HL Deb 13 March 1978 vol 389 cc1078-126

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Oram.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Establishment and purpose of Aviation Security Fund]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I would wish to seek some information on this particular clause. I did not set down as Amendment at this stage but the Committee may remember that in the debate that we had last Thursday I did ask the Minister to tell me: Whether there will be a breakdown of security costs by category and amount? If so, to whom will these details be made available—to Parliament, to the airlines or to the airline users?"—[Official Report, 9/3/78; col. 986.] Towards the end of his remarks, my noble friend the Minister said that he was not in a position to give me an answer then and he would be glad if I could leave it until today.

Clause 1(3) states: The Secretary of State shall prepare accounts of the Fund in such form as the Treasury may direct. It is information on that point that I am seeking. The Committee may also remember that at Second Reading I quoted at Col. 986 from one of our EEC partners. Quoting from the particular country in question, I read: The nature of the security operations taken into account in calculating the amounts to be charged to the users was not indicated; obviously what is involved is not merely the screening and searching of passengers and their baggage, the cost of which is far less expensive. It would appear that the British Government intends to recuperate at least part of the airport police costs. The third point I would wish, without going into detail, to make, is this. I have had prepared for me some detailed statistics on the airport security levy. They may or may not be correct; I think they probably are, but I would not be competent to say at this stage. But I am rather disturbed by them. I am disturbed by what it is suggested should be paid by passengers. I am disturbed at the way in which this is rounded up. I am disturbed at the surcharge which airlines propose to charge for collecting this, and I am not happy about the resultant profits from the figures which have been given to me. It does, therefore, seem that the only way of getting this settled is to have a breakdown of the costs, and I have asked the Minister for this.

If I may make one other point, I do not propose today to say anything about the major point of principle on which I based my remarks last Thursday. I hope to return to this matter on Monday next, because, as the Committee will realise from looking at the day's Minute, we have that little asterisk which indicates, most unusually for our House, that the Report stage of the Civil Aviation Bill has been set down before the expiry of the recommended minimum interval between stages. I have not had time fully to reflect on the matter of principle. If my noble friend can enlighten the Committee and me about the breakdown of costs and what publicity will be given to these, I should like to return to the point of principle next Monday.


I regret that other duties prevented me from being present in the House on Thursday during the Second Reading debate. If I had been, I should certainly have supported the noble Baroness in her onslaught—I do not think that is too strong a word—on the principle embodied in this clause and those which immediately follow it. I have, however, read her speech, and I think those who were present and those who have read it will agree that it does amount to a devastating attack on the whole principle of the charge.

The noble Lord, Lord Oram, when he moved the Second Reading, said something which suggests that there is a good deal of confusion about not only the principle—to which I will come in a moment—but indeed about what is being done. At col. 976 of the Official Report for last Thursday the noble Lord is reported as saying: The Government decided in November 1976, as part of the public expenditure cuts, that the burden of aviation security expenditure should be transferred from the taxpayer to the industry from 1st April 1978".—[Official Report; 9/3/78, col. 976.] This is not a public expenditure cut. The expenditure remains and indeed is being increased. What it does amount to is the levying of a tax in order to finance the additional expenditure. It really is to confuse counsel—I say this with the greatest respect to the noble Lord—to suggest that what is intended here is an expenditure cut. What it amounts to is setting up a special allocated tax to support a particular kind of maintained and indeed increasing expenditure.

Certainly when I was at the Treasury, the Treasury had an intense dislike for allocated taxation, which they thought, and thought rightly, introduces a rigidity and inflexibility into the tax system. It is, of course, perfectly obvious to anyone who has been for any length of time in Whitehall what happened here. The Treasury in performance of its duties pressed the Department of Trade to reduce its estimates, and the Department of Trade, rather than reduce its expenditure, rather than reduce its staff, thought out the ingenious idea of simply transferring the cost from the Department's estimates to a new tax falling directly upon the industry.

Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will discuss this issue not from the point of view that this is a worthy reduction in expenditure—such as apparently was suggested in another place, and was suggested by the noble Lord here in the sentence I have quoted from his Second Reading speech—but, on the contrary, from the point of view that it is a device for raising further funds in order to maintain and to expand expenditure.

I should like to take up, if I may—and this argues at least my impartiality—my alarm at the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne from the Conservative Front Bench during Second Reading. I shall summarise what he said in his presence so that he can correct me if I get it wrong. I understood him to say that the civil avaition industry ought to stand on its own feet and that this was apparently some additional means of its so doing.

I agree with the first part of my noble friend's proposition. Indeed, I spent five years of my life moving the Civil Aviation Authority into a position in which, in fact, in all areas where it controls its income and charges, it was able to balance those against its expenditure. However, with great respect to my noble friend, this is a totally different matter. No one suggests that protection against attack by the Queen's enemies is an ordinary expense of an industry or an individual. Indeed, now coming to the principle of the matter, the protection of the citizen against attack by violent persons, whether outside or within the realm, is the original basis upon which society was formed. Our earliest sovereigns gave their protection in return for allegiance.

It is the basic duty of the Government to protect the citizen against attack and violence. It seems to me quite extraordinary to say that this industry, an industry which incidentally, is making a major and increasing contribution to this country's balance of payments, should be subjected to a special levy for the purpose of enabling the Crown to discharge what is the basic duty, under our Constitution, of the Crown. Therefore, as a matter of principle I think that this is wholly wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Oram, in his wind-up speech on Second Reading, sought to justify the situation by saying, in effect, "Oh well, shops, restaurants and railways, et cetera, have to do the same". With great respect, he was blurring a distinction. It is perfectly true that the railways have their police and that both shops and restaurants in this day and age sometimes employ security men. However, the noble Lord will appreciate that those organisations run their own systems of security at their own discretion to meet what they view as their own needs.

The security precautions that protect the airline industry are those decided—and their scale is decided—by the Government which then pass on the charge, under this Bill, to the industry. There is surely all the difference in the world between an industry supplementing the security that it receives from the Government with additional provisions which it pays for up to the extent it thinks justifiable, and an industry being saddled with a charge determined by the Government in order to maintain the level of protection which the Government, in their wisdom, think is required in the public interest. There is a very real distinction.

For the reason which I think I rightly suggested a few moments ago, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will appreciate that what he is doing is, in principle, very wrong and very unfortunate. How far will the noble Lord carry it? After all, in certain offices, Ministers of the Crown traditionally are granted, and very properly granted, protection. However, on the noble Lord's principle the Home Secretary should pay for his detective. It is exactly the same principle as is involved in this case. If, when performing perfectly legitimate activities—never mind in this case activities which conduce very much to the public interest—we are really to pay separately special charges to enable the Government to protect us, we are really making a nonsense of a basic constitutional principle. I do not know what will happen to this clause at this stage or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, indicated, perhaps at another stage. However, I think that it is a very bad clause—bad in principle and introduced for the wrong reason.

4.46 p.m.


I shall speak briefly because the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has added a powerful voice to the devastating case, as he so accurately described it, put up by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, on Second Reading. The noble Lord has gone to the heart of the principle involved. After all what is concerned here is estimated to be about £19 million. At present, the Government lay down the standard of security to be observed at airports and they pay for it. As has been pointed out, under this scheme they will still lay down the requirements, but they will pass the charge, by a form of taxation, to the airport owner who will, in due course, pass it on to the passenger.

The adoption of this principle leads to a number of inequities that are not evident under the existing system. It is estimated that 80p will be the sum which will be charged by the airport owner to the airline. There is already substantial evidence that the airline will make the sum £1. That sum of £1 is to be added to arrivals, whether the distance travelled has been long or short. The sum is to be £1 whether the passenger comes from Sydney or Singapore, or from Paris or Ostend.

Such a charge is not insignificant in the case of short journeys. I know that £1 added to the fare from Sydney is trivial and is scarcely noticeable. However the fare from Ostend to Southend is £10 and in that case it will mean a 10 per cent. increase in the charge. Furthermore, if European countries follow our example, those who go on holiday to such countries will pay £1 on arrival and another £1 on return home, making a £2 addition to, say, the package holiday charge. Finally, if someone goes to Newcastle for the day on business or for a funeral or whatever, he will pay £1 extra for the journey to Newcastle and another £1 for coming back. Therefore, it seems to me that these inequities, which are not trivial in some cases, only arise because of the adoption of a bad principle. Indeed, it is also bad—and I think the noble Lord had this in mind—in the sense that whereas at present the Government decide on the standard and then pay, in the future they will decide on the standard but not themselves pay, and that may possibly lead to lack of economy or even to extravagance.

I believe that the fundamental principle is wrong. The action of hijackers and terrorists in this area is against Governments; it is not against passengers. It is absurd to compare the problem with that of the restaurant owner or the café owner who is expected to look after the security of his own premises. Such a comparison, to say the very least, is utterly inadequate.

