Motion to Approve
My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under the powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
The regulations amend two EU implementing regulations that relate to safety oversight of air navigation service providers—ANSPs—and network functions respectively. They also revoke one EU implementing regulation that relates to performance and charging, and one EU implementing decision that sets out EU performance targets.
As noble Lords are aware, the Government are committed to ensuring that the UK has a functioning statute book at the end of the transition period, while we continue to work to achieve a positive future relationship with the EU. We have therefore conducted particularly intensive work to ensure that there continues to be a well-functioning legislative and regulatory regime for aviation, including for air traffic management —ATM. This instrument makes changes to the retained EU legislation for ATM, so that the UK retains the regulatory tools to ensure the continued provision and oversight of efficient, safe air navigation services after the UK leaves the EU, as well as to maintain interoperability with the EU after the end of the transition period.
The draft instrument is the second ATM SI relating to EU exit and ensures that the four pieces of EU ATM legislation that have come into force since the first SI was made—the Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which I shall refer to as the 2019 regulations—are legally operable. As noble Lords will be aware, these are detailed technical matters, and I will briefly explain what they do.
Implementing regulation 2019/317 and implementing decision 2019/903 both relate to the EU performance and charging scheme for air navigation services for the period 2020-24. Both are being revoked. Implementing regulation 2017/373, which is being amended, sets out requirements for the safe delivery of air navigation services by providers such as NATS, and their oversight. Finally, implementing regulation 2019/123, which is also being amended, deals with the regulation of network-level air navigation services which are provided by the intergovernmental organisation Eurocontrol in co-ordination with operators.
The SI addresses areas of legal interoperability by removing the roles of EU bodies, functions that cannot be performed by the EU after the completion of the transition period, and provisions where there is already satisfactory UK legislation in place. Where possible, roles currently undertaken by the European Commission and EU bodies are being transferred to the Secretary of State for Transport or to the Civil Aviation Authority—CAA—but where they relate to pan-European functions, including air navigation services delivered by more than one state, they are being removed.
This instrument makes changes to the retained EU legislation to ensure appropriate national arrangements for the provision and oversight of air navigation services after the UK leaves the EU. Some EU regulations will not work as domestic legislation after the end of the transition period and so should not been retained.
The approach taken in the first SI, the 2019 regulations, in respect of the EU’s previous performance and charging schemes regulations was to revoke them. The scheme is a top-down system for the economic and performance regulation of air navigation services based on reliance on targets set at an EU level. It also contains numerous roles for the European Commission and its performance review body. It is therefore legally inoperable once saved into UK law.
The UK had a domestic system of performance and economic regulation under the Transport Act 2000 prior to EU competence. This legislation is still in force as it is compatible with the EU arrangements and contains other requirements such as the licensing arrangements for the UK’s main air navigation service provider, NATS. As a result, the UK will not retain the EU regulations and instead rely on the Transport Act 2000 for the CAA to carry out duties in respect of economic regulation of NATS. These regulations therefore revoke the EU regulations in this area, taking a consistent approach to that taken in the 2019 regulations. The CAA and NATS support this approach.
In February last year, when the 2019 regulations were made, EU implementing regulation 2017/373 was partially applicable in respect of provisions for data service providers and the roles of the European Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA, in respect of oversight of pan-European services. As the EU regulation became fully applicable on 2 January 2020, it is now necessary to make further amendments to it.
Similarly, this instrument amends Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/123, which deals with the regulation of network-level air navigation services. This entered into force on 1 January 2020 and was therefore not included in the first SI, made in February 2019.
In summary, all the amendments being made in this instrument address areas of legal inoperability by removing roles of EU bodies, functions that cannot be performed by the UK after the end of the transition period and provisions where there is already satisfactory UK legislation. The approach taken is consistent with the 2019 regulations approved by your Lordships’ House in February last year.
The instrument makes no changes to the policy intent of the EU’s ATM regulations and is consistent with the approach taken in the first SI. The instrument maintains the existing regulatory framework and technical requirements for ATM to ensure continued provision of efficient, safe air navigation services and the effective regulation of the UK ATM system. I commend the instrument to the House.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful and detailed introduction, and for her courtesy in asking us in advance whether we had any questions. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Rosser will deal with some of the more detailed, technical aspects of the regulations later on, but perhaps I may first point out that this is one of many—indeed, too many—measures that we are having to deal with because of the damaging decision to leave the European Union. They are taking up an awful lot of time in this House and in the other place. We shall be discussing another one tomorrow, on civil aviation—and that is just aviation; there are many other areas that we are taking up time discussing.
