Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant documents: 4th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee.
My Lords, I am required to remind you of what I think you know very well already. If there is a Division in the Chamber, we adjourn immediately and resume after 10 minutes.
Clause 80: Advice and assistance in connection with aviation security
51: Clause 80, page 50, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) The CAA may also provide advice and assistance to such persons in connection with security checks performed on users of civil air services who have religious clothing requirements in order that their dignity be maintained without compromising the rigour of those security checks.”
My Lords, the amendment is a minor part of the security issues that we are concerned about in our airports. In later amendments, we will have the opportunity to discuss the more substantial issues, but this issue is substantial to part of our community—the Sikhs—who could undergo considerable humiliation and total affront to their religious position by the action of those carrying out security.
As a nation, we are more appreciative of this issue than may be the case in many other parts of Europe, not least because we have a substantial Sikh population, but we also have a relationship with Sikhs that goes back over several centuries through the former British Empire in India. The issue raised by security is that Sikhs are not prepared to have their turban touched or in any way interfered with, because the turbaned hair is a fundamental point of observance in their religion. Obvious security difficulties attend that. After all, turbans can be very substantial headgear. Sikhs do not cut their hair and their turbans enclose substantial swathes of hair. As we know, many Sikhs are somewhat above average size in any case, so it is a substantial piece of clothing.
Under regulations that obtain under the European Community, security officers have the right to insist on scrutinising the head-dress, which means at the very least touching it and, in more obvious cases, asking for it to be unwound entirely. Some cases have caused enormous concern in the Sikh population. There was one case in Italy in which the security officer insisted on the removal of the head-dress. There was even the case of the coach to the internationally renowned golfer, Milkha Singh, who has achieved great prominence in golfing circles. The coach was subject to this challenge of the turban being touched.
We therefore cannot look at the conduct contained and outlined in European regulations as anything other than a straight affront to the Sikh population. The Indian Government watch this kind of situation with the greatest care. An Indian Minister went so far as to say that any insult to a Sikh, particularly on religious grounds, was an insult to the whole of India. Of course, he was reflecting the fact that India prides itself on its extraordinary tolerance and its capacity to operate a political system and create a society in which widely different religious groups are highly represented. One of the more obvious facts is that there are two million Muslims in India out of a population that is overwhelmingly Hindu.
We must therefore look at this issue in an international context, too. At British airports, the authorities deal with this issue—bearing in mind that they have every regard to security—by using swab tests. Beyond that, we know that there has been no development on the explosive trace detection which our airports are trialling. Swab tests are not totally satisfactory or convincingly effective, and the explosive trace detection is still a trial and not proven as yet. British citizens travelling to Europe, and Europe as a whole, are still subject to the regulations that were introduced a couple of years ago.
No Member of Parliament with a Sikh population could be anything but greatly exercised by the fact that there might be an incident at a British airport that provoked the repercussions that I have outlined and which have occurred in the past. There is a further implication that an incident might damage community relations and cause great concern among the whole of the Sikh population in the UK. There is not the slightest doubt that this is a very significant issue. The Committee will remember that this issue cropped up a number of years ago, in the 1960s, with the introduction of compulsory helmet wearing for motor cyclists. I cannot now recollect the years in which we had the debates in both Houses of Parliament, but we were able to deal with it, after considerable debate, in a sensitive manner.
I ask the Minister not to underestimate the significance of this issue. I hope he will feel that the amendment is expressed in constructive terms so that the CAA will be empowered to take effective action in this area. It may also be a clear indication of the sensitivity of the CAA and British Airports to other circumstances that we have to have great regard to because they mean so much to certain groups in our country and, of course, to whole populations elsewhere in the world. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise with a little concern because I do not want to give any religious affront to anyone. However, maybe we should put this into the context of the rest of the population. It is concerning that the risk of something occurring that was an affront to one person’s religious rights might be put before the safety of a planeload of people. I remind the Minister that at certain times the rest of the population have to undergo strip searches. I unfortunately have rather a lot of prosthetic material inside me, and I am patted down from head to toe every time I go through passport control. That is an affront to my person, but I accept it as a necessity for the safety of other people.
As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, we looked at the Sikh population’s concerns about motorcycles and a solution was found, but motorcycle safety issues relate mainly to the driver of the motorcycle. The safety concerns here are about the whole aircraft and the passengers in it. To repeat myself, I do not wish to cause affront to any religious person, but in this context we all have to undergo certain unpleasant procedures, and unfortunately everyone has to suffer in the same way.
I will not delay the Committee, and I apologise for missing the opening remarks. Religious groups are very good at co-operating with the authorities. They are just as much at risk as the rest of the population. Indeed, Muslims have often been the victims of bombing attacks. So long as the CAA understands that it needs to work with religious leaders, that is the key to this. If religious leaders agree, we will not have the enormous problems to which the noble Lord refers. They are at least as much, and possibly more, concerned than many other citizens, simply because they are so often victims. We forget that.
My Lords, I share the views of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. I wholly sympathise with the objective of the amendment, but it is going a bit too far to write it into the Bill in the form that the noble Lord proposes. I have one question for the Minister: what electronic tests and checks, such as X-rays or ultrasound, are available to examine Sikhs wearing turbans that they do not wish to remove?
Reference has already been made to the problems posed by the Sikh population. I refer also to Orthodox Jews. I am not one of them, but they would look askance at the possibility of being dealt with as ordinary citizens are rightly dealt with. Perhaps the Minister would outline what steps are taken towards people who are especially vulnerable, such as the ones I have mentioned.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, for raising this important and sensitive issue. I fully agree with your Lordships that we need to ensure that passengers are treated with respect and dignity at all points during their journey through an airport.
I hope I can reassure your Lordships by explaining that the goal that the amendment is designed to achieve is already covered by the Bill. Airports are required by European and domestic regulations to undertake security checks on all passengers, and it is the responsibility of airports to ensure that their customers are treated with dignity and respect.
Clause 80 inserts new Sections 21H and 21I into the Aviation Security Act 1982. New Section 21I requires the CAA to provide such aviation security advice and assistance as it considers appropriate to the persons listed in its subsection (3), including the managers of aerodromes in the UK. In giving such advice and assistance, the CAA has to have regard to the purposes to which Part 2 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 applies, which are broadly the protection of civil aviation against acts of violence. Therefore, if the CAA considered it appropriate, having regard to the purposes to which Part 2 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 applies, it could provide advice and assistance on maintaining the dignity of passengers wearing religious clothing when subject to security checks.
I know that some passengers may worry about security checks and feel uncomfortable about being subjected to them—I certainly do—but, like my noble friend Lord Rotherwick and, I suspect, the whole Committee, I understand that such searches are essential if security is to be maintained in the face of a real and continuing threat from terrorist groups that seek to do us harm.
As I am sure your Lordships will know, each passenger departing from a UK airport undergoes standard security processes irrespective of their age, gender or ethnic background. These checks ensure that they are not carrying articles prohibited from the security-restricted area on to the aircraft. This principle will not change.
Security staff are trained to recognise that some passengers may have particular concerns about searches, particularly searches of some religious clothing, such as those from the Sikh community who wear turbans. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to Orthodox Jews.
A problem emerged in April 2010 when new EU regulations came into force that required a hand search of turbans to be carried out. Physical contact with the turban causes hurt and offence to Sikhs. As pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, other European states might not be so sensitive to these issues. My right honourable friend the former Secretary of State acted swiftly and instructed airports to continue with the method used prior to April 2010, which mainly involved hand-held metal detectors, while consideration was given to how to resolve the concerns expressed by the Sikh community. After intensive work, a pilot project was put together in a very short time and with the assistance of the Sikh community. The noble Lord pointed out that there is good co-operation between all communities because we are all in it together.
The trial is now under way at almost all the UK’s airports, using a combination of explosive trace detection and hand-held metal detectors as an alternative to a hand search of the turban. The trial is going well and we have been keeping the European Commission up to date with the results. My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Aviation has written to Ministers around Europe to highlight the importance of the issue and to draw their attention to the trial.
We hope that the trial will provide a sound basis of evidence for the EU in deciding on whether it is possible to change the European rules on security to meet the concerns of Sikhs and to ensure that they operate in a culturally sensitive way. The Department for Transport submitted a report on the trial to the European Commission on 28 June. The trial delivered good results and is continuing for the remainder of the summer at least.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. Passengers may request a private search. I am confident on that point, but perhaps it would be helpful if I wrote to the Committee in a little more detail on it.
The trial delivered good results and is continuing for the remainder of the summer at least. We are actively engaging with the EU with a view to continuing to conduct such searches in this manner. I hope that the Committee will agree that the matter is under control.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response, which was encouraging. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, will recognise that, given the advanced years of many of us, we have great difficulty going through airport security without the implied suggestion that we have a submachine gun in our belt. When our belt has been taken off, the gun must be somewhere else. Having had a hip replacement a few years ago, I go through agonies at airport control. We all have to pay that price. I do not think that any of us doubt that airport security is of the greatest significance, and we all realise that some privations are attendant on it. However, some practices need to be looked at very carefully.
The Minister is assiduous in writing to us when he feels that he has not made a point absolutely explicit in a reply. I do not think that he needs to write to us on the question asked by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. Privacy will not solve the problem. The issue is not that something is being done in public; it is that someone is touching the turban. Therefore, if the same security process is followed in private as in public, the offence will be exactly the same.
My Lords, I absolutely accept the point about touching the turban, but there may be some other perfectly reasonable reason why a passenger does not want to be searched in public. They may want to explain a medical condition, for instance, that it would be too embarrassing to discuss in public, but as soon as they went into a private room they would be able to explain the circumstances and have a thorough search.
My Lords, of course I know that the practice occurs; it is essential where people have enormous sensitivities that ought to be respected. However, the amendment is about Sikhs. I am merely indicating that for a Sikh, an offence conducted in private is no less an offence than if it were done in the public arena. Therefore, the issue is how we maintain our security and check the Sikh population effectively when they travel, without giving extreme offence by touching the turban.
I am grateful that the Minister indicated that we are making progress on tests that will obviate the need to touch the turban, so I hope that the problem will soon be resolved. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 51 withdrawn.
Clause 80 agreed.
Clause 81 agreed.
Clause 82 : Transfer schemes
52: Clause 82, page 51, line 10, at end insert—
“(b) the individual employed in the civil service of the Crown, and(c) representatives of individuals employed as defined in paragraph (b)”
My Lords, these are probing amendments to explore how the Government intend to ensure that there is no significant or damaging loss of staff with experience of relevant security issues when aviation security regulation functions are transferred from the Department for Transport to the Civil Aviation Authority.
As to the first amendment, Clause 82 refers only to the Secretary of State consulting the Civil Aviation Authority before making a transfer scheme to the CAA. Who else would the Secretary of State consult, particularly on the impact of such a transfer on individual employees who are directly affected or potentially directly affected? The second amendment requires the Secretary of State to review the impact of such transfers on the security functions of the CAA before making such a scheme, given that there does not appear to be a clear provision in the Bill, and proper assessment of the impact of such a transfer scheme on security and security functions must surely be a key responsibility of the Secretary of State before deciding whether to proceed.
It appears from the impact assessments for the legislation that the primary purpose of this switch of aviation security regulation functions from the Department for Transport to the CAA has been driven by financial considerations and the spending review, which may not be the most appropriate driving force for change when dealing with an issue of this nature—particularly when a highly successful security regime has been in operation since the tragic Lockerbie bombing.
