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Space Industry Bill [HL]

Volume 787: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2017

Third Reading


Moved by

Clause 67, page 43, line 13, leave out from “make” to end of line 14, and insert “further provision for the regulation of spaceflight activities and sub-orbital activities, and the activities associated with them.”

My Lords, this amendment is the result of unfinished business at the end of Report. Basically, there has been an argument throughout this Bill, and there will be in other Bills that come before us, about the worrying nature of the use of secondary legislation that is vaguely promised and vaguely described in primary legislation. In this respect, Clause 67(1), which is vaguely written, refers back to Clause 1(1) which again makes vague commitments. The amendment merely suggests that there should be crisper and more tightly drawn references which avoid blank cheques and abuse of secondary legislation.

I do not intend to press this to a vote this afternoon, but to leave it as a bit of business still to be considered. The other place will need to look at it, because it should be as worrying to them as it is to this House.

I put on record my appreciation for the removal from the Bill of the Henry VIII clause, and I hope that will be a guide for other Bills that are coming before us. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who is not in his place, who has made it quite clear that Henry VIII clauses were to be avoided, and that this example of putting in Henry VIII clauses and vague “blank cheque” secondary legislation was a problem that needed to be addressed. That is not to deny the fact that we also need to be able to future-proof Bills as best we can, particularly a Bill such as this. It is a matter of getting the balance right between future-proofing and ring-fencing them in terms of the powers that we write in.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, emphasised in his lecture at King’s College in 2016:

“This is not an attack on delegated legislation”.

However, in that lecture he quoted one of his distinguished predecessors as Lord Chief Justice—Lord Hewart—who, in 1929, warned against,

“the increase of bureaucratic, departmental authority over the citizen”.

The moving of power from Parliament to the Executive is one of the ironies of the Brexit process.

We believe that if we do not heed the warnings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and others, we face a constitutional car crash. At the very least, future-proofing should be tightly drawn. The super-affirmative process should be used where necessary, as should sunset clauses. I believe that we need to look at the case for making certain types of secondary legislation amendable by both Houses. That is the thinking behind this amendment—a billet-doux to send down the Corridor to the other place. I beg to move.

I assume that when she comes to respond the Minister will talk about the wording of the amendment and, if she is not going to accept it on behalf of the Government, will indicate why it is not acceptable. Therefore, my brief comments and questions are based on the assumption that she will talk about the wording of the amendment and what it would mean if it were included in the Bill, because obviously I share the concerns that have been expressed. I hope that if the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment on behalf of the Government, she will at least indicate a willingness to reflect further on this matter prior to its being considered in the House of Commons.

In her response, perhaps the Minister could say what the Government envisage they might want to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) as it stands that they consider they would not be able to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) if it were amended in line with this amendment. Or, to put it the other way round, what do the Government consider they would not be able to do that they might want to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) amended in line with this amendment that they would be able to do through regulations under Clause 67(1) as it stands?

My Lords, we debated this issue extensively in Committee and on Report, and I regret that I have been unable to convince noble Lords of the necessity of this provision as drafted.

The wording of the clause—which is why we are keen to include it rather than the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord McNally—is consistent with that contained in Section 60(2) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, the latter being a power to do anything,

“generally for regulating air navigation”.

A similar power arises under Section 11(1) of the Outer Space Act 1986 to enable the making of regulations generally for carrying that Act into effect. That is why we put forward the wording that we did in the Bill.

As noble Lords are well aware, there are a number of other regulation-making powers in the Bill, notably around security and safety. However, we need to ensure that we can regulate those wider matters relating to spaceflight and associated activities carried out in the UK that are not covered by the other powers. For example, this may include implementation of our international obligations relating to spaceflight arising from bilateral or multilateral treaties. We know from our experience in other sectors, such as aviation, that despite our best efforts there needs to be the flexibility to deal with any unexpected circumstances. The Government therefore remain convinced that this provision, as currently drafted, is needed to ensure that all aspects of the Bill can be fully implemented effectively.

I ask your Lordships please not to mistake this for simple intransigence. Throughout the Bill, the Government have listened and acted, and we have worked hard to balance the need for flexibility against noble Lords’ concerns on the scope of the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, recognised, we removed the Henry VIII power and placed a requirement to consult on affirmative regulations in the Bill. We comprehensively reviewed the land powers, strengthened the position on space debris, noise and emissions, and accepted the amendment on gross negligence. However, to unduly limit the scope of this power would mean that we would need to use primary legislation to make provision in response to developments in technology, which could hold up the timetable for enabling safe launch from the UK.

As I have mentioned previously, it is not as if this power is unlimited; regulations can be made to carry the Act into effect or to facilitate regulation of spaceflight activities and associated activities only as set out in Clause 1(1). I therefore hope that noble Lords will take some reassurance from this explanation, and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, as I indicated, what we said, the probing of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the Minister’s reply are in Hansard and will be of use in the other place when they make their judgment about whether the Bill is drafted tightly enough in these matters. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

A privilege amendment was made.


Moved by

My Lords, I thank all those involved for their interest in, engagement with and scrutiny of the Bill over the past few months. The UK space industry is a British success story—a story of invention, innovation and global ambition. The Bill will take us further, enabling new satellite launch services and low-gravity spaceflight from UK spaceports, and supporting our industrial strategy to deliver a stronger economy that works for everyone.

