All 4 Lord Callanan contributions to the Space Industry Act 2018

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Wed 12th Jul 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
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2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 16th Oct 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 18th Oct 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
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Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 23rd Oct 2017
Space Industry Bill [HL]
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Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Space Industry Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Department for Transport

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord Callanan Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 12th July 2017

(6 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, the UK space industry is a British success story—a story of invention and innovation, of enterprising spirit and global ambition: from our close collaboration with the European Space Agency, which continues to yield ground-breaking science and discovery, to our globally respected satellite companies leading the small satellite revolution. I know that many noble Lords share my admiration for the UK’s achievements in space and will be keen to contribute to its continued success, which is why I welcome their input into and scrutiny of the Space Industry Bill, a Bill that will boldly go where no Bill has gone before.

Very few people realise how important space is to our everyday lives. Satellites in particular provide many critical services that we all take for granted. Navigation satellites, for example, provide the precision timing needed to enable global financial transactions. They support the safe and efficient use of our seas and skies, and help us all to find our way in unfamiliar surroundings. Weather satellites equip farmers, health workers and the emergency services with the foresight to protect people, property and produce from extreme weather, and provide unique insights into our changing climate. Communication and imaging satellites let us monitor disasters and threats to our national interests, and allow us to watch live news events unfolding anywhere on earth. Indeed, satellites, a specialty of the British space industry, play a crucial role in our economy, supporting more than £250 billion of our GDP, and provide the data to power the future of our digital economy. Noble Lords can see why space has been made part of our critical national infrastructure.

This is how we use space today. Looking to the future, ambitious new plans could require tens of thousands of new small satellites to be launched and serviced. This surge in demand is the result of the declining costs of satellite manufacturing and launch services. What was once possible only at huge public expense is now being pursued commercially by companies such as SpaceX and Rocket Lab, spurred on by the global market for small satellite launch that could be worth £25 billion over the next 20 years. This is not the only opportunity. Sub-orbital flights to the edge of space offer another emerging commercial prospect. Such flights would not only be thrilling for paying customers but could expand the boundaries of human knowledge by giving our world-leading science sector access to the unique environment of microgravity, enabling exciting opportunities for discovery in many branches of science. Empowering our aerospace sector to pursue this opportunity will ensure that future aircraft technology comes by way of British innovation, keeping us at the forefront of aviation as we move into an exciting future of long-distance, high-speed air travel.

We have in front of us opportunities of significant strategic and economic consequence. The UK is well equipped to pursue commercial markets in both small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight. Our northern latitude, abundant coastline, aviation heritage, great engineering capability, thriving space sector and business-friendly environment are all factors which make the UK an attractive destination for these services. In line with our modern industrial strategy, we will strengthen our economy by allowing UK companies to benefit from access to new opportunities and supply chains. The sky will no longer be the limit for our talented scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, and we will attract the capability, infrastructure and investment needed to prepare for the next 50 years of spaceflight.

For example, British companies like Reaction Engines are developing engine technology which could revolutionise the way we get to and from space, making it easier and cheaper to escape the earth’s atmosphere. If we fail to prepare for these opportunities, the UK risks losing out to early adopters overseas and would not receive the benefits of this British innovation. However, we must move quickly. Experts are forecasting a sharp rise in demand for launch services from 2020 and we are not alone in pursuing this market. The first movers in Europe are likely to gain a significant commercial advantage over those who arrive later.

A number of operators from the UK and further afield have expressed an interest in launching from UK spaceports. They recognise the benefits of setting up shop here, but until now have not had a sufficient legal framework to enable safe and secure operations. This is why we are here today. For several years we have been laying the groundwork for commercial small satellite launches and sub-orbital flight in the UK by understanding what regulation needs to be put in place to enable safe commercial spaceflight in this country; identifying the key characteristics of any potential locations from which commercial spaceflight operations could be safely launched, and the infrastructure and facilities that would be required; and developing an understanding of the complex array of technologies in this emerging market and exploring options and approaches to attract commercial spaceflight operators and investment to deliver Launch UK.

Our thanks must go to all those who have helped to inform, challenge and shape this policy, which has resulted in the Bill before us, which aims to boost the economy, British business, engineering and science by making the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial spaceflight. It provides for the creation of a regulatory framework to enable commercial spaceflight activities—both launch to orbit and sub-orbital spaceflight—to be carried out from spaceports in the United Kingdom. It will work alongside the existing Outer Space Act, which was enacted primarily to implement UK obligations under UN space treaties. To date, this has involved licensing of satellites launched from overseas.

The Bill has to be sensitive to the context of the emerging market, which is full of innovation, disruptive technology and rapidly evolving business models. In this context it would be inappropriate and self-defeating to set down in the Bill language that would inflexibly bind the UK’s ability to respond to this market as it emerges. Instead, we seek to be a global exemplar of good regulation by balancing flexibility and foresight with an absolute commitment to safety and best practice. As such, the Bill provides a framework for the development of more detailed rules in secondary legislation, supplemented by guidance and supported by a licensing regime.

I place on record my express and immense appreciation for the pre-legislative scrutiny already carried out on the draft Bill by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and by the Science and Technology Committee in the other place to strengthen this framework. I know noble Lords will further build on this process with the benefit of their work, for which I am also grateful. Our collegiate approach will continue as we develop secondary legislation, consulting on key issues and providing confidence to investors and insurers that the UK will develop safe, business-friendly regulation in the public interest.

Our space industry extends to and benefits all territories in the United Kingdom, and potential spaceport sites have come forward from all across our union. The Bill extends to all those territories, except for certain provisions not extending to Northern Ireland and Scotland as described in individual clauses.

As I am sure noble Lords will see, the Bill is comprehensive in the measures it puts forward. These include the duties of the regulator, the intention being that space activities will be regulated by the Secretary of State acting through the UK Space Agency, and sub-orbital activities by the Civil Aviation Authority. It also provides for range and range control and the licensing of the range control service provider, operator and spaceport operator, setting out the circumstances in which regulators may grant such licences and where such licences are needed. It refers to informed consent, training, qualifications and medical fitness to ensure safe and effective regulation of persons taking part in spaceflight and associated activities.

The Bill also provides for safety regulations, investigation of accidents and security. In addition, we have offences against the safety of spacecraft, which draw on offences against aircraft and aerodromes in the Aviation Security Act 1982 and the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 respectively. The Bill covers monitoring and enforcement, allowing the regulator to investigate and prosecute offences contained in or made under the Bill.

The Bill regulates liabilities, indemnities and insurance. We have chosen not to bind any operational policy decisions by specifying any cap on liability. The existing Outer Space Act permits only the capping of the operator’s indemnity to the Government and contains no provision concerning the operator’s liability to third parties. We consider that the liability provisions in the Bill are therefore more comprehensive. However, liability capping will be subject to further consultation to ensure that our policy and regulation on capping, and many more measures besides, are in the public interest.

The Space Industry Bill is necessarily broad in scope, but it benefits from the experience and best practice of international launch and our own world-class aviation regulators, resulting in a safe, proportionate and comprehensive enabling framework in one piece of legislation.

In turn, the activities defined in the Bill and its subsequent regulatory framework will benefit many in the UK. Entrepreneurs will benefit from new opportunities to build innovative commercial enterprises off the back of launch services and small satellite data. Local economies will benefit from the creation of spaceport sites, with related jobs and opportunities in construction and hospitality. Our small satellite industry will have direct access to domestic launch capacity, reducing dependence on foreign launch services and enabling growth across the industry. British-based scientists will benefit from increased access to microgravity and investment in institutional capability in launch, spaceflight and related sciences, attracting world-class scientists to the UK. Young people seeking careers in science, technology, engineering and maths will gain new opportunities and greater inspiration from an expanding UK spaceflight industry. The UK as a whole will benefit from access to a strategic small satellite launch capability, contributing to our understanding of the world, the provision of public and commercial services, the delivery of national security and new opportunities for investment and export. 

Half a century ago, the British rocket programme was considered unviable, but as the last rocket had already been built it was given permission to launch. Prospero, the small satellite that it successfully transported into space, was the first and, currently, only satellite to reach orbit on a British launch. Today, we stand at the dawn of a new commercial space age—an age in which we can once more reach for the stars, not at vast public expense or with our being dependent on the hospitality of others, but in the best spirit of British innovation by enabling, attracting and empowering commercial markets for small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports.

So let us end Prospero’s lonely record. Let us empower our best and brightest to reach higher than they ever have before, inspire the next generation to reach higher still and, in so doing, deliver the benefits that low-cost access to space will bring us all. In this spirit, I welcome scrutiny of and debate on the Bill. I beg to move.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s Second Reading for their, as ever, very informed questions, which they were quite right to ask. The challenge and the debate are welcomed by the Government and will help us strengthen the Bill. I appreciate the broad support that has been shown for the Bill’s ambition. I reiterate the point that I have made to a number of noble Lords, both publicly and privately, that we are looking to co-operate on all sides of the House on this matter with Members from all parties and none. I am always available to discuss aspects of it and I have written to a number of Members to make that point. I thank my right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Department for Transport, who was sitting on the steps of the Throne earlier. I was delighted to see him paying such close attention to our proceedings.

I will try to address many of the points that have been made. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for her astute analysis of the UK space industry and her support for the Bill. On the issue that she raised concerning the comparable provisions to those in Section 1 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 to promote the development of the space industry in the UK, I agree that the Government should recognise the need to promote growth in this sector. The Deregulation Act 2015 provides for a growth study to apply to functions specified by order. Statutory Instrument 2017/267 already lists functions under the Outer Space Act 1986, and we propose to amend this SI to also list functions under the Bill. My noble friend also shares the concerns of a number of other noble Lords—my noble friend Lord Moynihan also mentioned this—about over- regulation of this emerging market. This is a concern we are very alive to, and the Bill establishes a proportionate framework to support growth in this emerging sector while adequately balancing government and operator rights, the safety provisions and other factors dedicated to it. In exercising the powers in the Bill, the Government will ensure proportionality, and we intend to consult fully on all the secondary legislation required to implement these measures.

Engaging with agencies such as ICAO was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. Through the DfT and the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK has been working as part of a joint ICAO/UNOOSA space learning group better to understand how commercial spaceflight fits in with the global air navigation structure and how regulation will need to adapt to the new industry. ICAO has not yet developed detailed rules on spaceflight.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also raised the issue of the carriage of nuclear materials. We do not intend to permit the carriage of any nuclear materials. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 allows for prohibitions and restrictions on this. There may be exceptions regarding everyday appliances such as smoke detectors, which routinely use small quantities of technically radioactive material.

We do not believe that the Bill engages obligations to produce an environmental impact assessment. Environmental impacts are heavily correlated with the type, frequency and location of spaceflight activities. At this stage, it is very difficult to ascertain specific environmental issues. For example, the sensitivities of a site cannot be known until we know the location of the spaceport.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised international agreements, and they were right to do so. We have put in place a number of agreements to enable commercial spaceflight in the UK. The type and nature of these agreements depends largely on the technology used, how and where it is operated and what it is used for. The UK complies with all existing space treaty obligations, and we are working to secure the agreements necessary to enable commercial spaceflight to take place from the UK.

On a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I should say that the UK Space Agency’s international partnership programme uses UK R&D to support international development. This supports developing countries to use satellite solutions for problems such as deforestation and disaster relief. My noble friend Lord Moynihan asked about the Government’s support for the development of this emerging market in the UK, and a number of other Members raised a similar point. The UK Space Agency published details of the grant process in February, including our processes for assessing proposals and the criteria we would apply. We have engaged extensively with the parties who submitted funding proposals, to ensure that our process is transparent. The proposals were naturally submitted to the Government in commercial confidence and noble Lords will understand that I cannot disclose details now. However, I can confirm that in line with the process set out in February, the UK Space Agency is currently considering these proposals with independent expert advice, and I expect it will announce the outcome of the process later in the year.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord McNally, raised questions around the European Space Agency. The Government’s policy to exit the EU does not affect the UK’s membership of the European Space Agency. The UK has a strong and healthy space economy with an international outlook. We have a long history of collaboration and participation in European space programmes and missions through the European Space Agency. The Government will continue to take an active role in European space programmes, supporting UK industry in its bids to win contracts overseas and developing our national capability to keep the UK competitive in the global market.

The issue of affirmative regulations was also raised by my noble friend Lord Moynihan. We need a proportionate approach for aviation. Section 60 of the Civil Aviation Act enables all aviation safety rules to be made by negative procedure. These safety rules are likely to be amended frequently. We aim to lay statutory instruments in summer 2019, and licences can be issued once these are in force.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised the issue of range ownership. Our intention is for these to be privately owned. Foreign ownership is not prohibited. A licence cannot be granted of course unless the applicant is a fit and proper person.

My noble friend Lord Dunlop asked me about the number of spaceports. The Bill does not restrict the number of licences that could be issued for spaceports. However, the decisions on licensing would be based on eligibility, alternative criteria requirements and safety standards. I noted his strong advocacy of Scotland, along with that of my noble friend Lord Moynihan—we have a lot of interest from Scotland, particularly given the rural nature of many of its locations. We are working closely with the devolved Administrations, but I hope that my noble friends would not expect an Englishman with Irish roots to adjudicate on this process. My noble friend Lord Dunlop also asked me about ITAR and knowledge transfer. The Bill includes provisions for entering into agreements with other countries, including the provision for knowledge transfer and to ensure that we can meet the ITAR constraints that may be imposed on us by the United States.

The issue of liabilities was raised by a number of noble Lords. We have taken the power in the Bill to cap liabilities. However, we can assure industry of our intention to cap liabilities only in circumstances for which analysis has already been carried out to determine the current liability cap policy under the Outer Space Act 1986, as amended by the Deregulation Act 2015. For other circumstances, we hope to carry out the analysis as quickly as possible to further promulgate our policy decision.

My noble friend Lord Balfe and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, raised the issue of drones. Your Lordships will be aware that the department completed a consultation on the safe use of drones in the UK in March. We are considering the responses received and developing outcomes on this, and I hope the Government’s position will be released very soon.

