15 Lord McNally debates involving the Department for Transport

Mon 27th Jan 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 27th Feb 2018
Space Industry Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Fri 26th Jan 2018
Open Skies Agreement (Membership) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 28th Nov 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 14th Nov 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 23rd Oct 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 18th Oct 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Space Industry (Appeals) Regulations 2021

Lord McNally Excerpts
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I welcome the appearance on the Order Paper of these SIs as yet another clear signal that the Government are serious in their intent that Britain should be a leading player in the space sector, an ambition that I support. I do so with an important caveat: I question whether the SI procedure is fit for purpose in handling parliamentary oversight of this kind of legislation.

In a billet-doux the Minister sent to Members of the Committee a few days ago, she told us that she had mastered a 100-page brief in preparation for today’s session. We have before us four pieces of secondary legislation, which, with the Explanatory Memoranda, run to more than 200 pages. This debate is scheduled for one hour, and our interventions are limited to seven minutes. I will put a question that is above the pay grades of all of us here: is there not a case for legislation of this complexity to be handled by a Standing Committee of both Houses, which would be able to give full and informed consideration to the important issues before us today?

Space is indeed a new frontier and, as such, we will need to address a number of audiences and a number of concerns simultaneously if we are to go forward with confidence. That being so, is it realistic that this launch programme will be a reality by the Government’s target date of 2022—next year—which the Minister repeated again today? The amount of logistics, manpower and know-how required to launch a rocket simply does not happen overnight. There are still half a dozen spaceports under consideration. When will the first of these be operational?

The answer to that is contained in a positive Rubik’s cube of decision-making contained in these SIs, but it is all summed up in one word: “confidence”. We have to give the general public confidence that this space adventure is safe, both physically and environmentally. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, reminding us in an earlier debate that rockets are “controlled explosions”. The public will need to be confident that the CAA has the new expertise and the extra resources to carry out the oversight required to ensure that these operations are safe.

We have already seen how HS2 attracts opposition on environmental grounds. I recently saw a TV programme reporting from the highlands of Scotland, expressing concerns about how spaceport development would impact on areas of unique habitat and outstanding natural beauty. By their very nature, the spaceports are likely to be in such locations. It must be said, though, that in the locations already announced, other voices are arguing that the space industry offers the best prospect of attracting high-quality investment and jobs to those areas.

The Minister mentioned another part of the Rubik’s cube, which is sustaining investor confidence. I listened with care to what she had to say about insurance and liability for the investors and companies involved. Before the debate, I asked one such company about this and was told that it had put forward specific ideas to the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform, calling for amendments to the Space Industry Act 2018 to give it the assurances it is looking for. In the meantime, if changes to Section 36 of the Act are not possible in the short term, guidance should make it clear that all granted licences will provide for a cap on liability. As I said, I will study carefully what the Minister said and see what the sector’s reaction will be as to whether the reassurances she has given are sufficient for it to attract the very large investment it will need.

Safety, security, environment and insurance are all live issues as we move forward. I understand that New Zealand, another island nation at a similar latitude away from the equator as ourselves, is already operational, with a small satellite capability in partnership with an American company, Rocket Lab. Have we had any exchanges with New Zealand about its experience of regulating in this area?

New technology is reducing the cost of access to space and demand is growing. This offers a huge opportunity to the UK as we already have a thriving space sector. I hope that we can look again at how we keep this fast-moving situation under proper parliamentary scrutiny. I look forward to us taking forward a project that will bring with it a wide range of benefits in related services and sustain our position as a leading space nation in the world.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard)
Monday 27th January 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lady Randerson was unavoidably delayed, although I am pleased that she is now with us. Because of that late arrival, she will not take part in Second Reading and I will open for these Benches on this Bill. Thankfully, she has promised to do the heavy lifting when we get to the Committee and Report stages. She has already indicated to the Minister our general support for the Bill. In Committee we will probe the process of consultation in relation to airspace modernisation and suggest some tightening and extension of the regulation of drones.

This is an important Bill because aviation is an important industry, and how well we manage and regulate it impinges greatly on our future prosperity. As the Minister said in a letter to my noble friend Lady Randerson:

“Modernising our airspace is essential for maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in aviation. The UK’s airspace has not undergone significant change since the 1960s and is now reaching capacity.”


In such circumstances the Bill is not just timely but—as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, indicated—overdue.

In the 21st century any Bill about aviation has to clear a number of hurdles. It has to promote efficiency and competitiveness, improvements—especially, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, emphasised, in the environment, where we strive to be greener and cleaner—and safety. In the case of drones, it has to help fight against abuse and misuse of drone technology.

Last Wednesday evening I attended the amazing session organised by the Lord Speaker, when we heard from Sir David Attenborough about the climate change crisis. I noticed that Sir David was reluctant to demonise out of hand the industries that contribute to climate change and global warming. The truth is that it is the success of industries such as petrochemicals and aviation that have contributed to the success of the world economy over the last century and the living standards we now enjoy. We will need the skills and know-how of the industries we now brand as polluters if we are to retain the benefits of these industries while dealing with the downsides of their operation.

Airports are a good example. As a young MP, 40 years ago, the first Adjournment debate I obtained in the other place was on aircraft noise over Stockport. The debate was answered by a junior Minister called Norman Tebbit, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, had experience as an airline pilot. In raising the question of aircraft noise, I was raising a genuine concern of my constituents, but I never lost sight of the fact that Manchester Airport was, and is, a massive engine of growth and job creation in the north-west region.

Another experience which influenced my attitude to airports was in 1976, when I was sent by Lord Callaghan to Atlanta to meet some of the key officials who would be joining President-elect Jimmy Carter in Washington. I met one of his senior aides in Atlanta City Hall, and I complimented him on the success and obvious dynamism of the city. His reply has influenced my views ever since: “Well, it helps that Coca-Cola has its world headquarters in Atlanta, but the smartest decision we ever took was to campaign to be the southern hub airport for the USA. Airports are like rail heads were in the old west: they create economic activity and growth.” I believe that to be true, so how we use our airspace is very important, in both its economic and environmental impact. We have to assess the measures and powers in this Bill in the light of both.

The same is true of drones, which have quickly moved from futuristic toys to key means of efficient delivery of goods and services, and weapons of war. As with airports, it is easy to demonise drones and, as with almost every other technology, we have to accept that, along with the benefits, there comes abuse by the criminal and the irresponsible. The Bill highlights and provides remedies for abuse of drones, both in terms of airline safety and nuclear and prison security. We will undoubtedly stress-test the proposals in the Bill in Committee. I must confess that, from my time as a Minister at the Ministry of Justice, I retain a puzzlement why there are not the means to disable drones attempting to smuggle drugs or other contraband into prisons. It is important that, in the passage of the Bill, we examine thoroughly the real and present dangers posed. But we should do so while taking into account the warning contained in the briefing we received from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, which says that it is important that the legislation is enabling and does not create unintended consequences that might stifle innovation.

A similar concern was expressed by the Drone Delivery Group, which seeks to co-ordinate industry policy in this area. In its proposal published this month, the group acknowledges that the UK Government have been at the forefront of drone regulatory development since initial guidance published by the CAA in 2001. But it goes on to warn that, despite the very best-intentioned efforts, the overall government landscape is fractured, with different departments sponsoring, or at a minimum working with, different groups and approaches, with no clear national strategy to understand and ultimately develop and standardise an evidence-based UK unmanned air system traffic-management landscape. The House will want to test the legislation before us against such criticisms. As the Drone Delivery Group warns: for the UK to maintain its reputation as being at the forefront of this dynamic emerging industry, industry and government must collaborate in establishing a new approach. As ever, our test for legislation must be the test of efficiency in addressing the problems identified, balanced with proportionality in avoiding unintended consequences.