However, as a Scottish Peer who represented an Ayrshire constituency when I was in the other place, I want to take this opportunity to highlight the important role played by Prestwick air traffic management centre in supporting the smooth running of our airspace. Appropriately, this is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the new centre at Prestwick.
As the Minister will be aware, Prestwick controls air space above Scotland and the north of England, across the North Sea to the east and halfway across the Atlantic towards North America in the west. It is the biggest area of controlled air space in the European Union.
Alongside that, it also has the benefit of the most up-to-date system, iTEC, designed to increase airspace capacity, to improve safety by automatically detecting potential aircraft conflicts ahead of time and to help some aircraft reduce fuel consumption and emissions by giving pilots greater flexibility to fly the best and most direct routes, instead of following the existing network of rigid waypoints and airways, which of course is good from a climate change point of view.
The same system is also deployed at our southern air traffic management centre at Swanwick. Given the capabilities at Prestwick, it is able to take over Swanwick’s operational abilities as well as its own in the case of an emergency. What contingency measures do we have in place for any such circumstances, which, sadly, given the events of the past few years, look increasingly possible?
On another matter, the single European sky, or SES, initiative, which is relevant to these regulations, is based on improving how European airspace is managed. Its aim is to modernise Europe’s airspace structure and air traffic management technologies to ensure that forecast growth in air traffic can be met safely and sustainably while also reducing costs and improving environmental performance. All this is to ensure that Europe’s aviation industry remains globally competitive. With the United Kingdom set, sadly, to be no longer part of the SES, I am keen to understand what arrangements the Government have in place to work with the European Union to improve airspace management, given the vast array of expertise and technologies that are available. The Minister may have covered this in her introduction, but I was not too clear as to whether she did. With this in mind, can she tell the House whether a new agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union similar to the existing open skies agreement will be established? I look forward to her reply at the end of this debate.
My Lords, I want to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has just said: that we are leaving a system where we had leadership. I worked in Brussels on the single European sky and the modernisation of airspace management in Europe. We had tremendous trouble with the French, who were determined to preserve as much of their airspace as possible for their own use, and we slowly prevailed on them because we showed leadership in wanting to bring things up to date. It seems that we are almost abolishing our leadership; we are throwing it to the wind, and others in Europe will assume our role.
As well as giving up leadership, which is very important and which this Government appear quite happy to relinquish, we are doing the same with aircraft construction. Are we still enthusiastic about our own aircraft construction industry—Airbus is a joint European project—or are we, as with agriculture, apparently slowly sinking into the arms of the United States and abandoning our concern for our own employees and industry? This whole project is unnecessary. It probably tidies up a few legal loopholes, but it certainly does nothing for the prosperity of our airline industry or our aircraft construction industry.
The Minister may know that I am a former RAF pilot and a civil pilot. I have also been an adviser to an airline.
On the surface, this seems a pretty straightforward SI, which arises out of Brexit, and it is important that it is laid. Inevitably, though, it raises certain questions to which I do not necessarily expect the Minister to respond immediately this afternoon. If she is not able to respond to them now, I would be grateful if she could drop me a line after the debate.
I think it is easiest to go paragraph by paragraph through the Explanatory Memorandum. Paragraph 2.4 on page 1 says:
“This will ensure the continuity of a functioning regulatory framework for the UK’s Air Traffic Management”.
Are we saying here that the EU agrees with this in toto? That seems absolutely fundamental. I assume that it does, but I would like to have that in writing.
Turning to paragraph 2.5, will we still be involved in the SES ATM Research programme? We have clearly played a major role in the past. In paragraph 2.6, for the reference period 2020-24, how do the costs compare for users in comparison with the previous period?
Paragraph 2.16 refers to “efficient and safe ANS”. Have all the interested parties—the CAA, the users and so on—been consulted all the way and, most importantly, are they now comfortable with what has been agreed?
Further on, paragraph 6.4 talks about interoperation with the rest of Europe. Is the UK aviation industry 100% comfortable with that? Paragraph 7.2 refers to EU targets. Clearly, we are leaving the EU, so those targets are no longer necessarily what we want, but are our UK targets already established and are they comparable?
