is the issue of privacy. There are serious concerns that drones can allow invasions of privacy. I said earlier that the Bill concentrates on police powers, but police use drones as a tool themselves, and they are a very useful tool in fighting crime. The vast majority of police forces now use drones, but there appears to be no overall dedicated guidance for police on the way in which they are to be deployed, or provision of information on how they should be used. This is a potentially controversial area, as we saw when Derbyshire police used drones at the start of the pandemic to watch walkers in the countryside, with the potential to levy fines on them.
This is a fast-developing technology, and my amendment recognises that by seeking a review of the legislation within six months, and every year thereafter, to ensure that it is, and remains, fit for purpose. I am not prescribing solutions, just outlining issues to be addressed and asking for a more comprehensive and effective approach to the whole issue of drones.
My Lords, I support Amendment 14 and shall speak to Amendment 15, which stands in my name. It is a probing amendment and I shall not divide the House on it.
After Committee, I was informed that unmanned aircraft and drone operators holding CAA permission for commercial operation—PfCOs—were concerned about the scale of the police powers introduced by the Bill. Recent changes to the ANO 2016 affecting the use of unmanned aircraft have dispensed with PfCOs and new categories for unmanned aircraft operations are provided for all users. The concern is that use of the police powers designed principally for recreational users or potential criminal use could cause commercial operators loss of time or money, or even cause them to fail to meet a contract.
For example, a building inspection by a drone operator might involve manoeuvres putting the drone closer to the structure than would be acceptable for a hobby user. Were the police to order the immediate grounding of a drone in such a CAA-approved use or, looking to the future, of a drone with CAA operational authorisation for beyond visual sight, extended visual sight or even swarm flights, this could lead to business disruption and loss. Would the police consider a complaint from the public reasonable grounds to order grounding? Would the police authority be responsible for such a commercial loss? I expect not, but serious cases might lead to some form of claim by insurers or the operators themselves, so it is reasonable to suggest that, for flights with CAA operational authorisation, the most the police might be required to do would be to seek presentation of the CAA approval licence, as new Schedule 9 envisages. If still concerned, the police should report the operator to the CAA, which already has extensive statutory powers for investigation and sanction.
As the Minister informed me in an exchange of letters we have had about this amendment, new risk-based categories apply to all UA activities, but this does not seem to be any reason for commercial operators, however approved or risk-assessed by the CAA, to be less concerned about the difficulties they might face if the police powers were to be exercised in ways that, maybe inadvertently, were to delay or interfere with the approved use which the CAA had given to the commercial operator.
These operators are further concerned about the level of knowledge of the relevant extensive ANO and CAP 722 publications required of regional police forces to deal with unmanned aircraft operating commercially and whether their increased workload will be funded, particularly as this activity expands. No one would welcome a breach of trust between the police and commercial businesses if police involvement were to be disruptive to commercial use. In further exchanges with the Minister—I thank her for her engagement with me over these concerns—I have not been given sufficient reassurance about the way police powers in this Bill will be used so as not to lead to potentially harmful outcomes for the commercial operator.
There is considerable growth potential in the commercial use of UAs and, indeed, in the market globally for such remotely controlled devices. The Government quote an addition of £42 billion and more than 600,000 jobs by 2030. The Bill provides an opportunity to show that such commercial users are recognised and being supported by statute and regulation specifically designed to deal with, but not onerously restrict, their activities.
A further consideration is whether some statutory approved way to claim for loss, disruption or damage to the business of the commercial operator—for example, if its unmanned aircraft was incorrectly impounded by the police—should be provided. Would this too be by means of secondary legislation, as envisaged for appeals against fixed penalty fines?
My purpose with this amendment is to seek government reaction to the need to provide for CAA-authorised and open operations in ways that the police powers in the Bill will do nothing to threaten or interfere with their commercial use and market growth. Other specialists, such as firemen and ambulance drivers, are set separate rules to other road users, which the police observe. Will the Minister agree to proposing further amendment to police powers in this Bill to address commercial uses and demonstrate the Government’s laudable commitment to supporting this fledgling industry? I sense that there is strong backing for this industry and the Minister’s direction to the Bill team would help to deliver it. I shall be happy to assist in the preparation of any amendments she decides to table.
My Lords, I support the probing amendment tabled by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, to insert a new clause. I will not repeat what he just said, but I underline its importance. If we go back in time a little, the Minister may recall that, when she first took office on drones, we—the UK—were a bit behind the curve compared to France, Ireland and Canada. Now, we have an opportunity to take the lead, which is what this new clause is partially about. I want to re-emphasise to Her Majesty’s Government that this industry, in particular, is here to develop commercial distribution and to function at all, the police should not be involved. It should be left to the CAA. It is fair to be open and say to my noble friend that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and I have been in discussions with the industry—particularly with its legal representative, Richard Ryan, who is a well-known and very well-qualified barrister.
I shall give a couple of practical examples. I have been involved with drones almost since the day they were invented. If you have a situation with a constable—let us say in Sandy, where I live—who, under Schedule 9, is simply asking for reasonable grounds for belief, which may be founded on a complaint by a passer-by, the consequence is quite significant for a commercial operator as the constable will have the power to request information while the flight is taking place. I do not know whether the Minister has had a go at flying these things—I hope that she has—but they are not that easy; I speak as a former pilot and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, is a very experienced pilot. Anyway, the flight is still taking place, and the operator is being interrupted. Currently, under Part 1 of Schedule 9, paragraph (1)(a) states that while
“a flight by a small unmanned aircraft is taking place”,
the constable may, as paragraph 2(1)(a)(ii) states, require the person to provide
“information that would assist … the constable to verify that … that flight”
is valid. The issue with this is: who takes responsibility for the flight when the pilot is being interrupted by the constable? What if the drone switches out of GPS mode and into attitude mode? It then clearly requires more care and attention with respect to carrying out flight safety under Article 241 of the ANO 2016. I know that my noble friend has all these details at her fingertips, but I remind her that Article 241 clearly states:
“A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.”
I have a couple of other points, which are perfectly practical as well. The amendments to Schedule 9 rely on the fact that a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a provision of the ANO 2016 is or was being contravened, as well as other aspects. How would the constable know at that time what precise provision of the ANO 2016 was being contravened? In practical terms, this is unachievable, due to the complexity of the legislation and/or further amendments to the ANO, leading ultimately to a possible miscarriage of justice.
My next point is very relevant to what is happening in the Covid world at the moment. What is the position if a remote pilot is conducting numerous flights at the same time, whether it is at a drone lightshow or transporting medical supplies on behalf of the NHS at scale? Some of these flights could be beyond the line of sight. This is relevant because, when we start operating at scale, the police will have significant powers which can harm the industry, create unnecessary reputational damage and be of significant cost and disruption to the whole unmanned aviation supply chain.
I have half a dozen other examples, but I do not think that the Minister wants to hear them this evening, although I would be more than happy to supply them. I ask her to reflect that this is a new industry that can and will create many jobs, increase skills and set the UK up as a leading pioneer in unmanned aviation. A system that confronts companies with such onerous terms in the legislation, that captures absolutely all operators, is, in my and my noble friend’s judgment, flawed. We have a situation where the Government have taken a view. We have looked at other jurisdictions, such as Canada—a country I know quite well—where the legislation is about half the scale of ours.
My final thought is that the potential for the loss of income, innovation and opportunity will be significant if this law applies to commercial operations, or those with an operational authorisation, especially in the short term. There is significant reliance on a constable knowing all the relevant aviation laws that apply. This is no good when a drone operator, for example, has a roof survey the next day which he cannot perform because his equipment has been appropriated by the constable in lieu of an investigation with no time limit.
Here is a wonderful potential industry. We need to make sure that, yes, there is control, but that can be done by the CAA, an organisation for which I have had the greatest respect as a pilot myself. Leave it to the CAA—that is what should happen. I hope my noble friend will reflect on some of the evidence that we have managed to produce this afternoon.
My Lords, we have heard a very powerful case from the previous speaker. I see no reason for me to detain the House unreasonably and will speak briefly, principally to Amendment 15. My concerns in Committee centred on what I saw as the need to isolate potentially irresponsible non-commercial users of drones from those who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, seek to exploit commercially this new and innovative use of the technology.
During the debate on 27 January last year, I raised the issue of the confiscation of equipment. On 12 February, I raised the same issue, in particular where rogue operators breached the rules. There has to be a procedure in place which more clearly separates and differentiates the potential rogue operator from the legitimate commercial operation. Fines are too often no deterrent. We know from government stats that there is a high incidence of non-payment among those who have little respect for the law. We need a separate, more vigorously enforced regime for rogue drone operators. We cannot treat CAA-authorised operations in a way which appears similar to that in which we treat recreational users.
The danger in the Government’s approach is that the recreational user will be the beneficiary of the developing, lighter-touch regime that will ultimately and inevitably have to apply to commercial drone operations. This is inevitable as commercial operators exert increasing pressure for the introduction of such a regime to protect commercial viability. Alternatively, if this does not happen, commercial operators will be penalised by the more vigorous approach that will inevitably have to apply to the recreational user. The systems proposed are flawed.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, has valiantly sought to convince the department and Ministers of the dangers, but has received little reassurance to date by way of response. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, can clearly see the writing on the wall and therefore seeks a review of the new regime at a later stage. She is to be congratulated on the persistent way in which she has pursued these matters over a number of years. Either way, the system when tested will need to be reviewed. We need two, distinct sets of rules and regimes; a separate regime that is fair to all.
My Lords, I remind the House of my role as president of BALPA. I thank the Department for Transport for its constructive engagement with officers from BALPA in getting this far—goodness knows, we have spent a long time getting this far with this Bill.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that rogue drone operators are clearly very different to the responsible drone operator that we wish to deal with. However, I am not sure that supporting this amendment is the right way forward. The Bill is not the right vehicle to include a requirement to review unmanned aircraft legislation. It cannot just be left to the CAA, as has been suggested, because if there were a major incident, government would be expected to have a role and to respond. At the same time, the development of drones is proceeding at an enormously fast pace. Will the Minister reassure us that a system of regular review will be put in place?
The serious concerns of BALPA are not limited to where we are today but look to where we might be tomorrow. We hear, for instance, about the problems with multiple use of drones, where one person controls more than one drone. The first instinct is to say, “That’s terrible, isn’t it? We really should have only one person per drone,” but let me put another scenario to the House. If someone is lost at sea, or there is an air crash, you may well want to have a swarm of drones covering a wide area. For that to be effective, you would need one central person to be in control so as to investigate what was beneath, and being observed by, a number of drones. It is not quite as simple as some people seem to imagine.
I would like the Minister to assure us that there will be a regular review, and that she will come back to the House at an appropriate time, possibly in answer to a Question, or put something in the Library, outlining the principles which could follow that review. It is no good saying that we want one every five years or every two years; we need to be able to respond fairly quickly to matters as they come up. I will certainly not be supporting a Division, as passing this clause would not take us forward at all. However, my hope is that some of the principles contained therein are the sort that should be borne in mind in developing the policies that we want to see for the effective and reasonable control of drones, commercially and privately.
My Lords, there is a real and strong disagreement within your Lordships’ House. There are those whom I would call almost the “free enterprise at all costs” people, such as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. They would have very little and ineffective regulation of the system. Then there are those who are being cautious about the fact that this is a rapidly developing industry, while we know that some part of the industry is in the hands of the most unscrupulous people.
I do not accept the assertions of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that a police constable is going to interfere with people whom he knows are legitimately carrying out proper business of this sort, such as looking at bridges or buildings. These people will, or should, be registered in a separate register of those who have legitimate reasons to fly drones. Those who do not have a legitimate reason should, in many cases, be subject to the full force of the law because much of what they are doing is illegal.
The other thing is that drones can be a big nuisance factor. We will come on to that in a later amendment, when we talk about areas of outstanding natural beauty. But in her approach to this, the Minister should think about people who are legitimate drone owners—those who are licensed and registered with the CAA, and presumably the local police or enforcing authority—and those who probably should not be let near drones, and are using them for nefarious or criminal activities. However, in considering this amendment, it is important to say that this industry is developing very quickly. The thought of it proceeding on its way with a formal system of being able to review the way it is turning out, probably fairly often, seems a sensible precaution.
I will direct my comments to Amendment 14 but will listen carefully to the Minister’s response to all the points made in respect of Amendment 15.
Amendment 14, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft and whether it provides sufficient protection to individuals. The amendment also sets out a number of issues to which such a review should refer but to which it should not be restricted. The review would be required to make a recommendation on whether the Government should bring forward further legislation in the light of its findings.
Unmanned aircraft—drone—technology is developing fast, and the Government need to ensure that they are proactive, not reactive, when it comes to legislating, where necessary, to reflect developments in this technology and the expansion in the use of drones in the public services, by the Armed Forces and in both the commercial and leisure sectors, as well as by those whose priority may not be operating drones safely and responsibly.
As has been said, unmanned aircraft offer great benefits to society but can also lead to significant areas of concern. Emergency services are utilising drones to save lives, and parcel and freight companies, for example, look to use drones to deliver vital medical supplies as well as day-to-day purchases. Unmanned aircraft are now used in many industries to carry out work that is potentially hazardous for human beings or can be done much more quickly or thoroughly by the use of drones. They are also used by the police, as we have seen during the current Covid-19 crisis and the associated lockdowns—an aspect to which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred.
However, there is another side, as we saw from the drone sightings at Gatwick Airport not so long ago, which resulted in flight cancellations and diversions affecting many thousands of passengers. It led, I believe, to a COBRA meeting being convened and the Army being called in, and it also highlighted the urgent need for this Bill, which nevertheless has been going through this House at a snail’s pace and still has to go through the Commons.