My attitude to flight controllers goes back to a time, over 40 years ago, when, while in government, I was offered a lift back from a conference in Germany in an RAF HS125, from Bonn to RAF Northolt. Because I was the only passenger, the pilot invited me to sit up front with him and to wear the ear cans to listen to air traffic control. I am a good flyer, but I have never been so scared in my life. The airspace seemed to be full of aircraft. When I expressed some concern, the pilot reassured me, “He’s doing a great job shuffling us through the pack. We’re on a clear run into Northolt.”

That experience left me with the impression that air traffic control is a kind of three-dimensional chess. However, we know that these days the aircraft is flying at its safest when under the control of its autopilot computer. It crossed my mind that air traffic control will be done more and more by artificial intelligence. As I said, I am a good flyer, but can the Minister assure me that in this brave new world, where the aeroplane is flown by computers and the traffic controlled by AI, there will still be a noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, or a noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, somewhere at the controls?

Heavy Duty Vehicles (Emissions and Fuel Consumption) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Lord McNally Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Sugg Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Sugg) (Con)
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My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under the powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and will be required if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. The regulations correct deficiencies in EU regulation 2018/956, which concerns the monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions from, and fuel consumption of, HDVs—heavy duty vehicles—such as trucks, buses and coaches.

Emissions from the UK HDV sector made up 16% of CO2 emissions from transport in 2016. At the European level, HDVs account for about a quarter of road transport emissions. To address this, the European Commission introduced three measures. The first was the introduction, through the certification regulations in December 2017, of a new computer based tool, VECTO, which came into effect from 1 January 2019. The second measure is monitoring and reporting regulations, which the statutory instrument we are debating today is based on. The final measure of the package is a legislative proposal to set CO2 emission standards for new HDVs, which was agreed by the Environment Council on 20 December 2018.

The monitoring and reporting EU regulation—the second measure—came into force on 29 July 2018. It requires member states and HDV manufacturers to monitor certain data relating to the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new HDVs registered in the EU from 1 January 2019. Manufacturers must report that data to the European Commission from 28 February 2020. The Commission will hold a database, verify data quality and compile and publish an annual report. There are provisions for administrative fines for HDV manufacturers if these data requirements are not met.

The publication of data collected under the regulation will increase the transparency of HDV CO2 emissions and fuel consumption and underpin the new emission reduction targets. It will provide transport operators access to information on the performance of HDVs of different makes with similar characteristics, allowing them to make better-informed purchasing decisions. It also enables vehicle manufacturers to compare their vehicles’ performance with their competitors, providing an increased incentive for innovation. Finally, publication allows the analysis of the data, for example to assess the penetration level of certain technologies and to support the proposed future CO2 emission reduction standards for HDVs.

The regulations that we are discussing today amend the EU regulation to ensure that it continues to function correctly after exit day. Through this SI, all relevant data calculated in line with the certification regulation will be monitored, reported and published. The data will be available to all stakeholders. The main policy content, including the purpose and objectives of the current EU regulation, remains unchanged by this SI. Provisions about the monitoring and reporting timetable, data to be monitored, HDVs in scope, fines and publication of data will also remain unchanged.

The focus of these amendments is on ensuring that the EU regulation will continue to apply to HDVs registered in the UK after exit day, and to transfer responsibilities from the Commission to the Secretary of State. For example, after EU exit manufacturers will need to report data for new HDVs registered in the UK to the Secretary of State and not to the Commission, and any fines would be levied in pounds rather than euros.

Given the minor changes proposed, a formal consultation has not carried out. However, the Government have made stakeholders aware of this instrument and their plan for its introduction into UK law.

Correcting the inoperabilities within the existing EU regulation will ensure that there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime which allows for the collection and monitoring of HDV emissions data in a no-deal scenario. As set out in the Government’s strategy The Road to Zero, we are committed to,

“a future approach as we leave the European Union that is at least as ambitious as the current arrangements for vehicle emissions regulation”.

This SI supports that commitment. I beg to move.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I presume that when Constantinople or Rome fell, there were still committees sitting somewhere in both cities looking at issues such as drainage and transport. The record should show that the House of Lords has felt it necessary to adjourn at this moment but the Committee looking at statutory instruments for exiting the European Union continues to sit. Of course, this instrument has been introduced by the Minister with her usual clarity and good sense.

We welcome the commitment by the Government to continue with the monitoring of CO2 from heavy goods vehicles. It is important to ensure that the UK is meeting its target in relation to emissions and air quality, and reporting is key to keeping us on track for reducing emissions and air pollution. However, we have to face the fact that, by leaving the European Union, we will lose its valuable oversight in ensuring that the Government comply with air quality legislation.

We have not been the greatest pathfinder in terms of environmental protection. I once worked for the water industry and, following European legislation, that industry was dragged kicking and screaming into what was probably the 19th century at the time, and I think that the same may be true of air quality. I am not sure that we will be as good at this on our own. We need to prioritise the reduction of emissions, given the thousands of deaths being caused every year and the serious impact they can have on health, particularly on that of children.

These regulations were initially conceived in tandem with targets for CO2 reduction that were suggested by the Commission and revised by the European Parliament. Will the targets set by the Government keep in tandem with any standards set by the EU Commission and Parliament?

We welcome the use of the ambitious CO2 reduction targets, but we must ensure that the industry is sufficiently supported to meet them. What are the Government doing to encourage the adoption of ZEV/LEV HDVs—I am pleased to note that, after I inquired earlier, the Minister knows what that means—be that through subsidies or improvements in the infrastructure? How will we help the industry to keep pace with developments of zero and low-emission HDVs? Do the Government envisage that the fines levied against those who fail to comply with the data gathering will be in line with those proposed by the EU, and will they keep pace with the fines to ensure compliance?

The instrument provides for further regulations to be made to set out the procedures by which manufacturers can notify the Secretary of State of errors in data. That will be key to ensuring that we have an effective and transparent system. When will those regulations be brought forward?

These regulations were brought forward by the European Union as part of a wide package of measures to ensure that Europe’s future mobility system is,

“safe, clean and efficient for all EU citizens”.

What impact could our exit from the EU have on our future plans to reduce harmful emissions?

Finally, the Minister mentioned that it was not thought necessary to go through a formal consultation process, but were environmental and health groups consulted in any way during the discussions? Some have made accusations of a lack of transparency while the regulations were considered.

Further, what continuing access will we have to EU-wide data collection and analysis in order to drive up standards and related matters? Are we not cutting ourselves off from the best practice data which helps to drive good standards?

As I say, we welcome the way in which the instrument has been presented and the work done, but it leaves these questions unanswered.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I make my standard statement that I wish I was not here and that we were not preparing for a no-deal scenario. I fear that such a scenario would be every bit as bad as predicted. I think we must all hope and pray that it does not happen.

Turning to the generality of what the statutory instrument does, I think it obviously makes sense within the general theme of developing controls on transport-related CO2 emissions. I have only three real areas of concern, and certainly none which would cause me to oppose the statutory instrument.

First, in paragraph 2.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum, sub-paragraph c) says among other things:

“Some data is commercially sensitive and exempt from publication”.


That seems to me to be completely opposite to the concept of the statutory instrument and the regulation that it modifies. Surely, its whole concept is that all data is available to everybody in the same format, so that even small firms with one or two vehicles would have no problem in comparing manufacturers when they consider purchasing one of these heavy duty vehicles. Having said that the data is commercially sensitive—and I cannot see why that statement is there at all—if it is commercially sensitive, that would require us to be kept in line with the commercially sensitive decisions that the EU made; otherwise, the usefulness of this data-collecting exercise would otherwise be rapidly eroded. Does the department have any plans to somehow consult the European Union on what areas of commercially sensitive data it is going to suppress? I hope that the answer will be none.

I was sufficiently curious about this SI to look at regulation 2018/956. I am amazed to find that its requirements are in fact for the collection of 78 pieces of data without air drag values—which I could not understand at all but which had their own separate table. One thing that struck me was that about a third of the regulation was made up of the preamble, which is 22 paragraphs and four pages long. I think that the Minister has already alluded to some things that it says:

“The Commission’s 2016 European Strategy for low-emission mobility sets the ambition that, by mid-century, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will need to be at least 60 % lower than in 1990, and be firmly on the path towards zero”.