My noble friend Lord Suri asked me about consultation. We will discuss the proposed structure of the statutory instruments and how this fits with industry views. We intend to publish a database containing more detail on regulatory functions including spaceflights, on existing international best practice under each of those functions, and on initial assessments of risks associated with each of these functions before and after regulatory activity has taken place. We expect that this will start the conversation on the licensing framework and can inform discussions with insurers about the level of residual risk, and therefore start to gauge the potential appetite for insurers to enter the market.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, asked me about timetables for launch. I am slightly hesitant on this, but we intend to lay statutory instruments in summer 2019. Once these have entered into force, regulators will be in a position to accept licence applications, which we expect will be processed in roughly 12 to 18 months. Please take that with a slight pinch of salt—these things can change and there are lots of considerations still to go through—but it might help as a rough timetable.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the policy scoping notes. Please accept my apologies that they came out late, but I wanted to get them issued before we sat down today. I appreciate it is very difficult to read a 94-page document in advance of this debate, but the policy scoping notes are not provided for discussion: they are our initial statement of intention with regard to the use of delegated powers and the need to consult on the use of powers given their importance and impact and the need to carry out analysis and assessment of criteria for determining safe levels of risk, for example. I confirm that it is not currently our intention to take Committee immediately after the holiday break in September. It will be a few weeks after that, subject to the vagaries of the Whips, and not immediately we return after recess.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for that comment. It had certainly been my understanding that it was not going to be in September anyway. What is of concern—given the extent of devolved powers, with further information still to come—is if on the first or second day back in October, the Committee stage of the Bill is scheduled. What I meant by breathing space was a breathing space in October before we start Committee.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I am not in a position to confirm that yet. As soon as I get further information from those who deal with these matters, I will let the noble Lord know. I intend to work as closely as possible with all noble Lords on this; when I have further information, I will share it with him.

On the question of licensing and insurance for mega constellations, space activities are risky in nature and the Government may be required to pay compensation for damage caused as a result of spaceflight and related activities carried out by UK entities or launched from the UK. The insurance requirement is one of the provisions in the Bill to protect the Government and the public by ensuring that there is a resource to meet such claims. We do not believe that small satellites pose the same risks to the space environment. Further work will be undertaken on the insurance requirement for the different activities licensed.

The UK has played a major part in developing the main EU space programmes—Galileo and Copernicus—and space surveillance and tracking, which have supported the rapid growth of the UK space sector and contributed directly to our prosperity and security. It is a global success story, leveraging our best talent to deliver highly innovative products and services every year, and we want that to continue if at all possible.

The noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Rosser, asked me about delegated powers. The Bill contains 71 clauses, 12 schedules and 100 delegated powers. This large number of delegated powers—I accept that it is a lot—is required because the commercial spaceflight environment is innovative, highly technical and fast changing. It is important that we have the flexibility given by secondary legislation to adapt to keep pace with this emerging market, as both UK regulators and the space industry develop expertise in this area. The Bill sets out the regulatory framework for a novel, dynamic and diverse industry, accommodating a wide range of different technologies. It aims to provide sufficient certainty and assurance to Parliament, regulators, industry and the general public while simultaneously having the flexibility to allow industry to grow. Early feedback so far from industry is that this flexibility is seen as vital. A rigid approach that offered limited opportunity to keep pace with either the development of spaceflight or the enhanced experience of the regulators would be restrictive for the sector.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me about horizontal and vertical launch. He is correct: currently, we expect existing aerodromes to be most interested in conducting horizontal launch activities. I would expect vertical launch activities to be from a mixture of existing aerodromes and new facilities, subject to the strict licensing conditions that we have put in place. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked me about flags of convenience. Responsible operators may be attracted to launch from the UK, but our vigorous approach to safety should deter less responsible persons.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Before the Minister leaves the point about consultation, there is concern in the industry about the machinery by which the players influence regulations as they become firmer and clearer. They want to be sure that they can continue to influence the development of policy, rather than be faced with a fait accompli.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I can confirm that we are in extensive consultation with industry players. My honourable friend was visiting Surrey Satellites this morning for discussion on various aspects of the Bill and its commercial operations.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who asked me about international environmental obligations under the Bill. They are covered by duties of the regulator in Clause 2 and under numerous other clauses, including Clause 8. We would not grant a licence if it were inconsistent with our international obligations. We have reviewed the relevant international, environmental treaties and obligations and the national requirements that may apply to spaceflight activities, and have concluded that we do not need any specific new provisions in the Space Industry Bill, but spaceflight activities and spaceports will, of course, have to fully comply with all existing planning and environmental requirements.

In relation to cyber interference, for conventional aviation we keep transport security under constant review, and we will do the same for spaceflight activities. We already work closely with partners across government and industry on restrictions between horizontal and vertical spaceports. I hope that I have responded to most points put by noble Lords, but if not there will perhaps be an opportunity to explore these issues further.

We have covered lots of vital areas and extremely important issues in this debate. Noble Lords were right to focus on issues of safety, environment and growth of the industry. I am sure that we will return to many of these issues in Committee. Once again, I thank all noble Lords for their general warm welcome for the Bill, notwithstanding some of the concerns expressed. As I said earlier, I look forward to working with noble Lords both in and outside the Chamber to ensure that we strengthen the Bill’s provisions as it makes its passage through the House

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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Before the noble Lord sits down—I thank him for the responses to the questions raised—if he finds that he has been unable for very good reasons to respond to all the questions raised, and I will not confine this to my questions, can we take it that he will write in response to those questions he has not dealt with?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Of course. We have a meeting planned for next week anyway, when we can perhaps discuss these issues further. I will be very happy to clarify and give more detail on any of the points we have spoken about. With that, I conclude by asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Space Industry Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Department for Transport

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 16th October 2017

(6 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Space Industry Act 2018 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 7-II Second marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 79KB) - (16 Oct 2017)
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, there are 38,000 jobs in the UK in the space sector, and they are top-quality, well-paid, highly skilled jobs. Brexit threatens the majority of those jobs, both directly and indirectly. Although the Bill is welcome and in itself uncontentious, it does nothing of any significance to plug the gaps that are threatening those jobs.

How and why does Brexit threaten those jobs? Two sets of work are ongoing on which we rely for a very large part of our jobs in this country relating to the space industry; they are funded by the Galileo and Copernicus projects. The UK Government have said that they want to remain part of those projects but they have failed to make a binding commitment to them. The problem is that talk of a no-deal Brexit seriously undermines the Government’s verbal assurances on this issue. They need to make it clear that they want to buy into those programmes in the future—beyond 2019. Clearly that could not happen in a no-deal scenario.

Let us be clear that we do very well out of EU space activity. In terms of what is technically called “geo return”, we put in 12.5% of funding and get back 14% of spend. We are talking about very large amounts of money. When applying for funds, companies now have to make it clear to the EU how they will ensure that after March 2019 they will still have a base in an EU country. This is a new requirement. The impact is that those companies with other EU sites are leading their bids from there, not from the UK. Those companies without another base are obviously thinking of moving to another EU country. Because there is such a long lead-in time in this industry, these decisions are being made now or in the very near future.

The second factor is the supply chain, a lot of which is foreign inward investment into the UK, and there is some current rethinking on that—so more good jobs in the UK are at risk. A major aspect of this problem is the free movement of people. The industry relies a lot on EU nationals, many of whom are already leaving. But British staff, working in the industry, are also looking abroad for opportunities and we cannot afford that brain drain. It is essential to the aerospace sector as a whole that there is free movement. The kind of visa for highly skilled workers that the Prime Minister has already talked about simply would not suit their needs. They need flexible, long-duration visas because they require staff to be so mobile and flexible. Their needs are very much like those for the rest of the aerospace sector.

For example, as many noble Lords will know, Airbus has plants in Toulouse, Broughton and a number of other places. A technician might arrive at work in Broughton one morning and be told that he is off to Toulouse by lunchtime and will be back tomorrow or the day after. Airbus, as a company, moved employees 80,000 times last year between the EU and the UK. It has its own jet shuttle between sites. The kind of visa that the Prime Minister talked about does not start to tackle that problem. The perception in Europe is that we have already left. So whatever the Government’s good intentions with this Bill, if you hollow out what we already have in our space industry in the way in which I have outlined, there is not much point in this Bill. We simply cannot afford to keep losing such high-value industries and high-quality jobs. It is important that the Government persuade us here today that they have already taken on board the key issues that we have raised in relation to Brexit and our relationship in the future with the EU.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, very much for his initial comments and his general support. I understand that he will want to probe further and question us on the purposes and intent of the Bill, which of course I welcome—but I also thank him for his initial supportive comments.

The UK space industry is a global success story, leveraging our best talent to deliver highly innovative products and services every year. This Government want a UK space industry that captures 10% of the global market by 2030, creating 100,000 new jobs in the process. The Government are pursuing a range of measures to support this fast-growing sector. This Bill is one of those measures, and aims to put British businesses at the forefront of new space services. 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 will work to ensure that we get the best deal with the EU to help support strong growth in the sector. I understand the link that noble Lords and the noble Baronesses have drawn between these two measures of support through this proposed amendment, but I do not consider that including provisions related to the EU negotiations will improve the purpose of the Bill or the support that the legislation will provide to our sector. This Bill is about regulation of UK space activities and sub-orbital activities and connected purposes.

As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, acknowledged, the European Space Agency is an international organisation, rather than an institution of the European Union. As I said at Second Reading, the UK’s membership of the European Space Agency will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU.

I was asked about the release of the studies on the impact that Brexit will have on the sector. Since the referendum, the Government have been undertaking rigorous and extensive analysis work to support our exit negotiations, define our future partnership with the EU and inform our understanding of how the EU exit will affect the UK’s domestic policies and frameworks. However, Parliament has voted repeatedly not to disclose material that could damage the UK’s position in the negotiations with the EU. I am sure that the Committee will agree with me that, in any negotiation, information on potential economic considerations was very important to the negotiating capital and to the negotiation position of all parties.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked about the effect of freedom of movement on the space sector. Of course, they are correct that when we leave the EU freedom of movement, as we know it, will end. However, we have been clear that there will be an implementation period after we leave the EU to avoid a cliff edge for businesses, and after we leave the EU we will have an immigration system that works in the best interests of the UK. Crucial to the development of this will be the views from a range of businesses, including from high-tech sectors, such as the space industry.

In the light of that information, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interest, which I declared at Second Reading, of living in sight of Prestwick Airport. I am a great protagonist for the interests of that airport. The comments that have been made are extremely important: we need to get a first-move advantage in western Europe. This is a highly competitive market and we have a real opportunity to put our significant skills base into effect in ensuring that we have early recognition and licensing of spaceports in the UK. There should be two. However you look at the spaceport option, there will always be the weather challenge. While Prestwick happens to have an outstanding microclimate and is highly suited to being the first spaceport with its nearly three-kilometre runway and a launch direction out over the north Atlantic, as my noble friend has just said—particularly for the launch of satellites, which is a very important part of this—the Government would be wise to look at licensing two spaceports in the first instance, not least because of the weather implications.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, it is gratifying to see an all-party approach being taken to this issue, both locally and nationally. In the context of Ayrshire and Scotland, not only have the Scottish and British Governments done a lot of very good work, but so have MPs from across the spectrum, such as Bill Grant and Philippa Whitford, and my noble friend Lady Ford, who was very active on this issue during the summer, as well as council leaders of all parties. It is important that they all recognise the benefits of spaceports and of the industrial opportunities around licensing them, as well as of outreaches in terms of employment opportunities and the links to schools and encouraging young people in the vicinity to study science. In Ayrshire, there is heavy unemployment in some of those areas. This would be an inspirational opportunity for young people to study the sciences and related industries. As I say, the advantage of making the first move is critical in the international global market and there are real benefits to local communities where the first spaceports are likely to be licensed.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I shall take that last point first and thank my noble friend Lord Moynihan for his support. It is unusual for someone who lives near an airport to want to see an expansion of opportunities for it. He will understand that, as aviation Minister, my postbag is normally filled with correspondence from people living near airports who seek to halt whatever goes on at those airports, so I welcome his support.

This amendment raises the impact of the Bill on the UK economy and seeks to provide some degree of assurance through the annual laying in Parliament of an assessment of the monetary benefits. Noble Lords are right to draw attention to the economic opportunity the Bill represents, the need to evaluate the market effectively and how we measure the benefits it will enable. As noble Lords know, the UK space sector is a British success story, a growing sector which continues to pioneer new technologies from satellites and instruments to new applications and services. The one area where our space sector cannot prosper is launch. The Bill will allow us to do just that. This legislation will create a safe and supportive regulatory environment for small satellite launch and suborbital flight in the UK. I am confident that the UK will attract companies and investment. Only last Friday, I met stakeholders to discuss the Bill and the wider space sector. I heard an awful lot of positivity about the Bill and the future demand for launch activities.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a call for industry proposals to establish a launch capability in the UK. This resulted in 26 proposals for grant funding from bidders wanting to establish spaceports around the UK, along with operators from the UK, Europe and the US. Through this approach we have demonstrated a strong interest in spaceflight activities in the UK from right across the country.

On evaluating the importance of the sector to the UK, the UK Space Agency and its partners conduct regular economic evaluation. The majority of these assessments are publicly available and published online. This includes a biannual size and health survey of the UK space industry. The emerging market for spaceflight in the UK will be included in future versions of this industry-wide evaluation and will be made publicly available, as it is now.

The amendment would require a report to include details of companies that have expressed an interest in carrying out spaceflight activities. Details of the companies that have approached government are largely commercial and in confidence. I am sure noble Lords will agree that it would not be appropriate for government to report on these engagements or on these companies’ plans.

With regard to the economic opportunity for the UK, global small satellite launch and servicing could exceed £25 billion in revenue over 20 years, with an untapped European regional market potentially worth around one-third of this £25 billion. Nowhere in the world is this market fully exploited by a sustainable commercial offering. In addition, suborbital launch creates new opportunities for UK science by giving British scientists access to the unique environment of microgravity, as well as training, tourism and supply chain opportunities.

I understand the intention behind the amendment. However, I hope noble Lords will agree that we already engage extensively with industry to develop our plans and continue to conduct assessments to ensure we are making effective decisions. It would not be appropriate to duplicate information already collated and published in the public domain or to disclose information provided in commercial confidence to public bodies. I therefore hope the noble Lord will withdraw Amendment 2.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we shall now move to the nitty-gritty of what is essentially a planning Bill with lots of environmental, health and other matters. Beyond that, however, I was delighted by the two interventions. There is a need to bang the drum on this. It is such an exciting prospect, and although some may be keeping quiet about their intentions, entrepreneurs such as Virgin, Elon Musk, Professor Cox and others, tell us that this is just round the corner. I was therefore glad that the noble Lords, Lord Willetts and Lord Moynihan, took the opportunity to bang the drum, as did the Minister, but we have to keep up the momentum on this. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, there is very little mention in the Bill of the environment. I am going to address Amendments 13 and 14, in the name of the Liberal Democrats, which cover some of the same ground to that outlined just now.