We have to be in a position to be sure that legislation keeps pace with developments in the increasing use, and, most importantly, potential misuse, of unmanned aircraft, as they become more sophisticated and powerful in what they can do and for how long—as well as in their range and areas of activity, not least the monitoring of civilians, and in relation to who uses them. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also said, drones are used for criminal activity as well.
There is a need to ensure that legislation continues to provide sufficient protection to individuals and that this does not get overlooked in this developing field of technology. There needs to be a mechanism for ensuring the continued adequacy and appropriateness of existing legislation, including this Bill, in a field of activity that is expanding and moving forward and will continue to do so with some rapidity.
It is not sufficient to say that legislation will be kept under review: there are so many areas nowadays, across so many departments, where the Government tell us that legislation is kept under continuous review. We need something in the Bill to ensure that, in such a fast-developing field as unmanned aircraft and the uses to which they are put, regular reviews of legislation take place, covering, but not limited to, the specific points referred to in the amendment. It is equally important that Parliament has a clear role in the review process, which is also provided for in this amendment. Amendment 14 has our support.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I will take each amendment in this group in turn, starting with Amendment 14, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which the Government believe is neither necessary nor appropriate.
The purpose of Part 3 is to attach police powers to offences in a separate piece of legislation—the Air Navigation Order 2016—and to other offences. Therefore, this Bill is not the appropriate place for a requirement to review unmanned aircraft legislation. Furthermore, a number of reviews are already due to take place. I hope this will satisfy the noble Baroness that her amendment is not necessary.
The ANO 2016 is the legislation that currently sets out offences that are specific to unmanned aircraft. Article 275 of the ANO 2016 states that it must be reviewed every five years, and its first statutory review is due to be completed by August 2021. This review will assess the extent to which the law surrounding unmanned aircraft, in so far as it is laid down in that instrument, is operating effectively to achieve its objectives. Of course, this may well be within the noble Baroness’s six-month timeframe.
As the impact assessment for the Bill states, this legislation will be kept under continuous review to ensure that it achieves its objectives: to address the key gaps identified from the 2018 consultation on the future of drones in the UK and to improve the ability of the police to respond to UA misuse, thereby reducing the irresponsible and malicious use of UA. This is in line with the Government’s practice of keeping all UA legislation under review, regardless of whether there is a legislative requirement to do so.
Moreover, ordinarily, a five-year timeframe applies to post-implementation reviews of legislation. This is recommended in the Government’s better regulation framework and the requirements of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, in relation to new measures adopted in secondary legislation regulating business and the voluntary sector. Furthermore, the Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy, published in October 2019, commits the Government to continuing to develop proposals for inclusion in future legislation, so that the legal framework within which operational responders must operate does not become obsolete or hamper their ability to respond to and investigate malicious drone activity. I am very much hoping that these forthcoming reviews will reassure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that the Government take our ability to legislate for the fast-moving world of the unmanned aircraft sector very seriously indeed, and we have work ongoing to make sure that our legislation is up to date.
The noble Baroness briefly mentioned the use of drones by the police. We have had a few conversations about this issue. It might be worth reassuring her that the police have to abide by the same laws as everybody else. Drones are incredibly helpful to police forces and can often be used in places where there is risk to life or where a helicopter might be too expensive or not as efficient. The police have to act within the same laws as everybody else and have operational procedures that overlay those laws in terms of the right way and right circumstances in which to use drones. Decisions for their use are put into place by each police force, which has clear guidance on how they are to be used.
Responsible use is of course really important—for example, on the collection and use of video footage, again, unsurprisingly, the police have to follow the same laws as everybody else. There is also a legal position on public bodies’ use of video footage that is well regulated by directed surveillance authorities. The police are responsible for ensuring that data is collected, processed and stored in accordance with the law. In terms of the safe operation of a drone, the police must do so in accordance with the Air Navigation Order 2016 and, where needed, if the operation is slightly riskier, they will have to apply to CAA for operational authorisation —as, indeed, does anyone else. If any individual has concerns about the use of drones by police, of course they can make a complaint to the police and crime commissioner or the mayor, where appropriate.
I turn to the amendment tabled by noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, which generated an interesting and lively discussion on permissions for commercial operators. Now that the implementing regulation is in place, there is no difference in the requirement to obtain a permission for a commercial or a recreational operator. I will call them “recreational operators” but there are all sorts of different operators. That is absolutely right, because I do not subscribe to the view that “commercial” is good and “recreational” is necessarily bad. Creating that false dichotomy is not really helpful.
It is down to risk, rather than who the person is with their hands on the control. So the implementing regulation draws no distinction between commercial and recreational flights and the ANO has already been amended to reflect that. Of course, the offences that noble Lords are discussing today relate to that ANO but do not amend the ANO itself. So the need to obtain a permission for a purely commercial operation has now been revoked—but, of course, that could be a good thing. Many commercial operators will now be very pleased, because they will not need to apply for a licence to fly a drone which a recreational operator standing right next to them could fly without a licence.
It strikes me that this should actually be fairly good news for commercial operators; therefore, it is only the higher-risk operations in the specific or certified category where a UAS operator will require authorisation or certification from the CAA. Most commercial operators will be perfectly competent and able to get that permission, authorisation or certification and, indeed, have it to hand in the unlikely event that a police officer or constable believes that something is not being done in accordance with the law. So I do not accept the scenarios of doom and gloom whereby dreadful things will happen if somebody has to put their hand in their pocket and pull out a piece of paper to hand to a police constable and say, “Yep, I’ve got my authorisation, here it is”, and the flight could quite frankly continue.
The police have been heavily involved in the drafting and preparation of the Bill and they have not said that they feel that this intervention with a commercial operator would be particularly onerous or difficult. They are content that they will be able to work with operational partners to make sure that the aspects of the Bill are implemented successfully. So the legislation makes it very clear what the requirement for police to engage with the UAS operator is—to establish what authorisation they have and the category they are flying in, be it for recreational or commercial use. Where there is any doubt whether an operator is acting in a lawful way, the police will be able to draw on the guidance provided. Again, I do not fear that the police will not know what they are doing in this regard. The Bill makes it clear that the police, in engaging with a UAS operator, can require information to be provided about what category they are flying in and what consents they have.
So I hope that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, will feel reassured. I suspect he may not, but it is not our intention to carve out different sets of rules for commercial and recreational operators. We absolutely understand and respect the commercial unmanned aircraft sector; we believe it has a huge future in our country and beyond and we do not want to put anything in its way or stop people doing their jobs. However, people in that sector do not justify special treatment; they should be treated exactly the same as anybody else who flies an unmanned aircraft, and that is what the regulation does. I believe it actually simplifies the system and that it will have some advantages for commercial operators, some of whom will not now need a permit to do their flights.
I hope that, based on the reassurances I have given to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, she will choose to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate; it has been very interesting. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support, for signing the amendment and for his clear explanation of his position.
I thank the Minister for her response, but I am afraid that she has not reassured me. There has been a very interesting range of views, but the Bill is just a start. My contacts with the drone industry indicate that it believes that a modern, strong legislative framework would be helpful to the industry and not a constraint. I know of several organisations that retain very serious concerns about drones and their operation in the modern world, and about their safety and the societal impact of, for example, illegal activity.
The Minister very fully outlined the Government’s approach, saying that it is neither necessary nor appropriate to have the reviews that I suggest. She referred to the ANO 2016 and the statutory review this year, which she has referred to in previous conversations. I looked at that review, but it does not have the breadth of the one that I am calling for and is not in line with the scope of the amendment that I have tabled. I am afraid that, without a commitment from the Minister to the kind of comprehensive approach that I have in mind, I feel compelled to call a vote on this amendment.
Amendment 15 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 16. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and Minister may speak once only and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.
Clause 17: Part 3: interpretation
16: Clause 17, page 10, line 31, leave out “exit day” and insert “IP completion day”
Member’s explanatory statement
This would change the definition of “subordinate legislation” to catch instruments made under retained direct EU legislation on or after “IP completion day”. Retained direct EU legislation came into existence then and it is therefore when powers conferred by the legislation became exercisable.
My Lords, as noble Lords are aware, the Government made a series of amendments to the ANO 2016 by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020, which came into force on 31 December 2020. Those amendments were mainly necessary because implementing regulation 2019/947, or the IR, became applicable on 31 December 2020.
The IR was retained in UK law on 31 December 2020 and establishes a framework for the operation of unmanned aircraft to ensure that they are used safely. This includes requirements relating to registration, competency testing, authorisations for higher-risk flights, as well as provision for the creation of geographical zones in which UA use is restricted.
As the IR makes provision for some of the same subject matter as the previous requirements relating to small unmanned aircraft in the ANO, it was necessary to make amendments to the ANO, including removing provisions, to ensure that the two sets of legislative provisions interact correctly, without duplication or contradiction. The amendments to the ANO also create offences for breaches of the requirements of the IR. Those amendments mean that many of the references within the Bill to articles of the ANO, and therefore offences, are now out of date. It is therefore necessary to amend them to ensure that the powers in the Bill continue to function. This and other government amendments to Part 3 do not change the policy intention of the Bill.
The government amendment to Clause 17 is simple and technical. It ensures that the Bill refers to the end of the transition period by changing “exit day” to “IP completion day”, which means the implementation completion date.
Clause 18 deals with regulations made under this Act, and the government amendment to it is consequential to one of the amendments to Schedule 11. The amendment specifies which regulations made under Schedule 11 will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The current draft of the Bill lists regulations under paragraph 4 of Schedule 11. However, paragraph 4 is removed by an amendment to Schedule 11 and the regulation-making power is set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 11 instead.
I turn to the government amendments to Schedule 8. This Schedule gives the police the powers to require a UA to be grounded and, in certain circumstances, to stop and search persons and vehicles and to enter and search premises under warrant.
Schedule 8 also amends Section 93 of the Police Act 1997, so that counter-UA measures that involve interference with property or wireless telegraphy can be authorised, and so that the use of these measures in relation to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and custodial institutions can be authorised within those organisations and bodies.
The amendments to Schedule 8 remove the incorrect references to offences and replace them with references to the closest equivalents and offences relating to requirements of the IR of a similar nature among the new corresponding offences in the ANO. For example, once amended, Schedule 8 will enable a police constable to stop and search a UAS operator or remote pilot who may not be complying with specific aspects of the IR’s risk-based operational framework—one example would be failing to obtain an operational authorisation to fly outside of the “open category”.
The list of offences to which the amendment to Section 93 of the Police Act 1997 applies has also been amended to include, for example, offences relating to the contravention of specified requirements in the IR. As with the other powers in this schedule, the offences to which the amendment to the Police Act will apply are only those that could constitute a serious safety or security risk if, for example, committed near certain sites, such as prisons. Without these amendments, the ability to protect the public, our critical national infrastructure and prisons from unlawful behaviour involving the use of unmanned aircraft would be limited.
I now turn to the amendments to Schedule 9. The purpose of Schedule 9 is to enable constables to obtain information from UAS operators or remote pilots about the lawful basis of a UA flight, for those flights that require a prior step to be lawful; for example, by registering or obtaining a permission. It is necessary to amend the powers in this schedule in light of the ANO amendment, including the circumstances in which the powers can be exercised. Under the IR, there is a wider range of circumstances in which a UAS operator must register, more gradations in levels of remote pilot competency and a number of new ways in which the CAA might grant its consent for a UAS operator to undertake higher-risk operations. It has therefore been necessary to substitute the schedule entirely. However, the policy intention of the schedule remains the same.
The Government consider that the powers in Schedule 9 need to be exercisable where a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting, rather than believing, that a particular requirement applies. We believe this is necessary to ensure the purpose of the provisions is not defeated as the rules in the IR are more complex. It is necessary to amend some of the terminology to reflect the scope of the IR and the related terminology. The terms “small unmanned aircraft” and “SUA operator” are no longer used in the ANO, which now refers to “unmanned aircraft” and “UAS operator”. The Bill now refers to “relevant consent” to encompass the broader range of approvals, such as permissions, operational authorisations and certifications, that can now be issued by the CAA.
Schedule 9 is amended so that the powers that the police have in relation to the registration and competency requirements and related offences apply to the new registration and competency offences in the ANO and to the requirements for tethered small UA that the ANO amendment introduced. This means that, in the context of registration and competency, the police can still require a remote pilot to provide evidence of competency and give certain information about the operator, while a UAS operator can be required to provide evidence of registration and give information about the remote pilot.
The amendment also includes a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out additional types of information and evidence which a constable could require a remote pilot or UAS operator to produce provided that the constable considered it would be reasonable to do so. Schedule 9 is also amended so that the powers that the police have in relation to provision of evidence of relevant consents for certain flights also apply to the new offences brought in by the ANO amendment. For example, the requirement to have an operational authorisation when flying in the specific category.
The power for a constable to inspect a UA has also been amended. The power, if enacted, would previously have been able to be used to ascertain whether registration and competency requirements were applicable to that particular flight and whether the UA had the UAS operator’s registration number displayed on it. Under the proposed amendment, a constable would be able to inspect a UA to ascertain whether any of the other powers in Schedule 9 were exercisable. This will still include circumstances where it is necessary to gain a more accurate assessment of the aircraft’s mass or to see whether the UAS operator’s registration number is displayed. It will now also include, for example, circumstances where a constable needs to check the class marking of a UA. EU Delegated Regulation 2019/945 requires UA put on the market from 1 January 2023 to meet certain product standards and bear markings that indicate which class the aircraft is in. This will, in time, assist a constable to ascertain whether the operation that has been undertaken using the aircraft was permitted under a particular category or subcategory of operation of the IR and to determine whether any further investigation is necessary or whether an offence has been committed.