Does this regulation coming into English law mean that we are accepting the Commission’s low-emissions strategy targets? Is it part of our law, or is that covered somewhere in the complexity of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act? After it comes into law, where would one find it? Would that be in the Kew records, as I call them?

Finally, how would the regulation be enforced? The statements in its preamble are really statements that the Government should have regard to in the future.

Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018

Lord McNally Excerpts
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe
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I did not raise that point about the translation, but purely because my noble friend Lady McIntosh had already raised it. I was making the point about the change in regulation, which I am concerned about, not the change in internal things within it.

My second point is on the interpretation of regulation. When the European Court of Justice interprets a regulation, if we are following and providing the same rights, and the CJEU makes a judgment which interprets the regulation so that it is no longer in line, to what extent will we accept the judgment of the court? In other words, how real is this alignment when, not on day one but on, say, week six or month six down the line, things have started to diverge? Presumably we will not have an SI every week; what mechanism do the Government see being used to maintain the alignment between our regulation, which they say will follow the EU statute book—that is fine—and changes in the EU statute book? This question will come up, whether it is on this regulation, if we do not leave, but it will also come up if we leave. How dynamism plays its way through the legislative process will be quite a fundamental point for consumer rights, as it will be for trade union rights, which we will come on to in another debate.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, as this debate has unfolded I have watched the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, looking pensive. I suspect he has probably been thinking, “When I finish this job, I might go into travel consumer law”. When the Minister comes to read Hansard tomorrow, she will probably find that she can check off almost every known troublemaker in this House as having intervened. However, that is what this House is here to do: to make trouble when Ministers bring forward flawed or defective legislation.

Listening to the various queries and questions makes one think very hard about the process that we are going through. The Minister had a baptism of fire over drones a few weeks ago, but that will be as nothing compared to a situation in which this legislation proves defective when it comes to the test and we find that all the sweet and honeyed words about the smoothness of the transfer from EU to domestic legislation throw up faults and weaknesses. There is nothing that makes the British public angrier than being interrupted on their holidays. Woe betide the Minister who is left holding that particular baby if that comes to pass. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, is right: we are stronger within the EU, and the protection given to consumers is far stronger when we work and speak from within the EU rather than when the CAA is acting alone.

Has any impact assessment been made on the effect of Brexit on Heathrow as an international hub? We have already heard of the possible British Airways transfer to Spain, but Heathrow is one of our vital assets as a major hub airport of the world. If leaving the EU and operating under CAA rules leaves us open to competition from Schiphol or Paris or others that can give flight operators greater assurances, that is a real downside of what we are doing. The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, made the valid point that EU law is not static, but is developing. We must face the fact that in this case, as in so many others, we will not be at the table to speak up for British interests and consumers when that development takes place—so much for sovereignty.

Given the complexities that have been revealed by this, is there any plan for a public information campaign to explain to the public what has happened? They need to be informed about their guarantees and where there are dangers because—make no mistake—good as our travel industry is, we will find scams, additional charges, problems with transfers from the EU, tax put on holiday costs and so on. There will be a need for some concerted consumer protection during this process. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner (CB)
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My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate, and I do not really wish to be added to the Minister’s list of troublemakers. However, I want to emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, at the end of his speech. I do this as someone who always tries to cheer up his Februaries by reading the travel supplements in the Sunday newspapers. This Sunday’s newspapers were glowing about places where, if I hurried, I could actually book the hotel, the flight or even the two flights that I might need to get to the place. These changes might be in separate countries. I scanned through the travel supplements of both the Sunday Times and the Times on Saturday and could see nothing about whether people’s summers might be disrupted in any way whatever.

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, very briefly, I am particularly pleased to see Amendment 1. The Minister gave those assurances during the debate and we tabled an amendment relating to the need to take environmental considerations into account. I recall saying at the time that one has to think of the impact on local people; just because it is exciting and being done in rural areas does not mean that we can ignore the impact on the environment. A great deal was made of the rurality of these space sites and it strikes me that the noise, road closures and impact of heavy vehicles will be of more concern in rural areas than they would if it was being done in an urban area, which of course cannot be the case here. As with any building works in previously greenfield sites, there will be a huge impact and I am reassured that the Government have now taken this rather more appropriately into account.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I may cover the other amendments to which the Minister referred. I welcome what the Government have done; she promised to do it and she has, and for that we are very grateful.

This gives me an opportunity to repair an omission from our earlier debates. These were much dominated by the prospect of the Moynihan international spaceport up at Prestwick—the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is not in his place at the moment—but I saw something a few days ago that took me back to my youth, if not to my childhood. It was the name Goonhilly hitting the headlines, with the fact that there is to be an £8.4 million investment by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership to upgrade Goonhilly Downs. I can still hear “Telstar” in my head as I think of the way Goonhilly captured the imagination of the world many years ago. It is good to know that Cornwall Airport Newquay is also an active bidder for the idea of being one of these new spaceports.

The other factor to bring to mind is that the UK Space Agency says that the global market for space is expected to increase from £155 billion per year to £400 billion by 2030. Although sometimes during the debate in both Houses there was a feeling that these matters are a long way away, they are really just around the corner, and the activities of people such as Elon Musk are proving that to be so. That is why this amendment is so important. We have to give people the assurance that if they go into this exciting new industry, they will not be left with unlimited liabilities, and that public safety will be adequately covered. By her action, the Minister has made sure that the industry is investment-friendly, and that is all to the good.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, we raised the issues covered by these amendments in the Lords, and the Minister assured the House that changes would be brought forward in the other place to address those concerns. We are pleased the Government have delivered on those assurances and warmly welcome the amendments. During the passage of the Bill, I referred to early aviation legislation and its failure to envisage the growth of that industry or the impact it would have on our future. These amendments are vital to ensuring that we look not only at the needs of the industry but at the impact it will have on the environment and, importantly, surrounding communities.

When we began the Bill, there was not a huge amount of reference to the environment in it and—as the Minister no doubt finds it hard to forget—there was no mention at all of the word “noise”. We have come a good way since then. The new clause ensures that the impact the project will have on the environment is put front and centre as part of the application process and will be duly taken into account by the regulator. We welcome this and put on record our hopes and expectations that this will be a rigorous part of the application process.

The amendments to Clause 34 will ensure that the uninvolved general public—those of us who are not planning to launch into space any time soon—are fully protected if a catastrophic incident occurs and causes damage. It is right and proper that the Government have afforded their citizens that protection. We thank the Government for listening and acting on our concerns.

Open Skies Agreement (Membership) Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Friday 26th January 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Open Skies Agreement (Membership) Bill [HL] 2017-19 View all Open Skies Agreement (Membership) Bill [HL] 2017-19 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. We recently worked together, with the Minister, on the Space Industry Bill and I am pleased to return to aviation matters. Quite a few years ago, I visited Atlanta in the United States. That city was booming at the time and I met one of the chief architects of its success at City Hall. I asked him what had promoted Atlanta’s tremendous resurgence. He confessed that it helped to have the world headquarters of Coca-Cola there, but the really big decision they took was to campaign for, and succeed in, getting Atlanta made one of the United States’ airports. He then said something which has always stuck in my mind. Airports are a bit like the railhead in the old west. Wherever the railway came to an end, a town grew up and economic activity took place. That is what airports do today: they are engines of economic growth. The future of our airports and the traffic they can carry is extremely important.

I want to put this debate in context. Some 60 years ago, the late, great Peter Sellers mocked the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, with a speech that consisted completely of meaningless clichés. The most famous of these was,

“this is not the time for vague promises of better things to come”,

and then proceeded to give vague promises of better things to come. Today, that is not an amusing piece of satire, but the standard response from Ministers. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, will forgive me if I take for an example the reply which she gave to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, about how we intended to assure equivalent air safety standards with the EU in the event of discontinuation of membership of the European Aviation Authority. She said:

“The Government is considering carefully all the potential implications arising from the UK’s exit from the EU, including the implications for continued or discontinued participation in the European Aviation Safety Agency. It is the Government’s intention to maintain consistently high standards of aviation safety once we have left the EU. As part of the exit negotiations the Government will discuss with the EU and Member States how best to continue cooperation in the field of aviation safety and standards”.