I am aware of the fact that there is a lone voice on the Government Benches, a lone voice on the Opposition Benches, and not least of all, a lone voice on the Cross-Benches and I can, at present, see no prospect of seeing such Parliamentary action as will defeat Clause 1. However, I still hope that something will emerge when it is realised that the principle of charging the individual passenger as though he is in any way responsible, rather than of regarding it as an international duty to look after these and other passengers as part of the basic responsibility for maintaining law and order, is a bad principle which will lead to trouble as well as to the inequity to which I have referred. I hope that at this late stage the Government will realise that, important though other parts of the Bill are, this part is ill-based, unwise and unfair.

4.51 p.m.


I must confess that the case advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, on Second Reading, and indeed by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, this afternoon, is a powerful one. None the less, I am persuaded that on balance the principles that I hold dear—no less than the principles held dear by the other noble Lords—are those that ought to prevail on this occasion. Perhaps I may recite them shortly. First, on the question of public expenditure, I certainly accept that the Government's choice of words in this matter is unfortunate. But the fact remains that if we were to take the course which they advocate, the £18 million or £20 million sum which we are presently considering would fall upon the general burden of public taxation.


If my noble friend would allow me to intervene, is not that argument equally relevant to any other reduction of taxation, such as we are told the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now contemplating?


I am sure that my noble friend is right; but I rest on what I said, that if the money that is to be raised under this measure were not to be so raised, it would fall on the general burden of taxation. It is true that this argument could well apply to other items of Government expenditure or to private expenditure, but that is not what we are considering this afternoon. We are considering the precise proposal that the Government have put before us in Clauses 1 to 4 of the Bill.


I find this a little difficult. Is the noble Lord really telling the Committee that if a tax or a charge is imposed on any group of people and it is considered to be an unfair and selective tax, it cannot be removed because the general public would have to pay for it?


No, I am not saying that it cannot be removed; I am saying that perhaps it ought not to be removed. I believe that each and every case of this nature must be considered on its merits, and, as they appear to me, the merits of this one are that the expenditure ought not to be placed on the public at large.

The second point—and it is one which I thought my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter also dismissed rather lightly— concerns the general principle of the 1971 Act, which he administered with such distinction for five years, that the civil aviation industry must pay for itself. In this particular case there is a peculiar item of expenditure which does not fall on the general public. The cost and difficulties of policing and protecting civil aviation are particularly large because the threat is particularly large. Therefore, I think that is it right that the industry should be seen to cover its own special costs in this field.

Connected with that I would ask your Lordships to consider that very many—perhaps 50 per cent.—of the users of British airports are not British nationals and make no contribution to the general taxation of the nation. I think it is right that those who enjoy the excellent security services of this country ought to make some contribution towards the cost. For those three reasons I believe that the Government are right in bringing forward these proposals and including them in the Bill.

On a matter of procedure, the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, has not suggested today that she wants to omit this clause; she told us that she might return to the matter at another stage. She reminded us that the Report stage is to be today week—next Monday. I speak without advice on this matter, but I hope that she will be able to do that because, if my memory serves me right, I understand that we cannot raise on Report a matter which was not raised during the Committee stage. Whatever the noble Baroness decides to do, I shall do my best to assist her procedurally. However, if there is a difficulty, she may want so say more about the principle of the matter this afternoon. Like her, I regret that the Committee stage has had to be taken so soon after the Second Reading, and I recognise the difficulties which she is under in this matter.

4.56 p.m.


I do not want particularly to enter into this controversy, but one noble Lord pointed out that one Member of the Government, one Member on the Cross-Benches and one Member from my side of the House—that is, part of my side of the House—has spoken. I thought that that was rather a pity and would, therefore, like to support my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter so that those figures which some have calculated are altered. It is very difficult always to be in one's place; I do my best, but I cannot always be here. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, whether he made the statement that he has just made after my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter spoke last week?


I did not speak last week.


Well, whenever my noble friend did speak. I should like to know whether the Opposition spokesman today, who seemed to be supporting the Government's view, spoke on the last occasion? Could he answer that?


It is not normal for questions to be answered from the Opposition Dispatch Box, but for the information of the noble Baroness, I spoke on Second Reading in broadly the same sense as I have spoken today.


All I can say is that it cannot have been a very good speech. I certainly do not remember it. I was very interested in what the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches said when he mentioned Newcastle-upon-Tyne.


If the noble Baroness will allow me, is a good speech one that agrees with her point of view or are there others as well?


I try to be quite generous in assessing speeches, but I thought it was neither a very good speech nor very well put; that was all. I did not think that it was nearly as attractive a speech—if I can use the word "attractive"—as the speeches made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and by the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches. In any event, I doubt whether passengers from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which always seems to be daubed even by my own side of the House, will be at all pleased if they have to pay £1 extra to travel from Newcastle to London. We get enough legislation from London; I should like a little to be passed from my own part of the world. They always seem to forget about us, so that is why I am speaking.

I do not think that businessmen—I am saying businessmen and not really referring to women, as so often women get forgotten altogether—will be pleased, even if they have to come to London, to pay an extra £1 to come and an extra £1 to go back again. I do not like that at all. It seems to me that we have got to quite an interesting position in this discussion. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, did not even look round to see whether anybody else wanted to speak. I always try to speak for my part of the world. I am doing it today, and I am supporting my noble friend here, my noble friend on the Cross-Benches, my noble friend as she used to be—and I hope I am a friend of hers now. I like their idea very much better than I like the rather unattractive speech made from the Opposition Front Bench.

5.1 p.m.


I am sorry that I rose to my feet before the noble Baroness had a chance to speak. I usually keep a close eye on her but I missed the point this time. The noble Lord, Lord Hill, referred at that stage to three lone voices—there have been some other voices heard since. He referred to the speeches of my noble friend behind me, his own, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, as being effective attacks on the principle of the levy. I am glad to have the support of the one lone voice from the official Opposition, and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has clearly stated the support of the official Opposition in the same terms as were clearly stated in another place. I am sorry that that has brought the wrath of his noble friend Lady Ward on his head about the quality of his speech. If his speech was bad, then speeches in another place which were in identical terms were bad. Different people have different judgments and I think that both the noble Lord's speech and those in another place were highly acceptable from my point of view.

May I first refer to the point that my noble friend Lady Burton raised. I had of course noted the request which she made at Second Reading, to which she has referred today. During the course of the morning I have sent a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and have copied it to all Members who spoke in the Second Reading debate. It may be that my noble friend has not yet had an opportunity of studying that, but she will find in that letter that there is a breakdown of the security expenses. I hope she will find that it is in the form that she was hoping for when she raised the point on Second Reading.


May I interrupt my noble friend, although it is rather early days? I am sure that it is a most excellent letter and I am very glad to have a copy of what has been sent to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, although I must say that he has turned coat over the weekend. But leaving that aside for the moment, with regard to this letter which my noble friend has sent me, it would be rude to say that I am not interested in it, but the fact is that I think that the Committee and the House should have the information for which I asked, and a letter sent to me is no substitute at all. Will the noble Lord be kind enough now to read us that part of the letter, because after all it was I who asked about this matter? I am not interested in what went to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, when I asked the question. Could we have it read out so that the Committee is in possession of the facts?


No, it is a very long copy of a letter from my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to Mr. Norman Tebbit in another place setting out the way in which the 80p levy was calculated and giving a very detailed table for five different years of the breakdown of the expenses.


The letter to which the noble Lord referred was addressed to me, and I have acknowledged that I have received it and am grateful to him for it, nevertheless I support the noble Baroness on this point. It is information that ought to be in the Official Report. Therefore, would it be possible for the noble Lord to answer a Written Question from the noble Baroness at short order, so that tomorrow or the next day we could have it in Hansard?


I am sorry to keep getting up on this, but it really is not good enough. I am not a bit interested in what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in another place has written to a Member of the Opposition in another place. I am interested in the question I have asked. I think I have a right to the answer; I think the House has a right to the answer, and the Committee has a right to the answer. It should be contained in today's debate, even if it is taken out of context there, and put in the Report. I would resent very much it not being made available today.


I was being as helpful as I could in response to the point the noble Baroness made on Thursday last. I was just about to make the point that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has made, that this seems certainly material which should be available to your Lordships' House, and I have no hesitation whatever in suggesting that it should be made available. I think that the method that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has suggested is the only practicable one.


I am sorry; I know I am being a nuisance, but I think the House does believe in the rights of Back-Benchers, and this is a right. I am not prepared to have this stuck at the back of the Official Report in a Written Answer. I have asked a question, I gave notice of asking a question, and I think it should be included in the reply, and in the noble Lord's speech now.