I once again reassure noble Lords that the amendments to Schedule 9 are essential to ensure it functions as intended in light of the changes flowing from the IR becoming applicable and the changes made to the ANO by the ANO amendment.
Schedule 10 makes provision about fixed penalties for certain offences relating to UA. A minor and technical amendment has been made to paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 10 to change where the new provision created by that paragraph will appear in the ANO. This is necessary because the recent ANO amendment has added more provisions after Article 265 of the ANO.
Finally, Schedule 11 currently contains powers that allow for amendments to Schedule 8 and to Section 13 and Schedule 9 to the Bill—once it is an Act—in light of changes to the ANO, the creation of a new ANO or regulations made under the Act to provide for offences relating to EU-derived legislation. This means that the police powers in this Bill can be used to enforce any new unmanned aircraft offences brought in by any of the above.
These powers are being amended so that they include the ability for Schedule 9 to be amended again in the future in a similar way to how we are currently proposing to amend it. In other words, we are restructuring the schedule to accommodate changes to the regulatory framework while keeping the policy intention the same. I reassure noble Lords that the ways in which Schedule 9 can be amended in future are limited to within the parameters of its current subject matter.
The amendments to Schedule 11 would also permit future amendments to the police powers in Schedule 9 to authorise a constable to use reasonable force as well as create offences, including for knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information, documentation or evidence to a constable. This is in keeping with the powers currently in that schedule and therefore reflects the policy intention of that schedule as well as the aim of the Bill as a whole.
The power in Schedule 11 to create criminal offences and civil penalties, so that the requirements of the delegated and implementing regulations can be enforced, remains, but the scope of it is being expanded slightly to reflect that we now have additional regulation-making powers in the retained EU-derived legislation. The amendments permit regulations made under Schedule 11 to provide for compliance with regulations made under the UK basic regulation. The remaining amendments to the schedule are minor and consequential to those described above and are necessary to ensure that this part of the Bill continues to function as it should.
In summary, without Schedule 11 and without these amendments to it, it would not be possible to ensure that the enforcement of secondary legislation relating to UA remains fit for purpose, especially in light of new and often rapid developments in UA technology and its possible misuse in the future. To reiterate, despite this looking like a large quantity of amendments, there is no change to policy intent. The changes are necessary because of the changes to the underlying regulations and the retained EU law and to the ANO. I beg to move.
I am speaking to this general set of amendments, but I want to speak particularly on disabled safety features on drones. The Bill should make it illegal to fly a drone if any safety features are inoperable or have been disabled. My noble friend Lord Whitty tabled an amendment to this effect in Committee. The Minister’s assurance then was that the safety feature that could be referred to would be electronic conspicuity, the disabling of which would be covered under other provisions. That, we believe, is not the case. Lights, geo-awareness and geo-fencing, software functions that limit altitude, remote ID and various redundancy measures could all be covered under this provision. There are technical requirements for certain systems whereby the user cannot modify them—for example, data associated with remote ID. However, this does not protect against deliberate hacking or intentional disabling of systems. A provision that makes these acts illegal is therefore relevant.
BALPA has engaged directly with staff at the DfT on this point and we are grateful to the Minister’s officials for doing so. We note that the Government believe that sufficient safeguards are already available in the Air Navigation Order to cover this matter, but, overall, we still believe that a specific and separate offence should be created in the Bill. I make these points for the Minister to take on board, as it is highly likely that this sensible and proportionate amendment may be urged when the matter is considered in the other place. I hope the Minister can take this back to the department and reflect on it as the Bill proceeds further.
My Lords, I start by congratulating the Minister on her spirited 12-minute speech, which covered all these amendments.
In the heady days of the 1960s, I went to university for three years. Her Majesty was good enough to teach me to fly in the Royal Air Force. At university, I ran the college bar and happened to get a maths degree. It was useful training, which led me into an airline career. Running the college bar gave me first-hand experience in line management, and I am afraid that the only effect of the maths degree was to make me even more pedantic than I was naturally.
Accordingly, when the Minister was kind enough to send a letter setting out these amendments and where they were, I read it and alighted on some of the words used. She wrote to clarify that these were “largely” technical changes, saying that it is important to note that these amendments, if accepted, will not change the policy intention of the Bill and are, “in most cases”, just making minor but essential changes. Either the words are careless, and the changes are wholly technical—though I believe that there is no such thing in most cases—or some of these amendments are not technical in nature. In her response, can the Minister tell me which of these many amendments is not a technical change but has some substance? Or can she assure me that the words “largely” and “in most cases” should have been omitted from her letter and that all the changes are technical?
I ask for this assurance because we do not have the resources to work through such a large number of amendments. We made an attempt—and I commend our adviser, Ben, who worked through them. He could not find anything that was not minor and technical, but I would value the Minister enlightening me and satisfying my pedantic approach.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I have grappled with all these amendments. I wondered whether what seemed minor and technical to me might seem very significant to someone working in the industry. I thank the Minister and her officials for their thorough briefings. However, this all shines a light on the unsatisfactory situation with this Bill—a major tranche of amendments has been produced because of the time that has elapsed.
I support the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfe. They underline the need for a much more comprehensive approach and review. Although my amendment was narrowly lost, I hope the Minister will bear in mind the points I have made and the need to look more comprehensively at this in the near future.
As the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, said, as ever, the views of BALPA must hold great weight. It is important that safety is at the forefront of our minds, on all these issues. But because this is a diverse, complex and fast-changing subject, only people actually working in the industry are able to spot the problems when they first appear.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I cannot see anything here which is not detailed and technical. Therefore, I have no objections to the amendments.
I thank noble Lords for their short interventions on this debate. Turning first to the comments of my noble friend Lord Balfe, I will, of course, take them back to the department and consider them further.
Turning to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe—I see his maths degree and I raise him an engineering degree. And I am the ultimate pedant. However, what is minor and technical to one person is not minor and technical to another; indeed, that was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. When it comes to my letter to him, where I said “in most cases” and “largely”, I think I was just trying to cover my bases. The reality is that they are minor and technical. Where they are slightly not minor and technical—perhaps a bit borderline—I tried to bring that out in my 12-minute speech, particularly where there have been changes. For example, the implementing regulation has introduced some changes from the status quo ante; it is a slightly different regime. I suppose that, although they are technical amendments to make it all match up, perhaps they may be on the large end of minor. But I reassure him that I too have found nothing that I could not describe as minor or technical and, on that basis, I commend the amendment to the House.
Amendment 16 agreed.
We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 17. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.
17: Before Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—
“Prohibiting aircraft noise over designated sites
Civil aviation aircraft flying below 7,000 feet over landscapes designated as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are prohibited, except—(a) any civil aviation aircraft landing at or taking off from civil airports or airfields, and(b) civil aviation aircraft flying below 7,000 feet for safety reasons.”
My Lords, I start by apologising to noble Lords and my noble friend the Minister, as I was unable to take part at Second Reading or in Committee. I have, of course, read the Hansard reports of both previous stages.
In moving Amendment 17, standing in my name, let me say at the outset that I do not intend to press this amendment to a Division, and I can see the potential problems if my amendment was actually inserted into the Bill. Nevertheless, I feel the issue merits a short debate.
Aircraft noise caused by low-flying aircraft, particularly if it is frequent, is a major disruption, and, indeed, can be a health issue. Those who live near airports and aerodromes get used to it—not that they can ever ignore it. However, my concern, one that is shared by many who enjoy the pleasures and tranquillity of our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, is that, from time to time, that very peace and quiet is shattered by excessive aircraft noise. This amendment would prohibit civil aviation aircraft flying below 7,000 feet over landscapes designated as national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty, except for any civil aviation aircraft landing at or taking off from civil airports or airfields and civil aviation aircraft flying below 7,000 feet for safety reasons. I have chosen 7,000 feet because that is the point at which noise is considered by the CAA to be a pertinent consideration when designing flight paths.
My honourable friend Mr Philip Dunne, the chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee in the other place, has taken a keen interest in this matter and has asked several Parliamentary Questions exploring the issue. In March last year, he asked
“what provisions are included in the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill … to protect national parks and AONBs from aircraft noise.”
In reply, my honourable friend the Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said:
“The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to direct an airport, air navigation service provider or another body to take forward an airspace change that is considered necessary for the delivery of the Civil Aviation Authority’s … Airspace Modernisation Strategy.
Any Airspace Change Proposals that are taken forward as a result will be covered by the department’s existing Air Navigation Guidance which is reflected in the CAA’s airspace change process. The guidance for this process states that, where practicable, it is desirable that airspace routes below 7,000 feet should seek to avoid flying over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty … and National Parks.”
That Answer states “where practicable” and “it is desirable”, but I am afraid that that sounds a little weak to me.
In reply to a further Question asking
“what … scrutiny and … appeal mechanisms there are for the assessment of the effect of aircraft noise on … Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and … and National Parks”,
the Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said:
“The government expects airports to monitor the effect of aircraft noise on their surroundings, and to seek to address any specific concerns arising from it. There are no specific scrutiny arrangements or appeal mechanisms related to the assessment of aircraft noise on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty … or National Parks.
The airspace issues surrounding AONB and National Parks were considered in the department’s airspace and noise project. The outcome of this work was reflected in the Air Navigation Guidance 2017, which the department issued to the Civil Aviation Authority … in October 2017.
The guidance requires the CAA to have regard to the statutory purposes of AONB and National Parks when considering proposals ... When airspace changes are being considered, it is important that local circumstances, including community views on specific areas that should be avoided, are taken into account where possible. However, given the finite amount of airspace available, it will not always be possible to avoid overflying AONB and National Parks.”
Finally, when asked
“what provisions are included in the … Bill … to protect national parks and AONBs from aircraft noise”,
the Answer came back:
“The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to direct an airport, air navigation service provider or another body to take forward an airspace change that is considered necessary for the delivery of the Civil Aviation Authority’s … Airspace Modernisation Strategy.
Any Airspace Change Proposals that are taken forward as a result will be covered by the department’s existing Air Navigation Guidance which is reflected in the CAA’s airspace change process. The guidance for this process states that, where practicable, it is desirable that airspace routes below 7,000 feet should seek to avoid flying over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty … and National Parks.”
I apologise to noble Lords and particularly to the Minister for reading all that out—in fact, it may well be in her brief. Noble Lords might think that it seems to be quite good as far as it goes, but I cannot see any particular sanctions that can be taken if these directions are ignored. I would like to see something that gives real discouragement to those who seek to ignore the directions. Perhaps my noble friend can explain what happens if an aeroplane flies too low over one of these areas without good cause. I look forward to her reply. I beg to move.
I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Randall, has raised this matter, because it is of considerable concern to many people—those who enjoy areas of outstanding natural beauty and, for example, those who run the National Trust. I, too, would like to know what sanctions are available to people who own such areas of land if it becomes apparent that aircraft are not keeping to the guidance provided by the various air traffic orders.
Therefore, I intervene simply to second what the noble Lord, Lord Randall, has said. I believe that the mechanisms are there, but what I really want to know is what happens if the rules are not obeyed and what can be done about it.
My Lords, I welcome the raising of this fresh issue. I have had representations from residents in Shropshire about a sudden unexplained increase in aircraft noise in their area. In this case the noise was undoubtedly caused by civilian flights. People who suddenly find themselves underneath flights by the Air Force and the military often understand the need for those, but they may be more concerned about civilian commercial flights.
Even the local councillors could not find the cause. They could not discover where the flights were coming from, or why there had been a sudden increase. Was a new airline operating from a nearby airport? Were the schedules, or the destinations, different? They could not find the answer, and then along came the pandemic, and there was no longer a problem. However, that does not mean that the problem has disappeared for ever, or that it will not be back in the reasonably near future.
Even if that problem does not return in Shropshire, that would not undermine the important principle behind the amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for tabling it. Areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks are subject to numerous protections in terms of planning, the natural environment, and the agriculture that can take place within them, but, as I understand it, there is no protection from aircraft noise.
The Bill threatens to make the present vulnerability of such places worse, because airports will now be required to surrender their spare airspace. There might be an airport very close to an AONB but not operating over it simply because there is no commercial incentive to use that route. But now airports are to be asked to give up their spare airspace for use by general aviation, which means that our skies will be even more crowded.
This is an interesting development, at a time when the Government are keen to burnish their environmental credentials. I recommend that they look into this and see whether they can use their new powers to deal with the problem of noise. I urge the Minister to take seriously the suggestion in the amendment that flights below 7,000 feet should be controlled, and allowed only in certain situations.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for his amendment, which, as he said, provides us with an opportunity to debate aircraft noise. I am sure that in her response, the Minister will set out the Government’s position on that. I certainly would not claim to know what all their objectives are on aircraft noise, but I do remember one, although it is unrelated to the specific issue covered in the amendment.
Following the 2017 public consultation on Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, the Government said that their objective was to
“limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise at night, including through encouraging the use of quieter aircraft, while maintaining the existing benefits of night flights.”
As we are discussing aircraft noise, it might be interesting if the Minister could provide some information on the specific certifiable progress that has already been made towards achieving that stated government objective, and what specific further objectives and targets the Government have set themselves for the next three years so as to deliver on the objective to which I referred.
On the specific issue raised in this amendment, I am sure that a great many people who visit national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty have, at times, been conscious of aircraft flying low overhead. An interesting point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about all the other types of protection that already exist for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. In that context, she asked why the goal and objective set out in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, might not also offer a further protection, in view of how aircraft noise can, at times, diminish the enjoyment that people expect when visiting national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The amendment refers specifically to civil aircraft, but presumably there could be an issue with military aircraft in this context as well.
