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Space Industry Bill [HL]

Volume 789: debated on Tuesday 27 February 2018

Commons Amendments

Motion on Amendments 1 to 5

Moved by

1: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

“Grant of licences: assessments of environmental effects

(1) This section applies to—(a) a spaceport licence;(b) an operator licence authorising launches of spacecraft or carrier aircraft.(2) The regulator may not grant an application for a licence to which this section applies unless the applicant has submitted an assessment of environmental effects.(3) In this section “assessment of environmental effects”—(a) in relation to a spaceport licence, means an assessment of the effects that launches of spacecraft or carrier aircraft from the spaceport in question, or from launches of spacecraft from carrier aircraft launched from the spaceport, are expected to have on the environment;(b) in relation to an operator licence authorising launches of spacecraft or carrier aircraft, means an assessment of the effects that those launches are expected to have on the environment.(4) If or to the extent that the regulator directs, the requirement imposed by subsection (2) to submit an assessment of environmental effects may be met by submitting—(a) an equivalent assessment prepared previously in compliance with a requirement imposed by or under another enactment, or(b) an assessment of environmental effects prepared in connection with a previous application. The regulator may make a direction under this subsection only if satisfied that there has been no material change of circumstances since the previous assessment was prepared.(5) The regulator must take into account the assessment of environmental effects (including any assessment submitted as mentioned in subsection (4)) in deciding—(a) whether to grant a licence to which this section applies;(b) what conditions should be attached to such a licence under section 12.(6) The regulator must issue guidance about—(a) the form, contents and level of detail of an assessment of environmental effects;(b) the time for submitting an assessment of environmental effects;(c) the circumstances in which the regulator will or may give a direction under subsection (4).Guidance under paragraph (a) may specify matters that are to be dealt with in an assessment of environmental effects only if the regulator so requires in a particular case.”

2: Clause 34, page 25, line 15, leave out “may” and insert “must”

3: Clause 34, page 25, line 22, after first “or” insert “duty under subsection”

4: Clause 34, page 25, line 26, after “may” insert “or must”

5: Clause 34, Page 25, line 29, after “or” insert “duty under subsection”

My Lords, these amendments cover issues debated during the passage of the Bill through both Houses.

I know noble Lords will agree that the Space Industry Bill is an important step to ensure that the UK space sector is at the forefront of a new commercial space age. It is important that our scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are equipped to take advantage of this opportunity.

On Amendment 1, noble Lords may recall our useful debates on the requirement for environmental protection to be set out in the Bill. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord McNally, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their valuable contributions to this debate. These debates resulted in an additional licence condition being inserted into Schedule 1, enabling the regulator to require an assessment from an applicant of the impact noise and emissions are expected to have on the local community. Noble Lords did not consider that this amendment alone went far enough to afford the environmental protection to which spaceflight activities ought to be subject. On Report, I committed to the Government tabling a further amendment in the other place to address this. I am pleased to report that such an amendment has been inserted into the Bill by way of a new Clause 11. Amendment 1 places a mandatory requirement on an applicant for either a launch or a spaceport licence to submit an assessment of the environmental effects of their proposed activity. The regulator must take the assessment into account before a licence is granted. I hope noble Lords will agree that the amendment provides robust environmental protection in the Bill as requested.

I turn to Amendments 2 to 5, which also reflect a commitment I made on Report to ensure that the uninvolved general public have easy recourse to compensation if something goes wrong. This followed a helpful debate and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for leading the way on this issue and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his support of it. As highlighted throughout the passage of the Bill, safety is our priority. The provisions are designed to ensure that spaceflight activity is as safe as possible and that risks to third parties are minimised. However, where injury or damage occurs, third parties should have easy recourse to compensation; this remains the case even when an operator’s liability to third parties is capped. These amendments turn the discretionary power in what is now Clause 35(3) into a duty. This means that if an operator’s liability is capped under Clause 35, the Government are required to pay compensation to the public for any claims for injury or damage above the capped amount.