The Transport Select Committee in the other place expressed concern that the decision to transfer aviation security regulation functions from the Department for Transport to the Civil Aviation Authority was included in the draft Bill at a late stage and was not subject to consultation. The committee also said that it was important that the CAA had sufficient security expertise to undertake its new role and that the Department for Transport and the CAA should investigate employment arrangements, possibly including secondments rather than transfers, precisely to avoid losing experience staff and expertise in the transfer of posts from the department to the CAA.
In Committee in the other place, the Transport Minister said that some 85 staff might be seconded rather than transferred, and no doubt the noble Earl will give an update on the present arrangements and intentions, the number of staff who will be transferred and seconded, and why being seconded would not be a better option for the staff as a whole. It would also be helpful if the noble Earl could say what steps are being taken to encourage staff affected to stay on in order to ensure that this transfer will not lead to loss of expertise in such a crucial part of our security provision and protection. I beg to move.
My Lords, let me begin with Amendment 52. The Department for Transport has already begun to engage with staff and their trade union representatives on the proposed transfer of staff from the DfT to the CAA. The department’s human resources unit has formally engaged with the Public and Commercial Services trade union and the Prospect trade union on matters relating to the proposed transfer of posts and post holders to the CAA.
There have been briefing events for staff, including a joint event with the CAA on 31 January, and staff are kept informed with regular written and oral updates. We will engage with staff and their trade union representatives as we develop the transfer arrangements over the coming months until the planned transfer in spring 2014.
Engagement with staff is vital, not least because we want to ensure that as many staff as possible transfer to the CAA, taking their skills and experience with them. A particular concern of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is that we do not lose this valuable expertise. We have no intention of doing anything that would cause unnecessary losses. We will work to provide as much visibility and clarity as possible about the transfer, but we cannot answer all the questions yet. The Government believe that there is no need to amend the Bill to achieve something that is already happening, so I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw Amendment 52 in due course.
In Amendment 53, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched on the financial drivers for the change. He is right that this is about efficiency and that the principle is that the user pays, so that the aviation security function is paid for by the aviation industry and not the general taxpayer. Clause 82(3) requires the Secretary of State to consult the CAA before making a transfer scheme. Such a scheme allows, for example, the transfer of relevant staff from the Department for Transport to the CAA. I assure your Lordships that the department is already working with the CAA to understand how the transfer of relevant staff and property to the CAA might impact on the delivery of the CAA’s functions, including the new security functions that are set out in the Bill. A joint DfT/CAA team is working on that, but I am not convinced that the Committee should get involved in exactly what is happening with each member of the relatively low numbers of staff affected. The Government’s priority is to ensure that our aviation security remains robust before, during and after the transfer to the CAA, which I am sure is what the Committee wishes to see.
We have already started to work, together with the CAA, to assess the impacts of the transfer on the CAA’s functions, to ensure that, for example, the CAA has access to the right information and knowledge about aviation security. We are also working on how best to integrate aviation security into the CAA, looking at the synergies between safety and security. The CAA is considering how best effectively to manage security at board level, as well as at operational level.
We remain committed to ensuring that the CAA continues to conduct its regulatory functions to the highest standard and that it fulfils its aviation security functions to an equally high standard. As we have begun the work, I do not see the need for Amendment 53, so I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it at the appropriate time.
Will the noble Lord clarify a point? Much of the concern is about staff morale. I know that this is not directly connected, but morale was a major factor in what happened with the Immigration Service. If this is not handled carefully, staff morale will go down and they will either work to rule—literally—to ensure that they are not guilty of making any mistakes, or they will just feel demoralised. I know that this is a probing amendment, which I am sure has been taken into account, but I have no doubt in my mind that the security issue is so important that staff morale is equally critical.
I remind noble Lords that we are in Committee, so we can speak as many times as we like. The noble Lord is absolutely right that staff morale in any organisation is key. This is of course a leadership issue, particularly for the senior personnel at the CAA. It must be remembered that some staff do not work in fixed locations; some of the staff who ensure that security is carried out properly are fairly mobile. But I accept that morale is an absolutely key issue.
It is indeed, my Lords. If we thought that we would lose a large number—or a majority—of the experienced staff due to this change, we would not do it. However, I see no reason why aviation security specialists who currently work for the DfT would not be equally happy working for the CAA. If they were being invited to work in the private sector, that could be much more of an issue. However, they will be transferring from one respected government department to another respected organisation.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I also thank my noble friends Lord Soley and Lord Clinton-Davis for their helpful contributions. The Minister said, I believe, that the driving force on the financial side was the principle that the user pays. Surely when we talk about aviation security regulation the principle that the user pays should not take precedence over the principle that we want the most effective security regulation arrangements.
I have not yet heard the Minister or anyone else argue that the current arrangements, which we have had for a number of years, are not highly successful and effective, as they are recognised to be. Frankly, if the real reason for this change is financial—namely, that the user pays—and is not based on improving the present arrangements for aviation security regulation, I suggest that the Government have got wrong the driving force for the change. Certainly I have not heard from the Minister any criticism of the current arrangements, any indication of how they have failed or any indication of how they will be made more successful and more efficient by the proposed change.
The Minister said that we should not go into detail about numbers. However, as I said, in Committee in the other place the Transport Minister referred to numbers and said that 80 staff might be seconded rather than transferred. I made reference to the view that was expressed that it might be better if staff were seconded rather than transferred.
I thank my noble friend for that point. Perhaps the Minister will comment on it in a moment.
I asked whether the Minister could give an update on how many staff will be transferred and how many will be seconded and say why secondment would not be a better option for staff generally. I am not asking him to go into the details of discussions that are taking place, but he might be able to respond to those particular points. Is the Minister willing to do so before I withdraw the amendments? I intend to withdraw them—as I said, they are probing amendments.
The Government believe that industry will benefit from the efficiencies that could be gained from having aviation security and safety regulation in one place. The CAA has potentially valuable experience of safety management systems that are designed to manage risks as effectively as possible. We think that this experience, coupled with the skills and experience of the DfT staff, could bring real benefit to how we regulate aviation security in the UK. That move would also mean that the principle that the user pays is applied to aviation security in the same way as it is applied to aviation safety.
Charging the industry for the regulation of aviation security will align it with the vast majority of other forms of regulation, including the CAA’s regulation of aviation safety. The aviation industry already meets the costs of providing security at close to £1 billion per annum, so the cost of regulation at £4.8 million per annum is a small addition that could be neutralised by efficiency savings arising from the reform package.
The noble Lord asked me about secondments, which the PCS trade union also raised in its evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons. We can look at how secondments might be used as we develop our plans for the transfer. However, we consider that seconding DfT staff to the CAA instead of transferring them is unlikely to help to ensure that experienced staff remain with the CAA when the secondments end.
I thank the Minister for the further information that he has given. I am sure that he will not be entirely surprised when I say that I still have the impression that this one is financially driven rather than driven by any real belief that the aviation security regulation function will somehow be carried out more effectively through the arrangements that the Government are proposing than they are at present. However, I have expressed my views on this and the Minister has replied on behalf of the Government. I also said that these were probing amendments, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 52 withdrawn.
Amendment 53 not moved.
Clause 82 agreed.
54: After Clause 82, insert the following new Clause—
“Risk-based aviation security regime
(1) The Secretary of State may direct the operators of airport areas to implement an outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regime to govern the exercise of their functions in relation to aviation security.
(2) When making directions under this section, the Secretary of State must by order set out the framework for the introduction of the outcomes-focused, risk-based aviation security regime.
(3) An order under this section must be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 75, which is linked with this amendment. We have begun our discussions on the outcomes-focused, risk-based scheme, and I hope that, during the Minister’s reply to this amendment, he will be kind enough to explain sufficiently what this term implies to satisfy the Committee and ensure that all Members are fully aware of what is envisaged. As my noble friend indicated when speaking to the previous amendment, we are not entirely satisfied about replacing what after all has borne the test of time in airport security in this country, with one or two obviously notable exceptions. We are not clear about the principles behind the scheme and we would be grateful if the Minister would elaborate on them.
Our concerns are born of the fact that this concept was added to the Bill quite late. It occasioned anxieties in the Transport Committee of the other place because the concept had not been subject to any serious pre-legislative scrutiny. Moreover, as others have said, it has been somewhat sprung on the industry, which I know is mixed in its response. I think the Minister will be pressed to say whether there is tremendous enthusiasm for this development, although he may be able to point to the progress that is being made. Suffice it to say that there did not appear to be a great deal of consultation about the scheme before it appeared in the Bill.
The scheme has one conspicuous merit for the Government; as the noble Lord neatly put it, it transfers the costs to the user. That is an interesting concept; an airline is using security and should bear the costs. What the industry might be doing is picking up the costs that are transferred from the department and therefore helping the department’s budget in the wake of the Chancellor’s cuts, detailed last year. The absence of consultation, the fact that the concept was added late and the fact that it needs considerable elaboration and definition are all points to which I am sure the Minister will set his mind.
We are concerned about the scheme because it represents one of the most significant security aspects of the nation: namely, the security of the aviation industry. That is why there should be greater parliamentary scrutiny before it is fully implemented, and why we are including in our submissions to this debate a request that an order should be placed before both Houses for a full debate on the important topic of airline and airport security before the scheme is implemented.
We have considerable anxieties about the scheme, which are reflected across Parliament. They may not have been voiced by many noble Lords yet, but we have only just reached this point in Committee. Certainly the Transport Select Committee in the other place made its anxieties clear. We are not sure that the new system will not lead to a more fragmented and slower security system that may be less quick on its feet to meet new security threats. We are all aware of the danger of generals fighting the last war, which is matched by that of security experts coping with the last threat—whereas of course anticipation is the key to security.
We are not at all sure about the scheme improving the position; nor did the Minister give any indication in reply to my noble friend who discussed the staffing aspects of the issue whether we may lose some security experts who are not prepared to transfer. Of course I heard what he said in general terms about the conditions of service, but if one has spent a considerable amount of one’s career working in the Department for Transport, there is a considerable difference if one is then moved to the CAA. I hope the Minister will allay concerns on that score as well, if only to reinterpret what he said. I am sure that it satisfied him, but I am indicating that I am not entirely satisfied.
We hope that the Minister will appreciate that we regard the development of the scheme as of the most surpassing importance. There are many important dimensions to the Bill. However, there is no doubt that, as far as the public are concerned, if we did not implement a new scheme that guaranteed additional proper security, it would be our greatest failure.
I ask the Minister to allay concerns, which I think are not confined to the opposition Front Bench but are widespread throughout Parliament, that reflect the obvious fact that, as far as the public at large are concerned, even more important than getting to another place on time is ensuring that one gets there or comes back. I beg to move.
I welcome these amendments, which enable us to consider an outcomes-focused, risk-based regime. I hope in responding to them to be able to allay the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. However, I am not convinced that the amendment is related to the previous one, which concerned the important matter of DfT staff being looked after on transfer. They are separate issues.
The DfT has consulted on proposals to modernise the regulatory regime for aviation security. They are designed to promote innovation and efficiency, to ensure the best possible passenger experience and to bring the regime into line with better-regulation principles. The Government’s priority at all times is to ensure high levels of aviation security in the UK. We simply cannot afford a failure.
The proposed new approach is intended to give operators greater flexibility and responsibility to design security processes that deliver specified security outcomes, with greater emphasis placed on the needs of their passengers. A similar approach has been taken in aviation safety regulation.