I am trying to be as helpful to my noble friend as I can. I also have in mind the convenience of your Lordships in general, and I believe that if I were to read out these detailed figures then I would be subject, and rightly subject, to a good deal of criticism from your Lordships. I have already made it available to all Members who took part in the Second Reading debate. I am fully willing that it should be placed on the record as soon as is practicable. I believe that I have the sense of the Committee that they would not wish me to read out whole categories of figures.


Would the noble Lord allow me to put a suggestion to him? Would not the matter be made very much easier and more convenient for all of us if, instead of pushing on with the Committee stage today at what is inconveniently short notice anyhow after Second Reading, the debate were to be adjourned and resumed some days later after we have had the opportunity to study this massive document? If he circulated it in Hansard, we should all have it and we could come back to the debate on this clause and the rest of the Committee stage at another day.


I know that the noble Lord intends to be helpful in that suggesttion, but I am afraid it is not one that I can accept. There is an important timetable point in relation to putting this Bill on the Statute Book. I note what he says about the need for the House to be able to give consideration to the figures which will be in the Official Report, but there are further stages to be taken on Monday of next week, and I think that would be the opportunity for any points in relation to these figures to be brought forward.


Could I follow the noble Lord's suggestion there? Could he comment on the suggestion, made by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, that if we let this clause go today it would be impossible to sustain, under the rules of procedure, a Motion to take it out at the Report stage? Can he, in making the suggestion he has made, give a firm assurance that that is not so?


I believe the noble Lord is right; that is, to leave out a clause would need to be done today. I am not absolutely sure.

I am now advised that it would be possible to do it on Report.


I think that I ought to correct myself. I think I was mistaken when I spoke earlier on this matter. As I understand it, one cannot raise new topics on Report if one has not already raised them in Committee. Clearly we have raised the topic today. It has been discussed most effectively. Thus, if the clause is not deleted today there will be nothing to prevent the noble Baroness, or anyone else, putting down an Amendment to leave out the clause at the next stage. I hope I am correct in saying that—I see the Clerk at the Table nodding in assent—and perhaps we can proceed on that basis.


I am glad about that and I thought that was the position. I am sorry to be tiresome but I want to be quite clear about this. I have been in Parliament for some time, but one can get caught by these matters, not that I am suggesting that my noble friend wishes to catch me; suffice to say that one can wait for something and it never arises. Would my noble friend answer my question: Will there be a breakdown of security costs by category and amount? If so, to whom will the details be made available—to Parliament, the airlines and to the airline users? My noble friend said that this lengthy letter will be made available as soon as possible. How soon is that?


I imagine that my noble friend or the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, could table a Question for Written Answer on the subject today.


I am sorry; not a Question for Written Answer.


We have gone through this before and there is no other way, other than my reading all the details out now, and that I refuse to do; I am sure the Committee would not wish to me read out such a tiresome list of figures. Nevertheless, I will see that it is inserted at the earliest possible time.

5.13 p.m.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Perhaps it would be helpful for me to suggest that if this Committee continues in the manner which the noble Lord wishes it to continue, between the usual channels it might be open to your Lordships' House to have the Bill re-committed for next Monday, if that were required.


The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, took advice on what is possible on Report and, as at present advised, I can say that noble Lords will have full opportunity of taking note of the information that will be in the Official Report and will therefore be able perfectly adequately to deal with the matter at the next stage.


Will my noble friend answer the short question I asked him and which I do not wish to repeat for the third time?


I was about to do so 10 minutes ago and perhaps I may do so now. I was about to explain that the information which my noble friend seeks was before a very wide consultative meeting which the Government consulted before reaching the figure of 80p. Included at that meeting were representatives of the airlines, airport authorities, travel organisers and trade unions—indeed, a wide spectrum from throughout the industry—and of course Members of Parliament on the Committee which dealt with the Bill in another place were also informed and entered into discussions.

Moreover, concerning the future, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to consult on regulations for the levy in subsequent years. To this end, a working party consisting of representatives of British airlines, IATA, airport authorities, the travel industry, the Airline Users' Committee and the trade unions, under Department of Trade chairmanship, has been set up. Its first meeting to discuss the terms of the regulations for 1979–80 will be held next month. Thus, the kind of information which my noble friend will find in the letter to which I referred, in respect of subsequent years regarding the decision about the levy, will be put before that broadly based and soundly based working party. That is the degree to which this information will be widely known.

I turn to the broader arguments deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I recognise that he was not able to be with us on Second Reading and therefore we welcome the fact that he has been able to give us the benefit of his views about the principle of the charge in the debate on the clause stand part. I do not dissent from what he said in quoting me when I said that it came in the cuts in public expenditure. I agree that this is not a cut in expenditure; it is expenditure which was there, was paid for, will no doubt increase and will need to be paid for. What is being brought about by the Bill is the imposition of a levy—or a tax, as he called it—and I do not think we need argue that point; it is clear that it is the introduction of a new levy to transfer the cost of security from the general taxpayer to the industry. This was made clear in many debates in another place and I think was germane to a part at least of our discussion on Second Reading.

The noble Lord went on to support the argument deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and others; namely that this levy—or tax, call it what you will—is wrong in principle; that it is wrong for this payment for security to be put on the shoulders of the industry rather than on the general taxpayer. We have argued this, but in view of the forcefulness with which the noble Lord deployed his argument perhaps I should again spell out the Government's position. It is a fact that the private person engaging in his day-to-day business in a public place enjoys the full protection of the forces of law and order and it is right that the costs of that protection should be borne by the taxpayer or ratepayer. However, when he is in a private place the individual is not protected unless the owner of that place is prepared to pay for that protection.

For example, during the IRA bombings in London and elsewhere during 1975, shops, theatres, restaurants and railways provided a degree of protection similar in concept to what is provided at airports, but the Government did not bear the cost. Another example that has been repeated many times in another place but a valid one is that at football grounds the football club pays for the police to patrol the stadium; the ratepayer pays for the police in the streets leading to the football ground but the security arrangements in the stadium are paid for by the football club. Perhaps I might say in a topical vein that, as a taxpayer, I would not be too disposed to feel I had direct responsibility for what happens in the Lions' Den on Saturday—I think it is for Millwall Football Club to meet that responsibility—and that is the basis of the Government's case in justifying the transfer of this expenditure, this cost, from the taxpayer to the industry, and it has been well discussed with the industry. I know that they have difficulties about accepting it, but in view of the progress that we have made in the discussions with the industry, and in view of the support which has been forthcoming, with perhaps one lone voice in another place, I feel that your Lordships would be well advised to accept the principle in adopting Clause 1.


I should like to ask the noble Lord a question before he sits down. While accepting the apparent reasoning for the distinction which he is drawing, I must ask whether it is not one which is quite capable of becoming blurred. What about the protection afforded by the police to banks or to jewellers, which they certainly enjoy? Would it be regarded as legitimate to impose special levies on them as being more liable to violence? I do not think this is a frivolous point.


I should like to ask the Minister one question before he replies to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who I thought made a first-class and most convincing speech. I may have missed this point because I was not here for the Second Reading, but can the Minister say whether, as we are a Member of the Common Market, other Governments of the EEC were consulted, and how do they feel about this imposition of a levy as it could affect their nationals when landing here or leaving here? Further, can he say whether there is any precedent for such a levy or tax at other international airports in the eight other Member countries of the European Community?


In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, I should say that this point was dealt with on Second Reading when I indicated that other Members of the European Community had not implemented proposals like those we are implementing, but that when we put our proposals before them they showed a considerable interest and there was some indication that they may wish to follow suit; that the noble Lord will find if he cares to look at the reply that I gave on Second Reading. Of course that does not mean that I am able to quote the Community in support of what we are doing, but I hope it gives the noble Lord some indication of the position.

With regard to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I would agree that these are difficult matters of definition, and that there is always the possibility that a decision along one line may lead to difficulties in some other cases. But as I understand the position in relation to the kind of shop that he has in mind—a jewellers, for instance, where there is an excessive risk of violence or robbery—it is still the jeweller's responsibility to provide his protection. The police will go along and will give advice on how that security should be achieved, but it is still a security which has to be provided and paid for by the owner of the private property. I think that that is the position, although I recognise that the opening words of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, have validity.


Would the noble Lord clear up one point for me? Is there not a distinction between the example he gave in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and indeed the examples he quoted to me, and what is done in this clause? In all those cases mentioned it is the threatened person who determines the standard, and therefore the cost, of protection. In this case it is the Government who determine both the standard and the cost. Is there not a second distinction, that in this case, and in this case alone, the threat is not from internal trouble or crime, but from the Queen's enemies?


I think that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, must have known what I was about to say. I know that my noble friend is in a difficult spot, but is he really and truly telling the Committee that the action of hooligans at a football match is in any way comparable with an attack by the Queen's enemies with bombs and by hijacking?