I support the basic objectives that the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, seeks with his amendment. I hope that, when the Minister responds, she will set out the Government’s thinking on aircraft noise, not least on the specific circumstances covered by this amendment and the goals, objectives and targets that the Government have set in this regard.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Randall for tabling this amendment. When we debated this in Committee, noise did not particularly come up. I hope that one of the benefits of airspace modernisation is noise reducing. I am unable to set out in full the Government’s position on noise at airports; if there are any detailed questions, I will write.
However, I want to address the points made and the issues relevant to the amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Randall. He is absolutely right, and he read out lots of responses from the Aviation Minister to questions on airspace change proposals, which are covered by the air navigation guidance. Indeed, the guidance states that
“where practicable, it is desirable that airspace routes below 7,000 feet should seek to avoid flying over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks”.
There was a question about sanctions. Obviously, some airports have no option but to send flights over AONBs and national parks. For example, Gatwick is surrounded by them. We are lucky in our country, in that there are a significant number of these things and they are wonderful, but it is simply not possible for them not to be overflown. One might narrow it down to those operating below 7,000 feet, but nearly all commercial aircraft operating below 7,000 feet are taking off or landing. Again, with airspace change proposals, we expect to see the trajectory of both landing and taking off become steeper, which will again reduce noise and limit their impact.
The amendment is unlikely to have a significant impact on the volume of such flights because they are taking off and landing, but it would have a significant impact on general aviation, which would be unable to overfly vast swathes of the UK. Noble Lords will have heard today support for general aviation in government and parts of your Lordships’ House. There is lots to consider about this. It does not mean that the Government want AONBs and national parks to be overflown; we certainly do not. We expect everybody to behave sensibly when flying over such parks.
We understand that disturbances from aircraft noise can have a negative impact on the health and quality of life of people living near airports and aerodromes. When it comes to airspace change proposals, however, the impact on the local community and their surroundings is a key consideration, and we introduced new airspace and noise policies in October 2017. I know that the industry is extremely cognisant of noise and its impact on local communities, because it does not serve the industry well not to be seen to try to mitigate noise as much as possible—having a very restive local community is never helpful.
We have implemented new noise metrics and appraisal guidance to assess noise impacts and their impacts on health and quality of life. That includes the amenity of being able to use parks in the way that one would expect—as places of relative tranquillity. The Government continue to review aviation noise policy, as new evidence emerges, to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose. The Government also recognise that, as technology improves, aircraft are also getting quieter.
I hope that I have been able to demonstrate to my noble friend that AONBs and national parks are already considered as part of the airspace change process—as he pointed out—and it is the case that the Government are cognisant of AONBs and national parks and how they might feed into the airspace change process. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank other noble Lords for joining in on this short but important debate: the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, hit on the point that has not, perhaps, been completely answered by my noble friend, which is that there has seemingly been a change in overflying at lower heights. It is something that people notice. I live near Heathrow. We do not get much overflying, but we did notice last year, before the pandemic, that there seemed to be a change in patterns. My amendment would have tried to stop not overflying per se but flying below 7,000 feet.
My other concern is the fact that there is no way of registering such low flying and no sanctions that can be applied to an aeroplane that, for whatever reason, flies lower than it should. Clearly, there might be a safety issue or whatever, and I also take the point about take-off and landing, but I do not think that those are the cases that people complain about.
Having listened to the previous debate, as someone with a degree in Serbo-Croat I do not think that I could match the academic qualities of my noble friend, and I would certainly not dream of teaching her to suck eggs. I suggest, however, that when this goes to the other place there will be Members there whose constituents will contact them, and those Members may want answers to some of those questions. I say that as someone who knows that this is the sort of thing that really gets constituents going.
I will leave it at that. I am grateful for my noble friend’s answer. It was not quite as full as I had hoped for, but I am never really disappointed by her answers. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 17 withdrawn.
Clause 18: Regulations
18: Clause 18, page 11, line 14, leave out from “paragraph” to end of line 15 and insert “1(2) of Schedule 11 that make provision authorised by paragraph 1(3)(b) or (4)(b) or (c) of that Schedule.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would be consequential on the removal of paragraph 4 of Schedule 11, and its replacement by paragraph 1 of Schedule 11, which would result from other amendments standing in my name. It provides for the cases when draft affirmative Parliamentary procedure is to apply to the exercise of the power in paragraph 1 by regulations under the Act.
Amendment 18 agreed.
Clause 19: Extent
18A: Clause 19, page 11, line 20, after “Ireland” insert “, except that section (Airport slot allocation) (airport slot allocation) extends to England and Wales and Scotland only”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment that inserts a new Clause after Clause 11 relating to airport slot allocation. It would provide that the new Clause extends to England and Wales and Scotland only.
Amendment 18A agreed.
Clause 20: Commencement
18B: Clause 20, page 11, line 25, at end insert—
“(aa) section (Airport slot allocation);”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment that inserts a new Clause after Clause 11 relating to airport slot allocation. It would provide that the new Clause would come into force on the day on which this Act is passed.
Amendment 18B agreed.
Schedule 5: New Schedule B1 to the Transport Act 2000
Amendment 19 not moved.
Schedule 6: New Schedule C1 to the Transport Act 2000
Amendment 20 not moved.
Schedule 7: Air traffic services: consequential amendments
21: Schedule 7, page 62, line 11, leave out paragraph 6
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment to Clause 10 that inserts a new subsection (5A)(which amends section 34 of the Transport Act 2000).
Amendment 21 agreed.
We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 22. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this Amendment to a Division must make that clear in the debate.
Schedule 8: General police powers and prison powers relating to unmanned aircraft
22: Schedule 8, page 64, line 20, after “may” insert “destroy the aircraft or”
My Lords, Amendment 22, in simple terms, allows an appropriate authority to destroy a drone. The Minister has been kind enough to debate this at some length and wrote me a letter on 11 January setting out three points. First, legally, the power to destroy a UA already exists. Secondly, operationally, destroying a UA is not generally desirable. Thirdly, existing technology is such that destroying a UA is often unnecessary. I am not being pedantic here, but the words in the last two points, particularly, are of a partial kind. The Minister does not really need to debate reasons two and three with me. When it comes to the third, I know that “existing technology is such that destroying a UA is often unnecessary”, but it may be necessary. I accept that, “operationally, destroying a UA is not generally desirable”, as all sorts of second-order effects would have to be taken into account. Nevertheless, the only point I wish to debate is that, “legally, the power to destroy a UA already exists”. In her response, I would like the Minister to convince me of that.
I am aware, through my previous responsibilities, of the impact that can be made with two kilos of Semtex. The potential for a determined terrorist to use a UA for malicious terrorism is real. Such a terrorist coming from a sophisticated organisation would, of course, not have a drone with all the protective devices that a commercially applied drone has. The Gatwick incident showed that the police were then powerless, probably for technical reasons, to stop massive disruption taking place by the use of a drone. It seems to me that if a serious terrorist-like incident were developing, one would want a clear power for the authorities to destroy a drone. The burden rests with the Minister to convince us that the powers that exist are genuinely sufficient to make sure that the authorities, in appropriate circumstances, could destroy a drone in the interests of safety and limiting damage or massive destruction. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will not detain the House for long, but this is my application to join the pedants’ club, which was advertised somewhat earlier.
The amendment says
“insert ‘destroy the aircraft or’”.
The clause would then read:
“The constable may destroy the aircraft or require a person to ground the aircraft”.
I thought that this was a sort of “Derbyshire Constabulary amendment”, where they go chasing round after people—a constable cannot destroy an aircraft. What would we have? Would we have Derbyshire police with a popgun? I am afraid that it just will not work.
I can see what is meant but I can also see that we need to think this through a bit more thoroughly, particularly the attendant risks that might arise. The power conveyed in this Act could almost certainly be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. I speak as a long-standing alternate member of the Council of Europe, and, indeed, as someone who was for some time a chair of its committee on implementation of judgments of the court. Even if the wording were sound, I am not sure that the principle is. You would need a proper judicial process in order to destroy a drone, and you would not be able to do it as an either/or—we will either destroy the drone or make you land it and then we will talk to you. I suggest that the amendment is well meaning but, unfortunately, defective.
My Lords, destroying a drone or an unmanned aircraft is a vital mechanism, particularly for dealing with terrorism. The incident at Gatwick at the end of 2019 illustrated for us all that dealing with an intruder drone is a highly complex issue. I invite noble Lords to think back to that and to the discussions that took place in the media, and, much more importantly, behind the scenes, on exactly how to deal with a drone that was causing millions of pounds of economic damage. It was damaging the economy and causing huge individual damage to those unable to fly, yet people were paralysed into inactivity, not least because there was a lack of certainty about powers. There was also a lack of certainty about the ability to destroy the drone effectively and the safety of doing it. All those things were being taken into account.
However, there would be circumstances where destroying a drone would be the simple and clear answer to a threat. I welcome this as an interesting, probing amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I shall listen carefully to the Minister.
Going back to the Gatwick situation, I remind noble Lords that days were spent deciding how to deal with that drone. To this day, we do not know who was flying it. Therefore, the situation was never satisfactorily resolved.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his amendment, which gives the police the power to destroy a UA if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that it has been, or is likely to be, used in the commission of an offence. We have had many a thought-provoking discussion on this, both inside and outside the Chamber. If he will forgive me, I will set out the Government’s stall in full, even though I am aware that he accepts two of the arguments that I am about to put forward.
While I understand the intention behind this amendment, it is critical that all powers in this Bill are necessary and proportionate, and we have worked very hard with the Home Office and the police to ensure that this is the case. Our aspiration for this Bill has always been to ensure that we provide the police with the powers necessary to effectively respond to UA incidents, while ensuring that we do not inadvertently discourage positive UA use in the UK.
I will set out the three key reasons as to why the Government are of the view that this amendment is not required. First—I think that this is the point that the noble Lord needs to be convinced on—from a legal standpoint, the powers to destroy a UA already exist. Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967—the CLA—allows the reasonable use of force in the prevention of crime. This is not police-specific legislation, but it is legislation that the police can, and do, rely on in circumstances where force is required. It would allow a police officer to destroy a UA in extremis if it were deemed necessary, subject to risk assessments.
The powers in this Bill must be necessary and proportionate, and the police assess that Section 3 of the CLA 1967 is sufficient and proportionate in the case of a UA, in line with other areas of policing. This legislation is used for other aspects of policing that require force in the prevention of crime, such as the use of police batons. Therefore, there is no legal requirement to provide for this power in the Bill. Indeed, doing so would set an unusual precedent: why would we specify a drone and not anything else? This could be taken to undermine reliance on the CLA 1967 in other areas.
Secondly, destroying a UA is not generally operationally desirable because there is a need to maintain presentable evidence as part of a police investigation and any subsequent court proceedings. Destroying a UA could render digital and forensic examinations impossible, potentially compromising an investigation.
Thirdly, existing technology is such that destroying a UA is also often unnecessary. The Government’s counter-unmanned aircraft strategy committed to the creation of a new national police counter-unmanned aircraft capability in the UK. This capability makes use of technology that is more sophisticated and does not by necessity result in the destruction of the UA. It relies on defeat countermeasures, known as “effectors” or “jammers”, which have a number of impacts on the UA, such as causing it to return home, landing it or forcing it to hover—the specific outcome depends on the UA programming. These effectors defeat the UA and prevent whatever malicious action it was going to take in a way that is more proportionate, easier for the operator to use and less likely to cause unwarranted collateral damage than the use of technology that destroys the UA.
The noble Lord previously raised a concern that the Bill and the package of related counter-UA measures we are taking would not be impactful in a high-threat UA incident. I will now set out why I believe that the Bill, alongside these other measures, would have sufficient impact. First, our operating procedures across a range of critical national infrastructure sites, such as airports and other key sites such as prisons, are constantly evolving and have significantly improved since the Gatwick 2018 drone incursion. This allows for a faster, more effective response by both the site and the police. The Bill supplements this as it extends the range of public authorities that can be given authorisations to make lawful the use of jamming equipment to counter UA.
Secondly, as I mentioned, the police have new capabilities and counter-UA measures available to them, which provide a step change in our ability to respond to UA incidents, compared to Gatwick 2018. The Bill supplements this by providing the necessary powers for the police to use this capability to its fullest extent.
Thirdly, if an incident occurs that cannot be stopped by either our operating procedures or our police capability, we can use Section 3 of the CLA 1967 to use necessary reasonable force to stop or, where absolutely necessary and proportionate, damage or even destroy the UA.
I hope that, based on the reassurances I have given, noble Lords will be satisfied that this Bill provides the police with sufficient powers to deal with UA offences, and that there are existing powers in law under which the destruction of a UA is, and can be, justified, where it is absolutely necessary in the circumstances. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I listened to that explanation and remain unconvinced that it will not cause significant delay in what would be a fast-moving event and that the police or other appropriate authority would not, in fact, be more effective if they had the power to destroy a drone in a serious emergency situation. However, I have a difficult problem in pressing this any further in that the Minister arranged a meeting with senior Home Office and police people who said that they did not want the power, and if they are not attracted to having it, it would be unreasonable of me to press this further, having failed to convince the Government.
Before I finish, I note that we have done Report in three hours and 30 minutes. An observer of our normal proceedings might say that we have not taken this Bill seriously. In fact, we have taken it very seriously, and I commend the Minister and her people for the enormous amount of time, effort and letter writing they have put in to responding to the many questions and concerns we have put to them. Accordingly, I can assure society in general and anybody watching this event that opposition scrutiny and, as far as I can tell, Liberal Democrat scrutiny of the Bill have been very thorough indeed and very efficiently handled by the Minister and her people, and I thank her for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 22 withdrawn.
