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Brexit: Aviation

Volume 789: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the appointment of their General Aviation Champion, when they will set out how future regulation of general aviation will be handled after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union; and how this will fit in with plans to reform United Kingdom airspace policy.

My Lords, regulatory oversight of general aviation is shared between the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority. As the Prime Minister made clear in her speech last Friday, we will seek participation in the EASA system after we leave the European Union. The UK’s airspace modernisation programme, together with the aviation strategy, aims to provide a framework that enables industry, including general aviation, and communities to continue working together to deliver airspace modernisation while managing the environmental impacts of aviation.

My Lords, speaking as a GA pilot, I am very interested in success in that sector and in controlled airspace. Can my noble friend confirm that, as the review takes place, we will be looking at the possibility of reducing, not just increasing, controlled airspace to the advantage of that sector? The Minister referred to EASA. Can she please clarify that, in our negotiations for continued involvement with EASA, we will also be negotiating our position to remain members of the various committees under EASA? Can she clarify what our proposals are for international airspace access in the wider setting outside Europe?

I thank my noble friend for his question. The Government absolutely recognise the importance of the general aviation sector, the economic footprint of which is an estimated £3 billion. On controlled airspace, as my noble friend will know, airports often want to increase controlled airspace for safety reasons, which are of course paramount, but when making decisions on airspace changes proposals, which can absolutely consider a reduction in controlled airspace, the CAA has a duty to consider the interests of all stakeholders, including general aviation.

My Lords, in respect of airspace modification, the Americans have for many years used GPS technology for airport approaches. This has resulted in the greater movement of traffic and greater efficiency. The Civil Aviation Authority has, up until now, had two experimental GPS approaches, one in Lydd and the other in Cambridge. Does the noble Baroness know when GPS approaches will be rolled out?

The noble Lord is right: we are currently looking to roll out GPS use as part of our programme to modernise the airspace, which is well overdue. Planes currently have to fly lower and for longer to avoid the routes, and so modernisation and the introduction of technology will benefit the environment.

My Lords, Brexit will probably mean additional bureaucratic hurdles for leisure and private pilots and planes flying to the rest of the EU. Can the Minister confirm whether this has been discussed in negotiations so far with the EU and the US? Can she further confirm whether a report in today’s Financial Times is accurate when it states that the US has so far offered us only a “standard bilateral agreement”, which would be a problem to our major airlines which have large foreign shareholdings?

The Government have yet to start detailed transport negotiations with the European Union. The Prime Minister confirmed on Friday the ambition to seek participation in the EASA system, and we stand ready to continue those conversations as soon as we are able. I do not recognise the description of the talks with the US on a new UK-US air service agreement. The talks have been positive, we have made significant progress and both sides want to conclude these discussions soon.

My Lords, I declare my interests in this matter as set out in the register. Is my noble friend aware of the threat being faced by a number of smaller aerodromes in south-east England used by general aviation and how much it welcomes the remarks made yesterday on the national policy guidelines?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. There will always be competing needs for housing and other uses of land, including for the general aviation industry. As my noble friend has rightly pointed out, yesterday the Government launched the new National Planning Policy Framework consultation, and the draft text for this consultation strengthens the language on airfields and aviation networks. It states that all planning policy should,

“recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation facilities”.

The Government have appointed a new general aviation champion, Byron Davies, who will be looking at this.

My Lords, in announcing the appointment of the general aviation champion, Byron Davies, the Minister acknowledged the economic importance of general aviation, particularly smaller airfields, and the need for protection of airspace. Will she make sure that the role of general aviation in creating the next generation of airline pilots is held in the balance because, without general aviation to create that new generation, British aviation in general could be seriously damaged?

I agree with the noble Lord on the importance of supporting general aviation. The skill sector within it currently supports more than 38,000 jobs, nearly 10,000 of them directly related to flying and the remainder in manufacturing. It is key that we continue to support this industry and those who are learning their skills in it.

My Lords, while I welcome the jolly sounding appointment of a general aviation champion, will he—I think it is a he—be able to stop the now totally unaffordable third runway at Heathrow airport and thus lift the scourge on south-west London?

I am afraid I will have to disappoint the noble Baroness in that our general aviation champion will not be dealing with the proposed new runway at Heathrow.

My Lords, clearly general aviation is going to have its demands but also this week we have been talking about the Government’s housing policy. Can the Minister tell the House how general aviation and the housing demand will be fitted together in the move forward?

The general aviation champion is tasked with establishing a strategic network of aerodromes which will ensure the balance between transport and housing development priorities.