Modernisation would be achieved by introducing the use of security management systems, or SeMS, by industry and a regulatory regime that is more outcomes-focused and risk-based—the so-called OFRB. SeMS is a systematic approach to managing and embedding security in the day-to-day activities of an organisation. We are starting with a series of pilots in which industry operators will develop the SeMS approach and, in so doing, create an enhanced internal security culture. Once these pilots have been concluded and we are satisfied that the SeMS framework is sufficiently robust, we shall look to roll it out generally across the industry. This will provide a sound basis for the design and development of the OFRB regime.
The proposed reforms represent a significant change in the approach to the regulation of aviation security both for the industry and the regulator. We have therefore decided to take an incremental approach to reform to ensure that the UK’s high level of aviation security is maintained at all times. This incremental approach also aligns well with the Government’s intention to embed in industry a culture of continuous improvement of the UK’s aviation security regime, as has been the case for aviation safety.
Many organisations have commented that the full benefits of OFRB—in particular, flexibility for operators in the design of security processes—require changes to the highly prescriptive European legislation, which specifies common basic standards for aviation security. We will use the SeMS pilots to build the evidence base necessary to engage with our European partners and to make the case for change. This will take some time.
I say in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that the move to OFRB will not be a single big change but a continuing one—it will not be sprung on stakeholders. This is also necessary because some 1,000 industry entities in the UK are directed to implement aviation security measures, and it would not be feasible or sensible for them all to move to OFRB at once.
The Secretary of State intends to take forward the reformed approach to aviation security regulation under powers in Part 2 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 by giving directions to industry operators, such as airports. In passing Part 2 of the 1982 Act, Parliament has granted the Secretary of State a power to give directions to industry for the purpose of protecting civil aviation against acts of violence. Successive Transport Secretaries, irrespective of party, have made aviation security directions that they consider necessary to protect the security of civil aviation. The Secretary of State’s direction-making powers set out in Part 2 of the 1982 Act do not require the approval of Parliament before they can come into force.
Introducing a new layer of legislative approval for the introduction of an OFRB aviation security regime could risk damaging our ability to respond swiftly to implement necessary changes to aviation security in the face of continuing and evolving threats. These amendments would mean that if the response to a new threat affected the framework of the outcomes-focused, risk-based regime, an order would be required that would be subject to the approval of both Houses. This would inevitably take time, even with the most efficient business managers in charge of Parliament’s agenda. Your Lordships will know that it is sometimes necessary to make changes very quickly to respond to new threats, in some cases within a matter of hours.
For example, swift action, including an immediate ban on liquids, had to be taken in response to the liquid bomb plot. The plot was uncovered during the Summer Recess, and if it had been necessary to recall Parliament and have these matters debated by both Houses, it would have been impossible to respond effectively. I am sure that your Lordships will recall the printer bomb plot in October 2010, when it was necessary to place emergency restrictions on air cargo. If my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State had not been able to act quickly to ban certain consignments, we could have been left exposed to similar attacks.
Noble Lords will have seen the Written Ministerial Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on the 26 June about the reform of the aviation security regulatory regime and the Government’s response to the preceding consultation. I can assure your Lordships that the Government will continue to keep Parliament informed as we develop, pilot and implement the new regime over the coming years. However, I hope the Committee will agree that Amendments 54 and 75 would not only be impractical but could have a damaging impact on our ability to keep passengers secure. Therefore, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw or not to move the amendments.
My Lords, I have a bone of contention with the Minister. I am not prepared to accept what he said about the new measures necessary to deal with the threat of the liquid bombs. Clearly effective action was taken and we all know the constraints. I can even remember the size of the cardboard box that Heathrow kindly provided for me to ensure that the baggage that I was taking to the cabin could be measured accurately. It was the least precise device that I have ever seen. Nevertheless, you cannot expect technology to appear at every point in an airport. I am not prepared to have that emergency response to a clearly individual, defined threat compared with a whole schematic change to the concept of airport security.
After all, it is the Minister who is dressing up the scheme in excellent technical language. It is he who has to take responsibility for the fact that the scheme arrived on the scene somewhat late and was not subject to scrutiny before it appeared in the legislation. It is the Minister who has to bear the responsibility for the fact that the most apparent thing to the industry about the scheme was that the costs were being transferred. We all know the driver for that, so he will not mind if there is an element of suspicion in the Committee that the issue that drives the scheme is the transfer of costs rather than the more successful implementation of a security regime.
The Minister has not even as yet identified the imperfections of the scheme under which we have been secure to a large extent in recent years. No, I do not expect him to detail how to make a bomb that is concealed from airport security, or anything ludicrous like that. However, I am asking him to make some clear comparison between the scheme under which we all travel safely now and the introduction of a new one which he says will be introduced partially and gradually. Parliament will get some kind of report, but there will be no question of Parliament actually evaluating the scheme, because it regards such amendments as unnecessary. The Minister is always assiduous in his replies on these amendments, but on this occasion he has not faced up to the challenge that we have laid down. I do not know whether he will want to give a little reassurance so that I can withdraw the amendment with a good conscience, otherwise I will be withdrawing it with a very bad conscience indeed. That would not matter much to the Minister, except that a bad conscience also leads to further consideration on Report.
I would not want to leave the noble Lord upset. However, first, I remind the Committee that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State retains responsibility for aviation security. None of this changes that. In addition, I would like to remind the Committee of one thing. If we were to adopt the noble Lord’s amendment, it could have unintended consequences. We might think that it would be fine; but when we wanted to change something quickly, we would come up against that most ancient law, the law of unintended consequences. We need to be extremely cautious, therefore, before we think about tying the hands of the Secretary of State and removing that flexibility that she has to give the necessary directions in respect of aviation security.
I would be the last person to want to see a reduction in the Secretary of State’s powers in this very important area, and I am not suggesting that Parliament will set out to destroy the security scheme for the aviation industry. Responsible Members of Parliament would do no such thing, of course. What we are looking for is a clearer evaluation than that presently to hand of the merits of this approach, apart from cost savings for the department. The industry will accept this grudgingly, because the costs are put upon it. It may be entirely proper that it should bear the cost. However, one would have thought that this would be presented to the industry with greater consultation than it has had.
As for Parliament, it is clear that we are all taking a great deal from the Minister on faith. I have no doubt that the concept is excellent, if it is ever clearly explained to me. However, the Minister has not taken the opportunity on this occasion to explain its merits over what we have at the present time. If he had said, “Of course, I can’t do that, because that would imply that I am giving some comparative analysis that would give information to hostile elements”, I would probably have taken that in my stride, but he did not say that.
Certainly not—that would be a weak argument. I can suggest, however, that if the noble Lord would like, I can organise a briefing between him and the officials who are handling this issue. We can go into it in greater detail and ensure that both of us are happy about it.
My Lords, the Minister is generous with letters that whizz round after Committee proceedings, and he is always generous in his replies, although they do not always meet the exact points. I am probably obliged to take him up on his offer of what will be an enormously illuminating occasion. However, I am not clear whether it will be of any use to other Members of the Committee, or to other Members of either House of Parliament, to know that the opposition spokesman will be a bit wiser in a few days than he is at present. The noble Lord might think that that suffices, but I do not. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 54 withdrawn.
Schedule 12 agreed.
Clause 83 : Information for benefit of users of air transport services
55: Clause 83, page 51, line 22, at end insert—
“( ) greenhouse gas emissions resulting from both domestic flights and flights to European Union Member States, with greenhouse gas emissions for an equivalent journey via rail or coach.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 57 and 60 in this group. The amendments seek to enhance the principle that the Minister accepted in earlier discussions in Committee of the advantages of the openness and transparency of the CAA, and the fact that because it is in a position to garner critical information the nation would benefit significantly if that information were distributed widely.
The first amendment in the group asks the CAA to publish information comparing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from domestic and EU flights with equivalent journeys by other transport means. The public are becoming increasingly aware of their climate change obligations. As the Minister knows, a whole range of activities by other departments makes it incumbent on them or their agencies accurately to identify to the nation the nature of greenhouse gas emissions. The issue runs across government policy. It is one to which the Government in principle subscribe, and we are proud of the fact that we initiated it in government some years ago.
The most obvious issue for people when it comes to transport modes is price. It may be that the very wealthy never bother about relative prices, but I assure the noble Lord that, particularly in these days of economic stringency, large numbers of our fellow citizens look at price first when they travel. That is why low-cost airlines have done so well in recent years. It is also why long-distance coach travel has expanded. Another increasingly important consideration is the cost of their travel in terms of the increased damage to the environment. This information may not be acted on by huge numbers of people in the first years that it is given, but we know that a substantial proportion of the population is clamouring for the information at present. We also know that as anxieties about climate change increase, the public’s need for information to make them fully aware of greenhouse gas emissions will be of surpassing importance. The first amendment therefore relates to information that is not massively difficult for the Government to collect and distribute. We think that it would be very useful to people when choosing travel modes.
Amendment 57 relates to an issue that we have already debated. There is no doubt that people first choose their flight and airline. However, airports differ substantially in how easy it is to park a car, how passengers are processed, and the facilities available, and these issues count for a great deal more than when mass flying first came along. People then were grateful just for the fact that the aircraft was parked in the right place and that they had arrived at the right airport to catch it. The Government have emphasised that they are eager to see competition between airports. Indeed, we have even discussed whether we will see the Government encouraging competition between terminals, an interesting proposition that we considered during our last session in Committee. This side was not entirely convinced about it. If there is going to be competition between airports, people will need to be able to make accurate judgments about the efficacy of airports and the services they offer.
My Lords, I would be a great enthusiast for that. Whatever anxieties people might have about airports, only a small percentage of the population travels by air on a daily basis, while a large number make journeys by train every day. The only thing I would say to my noble friend is that I am not at liberty to introduce rail into the Bill, so he will have to be patient until we can tackle the rail industry with the same forthright approach that has been brought to aviation.
The last amendment in the group relates to the question of air transport services and their impact on greenhouse gas emissions. We know that airports have made considerable strides in reducing their emissions. There was a time when one could well have formed the impression that the largest aircraft taxiing on a runway was unlikely to create as much emissions as the gear being used to tow it to its bay. Sundry vehicles could be seen sauntering around airports, many of them of somewhat archaic design and certainly capable of spouting noxious fumes. We know that airports have already addressed these issues, so why should we not have the information that allows us to appreciate those achievements and thus encourage them to do even better? I beg to move.
Providing information on other modes of transport is perfectly okay, but I am a little worried about any comparison between aviation and other modes of transport. Having said that, it is important that information should be readily available to passengers. It is not a criterion that dominates their thinking at the moment, but it is an important consideration if we are thinking about ameliorating greenhouse gas emissions. Different considerations necessarily apply to different modes of transport. It is right to emphasise the importance of the ordinary passenger being able to measure the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from different modes of transport.
I conclude that information is one thing, and I am all in favour of it being expanded, but comparisons between modes of transport ought not to be disseminated. Perhaps this is gilding the lily, but I think that all modes of transport can make their contribution. I am not sure that they do at the moment, but it is a continuing process and I hope that it will continue beneficially.
I support in general terms each of the three amendments, although I shall speak especially to Amendments 55 and 60. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, in the background is the Climate Change Act, which he tells us that he proudly initiated. That requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80% by 2050 against a 1990 baseline. That is a huge requirement. Given that the only way we know how to propel air transport is by turning hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide—and I understand that there is no prospect of any other way to propel planes through the sky—the 80% reduction has to come in other spheres. There is also the relentless increase in air transportation and the need for larger airport hubs, and so forth. Improvements in efficiency through using plastics rather than metals have a limit as to what they can achieve on that front.