Paragraph 10.1 deals with consultation, which is a very important area. Are there currently any issues arising from this SI where there are ongoing discussions or concerns within the industry, or is it all now virtually signed and sealed once we pass this SI?
Turning to paragraph 11.2, is the UK already compliant or working towards compliance? What is the estimate for when the UK will be 100% compliant?
Paragraph 14 states that
“no review clause is required.”
I spent 12 years of my life on the Public Accounts Committee, and one great issue over the years was that all sorts of SIs went through which alleged that no review was necessary. Lo and behold, before very long, people wondered why there was no review date. I cannot think of anything more dramatic or large than leaving the EU—which I am in favour of. We ought to look at this and put down a date for review. I am open-minded on how far away it should be, but I would have thought it wrong to say that no review provision is required.
Lastly, the Minister may not know it, but I have always taken a passionate interest in drones. The development, flying and control of drones have all been a challenge. Are there any issues on the drones front that are affected by this SI, or that somehow escaped the notice of the Department for Transport?
As I said, I do not expect a detailed answer this afternoon, but I have been through this quite carefully and I would be most grateful if the Minister could ask the department to provide an answer to the points that I have raised.
My Lords, in the short time we have today, I want to make three points. First, I understand that this regulation revokes the EU Single European Sky performance scheme for improving air traffic management. Like the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, I would like the noble Baroness to clarify whether it is the Government’s intention to stick to the union-wide performance scheme in the areas of safety, environment, air space capacity and cost efficiency, or to develop a scheme specifically for the UK?
Similarly, my second point concerns the common charging scheme for air navigation services. Going forward, is it envisaged that the UK will remain a member of Eurocontrol and continue to use its centralised system for charges or, again, is it envisaged that the Government will develop their own system for the efficient management of charges?
Finally, these regulations largely give over responsibility for air traffic management to the Secretary of State or the Civil Aviation Authority. It is right that the Government seek to re-establish the majority of laws covering aviation before the end of the transition period. However, a huge amount of extra responsibility now seems to be falling to the CAA. As well as the responsibilities transferred to the CAA today—certification, oversight and enforcement in respect of air traffic management and air navigation service providers—it has also been confirmed by the Government that the UK is withdrawing from the EU’s aviation safety regulator, and these responsibilities will now too fall to the CAA. The change and scale of challenge for the CAA therefore seems enormous and will have a dramatic impact on its workload. It will need significantly more staff and budgetary resource to fill the void left by the aviation safety regulator alone.
Can the Minister say what is the Government’s plan to resource the CAA so that it can recruit staff, plan and ensure that our air traffic management policies and processes are ready by the end of the year? What guarantee do the Government have that international aviation regulators would accept the CAA’s regulatory standards, especially if it chooses to divert from the current safety regulations?
My Lords, I begin by acknowledging that, before entering Parliament, I enjoyed a progressive career in the aerospace and related industries, recognised by my becoming a companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
I congratulate the Minister on her courteous introduction to this debate by email and her detailed explanation today. It certainly is a detailed, technical matter. The safety, oversight and network functions are clearly explained, but not necessarily understood. The Minister mentioned that, where possible, roles were being transferred to the UK. Can she provide examples when she responds? She also talked about the 2019 regulations relying on the 2000 Transport Act and that the CAA and NATS were supportive. Can she mention any areas in which they were not supportive? It would be helpful to know. I note my colleague, my noble friend Lord Bradshaw’s telling point about leaving a system in which we have leadership, which we are now abandoning, along with aircraft production.
Hansard records in volume 788 of 17 January 2018 that I asked the Government for their assessment of warnings from the United States Federal Aviation Administration, should out Government fail to negotiate a continuing role in the European Aviation Safety Authority or set up a British regime before exiting the EU. The response from the then Minister was,
“we … have been working with them since early last year on arrangements to replace the EU-US bilateral … agreement … to ensure that … existing arrangements for the recognition of safety certification between the UK and US continue to apply.”—[Official Report, 17/1/18; col 635.]
When we debated the impact of leaving the EU on the aviation and aerospace industry in 2018, we noted that its value to our economy was £32 billion a year; it supported 128,000 direct jobs and 153,000 indirect jobs, many highly skilled and cutting-edge in their technology, and an area in which our economy needs to grow and continue to excel in. The Covid-19 catastrophe has already seen thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these types of jobs lost. Therefore, referring back to the comment of the then Minister in January 2018 that we have been working to ensure that
“existing arrangements for the recognition of safety certification … continue to apply”—[Official Report, 17/1/18; col. 636]
can the Minister confirm that these arrangements between the UK and US were concluded satisfactorily?
