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Lord Newby: My Lords, we on these Benches have no objection to the principle of the order. I think that our concern is a rather broader one; namely, that of government airport policy as a whole.

We sometimes gain the impression that the Government view the growth in passenger and flight numbers as analogous with that of a teenager who has reached a growth spurt and whose clothes no longer fit. Being short of resources, instead of buying a new suit of clothes or having a coherent view on how to deal with the issue, they let out a seam here and a seam there. In this case a seam is being let out to deal with an immediate problem with which Stansted can cope. However, we are far from satisfied that at the end of the day we will end up with anything other than an ill-fitting suit of clothes.

I do not believe that this is an opportunity for a long speech or debate on airport policy. Again, we support the order.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, it may be of interest to draw attention to the fact that some days ago, in one hour, there were 98 movements at Heathrow--that is, one take off or landing every 36.7 seconds. It is no wonder that there is said to be congestion, which could be eased by increasing movements from Stansted.

Many years ago, I believe that it was intended that Stansted might take over from Heathrow as the prime airport for southern England. Although some local residents under the flightpath may disagree, this proposed increase in traffic is understandable, and I support the draft order. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I should like to ask my noble friend whether there will be any problem for the air traffic controllers at West Drayton, who will

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have to bear the brunt of the increased traffic. As the safety of aircraft passengers and those on the ground underneath an aircraft is of paramount importance, will my noble friend confirm that any additional pressure on the aircraft traffic controllers can be met? Furthermore, can she confirm that safeguards exist to overcome any systems failures, in addition to or in place of the paper strip method?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, produced an evocative image for me. Having had three sons, I learnt very early on not to buy school trousers for the following September at the end of the school year, because the children grew so quickly and the trousers did not fit. I can assure the noble Lord that we shall have careful regard to the point which he raised.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for his support. He is more knowledgeable than I am, because he was the Minister concerned from the beginning of the issue. The noble Lord raised the question of the Clacton sector. With the rapid growth of air traffic over the past few years, national air traffic services realised that more airspace capacity was required in the busy Clacton sector to reduce delays and enhance safety. Therefore, NATS decided to re-sectorise the Clacton sector. That involved the introduction of two new sectors and required an additional 15 controllers at LATCC. The resectorisation was a complex project which involved a series of simulations and the retraining and revalidation of controllers in conjunction with the reconfiguration of equipment at LATCC. As always, safety was a priority in designing the new sectors. The resectorisation took place on 3rd December 1998 and increased airspace capacity by over 40 per cent in the Clacton sector. As a result, delays in the Clacton sector since the resectorisation have reduced noticeably.

My noble friend Lord Simon also raised that issue. NATS was consulted about the proposed increase. It is satisfied that it can be handled without disruption to operations at other London airports. An increase in the total number of flights at Stansted does not in itself mean an increase in the number of aircraft in the air at peak times. NATS will continue to set hourly limits which ensure the safety of the travelling public. Most of the growth will take place in what are currently off-peak periods.

As regards the point raised by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, there will be no discrimination on grounds of nationality of carriers using Stansted. Ryanair uses Stansted and hopes to expand. All carriers must be licensed by the CAA, meeting standards of air worthiness. My noble friend raised some very detailed questions, on which I should prefer to write to him. I shall ensure that a copy is placed in the Library for the benefit of other noble Lords. I hope that the House will feel able to support the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Miscellaneous Provisions Order 1999

11.55 a.m.

Lord Carter rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st July be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this order, for the convenience of the House, I shall speak briefly also to the related INTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 1999.

The miscellaneous provisions order provides for refunds of insurance premium tax (IPT) and air and passenger duty (APD) to 26 international organisations listed in the schedule to the order. The insurance and premium tax and the air and passenger duty were both introduced in 1994. The proposed refunds are to meet our present international obligations. Established international practice is that one state should not tax other states through the intermediary of an international organisation, and that the host state should not derive undue fiscal advantage from the presence on its soil of an international organisation. Insurance premium taxes are levied on a building's household contents and on vehicle insurance policies. I am sure that your Lordships will know that life policies, pensions and permanent health insurance are among the types that are exempt. The order also includes some minor amendments to some of the 26 orders, updating names of organisations and the titles of some high officers.

The second order, INTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 1999, in addition to providing for refunds of insurance premium tax and the air passenger duty, provides for relief from non-domestic rates and exemption from the UK social security provisions for members of staff participating in INTELSAT's social security scheme. The draft orders confer only the privileges and immunities which the Government are internationally obliged to confer. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st July be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Carter.)

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I have one question to ask my noble friend in connection with the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Miscellaneous Provisions Order 1999. Around 20 organisations appear to be affected. What is the net cost ultimately to the Exchequer as a result of those changes? It may well be that they balance out, in which case I shall be reassured that there is no charge to public funds. If, on the other hand, there is an extra cost involved, I should be glad to have my noble friend's view as to what money will be ultimately borne, either now or later, by the British taxpayer.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the question raised by the noble Lord is a legitimate one. It prompts me to ask whether the list of organisations specified in the schedule to the miscellaneous provisions order is

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complete, or are there other organisations which have already gained the exemptions from the particular taxes set out in the schedule? Quite apart from the amending orders which must be made to comply with our obligations, as the Minister has explained, to exempt all the international organisations from taxes and customs duties, it would be useful to have an annual report listing all the organisations specified under the 1968 Act which gives details of the amounts of revenue forfeited by the tax concessions. The 1968 Act gives unlimited power to specify these organisations. As has already been explained, we have to extend the exemptions to every one of them, so that the loss of revenue could be progressive and increasing.

The order shortly to be debated, the International Copper Study Group (Legal Capacities) Order 1999, seems to extend the list even further. However, I note that that order does not confer exemptions or privileges on that group, but only specifies it as a body corporate within the meaning of the 1968 Act. It might have been useful if the Minister had explained the difference between the International Copper Study Group and all the other organisations mentioned in the schedule to the miscellaneous provisions legislation, some of which appear to be very similar, being study groups themselves, such as the one on rubber. Why is the copper organisation being dealt with differently from the rubber organisation?

There is one other minor point. Why was it necessary to make a separate order in respect of INTELSAT instead of including it in the provisions in the schedule to the miscellaneous provisions legislation? Although it deals with rates as well as airport taxes, there surely could have been some minor change in the wording in the miscellaneous provisions legislation to enable all of the organisations to be dealt with in a single order.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I am afraid that we cannot give the same welcome to these orders as we gave to the earlier orders today. If the general public were aware of the orders, they would rightly be resentful of the fact that a lot of faceless bureaucrats from 26 organisations of which they had never heard would not have to pay air passenger duty. Of course, no tax is popular, but air passenger duty is particularly unpopular because it is a flat rate tax: £20 on intercontinental and non-European Union flights, regardless of whether it is a £49 easyJet flight to Zurich or a Concorde flight to New York.

I do not criticise air passenger duty as it was, of course, the previous government who introduced it, but I wonder how many people based in this country will claim the exemption, and how much money we are talking about. I understood the Minister to say that we would pay back these organisations the sums that they had paid since 1994. That may be quite a lot of money. Presumably there is also an ongoing commitment.

I also hope that these people will have to pay their air passenger duty when they buy their tickets and then reclaim the money afterwards. I presume that someone

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in the Foreign Office will check the claims thoroughly to ensure that they relate only to official business and not to their personal travel arrangements. There is a danger that the scheme could be abused in that way. The same applies to the insurance premium tax. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, asked, how much will all this cost? How many people are involved, working in this country for these organisations? If it were not for the fact that we have an international obligation to do this, I would very much prefer not to.


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