If we are to get anywhere near the reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 that we have set in law, people will have to be very aware of the consequences of their decisions between different transport choices. It is entirely right that information should be provided. Whether the public are increasingly aware of their climate change responsibilities, and whether public anxiety is set to increase, we will have to wait to see. I do not notice that happening at present, because so much is unknown about the future. How that will work out is one of Donald Rumsfeld’s known unknowns.
I am one of those who thinks that there are benefits of going more slowly about things generally. Even if it takes a bit longer typically, I prefer rail travel to air travel.
There seems to be a case for providing information so that people, whatever their view about the climate change agenda, can take a rational decision. It is perfectly possible to agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said simply on the basis of the need to conserve a finite resource, oil, without signing up to the climate change agenda. Rather, one might believe that, in a finite world with an ever-growing human population, to be able to take decisions about travel that minimise outputs of carbon dioxide is a good thing in itself. In general terms, as I said, I support the amendments, and I hope that the figures to which they refer can be provided.
I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on his amendments and believe that what he is trying to do is right. I have gone a long way towards trying to produce green energy at home. I came up with a solar farm scheme that was totally supported by my local community—indeed, it participated in it—only to be shunned by Natural England, which suggested that the solar panels could damage the lacewing population by seducing the birds to lay their eggs on them. A month later, another oil tragedy occurred and tens of thousands of animals and birds were killed. I had fallen victim to eco-nimbyism.
On the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, I would be concerned that we might expend too much money and effort recording all those statistics, when our efforts should be directed at resolving the issues. In the excellent briefings that we received in advance of this Bill, we learnt that the CAA has done work on environmental performance—we look forward to the results being published. More effort should surely go into work of that kind, and I hope that amendments such as this will not drain the resources or divert the attention of the CAA away from it.
We heard that it was hoped that continuous-climb operations would reduce fuel burn and emissions by up to 30%. We heard that free routing, which means not having to go from waypoint to waypoint, would reduce journey times, costs and emissions and would promote the flexible use of airspaces, such as military airspace when it is not being used. I hope that the French might manage to do this in their northern sector, because their military airspace there causes huge diversions. While I commend the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on his intentions, I hope that his amendment will not divert us from devoting scarce resources and energies to achieving some difference.
I go further than the noble Lord in commending the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on the skill with which he presented this amendment. He is right in principle, but the reason for my slightly mischievous intervention is my concern that one always finds provisions such as this being put into aviation Bills and not into train or road transport Bills. The reason for my concern is not that I am for or against the aviation industry, which after many years of kicking and prodding from people such as me has begun to get its act together on presenting its case on climate change and emissions, but that such provisions lead people to believe that you cannot fly but that you can travel as much as you like by road or rail, which is untrue.
I took great issue a few years back with front-page adverts from rail companies about high-speed rail links, saying, “Travel by train and zero emissions”. I thought, “Fantastic! Energy direct from the sun! We have no power stations using coal, oil, gas or nuclear fuel; we just direct it from the sun”. I pick up wonderful magazines, such as that of the RSPB, of which I am very fond, which tell me that we have to stop building airports and flying, and that it is really wicked. I then turn to the back pages and find between 10 and 20 adverts telling me to fly off to exotic places where I can see wonderful birds that are about to be wiped out by climate change. That is the cause of my slightly mischievous intervention on my noble friend’s amendment.
When we talk about building high-speed rail, which I am greatly in favour of, we are talking about producing concrete for a couple of thousand miles of track. To produce one tonne of concrete requires the production of one tonne of CO2—to knock off 10 or 20 minutes of the journey time to Birmingham. We cannot make the case on climate change. We can make it on other grounds and do lots of other things on climate change. I can tell the right reverend Prelate, who made a useful speech, that one piece of good news for him is that many airlines, including BA, Virgin and Air New Zealand, are now flying with a mix of fuels in their tank that includes algae and other environmentally friendly fuels. Algae have a good future. They will never be an entire replacement—they will probably be about 20%—but they are making a difference.
Returning to the amendment, before I get pulled up, the principle is right but my preferred way to address this is that every transport form, road rail or air, ought to be instructed clearly to drive down emissions. That is what matters. I do not object to the amendment in principle, but it has to apply to rail stations and bus stations as well. If I stand in King’s Cross or Euston, I know that it is not oxygen that is being belched out of the train engines or the taxis with their engines running waiting to pick up people; it is CO2. I would prefer that we said that we should drive down emissions across the board. For the past 20 or 30 years, I have never doubted the dangers of climate change—I have written about it from time to time—but we have to be realistic about it. At the moment, the way in which we measure it is not terribly accurate and has a long way to go. All forms of transport—rail, road, air and anything else—should drive down emissions. If we want to put up something to say what we think emissions are in airports, I have no problem with that in principle; I would just extend it to other areas.
I will begin with Amendment 57, because it raises different issues from the other two amendments. I am aware, however, that similarly worded amendments were tabled in Committee in the House of Commons and defeated in a Division.
Before turning to the detailed points made by your Lordships, it is important that I emphasise the function of the clause that the amendment would alter. Clause 83 gives the CAA a new and important statutory role in promoting better public information about the aviation industry’s performance. This is intended to improve choice in the market and address what economists call asymmetric information, in that passengers do not always have the information they need to compare the services on offer.
Giving consumers more information on service quality provided by airports and airlines will help to ensure that markets deliver consumer benefits in practice. These issues fall fairly and squarely within the remit that Clause 83 would give to the CAA. Indeed, these may well be issues that the CAA will wish to focus on, though I would not wish to pre-empt its consideration and consultation on the use of these functions.
In our previous sitting, we had a good debate about immigration and baggage handling, but no noble Lord has raised those issues today, so I shall not speak about them unless a noble Lord would like me to.
On Amendments 57 and 60, it is important to emphasise the importance of the clauses that the amendments would alter. I fully agree about the benefits that can be gained by giving passengers clearer and better information about the environmental impact of their travel choices, including the carbon impact. We are committed to ensuring that the transport sector plays a full part in delivering the emissions reductions needed to meet our Climate Change Act targets. The Government have already set stretching, legally binding carbon budgets which will see a 50% reduction in emissions by 2025, compared to 1990 levels, on a path towards an 80% reduction by 2050.
On 1 December, the Government published the Carbon Plan, setting out how we will meet the UK’s legally binding carbon reduction targets over the next two decades and beyond. The Carbon Plan details our ambitious plans to deliver major reductions in carbon emissions from the transport sector and from other sectors over the coming decades. It sets out a radical vision for the almost complete decarbonisation of cars and vans by 2050.
Many of our policies to deliver growth have a strong environmental and green transport focus. For example, we continue to support the development and deployment of ultra-low emission vehicles, which will help create and safeguard UK jobs, as well as have environmental benefits. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Soley, that we need to be careful in defining a zero-emission vehicle.
In addition, we are bringing forward the electrification of the north trans-Pennine route from Manchester to York, via Leeds, which will deliver significant carbon savings as well as reliability and journey-time benefits; supporting low-carbon rail freight by making it easier to get new rail freight terminals built; providing an additional £55 million to improve rail connectivity to the port of Felixstowe; providing around £75 million on the three rounds of the green bus fund to support the purchase of around 960 new low-carbon buses; and putting a total of £8 million into low-emission HGVs and their supporting infrastructure.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester asked about international shipping and aviation emissions. We will shortly be responding to the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on including international aviation and shipping emissions in carbon budgets, and will take a decision on this by the end of 2012, as the Climate Change Act requires.
While I have sympathy with the underlying purpose of the amendments, there are a number of important reasons why I cannot ask the Committee to support them. I share with the noble Lords who tabled the amendments the goal of harnessing consumer power in our efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of aviation. There are a number of examples where provision of better information has impacted on consumer behaviour. For example, many people now consider the European new car assessment programme safety rankings for cars when deciding which car to buy. In the environmental field, information about the relative energy efficiency of white goods has been associated with changes in consumer choices. I therefore regard the function that the Bill gives to the CAA to collect environmental information as an important way to draw passengers into our wider efforts to tackle the environmental impact of aviation and climate change.
Environmental impacts across the aviation sector as a whole will be addressed more efficiently and comprehensively in the aviation policy framework that is due to be adopted by March 2013. This will be informed by extensive consultation and based on evidence. It will set a framework for enabling aviation to grow and contribute to economic growth, but subject to parameters on issues such as noise and carbon that will ensure that the sector plays its part in achieving our climate change goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities.
I should also reassure your Lordships that the CAA already takes environmental matters very seriously. Outside the sphere of economic regulation, the CAA is taking forward a number of initiatives with an important environmental focus, as was emphasised by Dr Barry Humphreys from the British Air Transport Association in his evidence to the Public Bill Committee. In May 2011, the CAA adopted a sustainability objective in its five-year strategic plan to,
“improve environmental performance through more efficient use of airspace and make an efficient contribution to reducing the aviation industry’s environmental impacts”.
The CAA has recently concluded a consultation on a wide-ranging programme of work on the environment, including work to improve the sector’s CO2 performance. Another good example is the CAA’s work with NATS on airspace management, where both the CAA and NATS have a strong focus on reducing fuel burn, and hence CO2 emissions, and on addressing noise concerns. At least one noble Lord mentioned that. The CAA already meets the Committee on Climate Change on a regular basis, and the CAA is certainly aware of, and indeed is actively promoting, the role that aviation can play in meeting our carbon budget obligations.
Furthermore, the information provisions in Clause 84 provide a more effective way to mitigate the environmental impacts of aviation than the amendments tabled today. This clause has received warm support from environmental groups, and cross-party support from the Public Bill Committee. By giving the public much clearer information about the environmental impact of their travel choices, we can harness consumer power as part of our efforts to speed up progress to a switch to cleaner, quieter planes that emit less CO2. That was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, in his opening comments. The function will also encourage airports to publish environmental information that is accessible and useful to people living in the vicinity of the airport; for example, information on aircraft noise or surface access emissions.
I recognise that Amendment 55 is an important amendment. However, it seeks to amend the wrong clause. The Bill gives the CAA information, guidance and advice functions in two distinct areas. Clause 83 aims to improve choice within the aviation market where passengers do not always have the information needed to compare the standard of services and facilities on offer. Clause 83 is therefore focused on consumer issues, service standards and the quality of the passenger experience. It is Clause 84 that covers the publication of environmental information.
A further problem with Amendment 55 is that it would require the CAA to publish information that went beyond aviation to other modes of transport. I think that that is something the noble Lord, Lord Soley, would like. However, there is a difficulty with comparing different modes of transport. For instance, how do we treat utilisation? It does not matter very much on a train—although there are different considerations—but it is extremely important when considering aviation. The CAA would have to compare the greenhouse gas emissions of a flight from London to Paris with those of a train or coach. Many assumptions are built into the modal comparisons: for example, on the age of the plane, train or bus involved and the route taken. The CAA would need to obtain detailed information from non-aviation modes of transport in order to make these comparisons. I am not convinced that it would be appropriate to require this of the aviation regulator. Moreover, the entire cost of the work would ultimately be borne by the aviation industry that funds the CAA, and therefore by industry customers. Stakeholders have been emphatic about the need to ensure that the Bill’s information provisions do not impose unnecessary or disproportionate burdens, as both the Opposition and the Transport Committee have stressed.