In so far as these traffic management regulations will apply and overlap with technology associated with the air-side and on-board aviation, will these arrangements continue to apply should the UK leave the EU without an agreement—which of course these regulations refer to?
Finally, on 25 February 2019, the Government confirmed that NATS would continue to be,
“the UK’s en route air navigation services provider … there will be no difference”.—[Official Report, 25/2/19; col. 68.]
The Minister may not be aware that NATS is located at Bursledon and Swanwick, in the Eastleigh constituency that I had the good fortune to represent. Any reduction in NATS’s role could risk severe implications for local employment. Can the Minister say whether the UK leaving the EU without an agreement would increase that risk?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for contacting Members about the specific issues they wished to raise today. I understand the rationale for having to ensure that a body of law exists with our departure from the European Union and the replacement within national law of what is currently EU law, but Members will be well aware that an aircraft taking off from Heathrow is barely in the air before it transfers into European airspace. Therefore, the concept of having individual regimes is very difficult. On charges, what will these measures actually cost and how will these additional costs be recovered?
In the Explanatory Memorandum, at paragraph 6.3, reference is made to the devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom and the role that they might play in secondary legislation. Given that aviation is an excepted or reserved matter in the United Kingdom, what role does the Minister envisage these Administrations would play under these circumstances?
We have now got a very complicated arrangement based on different pieces of legislation, including the 2000 Act and incorporating existing EU regulations into UK law. Is her department contemplating bringing together a single piece of legislation with a clear guideline and a clear reference as to what the legal position is, rather than having all these disparate elements, some of which have been absorbed from the EU and others of which have not?
If we are proposing to do something differently—which I have no problem with in principle—can she assure the House that that will not create difficulties for our airline sector, struggling as it is under massive pressure? If there was to be a different regime, would that have implications for cost? Would it have implications for our European colleagues and, indeed, more internationally? Because, just like climate, which is a global issue, aviation is a global issue and there are no red lines in the sky. I would therefore like her to tell the House what the status of the current negotiations with the European Union is and whether she believes we will continue to have free and open access to each other’s skies as we move forward in the next few months.
My Lords, I shall be brief and I start by declaring my interest as president of the British Airline Pilots Association: from that point of view I am pleased to tell the Minister that we have no great difficulties with this SI as a technical document. We recognise that, without it, the arrangements would no longer be interoperable with the rest of Europe, so it is a necessity.
None the less, I have one or two questions. First, to what extent will this be impacted if, as is widely expected in Brussels, we leave without an agreement? Most of the smart money in Brussels is now moving to a position of expecting us to leave without an agreement and then wanting to start again: will it affect this, impact it, and if so, how? Secondly, what extra costs are going to fall because of this way of doing things? In other words, how much more will it cost?
Thirdly, as has been mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Bradshaw and Lord Chidgey, Britain has had a good leadership role in aviation. We have been regarded as the sensible ones; we have not been regarded as the people forever defending our own territory—an accusation which has been laid a country not that very far away from us to the south. We are recognised as providing common-sense leadership. That is going to go and, as with many other things, there will be a gradual divergence as different European countries move their regulation, jointly, away from where we are. Does the Minister see any difficulties arising in this area, and does she believe that we will be able to play any role at all in giving leadership to European initiatives? In other words, as they develop, will we have any consultative role at all?
I repeat the thanks of others to the Minister. She has been an excellent Minister, very good at taking us into her confidence, and I wish her well with these regulations, which, as I said at the beginning, is more or less a housekeeping measure, contingent on what I still regard as the most unfortunate decision to leave the European Union. However, the British people endorsed that position and, in a democracy, we have to listen to the people as, on occasions, they say things we do not like.
As with most other EU withdrawal Act statutory instruments, I cannot see any significant changes other than minor textual amendments. There is an exception, which is that in a few places the Government are seeking to change the word “shall”, which obviously makes it a requirement, to the words “shall endeavour to”, which makes it rather optional. For example, this happens in Regulation 27(3), Regulation 30(3) and multiple times in Regulation 48. What is the reasoning behind this change in wording? It appears to be not simply fitting retained EU law into UK law but changing the nature of the responsibility to a weaker requirement. The appropriate authority will now need only to try, rather than actually achieve, the stated outcomes. Can the Minister explain that dilution?