As I say, vague promises of better things to come.

On Monday, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, called for a greater sense of urgency in the Brexit talks to give clarity to companies that will otherwise need to trigger alternative plans, including moving jobs and investment offshore. Earlier this week, I attended a future technology showcase promoted by Rolls-Royce, where similar pleas for certainty were made.

Earlier this week, the CEO of JP Morgan warned that the lack of certainty and direction threatened jobs in financial services and a similar warning has come from the creative industries sector. We are too near the precipice for vague promises of better things to come to be a response to these cries of distress from almost every sector of industry.

We all know why the Government continue with the meaningless mantra of Brexit means Brexit, because if the Prime Minister ever tries to put flesh on the bone of her Brexit strategy, the choke chain on which she is held by the hard Brexit fundamentalists in her party is quickly yanked, Mr Rees-Mogg is wheeled out and talks of a leadership bid are reactivated. In any kind of rational world, the Government would rush to embrace this Bill as a means of getting ahead of the curve by giving certainty to this very important sector.

The excellent House of Lords Library briefing for this Bill cites IATA that in 2015 the aviation sector contributed £55 billion to the UK’s gross domestic product and that it supports nearly 1 million jobs.

When I was a lad, I worked at Blackpool Tower circus. However, I will not tell noble Lords what my job was. The Government’s Brexit negotiations look more and more like one of the acts I used to see at the circus where a performer would spin more and more plates on the end of a stick. Keeping the plates spinning is difficult at the best of times, but it becomes almost impossible when parts of the Conservative Party and the Cabinet are quite happy to see them come crashing to the floor.

A successful aviation policy is crucial to Britain’s economic future. My noble friend has made a practical suggestion in this Bill, which shows a way forward for this important sector. If we can keep this plate spinning, it will benefit us all.

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Moved by
Clause 67, page 43, line 13, leave out from “make” to end of line 14, and insert “further provision for the regulation of spaceflight activities and sub-orbital activities, and the activities associated with them.”
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this amendment is the result of unfinished business at the end of Report. Basically, there has been an argument throughout this Bill, and there will be in other Bills that come before us, about the worrying nature of the use of secondary legislation that is vaguely promised and vaguely described in primary legislation. In this respect, Clause 67(1), which is vaguely written, refers back to Clause 1(1) which again makes vague commitments. The amendment merely suggests that there should be crisper and more tightly drawn references which avoid blank cheques and abuse of secondary legislation.

I do not intend to press this to a vote this afternoon, but to leave it as a bit of business still to be considered. The other place will need to look at it, because it should be as worrying to them as it is to this House.

I put on record my appreciation for the removal from the Bill of the Henry VIII clause, and I hope that will be a guide for other Bills that are coming before us. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who is not in his place, who has made it quite clear that Henry VIII clauses were to be avoided, and that this example of putting in Henry VIII clauses and vague “blank cheque” secondary legislation was a problem that needed to be addressed. That is not to deny the fact that we also need to be able to future-proof Bills as best we can, particularly a Bill such as this. It is a matter of getting the balance right between future-proofing and ring-fencing them in terms of the powers that we write in.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, emphasised in his lecture at King’s College in 2016:

“This is not an attack on delegated legislation”.


However, in that lecture he quoted one of his distinguished predecessors as Lord Chief Justice—Lord Hewart—who, in 1929, warned against,

“the increase of bureaucratic, departmental authority over the citizen”.

The moving of power from Parliament to the Executive is one of the ironies of the Brexit process.

We believe that if we do not heed the warnings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and others, we face a constitutional car crash. At the very least, future-proofing should be tightly drawn. The super-affirmative process should be used where necessary, as should sunset clauses. I believe that we need to look at the case for making certain types of secondary legislation amendable by both Houses. That is the thinking behind this amendment—a billet-doux to send down the Corridor to the other place. I beg to move.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I assume that when she comes to respond the Minister will talk about the wording of the amendment and, if she is not going to accept it on behalf of the Government, will indicate why it is not acceptable. Therefore, my brief comments and questions are based on the assumption that she will talk about the wording of the amendment and what it would mean if it were included in the Bill, because obviously I share the concerns that have been expressed. I hope that if the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment on behalf of the Government, she will at least indicate a willingness to reflect further on this matter prior to its being considered in the House of Commons.

In her response, perhaps the Minister could say what the Government envisage they might want to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) as it stands that they consider they would not be able to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) if it were amended in line with this amendment. Or, to put it the other way round, what do the Government consider they would not be able to do that they might want to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) amended in line with this amendment that they would be able to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) as it stands?

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as I indicated, what we said, the probing of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the Minister’s reply are in Hansard and will be of use in the other place when they make their judgment about whether the Bill is drafted tightly enough in these matters. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.
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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in thanking both the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan. Although I teased him at the time that he was not missed, it is clear that there was a smooth and orderly passing of the ball to the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, who has carried out her role with great skill and charm and has made herself and officials available, for which we are grateful. Our Bill team consisted of Sarah Pughe, who has been a great help to me, and my noble friends Lady Randerson and Lord Fox. I have enjoyed working with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who brings his eye for detail to these matters, and with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who brought his experiences as an ex-pilot. I will remember two contributions by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. He reminded us that a rocket is a controlled explosion, which puts some of the health and safety aspects into perspective. He also said that the first civil aviation Act in 1920 completely underestimated the explosion of air travel that was about to come. Therefore, those who write off this Bill as a bit of futurology may be surprised at how soon some of this comes to pass.

I take pride that the problem of space rubbish has been put firmly in the Bill. It is now part of the Liberal Democrat lexicon, along with clean pavements and other matters. It was a delight to have contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, who, as a Minister, made such a contribution to giving the space industry of which we are so proud its impetus. We all look forward to the opening of the Moynihan International Spaceport in Scotland, which I am sure will be a festive occasion.

One has to say and lead the worry that Brexit casts a long shadow over this industry. It is important that, if Brexit were to go ahead, the industry be well protected to make progress.

Again I thank the Minister and her team for making this Bill a good example of the House of Lords at work.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I add my gratitude and appreciation to the ministerial team, both present and past, who have worked so diligently on this Bill. It was very helpful that the Bill was published in an early form for consultation in both Houses, which has led to a series of improvements. My noble friend the Minister has listened carefully, particularly on the question of secondary legislation, to ensure that as much of that as possible was addressed during the passage of the Bill. Indeed, it will continue to be so in another place.

This is an important Bill which provides the regulatory and legal framework now which will take the industry forward. However, none of us should be under any illusion—while we can provide the regulatory and legal framework—that we do not need to work closely with the private sector to make sure that this is a commercial success. Ultimately, these spaceports will require close co-operation between government and the private sector.

My noble friend has mentioned that I have been an advocate in part for a certain location in Scotland, which I think was her phrase. The House should be under no illusion whatever that that location is Prestwick Airport. It is head and shoulders the best airport to be licensed for spacecraft activities at the earliest possible stage in this country. This has been self-evident throughout our deliberations. All noble Lords will, of course, be welcome to the opening of Prestwick when it is finally licensed as the first spaceport in the United Kingdom.

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Moved by
1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Potential impact of leaving the European Union on the United Kingdom’s space industry
(1) The Secretary of State must carry out an assessment of the potential impact that leaving the European Union will have on the United Kingdom’s space industry.(2) The assessment under subsection (1) must make reference to the following areas—(a) Membership of the European Space Agency;(b) the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on research and development and access to funding, including Horizon 2020;(c) the free movement to the UK of those who work in the space industry;(d) the UK’s participation in the Galileo and Copernicus programmes; and(e) the impact of the UK leaving the Single Market on supply chains within the space industry.(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the assessment before Parliament within one year of this Act passing, and once in each of the five calendar years following.(4) If an assessment of the impact of leaving the European Union on the UK’s space industry has already been undertaken, the Secretary of State must lay a report of this assessment before Parliament on the day on which this Act is passed.”
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, while other noble Lords go to more urgent business, perhaps I could open by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, to her position commanding this particular spaceship and wish her a very fulfilling role in that and in the other positions that I am sure will come.