A key concern of Amendment 60 is that it singles out just one aspect of the environmental impact of aviation: greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee should be in no doubt that the local impact of aviation is also something that should be taken very seriously. Few could doubt that aircraft noise can have a corrosive impact on the quality of life, particularly night noise. In some locations air quality is also a real issue. Clause 84 refers in broad terms, therefore, to the full range of impacts of aviation, giving the CAA flexibility in deciding how information powers can be most effectively used. Singling out greenhouse gas emissions, important though they are, would leave the Bill unbalanced and indicate that Parliament was less concerned than it is about, for example, the noise impact of aviation.
Adopting the amendment would leave a confusing overlap between Clause 84(1)(a), which refers to,
“the environmental effects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom”,
and the proposed new paragraph (d), which refers to,
“greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of international air transport services from a civil airport and domestic air transport services to or from a civil airport”.
This could jeopardise the freedom we wish to grant the CAA to deploy this power across the full range of the different environmental impacts aviation can produce. Lastly, it is clear that Clause 84 would enable the CAA to collect information on greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation in the UK. Therefore, the amendment is not needed to achieve the outcome that noble Lords seek.
I have responded in some detail to this group of amendments because I appreciate the importance of the issues raised. As I said, I understand the concerns expressed today by noble Lords. Providing consumers with better information can provide real assistance in our efforts to protect the environment. With that assurance, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.
My Lords, I thought that the Minister’s response did justice to an excellent debate, and I congratulate him on the constructive way in which he identified our concerns and the nation’s concerns about the issues and the way in which they need to be tackled. I will certainly bear in mind the fact that he considers that I have addressed the amendment to the wrong part of the Bill. That is easily corrected and I am therefore very grateful for the information.
My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis is right about the question of information, but he must know that the premise behind economics and intelligent rational economic decision-taking is perfect information. We all know that perfect information is extremely difficult to get on almost any economic choice but what is clear is that the more information that is available to the individual, the more rational their choice can prove to be. That is the thinking behind the amendments and, as the Minister indicated, it is government thinking in crucial areas with regard to transport. We have no doubt that when it comes to emissions, transport has competitors, but it is one of the more significant areas of economic activity that present a threat to the environment. I was greatly encouraged by his response.
I was grateful, too, to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for his endorsement of the amendments. His amendment, like mine, will suffer from not being in the right place or from not quite tuning with the Minister’s preferences, but he has occasioned an illustration of how the Government are tackling this matter. I hope that this also betokens an unremitting requirement upon aviation to be clear about its emissions and the strategy that it is adopting to reduce them.
In response to my noble friend Lord Soley, the reason why we put the other transport forms into the amendment is obvious enough: this is an aviation Bill but we thought that we would incur a calumny and be criticised for being desperately partial if we addressed ourselves to the demands upon aviation with no indication at all of our anxieties about other forms of transport—not least because there are areas such as high-speed rail and improved rail services that are directly competitive with air in a way that was not the case 20 to 25 years ago.
The great friend of mine, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who is sadly no longer with us, enjoyed the privilege of being my predecessor as Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. I always said that I could never fill his boots, and that was literally so because I could not get them on. He had many extraordinary attributes but there was one in particular that I always admired: on the final afternoon before every Recess he would depart from this place, particularly in the summer, wearing the right kind of gear, and announce to everyone that he was catching the TGV to Avignon, where he had a home. I was always in complete envy of him for that journey, particularly because it was by train and would not have been possible a decade or so previously. There is no doubt that the TGV to Avignon is competitive with services from Paris to Avignon or to Marseilles by air. That is why we need a comparison, and not least a fair one, because we ought to be able to guarantee that the various transport modes are measured in ways that allow the consumer to make an accurate choice.
I appreciate the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, who spoke in positive terms. We must ensure that we do not confine enterprising developments by using desperate constraints. The only criteria that can be adopted cover questions about emissions, and indeed they do not alter the fact that the aircraft being designed now are an improvement. The Minister asked why I did not raise the issue of noise pollution. I sought to be fair to the aviation industry because it is not a major factor in other modes of transport. However, it has been a very important one for aviation. It is a conditional factor with regard to the interesting decision taken by the Government to postpone their deliberations on the development of Heathrow. I am seeking to concentrate on the direct comparators in these amendments, although I agree with the Minister that if we are concerned about the environment noise is an important factor that should be properly addressed when making decisions about aviation development.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Soley, who always kicks and prods me in the right direction when it comes to amendments. He has done an enormous amount of work with the aviation industry on improving its performance both on the ground and in terms of aircraft, and of course there have been important and encouraging developments. However, that does not alter the fact that every index on temperature and climate change shows that as a nation we are not matching up to the challenge before us, and therefore we need to take every opportunity to create a framework within which people are given the knowledge that allows them to act intelligently so far as emissions are concerned.
This has been an extremely interesting debate and I congratulate the Minister on his constructive response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 55 withdrawn.
56: Clause 83, page 51, line 22, at end insert—
“( ) the full cost of travel for users of air transport services, including all relevant surcharges such users would be expected to pay.”
Clause 83(1) requires the Civil Aviation Authority to publish,
“such information and advice as it considers appropriate for the purpose of assisting users of air transport services to compare—
(a) air transport services provided to or from a civil airport;
(b) services and facilities provided at a civil airport in the United Kingdom;
(c) services and facilities provided elsewhere in the United Kingdom and used, or likely to be used, in connection with the use of air transport services provided to or from a civil airport”.
This information is to be provided for the benefit of users of air transport services, no doubt in the light of the Civil Aviation Authority’s primary and overriding duty under Clause 1 to carry out its functions,
“in a manner which it considers will further the interests of users of air transport services”,
including in relation to the cost of current airport operation services.
Taking into account that reference to cost, the amendment adds an additional requirement on the Civil Aviation Authority to publish information and advice to assist users of air transport services to compare the full cost of travel for users of air transport services, including all relevant surcharges such users would be expected to pay. Indeed, one might think it surprising that the specific duty to make such information relating to cost available to users is not already in the Bill and is apparently left entirely to the discretion of the CAA, since the Bill says that the CAA should publish such information and advice as it considers appropriate.
The issue of charges and surcharges when travelling by air is increasingly important to those who are travelling, not least because some of the extra charges or potential extra charges are not always as clear as they might be. What might therefore seem to be a relatively cheap budget airline flight may not necessarily prove to be the case as the actual cost of travel can prove much higher than the basic fare quoted by the airline operator—indeed, in certain circumstances, more than if travelling with a mainstream operator.
Reference was made at Second Reading to a survey published in May in a national newspaper that showed that one well known budget airline’s high-season rate for a 20-kilogramme bag to go in the hold was £70 return, and if you did not book online but turned up at the airport with your bag the fee was £130 one way. The survey of budget airlines’ add-on charges showed that it could cost as much as £110 to change the name on a ticket and £120 because your bag weighed 3 kilogrammes over the limit. It also showed that add-on charges apply to a multitude of things covering bags, seat reservations, credit card fees, name-change fees, flight-change fees and fees for taking on special items such as golf clubs. Indeed, when the survey tested costs for a one-week return flight to Malaga for one person taking a 20-kilogramme bag and paying by credit card, it found add-on costs ranging from just under £35 to £82, depending on the low-cost airline operator.
The credit card surcharges to which I have made reference are a significant money-spinner for the airlines. The Office of Fair Trading has said that UK consumers spent £300 million on payment surcharges to airlines in 2010. Even though there is an attempt to clamp down on excessive card fees from the end of this year, there is evidence that airlines may seek to get around that by referring to the charge in future as an administration fee related to costs associated with the booking system.
The purpose of the amendment is not to pass judgment on the apparent proliferation of add-on charges but simply to say that such information on the level of charges and the many different things that they cover, which many might have thought would have been included in the basic fare or not charged for at all, should be made clear so that those using air transport services are able to make accurate comparisons of the full cost of travel, or potential full cost of travel, and not get caught out by a charge that they were not anticipating and of which they were unaware. Indeed, determining the add-on costs is not a straightforward or easy business for those travelling or thinking of doing so, given that some airlines charge flat-rate fees while others levy charges based on the cost of the flight.
The figures that I have quoted reveal a wide disparity in the level and incidence of such charges, and one would have thought it highly appropriate for the Civil Aviation Authority to have a role in ensuring that such information was readily available in an impartial and objective form as part of its duty under Clause 83 to provide information for the benefit of users of air transport services. That is what the amendment seeks to achieve. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted to support my noble friend without any hesitation. Let us not beat about the bush: one of the worst offenders in this area is Ryanair which, if it continues for much longer as it has been, will have a big photograph of its founder on the way in to the airport and you will have to pay to bow to it. He is adding costs and charges that are totally unreasonable. He is by far the worst offender but there are others too. The time is long overdue when all the costs of a flight should be properly advertised. It is very important. We are expecting people at the moment to book tickets when they do not really know what the full cost is and, as my noble friend has indicated, when they get to the airport they suddenly discover that the cost is infinitely more than they thought it would be, because of extra bags and taking special items on board. A short while ago we had a dreadful incident with regard to wheelchairs. All this is utterly appalling and utterly wrong.
I do not think we should mess about on these issues. All airlines should be made to set out all the charges that are imposed on customers so that they know in advance what they are going to have to pay for their tickets. My noble friend’s amendment is wholly good. If the Minister cannot accept it as it is, I hope that he can at least ensure that it goes into the Bill in some form. These practices need to be stopped.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on his amendment. We all have friends who have encountered this problem. When they think they have secured low-cost tickets, they suddenly come across these hideous charges. My wife uses low-cost airlines and constantly comes across these problems. The matter needs to be addressed.
Perhaps I may add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on what he has said. I do not know whether the amendment is acceptable in this form, but I look forward to seeing something at Report stage that will safeguard the interests of consumers.
My Lords, the amendment addresses two concerns, both of which I share. I can recall very well the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, on precisely these issues, and I hope that I gave a positive response at the time. One of the issues is the ability of the CAA to publish comparable information on air transport service pricing, and the other is that of showing the full costs of travel and surcharges. In responding, I will show that the first is already provided for in the Bill and that the second is being addressed in other ways.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is right to say that the CAA should have a role. Clause 83 is widely drawn and thus gives the CAA a new and important statutory role in promoting better public information about the aviation industry’s performance. It imposes a duty on the authority either to publish, or to arrange for the aviation sector to publish, consumer information and advice that it considers appropriate to help people compare aviation prices and services. The judgment of what is appropriate will be a matter for the regulator, which is required to prepare and consult on a statement of its policy with regard to the use of these functions. The information that Clause 83 requires the CAA to publish, if it considers that appropriate, is defined in a way that includes price comparison data, and the proposed amendment will not therefore add anything to what the CAA will be able to do. For that reason, the amendment is not necessary, and the Government oppose it.
In the debate on Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, expressed his concerns about the full costs of travel and surcharges. I will therefore set out what the Government are doing to address the issue. On the full cost of travel, consumers are already protected throughout the EU by Article 23 of EU Regulation 1008/2008, which is sometimes referred to as the ticket transparency regulation. It requires airlines to display at all times their prices inclusive of all unavoidable and foreseeable taxes, fees and charges. It also requires any optional services such as checked baggage or priority boarding to be offered on an opt-in basis only, and that the prices for these optional extras are clearly and unambiguously displayed at the start of the booking process. In addition to displaying fully inclusive prices, the regulation requires a breakdown of the price into the fare and any taxes, charges, surcharges and fees where these are added. These services should be displayed clearly and unambiguously at the start of the booking process. These requirements are designed to ensure that consumers are able to compare the price of flights across a number of airlines and to ensure that they select only the optional extras they require.