Slightly at a tangent, the last time the Minister and I exchanged words about aviation she asked me—perhaps rhetorically, because I was not able to answer since it was an Oral Question—whether, if all planes were net zero I would still be against flying. My answer is probably not. Assuming these magic planes do not cause excessive noise over residential areas, or any other harmful environmental effects, can I ask the Minister when these zero-carbon planes will be arriving, when we can phase out the climate-destroying planes and whether we can amend these regulations to help that along?
My Lords, are there any implications in these regulations for how terrorist attacks—either on the ground, and necessitating assistance from a military power abroad such as France, or in the air—are dealt with? If the Government bring forward changes in future, in relation both to this matter and others, will they be brought to the Floor of Parliament before being enacted?
What is the relation to environmental standards, particularly noise and airport operating hours? Will any changes automatically be brought in front of Parliament before they are made, or are the Government retaining powers to do that without the automatic consultation of Parliament?
The use of drones appears to be the most likely differentiation in policy between us and the European Union over the next few years. Policy on how drones should be used and the interrelationship between drones and civil aviation is less clearly defined. Can the Minister guarantee that any changes that impact on the use of drones will be brought in front of Parliament? Will we be informed whether our standards are higher or lower than those developed in the European Union?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out simply what are extraordinarily long and complicated regulations. I tried to understand them and the draft Explanatory Memorandum and even went back to look at the Transport Act 2000, but the regulations seemed to largely implement the status quo. I pay tribute to what the noble Lord, Lord Mann, has just said; I share his views on drones.
I would really like to know from the Minister today the state of CAA readiness when we leave the EU without an agreement on 31 December, which looks increasingly likely in view of the intransigent behaviour of the EU negotiators. The CAA will have to develop new capabilities, some currently done by the EASA. How well advanced is the CAA in developing those capabilities?
For example, will the UK do our own evaluation of that dodgy Boeing 737 MAX and decide whether it is safe to fly—or, if not this aeroplane, any other aeroplanes in future? Will the CAA be able to fulfil all the regulatory functions without having the EASA as a technical agent and without access to EASA and EU-level capabilities? What is the plan if there is no mutual recognition agreement between the EU and the UK for aviation licences, approvals and certificates and if the EU treats UK airlines as third-country operators?
I understand that the CAA has no direct role in the negotiation of air transport agreements, which govern the rights to fly between two countries. These are formal treaties negotiated directly between Governments, but does the CAA advise or have a view? Who advises the Government on this?
I have always admired the CAA. I do not really know why, but I have always thought of it as one of our best British assets and I am so looking forward to it being exclusively in charge of our air navigation systems once again and negotiating for us in international agreements.
I conclude with this warning—I warn the Minister’s civil servants too: have you any idea how dirty the EU will play over this if there is no agreement? There will be none of this “we are all European partners” lovey-dovey stuff. The EU has to punish the UK for leaving. We can see that in its attempt to keep taking 80% of our fish, keep us tied to the EU political court and not give us a Canada-style trade deal. The CAA needs to plan now for the EU doing everything in its power to make life difficult or near impossible for UK airlines to operate in Europe. Let us go into negotiations with a clear objective and a nice smile, but with an iron fist and ready to take all emergency action when we do not get a deal.
My Lords, I first thank the Minister for her detailed explanation of the SI and for contacting Members in advance to find out our issues. At that stage I told her that my principal concern was the aviation industry in Northern Ireland. While it is important to have new traffic management and air navigation directions as a result of us leaving the European Union, it is important to have an aviation industry. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, referred to the difficulties and challenges faced by the aviation industry, and I would like the Minister to address that in winding up. Air traffic management regulations will be meaningless if we do not have the aircraft or the industry to sustain all that.
Take the example of Northern Ireland. Aviation is one of our greatest economic strengths, as well as a social and business lifeline, and it now stands on the edge of a crisis. Way back in February, Flybe removed 80% of its routes from Belfast City Airport at a stroke—largely due, we believe, to the impact of Covid.