Clearly, there will be environmental implications of launching space vehicles and, indeed, of bringing the rockets on to site. At the moment, the nearest thing to this we are familiar with is when an aircraft wing is moved along the motorway. We are talking here about developing in rural areas, where there will be an obvious change of pace of life for local people. According to industry stakeholders I have discussed this with, the Bill does not sufficiently address health and safety and environmental aspects related to, for example, on-site assembly, maintenance and refurbishment of the launch vehicle and its payload—that is, the satellite. Nor does it address the storage and transport of launch vehicles or the issues of solid boosters and engine and thruster propellants. All these activities involve the handling of dangerous and explosive materials.

Amendment 13 would ensure that the operator cannot be granted a licence unless they have considered and minimised the impact on the environment. The Minister has made it absolutely clear that both the Scottish and Welsh Governments are very supportive, as is Cornwall Council. These are the areas where the impact is likely to be, at least in the first instance. However, we are legislating for all possible future spaceports, and whatever the supportive nature of the devolved authorities and county councils, 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. It is already clear that there will be controversy—make no mistake about it, as this is going to be intrusive.

Amendment 14 concerns specifically the impact that the required high levels of security will have in local areas. Obviously, spaceport activity will be subject to very high levels of security, and rightly so; we would demand that. Let me give noble Lords an example that was brought to my attention. In north Wales, the Llanbedr airfield, which is owned by the Welsh Government, is leased to an organisation that wishes to set up a spaceport. The neighbour to this airfield is Shell Island, an enormous holiday camp that was established in the middle of the last century. It has 80,000 happy campers a year and employs somewhere in the order of 100 people. That is a big business in north Wales. At high tide, the only access to the holiday camp for emergency vehicles is along a path across the airfield. This is a very well-established right of access, but now, for security reasons, there is the potential that Shell Island will be denied the right to that access. In other words, emergency vehicles will not be able to access the holiday camp. This is not only an issue of local discussion and so on but a well-documented problem. This dispute may well be settled satisfactorily, but it illustrates the potential for local clashes of interest and that security issues will be of paramount importance and intrusive.

Amendment 14 seeks to probe the extent to which the Government have discussed such issues with the emergency services, potential spaceport operators and the devolved Administrations. It would ensure that the operator of any spaceport must take all reasonably practicable steps to allow emergency access for neighbouring properties. The security aspects of establishing a spaceport are glossed over in the Bill and need to be taken seriously at this point in our discussions.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, under this Bill the number one priority for the regulator will be, quite rightly, to ensure the health and safety of the public and the safety of their property. There is clearly a moral case for ensuring public safety but also a compelling business case. Safe operations will be critical to the long-term sustainability of the UK spaceflight industry. There are, of course, other interests and requirements which the regulator must take into account in the exercise of its functions.

On Amendment 3, I thank the noble Lords for raising the issues of the impact on the environment and the interests of local communities in particular. These are important matters which the Government have considered in drafting the Bill. Under Clause 2(2)(e), the regulator is already required to take account of environmental objectives set by the Government when exercising its functions. Environmental objectives here mean both the policy objectives of the Government and the legislation and other forms of regulation which are used to realise those objectives. This places a wide-ranging duty on the regulator and ensures that proper consideration of environmental matters informs the carrying out of its functions.

Under Clause 2(2)(c), the regulator likewise must take account of the interests of persons not involved in spaceflight activities in relation to the use of land, sea and airspace. This will include the interests of local communities affected by spaceport and spaceflight activities. A further protection both to local communities and the environment will be afforded by local planning processes. I stress that the Bill does not impinge upon or override local planning decisions. This will take account of the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about emergency access to a campsite, which we discussed in one of our previous meetings. I hope she is reassured by that.

As part of the planning application process for any spaceport, whether a new site or an existing aerodrome which undergoes development, an environmental impact assessment will be needed if it is required by the EIA directive. The local planning authority will therefore already be obliged to scrutinise the environmental impact under existing planning legislation where the EIA directive applies. An EIA would also be required as part of any airspace change.

On Amendment 13, for the reasons already set out, we can be assured that this matter is sufficiently addressed. However, should we require further environmental legislation as new technologies emerge, the regulation-making powers in Clauses 10(b) and 67 give us the flexibility necessary to develop appropriately detailed measures which would supplement existing legislation.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for his response. Obviously, the issue of the significance or otherwise of someone who is exempt from the licence will come up later in a separate debate, but presumably, if someone is exempt from the licence, the regulator cannot apply conditions that have to be abided by on a licence because the operator will not need one.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That is true, but it does not exempt operators from the relevant planning provisions.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

But it would exempt the person from some of the duties in Clause 2, which would be covered by the licence. That includes the things the Minister has prayed in aid in rejecting the amendment. Presumably, it does not include the requirement regarding,

“the interests of any other persons in relation to the use of land, sea and airspace”,

or,

“any environmental objectives set by the Secretary of State”.

The regulator could not take those into account when issuing the licence because no licence would be required by the person who was exempt.

I thank the Minister for his response, but if the Government really are determined to make sure that environmental considerations are covered and mentioned fair and square on the face of the Bill, I put it to him that they would not have used the phrase,

“the interests of any other persons in relation to the use of land, sea and airspace”.

I think they would have been a little more specific, because it begs the question as to how one interprets,

“the interests of any other persons”,

which does not say anything specific about the environment or anything else. It would presumably be left open to the regulator, who could be the Secretary of State, to define what they thought that phrase covered. I ask the Minister to think hard about that on the Government’s behalf, because if, as he said, we are all as one in wanting to make sure that environmental considerations are taken fully and properly into account, why not make that a lot clearer in the Bill?

The Minister referred to Clause 2(2)(e):

“any environmental objectives set by the Secretary of State”.

“Objectives” implies something fairly wide-ranging, not something that has to be abided by or adhered to. I have already made the point—which I do not make in relation to the current Secretary of State—that an awful lot will depend on the attitude to environmental objectives of the Secretary of State of the day and the extent to which they are taken into account. Different Secretaries of State may have very different views on that point, so, frankly, I do not regard the Bill as it stands as satisfactory—particularly since the Government seem to accept that we are all as one in wanting to ensure that environmental considerations are properly taken into account.

There are a large number of regulations still to come in the Bill. I know the Minister will say that those affect only minor issues and none of substance, but regulations have a habit of being extended somewhat. I posed the question as to whether regulations could be drawn up that weaken or take away any of the current planning and environmental protections. I also referred to the Henry VIII powers in Clause 66, which by definition enable the Government to alter legislation. I again put it to the Minister that, given the Bill’s current wording, environmental considerations could very much take second place.

I will withdraw the amendment, but I refer to what the Minister said—perhaps I misunderstood him—on Second Reading:

“We do not believe that the Bill engages obligations to produce an environmental impact assessment”.


He also said:

“Environmental impacts are heavily correlated with the type, frequency and location of spaceflight activities. At this stage, it is very difficult to ascertain specific environmental issues. For example, the sensitivities of a site cannot be known until we know the location of the spaceport”.—[Official Report, 12/7/17; col. 1268.]


I would have thought it extremely difficult to argue, as one could interpret the Minister was arguing on Second Reading, that there could be a spaceport site for which no environmental consideration at all needed to be taken into account, and that there was therefore no immediate need for an environmental impact assessment. That part of the Bill could be strengthened.

I hope the Minister will think long and hard about what has been said today, and hopefully he can be more positive during the Bill’s later stages. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
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My Lords, I rise to make a short probing amendment. Before I do, may I say how much I appreciated the excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson? I want to comment that in Ayrshire, we have none of the problems that she perceives exist in Cornwall, nor indeed in Wales. We have a tough and comprehensive security arrangement that surrounds and includes our airport. On the contrary to the noble Baroness’s concerns about tourism, I think spaceports will increase tourism. In fact, we envisage a visitor centre near the airport because there would be real interest in the adopted and adapted 747s that will be necessary for a lot of the satellite launches, not just from people involved in aviation but from the local community. After all, when it comes to security and noise, many residents of south Ayrshire have experienced Concorde in training many years ago and many military activities at present. The rare launch of these aircraft—we are not talking about a daily basis in this Bill and rarely on a weekly basis—will be of a frequency much less than the general public perceive and the noise associated with horizontal take-offs will be de minimis. Indeed, Prestwick is applying for only a horizontal licence. I make that comment in passing as I am sure my noble friend the Minister is aware of how ready Prestwick Airport is to move on this and how it would like to accelerate the licensing powers in this Bill so as not to lose competitive advantage.

My amendment is rather more specific, but nevertheless very relevant to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on bringing relevant aircraft parts to the spaceport. At the moment, as I read it, an operator licence means a licence under the clause,

“authorising a person to carry out spaceflight activities”.

It is the word “activities” that I have an element of concern with. This could involve companies involved in R&D relating to spaceflight activities, or bringing relevant aircraft parts and those companies involved in doing that. I am sure the intention is not to have a licence for all those activities. It is my suggestion to the Minister that as currently drafted that may be too wide. My probing amendment is simply to delete “spaceflight activities”, and insert,

“a specific spaceflight mission or class of missions”,

which is what I understand to be the Government’s objective in awarding operator licences. I hope I have been incredibly helpful to my noble friend the Minister, who will be able immediately to accept this constructive and reasonable amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I pay tribute to my noble friend’s enthusiastic promotion of his local airfield. I am sure his comments have not gone unnoticed. I have certainly taken them on board.

The fundamental purpose of Clause 3 is to prohibit the carrying out of spaceflight activities or the operation of a spaceport in the UK without a licence. Launch from the UK is a new activity and we envisage that launch vehicles will be licensed on a per-launch basis, but the Bill allows for the licensing of a launch vehicle for a number of launches if that is deemed appropriate.

The amendment tabled by my noble friend raises an interesting issue pertinent to the future growth of the space sector—namely, the challenge of licensing classes of satellite together, as opposed to licensing each satellite separately. This is particularly relevant for so-called mega-constellations, comprising a great number of satellites working in concert.

The current licensing regime under the Outer Space Act already allows us to license a constellation of satellites that can be described broadly as multiple satellites of similar or identical design under the control of a single operator and which work together to deliver a single service. The definition of “operator licence” in the Bill is also wide enough to allow for the licensing of a constellation of satellites. Of course, while the Bill is designed to cover all types and classes of mission, a licence will be granted only if the regulator is satisfied that a licensee has met all necessary requirements, most notably those relating to safety.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I do not want to prevent an answer to the noble Lord’s question but if the Minister is going to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I want to come in afterwards.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thought I had responded to it but I will reflect on the point that he has made.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, moved an amendment to Clause 3 and the Minister went on to talk about Clause 4, perhaps because they are grouped together on the list in front of us. If the Committee is willing to bear with me, I have a stand part resolution down in relation to Clause 4. If I could just make one or two points about that, I would be grateful.

Clause 4(1) refers only to not requiring,

“an operator licence to carry out spaceflight activities”.

It does not refer to operating a spaceport. Can the Minister say whether the provisions of Clause 4 apply only to spaceflight activities—that is, the flight itself—or do they also apply in any way to the operation of a spaceport? Clause 4(1) refers also to international obligations, which the Minister has referred to already. I will read Hansard carefully to see exactly what international obligations he referred to in giving an example of the kind of situation in which an exemption would be given.

What role or powers will the regulator have in relation to a person who does not require an operator licence under the provisions of Clause 4? We partially dealt with that in the discussion on the previous amendment, and I think the Minister referred to later amendments and suggested that he would deal with the matter then since it is not immediately clear what powers the regulator has in relation to a person who is exempted from having a licence or what difference that exemption makes in terms of the regulator.

Clause 4(2) states:

“Regulations may make provision for other activities or persons to be exempted, either by the regulations themselves or by the regulator”.


What other activities or persons could we be talking about—which in relation to activities or who in relation to persons—that would be exempted from an operator licence or does the reference to activities go beyond activities for which an operator licence is required? Although I listened to what the Minister said, I am not quite sure exactly what he said about the need for the provisions in Clause 4(2) as opposed to the provision in respect of Clause 4(1).

Clause 4(4) states:

“Regulations may … make provision about the revocation or renewal of an exemption”.


Why is “may” there? In what circumstances would an exemption from an operator licence be granted which did not contain a provision for that exemption to be revoked?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I shall first address the noble Lord’s question. It is considered that the activity of operating a spaceport will not qualify for an exemption as the activities that will take place from the spaceport will have safety implications, for example, the storage of hazardous materials, the launching of spacecraft et cetera.

I shall give the noble Lord a few more details on the kind of exemptions that we are considering under these clauses. These exemptions are based on similar exemptions contained in Section 3(2) of the Outer Space Act 1986. The first exemption in Clause 4(1) is for situations under the UN space treaties where the UK and another state are jointly liable for a space activity. This provision allows the UK and the other state to allocate responsibility for regulation, supervision and monitoring activities between themselves. This exemption would be made by way of an Order in Council. The second exemption provides that activities or persons can be exempt from the requirement to hold an operator licence if the activity does not give rise to safety concerns or invoke the international obligations of the UK. There is also an exemption in Clause 7(4) that regulations may exempt persons or services from the requirement to hold a range control licence if the activity does not give rise to safety concerns or invoke the international obligations of the UK.

The terms “operating a space object” and “operating a spacecraft” in the Bill are drafted to be intentionally wide. Although this is useful and necessary to capture all activities for which a UK liability might arise under the UN liability convention, certain activities could be captured where there are no safety or security implications and the state liability is already indemnified by someone else. In such a case, a licence might not be necessary and could be overburdensome on industry. Clause 4 therefore provides for exemptions in these circumstances.