I would not say that they are comparable in terms of severity, but in terms of principle I believe that they are comparable. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I should say that the Government give advice to the airport authorities in the same way that the police give advice to the jeweller. But I will concede that there is a difference—and this supports the noble Lord to a degree—in that in the case of the airport, if that advice is not followed, the Government have reserve powers to see that the advice is followed, whereas that would not, I understand, be the case in regard to private property.

Clause 1 agreed to.


No noble Lord has given notice that he wishes to raise any matter on Clauses 2 to 7 so—


The notice that we have had to consider the Committee stage has been abominably short, and I myself wish to raise a matter on the question of clause stand part in relation to Clause 2.


As noble Lords wish to debate these clauses separately, I will now call Clause 2.

Clause 2 [Contributions to the Fund]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.28 p.m.


I wish to raise a matter of the practicability. We have been discussing the principles, but I am concerned with the practicability contained in Clause 2, which tells us that the levy will be on passengers arriving and departing. I can well understand a levy on passengers departing, but I wish the Minister to be so good as to tell me how in practice this proposal will work in relation to passengers arriving, particularly from overseas bases. Let us assume that a passenger in Tokyo is booking by Japanese airline an all-through flight to London Airport. When he books that flight, is he told that he is incurring a debt of 80p, due when he arrives at this end? If he is not told, it may well be that he arrives with no British currency at all. This will apply not only to Japan, but to many other foreign countries. We can imagine the long queue of passengers passing through passport and immigration controls and the other formalities, with a passenger who perhaps has no money. What is to happen? Will the whole queue be held up? Is he to give his name and address? Will the authorities try to recover the sum? When the passenger left Japan he would have been searched under the Japanese regulations. Upon arrival at London Airport he could well ask why should he be asked to pay 80p when he is not going to see any security people, or have his luggage searched, or himself be searched.

I believe that these practical matters which affect the wellbeing of our passenger traffic should be explained by the Government. It would be no refuge for the Government to say that they were just making the various airports responsible. We have as a Parliament, indeed as a nation, a responsibility to see that the reception of those from overseas is reasonable and fair. I cannot see how someone arriving from a distant place, not having been told of the levy, not requiring the services of security officers here and having no currency on him at all, can be expected to pay that 80p.


I should also like to ask the noble Lord a question. Am I right in assuming that subsection (8) contains the answer to the question why the noble Lord and the Government regard the passage of this Bill as so urgent that it is worthwhile seriously inconveniencing noble Lords in their discussion of it by taking the Committee stage on the Monday following the Second Reading on a Thursday? Subsection (8) brings in the date 1st April 1978. In addition to that question, may I ask whether it is really seriously intended to operate this Bill from 1st April 1978—if, of course, this clause finally becomes law?

As I understand subsection (9), in any event, even if the Bill receives Royal Assent in its present form, regulations subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure will have to be laid and carried through both Houses. In view of the fact that we shall be proceeding to the Report stage on 20th March and that it has already been announced that we shall be very shortly thereafter rising for the Easter Recess, it seems inconceivable that the regulations will be approved by both Houses before that date, whatever happens to the Bill.

May I ask whether the Government are seriously contemplating what I would describe as the impropriety of retrospectively imposing taxation; and, if they are, whether it is a justifiable thing to do? Are the Government really in such financial difficulty that the yield over a few weeks in April is of crucial importance—so important as to justify ignoring the normal decencies of Parliamentary procedure? If so, it is rather surprising to be told at the same time, in the hints which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is dropping about the place like confetti, that he has so much revenue that almost anybody can apply for tax remissions, which in the present political situation he is likely to grant. Could the noble Lord clear that up?


I can and I will. There is not the financial stringency to which the noble Lord points. It is not a financial question that we have in mind in urging your Lordships' House and Parliament as a whole to pass this before the Easter Recess: it is the not unimportant question of retrospective taxation. This was debated considerably in another place, and I think that, as a result of that debate, it was realised on all sides that the common-sense thing to do would be to get the Bill on the Statute Book by 1st April. We appreciate the views of the Opposition on this timetable point, and I am sure we shall have them from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with his experience of financial administration, equally. That is why, 1st April being in the Bill and the timetable being such as it is, I believe it is in everyone's interest that we make considerable and orderly progress in getting this Bill on to the Statute Book.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, raised again the point which I think it was he raised during the Second Reading debate. In one part of what he said just now he recognised that, of course, so far as the Bill is concerned, his point is really not made, in that the levy imposed by the Bill is on the airport authorities. But now the noble Lord goes on to ask the more detailed question as to what happens lower down the scale. As I have indicated on several occasions, very detailed discussions have taken place about the practical application of this Bill when it becomes law; the airport authorities have been closely consulted on the practicalities throughout; and, so far as I am aware, they have not raised the kind of difficulty which the noble Lord now raises.

I think that the situation he envisages would be similar to that in the case of someone who had lost their ticket or who in some way was raising some difficulty about coming through Customs, or something of that kind. There would then be a delay, and there would have to be procedures for dealing with it. But one does not anticipate that this will in fact be an enormous difficulty. Once the scheme is well known, people will readily pay the levy in the same way as they recognise that if they want to travel they have to buy a ticket and pay for it. I do not think that, in the long run, this will pose the kind of difficulty that the noble Lord suggests.


For the sake of the record, it was I who raised that point on Second Reading.


Yes. I apologise to the noble Earl; it was in fact him.


May I press the Minister, please? It is really no good the Minister saying, "Of course, the Government are making the airports responsible for this". The Government are responsible for seeing that practical measures, capable of reasonable execution, are put forward in the Bill; and I submit to the Minister that he has given no explanation of the arrangements for dealing with the very real difficulties that may well be met every day, many times a day. I asked him whether, when somebody booked in Tokyo, they were going to be told they were incurring a debt to the British airport when they arrived. So far as I know, there is no proposition that those countries which have not adopted anything like this scheme will levy and then repay to Britain through IATA or some other international fund. I think it is only fair to the Committee to ask that, when we reach the next stage, the Minister will come armed with some answers which will satisfy your Lordships and allow us to be quite sure we are not passing regulations which are going to do great harm to our good will overseas.


I share my noble friend's concern about this matter to this extent, that certainly the arrangements ought to be as convenient as possible. However, I am not quite convinced that the difficulties are going to be as great as my noble friend imagines. This is neither the time nor the place to go into the details of how airports and airlines collect their revenue. Suffice it to say for the moment that I do not think individual passengers are going to be charged 80p or £1 specifically as they arrive. Having said that, I still think it would have been more convenient generally if it had been provided in the Bill for the charge to be raised against departing passengers and not arriving passengers; because, certainly, if airlines wish to levy a specific charge against each and every passenger, it is more convenient to do so on departure than on arrival. However, having said that, I still think that the arrangements contained in the Bill are workable, and I do not think my noble friend has cause for fear on that account.


As to the last point that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, made, about the arriving or departing passenger, we dealt with this on Second Reading and I explained then that, since there are landing charges in relation to arriving passengers, it is clearly much more convenient administratively that it should be arriving passengers on whom this particular levy is charged. But I recognised that there were two views on this, and I repeated the assurance that this matter will be reviewed; that the Bill provides for either way, either arriving or departing passengers, or some combination of the two; and that my right honourable friend would review the situation in the light of experience.


In support of my noble friend, as I see it there is certainly a risk that airlines will seek to recover these additional levies by making a specific charge on arriving passengers. If they do that there will be problems exactly like those my noble friend has described. Without wishing to make an enormous issue of it, I would much prefer the charge to be calculated on departing passengers and collected from passengers by the authorities. After all, there are a great many airports in the world where passenger tax of one sort or another is levied and it presents no difficulty anywhere else, so why should it here?


I take note of the noble Lord's personal view on this point. It is covered by my undertaking that this matter can be reviewed at a later date. I am sorry if, in my earlier reply to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in referring to the passenger paying for his ticket, I did not make the matter perfectly clear. I really do not think that there is the likelihood of the difficulty to which he refers, since it is not proposed that the passenger shall pay at the airport. The levy is included in the landing charge and is then included in the price of the air ticket. The passenger has to buy an air ticket in Tokyo or wherever, and the price of the ticket includes the security levy.


Therefore the noble Lord is saying that when Japanese Airlines sell a ticket to London airport they would allow for the 80p in the price of the ticket?


Yes, as I understand it, that is the position. The price of the ticket will include the levy on the passenger, so that the individual passenger will not be bothered beyond having to find the 80p.


Does it follow from that that a ticket from Tokyo to London will be at a higher price than a ticket from London to Tokyo? Will that not introduce throughout the world a very disturbing element into the elaborate structure of air fares, which the noble Lord knows are agreed through IATA? Have the Government contemplated that? While I am asking him to reply to that question, may I press him a little further on the retrospective point. He said to my noble friend that the question of whether it should be dealt with by arriving or departing passengers would be considered. Presumably that will be dealt with in the regulations under subsection (9). Will he therefore answer the question which I put to him: Do the Government really think that they are going to get these regulations through both Houses before they rise for the Easter recess? If not, are they not in fact going to be imposing from 1st April the retrospective taxation for which he showed such horror?