The CAA has been working with airlines to ensure compliance with this requirement and considers that the airlines it worked with are now compliant with Article 23 of the regulation and that consumers are able to compare the price of flights effectively, ensuring that they are able to choose flights that best meet their needs. The CAA has also taken action to enforce the principal obligations imposed by Article 23 through the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
During 2010 and 2011, the CAA engaged with the major airlines operating in the UK. As a result, 12 UK and 10 overseas airlines have amended their websites to ensure compliance with the transparency rules.
The Government intend to introduce a bespoke enforcement regime for Article 23 in due course. This will be similar to Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002, which is used to enforce wider consumer protection legislation. This will enable the enforcer to seek a binding agreement from an airline, travel agent or other ticket seller to cease the non-compliant practice, or to apply to the courts for an enforcement order. Failure to observe the terms of such an order could result in action for contempt of court.
I am slightly worried about the direction of travel of the Minister’s comments. It is one thing to say that they must publish information under Article 23; it is another to say that they are right up front so that a passenger knows. I do not believe that Ryanair has been giving true and full information to people in a way that enables them to assess the full cost, rather than flicking over it in the small print—although I accept that the print will not necessarily be that small. I would be happier if there were some proactive way to intervene—for the CAA, or whoever, to look at it and say, “This is utterly unacceptable and has to stop”. As far as I know—I have not tried it myself recently but this is what I have been told by passengers recently—this is still happening with Ryanair.
My Lords, I am sure that many noble Lords share the noble Lord’s view of that airline but, on the issue of publication, it is up to the CAA to determine what to publish, taking into consideration the results of the consultation.
On the second issue of payment surcharges, like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I share consumers’ concerns about the high level of payment surcharges applied by some companies and that often people are not aware of the level of these charges until almost at the end of the booking process. That makes it difficult to compare prices and shop around for a good deal. It is not right that a business should try to hide the true cost of its services by implying that its prices are made up of elements beyond its control when they are not.
Your Lordships will be aware that consumers are already protected against misleading pricing under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Additionally, on 23 December 2011 the Government announced our intention to consult on implementing the payment surcharges provision of the consumer rights directive ahead of the June 2014 deadline. We intend to issue a consultation in the summer to seek views on the timing of implementation and other details on how the provision should be applied. Responses to the consultation will inform our decision on timing and our guidance to businesses.
I hope that it is clear from what I have said that the intent of the amendment is already implicit in the primary duty and that effective mechanisms are already in place to secure the result intended. Given that, I hope that at the appropriate time the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for his reply, which I thought was going to be even more helpful than it proved to be, although I do not question his desire for transparency to be brought into charges and surcharges levied on air transport users.
I thought I heard the Minister say—when or shortly after he referred to the article under EU regulations—that the Civil Aviation Authority was of the view that airlines were complying with the regulation. If I understood correctly what the Minister said, and if the CAA is basically happy with the current situation, my only comment is that Clause 83(1), with its requirement for the CAA to publish or arrange for publication of information to assist users of air transport services, will not have any great force if the CAA considers that the situation is already satisfactory in relation to making the charges and surcharges known.
However, the extremely helpful contributions of my noble friend Lord Soley and the noble Lords, Lord Rotherwick and Lord Bradshaw, indicated that the current situation is not satisfactory and that charges are not easily and readily available to users of air transport services. For that reason, I feel somewhat concerned by the nature of the Minister’s reply. I get the feeling that the Civil Aviation Authority thinks that, in essence, the situation at the current time is satisfactory. Clearly, from the comments made in this debate, and from reports in the newspapers of individuals who have fallen foul of the surcharges, it is not. If the Government do not like the wording of the amendment, perhaps they will go away and produce wording that they think is appropriate. It is a test of how determined they are to be on the side of users of air transport services.
The Minister may argue that the issues are covered by this or that legislation or by something in the Bill, but Clause 83(1) makes no reference to charges or surcharges. Clearly there is still a problem here. This is an opportunity for the Government to show their determination to be on the side of the users of air transport services, who have suffered from these additional charges. The Government can show that by making it even more explicit than they believe it to be in the Bill that it is a duty and a responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority to make sure that the full cost of travel for users of air transport services, including all relevant surcharges that such users will be expected to pay, is available through CAA channels or directives. The CAA would be regarded as an impartial and objective body that would give reliable information rather than information that might be open to more than one interpretation.
I beg the Minister to think again about this. The issue is about making information clear and stopping people finding additional charges that they did not expect. It ought to be possible—I argue that it is necessary—to make sure that the Civil Aviation Authority, with its powers under the Bill, should provide this service for air transport users. The Government should make it very clear in the Bill that that is part of the CAA’s role and that this is the kind of information that it should provide in a clear, objective and impartial form that is easily available to those who want to use air transport services. This is about the importance that the Government attach to highlighting this problem and dealing with it.
My Lords, I reiterate to the Committee that the Government accept that there is a problem. We are determined to deal with it but we need to do so in the right way. The noble Lord asked me about what I said about Article 23. Perhaps it is worth carefully going over it because it was carefully drafted. The CAA has been working with airlines to ensure compliance with this requirement and considers that the airlines that it worked with are now compliant with Article 23. That implies that the airlines that it did not work with are not compliant.
That is the point: some of them are not. I could name Ryanair, but there are others too. Some of this is down to the psychological trick where, as you go through your booking form, usually on a computer, you tick the “something extra”. Each one on its own seems small; you get to the position where you enter your card number and book the flight; you say, “All right, I will go ahead”; and then you add it all up afterwards and it is painful. My noble friend Lord Rosser is right: we need to get much tougher on this.
I have not looked at Article 23. I will do so and I am grateful to the Minister for drawing it to our attention, but I have a strong feeling that unless there is a tough ruling on this we will not get what we want, or not for a very long time.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord’s analysis. However, it is open to and up to the CAA to determine how it will publicise the situation. It may choose to report on the headline price of a ticket offered by an airline and then say, “But just before you click, you will find out that it is three times more expensive”. It is a matter for the CAA to say how it is going to do this.
It may be helpful if I say what the CAA is already doing in this area. The CAA has researched the fees and charges of the top 24 airlines operating from the UK, including the cost of paying by credit card, booking an assigned seat and taking various weights of hold luggage, and has published a comparison table. This table provides consumers shopping around with the ability to see what charges they might face, and the ability to use that information to help them decide which airline to travel with, based on their individual needs. The CAA has also recently updated all the information and advice available to passengers through its website, in order to give pre-shopping advice as well as advice on resolving travel problems.
I am aware that I myself have never thought of looking at the CAA’s website when considering purchasing an airline ticket. Perhaps there is a lack of knowledge among consumers that this information is available.
I do not think that the Minister is alone in not looking at the CAA website before booking his ticket; that is fairly common for most people. It is clear that the CAA is hearing this debate now. Could we ask it, through the Minister, to report to him on what it is doing so that he can let the Committee know? It is the sleight of hand by some of these airlines that needs to be addressed. As a Member of this House, I would like a very clear response from the CAA about what it is going to do because the situation is unsatisfactory.
I thank the Minister for his further comments. It is fair to say that he did not address my point that Clause 83(1), which covers the CAA publishing information, does not actually lay a specific requirement on the CAA to cover information on the costs of travel, including all relevant surcharges; it says that the CAA must publish what “it considers appropriate”. Surely it would be much happier for the Bill to make it clearer that the CAA is expected to publish this information on charges and surcharges, for the benefit of users of air transport services. I am genuinely sorry that the Minister has not been prepared to move on this. Bearing in mind that he has accepted that there is a problem, it is not satisfactory to seek to argue that it is covered elsewhere, when the opportunity is here in the Bill to ensure that there is a clear responsibility for the CAA to act for the benefit of air transport users in respect of charges and surcharges. It would not cost the Government anything to put it in, but it would make it very clear to everybody that this was a role for the CAA. Frankly, in the light of what the Minister has said—he accepts that it is a problem, and he seeks to argue that it is covered in other parts of the Bill or in other regulations—why does he resist putting it in the Bill, clearly and emphatically, in the way that I suggest?
Despite the further representations that my noble friend Lord Soley and I have made, it is clear that the Minister is not going to budge on this one even though, as I say, it is difficult to understand what the difficulty is. If that is the Minister’s stance, there is little else that I can do at this stage but withdraw my amendment, but obviously we shall have to consider whether we wish to pursue this matter further on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 56 withdrawn.
Amendment 57 not moved.
Debate on whether Clause 83 should stand part of the Bill.
I apologise for not being here earlier. I hope that I am in order in asking the Minister one question arising from Clause 83(1) on the reference to civil airports and all the divisions of the clause that relate to them. He will be aware that some military airports accept civil flights. What will be the position in that case?
Clause 83 agreed.
58: After Clause 83, insert the following new Clause—
“Provision of information about aviation
(1) The CAA must publish, or arrange for the publication of, such information and advice as it considers appropriate for the purposes of assisting users of general and business aviation services to compare—
(a) airport operation services and facilities provided for general and business aviation at a civil airport in the United Kingdom;(b) services and facilities provided elsewhere in the United Kingdom and used, or likely to be used, in connection with general and business aviation.(2) The CAA must publish guidance and advice with a view to improving the standard of such services for general and business aviation users of airport operation services and facilities.
(3) The CAA must take such steps as it considers practicable to keep under review the information, guidance and other advice that is published under this section by the CAA or other persons.
(4) For the purposes of carrying out its functions under this section, the CAA may carry out, commission or provide financial or other support for research.
(5) In this section “user”, in relation to a service provided for general and business aviation, includes flight training providers, air taxi services, air ambulances, private pilots and passengers and operators of general and business aviation aircraft.
(6) In this section references to users of a general and business aviation service or facility include potential users of such services and facilities.”
My Lords, I remind the Committee that I made a declaration of interest earlier on. Clause 83 requires the CAA to provide information about airport services and facilities for air transport users. This is a very valuable aspect of the Bill and it ought to be extended to cover the direct users of the airport operation services and facilities from the general and business aviation sector, the GBA. Now that I say it, that sounds a bit like GBH, but it is not. Amendment 58 endeavours to do that.
By way of introduction to my amendment, I invite the Committee to look at the Bill. It is unambitious because it is so limited in scope. The opportunity was there and the groundwork had been laid for a Bill that would have declared to Europe that Britain was open for aviation business in all its forms and was ready and able to grasp the economic and business opportunities that that could bring, so I feel that I can offer no more than a muted cheer for the Bill.
Where the Bill most needs improvement is in its potential to recognise and make provision for the GBA. However, it concentrates on the economic regulation of a small number of dominant airports and on looking after the interests of airline passengers and owners of air cargo. That is commendable, hence the two muted cheers, but my concern is for the interest ignored in the Bill: the GBA. As I said previously, 96% of UK-registered aircraft are ignored by the Bill’s principal provisions. The Minister has accepted that the Bill is limited in scope. He said that it,
“seeks primarily to provide for better regulation of our airports and is not designed to be a comprehensive overhaul of our legislation”.—[Official Report, 27/6/12; col. GC 143.]
Had the Bill grasped the opportunity to perform that overhaul, it would have deserved three hearty cheers.
With my small number of amendments, I seek to highlight the importance and needs of the GBA, to probe the Government on their attitudes towards this important sector and to introduce some helpful amendments. I feel that I have already made some progress. On day one of this Committee the Minister said that,
“the Government absolutely recognise the valuable contribution of the general and business aviation sector … It also has growing economic importance for the European manufacturing industry”.—[Official Report, 27/6/12; col. GC 144.]
With that recognition placed on record, I am encouraged that I may be able to seduce the Government into bringing forward an amendment that will make a useful contribution to the welfare of the GBA sector.