I thank my predecessor, my noble friend Lord Callanan, who took the Bill through its early stages, and I thank the noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Tunnicliffe, Lord McNally, and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who provided rigorous scrutiny throughout this process. I am grateful for the contributions of my noble friend Lord Moynihan; I, for one, will miss the strong advocacy for a certain location in Scotland. Finally, I thank policy officials and lawyers from the UK Space Agency, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for their work on the Bill.

It has been a privilege to debate the Bill with noble Lords, whose knowledge and expertise I have found incredibly helpful. We have taken on many of the recommendations of the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee, and I thank them for their work. The constructive engagement, conversations and debates we have had together have led to significant improvements to the Bill. This is an example of this House at its best, where proper scrutiny and challenge can—put simply—lead to a better Bill. Today, therefore, we stand one step closer to a new commercial space age, and I beg to move.

My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, the Minister and the Bill team for their willingness to consider the points we have raised about the Bill during its passage through this House. A number of meetings have been held, which we appreciated, and we welcome the changes the Government have been prepared to see made to the Bill as a result.

I also thank my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe for—I was going to say “his advice and support” but the reality is that it has been infinitely more than that. I also thank Grace Wright in our office for all the hard and vitally important work that she has done for us on the Bill.

My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in thanking both the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan. Although I teased him at the time that he was not missed, it is clear that there was a smooth and orderly passing of the ball to the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, who has carried out her role with great skill and charm and has made herself and officials available, for which we are grateful. Our Bill team consisted of Sarah Pughe, who has been a great help to me, and my noble friends Lady Randerson and Lord Fox. I have enjoyed working with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who brings his eye for detail to these matters, and with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who brought his experiences as an ex-pilot. I will remember two contributions by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. He reminded us that a rocket is a controlled explosion, which puts some of the health and safety aspects into perspective. He also said that the first civil aviation Act in 1920 completely underestimated the explosion of air travel that was about to come. Therefore, those who write off this Bill as a bit of futurology may be surprised at how soon some of this comes to pass.

I take pride that the problem of space rubbish has been put firmly in the Bill. It is now part of the Liberal Democrat lexicon, along with clean pavements and other matters. It was a delight to have contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, who, as a Minister, made such a contribution to giving the space industry of which we are so proud its impetus. We all look forward to the opening of the Moynihan International Spaceport in Scotland, which I am sure will be a festive occasion.

One has to say and lead the worry that Brexit casts a long shadow over this industry. It is important that, if Brexit were to go ahead, the industry be well protected to make progress.

Again I thank the Minister and her team for making this Bill a good example of the House of Lords at work.

My Lords, I add my gratitude and appreciation to the ministerial team, both present and past, who have worked so diligently on this Bill. It was very helpful that the Bill was published in an early form for consultation in both Houses, which has led to a series of improvements. My noble friend the Minister has listened carefully, particularly on the question of secondary legislation, to ensure that as much of that as possible was addressed during the passage of the Bill. Indeed, it will continue to be so in another place.

This is an important Bill which provides the regulatory and legal framework now which will take the industry forward. However, none of us should be under any illusion—while we can provide the regulatory and legal framework—that we do not need to work closely with the private sector to make sure that this is a commercial success. Ultimately, these spaceports will require close co-operation between government and the private sector.

My noble friend has mentioned that I have been an advocate in part for a certain location in Scotland, which I think was her phrase. The House should be under no illusion whatever that that location is Prestwick Airport. It is head and shoulders the best airport to be licensed for spacecraft activities at the earliest possible stage in this country. This has been self-evident throughout our deliberations. All noble Lords will, of course, be welcome to the opening of Prestwick when it is finally licensed as the first spaceport in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, I wonder whether I might be permitted a brief intervention. I do so with some diffidence and an apology to your Lordships for not being present on Second Reading, for diary reasons, although I have sat in on some of the subsequent parts of the Bill.

I too have an interest to declare. Like my noble friend Lord Moynihan, I live quite close to Prestwick Airport—almost as close as he does, but on the other side of the runway. However, I am glad to say that I am on the same side of the argument as him. I strongly endorse all that he said with such clarity, efficiency and thoroughness throughout all the stages of the Bill. Regarding the suitability of Prestwick Airport—I know that we are talking about the Bill, not just Prestwick Airport; I had better say first that it was a good Bill and is now a better Bill as a result of the consideration it has had—I cannot help but support its case. It is a fine, well-established airport of long standing. It was a base for the stratocruisers that left London, on their way to New York; they stopped there to refuel, both outwards and inwards. From there, it moved on to another fine record, with the location of Scottish Aviation. It now has 2,300 aerospace jobs nearby. It is close to the sea and open at all hours. Really, it is underused, but it has a basic infrastructure that could receive all the elaborate infrastructure needed for a space base.

There is a slightly broader point that is briefly worth making. The fact remains that the Scottish economy is trailing that of the rest of the United Kingdom, for reasons that I will not indulge in, for political reasons. In Scotland, the Ayrshire economy is also suffering to a considerable degree. It is one of the most socially deprived areas in Scotland, with one in five people living in a deprived area—rather more than in the rest of Scotland. Unemployment is at nearly 8% in Ayrshire, compared to 5% in the rest of Scotland. There is a strong case for the triggering of a huge potential economic payback from the circumstances in which the spaceport would be located.

The Government made a commitment in their manifesto at the last election to invest in Scotland. This is an opportunity to do so.

My Lord, this is not a Third Reading speech. You are meant to just quickly say thank you and then we will move on.

I will bring my speech to an immediate conclusion. These are important, but peripheral, points. The essential point is that the Bill is a fine one and that Prestwick is an ideal location. I wish the Bill all speed for the rest of its passage.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.