I shall give some examples of activities that could be exempted from licence requirements. The Bill provides that persons engaging spaceflight activities and range control services can qualify to be exempt from the requirement to hold a licence. Some aspects of manned suborbital activities could qualify for an exemption. However, the exemption under Clauses 4(2) and 7(4) will apply only in cases where the activity does not give rise to concerns for public safety or the safety of those involved in the activity. If there were any concerns that the activity would put people’s safety at risk, then it would not qualify for an exemption. To qualify for an exemption under Clause 4(1), another country would be required to take on all the international obligations of the UK. I hope that my response satisfies the noble Lord’s concerns.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for his response and for the intervention from my noble friend, who is exactly right. My concern was not the distinction between a specific spaceflight mission or a cluster of missions—as important as that is, which my noble friend the Minister addressed—but the use of “activities” in the legislation, which seems to go far wider than is intended in the context of issuing licences. It can mean anything from training programmes to a visitor centre, or any activity which is related to the operation of the spaceport. I note that in response to my noble friend, the Minister said that he recognised there might an issue here and that he was prepared to go away and think about it. I would be grateful if he would, because the wording here could be improved to allay any concerns about the breadth of the activities that he has in mind for the issuing of operator licences. In the spirit of his response, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their important interventions on the vital topic of safety, which we take extremely seriously.

Clauses 9 and 10 require that applicants for spaceflight operator and spaceport licences take all reasonable steps to ensure that risks to health and safety of the general public—as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, observed—are as low as reasonably practicable. Furthermore, Clause 9(4)(b) means that even after all steps have been taken to reduce risk to as low as is reasonably practicable, the regulator will not issue a licence if the risk to public health and safety remains unacceptably high.

The noble Lord raised through these amendments the question of the role that we expect the Health and Safety Executive to have regarding spaceflight in the UK. The Health and Safety Executive has undoubted expertise and a long track record in a breadth of issues and across a range of sectors. Clause 20 ensures that the regulator is able to draw on this expertise to inform decision-making in connection with safety of spaceflight activities. This is consistent with the role the Health and Safety Executive plays in other sectors. The Health and Safety Executive does not normally regulate by licensing or certifying safety. Instead, it imposes a duty on those that may create risk to manage those risks to be as low as reasonably practicable.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will accept that the Health and Safety Executive in the permissioned industries—for instance, nuclear, railways and several others—directly approves the operation of those industries.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - -

I will come on to that point shortly.

I am confident that the approach we are taking is appropriate. In line with agreed health and safety practice, the Bill places the onus on the regulator to be satisfied that risks are as low as reasonably practicable and that they are acceptable. But equally, the Bill ensures that the regulator will have access to the expertise possessed by the Health and Safety Executive, where this is required. I stress that this is expertise we have already benefited from. I thank the Health and Safety Executive for the integral role it has played in developing this legislation with my department and the UK Space Agency.

I will share some detail on how we believe regulators will determine whether risk to public safety is acceptable. The approach will be aligned with best practices for managing risk across all sectors in the UK. We expect to use an individual risk per annum approach—in other words, in a given location, the risk of death arising from the activity to an individual across a reference period of one year. The regulator will publish a methodology for assessing risk which operators may choose to use. The Government are currently working with HSE’s Science Division—its research arm—to develop a comprehensive methodology for the assessment of risk to third parties.

How can we be assured that the regulator will have the appropriate personnel and skills to assess the safety cases presented by operators? The Civil Aviation Authority, the UK Space Agency and the Health and Safety Executive are respected regulators in their fields, with proven track records in regulating risky activities. That is why we are drawing on their relevant regulatory expertise for this new sector. I assure the Committee that these organisations are building on their existing heritage to develop their technical and analytical capability to assess the specific risks posed by spaceflight.

Although regulating and managing the risk of spaceflight is new to the UK, other countries have many years’ experience of it. We are learning from existing spaceflight regulators in other countries and intend to enter into agreements that will include provision for the training of our personnel and the sharing of information on those activities. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that I have answered his questions and will agree to withdraw Amendment 7.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in the interests of time, I will withdraw the amendment. However, my immediate reaction is that I am not fully comforted by what I have heard, and I expect us to come back on Report on this issue. In the meantime, it may be fruitful to engage in further discussions with the Minister to see whether we can get closer together on this. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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I realise that the detail of this provision will be decided subsequently, but I hope the Minister will be able to give an assurance in this debate about the approach he will take to encourage this important sector.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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We have seen in the speeches the different approaches that noble Lords wish the Government to take to cap liabilities. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, it is to remove the provision.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The purpose of the amendments was to bring out precisely, in simple words, what the Government want to do. I am not hostile to a cap or to some government help, but I want to be clear what the Bill means. If I do not like what I have heard, we will come back on Report.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I take the noble Lord’s point and that of the noble Lord, Lord Fox. The noble Lord, Lord Willetts, who spoke from a position of great knowledge on the subject because of his past work as a Minister, referred to the importance of capping and summed up the dilemma well. This is an important issue which has been raised with me constantly both by noble Lords and by those who are interested in carrying out spaceflight activities. I hope noble Lords will bear with me as I explain the provisions in great detail and go through what we propose. I somewhat doubt that I will satisfy everyone at the end but I will do my best.

The liability provisions of the Bill are vital but necessarily complex and I will take a little time to explain the Government’s position and why these amendments would not be appropriate. Clause 11 concerns the terms which may or must be included in a licence issued under the Bill authorising space flight activities, the operation of a spaceport or the provision of range control services. Subsection (2) provides a power to specify in an operator’s licence a limit on a licensee’s liability to indemnify the Government and other listed bodies under Clause 35 against claims brought against them for damage or loss caused by space flight activities. Amendment 15 relates to this subsection and seeks to remove it altogether. Amendment 36 is linked to Amendment 15, as it removes reference to the subsection from Clause 35. These amendments would therefore remove the regulator’s power to cap this liability to indemnify under Clause 35.

I should be clear 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. However, satellite operators have previously raised concerns that such a liability is a barrier to operating in the space industry. Operators have found that the unlimited liability has made it difficult to raise finance or insure against the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox. This is not the case in the more mature aviation market. The Government have responded to these concerns.

The Outer Space Act 1986 was amended by the deregulation Act in 2012 and, since then, licences issued under that Act for the procurement of an overseas launch and the in-orbit operation of a satellite benefit from a cap, which is set out in the licence conditions. The UK Space Agency publishes the usual level of cap in its guidance, which currently sets it at €60 million for standard missions. Since the level is not set by statute, the cap can be increased for riskier missions. It should be noted that some activities currently regulated under the Outer Space Act, notably procuring the launch of a space object and the operation of a satellite in orbit taking place from the UK, will in the future be regulated under this Bill. Therefore, following Royal Assent, the amendment would reverse the current policy under the Outer Space Act—that the indemnity to government for these activities is capped. However, the current cap under the Outer Space Act would remain in place for such overseas activities regulated under that Act. As a result, there is a very real risk that UK operators may decide to procure overseas launches and conduct their satellite operations overseas under the Outer Space Act or a different regime altogether to avoid an unlimited liability to indemnify government. This would go against the Bill’s aim, which I hope all noble Lords support, to grow the UK space industry.

The cap on the indemnity to government under the Outer Space Act was based on many years of licensing those activities and it was well received. The costs and benefits of capping liabilities for those activities have already been considered and were subject to a full consultation with industry at the time. There was an amendment to primary legislation that was also subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Evidence provided by industry during the Science and Technology Committee inquiry into the Bill reiterated that an unlimited indemnity to government was a barrier to entry into the industry. The discretionary power in Clause 11 therefore allows the Government to remain committed to their current policy position under the Outer Space Act. However, it also allows the Government a discretion on whether to cap the indemnity to government for other activities licensed under the Bill, such as a UK launch.

I shall move on to Amendment 35 which would remove subsections (5) and (6) from Clause 33. The power in these subsections to make regulations provides for the capping of an operator’s liability to prescribed persons or in prescribed circumstances in an operator licence. The Bill therefore goes further than the Outer Space Act and provides a power to cap all of an operator’s liability to prescribed persons. This is intended to cover third parties or the uninvolved general public who suffer injury or damage caused by regulated space flight activity. Removing these subsections would mean that a regulator would be unable to cap this liability. As a consequence, the operator would bear unlimited liability, and as previously highlighted, operators have already raised concerns about managing unlimited liabilities. Most of the main space launch nations, including France and the United States, do cap an operator’s liability in some form. Having this power enables the UK to compete on a level playing field by allowing the Government the power to share the burden of liabilities with operators. There is a real concern that we risk being uncompetitive internationally if we do not have the powers to cap operator liabilities both to the Government and to third parties. Without the powers to cap, we may be unable to attract operators in the UK. The reason for conferring a power to cap rather than simply providing for a cap in the Bill is to ensure that careful consideration can be given to whether and when it is appropriate to exercise the power, as there may be missions where capping is not appropriate.

While we have assessed the cap on the operator’s indemnity to government for activities currently licensed under the Outer Space Act, a more general liability cap for space flight activities taking place from the UK has not been fully analysed. Launches are a new activity for the UK and we believe that we should cap the operator’s liabilities for this activity only if there is clear evidence that it is necessary to do so. That is why we have taken powers to cap liabilities for space flight activities on a discretionary basis under the Bill. We are already undertaking work on assessing the availability and cost of insurance to cover the liabilities. That work will inform any policy on limiting the level of any cap on the liability both to indemnify government and to prescribed persons.

The flexibility provided by the powers in the Bill means that the right balance can be created for each mission, based on the risks involved. The Bill is designed to ensure that space flight activity is as safe as possible in the first place, which will minimise any liability arising. Under Clause 33, an operator is strictly liable where injury or damage is caused, meaning claimants can bring a claim without having to prove fault. Regulations requiring operators to be insured can be made under Clause 37; that would provide a resource to meet any of those claims. Furthermore, it should be noted that Clause 33(5)(b) provides a power to constrain the circumstances in which a liability cap applies. For instance, we envisage that a cap would be disapplied in cases of operator wilful misconduct.

On Clause 34—the power of the Secretary of State to indemnify—we have previously considered clauses that allow for an operator’s liability to third parties to be capped. Clause 34 provides a power for the Secretary of State to indemnify a claimant or an operator for injury or damage arising because of space flight activities; that includes situations where an operator’s third-party liabilities have been capped under Clause 33. In order for the Government to provide such an indemnity, the injury or damage must be sustained as a result of space flight activities. To qualify for an indemnity, the person suffering the injury or damage must not have taken part in, or be connected to, the activities. Those people will be identified in regulations; however, it is likely that they will be the same people to whom the informed consent provisions apply, under Clause 16, and who are excluded from the right to bring a strict liability claim against an operator under Clause 33. That is because they will have engaged in space flight activities in full knowledge of the risks involved. As part of the informed consent process, such people will be made aware that this indemnity does not apply to them. The Government may only indemnify an operator where a claim for injury or damage exceeds any insurance held by it. The Government may only indemnify a claimant where the amount of liability has been limited by regulations under Clause 33(5) and the claimant would otherwise have been entitled to more money.

In most cases, we envisage that an operator’s liability, if capped, will equal the amount of third-party liability insurance that they are expected to hold. Therefore, an operator’s insurance should cover their liability. However, there may be situations where an operator has taken out more insurance; Clause 34 ensures that the insurance is exhausted before the Government step in. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that the uninvolved general public can be compensated in the event of injury or damage, particularly where an operator’s liability to third parties has been capped. However, the intention is that the provisions in the Bill and subsequent regulations will work together to reduce the likelihood of injury or damage occurring in the first place. That will be achieved by implementing a robust safety regime and ensuring operations take place with appropriate provisions for range control and safety to minimise damage in the event of failure.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My noble friend makes an important point. I emphasise that we are in listening mode on this issue.

Furthermore, there is also a power to make regulations to provide an upper limit to the amount of money the Government may pay out under these provisions. For example, in the US there is a limit in legislation of $3.1 billion. There is also a power to prescribe cases or circumstances where the power to indemnify either an operator or a claimant will not arise or is restricted. Examples would include operator wilful misconduct or where several parties are at fault that might have adequate insurance or assets.

In making any regulations under this clause, we will consult on how we strike the right balance in ensuring that the public are compensated while limiting the Government’s indemnity. For example, the regulations may set out what the Government will not indemnify in the case of operator wilful misconduct, but an exception may be made where an operator becomes insolvent and the general public would not be fully compensated as a result.

The Government will use their powers under this clause to indemnify claimants and operators in a balanced way. We propose to ensure that government money is used appropriately by exercising the powers in this clause as necessary to limit the situations where the Government will indemnify and limit the amount they will pay, as well as playing a role in the legal proceedings surrounding payment of such an indemnity.

I apologise for going into so much detail and speaking at such length on this.

Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts
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I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Moynihan said. Will the Minister share with the Committee any further information about a likely timetable for these consultations? Will he also tell the Committee how he proposes to inform us, in the course of our deliberations on the Bill, of the potential figures involved? This is a subject of considerable concern.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I am aware that this is a matter of great concern, which is why I went into so much detail about it. As I said in response to the previous intervention, we are in listening mode.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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The Minister went into exactly the sort of detail we were looking for. I stress that I am not hostile to the concept of a cap, but I will reduce this to very simple terms. If I were to suffer—no, I am nowhere near that rich. If Glasgow suffers an event that substantially exceeds the cap, can it reasonably expect that the excess above the cap will be met by the Government?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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There is no simple answer to that question. It would depend on the conditions of the licence issued for the particular activity and whether any cap was imposed on that activity at the time. We are looking at every launch activity, and every application will be considered on an individual basis.

To go back to the comment made by my noble friend Lord Willetts, as I said, we are in listening mode. I am aware that this is a controversial subject. He will understand the discussions taking place between different government departments on this issue. I will say more on it as soon as I can, but I take on board the concerns raised by many people and those of industry, which have been expressed to me personally and by many noble Lords this afternoon. If it is helpful, let me say that the Government intend to exercise their power under Clause 11 to cap an operator’s indemnity to the UK Government in licence conditions for the activities of procuring the launch of a space object and the operation of a satellite in orbit, as this is currently the policy for activities licensed under the Outer Space Act.

As I said, I am listening to people on this. I will say more as soon as I am able to. I am aware of the concerns. We are in listening mode and we will reflect on the comments made. In the light of that, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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Is the noble Lord likely to be able to shed light on this issue before Report?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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If I possibly can, I will.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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I hope noble Lords will agree that this exchange was worth while, because we have the record, which we can all examine. The needs or rights of the uninvolved third party in the circumstances of a very large catastrophe are still unclear as a result of that exchange. Perhaps we will have some conversations about that issue before Report. Otherwise, we may feel the need to table an amendment, because it seems reasonable for a citizen to expect, with appropriate caveats, that where the Government have allowed an operator to enjoy special rights of limitation—I can see exactly the reasons for that; it happened in aviation at the peak of the terrorist events, for example, so it is perfectly sensible—the Government would be the insurer of last resort. We may well come back to that point.