We have no hesitation in probing further on where our space industry will find itself if Brexit ever occurs. During the passage of the Bill we have had a glimpse of the exciting opportunities ahead for British technology and British industry. The UK space sector is already at the cutting edge of exploring the universe and connecting people to the world around them. It is an industry with a £14 billion turnover, £5 billion in exports, 71% growth since 2010—thanks in no small measure to the priority that the coalition Government gave to the industry under the stewardship of the noble Lord, Lord Willetts—and more than 40,000 direct employees, including 1,400 apprentices. But no industry epitomises the European project more than this industry and its future. Indeed, only yesterday Airbus put out a press release saying that it had won contracts to build two new satellites and that this would be done with work both in Britain and in France.

It is interesting that in an annexe to a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, in his capacity as chair of this House’s European Union Committee, the European Commission spells out its ambitions by stating:

“The Commission aims to boost demand for space programmes among public and private users, facilitating access to and use of space data, and stimulating the development and use of innovative downstream applications. The Commission intends to take concrete measures (including regulatory ones where justified) to encourage the uptake of space services and data, advance the EU space programmes, and meet new user needs. The Commission will prioritise the following main actions:


Promote the uptake of Copernicus, EGNOS and Galileo solutions in EU policies, where justified and beneficial, including measures introducing the use of Galileo for mobile phones, and critical infrastructure using time synchronisation.


Facilitate the use of Copernicus data and information by strengthening data dissemination and setting up platform services, promoting interfaces with non-space data and services.


Stimulate the development of space applications with the greater involvement of new actors from different domains.


Together with Member States and industry, promote the efficient and demand-driven use of satellite communications to foster ubiquitous connectivity in all Member States.


Remain committed to the stability of the EU space programme and develop these on a user-driven basis to continue delivering state-of-the-art services including exploring alternative business models and taking account of technological progress.


Address emerging needs related, in particular, to climate change/sustainable development and security and defence”.


The purpose of the amendment is simple: to ask the Government whether they have made any assessment of the impact of Brexit on our space industries—and, if so, whether they will publish it. It is clear that the Commission has clear ideas of where it wants to go in terms of space, which is very much in parallel with the discussions that we have had in discussing the Bill. Do the Government intend to remain part of the strategy and programme outlined by the Commission in the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell—and, if so, how? If we are not an integral part of the European space programme, what impact would that have on our viability as a spaceport centre, compared to spaceports located within the European family?

These are questions to which, “It’ll be alright on the night”, is not an answer. We need to know whether the Government’s policy is not a journey into space but simply a leap in the dark. I beg to move.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declared an interest at the beginning of Committee and feel that that it is appropriate to do so again. I live in sight of Prestwick Airport, which has an active interest in the Bill and is an ideal site for the licensing of the first UK spaceport. I notice that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, who was in his seat at the beginning of this debate, and my noble friend Lord Lang, who remains in his seat, have been very active supporters of the Ayrshire growth strategy and the interests of the airport in being so licensed.

I will focus briefly on paragraph (3) of the amendment: the importance of the Secretary of State laying,

“a report of the assessment before Parliament within one year of this Act passing, and once in each of the five calendar years following”.

Looking at the five items listed under new Clause 1(2). I think that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, would agree that the wider importance of collaboration not just with Europe but internationally is critical to ensure the economic success of the industry. I believe that a spaceport in the UK is a key development to unlock the potential for economic growth related to the space industry for the whole of the UK. As the first spaceport in Europe, it could be the catalyst for a whole new launch industry, and everything that flows from that. We will need to co-operate with Europe on all these areas if we are to achieve that objective. Grants of some £10 million here or there are frankly nothing compared with the huge development costs associated with this industry. I hope that the Government will be serious about getting involved.

At a time when my noble friend the Minister is looking to ensure economic growth during the Brexit period, and when significant infrastructure projects are being funded, surely a significant commitment to the spaceport is a sensible investment, and is small in overall terms. But it would be a major catalyst to ensure that this project happens, as would the ongoing relationship with Europe. I would be grateful if my noble friend could comment on this and recognise the vital importance of a significant, wide opportunity to bring together the vested interests in the economic success of this project—which, in addition to Europe, I would add are: a clear understanding of the range of trade and technical issues with the United States and the acquisition of funding required to deliver the spaceport and spaceflight operations. With that in mind, I hope that the Minister is looking at special-purpose vehicles rather than the straightforward grant process in order for operators to undertake activities and operations from the UK—in other words, to have a wide range of partners, including the Government and the Scottish Government but also private sector operations and organisations. Financial guarantees and an insurance cap will be absolutely essential.

I close by saying that we need a strong level of government support and a strong level of co-operation with Europe to achieve these objectives. This will be a highly competitive global market. I fear that we may have a hollow Bill, which might be a great exemplar of regulatory, legal and structural support—but if we do not address the issue I have raised, it will remain hollow. We as a country should not allow ourselves to miss this opportunity. If we do, we will be left with an Act of Parliament promoting an industry that never takes off.

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Baroness Sugg Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Sugg) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK space industry is a global success story. I am grateful for the productive debate we had in Committee, which will ensure the Bill puts this country at the forefront of new space services.

The Government continue to invest in the success of the UK space sector—for example, we recently invested more than £100 million in new satellite test facilities at Harwell, and manufacture and test facilities for rocket engines at Westcott in Buckinghamshire. As we discussed, another measure of our support to the UK space sector will be through our negotiations with the EU on future collaboration on the EU space programmes. The UK has played a major part in developing the main EU space programmes, Galileo and Copernicus, which have supported the rapid growth of the UK space sector and contributed directly to our prosperity and security. We are working to ensure we get the best deal with the EU to support strong growth in the sector. Last month, the Government published a science and innovation discussion paper and an external security discussion paper. Both set out the Government’s wish to discuss options for future arrangements in the EU space programmes.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan asked about continued support for the space industry. The European Space Agency programmes will continue to play an important role in delivering the UK national space objectives and, in December last year, the UK negotiated an investment of more than €1.4 billion over the next five years in ESA space initiatives. This sustained investment, alongside our industrial strategy, will ensure that we build on the strengths of the UK’s growing space industry. The UK’s membership of the European Space Agency will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU.

The Government hold a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis of the impact of leaving the EU on sectors of the UK economy, including the UK’s space industry. This is contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. The analysis in this area is constantly evolving and being updated based on our regular discussions with industry and our negotiations with the EU. As the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said in his Written Statement on 7 November, the intention is to provide this information to the Exiting the EU Select Committee as soon as possible, and within three weeks of the date of that Statement.

My noble friend Lord Callanan has confirmed to the House that we anticipate sharing the same information on the same basis with the Lords EU Committee as with the House of Commons Select Committee, subject to our being able to agree the terms of that disclosure. Given that this evidence will be published in the coming weeks, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 1.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. We look forward to this information being gathered together into one clear document, as at the moment it is scattered among many documents. I am sure that not only the EU Committee but the whole House will read it with great interest.

This is not a hostile amendment but one that genuinely searches after facts. A generation of us—not including the Minister—remember our last great adventure into the space industry with Blue Streak and Black Arrow over 40 years ago. I also exclude my noble friend on these Benches from that. I had better not go any further: I remember Blue Streak and Black Arrow and finding out that this was too expensive a game for us to go it alone. As we take forward what is still a very exciting industry—the Minister herself announced a number of new facets—we need to ensure that we are at its cutting edge and do not miss this chance. In that spirit, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke eloquently in Committee on the issue of his party and pavement politics, before referring to his concerns about space debris and the need to bring it back safely—although he did not say whether he was looking for weekly or fortnightly collections. If the noble Lord, Lord McNally, considers that the Government’s amendments address the legitimate concerns he raised, they will of course have our support.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I welcome the amendments. They are a first step in the right direction. Although I may have rather light-heartedly introduced the issue at the last stage, we have only to look at what we have done to the sea and to Everest to see how easily important places can be polluted. For that reason, it is important that this is on the agenda.