Amendments 23 to 34
23: Schedule 8, page 65, line 7, leave out “or 240” and insert “, 240, 265A(2) or 265B(2)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add references to new offences created by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
24: Schedule 8, page 65, line 14, leave out “an offence under article 95 or” and insert “—
(i) an offence under article”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would remove a reference to an offence which is revoked by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
25: Schedule 8, page 65, line 15, after “2016” insert—
“(ii) a relevant offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016, or(iii) a relevant offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add references to new offences created by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
26: Schedule 8, page 65, line 35, leave out from “to” to end of line 36 and insert “—
(a) an offence under any of these provisions of the ANO 2016—(i) article 94A (certain unmanned aircraft: permission for flights over or near aerodromes);(ii) article 239(4) (prohibited or restricted flying);(iii) article 240 (endangering safety of an aircraft);(iv) article 265A(2) (various requirements under the Unmanned Aircraft Implementing Regulation relating to UAS operators);(v) article 265B(2) (various requirements under the Unmanned Aircraft Implementing Regulation relating to remote pilots);(b) a relevant offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016;(c) a relevant offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016; or (d) a relevant prison offence.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would remove the use of the defined term “relevant ANO offence” from paragraph 2(6) and instead list the offences to be covered. That list includes some new offences created by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
27: Schedule 8, page 65, line 37, leave out sub-paragraph (7)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would remove sub-paragraph (7) because the interpretation provision would be contained in the new paragraphs 4A to 4F proposed by another amendment standing in my name.
28: Schedule 8, page 66, line 49, after “relevant” insert “unmanned aircraft”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would reflect the replacement of the defined term “relevant offence” with “relevant unmanned aircraft offence” by the new paragraph 4A proposed in another amendment standing in my name.
29: Schedule 8, page 67, line 44, after “relevant” insert “unmanned aircraft”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would reflect the replacement of the defined term “relevant offence” with “relevant unmanned aircraft offence” by the new paragraph 4A proposed in another amendment standing in my name.
30: Schedule 8, page 68, line 2, after “relevant” insert “unmanned aircraft”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would reflect the replacement of the defined term “relevant offence” with “relevant unmanned aircraft offence” proposed by another amendment standing in my name.
31: Schedule 8, page 68, line 6, at end insert—
“Meaning of “relevant unmanned aircraft offence”
4A_ In this Schedule “relevant unmanned aircraft offence” means—(a) an offence under this Act;(b) any of these offences under the ANO 2016—(i) an offence under article 94A(1), 239(4), 265A(2) or 265B(2) of the ANO 2016;(ii) a relevant offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016;(iii) a relevant offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016;(c) an offence under any of these provisions—(i) section 40C(2) or (3) of the Prison Act 1952;(ii) section 34B(2) or (3) of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953;(iii) section 41 or 41ZA of the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989;(d) a Scottish common law prison offence.Meaning of “relevant offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016”
4B_ In this Schedule “relevant offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016” means an offence under article 265B(3) of the ANO 2016 committed by the contravention of a relevant requirement set out or referred to in any of the following provisions of the ANO 2016—(a) article 265B(5)(a), (h), (i) or (j);(b) article 265B(6);(c) article 265B(7)(e), but only insofar as that requirement (to comply with authorised limitations and conditions) regulates the operation of an unmanned aircraft during flight;(d) article 265B(7)(f), (g) or (i); (e) article 265B(8), but only insofar as that requirement (conditions under which operations in the framework of the model aircraft clubs or associations may be conducted) regulates the operation of an unmanned aircraft during flight.Meaning of “relevant offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016”
4C_ In this Schedule “relevant offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016” means an offence under article 265E(7) of the ANO 2016 committed by the contravention of a relevant requirement set out or referred to in any of the following provisions of the ANO 2016—(a) article 265E(2)(a)(vi), (vii) or (viii);(b) article 265E(2)(b)(ix), (x) or (xi);(c) article 265E(5)(a);(d) article 265E(6).Meaning of “relevant prison offence”
4D_ In this Schedule “relevant prison offence” means—(a) an offence under any of these provisions of the Prison Act 1952—(i) section 39 (assisting a prisoner to escape);(ii) section 40B (conveyance etc of List A articles into or out of prison);(iii) section 40C (conveyance etc of List B or C articles into or out of prison);(iv) section 40CB (throwing articles into prison);(b) an offence under any of these provisions of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953—(i) section 29(1) (assisting escape from lawful custody);(ii) section 33 (facilitating escape by conveying things into prison);(iii) section 34A (conveyance etc of List A articles into or out of prison);(iv) section 34B (conveyance etc of List B or C articles into or out of prison);(c) an offence under either of these provisions of the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989—(i) section 41 (unlawful introduction of proscribed articles into a prison);(ii) section 41ZA (provision to and use by prisoners of personal communication devices);(d) a Scottish common law prison offence.Meaning of “Scottish common law prison offence”
4E_(1) In this Schedule “Scottish common law prison offence” means—(a) an offence at common law in Scotland committed by assisting a prisoner in a penal institution in Scotland in escaping or attempting to escape from the institution;(b) an offence at common law in Scotland committed by, intending to facilitate the escape of a prisoner from a penal institution in Scotland, doing any of the following things—(i) bringing, throwing or otherwise conveying anything into the institution;(ii) causing another person to bring, throw or otherwise convey anything into the institution;(iii) giving anything to a prisoner or leaving anything in any place (whether inside or outside the institution).(2) In this paragraph—“penal institution” has the meaning given by section 108 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016;“prisoner” means a person who is detained or imprisoned in such an institution. Other interpretation
4F_(1) In this Schedule—“article associated with an unmanned aircraft” includes—(a) any component, part or product of an unmanned aircraft, and(b) any equipment, including an electronic device, relating to an unmanned aircraft;“premises” includes any place and, in particular, includes—(a) any vehicle;(b) any offshore installation;(c) any renewable energy installation (that expression having the same meaning as in Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Energy Act 2004);(d) any tent or movable structure;“property” includes land and buildings;“vehicle” includes any vessel, aircraft (whether or not an unmanned aircraft) or hovercraft.(2) A reference in this Schedule to a provision of subordinate legislation (whenever the reference is passed or made) is a reference to that provision as it has effect from time to time.(3) Sub-paragraph (2) is subject to any contrary provision made in subordinate legislation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would bring together all of the interpretation provision relating to paragraphs 1 to 4 of this Schedule (including some new interpretation provision) and locate it immediately after paragraph 4.
32: Schedule 8, page 70, line 15, leave out “small unmanned aircraft: permissions for certain flights” and insert “certain unmanned aircraft: permission for flights over or near aerodromes”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would update the reference to the title of article 94A to reflect the change made by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
33: Schedule 8, page 70, line 20, at end insert—
“(v) article 265A(2) (various requirements under the Unmanned Aircraft Implementing Regulation relating to UAS operators);(vi) article 265B(2) (various requirements under the Unmanned Aircraft Implementing Regulation relating to remote pilots);(h) an offence under article 265B(3) of the Air Navigation Order 2016 committed by the contravention of a relevant requirement set out or referred to in any of the following provisions of that Order—(i) article 265B(5)(a), (h), (i) or (j);(ii) article 265B(6);(iii) article 265B(7)(e), but only insofar as that requirement (to comply with authorised limitations and conditions) regulates the operation of an unmanned aircraft during flight;(iv) article 265B(7)(f), (g) or (i);(v) article 265B(8), but only insofar as that requirement (conditions under which operations in the framework of the model aircraft clubs or associations may be conducted) regulates the operation of an unmanned aircraft during flight.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add references to new offences created by the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020.
34: Schedule 8, page 75, line 6, leave out paragraph 7
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would remove paragraph 7 because the interpretation provision would be contained in the new paragraphs 4A to 4F proposed by another amendment standing in my name.
Amendments 23 to 34 agreed.
Schedule 9: Police powers relating to requirements in the ANO 2016
35: Schedule 9, leave out Schedule 9 and insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULEUNMANNED AIRCRAFT: POWERS OF POLICE OFFICERS RELATING TO ANO 2016Provision by remote pilots of evidence of competency
1_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable—(a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(ii) P is or was the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a relevant competency requirement is or was applicable as respects P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide such evidence as the constable considers reasonable of P’s compliance, as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight, with a relevant competency requirement.(3) In this paragraph “relevant competency requirement” means a requirement imposed by, or referred to in, any of the following provisions of the ANO 2016—(a) article 265B(5)(b) (open category: having the appropriate competency in the intended sub-category of flight);(b) article 265B(5)(c) (open category: carrying proof of competency);(c) article 265B(7)(b) (specific category: having the appropriate competency);(d) article 265B(7)(c) (specific category: carrying proof of competency);(e) article 265B(8) (specific category: having the appropriate competency specified in the authorisation relating to the flight);(f) article 265E(2)(b)(ii) (tethered small unmanned aircraft of 250g or more: competency).(4) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide evidence of P’s compliance, as respects an unmanned aircraft and a flight, with a relevant competency requirement,(b) P is or was the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(c) the relevant competency requirement is or was applicable as respects P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(6) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision by remote pilots of information about UAS operators
2_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable— (a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(ii) P is or was the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a relevant registration requirement is or was applicable as respects the UAS operator for the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide such information as the constable considers reasonable as to the identity of—(a) the person or persons who are or were the UAS operator for the flight, or(b) the person or persons who made the unmanned aircraft available for use by P.(3) In this paragraph “relevant registration requirement” means a requirement imposed by, or referred to in, any of the following provisions of the ANO 2016—(a) article 265A(5)(a) (open category: registration of UAS operator);(b) article 265A(5)(b) (open category: display of UAS operator’s registration number);(c) article 265A(6)(a) (specific category: registration of UAS operator);(d) article 265A(6)(b) (specific category: display of UAS operator’s registration number);(e) article 265A(7)(a) (specific category: registration of UAS operator);(f) article 265A(7)(b) (specific category: display of UAS operator’s registration number);(g) article 265A(9)(a) (specific category: registration of UAS operator);(h) article 265A(9)(b) (specific category: display of UAS operator’s registration number);(i) article 265E(1)(a) (registration of tethered small unmanned aircraft of 250g or more);(j) article 265E(1)(b) (display of registration number of tethered small unmanned aircraft of 250g or more).(4) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide, as respects a flight by an unmanned aircraft, information as to the identity of a person,(b) P is or was the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft for the flight,(c) the relevant registration requirement which the constable had reasonable grounds for suspecting is or was applicable as respects the UAS operator for the unmanned aircraft and the flight is or was so applicable, and(d) at the time when the constable imposed the requirement, P could have provided information of the kind which the constable required P to provide.(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(6) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision by UAS operators of evidence of registration
3_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable—(a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and (ii) P is or was the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a relevant registration requirement is or was applicable as respects P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide such evidence as the constable considers reasonable of P’s compliance, as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight, with a relevant registration requirement.(3) In this paragraph “relevant registration requirement” has the same meaning as in paragraph 2.(4) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide evidence of P’s compliance, as respects the flight, with a relevant registration requirement,(b) P is or was the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(c) the relevant registration requirement is or was applicable as respects P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(6) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision by UAS operators of information about remote pilots
4_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable—(a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(ii) P is or was the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a relevant competency requirement is or was applicable as respects the remote pilot for the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide such information as the constable considers reasonable as to the identity of the person or persons who are or were the remote pilot or remote pilots of the unmanned aircraft for the flight.(3) In this paragraph “relevant competency requirement” has the same meaning as in paragraph 1.(4) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide information as to the identity of a person,(b) P is or was the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight,(c) the relevant competency requirement which the constable had reasonable grounds for suspecting is or was applicable as respects the remote pilot for the unmanned aircraft and the flight is or was so applicable, and(d) at the time when the constable imposed the requirement, P could have provided information of the kind which the constable required P to provide.(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(6) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision by remote pilots or UAS operators of other information etc
5_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that— (a) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(b) P is or was the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide such information, documentation or evidence that is of a specified description as the constable considers reasonable.(3) In this paragraph “specified description” means a description specified by the Secretary of State by regulations for the purposes of this paragraph.(4) Regulations under this paragraph that specify a description of information, documentation or evidence may provide for conditions that must be met before a constable may require P to provide information, documentation or evidence that is within that description.(5) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide information, documentation or evidence,(b) P is or was the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(c) at the time when the constable imposed the requirement, P could have provided information, documentation or evidence of the kind which the constable required P to provide.(6) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(7) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision of evidence of consents for certain flights
6_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable—(a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(ii) P is or was the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a provision of the ANO 2016 is or was being contravened unless a relevant consent is or was applicable as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide, as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight, such evidence as the constable considers reasonable of a relevant consent.(3) In this paragraph “relevant consent” means a permission, operational authorisation, LUC, authorisation or certification required by, or referred to in, any of the following provisions of the ANO 2016—(a) article 94A (permission for flights over or near aerodromes);(b) article 265A(1)(b) (operational authorisation, LUC with appropriate privileges, or authorisation);(c) article 265A(1)(c) (certification of UAS and UAS operator);(d) article 265B(1)(b) (operational authorisation, LUC with appropriate privileges, or authorisation);(e) article 265B(1)(c) (certification of UAS and UAS operator);(f) article 265E(3) (tethered small unmanned aircraft: permission from CAA).(4) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide, as respects a flight by an unmanned aircraft, evidence of a relevant consent, (b) P is or was the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(c) the relevant consent is or was applicable as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(6) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Provision of evidence of exemptions for certain flights
7_(1) A constable may exercise the power conferred by this paragraph in relation to a person (P) if the constable—(a) has reasonable grounds for believing that—(i) a flight by an unmanned aircraft is taking place or has taken place, and(ii) P is or was, as respects the flight, the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft, and(b) has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a provision of the ANO 2016 is or was being contravened unless an ANO exemption is or was applicable as respects—(i) a person and the unmanned aircraft and the flight, or(ii) the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(2) The constable may require P to provide, as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight, such evidence as the constable considers reasonable of an ANO exemption.(3) In this paragraph “ANO exemption” means an exemption under article 266 of the ANO 2016.(4) The evidence which a constable may require a person to provide under this paragraph includes evidence of the applicability of an ANO exemption to a person, or the unmanned aircraft, as respects the flight.(5) P is guilty of an offence if—(a) P without reasonable excuse fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under this paragraph to provide, as respects P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight, or as respects the unmanned aircraft and the flight, evidence of an ANO exemption,(b) P is or was the remote pilot or the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft for the flight, and(c) the ANO exemption is or was applicable as respects—(i) P and the unmanned aircraft and the flight, or(ii) the unmanned aircraft and the flight.(6) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.(7) Paragraph 10 includes a defence to the offence under this paragraph.Power to inspect unmanned aircraft in connection with other powers
8_(1) A constable may require a person in possession of an unmanned aircraft to allow the constable to inspect it if the constable considers that the inspection would assist the constable in deciding whether a power conferred by any of paragraphs 1 to 7 is exercisable.(2) A constable may if necessary use reasonable force for the purpose of exercising the power conferred by this paragraph.(3) A person who fails to comply with a requirement imposed under this paragraph is guilty of an offence.(4) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.Offence of providing false or misleading information etc
9_(1) A person commits an offence if—(a) anything that the person provides under this Schedule is false or misleading in a material respect, and(b) the person either—(i) knows that it is false or misleading, or(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false or misleading.(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under this paragraph is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.Provision of information etc at a police station
10_(1) A person (P) may comply with a requirement imposed by a constable under any of paragraphs 1 to 7 by providing what the constable required at a police station specified by P at the time when the constable imposed the requirement (the “nominated police station”)—(a) within seven days beginning with the day after which the constable imposed the requirement, or(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to do so within that seven day period, as soon after the end of that period as is reasonably practicable.(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under any of paragraphs 1 to 7 in respect of a failure to comply with a requirement imposed by a constable to prove that it was not reasonably practicable to provide what the constable required at the nominated police station before the day on which the proceedings were commenced.(3) For that purpose, the proceedings against a person for an offence are commenced when—(a) in the case of proceedings in England and Wales—(i) an information is laid for the offence,(ii) the person is charged with the offence under Part 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or(iii) a written charge is issued against the person for the offence under section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003;(b) in the case of proceedings in Scotland, a complaint is served on the person in respect of the offence;(c) in the case of proceedings in Northern Ireland—(i) a summons or warrant is issued under Article 20 of the Magistrates’ Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 in respect of the person and the offence,(ii) a summons is issued under section 93 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 in respect of the person and the offence, or(iii) the person is charged with the offence after being taken into custody without a warrant.Interpretation
11_(1) In this Schedule the following expressions have the same meanings as in the ANO 2016 (see Schedule 1 to the ANO 2016)—“remote pilot”;“UAS operator”.(2) A reference in this Schedule to a provision of subordinate legislation (whenever the reference is passed or made) is a reference to that provision as it has effect from time to time.(3) Sub-paragraph (2) is subject to any contrary provision made in subordinate legislation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would replace Schedule 9 with a new Schedule. A new regulatory regime for unmanned aircraft under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 has come into effect. The police powers in Schedule 9 now need to relate to that regime. Since this amendment was originally tabled, paragraph 7 has been altered (by the addition of paragraph (5)(c)).