The noble Lord is quite right. It is not intended that the regulations will be laid before Easter. There will be a short period at large, but this has been discussed with the airport authorities, and provided that the Bill is on the Statute Book and provided that the general powers for the levy are clearly there with the approval of Parliament, they see no difficulty about a short delay afterwards. I agree that it would have been more satisfactory if there could have been time for the regulations also to be laid, but in practice that will not be so. On the other point about the difference in the price of the air ticket one way as against the other, I imagine that that would be so. I will inquire about this and if there is any difficulty in the matter I shall let the House know at the Report stage.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Amendment of borrowing powers of Civil Aviation authority and British Airways Board]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.45 p.m.


On this clause may I express a measure of welcome to the proposals of the Bill. In particular I refer to the proposal, as provided in the clause, to extend the borrowing powers of the Civil Aviation Authority. I think it was said in another place—and no doubt the noble Lord will confirm this—that some of the additional borrowings will be used to finance the improvements which the Authority is undertaking at Sumburgh. Perhaps the noble Lord in due course would confirm this. In that context, particularly reminding him of the debate we had on 8th December last, perhaps I might say how delighted I am that the outcome has been that this airport and the other seven owned by the Civil Aviation Authority are to remain in the ownership and control of the Authority, at least until that remote era when Scottish devolution comes, if it ever does. As one who took part in that debate, when the noble Lord may recall that, completely solitary and unsupported, he put up a most gallant battle, may I say that I am glad that the view I put forward then has prevailed.

In that context perhaps I might take the opportunity—and it arises I think on this provision in respect of Sumburgh—to say that I understand that some of my observations in that debate about the failure of the Department of Trade to implement the report on the Highlands and Islands Airports which was submitted to them in 1974 by the Civil Aviation Authority, were taken as indicating on my part the view that they had been idle or dilatory as opposed to merely being misguided. May I say at once that I would never accuse them of being idle or dilatory—I am sure that they are most energetic, as energetic as a lodge of beavers—and my observation only expressed, as I still express, a regret that a carefully compiled report by those directly involved has not been implemented. I would not wish what was undoubtedly a lighthearted observation of mine—and I think taken by your Lordships as such—to be construed as a serious reflection on the industry of that department, which I am sure is as exemplary as that of the rest of Whitehall.


During the Second Reading debate I was very happy to receive the assurance from the noble Lord that the increase in CAA borrowing powers is to be used for capital purposes and not in any way for revenue purposes. The noble Lord explained—and indeed my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has reminded us of it today—that, by and large, CAA is now in balance on almost all of its activities, except I think for the air traffic services. The deficit on those services and any other minor deficits that may arise is covered by grants and not by loans.

However, this clause also provides for an increase in the borrowing powers of British Airways. It is on that that I should like to inquire at this point, with particular reference to, as we are told, the forthcoming decision of British Airways to purchase a number of new aircraft. I imagine it is for that purchase that this increased borrowing facility is required. Is the noble Lord in a position to tell us whether a decision has yet been made on the Trident 1 and 2 replacement which we are told is pressing and urgent? This matter was raised in your Lordships' House, I think by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull. Certainly he spoke on that occasion, and the noble Lord, Lord Oram, told us then that the choice was now between the Boeing 737, the DC9 or a new, improved version of the BAC 1–11. This is apparently an urgent matter for British Airways. A decision has to be taken, we are told, within the next month or so. Indeed, the decision had been expected by now; but nothing has been heard. Can the noble Lord tell us how this matter is going, and can he perhaps confirm that this new facility is required for that purpose?


I took note of the point that the noble Lord has now raised arising out of his speech towards the end of our debate on Second Reading. I am afraid that I have not any real new development to report following the exchange that we had when the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, raised the matter in an Unstarred Question. The British Airways Board as yet have put no proposals to the Secretary of State for Trade. All acquisitions of aircraft by the airline require the approval of the Secretary of State and I assure the Committee that he will naturally take into account the interests of the British aerospace industry and environmental considerations. Further, recalling what I said when we had that Unstarred Question, the views expressed in that debate will certainly be taken into account also by my right honourable friend. But in terms of hard news, so to speak, I am afraid that I must disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.

May I say how much I welcome the welcome of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the change in tone from earlier interventions he has made. It took me back to the relationship that we developed while he was chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority when he used to pass me complimentary notes about how I handled the interests of the Authority in the House. I hope that that friendly relationship can be maintained throughout the rest of this Bill.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Control of capital expenditure and of hiring of equipment]:

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.53 p.m.


There is just a small point on this clause which confers powers upon the CAA to lease equipment, no doubt on a fairly grand scale because it is not something that one ordinarily sees written into legislation of this sort. Can the noble Lord say what sort of equipment it is proposed to lease under this agreement? We note that these operations will require the approval of the Secretary of State, which I think is right. Otherwise, we may have a situation where massive capital expenditure is incurred without ministerial approval. I should like to know what is in the Authority's mind in this matter and how it hangs with the previous clause we have just approved.


I think that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is under some misapprehension about the purpose of this Bill. It does not presage any massive new policy or any new leasing. It is simply that it extends the Secretary of State's oversight of investment so as to include leasing as well as purchasing. The CAA already may lease equipment and there is no particular extension of leading envisaged through the new arrangement in this clause. It is not an indication that a new policy is being embarked upon; it is simply to put the leasing and purchasing under the same oversight powers of the Secretary of State.


I accept what the noble Lord has said, but I find it hard to believe that the odd leasing agreement for the odd motor car, for example, really ought to be under ministerial control. I should have thought that the facts which caused the Government to bring this clause into this Bill would have indicated that some significant leasing operation was envisaged—perhaps in the way of computers or air traffic control equipment. However, if the noble Lord says that that is not the case, then I have nothing further to add and the matter rests.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Power of Civil Aviation Authority to charge for air navigation services in pursuance of an agreement]:

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I again welcome this clause and, in response to the noble Lord's agreeable personal references a moment or two ago, remind him that the amiable notes that I used to pass to him for his speeches when r was chairman of the CAA were, at least in some measure, connected with the fact that he was speaking very accurately to the brief that I had provided for him. He would be the first to assure the Committee that he is not doing so now.

I should like to welcome this provision. It is a thoroughly sensible one inasmuch as it will enable the Authority to enter into an agreement with an airports authority to provide navigation services for a definite charge paid by that airport authority which would then be free to collect it from airlines in the way which it thought most conducive to developing the airport. When I was chairman of the CAA, we found a difficulty in one particular case that we had not the power to do so. I asked the Department to note this for future legislation and I am delighted that it is in the clause.


There are two points that I should like to make on this. One is that it seems to have a retrospective effect. I am not quite sure why that should be necessary and perhaps the noble Lord can explain. Also, may I inquire whether the clause will empower the Authority to enter into agreements with airlines as well as with airports? My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter explained how the Authority is now empowered—rightly, in his view and in mine—to enter into agreements with airports; and Manchester is one that springs to mind. But the Authority provide and are solely responsible for air traffic services at a number of airports; for example, at Gatwick and Heathrow. Are they now empowered to enter into agreements with airlines which can perhaps get the benefit of a contract rate of some sort? This sort of provision has been difficult, if not impossible, under past legislation. If a change in this direction is envisaged, I should welcome that also.


I noticed in the Second Reading debate that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, referred to agreements with airlines. These are not involved in this particular clause. The agreements here envisaged are with aerodrome authorities. On the retrospection point, there have been agreements already entered into in respect of the provision of navigation services at Liverpool, Glamorgan and Bournemouth and it may be that there was some little doubt about their validity. If there was any doubt, then what we are now proposing to pass will remove that doubt.

As to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, may I say, in view of what he said about the excellence of the briefs that I used to receive, that I will take his speech as my brief on this occasion and merely say "ditto".

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Power to make byelaws in relation to noise, vibration and pollutions]:

6 p.m.

The Earl of KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 1: Page 7, line 33, after ("above") insert ("or within 10 miles of").

The noble Earl said: We now come to the first Amendment on the Marshalled List. I should like to say that I feel that the noble Lord strove manfully in a sea of experts against him, or, anyway, examining what was going on. Clause 8, as the noble Lord and the Committee will know, is the first of a miscellaneous bunch of clauses. This particular one covers the power to make by-laws for airport authorities in relation to noise, vibration and pollution.

The actual powers under this clause allow these by-laws to control the operation of aircraft either within the airport itself or immediately above the airport. Many people consider that the particular wording in this clause, "directly above the airport", is far too narrow and is impracticable when one considers that noise, vibration and pollution affect the areas around the airport. The purpose of this Amendment is to allow the scope of the by-laws to be included within 10 miles of the airport.