In the meantime, I thank the Government and all those involved in the debate because the record will clarify what is very difficult to understand from the Bill. With those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, having listened to that debate, I feel this amendment should perhaps have been grouped with it—I hesitate to criticise the groupers because I know how difficult it is. It was a fascinating debate. The Minister need make no apology about the length of his reply. It will be studied closely. Following it was a bit like following those things that come on your iPad to say that you have agreed, but I am sure when we have time to read Hansard

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Perhaps there could be a box at the bottom he could tick to say he has fully understood the debate.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Yes, I know that every Minister wishes that was there.

I thought that the opening from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, was sobering for us all. On the one hand is the tremendous enthusiasm and real excitement about the prospects of the industry, yet we know from history that there are dangers. I live in St Albans, down the road from where the de Havilland Comet was developed, launched and flown with a design fault. I saw a very moving documentary a few weeks ago about the Space Shuttle. Its final conclusion was that, from beginning to end, the Space Shuttle was never safe. They knew it, but because of the pioneering nature of what they were doing they took the risk. That is not open to us when we are legislating like this, so it is a matter of getting it right between risk and cover.

I tabled my amendment simply because we have been approached by the industry with concerns about the way UK law treats the licensing and insurance of small and nano-satellites. Current law makes it difficult and expensive to launch small satellites because of long licensing processes and large insurance costs. Licensing of individual satellites can dramatically increase operator liability. This amendment would allow would-be operators to feed in their concerns and work towards a proportionate but effective insurance regime. I beg to move.

Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts
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I will add one comment to that. I thank the Minister, who has already given a full and lucid account of the Government’s intentions, which itself is very helpful. Another issue we should add, which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, touched on, is that historically we have been thinking about very large satellites and the risks associated with them. That is not really the issue for a UK space launch capability. It is much more likely to be constellations of small satellites, some of them meeting real UK requirements. Imagine there was a trouble spot in which UK troops were involved or a natural disaster affecting us—let us think of what happened in the British Virgin Islands recently—where you wanted to get a satellite over the scene urgently; small satellites are very likely to be used in those situations. They are often launched in constellations, and one other issue on which, again, I hope at some point we will have guidance from the Minister is whether each individual small satellite in a constellation has to be separately insured and licensed or whether, as we appear to be heading for constellations of small satellites, there could be significant flexibility in the regime so that constellations of satellites could have a single launch permission and a single insurance arrangement. If not today, I hope that during the passage of the Bill that is also made clear.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, I can answer the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, directly: a constellation can be launched with one licence.

Amendment 16 is a further amendment to Clause 11(2). It requires the Secretary of State to hold a consultation within 12 months of Royal Assent on whether an operator licence should specify a limit on a licensee’s liability to indemnify government, and what an appropriate limit would be. By imposing that a mandatory consultation takes place within a set period, the amendment prioritises the consideration of the power to limit the operator’s liability to indemnify the Government, thereby eroding the discretion to introduce a limit only if this is considered necessary and appropriate.

I accept that consultation is a critical part of policy-making. It allows stakeholders to contribute their views on new policy that affects them. We have in fact already listened to industry views extensively—I did it only on Friday, in the latest round—and an unlimited liability to indemnify government could make it difficult to raise finance and obtain insurance. We have already had an extensive debate on that with the previous amendment, and that is why we have taken the power in this subsection. However, we need to ensure that we take a balanced approach between attracting operators to the UK by making it commercially attractive to carry out space flight activities and limiting the Government’s exposure to claims arising from such space flight activities. Our policy is for space flight activities to be conducted on a commercial basis but we have taken a power to intervene and cap the liability to indemnify government if this becomes necessary.

As I set out in the previous debate, we are already assessing the availability and cost of insurance to cover the liabilities under the Bill. This work will inform any policy on limiting the level of the liability to indemnify government. If a limit is deemed appropriate, the Government need to consider the level of such a limit and the consequences of bearing the contingent liability. We may conclude that a limit on this indemnity for UK launch activities is not appropriate in all circumstances. The Government have an obligation to use public funds appropriately. It is therefore not right that they should be bound to consult on setting such limits before the need to do so is established and accepted.

Furthermore, the current power also allows the Government to deal with each licence application on a case-by-case basis. The regulator will need the flexibility to decide whether a limit is appropriate, as well as what that limit should be, depending on the risks associated with each mission. Because of the variety of spaceflight activities that may be conducted from the UK and the individual circumstances of each operator, it may not be possible to have a specific limit or a methodology that works in every case for all missions. A flexible approach to setting a limit is good for both government and industry and, in our view, a legal requirement to consult on what an appropriate limit might be may restrict this. I assure noble Lords that we will consult on this matter once we have conducted our detailed analysis and have established the need to set a limit, and assessed the consequences of so doing. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, those who asked us to table this amendment will read the Minister’s reply. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts
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There is indeed a problem with space debris. The aim is not to bring it back to earth—although I love the Liberal Democrat imagery of pavement politics and everything being recycled—but to knock it out of its orbit so that it burns up in the atmosphere and therefore disappears. We should take some pride in the fact that Fylingdales is where a lot of this debris is tracked. We have fantastic expertise there. It has always proved very difficult to get international agreement in this area, but the UK has a strong capability in disabling debris, and I very much hope that we will hear from the Minister that this is something that the Government continue to support. However, the prospects of any kind of international agreement in this area are, sadly, remote, not least because some of the technologies that are used for moving stuff out of orbit and disabling it are dual-use technology which can also be used in a very different way, so it has been very hard to reach any international agreement on the circumstances in which it would be used.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, in his introduction the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said that he was taking the Liberal Democrats into outer space. I am tempted to observe that many of us believe that the Liberal Democrats have been in outer space for a considerable time. I look forward to my next Local Focus newspaper dedicated to the recycling of space junk alongside plastic bottles and glass jars.

To be serious, this is an important subject, and I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for raising the issue of space debris and the proper disposal of satellites and other payloads at the end of their operational life. These amendments illustrate the crucial role of licence conditions in ensuring the effective regulation of spaceflight activity, and highlight the importance of drawing on advice from all the relevant expert bodies. The UK Space Agency already considers matters related to spacecraft disposal—passivation, which is the removal of a spacecraft’s internal energy at the end of its useful life; and deorbiting, a brilliant word I discovered yesterday—and regulates this through existing licensing regimes under the Outer Space Act. Clause 12 enables regulators to set conditions on a licence tailored to the particular activity. Schedule 1 provides a non-exhaustive list of the types of conditions that regulators may attach to licences, which includes conditions governing disposal of a payload when it is no longer operational and requiring notification to the regulator when disposal has been effected. In addition, conditions may require compliance with any guidelines on space debris mitigation issued by international organisations.

The UK Space Agency is an active member of the United Nations Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee—a marvellously august body—and takes minimising space debris extremely seriously. Through this body, the UK Space Agency works with international partners, including bilaterally on specific issues, to develop and implement measures to safeguard the space environment and minimise the risk of space debris. As a number of noble Lords have pointed out, space debris is a global problem that requires jointly agreed global solutions. This is why the Government remain fully committed to working with and drawing on the expertise of these specialist bodies. Through this engagement, the regulator will continue to shape thinking on the vital issue of space debris mitigation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to the UN Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee. Outer space is a global resource shared by everyone but owned by nobody. The UN has a unique role in developing best practice measures to protect the space environment for future generations. The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee plays a critical role in helping to formulate technical policy free of the political influence in the UN. The committee, as a grouping of space agencies, is able to develop scientific consensus on debris issues and present them to the UN for endorsement and application by member states. I assure the Committee that it is the Government’s intention to continue to require appropriate disposal of obsolete payloads in accordance with international guidelines. I hope that in the light of those assurances the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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In the light of those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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All I seek to do in the present amendment is to hear from the Minister what he means by “satisfied” in this context. In the opening amendments this evening, we faced the consequences of a future relationship between the UK and Europe. Things will change—there is no question about it—so will satisfaction need to be replaced by something more concrete? There are many in the industry who believe that satisfaction is too weak a word. Being enshrined into an MoU, even at this early stage in the Bill, would be of significant comfort to the industry, given the uncertainty. Put simply, is satisfaction sufficient or would it be wise to go further to give greater clarity to the industry in this point?
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thank my noble friend for making an important point and for tabling this amendment on what is an interesting subject. I start by assuring him that the Government have had a very constructive discussion with the European Aviation Safety Agency on our proposals to regulate suborbital spaceplanes in the UK.

The outcome of this dialogue has resulted in mutual agreement that suborbital spaceplanes are considered to be aircraft and therefore EU aviation legislation should apply to them. EU Regulation 216/2008, known as the EASA basic regulation, exempts from its scope those,

“aircraft specifically designed or modified for research, experimental or scientific purposes, and likely to be produced in very limited numbers”.

In discussions about revising the text of the EASA basic regulation, the European Commission agreed that, while spaceplanes are in the developmental stage, spaceplane operations would continue to fall under this exemption. The context of the assurance was that member states should be able to legislate for commercial suborbital spaceplane operations that launch and return to the same spaceport now, before the EASA has had time to make EU-wide rules. The Commission has also confirmed that neither commercial use nor having paying passengers in itself precludes a spaceplane from falling within the exemption.

The UK recognises—we are in agreement with the EASA on this point—that as soon as the suborbital operation starts and finishes in two separate locations, it may be considered to be public transport and subject to the full weight of European aviation rules. Although the Government’s intention is to continue to work closely with the EASA whatever the outcome of EU negotiations, we need to ensure that in doing so the UK retains a degree of flexibility to develop its own regulatory framework, drawing on the best practice from those states that already conduct commercial launches, such as the US and India, as well as from other European states.

Currently there are no European-wide regulations for spaceplanes and spaceports. We are leading by example by creating this comprehensive regulatory framework in the UK. This should have considerable business benefit for the UK. But this will also benefit the EU, and the EASA recognises that this will help inform the development of any future European regulatory framework. The Government have agreed with the EASA to work with other European states to develop common principles for regulation for suborbital operations. However, in doing so, the Government will ensure that the UK is not put in a position, as a result of any change in our future relationship with the EASA, where the EASA is handed too much control, or worse a veto, over the development of the UK space sector.

I hope I have provided the reassurance that my noble friend is looking for and that in the light of that he feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That was an outstanding and exceptionally helpful answer from my noble friend on this important subject. As long as the mutual agreement has been documented in the way that he has suggested, I am completely happy to withdraw the amendment. His assessment of the current position of our relationship with the EASA was exceptionally helpful to the House, and I thank him for it.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
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My Lords, I will be very brief. We welcome this probing amendment because this issue is very important. It is analogous in one sense to the potential for flagging out a particular enterprise. If the regulator is minded to allow a transfer of licence, what legal basis would there be for any enforcement of those licence agreements once they cease to be within the domain of this country? The second point is on the role of takeovers and acquisitions, where companies that own a licence and are within the remit of the United Kingdom are acquired and move beyond these shores for regulatory purposes. Perhaps the Minister can include those points in his answer as well.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, Clause 14 enables a licensee to transfer their licence to another party, provided that the regulator has given written consent. This provision enables a new body or company to take over the licence without starting a licence application afresh. In addition, the Bill requires that a licence holder has the necessary financial and technical resources, and that they are fit and proper persons, to do the things authorised by the licence.

Amendment 22 would ensure that the regulator would need to be satisfied that the new licensee met the requirements under Clause 8(3) before consenting to a transfer. I can confirm that it is our intention that the regulator will need to do this. Where the regulator is appointed under Clause 15, Clause 14(5)(c) requires them to consult the Secretary of State before consenting to a transfer. Thus the Secretary of State can ensure that they are satisfied that the new licensee meets the requirements under Clause 8(3).

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked why the power to transfer a licence is necessary. The power avoids the need for wasteful bureaucracy that could affect businesses and local communities. For example, where a spaceport licence has been issued, it should not be necessary to demonstrate the suitability of the site again just because of a change of operator. However, the regulator would need to be content that the new operator met the eligibility criteria under Clause 8. Both the regulator and the Secretary of State would need to be satisfied that the transfer of a licence was appropriate, ensuring that there were the proper checks and balances in the system if that occurred.

I am confident that the amendment is not necessary but I will reflect on whether it is appropriate to make our intentions explicit in the Bill. On those grounds, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for his reply and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his valuable contribution to this debate. The Minister has indicated—at least I think this is a fair reflection of what he said—that he will reflect further on this issue. I would certainly have thought that if the transfer under Clause 8(3) will apply, it would be helpful if it said so. One would assume that the provisions of Clause 8(2) would also apply—that is, the parts about not impairing national security, being consistent with international obligations and not being contrary to the national interest. I take it from what the Minister said that he will indicate to us before Report whether the Government intend to make any amendments in the light of the amendment that I have moved.

I have a question on one point that I asked about at the end, which I appreciate is mainly a point of detail. For the granting of a licence, the consent of the Secretary of State is also required under Clause 8(4). If the regulator granting the licence is not the Secretary of State, is the intention that that would also apply in relation to a licence being transferred or is the Minister likely to come back on that when he has reflected further on the issues raised during this debate?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I will reflect on that and come back to the noble Lord on it.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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This amendment relates to the capacity and resourcing of the regulator. One assumes that it is to be the CAA because the Explanatory Notes indicate it will be, but they allow a fallback position where another body could be created. I invite the Minister to confirm that the Government have the CAA in mind.