Part 2 of the Bill includes 10 clauses under the banner, “Provision of information about aviation”. The first of those, Clause 83, is entitled, “Information for benefit of users of air transport services”. My proposition is that there is information that could be of great benefit to the direct users of airport operation services and facilities from the GBA sector. The CAA is best placed to collect and collate that information and make it available. That would be of benefit to the market.
I am sorry to say that GBA users are often at best neglected and at worst positively discriminated against by operators of airports predominantly serving commercial aviation. My amendment would address that failing. In an information age, it seems archaic that there is no single source of advice for the GBA sector. There is no CAA website allowing GBA users to compare facilities and services at different airfields. Ideally, such information should be available on all airfields, but even if the scope of this proposed new clause were restricted to dominant airfields it would still represent a significant step forward in openness and transparency, allowing better informed decisions to be made.
The new clause, cast in exactly the same terms as the Government’s Clause 83, would require the CAA to,
“publish guidance and advice with a view to improving the standard of … services facilities for general and business aviation users of”,
airports. I would like that to include a whole range of airfields, but if that would be a step too far I would settle for its scope being restricted to dominant airports. I beg to move.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Rotherwick and, I think, my noble friend Lord Goschen, who is not in his place, I was much disappointed by the Minister’s replies to amendments about civil aviation earlier in our consideration of the Bill the other day. I hope that he will be a bit more forthcoming in response to the latest amendment from my noble friend, which has my strong support.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for tabling the amendment. We had an informed debate about general and business aviation on the first day of Committee, and I committed to meeting my noble friend Lord Rotherwick and his team to discuss the interests of general and business aviation further. I am sorry that my noble friends were disappointed by my response on that occasion.
The proposed new clause seeks to replicate the information publishing requirements being imposed on the Civil Aviation Authority by Clause 83. However, the Bill already covers general and business aviation interests where the flights include passengers, cargo or both. So, for example, where a corporate flight is carrying business passengers, the proposed duty under Clause 83 will extend to these situations because the passengers comprise users of air transport services. In these cases, the CAA functions will allow it to correct the asymmetric information market failure that I alluded to when we debated Clause 83 in all instances where there are users of air transport services.
The Bill does not include either the part of general aviation that is for non-commercial leisure use or the part that comprises commercial services that do not involve the carriage of cargo or passengers. Examples of these are crop spraying, flight training and surveying—I suspect that that is a concern of my noble friend. The amendment extends a duty to publish information beyond passengers and cargo. However, the market for general aviation is more transparent than that for the ordinary consumer. General aviation users comprise trained and licensed pilots with ready access to networks and sources of information. Comprehensive information on what facilities are available to pilots at each UK-licensed airport and airfield is already freely available online from, for example, the UKGA website. Much more information is also available through published flight guides or from the relevant aerodromes.
A further duty on the CAA, as the amendment proposes, to take into account the reasonable interests of general and business aviation is therefore unlikely to make a material difference to the information that is available to those airport service users. Against that background, we do not think it appropriate to give specific prominence to the interests of general and business aviation or, indeed, to any other specific sector. Moreover, we consider that such a duty would impose an unreasonable financial burden on the CAA and the aviation industry. The burden would fall either on the aviation industry generally, which would not be equitable, or on the general aviation community, which as I have explained has access to the information that it needs. For these reasons, I hope that my noble friend will consider withdrawing his amendment.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his response and my noble friend Lord Trefgarne for his support. I have listened carefully to what the Minister said, but I think I will need to read it as well. The overall principle that I am trying to establish is that the CAA should have more regard to championing the cause of general and business aviation. At present, the sector does not feel that it has a champion to look after it, and this is but a small area in which it has concerns. However, I thank my noble friend once again for his kind words and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 58 withdrawn.
59: After Clause 83, insert the following new Clause—
“Access for disabled and reduced mobility air passengers
The Secretary of State and the CAA will produce an annual report on disabled and reduced mobility air transport passenger experiences of airport operation services and air transport services which must include evidence on the extent to which airport operations and air transport services are compliant with relevant legislation, regulations and codes of practice for the time being in force.”
My Lords, this amendment would insert into the Bill a new clause on access for disabled and reduced mobility air passengers. It would require the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority to produce an annual report,
“which must include evidence on the extent to which airport operations and air transport services are compliant with relevant legislation, regulations and codes of practice”,
as well as information on the experiences of disabled and reduced mobility passengers of airport operation services and air transport services. Passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility need to be given appropriate assistance at airports, especially when passing through security. The Department for Transport’s decision to abolish the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, which gave advice on the experiences of disabled people that enabled transport provision to be improved, has meant the loss of a valuable source of advice to airports and policy-makers.
The Civil Aviation Authority has a primary duty to carry out its functions in a manner that furthers the interests of users of air transport services. However, Clause 1(5) states that:
“If, in a particular case, the CAA considers that there is a conflict—
(a) between the interests of different classes of user of air transport services, or
(b) between the interests of users of air transport services in different matters mentioned in subsection (1)”—
—that is, the,
“range, availability, continuity, cost and quality of airport operation services”—
the Civil Aviation Authority’s duty under that subsection in those circumstances is,
“to carry out the functions in a manner which it considers will further such of those interests as it thinks best”.
In his reply, I should like the Minister to say how the Government anticipate or expect the provisions in Clause 1(5) to be implemented in respect of disabled and reduced mobility air passengers. Are they a different class of user, as referred to under subsection (5)(a), compared with passengers who are not disabled and have no reduced mobility? If so, does that mean that under the Bill it becomes a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority to decide to which class of user it should give precedence if it decides that there is a conflict as defined in subsection (5)? If that is the case, will the CAA, using its power under that subsection (5), carry out its functions in a manner that it considers will further such of those interests as it thinks best could be used in a way that will not be helpful to disabled and reduced mobility air passengers and remain within the terms of the Bill and thus the law?
Equally, how is subsection (5)(b) to be applied? It refers to conflicts between the interests of air transport services in the different matters mentioned in subsection (1), which includes availability of airport operation services. Again, where the CAA considers that there is a conflict, under the Bill it is left to the CAA to carry out its duty under subsection (1) in a manner that it considers will further such interests that it thinks best. Availability of airport operation services, which must include accessibility, is an important issue for disabled and reduced-mobility air passengers, but is not normally so much of a problem for air passengers who are not disabled and have no reduced mobility. If the CAA felt that there was a conflict between users of air transport services in that availability and that accessibility of airport operation services might be a bigger priority for disabled and reduced-mobility air passengers than other passengers, for whom range, cost or quality might be the top consideration, does it mean that under Clause 1(5) the CAA could, where there was a conflict, make a decision that would not be helpful to the needs of disabled and reduced-mobility air passengers, but would be helpful to the needs of other passengers?
I am of course aware of the code of practice, the Department for Transport’s Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility, and of European directives covering the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, but I do not think too many people would argue that these codes and directives have given disabled and reduced mobility passengers the same level of facilities and services tailored to their needs to the extent that applies to passengers who are not disabled and do not have reduced mobility. The amendment seeks to address the issue by providing at least for an annual report from the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority on the travel experiences of disabled and reduced mobility air passengers, and the extent to which relevant legislation, regulations and codes are being applied and implemented. Such a report would involve undertaking similar kinds of studies to those which the Department for Transport has carried out in the past into the experiences of disabled people when travelling by air.
The previous one, I think, was conducted in 2005. It involved interviews and reviews of airline and airport operators and disabled passengers, and checks on facilities and practices at airports. The key findings were that some passengers felt that some airline and airport staff lacked disability awareness, especially in relation to hidden disabilities such as deafness; that disabled passengers were not always being asked if they needed assistance, contrary to the code of practice; that not all airlines followed the code’s recommendation to permit disabled passengers to pre-book seats, and that there had been few improvements in the availability of help points at points of arrival compared to previous years .
The Civil Aviation Authority and the Secretary of State are given a number of clear duties and responsibilities in the Bill. The responsibility for ensuring that the needs of disabled and reduced-mobility passengers are addressed and are not overlooked should be clearly identified, and that is what the amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.
My noble friend has addressed a very important issue. I speak as someone who is partially disabled. Some sort of annual report is desirable. I am not sure whether it has to be dealt with in legislation, but there ought to be a clear obligation to ensure that the requirement is enforced. I cannot understand why there should be any opposition to that. I do not care whether there is a requirement in law, but there ought to be an understanding, if there is not a requirement in law, that that should be invoked.
People who are disabled or have reduced mobility are highly important passengers. At the moment, their requirements are not properly met. Therefore the proposition advanced in the amendment ought to be implemented forthwith. Again, disabled and reduced mobility passengers are vital and should not be overlooked. I hope that the Minister will properly address the important point made by my noble friend Lord Rosser.
My Lords, of course the Government agree that it is important that airlines and airports are sensitive to the needs of disabled people and comply with the European regulation which has been enacted to protect the interests of people with disabilities. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has asked a specific question about how the CAA balances its duties under Clause 1 with the needs of disabled passengers. The answer is that the CAA has to strike a balance. The reason for that is that disabled passengers are also users of air transport services, so they need to be taken into consideration.
Unfortunately, however, I cannot support the amendment for several reasons. I must highlight concern about how it would work in practice: my first concern is practical. The amendment is drafted in such a way as to put the obligation to produce an annual report jointly on the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority. I have significant doubt about linking together the regulator and the Secretary of State in that way. The aviation regulator and the national enforcement body for European aviation consumer legislation is separate from the Secretary of State in respect of ensuring compliance with EU law, and the amendment could be seen to compromise the CAA’s independence in that role.
The second reason why I cannot support the amendment is that effective mechanisms are already in place to secure the commendable result intended. I say in answer to the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Clinton-Davis that the CAA already publishes an annual report and corporate plan and makes a considerable amount of consumer information available on its website. An extra annual report on a specific area of legislation, on top of those more wide-ranging reports, would be disproportionate. The CAA is already committed to the principles of better regulation and aims to be as transparent as possible in all its work, including compliance with and enforcement of consumer protection legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the future of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. The Government have gone out to public consultation on the future of the DPTAC. The consultation closes in September. The CAA continues to develop its capacity to help consumers and has advanced the setting-up of a new consumer advisory panel to act as a critical friend of the regulator as it moves forward in putting consumers at the heart of its regulatory efforts.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes an interesting point. In a debate on an earlier amendment I admitted that I had not looked at the information that the CAA published on issues such as fares. I also admit that I have never looked at the CAA website, and I suspect that most passengers never look at it. However, several organisations look after the needs of disabled people, and I have no doubt that they will look very closely at all the information that is published by the CAA.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will let me finish my speech, he may gain a better understanding. Also, I will send him more details by post.
Noble Lords will know that the CAA announced in April that the chair of the new panel would be Keith Richards. Mr Richards has considerable experience of disabled air passenger issues, having been chair of the aviation working group at the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee for many years, as well as a former head of consumer affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents. The CAA and the new panel chair will need time to develop a relationship, but, it would not be unreasonable to suppose that the experience of disabled passengers at airports and on planes will be of considerable interest to the new chair. I suggest that it would be better to allow the new CAA consumer panel to have the space to develop how it will go about its work, and how best to support and inform passengers, than to impose an obligation on it in the way suggested by the noble Lord’s amendment. In view of this, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment in due course.
I thank the Minister for his response, and I thank my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis for his very helpful contribution. I do not see the amendment, as the Minister implied with his last comment that he sees it, as imposing a great burden in future on the CAA. If part of the problem is that the Secretary of State is also involved and the Minister does not think that appropriate, that issue could be addressed in a further amendment at a later stage.