Not only do we have Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport—which are very well equipped and key to our connectivity with the rest of the UK, the European Union and other areas—but we are involved in the construction of aircraft. Bombardier produces wings for the Airbus A220 jet; it is our largest high-tech manufacturer and a jewel in the crown of our local economy. Some 600 jobs there are under threat as a result of a fall in demand due to Covid, and there could be an 11% cut in that workforce. We also manufacture aircraft seats and furnishings. In fact, Thompson Aero Seating—a company making aircraft seats at four locations across Northern Ireland and employing 1,300 people—has already seen 330 job losses this year, with the potential for more. Rockwell Collins, an American company, manufactures aircraft furnishings and seats in my own local area in Kilkeel, as does a local company called Bradfor, in Rostrevor, County Down.
As noble Lords and the Minister will see, aircraft manufacturing and the aerospace and aviation industry are essential to the lifeblood of Northern Ireland. I ask the Minister to address, when summing up, how the Government intend to deal with these challenges and setbacks in the aviation industry as the new regulations on air management and air navigation lines are implemented.
I thank the Minister and her officials for their time yesterday to discuss this SI. Effectively, it amends amendments to bring us in line with EU regulations on the single European sky. It is the latest in a long line of SIs necessitated by the Government’s decision to take the hardest of all possible Brexit routes. Once again, there is no plan to change how things operate; they just want to delete ECJ oversight.
The industry itself, in response to the Government’s consultation, referred to in paragraph 10.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum, stressed its strong support for continuity. It will now be the role of the CAA effectively to oversee itself, answerable to the Secretary of State. The CAA is an excellent organisation but, along with other Members of your Lordships’ House, I am worried about the lack of transparency and rigour in these processes. Can the Minister give us more detail about how the Government will ensure that we remain right up there with the world leaders on aviation safety, and that UK aviation significantly reduces its environmental footprint?
The EU’s single European sky project is designed to improve safety, increase capacity and improve efficiency, and hence reduce the environmental impact of aviation. It includes a programme of research designed to develop new operating technology and systems. It is a success story, in which the UK has played a leading role. However, it is not just an EU club. Norway and Switzerland are members, despite not being in the EU. Indeed, soon after the Brexit referendum I was reassured by Ministers that they did not want to leave the single European sky. If Norway and Switzerland feel it is important to be part of it, why not us? What are we gaining by withdrawing, to balance against the undoubted disadvantages of leaving?
This is yet another step in the reduction of our international status. Our large aviation sector has taken an international lead, but we are voluntarily withdrawing from that influential position. The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the significance of international aviation and its interdependence on what is happening on the other side of the world. It makes a massive contribution to our economy, providing well-paid, highly skilled jobs. The sector simply cannot cope with any unnecessary hurdles. Leaving the single European sky will also make it more difficult for the UK to tackle the environmental challenges of aviation, which are difficult enough without the Government tying one of their hands behind their back.
I have some specific questions for the Minister. Paragraph 12.1 of the EM says that this instrument makes no change to the policy intent of the EU regulations. I therefore understand that there will be no great impact on businesses, but what are the cost implications for the CAA and NATS? Can the Minister tell us how much additional funding they will be allocated and how many new staff they will need to employ? Can she assure us that they will be adequately funded? How do the Government intend to keep in step with changes to EU regulations and procedures, which we need to do to maximise safety and efficiency?
Finally, can the Minister tell us about the implementation of these regulations on the island of Ireland, which has been raised by other noble Lords? In the future, there will be two separate systems on a small land mass. Overlaid on this are the implications of the political agreement made by the Prime Minister relating to the future of Northern Ireland, which will remain part of EU regulations in many respects. Does that agreement impact on the control of aviation—the control of the skies? It has an impact on shipping and ports, so does it affect aviation?
I look forward to the day when we see the end of the legislative contortions that the drafters have had to go through to reinstate the system we had decades ago, while seeking to keep systems operating in a modern manner. The cost of all this at a time of national emergency is less and less defensible.
I thank the Minister for the explanation of the provisions and purpose of the regulations, to which we are not opposed. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I also thank the Minister and her officials for the virtual meeting yesterday.
The regulations follow an earlier set of air traffic management regulations and are needed to make legally operable, in the light of our departure from the EU, further EU air traffic management legislation that has come into being since the 2019 air traffic management EU exit regulations were made. This is being done, where relevant, by transferring to the Secretary of State for Transport or to the Civil Aviation Authority roles that are currently undertaken by the European Commission and EU bodies.
