Lords amendment: No. 11, in page 2, line 42, leave out from
("area") to end of line 43
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 12, 34 to 39, 44 to 60, 66, 67 and 141 to 144.
§ Mr. Raynsford
These amendments are largely technical, so I hope that hon. Members will not seek an explanation of each amendment individually. I shall make a few general remarks. The amendments deal with the application of relevant provisions of part I to the Crown, and with provisions relating to the disclosure of information and the air navigation and charging regimes.
Amendments Nos. 11, 12, 66 and 67 list the provisions that apply to the Crown and provide that the Crown may not be criminally liable and that the armed forces are not required to hold a licence to provide air traffic services. Provision is made that nothing in those Crown application provisions may affect Her Majesty in her private capacity.
Amendments Nos. 34 to 39 and 44 allow the Secretary of State, in addition to nominating a member of the CAA to perform air navigation functions, to nominate another member of the CAA to consider the relationships between air navigation functions and national security. That may be of interest to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), who referred to the dual function of air traffic control providing the service to civilian and military users.
The meaning of the phrase "chargeable air traffic services" as currently drafted in clause 73 would not include all the CAA's services provided in performing its chapter III air navigation functions, nor would that provision allow recovery of the CAA's chapter IV 1023 costs of specifying, publishing or recovery. Where those services are properly recoverable through Eurocontrol, the CAA should be allowed to do so. That is what amendments Nos. 45 to 57 will achieve. Amendments Nos. 58 to 60 place further duties on the Secretary of State to ensure that, as far as practicable, the licence holder is paid the charges due from Eurocontrol.
Finally, amendments Nos. 141 to 144 are technical improvements, designed to ensure that an inability to disclose information obtained under part I does not frustrate either the functions of the Competition Commission, or those of the Independent Television Commission under specified legislation, or the European Commission in respect of Community competition law.
§ Mr. Robert Syms (Poole)
I am a little reluctant when we get on to the subject of Eurocontrol, given the many happy hours that we had discussing such issues in Committee.
There is the issue of passing fees on from Eurocontrol via the Secretary of State to, eventually, NATS. In terms of economic regulation, when there is an RPI minus X formula, how does that relate to the charges? We were given assurances in Committee that all the money would be passed to NATS; in which case, do we have a formula to increase efficiency? There has been some debate about the amount of money that the new organisation would have to find in savings and efficiencies. Perhaps the Minister can say a little more about that.
The Minister mentioned national security. Are we still sure about that matter? The argument was advanced that Europe would not impinge on issues of national security and that we are still able to ensure that that is a legitimate issue—when what we understand to be national security is at stake, the Government can get their way.
§ Mr. Raynsford
I will take the second point first. The key consideration in the provisions relating to security is the Secretary of State's ability to appoint a second member of the CAA, who will have the specific role of overseeing the appropriate arrangements for ensuring satisfactory allocation of air space between military and civilian needs. It is in no way affected by the European provisions.
I turn to the issue of Eurocontrol. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) found it impossible to fail to rise to the bait. That was a cause of much amusement in Committee. If we had had more time tonight, no doubt we could have had a lengthy journey through the more obscure schedules of the Maastricht treaty and other such matters, but lest my remarks tempt anyone to pursue the subject, I will hastily move on.
The RPI minus X framework sets limits. The CAA will be careful to ensure that charges are set within those limits. The specific provision relating to Eurocontrol is an arrangement under which the sums that are paid by individual users and collected through Eurocontrol are disbursed appropriately to all the members. As the hon. Gentleman will recall from our discussion in Committee, that involves quite a complex process: a rough estimate is made of the appropriate apportionment at the beginning of a period and that is subsequently adjusted when further detail has become available, but those procedures will 1024 continue. There is no intention to change them. I hope that I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest. There is no secret European plot to prevent the air traffic control system from receiving its necessary dues.
§ Mr. Syms
I want to raise just one further point to do with licences. The Minister explained that the provision exempted the military from having to have a licence. In the Bill, the term was "licence or licences". I presume that one licence will be issued under the contract and the new arrangement, and that the inclusion of "licences" in the Bill was, as we thought, perhaps for future arrangements, where there might be a split.
§ Mr. Raynsford
I am happy to confirm that. We envisage only one licence being operated initially, but there could be circumstances where other licences might apply in future. That is the reason for the word appearing in the plural.
If there are no other points, I will urge the House to agree with the Lords in their amendments, so that we can move to the next set.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
I warmly welcome Lords amendment No. 36, which deals with the appointment of a national security adviser. Again, putting that in the Bill is important, but may I ask the Minister a question? Subsection (4) of the amendment, which is effectively a new clause, says:The national security nominee may authorise a member or employee of the CAA to perform on his behalf the functions which he is to perform by virtue of this section.That suggests that the important appointment of that national security nominee could, in a sense, be reduced by that person being allowed to nominate an employee. I wondered in what circumstances the Minister envisaged the CAA nominee appointing someone else for such a crucial matter. I want to give him time to reflect on that point, but he will agree that it is important. It is a delegated power in an important area.
§ Mr. Raynsford
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) for explaining his point in such detail as to allow me to reflect on it before being required to respond. The provision is included only to make allowance for emergency circumstances—it may be necessary because of force majeure—but it is not intended that the provision would apply in normal circumstances. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
§ Lords amendment agreed to.
§ Lords amendment No. 12 agreed to.