As was indicated in our last debate, work is being done about this problem by British technology companies. Although it may be the less glamorous end of space travel, clearing up space debris may well be another cutting-edge area that we can exploit as this expands.

The IADC is a representative body. Its membership includes all the big players—Russia, the United States, China, ourselves, the European Space Agency, India, Italy, France, Japan, Ukraine. It is the right body to take these matters forward and the amendment is welcome.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for their support for the amendment, particularly the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who raised this issue in Committee and has put his name to the amendment.

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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Both the regulator and the Secretary of State would need to be satisfied that the transfer of a licence was appropriate.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this is a good example of the Lords’ way of doing things in action. The Labour Front Bench noticed what they thought was a weakness; the Minister said he would go away and reflect. The Government have reflected and come back with a solution that makes the Bill better.

Amendment 10 agreed.
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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 15. We put forward a series of probing amendments in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, gave a long and detailed response to those, which I thank him for, which helped us understand how the various clauses relating to this whole issue work together. Unfortunately, there is just one point left. It is not at all complicated, and therefore I will not make a long speech about it, but this amendment addresses that single point.

Where the damage to an uninvolved third party exceeds the cap, and the insurance, the state must meet the excess. We are talking about a new phenomenon—flying bombs of one sort or another. The potential for catastrophic damage is there. It may not be very likely, but it could happen. It is potentially significantly more dangerous than the worst conceivable civil aviation accident at present, and it cannot be right that an uninvolved third party who suffers loss does not receive full compensation.

The Government have argued effectively to the House that the industry may need a cap and that it may not get off the ground without an appropriate arrangement. We agree, but if Her Majesty’s Government limit the operator’s liability, they must commit to making up the difference, and put that commitment in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, and the earlier debate about safety, one thing that occurred to me was seeing the newsreel footage of the crash of the “Hindenburg”, just before the Second World War—a crash that virtually ended the airship as a commercial prospect. That is a useful reminder that what may be seen as the next new thing could be disastrously impacted.

The simple message, which seems so obvious, is that if entrepreneurs considering coming into the industry have unlimited liability, they will not come in. If there is no cover—particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, emphasised, for third parties—that would be totally unacceptable. The problem has been spelled out; the Government should face up to those contradictions.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendment 15 relates to the liability provisions in the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Callanan outlined in Committee, these provisions are vital but complex.

I would just like to clarify a point my noble friend Lord Callanan made in Committee. He said that,

“the position under the Bill is exactly the same as that in the aviation industry—that operators have an unlimited liability to indemnify government”.—[Official Report, 16/10/17; col. 434.]

While it is correct that under aviation law an operator holds an unlimited liability, an operator is not required to indemnify the Government for third-party claims brought against it.

The requirement to indemnify the Government arises in this Bill and in the Outer Space Act 1986 only because under UN space treaties the UK Government are ultimately liable for the space activities of their nationals. Operators are therefore required to indemnify the Government for any claims brought against them as a consequence of their licensed activities. I hope that the House finds this clarification helpful.

With this complexity in mind, I should like to provide further background before turning to the amendment. Clause 33(5) provides a power to make regulations that enable a regulator to specify in a licence a cap on an operator’s liability arising out of its spaceflight activities to prescribed persons or in prescribed circumstances. These persons and circumstances would be set out in regulations, but we envisage that a cap, if imposed, would be on an operator’s liability to the uninvolved general public who suffer injury or damage as a result of spaceflight activities. The uninvolved general public will have a strict liability claim against the operator.

Further work needs to be done to check the appropriateness of capping an operator’s third-party liability. We plan to issue a call for evidence on issues relating to insurance and liabilities in early 2018, following Royal Assent to the Bill.

As this liability can be capped, Clause 34(3) provides the Secretary of State with a power to indemnify a claimant in the event of injury or damage caused by spaceflight activities. This means that the Government can pay compensation to the uninvolved general public in situations where injury or damage exceeds the operator’s capped liability amount.

As we have already emphasised, we are trying to put safety at the heart of the Bill. It is designed to ensure that spaceflight activity is as safe as possible in the first place, which will minimise liability arising. But, as noble Lords have pointed out, injury or damage could arise, and if it does, it is the Government’s policy that the uninvolved general public should have easy recourse to compensation. This policy does not and should not change if an operator has a capped liability or, for example, becomes insolvent and cannot meet all its claims.

I therefore understand the concerns that have led to this amendment which seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State has to pay compensation above the capped amount to the uninvolved general public. The liability provisions in the Bill are complex and we need to ensure that amendments in this area are appropriate and achieve what they are set out to do. We are working on this and look forward to tabling an amendment similar to this one in the other place, which I hope will allay the concerns shared by noble Lords that have led to this amendment. With that in mind, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

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Moved by
16: Clause 36, page 26, line 18, at end insert “or gross negligence”
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this takes forward a recommendation from the Science and Technology Committee in the other place that “gross negligence” should be on the face of the Bill, and that is what the amendment would do.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for tabling this amendment, following a similar amendment that he tabled in Committee. We discussed Clause 36 in relation to the protection it affords a regulator. Having considered the persuasive points made by the noble Lord, and others, after reflecting on the wording of this new amendment, we agree that to achieve the right balance in this clause the regulator protection should not apply in cases of gross negligence, and we accept the amendment as tabled.

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Moved by
17: Clause 36, page 26, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of subsection (4) there is “gross negligence” on the part of a person or body if—(a) the person or body is in breach of a duty of care owed under the law of negligence, and(b) the conduct constituting that breach falls far below what can reasonably be expected of the person or body in the circumstances.”
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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in Committee last month, a number of noble Lords urged my noble friend Lord Callanan to reconsider the Henry VIII powers contained in Clause 66. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, highlighted the powerful arguments made by several speakers on this issue and recommended that the Government give thought to that between Committee and Report. I am pleased to say that we have followed his advice and have considered the arguments made by noble Lords. As a result, I have tabled these amendments, which will remove the Henry VIII powers from the Bill. I hope noble Lords will appreciate the considerable ground the Government have given. We have not taken this decision lightly; we recognise that there may be situations in the future that leave some legal uncertainty. However, we will continue to examine related legislation and address any omissions as necessary.

Amendments 34, 36 and 37 ensure that the power to make consequential amendments in Clause 67 is now limited to changes to secondary legislation made under the negative resolution procedure. Turning to Amendment 33A, we had an interesting debate on this same issue in Committee. I take it that my arguments then failed to convince noble Lords of the necessity of the subsection. However, the Government remain convinced that the subsection is needed to ensure that all aspects of the Bill can be fully implemented effectively.

As noble Lords are aware, the Bill provides powers to make regulations for specific purposes such as safety and security. However, there remains the possibility that due to the complex and evolving nature of spaceflight technology, we may need to supplement such regulations with regulations on other aspects of spaceflight and associated activities. The power in Clause 67(1) would only be used in such cases. I hope noble Lords are reassured by my explanation and feel able not to press the amendment. I beg to move Amendment 31.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I see that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, is in his place. I would like to say that he was sorely missed this afternoon, but unfortunately I cannot—we did not miss him at all. I can see that his popping in occasionally in the afternoon to this House of concord and agreement must be a pleasure, away from the hell of the Brexit department. It is good to see him. I do not know whether it was my eloquence or the fact that a former Lord Chief Justice—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge—applied his powerful arguments, but we welcome the Government’s concession.

I will not go into a great deal of detail on Amendment 33A. I will read out the section we want to delete:

“Regulations may make provision generally for carrying this Act into effect and for achieving the purpose set out in section 1(1)”.


Subsection 1 is equally catch-all. It states:

“This Act has effect for the purpose of regulating—(a) space activities, (b) sub-orbital activities, and (c) associated activities, carried out in the United Kingdom”.