Could the Government confirm what I believe the Minister has said: these regulations change nothing relating to air traffic management practices, procedures, regulations or standards on the day after the transition period ends, apart from the transfer of roles to which I just referred? Could they also say what the regulations enable us to do that we are likely to want to consider doing after the end of the transition period that we cannot do at present? I ask that in the context that air traffic management, which covers organisations, operations and procedures, is the subject of international agreements as well as EU regulations, for fairly obvious reasons—namely, that it is an international activity or industry where considerable commonality of practices and standards is vital.
The Government’s mantra is that we will take back control, so to revisit a point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley, what is it that these regulations enable us to take back control of in practice, not just in theory? What is it that we have been wanting to do but have been unable to do in respect of air traffic management because we have been a member of the European Union? I hope the Government will be able to provide some specific examples, because the Explanatory Memorandum does not appear to address that question.
I will also raise a safety issue, to which the Minister referred in her opening speech. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, the EU’s single European sky legislation supports the EU initiative to enhance air traffic safety standards, contribute to the sustainable development of the air traffic management system and improve the efficiency of air navigation services within the European air traffic management system.
When we leave the EU, there will presumably be a more obvious border, air traffic-wise, between France and ourselves, for example—a border with a very high density of air traffic crossing it in both directions. If the Secretary of State is to take over the role of the European Commission and other EU bodies for air traffic management, does that not run the risk of potentially compromising the current EU-wide safety arrangements and their oversight? Aircraft might be in the process of climbing or descending at that air border between us and France—for example, if they are starting their descent into the airport for which they are heading. Contact between controllers is crucial, since aircraft collisions at other border points have occurred, including when communication over aircraft movements between controllers are temporarily not as effective as they should be, for one reason or another—perhaps frequency changes. If there was an incident at the air transport border between France and ourselves once we have left the EU, which single body or organisation would be responsible for investigating it, and which single body or organisation would be accountable for ensuring there were safe practices and procedures for aircraft traffic management at that border point?
Finally, on our departure from the EU, work that the European Aviation Safety Agency currently undertakes will, in our case, be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority. I shall pursue once again a point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley. What impact will that have on the workload of the authority, or is the Government’s position on that that it is largely the transfer of a responsibility or a duty rather than a workload?
I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points that I have made and to the variety of points made in the course of this debate.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate on these minor and technical changes to these ATM regulations. Given the allotted time, I fear that I will not be able to go into all the issues that are beyond the scope of these regulations, but I will certainly write, in particular on the future of the aviation sector and the implications of Covid for it, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. I will also address her specific point about the impact on Northern Ireland.
I should like first to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that there is no change in policy as a result of these regulations and that, in practical terms, they will have very limited effect. The CAA will continue to play the role it has always in, for example overseeing the work of NATS, with oversight of that work transferring from the European Aviation Safety Agency to the Secretary of State. We do not anticipate that this will have a financial or significant practical impact on the CAA or NATS and both are content with the proposals. The CAA will take on a number of new tasks after the end of the transition period, but that is a direct result of EU transition rather than of this SI. The Government are working closely with the CAA to ensure that it is sufficiently resourced to take on any additional roles. Further, the CAA has been preparing for the possibility of leaving the EASA system since the EU referendum in 2016, which is four years ago now. It has already started recruiting new staff across the organisation, and I reassure noble Lords that it has the funding to do so. I hope that this will also reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Randerson, as well as my noble friend Lord Blencathra. He was right to say that the CAA is a great British asset. In respect of this SI, the requirements on the CAA and NATS will be the same as they are at present, and the oversight will be transferred somewhere different.
The reference period for performance targets started this year. To meet our obligations, we have produced and submitted an EU-compliant plan that takes us to 2024, so until at least then, all performance targets will remain the same. Beyond that, we envisage looking at the EU targets and using them as a benchmark for our own performance targets. However, we may decide that we want to do better than that, although that decision is for some years hence.
Turning to the charges, the costs of air navigation and its regulation tend to fall on the users of the service. In this case, that is the aviation industry.
A number of our other existing arrangements will stay the same or transfer to the CAA. Noble Lords raised a number of these different arrangements and I shall try to cover some of the most important. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned Eurocontrol. It is incredibly important and the UK will remain a member of it. It is an intergovernmental organisation of 41 states across Europe that pre-dates the single European sky and is not an EU body. This will ensure our continued co-ordination on air traffic management with other European states. This was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Balfe.