I hope that the noble Lord will consider that the Amendment is reasonable. I know there are some people who may consider it an interference outside the scope of the airport on the grounds that it might be technically dangerous in the flight path or takeoff path of the aircraft, should there be an interference with the pilot's ability to operate the aircraft. If that is the argument, as the noble Lord will know, the powers outside the airport are already contained in a general provision of the Secretary of State under the 1971 Act. I am told that a number of Private Acts have been passed over the years which include Luton, Manchester and Cardiff airports. What this Amendment is trying to do is to incorporate into this clause something which has already been granted privately to certain airports, by the Secretary of State, and should be granted therefore to the other operators who come within the scope of this Bill. I beg to move.


With respect to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I hope that this Amendment will not be accepted. I have two reasons for saying this. First, when an aircraft is 10 miles from the airport it is not unreasonable to expect the captain to have liberty to use all the power he requires in order to conform with his flight plan. Secondly—and more important—the noble Earl is suggesting that the airport authority should have power to pass by-laws which will affect other local authorities who have their own particular areas.

It is always recognised that the air above a particular area belongs to the particular county or local authority, as the case may be. If one goes back to the 1930s, there was a skywriting Act which was passed by Parliament as a result of an enterprising gentleman writing: "Buy Kensitas Cigarettes", or some such thing in the sky. It was admitted in Parliament that the air above an area belonged to that area. It would be wrong to give the airport authority the power to make by-laws in areas which did not belong to it.


I am glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchyre, in resisting this Amendment. I acknowledge also the moderate way in which the noble Earl moved it, although I not do think that I can in any way recommend the Committee to accept it. This is partly for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, stated, but also because it is the Government's view that it is generally inappropriate to allow aerodrome authorities to control the operation of aircraft outside the boundaries of the aerodrome by laws carrying criminal penalties. The Secretary of State has power to require aircraft operators to comply with certain requirements which appear to him to be appropriate for the purpose of limiting or mitigating the effect of noise and vibration from aircraft either taking off or landing at such aerodromes as he specifies. He has these powers under Section 29(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1971, and the Secretary of State has used his power to require aircraft at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick to follow routes and observe operating procedures which minimise disturbance to people on the ground.

In addition, Her Majesty has power by Order in Council to prohibit aircraft from operating into the United Kingdom unless they have certificates of compliance with certain noise standards and comply with any conditions on those certificates. Two orders have been made in exercise of this power and a third is due to be made shortly. In the Government's view statutory control over aircraft noise where it is needed outside aerodromes should generally be exercised under these powers.

The noble Earl referred to three local authorities who have these powers. I agree that Luton, Manchester and South Glamorgan have obtained power under local Acts to make by-laws controlling noise in the vicinity of aerodromes. But it is not now considered desirable that this rather loose power should be extended; and, indeed, the Secretary of State will oppose any new enactments in these terms.

The noble Earl will recognise that when he quotes them in support of his plea that it should be extended to other local authorities, and I am saying that we are not too happy with those powers in those three cases and we will oppose any extension of them, that really meets his case on this particular point. It is not a case of whether there should be such powers, but who should exercise them. It seems clear to us that the person who could properly exercise this power is the Secretary of State. In view of that explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will see fit to withdraw the Amendment.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I am grateful for that very full and helpful answer. In reply to the Bench of experts on my left who are against the Amendment, I would say that it is wholly wrong to put up the argument that the captain of an aircraft must have the full control. Of course he must have the full control for safety aspects, and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, knows that at the present time if the captain of an aircraft is landing at Heathrow he has to comply with regulations regarding the flight path, and so on. It is wrong to suggest that this is some new, undesirable power. So far as the rights of the three individual cases are concerned, is it the intention of the Secretary of State to revoke these powers or are they at the moment working satisfactorily?


I did not go so far as to suggest that. What I am saying is that we do not wish to see other local authorities having these powers and we will resist those.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. I have no wish to press this matter any further, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?


There is one small point that I should like to put to the noble Lord in connection with this clause. In the Government's recent White Paper on airport policy, which was published just a few weeks ago, conclusion No. 25 on page 47 says that the Government have decided to prohibit the use of non-noise certified subsonic jet aircraft required by any United Kingdom operator after 30th September 1978 and to prohibit from 1st January 1986 the use of all non-noise certificated subsonic jet aircraft on the United Kingdom register at that time. I wonder whether the noble Lord could explain how legislatively it is proposed to implement that decision of the Government, which I think, on balance, is a good one.


I am afraid not; not without notice. But I am glad the noble Lord has raised the point. I will look into it and let him have a reply in due course.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Fixing by reference to noise factors the charges for using aerodromes]:

6.11 p.m.

The Earl of KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 2: Page 8, line 33, leave out ("or").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move the second Amendment standing in my name. Clause 9 really covers a new power within civil aviation legislation to encourage authorities to discourage operators in respect of the noise factor. As the Committee will be aware, the general strategy of the Government was set out in a White Paper last November and they propose, I believe, by 1986 to bring in legislation concerning restrictions on noise of certain categories of aircraft.

As I understand this clause, it will allow an airport authority to encourage the use of quieter aircraft and to diminish the inconvenience of aircraft noise by fixing charges. They will do that by taking into account two points under this clause. The first refers to the amount of noise caused by the aircraft in respect of which the charges are made. The second point refers to the extent or nature of any inconvenience resulting from such noise. Those two points cover a wide spectrum of reasons for which the airport authorities could introduce charges under this clause. I should like the noble Lord to tell us whether, for instance, the British Airports Authority would, in the case of, say, a Japanese airline which was using aircraft that were too noisy, fix a charge on that airline operator which could be transferred to the passengers. I do not know whether that is a practical point; but, basically, the purpose of my Amendment is to introduce into the clause the wording as shown: (c) the frequency of landings". The noise created around an airport must arise almost wholly from the frequency at which aircraft take off and land. Although in another place the Minister said he was quite satisfied that the wording of the Bill covered the frequency of landings, many people might doubt that, to the extent that Parliament should always write into legislation precisely what it means.

The frequency of landings is all-important. We all know that, if you have a home or visit a school near Heathrow Airport, or if you have an office in Slough, for example, the frequency of landings or take-offs is an extremely difficult problem for those having to concentrate, to listen or to sleep. It is indeed a key aspect of noise prevention and I hope that the noble Lord will have had time to reconsider what the Minister said in another place and will now be able to accept this fairly modest Amendment. I beg to move.


Before the noble Lord replies, may I say that I have some sympathy with the purpose and intention of my noble friend's Amendments, although I apprehend certain difficulties that might arise. None the less, they may not be insuperable, and I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord has to say.

It seems to me that at least one of the effects which would flow from this Amendment, if passed, would be, for example, that an operator of a noisy aircraft which visited Heathrow only occasionally would not be penalised by paying higher charges on the ground that he came only once a month and that no significant difficulty was caused thereby. But following that path might introduce—dare I mention it?—an element of hybridity into this provision which might perhaps be undesirable, because I believe it is necessary for all operators to be charged on the same basis: that is, all those operating the same type of aircraft. To follow the example given by my noble friend, if a Japanese airline were operating particularly noisy aircraft—I am not sure whether they do, but I take them just as a possible example—and if other operators were using the same type of aircraft, they should all be equally penalised. The other difficulty I foresee is how one would calculate the rebate. Or, putting it another way, at what point would the frequency of landings be considered such as to justify a penalty on the landing fee? If those objections could be overcome, I would be happy to support my noble friend.


Of course, I endorse the closing remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, about the nuisance of noise, and I would assure him that the Government, in introducing this clause, intend to deal with it. There is no disagreement between us in that respect: nor indeed have I any objection in principle to the Amendment just moved. Incidentally, I notice that it refers only to landings and not to take-offs. Presumably that is because the noble Earl recognises that airport charges are generally levied only on landings. That is a point which we were making earlier in another connection.

However, although I go along with him in principle and I understand what he is seeking to do, I assure him that the Amendment is unnecessary because, if he will read the clause again following what I am about to say, he will see that the frequency both of take-offs and landings is covered by Clause 9(1)(b). In other words, it is a fact which is relevant to the extent or nature of any inconvenience resulting from the noise caused by the aircraft. The frequency of landings, I suggest, is covered by the wording, and the clause as drafted already provides that airports can take account of this in fixing their charges. So, although I understand why the noble Earl has raised the point, I think there is really nothing between us, since what he seeks to achieve can, in fact, be achieved by means of the powers incorporated in the clause as it stands.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation, and I hope that the Bill really will be clear not only to the operators but also to the airport authorities who will have to put this clause into practice. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.20 p.m.