That is far too wide-reaching.

I make one last plea to the Minister: perhaps we could have further talks involving the opposition—the Official Opposition as well, who put their names to this—to see whether we can get some different wording. We have done a lot of good work on this, but the wording is far too wide. I give her this Gypsy’s warning: if we send the Bill down to the other place with this subsection, it will cause just the same trouble. Parliament has to be very jealous of its privileges during the passage of Bills such as this. This is a bridge too far for anyone who cares about the need to keep powers within these two Houses. I am not going to press the amendment—it would be jarring to the spirit of the whole debate to have a Division at this stage—but if the Minister would agree to meet us and have one more go before Third Reading, that would be helpful.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said that widespread concern was expressed in Committee about Henry VIII powers in the Bill and the power they would give the Government to bypass Parliament when amending or repealing primary legislation. I too am grateful that the Government have changed their position. I suspect they were concerned that they would lose a vote on this in this House, and were probably far from sure they could put the Henry VIII clause back in the Bill when it got to the Commons. They would also have had the consideration that, at their behest, the Bill started in the Lords rather than the Commons, which is not the normal procedure for Bills containing potentially controversial clauses, as this one did until the government amendment was tabled. Henry VIII may be turning in his grave at these government amendments, but we welcome them.

On Amendment 33A, like the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I hoped the Government would be able to give some rather more convincing reasons than they gave in Committee for this catch-all regulation-making power being in the Bill. I am afraid the obvious conclusion is that once again, there is no movement because the Government have brought forward this skeletal Bill for their own party management reasons, one year before discussions on the regulations and nearly two years before those key regulations are placed before Parliament. As a result, frankly, the Government do not know what regulations will be needed. Even though this is a difficulty of their own making, they clearly think it quite acceptable to expect Parliament to agree to the wide-ranging regulation-making power Amendment 33A seeks to delete.

I share the view that it would help if this issue could be further discussed before the Bill leaves this House, which means before Third Reading. I also share the view that the subsection that Amendment 33A would delete will, if it remains in the Bill, be the subject of much discussion when it gets to the Commons. If the Government will not agree to delete it, it would be a lot better if it could be amended in some way. I hope they will think again on this issue.

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Tabled by
33A: Clause 67, page 42, line 16, leave out subsection (1)
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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I am happy not to move the amendment for the moment. I would like to study carefully what the Minister has said, but I reserve the point that we may want to bring back the amendment at Third Reading.

Amendment 33A not moved.
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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In Committee, we expressed our concerns about the extensive use of secondary legislation to bring in provisions under this Bill due to the Government’s insistence on taking a skeletal Bill through Parliament literally years before the all-important regulations appear.

We also expressed our concern, as did the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, about the Government’s intention, in respect of many regulations, that the affirmative procedure be used only for the first regulations and not for subsequent regulations under the same relevant section of the Bill, which would instead be covered by the negative procedure.

The Government said in Committee that the development of the first sets of regulations would be subject to a stakeholder engagement process over the coming months and that they would then issue a full and wide-ranging consultation on each initial draft statutory instrument prior to their being laid. They also said that if there were any material change to the original instruments, there would be further consultation.

Government Amendment 35 seeks to put some of those undertakings in the Bill. While it does not address the concern about the negative procedure being used for subsequent regulations after the affirmative procedure for the first regulations, it provides a statutory requirement for a public consultation before regulations are made to which Clause 67(6) applies and for a report to be made by the Secretary of State about the consultation when a draft of such regulations is laid before Parliament. To that extent, and it is not a minimal extent, the government amendment represents progress and we welcome it.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Amendment 35 shows that some fertile minds have been at work since these issues were raised. Therefore, while I welcome the amendment, I suggest that the Minister puts those same fertile minds to work on Amendment 33A; then we might have an equally happy outcome at Third Reading.

Amendment 35 agreed.

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Moved by
40: Clause 66, page 42, line 1, leave out “enactment” and insert “secondary legislation”
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I will in due course also speak to Amendments 41 and 42 in this group.

We have heard a lot recently about Parliament taking back control, yet no Government have done more in recent times to weaken parliamentary scrutiny and strengthen the power of the Executive than this one. They load up Bills with powers to be enacted by secondary legislation, and then complain if either House of Parliament objects to the powers thus taken. The truth is that we ain’t seen nothing yet. The Bill is just a taster of what is to come. We are of course dealing with our old friends the Henry VIII powers. As the Select Committee said on the matter:

“The number of delegated powers granted by the Bill is notable —the Bill has 71 clauses and confers approximately 100 delegated powers. Some of those powers are very broad”.


These should be called the Conrad Russell amendments. During my early years in this House, the late Lord Russell would root out and oppose Henry VIII clauses in Bills from both Conservative and Labour Administrations. As a Minister, I may even have tried to push through the odd Henry VIII power myself. Parliament should be wary of them.

Amendment 40 leaves out the catch-all term “enactment” and inserts the more precise and narrow reference to “secondary legislation”, so that SIs cannot amend primary legislation and only secondary legislation made under Clause 66 can be amended, repealed or revoked by secondary legislation. Amendment 42 would ensure that if we cannot stop SIs amending primary legislation, any regulation under this clause which seeks to repeal primary legislation is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, it is clear that the Government wish to find ways more easily to future-proof complex legislation. If we are to put the best gloss on these attempts at Henry VIII powers, this is about government trying to be more flexible as the impacts of legislation become clear. However, it involves weakening parliamentary scrutiny. Although this is a debate on the Space Industry Bill, it raises many important issues, which we should look at ways of dealing with in the long term. Certainly, the Select Committee has a good claim for taking this on as a broader issue, or perhaps the Lord Speaker and the Speaker could set up a Joint Committee. However, current parliamentary procedures are not adequate to deal with legislation such as immensely complex, technical Bills—we will soon have another one: the Data Protection Bill—which try to legislate for rapidly changing technologies. Henry VIII powers are not the solution, and although we put down these amendments in an attempt to proceed with this Bill, this is a longer-term problem that is a long way from being solved. I beg to move.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill Portrait Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD)
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My Lords, I will say few words in support of the general propositions that my noble friend Lord McNally has referred to. I have come to the sad conclusion that the Government do not believe in parliamentary democracy but in executive government, and that they use every means they can to avoid Parliament’s scrutiny. The particular example that I am concerned about is what has happened to the Joint Committee on Human Rights; that goes back many years to when the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, chaired it and I first joined it. Lords committees are relatively safe, because we can protect them within this House. However, a Joint Committee of both Houses depends upon co-operation by both Houses. The Joint Committee on Human Rights is a vital constitutional safeguard that looks at every Bill and some delegated legislation for its compatibility with human rights. It is quite unacceptable that on the Commons side, the places have not been filled and the committee has therefore not met or sat, not just for weeks but for months now. It is an outrage and I very much hope that the Minister will pass on that message to some of his colleagues. Without that public watchdog, parliamentary scrutiny is very much weakened, and therefore I support everything that my noble friend Lord McNally has said.

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It is likely that other legislation will come to light during the development of the secondary legislation. The power gives us the flexibility to deal with this situation. It does not mean a wholesale rewrite of legislation, as the power is limited to making only consequential amendments in other legislation to take account of the Space Industry Bill. In the light of those assurances, I would be grateful if noble Lords considered not pressing the amendments.
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Certainly, the two amendments over which I have control, Amendments 40 and 41, will not be pressed. The best compliment that Jim Callaghan ever paid me when he was Prime Minister and I was his political adviser was, “You’re my mine detector”, by which he meant that I supposedly had the knack to warn him when he was walking into a major problem. History shows that that did not always work, but that is another story.