My concern is that the CAA seems to be increasingly the maid of all work, which will undoubtedly have capacity and resourcing implications for that body. After Brexit, the duties of the CAA in relation to what one might call mainstream aviation will undoubtedly increase. The issue of drones will add to its duties. A couple of weeks ago, the failure of Monarch Airlines reminded us that the CAA has a very important role relating to such emergencies. One day we envisage the CAA bringing people back from their holidays in Portugal and the next day, or indeed the very same day, it is concerned about trips in outer space. So the body is large, flexible and very broad in its involvement. For that reason, if the Government plan to pass most if not all of the regulatory functions in the Bill to the Civil Aviation Authority, then we are concerned about whether they also plan to add to its capacity and expertise. This is very much a probing amendment to ask the Government whether their assessment is that the CAA currently has the breadth of expertise required and will simply need additional resources, or whether there will be a need to recast the body and take a comprehensive look at its role in future.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thank the noble Baroness for her amendment. It is quite right to seek clarity on who will regulate this new spaceflight market and their capacity and resources to do so. Commercial spaceflight from the UK is in its very early stages and we want to be able to draw on relevant regulatory expertise across the UK for this new burgeoning sector. The Secretary of State is the default regulatory authority under the Bill. It is our intention that the UK Space Agency perform regulatory functions on behalf of the Secretary of State. The UK Space Agency already licenses the procurement of satellite launches from other countries as well as satellite operations from the UK. We intend that the UK Space Agency will regulate all the vertically launched rockets covered by the Bill and other space activities, including the launch and operation of satellites into space orbit. The UK Space Agency will also license and regulate associated vertical-launch spaceports and range-control services for launch to orbit.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, it is our intention to use Clause 15 to appoint the Civil Aviation Authority to regulate suborbital activities and horizontal-launch spaceports. These are likely to take place from specially adapted existing airports, and that will enable us to draw on the CAA’s rich heritage and expertise. The CAA and the UK Space Agency are proven regulators in their respective fields. I assure the House that both organisations are building on this heritage and developing their spaceflight expertise, including learning from existing spaceflight regulators in other countries. Clause 61 enables both organisations to put in place charging regimes to cover their regulatory costs—for example, for assessing and issuing licences, ongoing monitoring and providing advice and assistance. I hope that answers the noble Baroness’s question about the appropriate resources.

I am confident in our planned assignment of regulatory functions to the UK Space Agency and the CAA, and that both will have the resources to fulfil their regulatory functions following the enactment of the Bill and regulations made under it. I am confident in our planned assignment of UK regulatory functions to the UK Space Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority and that both will have resources to fulfil their regulatory functions following enactment of the Bill and regulations made under it.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a question on the previous point about the CAA clearly being ready to embrace this new responsibility. We would expect a body such as the CAA to be enthusiastic to have its remit expanded; we would not expect it to say, “Please take this somewhere else”. Have the Government sought an independent viewpoint on the appropriateness and scale of the upgrading of the skills that will be required within the CAA?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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We are confident that the expertise in and knowledge of regulating aviation in the CAA is sufficient for this purpose. The CAA has a worldwide reputation for the comprehensiveness of its approach and expertise, so it will be able to fulfil these functions very well and there is no need to go elsewhere.

I shall directly answer the noble Baroness’s question: if we know that we are going to appoint the CAA to do this, why do we not specify it in the Bill? We believe that it is more appropriate to set out functions of appointed persons in delegated legislation, as the necessary limitations and conditions would be too lengthy to include in primary legislation. Further, as the industry evolves, the Government may choose to adapt the regulatory approach. The current approach allows this flexibility while ensuring that the appropriate level of oversight is maintained by the Secretary of State. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response. I will read Hansard carefully, because I think that there is still an issue about the level of resources. It may be that capacity in terms of breadth of expertise is established, but I remain to be convinced about the level of resources that the Government are willing to commit to allow the CAA to do its job effectively. It was absolutely clear in the past few weeks that the CAA is working extraordinarily hard and at the limits of its current capacity, so if we are adding responsibilities to it, we need to be reassured that it can do this job well. With those words, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my noble friend Lord McNally has appointed me as his mouthpiece on earth for this amendment, by which we seek a sort of legal air traffic control ruling from the Government. The fact that I am slightly confused about which Act applies where is probably no surprise, but the fact that leading figures in the industry are scratching their heads probably leads to the conclusion that greater clarity is needed about which Act covers which activities. There is definitely uncertainty about what will be governed under the Bill and what will fall under the Outer Space Act 1986.

We were alerted by the Royal Aeronautical Society about its concerns about which Act applies to non-UK activities and which to UK activities. My assumption—I hope that the Minister can confirm this—is that if the launch is from this country, the Bill covers that activity; in the event that it is a space activity launched from elsewhere, the OSA 1986 covers it. I expect some clarity on that.

Similarly, UKspace has highlighted uncertainty about whether the licensing system entirely replaces the OSA or whether the OSA remains residually. On that basis, there is clearly confusion in the industry; there is confusion on this Bench, in my case; and I would welcome clarity from the Government and the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as we discussed, the Government intend to use the regulatory expertise in the UK Space Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority to regulate this new sector. For all spaceflights and associated activities, there will be a single regulator responsible for issuing a licence. Whether this is the UK Space Agency or the CAA will depend on the type of activity. Let me give more detail.

In general, the CAA will license suborbital spaceplane activities and the UK Space Agency will regulate space activities and rockets licensed under the Bill. Where both the CAA and the Secretary of State have regulatory responsibilities—for example, where an aircraft has been adapted for mid-air launch of a satellite into orbit—these will be set out clearly in regulations. There will be only one licensing authority, however. In the case of mid-air launch, this will be the UK Space Agency. This approach provides clarity and accountability while making the best use of the proven expertise of existing regulators.

The noble Lord asked for clarification of the difference between the OSA and the Bill. As he said, the OSA covers launch from outside the UK of British-registered equipment, and the Bill will cover launches from the UK. In the light of those clarifications, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the light of that clarification, I thank the Minister and withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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My Lords, I too would like to own up to trying to find some way of squirrelling drones into this debate and this Bill, but I gave up on the early assurance from the Minister that he was doing all that he possibly could. However, on rereading his letter today, I find that there is some confusion in my mind between a registration scheme relating to mandatory competence testing, and so on, and a more powerful scheme that might set up some technological devices to achieve the objective of separating drones from air traffic and be clearer about how it will be enforced. I should be very grateful if he could flesh out some of the ideas in his letter.

Also in the Minister’s letter—although I realise that this matter is only tenuously in front of us—was a paragraph on the misuse of lasers. He pointed out that there was a clause in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which fell when Parliament prorogued, and he produced certain assurances about the issue and about how pilots and the wider public might be protected. I would be grateful if he would accept the indulgence of the House for him to repeat the assurances that he provides in that letter about addressing the issue of lasers at an early date.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, which allows me to explain at length another aspect of my ministerial responsibilities—the thorny issue of drones. I accept that raising it in the passage of this Bill is a way in which to put it on the record, which we intend to do, and I hope that I shall be able to satisfy my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Balfe, at least in part. I realise that their concerns go further than the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, mentioned in his intervention.

The safe use of drones in the UK is vital if we are to realise the full potential that they can deliver. I assure noble Lords from the outset that that is exactly what the Government want, and exactly why we recently responded to our consultation setting out a number of measures that we intend to implement. The UK is at the forefront of an exciting and growing global drones market. We are seeing drones used across many sectors, improving services, increasing efficiency, creating high-tech jobs and boosting our economy. But while aiming to make the UK a global market leader in the drone economy, we must ensure that drones are used safely and in accordance with security and privacy rules. I am well aware of the July Airprox incident at Gatwick reported in the press over the weekend. No one wants to see incidents such as those occurring, which is why we intend to bring forward legislation to strengthen regulation and enforcement for drones.

To reply to my noble friends directly, we are exploring both primary and secondary legislation options and hope to bring legislation forward as soon as possible next year, including an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016. My noble friend Lord Balfe asked what measures we were introducing. As set out in our July consultation response, all users of drones that weigh 250 grams or more will be required to register themselves, which will encourage drone users to be more responsible and make it easier to identify drones that are breaking the law. Users will then be required to pass at minimum a short knowledge test to prove their awareness of UK law to ensure that they understand safety, security and privacy regulations. We are also looking to mandate the use of a safety app, an example of which is the NATS app Drone Assist, to notify plans to fly a drone and make users aware of local flight restrictions and ground hazards.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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The Minister’s answer so far implies that there is no risk from drones weighing less than 250 grams. What tests and evidence does he have to assure us that that is true?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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We did extensive safety tests in conjunction with BALPA, and released a detailed report on the size of drones and damage that they could cause to aircraft—both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. We considered that 250 grams was a reasonable threshold to impose at the time.

We are considering a possible restriction on all drones flying within a certain distance of airports and above 400 feet, and whether to increase penalties for breaking the rules. That includes whether and how spaceports could be included in any restrictions that we may implement. Furthermore, we are working towards implementing a product standard for electronic identification of drones at EU and international level. We strongly support EASA’s principal electronic identification, but want to see the proposals simplified to all drones above 250 grams to require electronic identification rather than a complex set of conditions.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
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The Minister mentioned Project Chatham. Who is accountable and leading Project Chatham?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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As far as I am aware, it is the Department for Transport, my department, which is doing it, but I shall come back to the noble Lord on that issue.

We strongly support EASA’s principle of using geo-fencing to enforce compliance with airspace restrictions and electronic identification, but we want to see the proposals simplified to all drones over 250 grams requiring geo-fencing and electronic identification, rather than a complex set of conditions.

The amendment intends specifically to make malicious use of drones an offence. Of course, I recognise that that may be a desired outcome, but Schedule 4 is drafted in such a way that, no matter what device is used unlawfully, it will be deemed an offence. On that point, and with the assurance that the Government intend to bring forward legislation specifically for drones in the timescale that I outlined, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw Amendment 29.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
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I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister. I thought that he might well mention Schedule 4, and I am grateful to him for doing so and putting on the record the view that he has just expressed. I also welcome the phrase “as soon as possible next year”, because that should ensure that changes to legislation in whatever form they may be introduced—and I recognise also that that has yet to be determined—will come in advance of issuing the first licences for spaceports.

I am grateful to the Minister and apologise to the Committee that, having flown in from Sydney at 5 am this morning, after about 26 hours travelling, I will not be here right at the end of this evening’s proceedings. I have put my name to Amendment 44, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, which I totally endorse and support.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I apologise for forgetting to address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about laser pens. It is not part of the Bill, but I want to give him an answer. I understand where he is coming from: as he correctly said it was included in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, before Parliament was prorogued, to provide further certainty to pilots and the general public. We are continuing to look at other legislative vehicles. It is our intention to strengthen existing legislation. Safety is our top priority. Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight could pose a serious risk and anyone found guilty could currently be liable to a fine of up to £2,500, but it is our intention to strengthen existing legislation. I cannot give a timescale at the moment but will do so as soon as I am able.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
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On that constructive note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I thank noble Lords for their consideration of the significant powers in this clause, which we recognise are significant. I hope noble Lords will allow me to take this opportunity to provide assurance that this important power, which will be used only when immediate action is necessary, is both proportionate and subject to sufficient safeguards.

Clause 32 confers on the Secretary of State the power to grant an enforcement authorisation in the most urgent cases, where there is a serious risk to national security, compliance with our international obligations or health and safety. In such emergency situations there may not be sufficient time to obtain authorisation from a justice of the peace under Clause 31. I assure the House that there are adequate safeguards in place. Such an authorisation can be granted only to a named person who the Secretary of State is satisfied is suitably qualified to carry out the necessary action. Each time this power is used the authorisation must be in writing, must specify the action required and will remain in force for only 48 hours from the time it is granted. As an additional safeguard, improper use of this power by the appointed person could be challenged by judicial review. It is worth noting that this power is more conservative and requires more stringent authorisation than other comparable powers of entry: for example, those for nuclear inspectors or health and safety inspectors who are provided with a standing authorisation and may act at their discretion. It is anticipated that this power would be used only in the most serious and urgent of cases where there can be no delay in taking action.

I turn to the amendments specifically. The need to find a justice of the peace to review an enforcement authorisation during the period of validity would impose unhelpful bureaucracy on the person authorised at a time when they are trying to take urgent action to protect people from serious risks. A review of an enforcement authorisation by a justice of the peace after the authorisation had expired would not serve any purpose since the power granted would have already been exercised. In addition, a review by a justice of the peace, whether while in force or afterwards, would place an unnecessary and disproportionate burden and cost on the judicial system, given the other safeguards in place. Moreover, appeal by the Secretary of State, which Amendment 33 provides for, may not realistically take place in time to enable the emergency action needed to address the serious risk in question.

I assure noble Lords that the Government are listening. We have taken on board comments from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and have reduced the time for which an enforcement authorisation remains in order from one month to 48 hours. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, asked why we have used the wording “to do anything necessary”. It would not be possible or appropriate to list possible actions that may be taken under an enforcement authorisation as this would restrict the scope of the authorisation. The action must, however, be necessary to protect the national security of the UK, secure compliance with the international obligations of the UK or protect the health or safety of persons. An enforcement authorisation will not be issued unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the risk will be eliminated or mitigated as a consequence. Improper use of this power by the appointed person could be challenged by judicial review.

I understand the concerns of many noble Lords that this power is excessive. However, it is more restricted than other comparable powers of entry: for example, as I said, those for inspectors in the Energy Act 2013 or the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It is similar to those powers approved by Parliament in that there is no independent judicial authorisation before or after exercise of the power. The power in Clause 32 requires authorisation for each and every use, is in place only for a 48-hour window and cannot be used routinely at the discretion of the person who is authorised to enter. I am confident that our approach is proportionate and contains sufficient safeguards to address the concerns raised while retaining the flexibility necessary to deal with the very serious risks that this clause is designed to address. With the assurances that I have provided, I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw Amendment 32.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for his reply and thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for speaking to his amendment.

The Minister has produced various arguments but not surprisingly, because he probably cannot get into the mind of the Constitution Committee, he has not said why it was not moved by the kind of considerations that he has put forward. Clearly, that committee regarded this issue as something which could lead in extreme circumstances—at least, one hopes that it would be in extreme circumstances—to an abuse of power if there was no check after the event on whether the power under Clause 32 had been used appropriately and proportionately. My amendment sought to cover that, as did the view expressed by the Constitution Committee. Having a check that this power is not misused, which is what my amendment would provide, is a point that the Minister did not address in his reply. He referred to the difficulties of finding a magistrate or justice of the peace to do this within 48 hours, or at least I think he did. I think he will find that justices of the peace can be produced fairly quickly for a range of rather more minor warrants and issues, and well within the 48-hour period. Unless there is an issue over a Sunday, you can find justices of the peace at a magistrates’ court any day. If some sort of emergency measure needed to be undertaken—as it would in such a case—I imagine that the court would be prepared to co-operate.

The Minister mentioned costs. Frankly, if the Government are throwing at us concerns over costs as a reason for not having a check on whether a draconian power—the wording used by the Constitution Committee—is being used correctly or is being abused, we have reached a fairly sorry state of affairs. The Government must do a bit better than try to argue that this is unacceptable on grounds of cost, which I think was one of the points made by the Minister.