The Minister did not address the enhanced, more important and more influential role that the CAA will surely have under the Bill, which gives it additional responsibilities and lays on it a general duty to carry out its functions in a way that will further the interests of users of air transport services. Simply to say that it already produces a report perhaps does not do justice to the enhanced role and greater importance and influence of the CAA that appears to be provided for in this legislation.
I also asked the Minister whether in references to,
“interests of different classes of user”,
in Clause 1(5) disabled and reduced-mobility air passengers would be regarded as one class of user and those who were not disabled and did not have reduced mobility as another. I am not sure that I had a specific response to that, because there remains the issue of how the CAA will strike that balance between the two different classes of user where it considers that there is conflict—and one can easily see where there could be.
I also asked whether the reference in Clause 1(5)(b) to,
“the interests of users of air transport services in different matters mentioned in subsection (1)”,
meant that the CAA might see a conflict between the interests of disabled and reduced-mobility air passengers, for whom accessibility and the availability of airport operation services could be the key issue, and those of passengers who were not disabled and did not have reduced mobility, for whom other factors such as the cost and quality of airport operation services might be at the top of the tree of their priorities.
If the CAA is going to have to make some tough decisions where it considers that there is a conflict, which is after all the situation that Clause 1(5) appears to provide for, and makes decisions that may not be helpful to disabled and reduced-mobility passengers in resolving what it sees as a conflict, I would have thought that that and the CAA’s enhanced role in furthering the interests of users of air transport services justified the amendment that I am putting down, which calls for an annual report on the extent to which relevant legislation, regulations and codes are being complied with and on the experiences of disabled and reduced-mobility air transport passengers in the use of airport operation services and air transport services.
My Lords, I am not without sympathy for the noble Lord’s amendment. It would be a bit much to ask the Civil Aviation Authority to produce a separate, free-standing annual report on this matter, but might it be possible to require it to put a relevant passage into its general annual report, which is already published regularly?
I thank the noble Lord for that contribution. If the Minister had stood up and said that—unless he is going to say that such a passage is already in the annual report from the CAA, in which case I suspect that it would need to be expanded in view of its enhanced role—I might well have felt that it was a move in the direction of the amendment. My concern is not so much about whether the report is a separate document as about whether the issue is covered and addressed by the CAA. If it can address that properly and fully in an existing annual report, I am sure that that would go a long way towards meeting the point that I have made in the amendment.
My Lords, the noble Lord asked me about the difficult point of the CAA balancing the needs of different users. As I have already said, they are in the same group—that is, users of air transport services. However, there is nothing to prevent the CAA focusing on different groups of users in exercising its information duties. I will write to the noble Lord in greater and more carefully considered detail on these points. I can see that he is very interested in exactly how the legislation works. The matter is far too technical for me to be able to respond orally, and I am sure that it is much better handled in writing.
As I said, my main concern is not that there is a separate document but that the issue is covered. Can the Minister give assurances that in annual reports from the CAA—he has expressed his concern about the Secretary of State also being involved—the issues that we have been discussing can be addressed under the new powers that the CAA will have under the Bill?
Amendment 59 withdrawn.
Clause 84: Environmental information
Amendment 60 withdrawn.
Clause 84 agreed.
Clauses 85 to 91 agreed.
Schedule 13: Appeals against penalties
Amendments 61 to 63
61: Schedule 13, page 115, line 5, leave out sub-paragraph (3)
62: Schedule 13, page 115, line 13, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert—
“( ) The Competition Appeal Tribunal may allow an appeal under paragraph 1 only to the extent that it is satisfied that the decision appealed against was wrong on one or more of the following grounds—
(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;(b) that the decision was wrong in law; (c) that an error was made in the exercise of a discretion.”
63: Schedule 13, page 115, line 23, at end insert—
“( ) When deciding an appeal under paragraph 1 (including giving directions), the Competition Appeal Tribunal must have regard to the matters in respect of which duties are imposed on the CAA by section 4 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.”
Amendments 61 to 63 agreed.
Schedule 13, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 92 and 93 agreed.
Clause 94: Regulation of provision of flight accommodation
63A: Clause 94, page 57, line 20, at end insert—
“(d) that a person (“P”) acting in the course of a business carried on by P does not in the United Kingdom facilitate the making available of flight accommodation by another person in circumstances in which one or more prescribed arrangements relating to payment apply, unless P meets the condition in subsection (1A).”
My Lords, the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) scheme, which is run by the Civil Aviation Authority, has been effectively protecting holidaymakers from the insolvency of travel companies selling package holidays including a flight since the 1970s.
Last year, 18.5 million passengers were protected by the ATOL scheme, with 47,000 being repatriated and 146,000 receiving refunds when their travel companies became insolvent.
However, we need to modernise the scheme so that it better reflects the way that holidays are now bought and sold in today’s market, particularly with the increasing importance of the internet. For example, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to know whether their holiday is a package holiday, and so protected under the ATOL scheme, or is comprised of individually sold elements that do not have full ATOL protection. The framework for businesses selling holidays including a flight could also benefit from being clearer and more consistent.
That is why on 30 April 2012, the Government introduced new ATOL regulations made under existing powers in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 to provide greater clarity for consumers about whether their holiday is protected by bringing flight-plus holidays sold by tour operators and travel agents into the scheme. Those are holidays which look like a package but which sit outside the legal definition of a package. From October, consumers will also receive an ATOL certificate whenever they purchase an ATOL-protected product confirming that their holiday is protected, increasing clarity about the scheme’s coverage.
Clause 94 would allow those reforms to go further by broadening the Secretary of State’s powers to make regulations under Section 71 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 so that holidays sold by airlines could be brought into the ATOL scheme, as far as is consistent with EU law, as well as those arranged on what is called an agent-for-consumer basis.
The proposals were consulted on last summer. Bringing agent-for-consumer holidays into the ATOL scheme was strongly supported as a way of improving consumer clarity and ending a potential way for businesses to avoid the scheme. Bringing holidays sold by airlines into the scheme received mixed views. It was not supported by airlines, which argued that it would be disproportionate regulation. However, on balance, the Government decided that they should have the power to do that, because it could create a more consistent and coherent framework for businesses as well as further improving consumer clarity about the scheme’s scope. Should the clause become law, the Government would expect to consult stakeholders in 2013 on new draft regulations to give effect to these changes. The proposals were welcomed by both sides in discussion of the Bill in the House of Commons and in our debate at Second Reading.
While preparing for the introduction of the new ATOL regulations on 30 April, two circumstances were identified that might allow some businesses to avoid the ATOL scheme. Without addressing these, the objective of providing greater clarity for consumers and more consistent regulation for businesses could be compromised. It is not possible for these issues to be resolved through further secondary legislation, as the powers in Section 71 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, even if amended by Clause 94, are not sufficient. For this reason, the Government have brought forward Amendments 63A to 63D. I shall deal first with Amendments 63A and 63B.
A model used by some businesses in arranging a flight-plus holiday is to facilitate the purchase of a flight; that is, purchasing a seat on a flight from an airline at the request of a consumer. By acting in this way, a business may not be covered by the current ATOL scheme and is not making available a seat on a flight by acting on behalf of the airline. The business’s way of trading may also not be that of an agent for the consumer, and so it would not be covered by the ATOL scheme if it were to be amended under the powers extended by Clause 94. However, it could be difficult for consumers to tell when the purchase of a holiday including a flight was being facilitated and sold outside the ATOL scheme, as the holiday purchase could be identical to those which are protected under the ATOL scheme. To reduce the risk of confusion for consumers and to ensure that the facilitating model does not provide a way for businesses to avoid the ATOL scheme, Amendments 63A and 63B would allow the Secretary of State to make regulations to require businesses that facilitate making available flight accommodation to have an ATOL licence. Although this may appear to be a broad power, it is important to note that it can be used only where a business makes or receives a payment in relation to the flight accommodation or facilitates the making or receiving of a payment.
I turn to Amendments 63C and 63D. The current ATOL regulation-making power in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 allows goods, services and other benefits such as hotel accommodation or car hire to be regulated when they are supplied in connection with a contract for a flight that is subject to the ATOL scheme. That is the basis for including flight-plus holidays in the ATOL scheme. However, some businesses could argue that as any hotel accommodation, for example, purchased by a consumer alongside the flight is supplied on an entirely separate contract from that for the flight, which might be clearly stated in their terms and conditions, the holiday is not subject to the ATOL scheme. To address this, Amendment 63C would allow future ATOL regulations to specify the circumstances where goods, services and other benefits purchased alongside a flight are to be regulated under the ATOL scheme rather than limiting them to where they applied in connection to the contract for the flight.
Finally, Amendment 63D is a consequential amendment to ensure that identical wording to that used in Amendment 63C is used in another part of Clause 94 concerned with goods, services and other benefits that are within the ATOL scheme. Subject to the passage of the Bill, the Government’s intention is to consult fully in 2013 with stakeholders on the potential use of the powers in Clause 94 as drafted. An impact assessment will also be produced as part of that consultation. Should the amendment to Clause 94 that I have outlined today become law, that consultation and the accompanying impact assessment will also include the use of the powers in the amendments.
To conclude, without these amendments there is a risk that the achievement of the Government's objectives for ATOL reform—to provide greater clarity for consumers about the scope of the scheme and a more consistent regulatory framework for business—may be compromised. The amendments are intended to ensure that those objectives can be achieved as envisaged. It is not the Government’s intention that that should lead to a significant extension of the ATOL scheme. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Minister is certainly correct in saying that the extension of the ATOL scheme contained in the Bill has won the support of both sides in the other House. We also indicated at Second Reading how much we approved of this extension of the ATOL scheme. We thoroughly endorse the main objective which the Minister is seeking to achieve and are delighted to see it in the Bill. I take it that the categories that are extended will receive the ATOL certificate in the same way as all others that are part of the scheme, so that consumers will know they are contained within the scheme under the new arrangements of Amendments 63A and 63B. I am making that assumption—if the Minister nods his assent, I am reassured on that front. That is excellent news.
On the other question, I understand the point that there is no attempt to greatly extend the boundary of the scheme while seeking to preserve protection in those specific cases. I hope that that boundary is easily maintained, because that is what is being put in the legislation. We all know that there are two categories of disappointed people. There are those who did not participate in the ATOL scheme and were never therefore covered, who are utterly dismayed when things go badly wrong. There is no event in one’s normal life much worse than a holiday going badly wrong. However, if anything, it is worse to think that you are covered when you are not. As long as there is clarity at the boundary about that, I am entirely satisfied with the amendments and am delighted to see them being proposed.
Amendment 63A agreed.
Amendments 63B to 63D
63B: Clause 94, page 57, line 33, at end insert—
“(1D) The arrangements relating to payment that may be prescribed under subsection (1)(d) are any arrangements under which P makes or receives payment, or facilitates the making or receipt of payment by another person, in connection with the making available of the flight accommodation.””
63C: Clause 94, page 57, line 35, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—
“(a) in paragraph (b), for the words from “the minimum charges” to the end substitute “goods, services and other benefits which are or are not to be provided by any person in prescribed circumstances;”, and”
63D: Clause 94, page 57, line 43, leave out “to be provided in prescribed circumstances” and insert “which are or are not to be provided by any person in prescribed circumstances”
Amendments 63B to 63D agreed.
Clause 94, as amended, agreed.
Clause 95 agreed.
Committee adjourned at 6.48 pm.