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Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Volume 811: debated on Tuesday 20 April 2021

Commons Amendments

My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask all Members to respect social distancing.

There are no counterpropositions to the Commons amendments to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, so the only speakers are those listed and the Minister’s Motion may not be opposed. Short questions of elucidation from listed speakers after the Minister’s response are discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question must email the clerk.


Moved by

1: Clause 22, page 13, line 30, leave out subsection (2)

2: Schedule 8, page 68, line 29, at end insert—

“(iv) an offence under the law of Scotland which arises under any other provision of the ANO 2016 and relates to unmanned aircraft, except an offence which is triable only summarily;”

My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House for long with my explanation of these amendments, save only to note that the Bill had a relatively incident-free passage through the other place, which I, to a great extent, attribute to the careful consideration it received in your Lordships’ House.

The Bill has returned to enable consideration of two minor amendments made in the other place. The first is Commons Amendment 1, which removed the privilege amendment, as is the norm in these cases. The second amendment—here is the mea culpa—will correct an omission, or an error if you must, in the Bill that resulted from government amendments made in your Lordships’ House on Report.

If I may explain: Schedule 8 provides the police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and custodial institutions with the powers they need to protect the public from the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 8 sets out the meaning of “relevant unmanned aircraft offence”. Prior to the government amendment made in the other place, the offences in the Air Navigation Order 2016—ANO 2016—included in this definition were summary-only offences. In relation to Scotland, this definition should also include offences in ANO 2016 that are triable either way or on indictment. These offences were included in the definition of “relevant offence” in the Bill as introduced in January 2020. They were inadvertently omitted—that was the error, for which I apologise—by the government amendments tabled on Report in the House of Lords when the provisions setting out the definitions that apply in relation to the power to enter and search under warrant and the supplementary power to retain anything seized were restructured. If not moved, there would be no power for a justice of the peace, summary sheriff or a sheriff in Scotland to issue to a constable a warrant to enter and search premises in relation to offences in the ANO 2016 that relate to unmanned aircraft and can be tried under indictment. The supplementary power for a constable to retain items seized using powers in Schedule 8 for forensic examination, for investigation or for use as evidence at a trial would also not apply in relation to these offences.

The policy intention of the Bill remains unchanged and this amendment will not add any offences or powers not already in the Bill as introduced in January 2020. With humility and apologies from the Department for Transport, I beg to move.

My Lords, I am pleased to support the Commons amendments as technical changes necessary for the functioning of the Bill. The aviation industry is critical to the UK economy, and since any recovery will no doubt be prolonged, I hope the Bill will provide legislative backing for a modernisation strategy that supports that recovery. Any restructuring must be supported with a transitional strategy, for workers and our regional economy, that capitalises on the opportunity to grow industries in green technology. I look forward to the House revisiting this in the future. I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, has engaged with the Opposition Front Bench during the passage of the Bill. I also thank all those from across the House who have taken part in its stages.

My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, for her gracious apology on behalf of the department for its omission. Of course, I accept that the amendments are necessary and, like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I thank all the people who have been associated with the Bill during its fairly long passage. I hope it may now pass into law.

My Lords, I too support these amendments. Finally, this Bill, which started its passage through Parliament in January 2020 is to reach the statute book. I am sure that, with a justified sense of pride and relief, the Minister and all those in her Bill team, who worked so hard to achieve this outcome, deserve the commendation received from all sides of the House.

It is a piece of legislation that will not stand still. The announcement that the CAA has approved trials of beyond-visual-sight operation of drones will need to be reflected in the instructions for policing unmanned aircraft presently set out in this legislation. That process will continue, I hope smoothly, as technology and experience help to chart the way ahead. Meanwhile, I join in commending the efforts made to enact this important business, for air traffic management in particular.

I thank all noble Lords for their constructive engagement on these amendments, and for their comments and short contributions today.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.