I will, of course, read Hansard and reflect on what the Minister has said but I come back to the point that this view has been expressed pretty strongly by the Constitution Committee, having seen the Government’s response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. These are fairly draconian powers and it is desirable to ensure that those who exercise them know that there will subsequently be a check on whether they have been used appropriately or proportionately. That would help to ensure that they are not abused. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Space Industry Bill [HL] Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Transport

Space Industry Bill [HL]

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

(6 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Space Industry Act 2018 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 7-II Second marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 79KB) - (16 Oct 2017)
Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for reminding us of the importance that Prestwick Airport has already attached to the noise question and agree with many of the points that he made. Nobody in this Chamber has as much experience or expertise as him when it comes to flying 747s—indeed, it will be principally 747s that are adapted for these purposes. Those airports from which such aircraft currently fly and land will already have taken into account the importance of the noise question. It is vital that the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, be taken into account. There should be full consultation with local communities. This is a new technology for many of them and there will be considerable concern about the level of noise. That should be dealt with through the planning applications that will in many cases be necessary; it should also be done in any event by those seeking licences. They should communicate and engage with local communities and make sure that this point is high on the agenda. If that is what the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is aiming for, I support him. I know that everybody associated with Prestwick Airport is already minded to focus on this important issue, although, as was rightly pointed out, we have the benefit of a runway which would be used to take off pretty much immediately over the sea.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for moving his amendment—I shall say a few words about noise shortly. We have already had a helpful debate on Clause 33(5) and (6) and the power to cap an operator’s liability, but Amendment 34 would remove subsection (1). Under the amendment, an operator could be susceptible to claims for trespass or nuisance even where they had carried out their spaceflight activities in compliance with all the requirements placed on them.

I appreciate the concerns that noble Lords have raised about this clause and the possibility of spaceflight activities having an adverse impact on people in the locality. The clause is designed to balance the right to quiet enjoyment of one’s land against the right to carry out a commercial activity, and to ensure the minimal encroachment of rights where the operator is acting in accordance with the law. As the noble Lord acknowledged, it is replicated from Section 76(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, which provides a similar protection for aircraft operators. We believe that this provision is necessary to prevent an operator who was acting lawfully from being sued by a third party who considers that his or her right to quiet enjoyment of land is being affected or interfered with.

I should highlight that given the nature of spaceflight activities, it is likely that spaceports will be set up in remote locations, very possibly in Scotland, where any noise or nuisance is likely to affect very few people. In comparison to aviation—where operators, I should remind the Committee, already have this protection—the number of spaceports and the frequency of spaceflight activities will be much fewer. The similar provision in the Civil Aviation Act protects aircraft against claims of trespass and nuisance. Therefore, where aircraft are used in spaceflight activities they already have protection against those claims, and for spaceports at aerodromes, the amendment would have little practical effect.

Our view is that subsection (1) is appropriate to enable spaceflight operators to carry out activities from the UK. It should also be stressed that such a protection does not apply if an operator does not comply substantially with all the requirements imposed upon them. This protection from claims of nuisance and trespass does not prevent anyone who has suffered injury or damage bringing a claim against an operator under the strict liability cause of action provided for in Clause 33(2) or under any other cause of action, such as negligence.

Let me give a little more detail on how frequently we envisage these operations being carried out and their noise impact. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, acknowledged, noise is undoubtedly a prime concern. My main ministerial responsibility is aviation, and I know all too well from my postbag of the difficulties caused to many communities where people live near or around airports. There will be a concern about launch operations; we need to acknowledge that spaceplanes and rockets create significant noise as they take off. Spaceplanes will also create significant noise as they pass overhead. Feedback from operators suggests that vertical launch operations could occur up to 12 times per year. These are indicative figures and would apply across the whole country. It is of course envisaged that in the early years of operations, launches will not even be as frequent as that.

It is difficult to provide an estimate of the launch frequency for suborbital spaceplane operations. Although precise noise levels have yet to be fully determined, initial indications based on published characteristics are that noise from spaceplanes should not create a more significant impact than noise from military fast jets. It is anticipated that in the immediate term, spaceports with horizontal launch operations will be able to comply with existing noise regulations, given that they will take place from a licensed aerodrome. Further analysis of the potential impact of noise will be carried out when a spaceport location is identified and the type of operations to be carried out from it decided. A spaceport operator would be expected to have planning permission for the use of the spaceport to carry out spaceflight activities, and the impact of noise will have been assessed as part of this planning permission.

Nevertheless, I accept the concerns about noise that have been raised by Members on both sides of the House. If your Lordships will allow me, I will therefore reflect further on the points made but in the light of those assurances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 34.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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My Lords, I thank those who have spoken in this debate. I have mixed views about Prestwick: I have operated from it and done some training there. Sadly, I once burst two tyres there on a 747, so being there was not altogether an undiluted pleasure. It also has a runway that can be used in both directions but the other one points at Glasgow, roughly speaking.

I am very pleased that the Minister said he is going to reflect on this point. Of course, I entirely understand the importance of the clause and of protecting operators. We do not want to struggle with crafting an amendment that gives the Bill more teeth to help residents, but we might have to. It would be much better if the Government could put the issue of noise per se in the Bill, so that it has to be considered in the various processes. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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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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Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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My Lords, I feel strongly about these two clauses, because I recognise them. I have been a Minister for whom civil servants have produced such clauses. They always have an answer: you tell the House that it is not going to happen very often, it will never be used badly and nobody in their right mind could think that it would be any trouble. I have always resisted all those, I have to say. I am a Conservative and I believe in the rights of property. I do not believe that anybody should be taking those away. I am also a believer in the human rights legislation, and I do not like the way that the Conservative Party has made comments about it. It has a very clear defence of the rights of property and I am not prepared to go along with such words, if they mean what the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and I think that they mean. Maybe neither of us is clever enough to understand the hidden protection within them.

There seems to be no protection whatever in Clause 38; the Secretary of State appears to be able to use it,

“if satisfied that it is expedient to do so”.

Expedient is an extremely dangerous word. Expedient means anything that you want to do; that is why you want to do it—it is expedient. I have to say, I would not trust myself with expedience, leave alone trusting anybody else, and leave alone trusting this Secretary of State to be other than expedient. I do not get this clause, and I certainly do not get why it does not have the full panoply of proper means of protection of the people concerned.

I would like my noble friend to point to other areas where the same kinds of rights are given to the Secretary of State, where similar powers are given without any restriction, because I think that this is a very dangerous area. Nobody could be more enthusiastic about space than I—as long as nobody asks me to go in one of these things. It is a hugely important thing and I am entirely on the side of the Government in seeking to do what they want to do. It would be better if we did not have Brexit—then we would get more of it and a great deal more benefit from it, but that is true of almost everything. The fact of the matter still remains that, whatever happens, if we do or if we do not, this will affect people in this country and their rights to property. I do think that this clause, in its present form, should be presented by any Government, least of all by a Conservative Government who are supposed to believe in the rights of property.

I say very clearly to my noble friend that my problem with Clause 40 is that the only defence given for this provision is that it will not happen very often and will happen for short periods of time. Indeed, my noble friend said that it is okay because it will happen only for short periods of time. If that is the case, why does the Bill not say that? If it is going to be temporary, why does the Bill not say that? If that is not stated in the Bill, people will say, “The Bill does not say that it is temporary and therefore this time we are going to do it for three months”, or say, “Three months is what we meant by temporary”. I am afraid that is the other argument that civil servants try to use. I am trying to excuse my noble friend on the basis of the advice he has received rather than his determination. This measure seems to me contrary to the political position that he holds. After all, he would consider me rather a “pinko”, so I say to him that—

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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I beg my noble friend’s pardon. I hope that he is not laughing at that. First, the point I am trying to make is that if I think this measure is a serious incursion, he should doubly think that is the case.

Secondly, I want my noble friend to think again because there is no reason why we cannot include sensible protection in this power without in any way upsetting its balance. Thirdly, I do not think anybody who wants to start a space station would think that they had carte blanche in that regard so long as the Secretary of State thought that was expedient. Fourthly, if we turn this on its head, what happens if such a measure is necessary and the Secretary of State does not think that it is expedient? It seems to me that the Government have to be much more specific about what these provisions mean before this House should accept them. Lastly, this is a matter for this House, which is supposed to be very much the guardian of the constitution. Quite a lot of legislation will come in front of this House where, whatever our views are—we may be very much in favour of space, for example—we have to stand up for the rights of the citizenry. I think that we are going to talk about that a lot. Above all, we have to talk about the danger of handing to Ministers powers which are expedient and not considerably restricted to the purposes for which they are needed.

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Baroness Ford Portrait Baroness Ford (CB)
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In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I would hate the opportunity to go past without mentioning Prestwick and the spaceport again. I have a lot of sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, says. Although the airport at Prestwick is already well established, with a clear area around it where the public do not come, that will not be true of everywhere. The lack of precision in these clauses, even for somewhere like Prestwick where it is clear where the field of operations will be, still does not do the job. The Government need to think again about being rather more precise in these clauses around what exactly they mean with regard to these restricted areas and what those restrictions will mean. I can see that in other places, where the airport is perhaps not as established or as big, there may be difficulties. I therefore have a lot of sympathy with the noble Baroness’s argument.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, I thank your Lordships for this short but sharp debate, which was so excellently introduced, as always, by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I shall endeavour for my response to be as splendid as he intimates some of my letters to him are.

I also thank my noble friend Lord Deben for his contribution. I would never accuse him of being a “pinko”—despite the pocket handkerchief that he is wearing today. We of course have some fairly profound policy differences, but I hope that I will be able to answer his concerns on the matter of land provisions in the Bill.

A number of noble Lords expressed concerns about these provisions, but I reassure them that the Government are taking a responsible and balanced approach. Powers are restricted to what we believe is strictly necessary and proportionate for securing safe spaceflight operations. Clause 38 allows for the creation of orders granting rights over land. Such orders may be necessary to ensure that utilities and other supporting infrastructure can be installed and maintained—for example, for radar or surveillance.

Spaceflight from the UK will be conducted on a commercial basis, and as such we expect operators to negotiate access in the vast majority of cases. Such an order would be created only as a last resort where negotiation with the landowner has failed to produce a mutually agreeable outcome. Schedule 6 sets out further provisions for such circumstances, including how notice for such orders should be given and how proposed orders can be objected to. Spaceflight is a new opportunity for the UK, and as technologies develop we want to ensure that any equipment necessary for safe spaceflight activity can be installed, maintained and removed as necessary.

I will say a few words about Clause 40 and then come back to some of the points that were made. Clause 40 continues the approach that the Government have taken of ensuring that safety is at the heart of the Bill. The clause allows the Secretary of State to restrict or prohibit the use of land or water around the times of launch and landing to protect the public. Any order made under the clause would be temporary. It is not our intention to unnecessarily restrict the actions of people who use these areas of land or water.

This power would be used only as a last resort in circumstances where operators had been unable to negotiate restriction arrangements with local landowners or users of affected land or water. Contravention of any order under this clause would be an offence. The safety of the general public is critical and therefore it is vital that the Secretary of State has sufficient power to enforce this vital safety measure.

I will now say a few words about the points that were made and answer some of the questions. I believe that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who asked about a definition of “vicinity” and about what size area would be affected. Launch from the anticipated vertical-launch spaceport sites of course will be towards the sea. We therefore expect that only small areas of land will be affected by these orders. The regulator can also use licence conditions to ensure that spaceflight activities do not have a disproportionate impact on populated areas. Schedule 1 lists indicative licence conditions. These include conditions relating to trajectories and mission profiles as well as conditions imposing restrictions on areas where, and times when, spaceflight activities can take place. The exact type of launch and mission—

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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I wonder whether, in further detail, the Minister could write to me explaining exactly what a “small area” of land is. I assume we have examples from across the world of the kind of size of area that has to be set aside during operations such as this, and it would be very useful to have some idea of how large the affected area will be.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I will come on to explain that—but, of course, if the noble Baroness is not satisfied I will be very happy to write her another letter, splendid or otherwise.

Horizontal-launch sites will be aerodromes and therefore subject to provisions similar to those in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 that apply to aerodromes. We therefore expect that the main use of this power, if it is needed at all, will be for vertical-launch spaceports. On vertical launch we will continue to learn from countries that have extensive experience of launch. One such example is the United States, where the Federal Aviation Administration has implemented a launch-site boundary with a radius of 2.2 kilometres from the launch point for small vertical-launch vehicles that are likely to be similar to those that will be launched from the UK. This is an area to which access is restricted during a launch window. The proposed sites are much further away from local towns than the area that is likely to be restricted under a Clause 40 order.

I turn to some of the points made by my noble friend Lord Deben. Interestingly, the power is based on similar powers in the Civil Aviation Act 1982. I do not know whether my noble friend was a Minister in another place when this Act was passed or a Member of Parliament during the debates, but the powers do not go as far as those in the Civil Aviation Act.

My noble friend Lord Deben also asked why we are doing it, if there will not be many launches. We believe that these powers are necessary in case a licence holder cannot, despite their best efforts, secure a deal for access to land or restriction of the use of land during launch and landing. Invoking the Secretary of State’s power would very much be a last resort.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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Let us say I own the land of which we talk and have had a negotiation with somebody who says, “I’ll give you fourpence ha’penny”, and I say, “But I need five pence”. And I go on saying that and he goes on and on saying, “Four pence ha’penny”. Finally, he says that he cannot come to an agreement. What right do I have to appeal against the Secretary of State stepping in and saying that, because a discussion has been had and an agreement not reached, it is expedient to do this? Where in the Bill is my appeal right against the Secretary of State’s decision that it is expedient to overrule the fact that I, with all good intention, have not been able to get a deal? That is the bit that worries me. I am not worried about doing it; I am worried about the fact that I have no claim over the Secretary of State in these circumstances.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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There is a right to object to any order made and we hope these matters could be the subject of negotiations. I hope my noble friend will accept that it is important that we do not allow a provision where a person perhaps not as reasonable as he might be in the circumstances could hold the whole operation to ransom. These things are always a matter of balance and there is a right to object to an order.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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I am sorry, and I will not interrupt again, but with respect, this is not a balance. This is a perfectly simple statement that the Secretary of State can make an order and no one has a claim against that. One can object to the order, but as far as I understand it, there is no proper judicial circumstance in which one can insist that it is not expedient because there has been a perfectly good negotiation and the other party will not go away. I do not want to hold this up but I want to protect the rights of the person who has negotiated perfectly reasonably but failed to come to a conclusion, and then the Secretary of State steps in for some greater good, and that person has no claim except to object to the order. As far as I can see, if someone objects to the order, it will be a case of “objection overruled because it is not expedient”.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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As I said, there is a provision for an interested party to object to the order if it has been proposed, and if the order has already been made then Schedule 7 provides for the quashing of the order. However, I take my noble friend’s point. We believe that the power remains necessary because of the limited number of sites suitable for spaceflight operations in the UK and the need to ensure that operators are not held to ransom and the UK is able to benefit from this growing industry. When we come back to this matter in the next debate, I will address the operation of orders and how they may be challenged. I hope my noble friend will allow me to address this further during the debate on Clause 42.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about the appropriate mechanism for challenge. Schedule 7 provides a process to apply for orders made under Clauses 38 and 40 to be quashed.