I should like to ask the Minister a question on this clause. While the idea of an economic penalty on noisy aircraft is attractive—it seems a more sophisticated method of dealing with the noise problem than the blanket restriction of numbers imposed in the curfews at Heathrow and Gatwick, among other places—I wonder whether in putting this clause forward the Government have reflected a little on the possibility of international repercussions. After all, as the noble Lord knows so well, British civil aviation is basically an international activity; its domestic routes are relatively insignificant in importance. Given, for example, the problems involved in the introduction of Concorde on international routes, I wonder whether the Government have taken into account the risk that some foreign Powers might pay them the compliment of imitation. It might well be that, for example, the Port of New York Authority—to name one of the less attractive controlling bodies in international aviation—would take a leaf out of the Government's book. Has this been considered?


To me it is a new point, but I have no doubt that it has been taken note of, and it is a valid point. Off the cuff, I would say that we should have to accept retaliatory action, in view of our need to deal with the problem that confronts so large a proportion of our population. I do not think that the possibility which the noble Lord raised should make us hesitate in bringing forward a proposal which has had, and I hope still has, general acceptance on all sides of the Committee.


I have just one detailed point to make. During his Second Reading speech, the noble Lord referred, as did my noble friend this evening, to curfews at Heathrow and Gatwick. He also referred to curfews at Stansted. As I understand it, there are at present no curfews at Stansted. Can the noble Lord say whether there is intended to be any change in this arrangement and, if so, when it is likely to come into force?


Yes. It is intended to have these regulations in respect of Stansted, as at Heathrow and Gatwick, and I believe that the date is 1st April.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [General directions to Civil Aviation Authority in interests of national security]:

On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?


I rise only to ask the noble Lord whether he will give us some explanations of the necessity for this clause. It was not my impression that any problems had risen as a result of the provisions of the 1971 Act. Yet I assume that the Government must have encountered some difficulty, actual or prospective, to influence them to introduce this provision. Can the noble Lord tell us exactly what it is?


I will give the explanation in these terms. It will take me a little while, but I think that the noble Lord would wish to have a full explanation. When the Civil Aviation Authority was set up, it was intended that the Authority should be made legally responsible for all aspects of national security within its boundaries, and should adopt the same security standards and procedures as the Civil Service. Thus the CAA would be fully integrated in the Government's security arrangements, on the pattern of the UKAEA and the Post Office.

Though, originally, it was thought that this integration could be achieved by a direction under Section 4(3) of the 1971 Act, it was realised subsequently that what the Department wanted to do could not be effected without a power of general direction, since directions relating to security are likely to be general in character. A general direction on security given to the CAA under this new clause would fall to be published in the Authority's annual report, under Section 20 of the 1971 Act, except in so far as the Secretary of State has notified the Authority that, in his opinion, such publication would not be in the national interest. I hope that that explanation is welcomed by the noble Lord.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Contravention of air transport licence]:

On Question, Whether Clause 11 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.25 p.m.


Of all the clauses in this Bill, this is the one to which I attach importance. That is not to say that between now and the next stage, I shall not change my view on the relative importance of the different clauses. But for tonight at least, it is the matter that I want to explore in the greatest detail.

The Government are seeking in this clause to tighten up their powers of prosecution in respect of those persons who are alleged to have contravened the terms of an air transport or an air service licence. I fancy that their intentions in this matter derive from an unhappy experience which befell the CAA a year or so ago, in connection with a company called Pearl Island Tours. I do not intend to go into all the details of that case. They were recited at length and in detail by my honourable friend Mr. Norman Tebbit, during the proceedings in the Standing Committee in the other place, and any noble Lord who is interested can, if he wishes, refer to that record for the information.

Suffice it to say here tonight that Pearl Island Tours thought that they had a licence to carry passengers, and the airline which carried the passengers—Pearl Island Tours being a tour operator—also thought that Pearl Island Tours were duly licensed. It so happens that the tour operating company had failed to take out the necessary bond and thus, it was later alleged, were not licensed. Indeed, on that point I do not think there is now any doubt. The question at issue is whether or not the airline—in this case Dan-Air—could have reasonably known that Pearl Island Tours did not have a licence. In due course, Pearl Island Tours were prosecuted and duly convicted as, I believe, was their managing director; and later Dan-Air were prosecuted for carrying the passengers.

The prosecution against Dan-Air failed and, in due course, the Department came forward with this Bill to tighten up the law on the matter, so that had that prosecution been initiated under what is now proposed as the law it might have succeeded. Indeed, the wording of the proposed new clause follows almost exactly the words of the judge in summing up the case against Dan-Air—the case which was later dismissed.

There are two points that I want to put to the noble Lord. First, will be explain precisely the difference between the provisions of the 1971 Act and the provisions of this new clause, as he now proposes it? In parenthesis, I want also to ask about the position of TriStar Travel which was another company involved in the Pearl Island Tours difficulty. I confess that my information on their position is somewhat sketchy. However, it seems to me to be odd that they were prosecuted. Indeed, I am told that ruin was brought upon the proprietor of that company, and the company was closed down as a result of unwitting participation in the Pearl Island Tours affair. I recognise that the noble Lord may not have the information about TriStar Travel at his finger tips. If, therefore, he wishes to write to me about that matter at a later date, so be it. However, I should like to know exactly what is the effect of the proposed new clause and how it is an improvement upon the old one.

The Earl of KINNOULL

I wonder whether it would save time if I added a further word. To a layman, it seems that the change of wording is quite significant. I am wondering whether the noble Lord or the Government have considered inserting the word, "reasonably", so that it reads, "ought reasonably to have known", instead of reading, "ought to have known". There is a difference.


The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is quite right. The stimulus for the Government writing in this new clause was what happened in relation to the Pearl Island Tours case and Dan-Air. I am grateful to him for suggesting that I can deal by correspondence with the question of TriStar Travel. The noble Lord says that his information is sketchy. My sketch is even vaguer than his.

The noble Lord quite reasonably asked for an explanation of the proposed change in the law. As Section 21(5) of the 1971 Act stands at present, the test of whether a person is guilty of an offence is whether he knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that the use of the aircraft was likely to contravene the licensing requirement or any term of the licence. A defect in this test became apparent from the acquittal at the Old Bailey in July of an airline on six charges of offences under Section 21. That is the case to which the noble Lord refers.

In his summing up, the judge told the jury that the prosecution would have to establish, first, that a responsible officer of the airline knew the facts which it was alleged amounted to a cause for suspicion and, secondly, that those facts would raise in a reasonable man a suspicion that the conditions of the air transport licence would be contravened. From the acquittal, it seems that the jury took the view that it was not proved that the facts were known to a responsible officer of the airline. The present wording—"knew or had reasonable cause to suspect"—has been shown to present difficulty of proof. If the licensing system is not to be rendered unenforceable by the Civil Aviation Authority, this difficulty needs to be removed, and the most satisfactory way is to amend the text to read "knew or ought to have known". This amendment imposes no unreasonable burden upon operators, since the CAA publishes lists of ATOL holders, and it is always open to an operator to inquire of the Authority in any case of doubt.

On the point which the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, raised, I understand that the wording which I have read out—"knew or ought to have known"—is a generally accepted phrase in a fair amount of legislation of this kind. Therefore it is reasonable to stick to it and not to include the word "reasonably", as the noble Earl suggested. I hope that the noble Earl will not press the point and that in the light of my explanation, noble Lords will allow Clause 11 to stand part of the Bill.


I hope that my noble friend will not press his point. I thought that the justification of the clause given by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, was sound. From my own experience, I should like to add very briefly a word as to the importance of the law on this point being clear and enforceable. My noble friend referred to the Pearl Island Tours case. I saw something of that case. It had the consequence that at least some hundreds of people of modest means lost holidays for which they had saved up. In many ways, this was a series of personal tragedies. It is necessary that the licensing system should be enforceable not for its own sake but for the sake of the people whom it is designed to protect. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, has made a good case for these words with that intent.


I wonder whether I may revert to TriStar Travel, because I now have advice on the point and it might save bother and correspondence later. I understand that the TriStar Travel point is not related to Clause 11. TriStar Travel wrongly sub-chartered space to Pearl Island Tours. This is one of the reasons why TriStar's licence was not renewed. I hope that is a sufficient explanation. If it is not, we can go into the matter in further detail by correspondence.


I will not pursue the TriStar Travel matter now. I accept what the noble Lord has said. I shall study the matter carefully and will write to him if I see cause to do so.

Regarding the general matter of this new clause, in so far as I am aware of the details the great difficulty that confronted Dan-Air at the time of the Pearl Island Tours case was that the Authority were just introducing the requirement for the licensing of air tour operators. The lists which the Authority were then publishing at regular if not frequent intervals were said to be unreliable. No doubt that problem has since been resolved. Thus, if there are now accurate and regularly amended lists of licence-holders, there is no reason why airlines should not know who has a licence and who has not. However, what is to be the position in the future if, for example, there is a printing dispute and the lists are not regularly and adequately published? I think the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull has considerable merit.

