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Lord Smith of Leigh moved Amendment No. 194:


("Public airport companies
CONTROL OVER ACTIVITIES OF PUBLIC AIRPORT COMPANIES

.--(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations to authorise public airport companies or any of them--
(a) to engage in a type of activity, specified in the regulations, in which the controlling authority have no power to engage, or
(b) to permit any subsidiary of the company to engage in any such type of activity,
and section 17(4) of the Airports Act 1986 shall not apply to any activity authorised by regulations under this section.
(2) In considering whether to make regulations under this section, the Secretary of State may take into consideration transport policy, the business of the airport as a commercial undertaking and the potential benefit to the economy of the implementation of the powers to be authorised by the regulations.
(3) In this section, the expressions "controlling authority" and "public airport company" have the meanings given by section 16 of the Airports Act 1986.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I declare an interest as a local authority-appointed unpaid director of Manchester Airport plc. At this time of night I shall try to ensure that brevity is my watchword and that I do not test much further the stamina of Members of the Committee. I hope to use

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the amendment to outline the potential problems for public airport companies such as Manchester with the continued expansion of aviation. Airports like to maximise their involvement in commercial opportunities. They do so because of the obvious benefits for those airports but also in the interests of the regional economies which they serve. They do so in order to expand both jobs and inward investment, to help develop the ground transportation links--my noble friend Lord Whitty will have seen that at Manchester--to make sure that airports grow as sustainably as possible and to relieve the pressure in the south east part of the country where airports are most congested.

The future of transport, which is at the heart of the Bill, lies in mutually beneficial partnerships. The airports feel they are not able to partake of such partnerships. Manchester Airport and other airports have been in correspondence with Ministers and have had meetings with them. They feel that the current constraints of vires which affect airport companies like Manchester are too inflexible for us to create the partnerships which are necessary to enable us to expand as we would like to do. The amendment seeks to give the Secretary of State discretion to allow for greater freedom to pursue those commercial activities which will be beneficial to airports, transportation policy and local economies. I await my noble friend's response. I beg to move.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: As my noble friend has explained, Amendment No. 194 seeks to widen the range of activities which local authority-owned airport companies have powers to carry out. In other words, it seeks to extend the vires of local authority airport companies. At present, under Section 17(4) of the Airports Act 1986, the local authority shareholders must control the company in such a way as to ensure that the company does not engage in activities in which the shareholders themselves have no power to engage. Under my noble friend's new clause, the Secretary of State would have power by regulations to authorise all or any of the public airport companies to engage in a specified type of activity in which their shareholders have no power to engage. That would disapply the duty on the shareholders to the extent covered by the regulations.

My noble friend described the effect of the present limitations on the powers of local authority airport companies. He particularly mentioned the effect on Manchester Airport, which is the largest of the local authority airport companies. We have told Manchester Airport in correspondence that we are sympathetic to the principle of much of what the airport company is seeking to achieve through this clause. However, we have difficulty with the new clause. In the first place, we must have regard to the pressure on parliamentary time, both in this House and in another place, when considering whether to add to the Bill a provision which is not related to the main issues with which the Bill deals.

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In addition, we are concerned about the possible extent of the clause. More specifically, we have made it clear to Manchester Airport that we have reservations about public sector airports carrying out investment overseas. We consider that it is too remote from their core businesses and that it would be difficult for the companies themselves and for their shareholders to exercise the same degree of supervision and control as they can exercise over activities within the United Kingdom. This same concern lay behind one of the conditions which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State placed on his relaxation last year of the borrowing controls on Manchester and three other local authority airport companies. He made it clear that the relaxation of borrowing controls was to be used for airport-related investment in the United Kingdom.

I understand that the Manchester Airport company board stated earlier this year its view that the company should concentrate on the exploitation of its business within the United Kingdom. In addition, I recognise that it would be for the Secretary of State to decide whether or not to authorise local authority airport companies to engage in any particular activity. However, if we were to give the Secretary of State a new power, it would be necessary to ensure that its territorial extent was limited to the United Kingdom.

Our final concern with this new clause is that airport companies might inadvertently put their local authority shareholders into a situation where they could be accused of subsidising non-airport commercial activities, thereby breaching EU rules on state aids.

We have listened carefully to the debate on this new clause. We shall consider whether we can deal with the subject of local authority and the airport company powers in a future DETR Bill, but I regret that, in view of the constraints on the time available in the remainder of the Session, we are not able to take it into the present Bill. I invite my noble friend to withdraw his new clause.

Lord Smith of Leigh: Perhaps I may thank my noble friend for his full and sympathetic response to this proposed new clause. The airport representatives will read his response in Hansard with care, but I am willing to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.15 p.m.

Schedule 11 [Minor and consequential amendments about local transport]:

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 195:


    Page 216, line 24, at end insert--


(" . In section 63 (power of authorities to provide stands and racks for bicycles) for the words "and racks for bicycles" there is substituted "or racks for, or devices for securing, bicycles or motor cycles".
. In section 136(4) (meaning of "motor cycle") for "section 57" there is substituted "sections 57 and 63".").

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The noble Baroness said: I am much incapacitated by the absence from our Front Bench of that notable exponent of the art of motorcycling, my noble friend Lord Falkland. However, the amendment is so straightforward as barely to need explanation. Schedule 11 deals with amendments to legislation. The legislation which Amendment No. 195 seeks to amend is the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. The proposed amendment would enable local authorities to provide stands and racks not only for bicycles, but also for motorcycles. I beg to move.

Viscount Craigavon: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for moving the amendment and lament with her the absence of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. I hope that with this amendment we are pushing on an open door. For that reason, I shall be very brief.

The recovery rate of stolen motorcycles is only around 16 per cent. This affects not only the most powerful and expensive machines, but also, since we have seen such a big uptake of desirable and attractive little mopeds, those machines have acquired an extremely high value on the villains' market, so to speak. This is a serious problem and I hope that the amendment will provide a degree of solution to it.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, implied, this is an enabling amendment to allow local authorities to act as they wish. We should also give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, who in April 1999 introduced a Bill which failed through lack of parliamentary time. I shall end my contribution by quoting the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, speaking on the proposed measure. He stated that, if the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, should fall,


    "the Government's commitment to ensure that legislation along similar lines will be pursued".--[Official Report, 28/4/99; col. 401.]

I hope that the Government will now be able to redeem that commitment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It states in the briefing that I am very sympathetic to the aim of this amendment. The truth of the matter is that I am scared stiff of bikers and I would not wish to do anything to offend them. I recall when I was chairman of the central area board of the GLC knowing that if we did anything to offend the drivers of black taxis, they would drive round and round County Hall or Parliament Square until London came to a halt.

We are indeed sympathetic to an amendment which would give local authorities powers to provide secure parking provisions for motorcycles. We shall need to take away and consider the wording of the amendment, not least because it does not cover the situation after devolution. The Transport (Scotland) Bill contains a provision which applies this amendment to Scotland. We shall certainly take the proposal away and think about it. I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

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