On the matter of compensation for people who lose out because of these powers, in Schedules 8 and 9 there are provisions for compensation in connection with the diminution of value of land interests, damage to land, interference with the use of land and general disputes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked how long these orders will last. We expect orders restricting the use of land or water to be in place for only a short amount of time around the window of launch—typically a few hours—but the exact period will depend on the type of launch. I can give an assurance that they will be in place for the minimum necessary time to ensure the safety of the public. I hope I have addressed her comments about the size of the area affected. As I mentioned, “vicinity” is not defined in the Bill and if there were a dispute it would be given its ordinary English meaning by a court. The power may be exercised for only the limited purposes in the clauses.

I believe I have addressed the points. However, I take on board the strong feelings in the Committee on this issue. If noble Lords will allow me to go away and reflect further on the powers in this clause, I will come back to the subject. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to withdraw his objection to the clause standing part of the Bill. With those assurances, I shall reflect on the issue and come back to it at a future time.

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Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
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My Lords, I agree with some of the comments that have been made about the importance of dialogue with the devolved Administrations. The success of a project of this kind depends heavily on a close working relationship with the devolved Assemblies and those responsible within them for supporting activities and investment in and around any proposed spaceport, as well as communicating with local authorities. I think it is inconceivable that the spaceport project should move forward without very close co-operation, for example with the Scottish Government; in fact, that should be at the heart and centre of the consultation and planning for development of potential spaceports in Scotland. On that point, I very much welcome that an amendment has been tabled to that effect, and I hope the Government will find some way of giving comfort to the Committee that this important issue, wherever it is in the United Kingdom, will be recognised and acted upon.

I am glad to report on the first point of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who would expect me to reflect for just a moment on the importance of the land issue relevant to potential spaceports. For example, I am very glad to report to the Committee and place on the record that Prestwick Airport already owns sufficient land, so none of the ground requirements for spaceflight activities would require additional land. The restrictions will be merely in relation to the air volume zone. Depending on the strictness of regulations, the runway, as I have reported to the Committee, is a mere 13 metres short of 3 kilometres—so very long. There may be the need to carry out a consultation in order to process a planning application, but Prestwick Airport would not be impinging on anyone’s land or assets. That should give great comfort to the department to recognise that an early recognition of first-mover status for Prestwick Airport in this context should be granted.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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My Lords, before addressing the noble Baroness’s amendment, if the Committee will allow me, I will go into a little more detail about the operation of orders that can be made under Clauses 38 and 40.

Clause 42 sets out that orders made under these clauses will become operative after six weeks, and how they may be challenged. It provides that the making of such orders may be challenged through applications to quash orders under Schedule 7. Persons who receive notice of a proposed order are also able to object to an order which has been proposed under the provision for objections set out in Schedule 6. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, is not in his place any more, but I point out that these order-making powers are equivalent to powers in the Civil Aviation Act 1982. A six-week time limit also applies to challenges to those.

Turning to Amendment 39, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked how such orders are made when they relate to land in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. In this context, I feel a bit sorry for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which do not seem to be receiving the same degree of attention as certain sites in Scotland, but I want to remain strictly neutral—my job is to try to get the Bill through, and I am sure there will be fair competition between the different sites regarding where spaceports should operate.

I want to assure the Committee that throughout the development of the Bill, we have consulted extensively with colleagues in the devolved Administrations. The Bill has the opportunity to benefit the whole of the UK. Scotland and Wales are actively supporting the development of spaceports in their regions, as we heard in the case of Scotland, while Northern Ireland is benefiting from direct industry investment in research and development. We have worked with them to ensure that they are content with all provisions in the Bill, and we have agreed an approach to land powers which our partners in the devolved Administrations are fully content with.

Schedule 6 requires that notice of a proposal to make an order under Clause 38 or Clause 40 must be published in local newspapers and also served on the local authority in question. This gives an opportunity for the devolved Administrations to raise any concerns about a specific order. After an order is made, notice must be published and served. Anyone aggrieved may then apply to quash the order, as set out in Schedule 7.

Space Industry Bill [HL] Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Transport

Space Industry Bill [HL]

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 23rd October 2017

(6 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Space Industry Act 2018 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 7-III Third marshalled list for Committee (PDF, 72KB) - (19 Oct 2017)
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We have Amendment 42 in this group, but I will also speak to Amendments 40 and 41 since that will save me having to go through the points all over again when we come to my Amendment 45.

As has been said, the Bill gives extensive delegated powers to the Secretary of State, and thus the Government, without the policy details and parameters of those delegated powers being spelled out in the Bill. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has described it as a “skeletal Bill”. Consequently, it is difficult to scrutinise it meaningfully. The Government have not published any draft regulations because such regulations are little more than a twinkle in the Government’s eye at present. Formal consultation will not even start on those draft regulations for at least another year. Even then, the Government do not expect the regulations to be laid until the summer after next—nearly two years at the earliest.

Why, then, the necessity for the Bill now? The Government maintain in a letter the Minister sent to me on 6 September that it is needed to give a, “concrete indication to investors that the UK is serious about promoting growth in the space sector and delivering on spaceflight”. So serious and committed, though, are the Government to promoting that growth that the statutory instruments will be laid in nearly two years’ time at the earliest,

“subject to Government priorities and Parliamentary time”,

according to page 5 of the Government’s policy scoping notes. It does not seem to indicate that this is a government priority when there is apparently still some doubt as to whether those statutory instruments will be laid in nearly two years’ time.

The reality is that, with the crucial regulations, a Bill of 71 clauses and approximately 100 delegated powers not being laid at the earliest for another two years and then only subject to Government priorities and parliamentary time, this proposed legislation would not yet see the light of day if the Government still had a legislative programme to enact at present. Since, because of Brexit, they do not, this skeletal Bill, which seeks to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny on future key details through excessive use of delegated powers, is being brought forward now to try to fill up some of the gaping holes in parliamentary business arising from the Government’s programme of non-legislation in the current Session.

The Government appear to have very little idea what the surfeit of regulations will say, whose interests they will impact on or what existing legislation or even legislation still being enacted or to be enacted in the present Session will be cut across by those regulations. As a result, the Government want Henry VIII powers, giving them the right effectively to bypass Parliament by being able by regulations to make provision that is consequential on any provision made by this Act, with the power being used to,

“amend, repeal or revoke any enactment passed or made before this Act or in the same Session”.

The Government have produced policy scoping notes, which tell us that, “The purpose”, of Clause 66,

“is to give effect to the minor and consequential amendments contained in Schedule 12”.

If that is the case, why have the Government not put that in the Bill? The reason is simple: the purpose of Clause 66, despite the wording of the scoping notes, is not intended by the Government to give effect to the minor and consequential amendments contained in Schedule 12. Instead, it is merely one of the purposes of Clause 66. As even the scoping notes subsequently say,

“it is possible that other changes may be required and clause 66(2) and (3) confer a power for the Secretary of State to make such changes through secondary legislation”.

The notes then go on to say:

“This power is needed to make any further minor and consequential amendments to other enactments passed before the Act or during the same Session that become apparent during the development of detailed secondary legislation”.


What is the definition of “minor and consequential amendment”, wording used in the Bill as the heading for Clause 66? Perhaps there is not one; perhaps it is whatever the Secretary of State deems minor and consequential. The Government do not use the words, if my memory serves me right, but they use the words “minor and consequential amendments” in respect of the powers in subsections (2) to (4). Why is that?

The policy scoping notes, outlining the content of subsections (2) and (3), state:

“Spaceflight is a complex activity and whilst related areas of law have been scrutinised it is impossible to rule out the possibility that some other rule of law might be engaged in the future. Equally, spaceflight or associated activities might need to be brought in scope of other laws, as the possibility of spaceflight activities from the UK would not have been contemplated when they were drafted. Therefore the content of the regulations in relation to subsections (2) and (3) will only become known as the secondary legislation develops and further regulations may also be made in the future as and when they are required”.


Precisely—so how can the Government now say that any amendments relating to other enactments, including repeal or revocation, will be minor and consequential and go no further than that? Would the provisions of Clause 66 enable the Government to amend, repeal or revoke any part of the Space Industry Bill by regulations, once it becomes an Act?

The wording of the scoping notes and, indeed, Clause 66 makes it clear that the power to “amend, repeal or revoke” is permanent and apparently not time-limited. The Government have not proposed a time limit on the use of those powers; not even up to October 2019, when presumably the main regulations, covered by six statutory instruments, will have been made and dealt with by Parliament. We surely cannot have such largely unrestricted powers on the statute book in respect of effective parliamentary scrutiny of the powers under Clause 66(2) and 66(3) for ever and a day, on the basis of a Government statement in their policy scoping notes that because spaceflight is a “complex activity”,

“further regulations may also be made in the future as and when required”,

when these are regulations that may,

“amend, repeal or revoke any enactment passed or made before this Bill or in the same Session”.

In that context, we already know that the amendments in Schedule 12 alone already cover 20 Acts of Parliament, including two terrorism Acts and the recent Modern Slavery Act. Neither does the argument hold that there will be insufficient parliamentary time to deal with matters under Clause 66 by primary legislation where the regulations involved are amending such legislation, and that is leaving aside the argument that the convenience of government and the Executive should not take priority over the role of the legislature in examining, challenging, amending and passing proposed legislation.

The Government propose in 2019 to lay the tranche of regulations enabling them to exercise the 100 or so delegated powers in the Bill, apparently through just six statutory instruments. That suggests there would hardly be a blizzard of Bills for Parliament to consider if the Henry VIII powers in Clause 66, in respect of Acts of Parliament, were not there.

I share the views that have already been expressed that the Government need to have another long, hard look at Clause 66 and what it actually means, as opposed to what they say it means.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed to the debate so far. I have carefully noted all views.

I know there is considerable concern about the granting of Henry VIII powers—I would be worried if noble Lords did not express such concerns—because of the wide scope of such powers to amend primary legislation that underwent parliamentary scrutiny and debate. However, I assure the Committee that we have given very careful consideration to the need to include such a power. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, acknowledged that we have already acted on many of the concerns expressed, and we have modified the Bill considerably as a result of many of the points put to us by committees in this House and the other place.

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The present system does not work, and the distinguished interventions on this Bill have addressed just the tip of the iceberg of problems to come unless Parliament as a whole sets its mind to resolving this issue.
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.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan
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It was very welcome that my noble friend just said to the House that noble Lords would be encouraged to participate in the very early stage of the transparent and collaborative consultation phase before the Government came forward with their draft statutory instruments. It is notoriously difficult for many people, not least noble Lords, to know when that consultation phase begins, as we are not necessarily directly notified about that. Could my noble friend ensure that all those who participated in the debate are made aware of those consultations immediately they become available?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I will ensure that all noble Lords who participated in these discussions are made aware of the consultations. I will even try to make sure that they reach some parts of Scotland—in which my noble friend seems to have an interest at the moment. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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I thank the Minister for his response and thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his contribution to this short debate. I am sure that the Minister did not anticipate that I would stand here expressing great enthusiasm—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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May I correct something I said earlier? I am told that, apparently, it is possible to amend an SI.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser
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If the Minister has been told that, perhaps he could write to me and to other noble Lords who have spoken to set out clearly the circumstances in which an SI can be amended. Some of us may be slightly surprised by that blanket answer, which apparently covers all SIs—and which, presumably, means that any SI can be amended. I think that that has caught one or two of us slightly on the hop. So we will look forward to the letter from the Minister setting out how a statutory instrument can be amended.

Before the Minister’s interesting intervention just now, I was saying that I am sure that he will not be surprised to hear me say that I am not overenthusiastic about the response he gave. It is clear that the part of the super-affirmative procedure which causes—or appears to cause—the Government the most problem is the bit which gives a committee scrutinising the order the power to kill it by recommending that,

“no further proceedings be taken”,

with that recommendation able to be overturned only by a vote of the whole House. I suppose that that is a good example of how the Government put their own convenience and that of the Executive ahead of proper parliamentary scrutiny.

The Bill denies us proper parliamentary scrutiny. It is a skeletal Bill; the Minister has never sought to deny that. The consultation on the regulations does not even start until towards the end of next year, and they will not be laid at the earliest until the summer of 2019—and then, interestingly enough, only if they fit in with government priorities, despite the fact that the Minister and the Government have gone to great lengths to tell us that we need to pass the Bill now to provide certainty to the industry. Yet now the industry is told that the regulations may not appear in the summer of 2019 if by then the Government have decided that it is no longer a priority or that there is no parliamentary time to do it.

The reason we are in this difficulty over lack of parliamentary scrutiny is, as I say, because the Government have decided to bring the Bill forward so far in advance of the quite crucial regulations. We all know why: it is because they have a very bare legislative programme and had to think of something to fill the gap. They chose the Bill and were quite happy to see a skeletal Bill, and then to expect all of us to accept that there would be no proper parliamentary scrutiny because it is a skeletal Bill of that sort.

I am not entirely surprised by the Minister’s response. He was not overenthusiastic about the concerns raised about the Henry VIII powers. Clearly, as far as the Government are concerned, anything that will either provide proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill or take away some of the draconian powers contained in it are things that at this stage—I hope that the words “at this stage” have some significance—the Government are not prepared to countenance. We have Report to come and I know that the Minister is prepared to have discussions with us and, I am sure, with the Liberal Democrats and other parties. I hope that he will reflect on the very strong feelings expressed today about the powers in the Bill and that he will come forward with at least some proposals to mitigate and address the concerns that have been expressed. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.