Draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2001

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: No, I was not.

Hugh Bayley: I take that back. But that Bill contained similar powers to enable railway operators to prevent developments that would compromise their ability to develop the railways.

Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend has re-emphasised the important point that I was making. In his earlier comments the hon. Member for Cotswold made out that the powers were somehow new and that he had chanced on something entirely fresh. These powers are well established. As he knows—he must have voted for them in the 1990s—some of these bodies are in the private sector.

I wish to clarify the difference between NATS En Route and NATS services. NATS En Route is a subsidiary group dealing with services that are en route—moving through from one place to another. It currently operates on five sites. It aims ultimately to operate on two sites. NATS services are generally delivered from inside the aerodrome. It is not covered by this order; the order covers NATS En Route. The hon. Gentleman can take a reasonable amount of cheer from this; the ambition is to have two centres, one in England and one in Scotland. Therefore, it is unlikely that NATS En Route would need to use many of those powers extensively. However, as a responsible Government, we must give it the powers to ensure that it can carry out the services it needs to deliver to keep the free flow both to and from aircraft and over our land. They are not unusual or peculiar powers. As my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) said, many other organisations have such powers—and that includes monopoly providers.

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The hon. Member for Cotswold asked about the charges and whether rip-offs were possible. There is a difference now in that the CAA has the role of the economic regulator, whereas previously it delivered both the NATS services and those of the economic regulator. Those functions have now been separated, as was suggested by the Transport Sub-Committee and many others.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister has said something important. Am I correct in taking it that the CAA will be able to act as the arbiter when NATS uses these powers? What recourse will any aggrieved person or organisation have to ask the CAA to look into whether the powers have been used reasonably?

Mr. Jamieson: The CAA will act as the economic regulator, just as other regulators operate with other monopoly organisations. The same factors will obtain.

The hon. Member for Cotswold and the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) asked whether the order placed development rights outside planning controls. Permitted development rights transferred to NATS from the CAA are not entirely outside planning control, and in exceptional circumstances a local authority may apply normal planning controls. The planning authority could submit an order under article 4 of the Town and Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 to the Secretary of State, seeking the removal of the particular permitted development right and requiring an application for planning permission. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman that the order does not give it carte blanche, because fall-back provisions are in place.

I do not want to stray down the same road as the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. He asked some important and worthy questions about the progress of NATS, but if I started speaking about its financial status, Mr. Chidgey, you would call me to order.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister is a former Whip, and he is ingeniously making sure that he does not have to answer questions about the future of NATS. However, he must answer one important question. If NATS should fail, does the order have reserve powers allowing his Department to take over?

Mr. Jamieson: We are confident that that will not happen, but if it did, the provisions of the 2000 Act would come into play.

Tom Brake: There is one of my questions that the Minister has not answered. I shall rephrase it, to make it clearer. If NATS needs to undertake surveys, under which of the consequential amendments or classes will it do so—or is it never required to undertake surveys?

Mr. Jamieson: If the organisation was thought to have exceeded its powers, any person could make a claim in court. The right-of-way powers invested in the licence holder are not there only for NATS. There are safeguards.

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: I think that I can help the Minister answer the question put by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. Section 15 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 provides that

    ''A person authorised in writing in that behalf by a local authority''—

the CAA is taking over the powers in relation to local authorities for that purpose—

    ''may at a reasonable time...(a) survey any land in connection with a proposal by the authority to acquire compulsorily an interest in the land''.

That is another example of the wide powers given by the order.

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Mr. Jamieson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As I said earlier, it would be unusual for those powers to be widely used; indeed, they will be used only in exceptional and limited circumstances. I hope that he agrees that it is right and proper that the 2000 Act and the order should both give NATS appropriate powers to act, so that air services can operate properly and safely, as we in the Committee would wish.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2001.

Committee rose at nine minutes past Five o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Chidgey, Mr. (Chairman)
Bayley, Hugh
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr.
Bryant, Mr.
Clifton-Brown, Mr.
Colman, Mr.
Hall, Patrick

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Jamieson, Mr.
Khabra, Mr.
Kilfoyle, Mr.
Osborne, Mr. George
Prisk, Mr.
Quin, Joyce
Woolas, Mr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Gilroy, Linda (Plymouth, Sutton)

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