Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for court orders to prohibit disruptive passengers from flying.
Hardly a day goes by when there is not a report of a violent passenger on an aeroplane who has assaulted cabin crew, threatened people, and otherwise endangered the safety of an aeroplane or those on it. This Bill aims to prevent those convicted of such behaviour from being able to get back on another plane for a period of time set by the courts.
In the past 12 months, an estimated 4,145 incidents of disruptive behaviour took place on UK planes. That represents a 9% increase on the year before, compared with a general 3% increase in the number of passengers, which means that so-called “air rage” is undoubtedly on the increase. This Bill would enable the courts to ban people for a period of time from flying on commercial planes if they are convicted of using or threatening violence on a plane, or otherwise endangering the safety of an aircraft. We currently ban people from driving if a criminal offence is committed in a car. We ban people from football matches if they take part in hooliganism. We even ban people from being directors of companies, but we happily allow people who assault airline staff to get back on a plane without any power from the courts to stop that. Airlines can ban people from using their own company again, but they cannot ban them from using others, and so letting the courts stop the worst offenders will not only help protect cabin crew and passengers, but act as a deterrent to anyone tempted to be violent on a plane. This Bill is not a silver bullet that will end this problem, nor is this perhaps the most pressing issue for the airline industry today, which is taking a hit over the coronavirus crisis, but it is a simple measure that can add to a range of measures to deal with this serious and growing problem.
Some people have said to me that the solution to this whole problem is just to ban alcohol from aeroplanes or airports, but I disagree. It is correct to say that about half of all incidents of violence on a plane are alcohol-related, but although more can be done to stop duty-free alcohol being consumed on planes, we should not ignore the fact that the vast majority of people who have a drink or two on a plane or at an airport cause no problems whatsoever. It is the selfish, violent behaviour of a few people that we need to target, not the innocent actions of the overwhelming number of passengers who drink responsibly.
Violent air passengers are a particular danger. The confined nature of an aeroplane makes an out-of-control individual a cause for far more concern than such an individual on any other mode of transport. It can be terrifying for nervous fliers and deeply worrying for everyone on a plane on which just one person is acting in a violent manner. If there is a group of people, the situation is much worse. Cabin crew should not have to deal with such incidents and should be protected by this place when carrying out their duties.
Just the day before yesterday, a Jet2 flight had to divert from Turkey to Croatia because of a 60-year-old man who became violent. I know that Jet2 does not tolerate incidents of that kind; indeed, the whole aviation sector seems keen to work together to stop unruly passengers getting back on planes. I hope that the Minister responsible for aviation, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst), who is in her place, will work with the industry to find a way forward, through either legislation or some kind of voluntary code.
We need to send out the message that if someone is going to get on a plane and disrupt that flight by threatening violence, being violent or in any other way endangering that flight, they will not be allowed to fly. Decent people and crew should not have to put up with it. This small, simple measure can help to keep flights safer.
Question put and agreed to.
That Gareth Johnson, Craig Whittaker, Tracey Crouch, Gareth Bacon, Craig Mackinlay, Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Henry Smith present the Bill.
Gareth Johnson accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 15 January 2021, and to be printed (Bill 110).