Amendment 35 agreed.
Schedule 10: Fixed penalties for certain offences relating to unmanned aircraft
36: Schedule 10, page 81, line 40, leave out from beginning to “this” in line 2 on page 82 and insert—
“(3) After article 265F of the ANO 2016 insert—“Fixed penalty offences265G. In the case of an offence under any provision of”Member’s explanatory statement
The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2020 includes provision adding into the ANO 2016 new provisions which provide for offences. This amendment would move the new provision made by paragraph 2(3) so that it comes after those new offences.
Amendment 36 agreed.
Schedule 11: Amendment and enforcement regulations
Amendments 37 to 43
37: Schedule 11, page 88, line 31, leave out from second “make” to end of line 8 on page 89 and insert “any amendment of this Act which is authorised by sub-paragraph (3) or (4).
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make any amendment of this Act which is authorised by sub-paragraph (3) or (4).(3) The Order in Council or regulations may make such amendments of Schedule 8 as the appropriate authority considers appropriate for or in connection with—(a) maintaining the effect of a provision of that Schedule in a case where it would otherwise cease to be effective because of provision made in any relevant subordinate legislation; or(b) extending a provision of that Schedule to apply to an offence relating to unmanned aircraft under relevant subordinate legislation to which the provision does not already apply.(4) The Order in Council or regulations may make such amendments of section 13 and Schedule 9 as the appropriate authority considers appropriate for or in connection with—(a) maintaining the effect of a provision of that section or Schedule in a case where it would otherwise cease to be effective because of provision made in any relevant subordinate legislation;(b) extending a provision of that section or Schedule to apply to an offence relating to unmanned aircraft under relevant subordinate legislation to which the provision does not already apply; or(c) conferring, in consequence of provision made in any relevant subordinate legislation, a police power that corresponds to a power conferred by Schedule 9 as enacted.(5) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (4)(c) each of the following police powers “corresponds to a power conferred by Schedule 9 as enacted”—(a) a power to require a person who the constable has reasonable grounds for believing is or was the remote pilot of an unmanned aircraft for a flight (“A”)—(i) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to A’s compliance with any requirement relating to A’s competency to be the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft for the flight; (ii) to provide information relating to the identity of a person who is or was the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft, or made the unmanned aircraft available to A, for the flight;(iii) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to the existence of a consent which is or was required for the flight; or(iv) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to the application to the flight of an exemption from a requirement which would otherwise be applicable to the flight;(b) a power to require a person who the constable has reasonable grounds for believing is or was the UAS operator of an unmanned aircraft for a flight (“B”)—(i) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to B’s compliance, as respects the flight, with any requirement relating to registration of B as the UAS operator of the unmanned aircraft;(ii) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to B’s compliance, as respects the flight, with any requirement relating to registration of the unmanned aircraft;(iii) to provide information relating to the identity of a person who is or was the remote pilot of the unmanned aircraft for the flight;(iv) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to the existence of a consent which is or was required for the flight;(v) to provide information, documentation or other evidence relating to the application to the flight of an exemption from a requirement which would otherwise be applicable to the flight;(c) a power to require a person who is in possession of an unmanned aircraft to allow the constable to inspect it—(i) if the constable considers that the inspection would assist the constable in deciding whether any other power conferred by Schedule 9 is exercisable;(ii) for the purpose of checking whether a requirement to display any number, mark or information on the unmanned aircraft is being complied with.(6) The provision that may be made under sub-paragraph (4)(c) in connection with conferring a police power includes—(a) provision authorising a constable to use reasonable force in the exercise of the power;(b) provision for a person to be guilty of an offence if the person—(i) does not comply with a requirement imposed by a constable in the exercise of the power, or(ii) knowingly or recklessly provides a constable exercising the power with information, documentation or evidence that is false or misleading in a material respect.(7) In this paragraph—“appropriate authority” means—(a) Her Majesty, in relation to an Air Navigation Order;(b) the Secretary of State, in relation to regulations;“relevant subordinate legislation” means—(a) an Air Navigation Order;(b) regulations made under paragraph 3 of this Schedule;(c) regulations made under Article 57 or 58 of the UK Basic Regulation;(d) regulations made under Article 15 of the UK Implementing Regulation;“remote pilot”, in relation to an unmanned aircraft, means a person (however described) conducting the flight of the unmanned aircraft (including a person who is a remote pilot within the meaning of the ANO 2016 — see Schedule 1 to the ANO 2016);“UAS operator”, in relation to an unmanned aircraft, means a person (however described) who is the operator of the unmanned aircraft (including a person who is a UAS operator within the meaning of the ANO 2016 — see Schedule 1 to the ANO 2016).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would introduce a single power in place of the powers currently in paragraphs 1 and 4. That single power would be wider than the current Bill powers insofar as it can be used to amend Schedule 9. It would allow the police powers there to be replaced with new powers of the same kind (eg. if the regulatory regime relating to unmanned aircraft is replaced).
38: Schedule 11, page 89, line 14, leave out from “makes” to end of line 16 and insert “, under paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 11 to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2020, provision authorised by paragraph 1(3)(b) or (4)(b) or (c) of that Schedule;”.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would be consequential on the changes to paragraph 1 of Schedule 11 made by the amendment standing in my name. It provides for the cases when draft affirmative Parliamentary procedure is to apply to the exercise of the power in paragraph 1 in an Air Navigation Order.
39: Schedule 11, page 90, line 14, leave out sub-paragraph (7)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would leave out sub-paragraph (7), because an equivalent power is already available under paragraph 10 of Schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
40: Schedule 11, page 90, line 19, leave out from “Regulation” to end of line 20 and insert “or provision made under that Regulation;
(b) the UK Implementing Regulation or provision made under that Regulation;(c) regulations made under Article 57 or 58 of the UK Basic Regulation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would allow for the creation of offences or civil penalties to enforce compliance with requirements imposed by regulations made under the UK Delegated or Implementing Regulation or regulations made under Article 57 or 58 of the UK Basic Regulation.
41: Schedule 11, page 90, line 22, leave out paragraph 4
Member’s explanatory statement
The amendment would remove paragraph 4 because it is replaced by paragraph 1 as amended by the amendment standing in my name.
42: Schedule 11, page 91, line 5, at end insert—
““UK Basic Regulation” means Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and amending Regulations (EC) No 2111/ 2005, (EC) No 1008/2008, (EU) No 996/2010, (EU) No 376/2014 and Directives 2014/30/EU and 2014/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 552/2004 and (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91;”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment inserts the definition of “UK Basic Regulation”.
43: Schedule 11, page 91, line 11, at end insert—
“and a reference to the UK Basic Regulation, the UK Delegated Regulation or the UK Implementing Regulation is to that Regulation as it forms part of domestic law on and after IP completion day and as amended from time to time.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that references to these three instruments will be “ambulatory”— that is, the references will catch any amendments made to those instruments in their “domesticated” form as retained EU law.
Amendments 37 to 43 agreed.
In the Title
44: In the Title, line 2, after “2000” insert “and about airport slot allocation”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Government amendment that inserts a new Clause after Clause 11 relating to airport slot allocation. It would amend the long title of the Bill to additionally include a reference to airport slot allocation.
Amendment 44 agreed.
Title, as amended, agreed.
House adjourned at 6.37 pm.
Committee (1st Day)
Clause 1 agreed.
Clause 2: Direction to progress airspace change proposal
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 8, leave out paragraph (c)
Member’s explanatory statement
This is a probing amendment to clarify who may be covered by “another person with functions relating to air navigation” with regard to who is able to prepare and submit airspace change proposals.
My Lords, the support on these Benches for the principles of this Bill should come as no surprise to anyone in this House or the aviation industry. Several previous attempts have been made by the Government to introduce a Bill along these lines, but they have been interrupted by general elections.
You would have thought that by the time we reached this stage, following several government consultations, the Bill would be fool-proof and that the Government would have thought through everything very clearly. That is not the case. Despite the length of time it has taken to get here, and despite all the organisations involved in aviation having been consulted and agreeing that there is a need for airspace modernisation and also agreeing about the need for the Government to have powers of direction over the process, the Government have managed to upset almost everybody involved.
Amendment 1 is a probing amendment to try to tease out exactly who the Government have in mind in their reference in Clause 2(2)(c) to
“another person with functions relating to air navigation.”
Clause 2(2) already refers to airport operators and to “air navigation service providers”, which is a pretty broad term. This is a very sweeping power for the Government to give themselves. Subsequent to the passing of the Bill, they will be able to designate some other organisation—not yet thought of, one assumes—to prepare and submit airspace change proposals. The Bill gives the Government pretty draconian powers. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee memo notes that there are eight uses of Henry VIII powers.
The Government have consulted widely, but there is concern, especially from the Airport Operators Association, that rather late in the day they have, for instance, introduced a new element into airspace modernisation proposals. It agrees, and I agree very strongly, that there is a need for co-operation between airports on this. Modernising airspace is a very difficult process. It is needed for environmental reasons, but at the end of it you have some local residents who are extremely happy because planes no longer fly over them, but other local residents are extremely unhappy because the planes fly over them an awful lot more. It is also a very costly process for the airports concerned, and all airports are not the size of, or have the financial prowess of, Gatwick, Heathrow and so on. Some very small airports will be involved in this process. They are now very concerned that a new element relating to the reallocation of underused airspace has now been introduced. Will the Minister say what that phrase means and why has that element been introduced?
The use of airspace is not constant, and it takes years to undertake airspace modernisation. At the moment, a piece of airspace might be underused because schedules at a particular airport are light, but after some marketing, a change in the market and consumer demand and a couple of years, that airspace will no longer be underused. I am keen to know from the Government who they have in mind in the phrase
“another person with functions relating to air navigation.”