Between now and the next stage may I ask the noble Lord to consider again what would be the position under this clause if airlines or, indeed, members of the public were put in a position where it was not easy to ascertain who had licences and who had not as a result, as I have suggested, of the difficulties created by a printing or postal strike. In those circumstances, it would be regrettable if the Authority were empowered to proceed with prosecutions against alleged breaches of the law in this regard.


I shall certainly look at the point which the noble Lord has made. However, one hopes that not all means of communication with the Civil Aviation Authority would be completely precluded by a series of disputes. I think that it would be possible to get in touch with the CAA. If it were not, I think that factor would be taken into account in deciding whether or not to prosecute. However, as I have said, I will look into the matter and deal with it, if need be.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Minor, consequential and consolidation amendments]:

6.40 p.m.

Lord BOYD-CARPENTER moved Amendment No. 4: Page 15, line 10, at end insert (" "In sub-section (2) of section 1 for the word "twelve" there shall be substituted "fifteen"." ")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment proposes to amend the Civil Aviation Act 1971 in respect of the numbers prescribed by that Act for the Civil Aviation Authority, that is to say, for the Board of the Authority. The 1971 Act lays down a maximum of 12 members, who would include the chairman and one or two deputy chairmen. The Authority in practice turns out to have very widespread responsibilities and it has in practice been desirable to have in membership of the Authority, that is to say as members of the Board, not only the heads of the various services which the Authority renders but a number of members who can handle air transport licensing. This is required because under the regulations made under the Act licensing decisions have to be made by members of the Authority and cannot be made by officers.

It is also desirable, obviously, to have a finance director on the Board, in view of the fact that the Authority's turnover is now so substantial. It is highly desirable to have someone highly experienced in aviation matters, in particular to deal with pilots' appeals, which again have to be dealt with by at least one member of the Authority. And on top of that there is a strong view, which personally I hold, that it is desirable to have a number of non-executive members who can contribute experience in various fields such as finance. It has also been suggested—and, personally, when I was concerned thought it would be a good thing—to include a member with trade union experience. All this, certainly when I was with the Authority, caused great pressure on the number 12. Indeed, it was not possible to make recommendations to the Secretary of State in respect of people who would have been desirable because that would have taken the Authority beyond the statutory maximum.

I understand the problem is less acute at the moment, though that is for temporary reasons, with which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will be only too familiar, and which are, of course, the responsibility of the Government. Because of the extraordinary performance of the Government over non-application in respect of public sector Boards, and public sector Boards only, of the Boyle Committee's 1974 recommendations, it is becoming the practice not to promote—and I hope I can verbally inflect inverted commas into that word promote "—senior officers on to the Board, because so to do, while the present restrictions remain, would be to cut their salaries by anything up to £3,000 a year. Therefore, the, from an administrative point of view, unfortunate position has been allowed to arise of having heads of services not actual members of the Board because of the financial penalty. Hopefully, that situation is a temporary one. Either this Government or another one can hardly maintain that absurd anomaly. When that has been clarified, then I think the Government will again find that the number 12 involves from time to time an unfortunate restriction.

There is nothing in my Amendment which would compel the Government to apoint up to 15. All it would do would be to authorise them or their successors to appoint up to that number if, but only if, they thought it desirable. Therefore, what this small Amendment does is not for the moment to affect the composition of the Board of the Authority, but to secure that for the future the Government of the day, possibly on the recommendation of the chairman of the Authority, would have rather more elbow room than was the case in the past.

We do not know when the next Civil Aviation Bill will come forward; it may be not for some years. The Amendment would give greater flexibility in respect of a figure which I do not think, with due respect to my honourable friends, was really properly thought out at the time of the 1971 Act, for which they were responsible. I think this Amendment to give that flexibility would be a sensible provision for the future, and I hope the Government will feel able to accept it.


I think my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has very cogently and effectively argued the case for his Amendment. I hope the Government will accept it. I was particularly impressed by the suggestion that this would make accommodation of part-time Board members easier. Indeed, I remember that there have been one or two part-time members of this Authority who have made a very significant contribution to the Authority's work, not least among them Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader and others. Having said that, I really think there is nothing more to be said except that I hope the noble Lord will accept this Amendment.

6.47 p.m.


One, of course, listens with very great attention to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on a point such as this; there is no one in your Lordships' House, or indeed in the country, who could move such an Amendment with greater authority because he has presided over this body very successfully in recent years. But I am afraid I must disappoint him; I am not able to advise the Committee to accept this Amendment. It is a matter of judgment, and as we see it there is no real need for this Amendment.

The original provision that 12 should be the figure does still seem to us to be well judged. I myself have not had the opportunity of presiding over bodies as important as the CAA, but I have presided over many bodies. In my judgment, once you get beyond about 12 then further members can be an embarrassment—although I agree that even in a committee as small as two or three you can have embarrassing members. But there comes a point where size in itself is an embarrassment, though I readily recognise the force of the argument that the noble Lord put forward.

I certainly take his word for it, in the light of his experience, that 15 would enable a wider spectrum of experience to be gathered round the table. That is a point which I am sure the Government would wish to ponder considerably in the light of the noble Lord's speech just now. I would ask him not to press the Amendment at this point. After all, the main purpose of this Bill is not Amendments to the constitution of the CAA. It is an important point that he has brought forward, and I think it merits more detailed consideration. One would wish, for example, to take the view of the noble Lord's successor in the chair before making any such change. As I say, I accept that he has put forward a case well worthy of examination.

The noble Lord says that we do not know when a new opportunity would arise. Of course, we cannot know, but I am sure that another opportunity for legislation would arise in the not too distant future. I certainly do not think that it is opportune to advise the Committee to accept the Amendment at this stage. However, I assure the noble Lord that the points which he has made will be taken very thoroughly into consideration.

The Earl of KINNOULL

Before my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter replies, I should like to raise one matter. Does it really require a change in legislation to alter the number on the board or can it be done by ministerial order or whatever? It seems to be such a small but very important part of the running of the Civil Aviation Authority. However, if we miss this opportunity now, as my noble friend said earlier and as regards which the noble Lord tried to reassure us, there is no evidence at all that we shall have another opportunity for another five years.


On the first point, I think that it is clear that it would need to be included in a Bill. It would be an amendment of the present Civil Aviation Act which includes the figure 12. Therefore, I would not rest on the point that it could readily be changed. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, would endorse what I have said in that respect.


I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Oram, on the law, and that is why I put down the Amendment. It can be done, as he and I understand it, only by amendment of the 1971 Act. On the whole, in this sphere of legislation, we fortunately do not have the position by which governmental orders can alter legislation and I hope that that situation will continue.

I found the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Oram, uncharacteristically unhelpful. After all, all that I have offered him is additional flexibility for his Secretary of State and for future Secretaries of State. If his Secretary of State thinks that 12, or whatever the present figure maybe, is enough, he would be perfectly entitled to maintain that position. It is amiable of the noble Lord to say that he will consider the matter, but it is, after all, nearly seven years since the last Civil Aviation Act. We shall probably not have another until well into the 1980s. In those circumstances, I think that the objection of the noble Lord to this Amendment does not seem to be very well reasoned and perhaps indicates more an unwillingness to budge than any logical objection. I take his point about consulting the present chairman of the Authority. I think that that would be a useful thing to do. Of course, in view of the speed with which we have proceeded from Second Reading to Committee it will not have been possible for the Government to have done so. I could not, after all, put down an Amendment or at any rate have it published, until the Bill had received a Second Reading which it did not receive until about 7.30 p.m. on Thursday last, and that was certainly not my fault.

If the noble Lord, Lord Oram, rests on the need for consultation, particularly with the chairman of the Authority, why cannot he do so in the week which I understand will elapse before the next stage of the Bill? If that were to happen, I would be only too happy to seek leave to withdraw this Amendment now and to table it again for next Monday. I do not think that he has provided any logical objection for a wholly non-partisan proposal based on a little experience of practical difficulties met in the past and which are likely to recur in the future. I would hesitate to accuse the noble Lord of obstructiveness; but if he is prepared to give quick consideration to this matter in order to be able to discuss it further a week today, then that might be the sensible method of proceeding.


That is a reasonable request. Certainly we have a week in which a message could be passed and, I would hope, a reply received. However, I make the point that it is not something which the present chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority has raised hitherto. When he has brought forward recommendations for legislation, he has not included this matter in the list. However, that is only a negative answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. His view has not been sought and I shall see whether his view can be ascertained before a week today.


In those circumstances I shall seek your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment on the basis that it is likely to be tabled at the next stage of the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.