I hope noble Lords will agree to support the Motion to approve these Commons amendments, which reflect commitments I made during our discussions on the Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, very briefly, I am particularly pleased to see Amendment 1. The Minister gave those assurances during the debate and we tabled an amendment relating to the need to take environmental considerations into account. I recall saying at the time that one has to think of the impact on local people; just because it is exciting and being done in rural areas does not mean that we can ignore the impact on the environment. A great deal was made of the rurality of these space sites and it strikes me that the noise, road closures and impact of heavy vehicles will be of more concern in rural areas than they would if it was being done in an urban area, which of course cannot be the case here. As with any building works in previously greenfield sites, there will be a huge impact and I am reassured that the Government have now taken this rather more appropriately into account.

My Lords, perhaps I may cover the other amendments to which the Minister referred. I welcome what the Government have done; she promised to do it and she has, and for that we are very grateful.

This gives me an opportunity to repair an omission from our earlier debates. These were much dominated by the prospect of the Moynihan international spaceport up at Prestwick—the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is not in his place at the moment—but I saw something a few days ago that took me back to my youth, if not to my childhood. It was the name Goonhilly hitting the headlines, with the fact that there is to be an £8.4 million investment by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership to upgrade Goonhilly Downs. I can still hear “Telstar” in my head as I think of the way Goonhilly captured the imagination of the world many years ago. It is good to know that Cornwall Airport Newquay is also an active bidder for the idea of being one of these new spaceports.

The other factor to bring to mind is that the UK Space Agency says that the global market for space is expected to increase from £155 billion per year to £400 billion by 2030. Although sometimes during the debate in both Houses there was a feeling that these matters are a long way away, they are really just around the corner, and the activities of people such as Elon Musk are proving that to be so. That is why this amendment is so important. We have to give people the assurance that if they go into this exciting new industry, they will not be left with unlimited liabilities, and that public safety will be adequately covered. By her action, the Minister has made sure that the industry is investment-friendly, and that is all to the good.

My Lords, we raised the issues covered by these amendments in the Lords, and the Minister assured the House that changes would be brought forward in the other place to address those concerns. We are pleased the Government have delivered on those assurances and warmly welcome the amendments. During the passage of the Bill, I referred to early aviation legislation and its failure to envisage the growth of that industry or the impact it would have on our future. These amendments are vital to ensuring that we look not only at the needs of the industry but at the impact it will have on the environment and, importantly, surrounding communities.

When we began the Bill, there was not a huge amount of reference to the environment in it and—as the Minister no doubt finds it hard to forget—there was no mention at all of the word “noise”. We have come a good way since then. The new clause ensures that the impact the project will have on the environment is put front and centre as part of the application process and will be duly taken into account by the regulator. We welcome this and put on record our hopes and expectations that this will be a rigorous part of the application process.

The amendments to Clause 34 will ensure that the uninvolved general public—those of us who are not planning to launch into space any time soon—are fully protected if a catastrophic incident occurs and causes damage. It is right and proper that the Government have afforded their citizens that protection. We thank the Government for listening and acting on our concerns.

My Lords, first, I thank noble Lords for participating in this short debate and for their support for the amendments to the Bill. Indeed, this cross-party support has been clear during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships’ House. As ever, the scrutiny and analysis of noble Lords has improved the Bill.

The Bill will deliver on the Government’s ambition to take the UK into the commercial space age by enabling small satellite launch and suborbital spaceflight from UK spaceports, whether it be the Moynihan Prestwick one or the McNally Newquay one, as we might now call it. There is no shortage of ambition in the UK, with a number of potential spaceports and launch companies developing plans to offer UK launch services. The Bill provides the modern regulatory framework needed to enable this exciting and empowering opportunity for our thriving space sector, but also addresses the important concerns around the environment and communities. This will help ensure that the UK is one of the best places to start, grow and invest in space businesses.

Motion agreed.

Motion on Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Clause 71, Page 47, line 11, leave out subsection (2)

My Lords, this amendment removes the privilege amendment and is a procedural technicality. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.