Which body might be set up or designated in the future as part of this process? Also, how will the Government take into account the problems that I have raised in relation to cost and the dynamic nature, if I can put it that way, of airspace use? Smaller airports are particularly concerned that they might be ordered to release some airspace now, then find in a year or two’s time that they need it for their growth and development. Airspace is as vital to future growth as having a runway.
I remind noble Lords that this is not an issue only of enabling airspace to be, in some neutral manner, used to the maximum but of the convenience, comfort and environment of the people who live near airports. It is also very much an issue of safety. Oral Question 1 earlier today raised a number of loopholes and grey areas in relation to private and leisure pilots. The Minister, in her Answer, made it quite clear that the Government are looking at this whole area. Therefore, it is justifiable to ask what the Government have in mind in bringing this new, additional factor into airspace modernisation; it was not a factor when the consultation was done at the end of 2018. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 1, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, seeks to clarify the phrase in Clause 2(2)(c)
“another person with functions relating to air navigation.”
I shall start by addressing that phrase and then move on to the other parts of airspace modernisation and how the powers to which it refers might be used.
To give a little background, Clause 2 gives the Secretary of State the power to direct any person involved in airspace change, following consultation. Consultation will come up a number of times today; this is a very consultative process, as indeed it must be to work. After consultation with that person, the Secretary of State can direct them to do three things: first, to prepare or submit an airspace change proposal, an ACP, to the Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA; secondly, to take steps to obtain approval to an ACP that has already been submitted; and, thirdly, to review the operation of an ACP after it has been approved. Those are the three things that the Secretary of State can direct.
In Part 1 of the Bill, any
“person involved in airspace change”
is defined as, again, three things. First, they could be an airport operator, and one might expect that in most cases the airport operator would indeed be involved in putting forward the ACP or making sure that it progresses; secondly, they could perfectly well be an air navigation service provider; and then there is that third term to which this amendment relates—it is a probing amendment to understand what sort of person
“another person with functions relating to air navigation”
could be. For example, they could be part of an existing body such as an industry association or an airspace change consultancy brought in after the consultation, perhaps, to look at how the process of the ACP is working. Or they could be from a new body set up to deal with a specific ACP or a group of ACPs. One might imagine a circumstance in which a group of airports set up a new ACP in order to help another airport to deal with its airspace change.
The reason behind the third part of Clause 2(2) is to provide flexibility, because it may be—and one can imagine circumstances in which it would be—that the person involved who was the subject of the direction was not an airport operator or an air navigation service provider. In all this, though—and again I hope that noble Lords will recognise this today—these powers are to be used only as a last resort. We hope that the process will be collaborative and involve various elements working together in order to achieve the positive change that we need. I hope I have explained the reasons why this flexibility is needed. It is that that third person may not be one of the other two but may nevertheless be quite capable of taking forward an airspace change.
I am very interested in what the Minister said about who might be involved in seeking changes. Yes, it could be done to help a small airport to get better access to its flights or controls, but it could be done to keep someone away. In other words, it could be done to prevent competition. My worry would be how much it would cost for a small airport to oppose or indeed promote these things if those circumstances arose.
I think we will get into the detail of how airspace change proposals work in the next group of amendments. It is the case that there is a master plan that is overarching—I think hand gestures are needed to describe this—and covers the whole of the south of the country. Within that, there are then 17 airports that may need to make airspace change proposals to a greater or lesser extent in order to fit the master plan. When an airport, be it small or large, puts forward its airspace change proposals, those are considered by the CAA according to the criteria as set out in Section 66 of the Transport Act 2000.
The noble Lord has just corrected me that it is Section 70, and he is absolutely right.
Within all this, it is the CAA that will ensure that airspace change proposals are appropriate. It is not the case that one airport will be capable of coming along to try to duff up another, because both airspace change proposals will be considered as they move through the system. The CAA will look at them, and equity between the two will be one of the important considerations that it will look at.
I turn back to the reasons why this change is possibly not needed. Airspace modernisation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned in her opening remarks, is a complex and multifaceted programme. There is the master plan, which will sit over the entire new airspace design, but that makes up just two of the initiatives out of the 15 that comprise the airspace modernisation strategy that has been set out by the CAA. For example, one of the initiatives, as is rightly also set out in the Transport Act, is that the use of airspace has to be equitable for all users. The Government are looking to ensure that airspace is not controlled—I do not want to say “unnecessarily” because I do not think it would be fair, but there might be controlled airspace that could become uncontrolled and therefore allow a greater number of users to use it. I am thinking particularly about the general aviation field, and I certainly know that gliders have sometimes had difficulties because for them uncontrolled airspace is much easier to use.
However, any change in airspace will always go through a process, and that process will have safety as its absolute priority. I think noble Lords will be aware that the number one thing that we have to do when we look at airspace is ensure that planes are safe to fly. It will also take into account the airport’s particular growth plans, so an airport could not turn around and say “No, I’m really sorry—I need that back”. These are fairly long-term decisions and, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, the process takes a significant time. However, it is also consultative so there will be a consultation process not only with the general aviation sector but with the airport itself; it will be able to give its reasons why it would like to maintain that airspace as controlled, if indeed that is what it wants to do.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also mentioned the costs of airspace change proposals. I believe that they can be quite costly, and we will come on to them in a later group so I probably will not address them now. However, I hope that on the basis of my explanation she will agree that Clause 2(2)(c) should remain part of the Bill and feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My noble friend is right. It may well include the Ministry of Defence, although I would expect that department to fall under the airports section because if it was putting forward airspace changes, as I believe it will be doing for RAF Northolt, it will be the sponsor in that regard.
I thank the Minister for that response, and I will read her words carefully before Report. I am of course aware that this kind of phrase is a delightful catch-all, which Governments like to put in legislation in case some organisation crops up at a later stage that they have not thought of now. However, there is an important argument to be made here about ensuring that we have clarity at this point on exactly what the structure is. That is partly because it is always a welcome situation but also because there is quite a lot of interlink between the Secretary of State, the Civil Aviation Authority, the airport operators and the aviation providers. It is important that people have their tree of command and its requirements pretty clear in their minds but, having said that, I am happy to withdraw the amendment at this stage.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 2, page 2, leave out line 13 and insert “master plan for airspace modernisation, as set out in Civil Aviation Publication 1711 and Civil Aviation Publication 1711b.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would narrow the powers given to the Secretary of State to ensure they are being used for changes that assist in the delivery of the master plan for airspace modernisation, as directed by the co-sponsors of airspace modernisation, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority.
This group of amendments, of which we have put forward three, relates once again to clarifying exactly what the Government seek to do. Amendment 2 relates to narrowing the powers of the Secretary of State to make sure that they are used only for
“the delivery of the master plan for airspace modernisation”
that the Minister referred to just now.
Amendment 4 relates to requiring the master plan to be the subject of consultation, as the Minister suggested earlier would be the case. Importantly, it would ensure that we had an appropriate appeals procedure because, as I said earlier, this is a very complex process. The Committee may imagine that there is airspace to be carved up between two neighbouring airports, and perhaps it cannot be carved up so that both airports are equally happy with the impact of what happens. It is important that everyone involved has the right to transparent acknowledgement of the situation and clear reasoning for why decisions are made.
Amendment 8 would narrow the powers given to the Secretary of State to ensure that they were used for the delivery of the master plan for airspace modernisation and not diverted for some aligned but not directly associated use. Concern has been expressed by the aviation industry about the breadth of the powers that we are talking about—I mentioned this earlier—which could enable the Secretary of State to make directions that were not in the wider interests of the airspace modernisation process as a whole. By narrowing the powers, we are trying to ensure that the Secretary of State is obliged to act in the interests of the master plan. Acting in the interests of the master plan might seem obvious, but I am told that discussions between officials and the industry have not produced a clear statement or clear reasoning as to how the airspace strategy and the master plan will fit together, because we are talking about different things.
Amendment 4—a similar amendment has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe—would ensure that the master plan was consulted on with appropriate people and, as I have said, with an appropriate appeals procedure, because the wider industry is concerned that there should be answerability. I beg to move.
I should inform the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 3 by reason of pre-emption.
My Lords, I disagree with Amendment 2 because narrowing the Secretary of State’s powers would not be desirable. I know that the powers under discussion relate directly to the modernisation programme, but they should be maintained permanently regarding the control of airspace. The CAA is not a good place for these matters to dwell, particularly as the Secretary of State is of course accountable to Parliament—so there is a way in which the Secretary of State can be challenged, which is rather more democratic and relevant than a narrowing of the powers. We do not want a shift in the balance of power from the Secretary of State to the CAA. That point goes for Amendments 2, 3, 8 and 9.
Amendment 4 refers to a consultation process and appeals. As we know, there was a very effective Aviation 2050 Green Paper last year, which was a mammoth consultation. The consultation here proposed might duplicate the effort that has just gone in and could be a waste of resources. Aviation interests would be consulted in any event, but I am not sure that an initial consultation, as envisaged here, would be helpful.
Some airfields are obviously commercially able to find the resources to be involved, but some are not. It is, therefore, important that smaller airfields are looked after. Amendment 6, which would ensure that smaller airports have appropriate funding, is important and should be supported. Amendment 7 would allow a system of compensation to be set up, to cover the cost of airports being compelled to make changes. That seems reasonable, as airports are commercial entities.
My Lords, for the convenience of the House, I draw attention to the penultimate line on the front page of today’s list, which states that the target for the day is to complete Amendment 23. That means that we are not going to do drones today. No Member has moved from their seat; never mind.
The essence of this group of amendments, with which I broadly agree, is to prevent mission creep. Having sat on the Front Bench opposite, I recall that whenever you create a right for the Government to do something or other, civil servants will creep up to you and say: “Make sure it is not restricted, because you might need it.” I fear that, far too often, they do.
The Minister wrote to me and several other noble Lords. On the second page of her letter, under the heading “Proportionality”, her second sentence states:
“It is the government’s intention that, at least initially, the powers to direct in clauses 2 and 3 would only be used by the Secretary of State in relation to ACPs that have been identified within the airspace change masterplan, currently being developed by NERL through the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) with a view to incorporation of the masterplan into the CAA’s airspace strategy”.
I read the whole sentence for the avoidance of doubt. The words that sprung out at me are, “at least initially”. Further on in the letter, the Minister seeks to soften those words with a series of intentions. However, intentions are not law: they are the words of the Minister. If she repeats those words into Hansard they become a little more useful. Nevertheless, there is a serious issue with that part of the Bill ending up in mission creep. There are so many things for which the CAA or the Government might wish to use these powers.
I share the view that the task in front of those who are trying to deliver the programme is such that consultation—ideally on the face of the Bill, as put forward by Amendment 4—would be useful. It would certainly be useful to hear the extent to which the Minister can assure the House about consultation. On the appeals procedure, I refer again to the noble Baroness’s extremely useful letter, in which she says:
“There is no formal appeals process against an ACAA decision relating to individual ACPs. CAP1616 is a fully transparent process in which consultation and engagement exercises are run throughout.”
With the greatest respect, a consultation and engagement exercise is not an appeal. Because of the extent to which this process is entirely within the CAA’s ambit, one can see a situation where, without some hook in primary legislation, small fish in this sea could find themselves swamped. A formal appeals procedure somewhere in the Bill might usefully add to it. I hope that the Minister will be able to react to those ideas.
My Lords, I first pick up the question that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, started with, which is whether we shall end at the target of Amendment 23. My understanding is that we shall, because that has been agreed through the usual channels. Amendment 24 is in my name, so it is important that I can be confident that we will stop, if we get that far, at Amendment 23. I take the nodding to mean that that is the case and I appreciate it.
While I am on my feet, may I ask a more general question about all these amendments? There has been a great deal of talk about the interests of the civilian side of the aviation industry and how it interacts with the Department for Transport and the CAA, but I am not clear how the Ministry of Defence’s position will be properly safeguarded. The CAA has RAF representation, but I do not feel that that is at a high enough level and I would like to be reassured that the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence are in continuous contact, at the right level, on these points. The Ministry of Defence, and the Royal Air Force in particular, needs aviation space not only for getting in and out of airfields; they also have training needs and other areas that have to be safeguarded if the Royal Air Force is to continue to be effective in its training.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for introducing this group. I also thank my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate. I note that he strayed into the area of costs, which is the subject of a later group, but I look forward to his later contribution. As many noble Lords have pointed out, it is important that the Secretary of State is given the powers required to deliver airspace modernisation, but also that these powers are proportionate and do not go further than needed.
Clauses 2 and 3 of Part 1 give the Secretary of State the power to direct a person involved in airspace change to progress an airspace change proposal as required, or direct a person to co-operate with somebody else who is progressing an airspace change proposal. This means that airspace change will not be held up. I think that is an established fact and all noble Lords can agree with it. Additionally, it ensures the delivery of the full range of airspace modernisation outcomes. Again, I have already mentioned that there are many important initiatives within airspace modernisation. These may be related to safety, capacity, noise, air quality, fuel efficiency, improving access to airspace for all users, military access or the introduction of new technology.
On improving access to airspace for all users, the issue of uncontrolled and controlled airspace has been rumbling along for a little while. It dates back to 2018, so airports have been aware that there was going to be a further look at airspace classification for quite some time. Initiative 10 of the airspace modernisation strategy was set out by the then Secretary of State and enhanced in October 2019, when the air navigation directives directed the CAA to progress the identification of airspace volumes. This is all about the balance between commercial aviation and general aviation. I do not believe that a single Member of your Lordships’ House believes that one necessarily has to have priority over the other. It is a question of proportionality and balance.