I say with all sincerity, this is a small debate in a small Committee at the end of a Bill which, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, indicated, we all want to see pass into legislation. However, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made some powerful criticisms which the Minister should read and take note of. When he brings to the House the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, as well as a couple of our regulars, the noble Lords, Lord Deben and Lord Moynihan, all saying that this is a big issue that needs a lot more thought, as a mine detector—retired—I recommend that he gives it some thought between now and Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 40 withdrawn.
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Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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I advise the Committee that, if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 46 to 50 inclusive.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Over the past hour or so we have been wrestling with the same problem: that there is a deep unease in this House—and probably down the corridor as well—that our parliamentary procedures are not flexible enough to deal with much legislation that deals with rapid technological change. I refer to the Data Protection Bill, which we will soon be considering. Over the period of my involvement, in both Houses, in broadcasting and the media, often, 10 or 20 years have passed before a new technological development has arrived—for example, the introduction of radio in the 1920s, and then television, slightly delayed by the war, in the 1940s. Now, we can have technological change within months. How do we get the proper legislative framework in which our judges can work, in a system that is rapidly changing under our feet and before our eyes?

Every Minister that I have heard has always said that SIs give both Houses of Parliament a chance to look at something. To the uninitiated, that seems perfectly reasonable. However, particularly at this end of the building, we know that, if there is any attempt to mess around with SIs, all of a sudden the skirts are lifted and there is shame and outrage at what is going on—the second Chamber ignoring the democratic wishes of the other House, because the legislation will have gone through the Commons on the nod, or with hardly any debate. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is then rolled out to give one of his opinions. The great thing about the noble Lord is that he has given an opinion in favour of almost any argument regarding change in this House, over his long and infamous career—I have enjoyed serving with him for 11 years of it.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who made a powerful contribution. I hope he will agree that many of his points did not relate to the detail of the Bill. I am sure he will accept that the issues of the scrutiny of secondary legislation and the powers of both Houses are way above my pay grade, and probably his too. He made some powerful points and I am sure that the authorities in both places will want to look at them. We will return to those arguments when the withdrawal Bill arrives here. We will have many of the same discussions, loudly and at length, late into the evening.

As we have just discussed, the Government are committed to ensuring robust scrutiny of regulations made under the Bill through proportionate use of the affirmative procedure. This amendment goes further in seeking to impose the so-called super-affirmative procedure for some regulations. This would require the Government to publish a draft order with a detailed explanation of its contents and have due regard to any representations made within a 40-day period. Although I understand the strong desire to have detailed scrutiny of secondary legislation, this is a duplication of effort.

I can assure noble Lords that the first regulations referred to in this clause will be published in draft for consultation prior to being laid before Parliament, providing a transparent, proportionate opportunity for scrutiny. We propose that such draft regulations be accompanied by a full explanation of their intent. This builds on the open approach the Government have taken through the life of this legislation. That includes publishing a draft Bill for consultation and, following the introduction of this Bill, publishing policy scoping notes setting out how we intend to use the powers we are taking.

The amendment would also mean that a committee of either House could make a binding recommendation that no further proceedings with secondary legislation take place, unless that recommendation was rejected by resolution of the House. In a case where a revised draft order is brought back to Parliament for approval, a committee of either House could again make a recommendation that no further proceedings be made in relation to the revised order unless that recommendation is rejected by the House. This would cause huge uncertainty for government, the regulators and, most unfortunately of all, our nascent space industries.

My noble friend Lord Willetts spoke on the first day of Committee about the “lively race” to gain the first mover advantage in small satellite launch from Europe. The introduction of this Bill to Parliament was an important first step to enabling spaceflight activities in the UK and a concrete indication to the industries, investors and the international community that the UK is serious about promoting growth in the space sector. We have then allowed for a period of collaborative and transparent policy development to ensure that we create a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose in what is still an emerging market. However, we cannot wait for ever. Following the consultation I set out above, we will need to be clear when we will bring forward legislation, so that industry can have confidence that UK launch is viable and make appropriate investment decisions. This will not come at the expense of parliamentary scrutiny. The regulations covering the central provisions of suborbital activities, space activities, spaceports and range will all be subject to the affirmative procedure.

It may be helpful if I give more details about the timescale. We currently intend to make delegated legislation through three main statutory instruments: on suborbital activities, space activities, and spaceports and range. It is intended that each of these SIs will set out the licensing requirements and any oversight of operations required to ensure these functions are conducted safely and securely, and to ensure the proper functioning of the regulators in overseeing those functions. These SIs would be subject to the affirmative procedure and therefore allow full parliamentary scrutiny and debate. They would be supplemented with three—

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Perhaps I could clarify this. When we discussed this kind of approach in the past, it was suggested that such SIs would be amendable. Am I assuming that these would be unamendable?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Under the current procedure, as I understand it, SIs are not amendable. However, if I am incorrect on that, I will come back to the noble Lord.

As I said, these measures will be supplemented with three statutory instruments subject to the negative procedure on exercise of regulatory functions, appeals and charging. By grouping powers in this way we hope to provide clarity for parliamentarians and potential operators on the regulatory requirements for each type of activity while minimising the amount of duplication between the various instruments.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, referred to the timescales. I confirm that we currently intend to lay these SIs from summer 2019—subject, as he said, to government priorities and parliamentary time. This will allow time for more detailed policy development and consultation as well as the drafting of the extensive range of legislation and guidance considered necessary. We envisage holding formal consultations on the draft regulations and the guidance starting in late 2018. We will continue to invite the views of all interested parties—including trade unions, my noble friend Lord Balfe will be pleased to know—throughout the development of the secondary legislation.

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 18th October 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Space Industry Act 2018 View all Space Industry Act 2018 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 7-II Second marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 79KB) - (16 Oct 2017)
Moved by
37: Clause 36, page 26, line 18, after “misconduct” insert “or gross negligence”
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. He is the reason why I do not have a fear of flying. When I am sitting at the back—and it is always at the back—of a 747, I always assume that there is somebody up the front who knows a lot about getting it up and down and who has just the same reason for getting it up and down safely as I do. His interventions are important because there is a danger that we treat what we are talking about as just an extension of present civil aviation, and it is a step change, a quantum leap in what we are doing. In his first intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, pointed out that rockets are explosions, very possibly dangerous explosions at that.

This amendment strengths the test for the regulator to be liable in respect of spaceflight-related actions to include gross negligence as well as wilful misconduct. I am hoping it is just one of those things that got left out and that when the Minister sees the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s recommendation that such wording should be in the Bill he will stand up and say that he will make sure that it is. Given the central role of the regulator in determining how large aspects of spaceflight should be conducted, it seems fair and logical that it should have its protection removed in case of gross negligence.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, spoke about legislation being drafted nearly 100 years ago to stimulate a nascent industry. We are trying to do that in the Bill, but in so doing we have to make sure that there are also checks and balances to ensure that in making this step change in travel, those responsible have checks and balances on their behaviour that contribute to safety. I beg to move.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for raising this important issue. This clause sets out that a regulator and persons listed in subsection (2) are not to be held liable for their actions or omissions in relation to spaceflight activities or associated activities.

The primary concern of the Bill is to secure safety. As regulators of spaceflight activities, we will take all steps possible to ensure that the risks to the public are as low as reasonably practicable and that all spaceflight activities are carried out as safely as possible. However, given the nature of the activities, the regulator cannot guarantee that all the risks can be eliminated. I highlight that without such a clause, a regulator may be reluctant to take any action in relation to spaceflight activities—for example, licensing that activity—because of concerns that they will be subject to claims, in negligence or breach of statutory duty, in the event of loss or damage arising from regulated spaceflight and associated activities. This would inevitably affect the growth of the sector.

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We need to strike a balance here because this is a new activity for which safety cannot be guaranteed. Our view is that a gross negligence test would be inappropriate, and that the wilful misconduct test is more appropriate as it protects a regulator who is acting in good faith. Quite rightly, though, we are not proposing to protect a regulator that intentionally does something wrong. On those grounds, I commend the clause and ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 37.
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, I notice a couple of noble and learned Lords in the Chamber today, and I would be interested to see how they wrestled with that reply. I will of course withdraw the amendment now but I would like to consider the issue further and perhaps bring it back on Report, because there is an issue here that we may want to explore further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 37 withdrawn.