Through our membership of Eurocontrol, NATS will be able to co-ordinate with other air navigation service providers on, for example airspace change proposals arising from the UK modernisation programme, and there are established bodies within Eurocontrol that allow that to happen. NATS is also remain a member of the Civil Aviation Navigation Services Organisation, which represents ANSPs covering 90% of the world’s airspace. We are plugged in and we do have leadership.
We are also members in our own right of ICAO, an incredibly important organisation in aviation. We will continue as a contracting ICAO state after the end of the transition period. Much European regulation originates in ICAO and the UK already plays a leading role in its structure. Currently, the UK complies with some ICAO standards and recommended practices via the implementation of EU legislation. Following the transition period, the UK will comply with SARPs using domestic legislation. That is all in place and ready to go.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned cross-border arrangements and what will happen at borders. The UK has a number of cross-border agreements with neighbouring countries, such as France and the Benelux nations, in respect of air traffic management, particularly in contiguous airspace where an aircraft is handed over between two different airspaces. I reassure the noble Lord that these arrangements will continue as they are not predicated on EU requirements.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the importance of Ireland. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, did so, as did the noble Lord, Lord Empey. This is important because we work very closely with Ireland because both have been delegated responsibility by ICAO for air traffic services over a proportion of the North Atlantic, which as noble Lords will know is a busy route. Again, this is an international agreement. There will be continued co-operation with Ireland to ensure the safe passage of air traffic over the North Atlantic, given that 80% of air traffic entering or leaving the EU flies through UK airspace.
A number of noble Lords mentioned air service agreements and how they have been constructed. The UK was involved in 17 air service agreements by virtue of its membership of the European Union. Over recent months and years, the Department for Transport has undertaken an intensive programme of work in this area, supported by the CAA, which many noble Lords had questions about. We now have new bilateral agreements, or effective mitigations, in place for all 17 non-EU countries where market access is currently provided for by virtue of our EU membership. These arrangements ensure that there will be no disruption going forward. The UK also has agreed bilateral air safety agreements with the US, Canada and Brazil, which will help our aerospace manufacturers.
The UK’s future relationship on ATM with the EU will be negotiated as part of a comprehensive air transport agreement, known as CATA. The CATA will include provisions on market access for air services, close co-operation on aviation security, and collaboration on ATM.
A number of areas under the umbrella of the Single European Sky project, mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes and Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, are being considered as we look at how we might continue to be involved in that area; for example, through membership of the Single European Sky air traffic management research programme, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Naseby. We will of course be bound by various elements of legislation from the Single European Sky project, where it has been retained, and as amended.
The rules for safety assurance are currently set out by EASA, and these will be retained. No divergence is anticipated at the current time, as safety is of course an absolute priority. However, it is also an area which is always developing, and so the UK may need to make changes in the future; for example, to accommodate new technology to suit airline operators, in line with international practice. I hope that this reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as to what we might want to do in the future.
Noble Lords will have heard it confirmed many times that the UK is not seeking to participate in the EASA system. Our ambition is to agree bilateral aviation safety arrangements with the EU, and the EU’s negotiating mandate mirrors this approach. A bilateral aviation safety agreement will facilitate the recognition of aviation safety standards, maintain high safety outcomes, and enable regulatory co-operation between the two areas.
Overall, I reassure all noble Lords that the UK continues to press for reciprocal, liberalised aviation access between and within the EU and the UK. In the event that we do not reach an agreement, the UK previously published a policy statement allowing for EU carriers to operate to the UK, and the EU adopted a continency regulation to provide UK carriers with the rights to operate in the EU. These measures were unilateral and work on the basis of reciprocity. Similar arrangements were put in place with regard to safety, and they too will need to be looked at in the event that there is no deal.
My noble friend Lord Naseby mentioned consultation. There has been extensive consultation on elements relating to aviation, and of course on the UK’s exit from the EU. This is ongoing.
The noble Lord, Lord Empey, is right that aviation is reserved. However, as a courtesy, and to understand the issues, we always try to engage with the devolved Administrations on an ongoing basis.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned “shall” changing to “shall endeavour to”. I reassure her that that relates to the network management part of the SI, and is about operators taking account of EU documents, which we have no obligation to do.
In closing, I once again thank all noble Lords for contributing to the debate today. These changes are minor and technical, and do not represent a major change in policy. They follow in a similar vein to the SI already approved by your Lordships’ House. I beg to move.