I want to mention military airspace at this point. We speak to the military all the time. When I was Aviation Minister, I used to chair the Airspace Strategy Board, the highest level of ministerial oversight over airspace modernisation, and somebody from the MoD was on the board. I forget what rank he was, but he made me feel quite small so he was quite senior, and he would contribute to our discussions. In my time on this Bill and in my previous life as Aviation Minister, I was not aware that people from the military had concerns about this process or the processes we oversee. We work well with them, ensuring that they have the access they need and know the processes for RAF Northolt to have the right routes to upper airspace, for example.
My noble friend asks a very interesting question. I will check with my lawyers and officials, but I believe that if a Ministry of Defence airfield was holding up airspace modernisation throughout the country by not getting its act together and progressing an airspace-change proposal, the Secretary of State would be able to direct the Ministry of Defence. What would be the alternative—the Ministry of Defence dragging its heels and not participating? Although one cannot imagine a time when the Ministry of Defence would do that, this is, as I will say many times today, a collaborative process. I have never heard of any examples where we have not collaborated well with the Ministry of Defence and all government departments.
Returning to these powers, they would be used by the Secretary of State only if it assisted delivery of the CAA’s strategy and plan. However, airspace modernisation is not just about the master plan. That is why the Government cannot accept the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Tunnicliffe. Terminal airspace redesign is the master plan. At the moment we are considering the south, but we will move on to the north; these are only two of the initiatives to be delivered through the airspace modernisation strategy. As I have said, there are many others, including the airspace classification review and so on. The powers to direct relate only to airspace change proposals. They will stand as a last resort if airspace modernisation cannot be continued because an ACP sponsor is dragging its feet.
This goes back to the question of who airspace belongs to. It does not really belong to anybody. It is right that we encourage people to act collaboratively, so that we can all get the most out of our airspace. Coming down the track are the development of a solution for electronic conspicuity, the implementation of more precise and flexible satellite navigation-based arrival and departure routes—which, as noble Lords will know, will have positive implications for noise in some areas—and various international obligations which we have to comply with relating to air traffic management. Here again, these directions may be helpful, but as a last resort.
I cannot accept the amendments that would state that we were looking particularly at the master plan rather than at airspace modernisation as a whole. It is a much broader strategy, and certainly covers a wide range of things, although I would probably say that the master plan and the airspace modernisation from that master plan is one of the key elements of it.
It is worth mentioning that the two documents named in Amendment 2 and Amendment 8—CAP 1711 and CAP 1711b—cover only the period to the end of 2024, the first phase of airspace modernisation. The entire modernisation is due to run until 2040, so it is likely that these documents will be updated and ultimately replaced. Therefore, it is possible that having these specific documents in an amendment would not help the development or deliverability of airspace modernisation.
While I am on my feet, I will clarify something on the master plan. It is being developed by ACOG, which was set up to do so. It will need to be accepted by the CAA into the airspace modernisation strategy and plan. Of course, the CAA will do so only if it is consistent with the directions that it has been given and if it has been appropriately consulted on. The CAA is quite hot on this, actually. It rejected at least one airspace change proposal submitted in 2018, I think, because not enough consultation had gone on with communities. The CAA is clear that its role is very much as an honest broker and to make sure that people have been able to have their say.
When the master plan is complete, and with providing the benefits in mind, ACOG will look at the potential conflicts, trade-offs, interdependencies and the preferred implementation plan, but it will not look at individual airspace design solutions. Clearly, in the lower airspace, that is up to the airports to figure out. It is an extraordinarily iterative process, necessarily so, and enormous engagement is already happening as the master plan goes through its stages.
I hope I have been able to reassure noble Lords, particularly on the inclusion of “master plan” rather than mentioning the airspace modernisation strategy and plan. Also, it is not really appropriate to mention particular documents if we are to give the Bill the longevity that it needs. As I explained, the master plan will already have had regulatory acceptance into the strategy by the CAA, which will assess whether stakeholders have been spoken to. That will include airports, air navigation service providers, and many more people involved in the process.
We believe that there are sufficient avenues of challenge from airport operators and ANSPs. Resolution of conflicts in airspace change proposals already happens, of course, usually through a collaborative process mediated by the CAA. If any airspace change sponsor is still not happy, they can submit an application for judicial review.
I hope that I have been able to convince noble Lords that the powers are appropriate and will enable the Government to take forward airspace modernisation over a matter of decades rather than just in the short term. I also assure them that concerns are heard at every step of the way and are usually resolved collaboratively. That is a process between Her Majesty’s Government, the CAA, the airports and all their stakeholders.
I thank the Minister for that reply. She said something very interesting early in that response, which was that she had to balance the interests of commercial and general aviation, and that she does not feel that one should have priority over the other. First, “general aviation” is a very broad term. A lot of planes with transponders that would be classed as general aviation are able to fly perfectly safely in regulated airspace. However, there are also a lot of leisure pilots with small private planes who have a great deal of fun but do not have sophisticated equipment for flying in that airspace.
With all due respect to the Minister, commercial aviation is worth many billions of pounds to this country. It carries many billions of pounds’ worth of freight and is of huge importance to our business and tourism industries. It is essential that the safety and efficiency of commercial aviation are maintained as a result of this legislation. Anything which complicates that process and makes it more difficult would strike at the importance of our aviation industry at this moment.
I will read the Minister’s words very carefully and invite her to look again at the amendments and what we have said on them to reassure people—airlines, airports and others involved with a key interest in commercial aviation—that their interests remain at the heart of this.
My Lords, I hope the noble Baroness does not want to give the impression that there is a high preponderance among those engaged in general aviation—whether for business or, as she put it, leisure—who are not using the latest technology and training in the work they do. I speak as a private pilot and others here are similarly qualified. “General aviation” is a very wide term, but in our discussion on regulated airspace the noble Baroness should be quite clear that a considerable number of people involved at the leisure end are very well-equipped, technologically and personally.
One of the key reasons behind my intervening on this point was to make it absolutely clear that “general aviation” is a very broad term. There are many people involved in it with extremely high-tech equipment, but it is not realistic to expect all smaller leisure pilots to have the latest equipment. I do not know whether the noble Lord was in the Chamber for the Question earlier today, but, if he has read the reports that came from the sad experience of that accident, he will be aware that there are many key issues associated with the regulation of smaller planes and the way in which some people—I emphasise this—use them.
There are important aspects to this, and in responding to that Question the Minister made it clear that the department was looking at it. It is important that we bear that aspect in mind in this debate, because the vast majority of the general public were, for example, completely unaware of the kind of grey charter flights referred to in that Question. It is an issue not just of equipment but of where the planes have flown. That makes it still safe to fly them, even though they have not perhaps got the latest or highest-spec equipment. That is why this discussion is ongoing and why it is important that these amendments are being tabled. I will read the record carefully and see what the Minister has said. If she wishes to write to clarify some of the things said in this debate, I would welcome that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 5 not moved.
6: Clause 2, page 2, line 23, at end insert—
“( ) If a direction given to a person under subsection (1)—(a) is predominantly or wholly to enable the airspace change proposal of a third party to be completed as part of the master plan for airspace modernisation,(b) is not given to the third party itself, and(c) would lead to an excessively high financial burden for the person under subsection (1),the Secretary of State must ensure that person receives appropriate compensation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to ensure that smaller airports have appropriate funding if they are to be subject to directions that could have severe financial implications.
My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 10 in this group, which in my name. Both amendments would ensure that smaller airports have appropriate funding if they are subject to directions that could have severe financial implications for them. We have referred to the cost of airspace modernisation a number of times this afternoon, and I have already said that not all airports are Gatwick or Heathrow; they are not all even Bristol, for example. Some of the smaller airports that might be subject to expensive requirements on their airspace change could find this very difficult indeed to accommodate financially.
One estimate is that the cost of airspace modernisation could reflect 15% of the annual turnover of a small airport, which would be impossible for them to deal with financially. It is one thing to deal with it financially if it will be to your commercial benefit, and another thing if it will be to the benefit of your neighbouring airport. Noble Lords can see why some airports are rather concerned about this, because it could have serious financial implications. On the order of magnitude of the money involved, I gather that it could cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds for each airport, and if a charge is incurred against their will and against their commercial interests, that will be difficult for them.
In our amendments we have tried to take what I regard as a reasonable line, to set a pretty strong test. We suggest that compensation would apply only if it imposed
“an excessively high financial burden”.
They might have to shrug and accept a small financial burden, but if it becomes extremely high, compensation should be considered. Our concept was that funding would come from NATS, but there are other proposals related to that.
These two amendments are designed to protect small airports. They aim to ensure that, in parts of the country where small airports are of huge importance, both to the economy and to people who wish to travel in those parts, those small airports survive. I beg to move.
My Lords, I apologise for misreading my Order Paper and trying to head into areas of amendments before I should be allowed to: I thank my noble friend for correcting me. However, on this amendment, there is a strong case for some compensation to be allowed for smaller airports—in particular, those that are compelled to make changes. The amendment is unclear on whether this covers just the cost of making the change, however that is defined, or the negative commercial impact as a result. That is a totally different area but one that I know is of great concern to smaller airports.
Amendment 10 awards compensation for an excessively high financial burden, as the noble Baroness just said. That is also extremely difficult to assess. I think one would have to be more specific than a “high financial burden”, because there is a lot of argument there. The principle, however, seems right, because whatever we decide to do or is decided, smaller businesses should not be forced to foot large bills for airspace changes forced on them by the Government and may be forced on them through government as a result of pressures from those who can better afford the costs associated with such changes.
My Lords, the two points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, and the noble Baroness are well illustrated by Newquay Airport in Cornwall, where I live. I use the airport occasionally. It is subject to a public service obligation which the county council has negotiated to ensure four return flights a day between Newquay and a London airport. It has been very successful. There has been recent discussion, as noble Lords will know, to change the London location from Heathrow back to Gatwick, for reasons we do not need to go into today. The point is that Newquay has a few flights going to other places in the UK, on the continent and in Ireland. It is also the base for Richard Branson’s latest idea of getting to the moon—taking passengers there, or something—which may be the subject of a government grant. It is odd, but if it was required to make changes to its airspace because of some other reason, the airport would be in severe financial difficulties. That is why it has been given a PSO: because it is an important part of improving the transport between Cornwall and London.
One can challenge or disagree with some of the text of the amendment, but the principle is there. If, when she comes to respond, the Minister does not like the wording, perhaps she can go away, have some discussions about it and come back with more acceptable wording. We should hold on to the principle of a small airport not being put to severe financial difficulty because of something over which it has no control.
I have no particular difficulty with the idea of compensating somebody who is being adversely affected by a decision for larger national reasons, but going back to the concern about the Ministry of Defence interests, let us suppose that a Ministry of Defence interest is such that it needs to be accepted. Looking ahead, the Armed Forces will have drones as well as manned airframes. Their needs may be quite unusual compared with the normal. In those circumstances, a decision would have to be taken either in the interests of the Ministry of Defence or the commercial civilian operator concerned. I am not clear how such a decision would be arrived at. Perhaps, once again, the Minister will be able to make it clearer to us all where the Ministry of Defence fits into this type of decision.
During the discussion that the Minister held in Committee Room G, I took the opportunity to talk to the legal advisers to the department, who assured me that consideration was being given to the financial detriment that may arise. How you determine that is quite difficult because if somebody has a detriment, presumably somebody has a gain. It will be a question of offsetting one against the other. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that this applies also to remote areas of Scotland with access to the very busiest airports, such as Edinburgh—which is much prized by the small places that have one or two flights a week but is considered almost a nuisance by the large airports.
My Lords, our four amendments in this group say more or less the same thing: the master plan may involve a need for compensation.
The Bill asks the philosophical question of who owns the airspace. There is almost a reasonable argument for you owning the airspace above what you own; that does not work so we must have some other ownership of the airspace. Clearly, the only such ownership that makes sense is that it is a national asset. It must therefore be managed for the general good.
That is a complex exercise because you must try to achieve two things: efficiency and equity. There is a problem with efficiency. Take a situation where individual entities have been working largely on their own and making optimal use of, in this case, airspace: if you recognise that it is becoming a scarce resource and therefore seek to manage it for maximum efficiency, there will be winners and losers. The problem is that, if that is so, the losers will look on it as inequitable. There are probably only three solutions to that lack of equity. One is to say, “Tough. Life is like that.” The second is the situation we have now: a suboptimal situation where you are not using the airspace to its maximum efficiency. The third is that you recognise the special position of the losers and pay compensation.
This is a difficult philosophical point. However, the problem is that United Kingdom airspace is no longer a philosophical point but a practical one. Therefore, as I said, we have tabled amendments that are similar to the Liberal Democrat ones to tease out the Government’s thinking on this dilemma and how we may take the debate forward.
I thank noble Lords for tabling amendments and speaking so thoughtfully on such an important subject.
I assure noble Lords that we have considered, and will continue to consider, the potential impact of the Secretary of State directing a smaller airport to progress an ACP—airspace change proposal—when it may not have sufficient funds. At this stage, I want to assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, that to support Ministry of Defence force development, the MoD will continue to require flexible and timely access to UK airspace. Also, the master plan will consider and include detail of the military’s future airspace requirements.
In general terms, it is a long-standing policy that air passengers should fund the cost of their travel, including the cost of changes to airspace structure, rather than this being subsidised by the taxpayer. However, the Government recognise that there may be occasions when a small airport requires financial assistance to carry out some aspects of an airspace change proposal. We expect the CAA’s oversight team to work with the airport operator or other person involved in airspace change before recommending that the Secretary of State uses the powers of direction relating to airspace change proposals.