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He was a scout for his favourite club, Middlesbrough, for almost 20 years, where, working with Jack Charlton, he spotted footballers including Graeme Souness. He remained friends with both throughout his life. An active football player and manager of the House of Commons football team, even at age of 73, he was an inspiration to all, so much so that the House of Commons chefs and catering staff have dedicated an annual football tournament in his name.
Many will be aware of how he bravely fought cancer. Members will remember how he carried on his duties as long as he could. Our thoughts go out to his family and to his wife Ann, whom many of us in this House know and know well, and who nursed Alan through his illness.
Before and during my campaign, I heard many personal stories from people Alan helped—stories that are still being shared in mail I receive every week. It is an honour to continue his work for the people of Feltham and Heston. He was without doubt a committed constituency MP. Alan was loved, and on more than one side of this House.
I want to share a little about Feltham and Heston. My constituency is the gateway from Heathrow to London, and a powerful symbol of our nation’s diversity and of hope for the future. Hounslow has rivers, canals, nature reserves and open spaces including an urban farm near the hamlet of Hatton, by Heathrow, and the award winning Bedfont Lakes country park.
More than 140 languages are spoken in the borough of Hounslow, with a third of the population being from ethnic minorities. With our strong faith communities and inter-faith work, it is truly an example of where the global meets the local. Our multi-faith community has many active churches, temples, mosques and gurdwaras, but they are not just places of worship: the community work that volunteers lead on education, information and advice, and health and well-being, often in partnership with public agencies, is a major service to the whole community.
My constituency is supported by strong local media. The Hounslow Chronicle leads the way as the local newspaper, with ethnic minority media including Des Pardes newspaper, Maya News, Jang News, Janomot, Asian Voice, Eastern Eye—you have probably heard of them all, Mr Speaker—Sangat TV, ARY Digital, Midlands Asian Television, Channel S—
An overwhelming message from the election was that my constituents are concerned about their jobs, their cost of living and their public services. The youth claimant count last year in my constituency rose 25.2%. The long-term claimant count for the over-50s saw a rise of 48%. Both statistics are more than twice the UK average. Increased investment in Feltham and Heston and support for local businesses will be vital for the parents I met last week who are worried about the future for their children.
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Heathrow to my constituency and to the nation. My constituency borders Heathrow and has a long history of contributing to aviation. London’s first airport was in my constituency, in what is now Hanworth air park. The world’s first air passenger terminal was at Heston aerodrome in Heston West ward—it is where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrived with his famous “Peace in our time” agreement from Hitler in 1938.
Today, Heathrow is the third busiest airport in the world, but it is more than just an airport. It is a hub for manufacturing for Britain and for the whole of Europe. Its success has been its proximity to London, to our motorway and rail networks and to the support that successive Governments have given to its development, acknowledging its continuing, core importance to our economy.
The operation of Heathrow airport supports well over 110,000 local jobs—approximately 22% of total local employment, and adds a gross value added of £5.3 billion. As the world’s entrance to the Olympics, it is set to be even busier this summer, with 13 August predicted to be the busiest day in its 66-year history. My constituents fly the planes, run the air traffic control, drive the trains and buses, feed the passengers, shift the air freight, police the UK border and produce and deliver British manufactured products all over the world, all from Heathrow airport. We have a huge and diverse skills base that has developed to serve the needs of the aviation industry.
Recently, there has been increasing talk of a new airport near the Thames estuary, with the vision as it stands threatening the future of Heathrow. Heathrow needs to continue to be an integral part of our future national transport strategy. A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness. I support the call to work together on a cross-party basis to agree a long-term strategy for aviation. Confusion about our aviation future will put jobs and growth at risk, with investors being unclear about whether to invest for the long term in Heathrow. Any strategy going forward must make the best use of existing runways and airports.
I look forward to the development of the High Speed 2 line to Heathrow. A direct link would transform accessibility from the midlands and the north, bringing Leeds and Manchester within 75 and 70 minutes respectively of Heathrow.
The Civil Aviation Bill we are debating today is designed to modernise the regulatory framework for civil aviation, which there is a pressing need to do. The Bill is welcome as it brings greater flexibility in how airports are regulated. However, there also needs to be greater clarity about how environmental impacts will be regulated. This is a key concern for my constituents and the wider west London population who are the most impacted by noise and emissions. It is important to ensure that the aviation industry is fully involved as plans for the new Civil Aviation Authority develop, to help provide greater understanding and certainty about how new regulations may be implemented.
My constituency is a place that is brimming with ambition—of families for themselves and the next generation, and of businesses for growth. It is a place where young people, such as the young men I met at
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Feltham skills centre training to become mechanics and engineers, want the chance to prove what they can do and create a better life for themselves and their families; where the woman I met on Feltham high street wants the help to set up her own business; and where the graduate I met in Cranford wants a chance to do more than just short-term temporary contracts. It is a place where mums and dads such as those I met at Southville community and children’s centre want to know that streets are safe for their children to play on, and that they and their daughters can walk home safely at night. It is a place where older people want to play their part in the community too, as mentors and support for the new generation coming through, but with the confidence that their needs too will be supported.
My constituency is also a place where the community spirit is strong. I am proud to carry on Alan’s Co-operative and union relationships and to join the group of Labour and Co-operative Members of Parliament, especially in the UN international year of the co-operative.
After a 15-year career in professional services, working with industry and Government Departments, it is indeed a privilege and an honour to be elected as the new Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston, and to follow my predecessor Alan Keen in fighting for fairness and progress for a place that has so long been my home, and that has given me so much.
Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the maiden speech from the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), who gave such an eloquent, thoughtful and intelligent speech, much of which I could agree with. I shall come on to the substance of her remarks about airports and Heathrow in a moment. I am also grateful for the opportunity to echo her tribute to Alan Keen.
I had the privilege of serving for just over a year on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee with Alan Keen. He was a great colleague on the Committee and continued its work as best he could, right through last summer, including taking part in our questioning of the Murdochs and the phone hacking inquiry. He was, of course, present for the launch of the Committee’s report on football governance, a topic that was a lifelong passion of his. He is sorely missed, not only by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but by members of the Committee.
The hon. Lady demonstrated in her speech that communities that live alongside and around airports are vibrant and have a strong affinity to those airports as a great source of wealth, jobs, income, skills and training for the local economy. Communities that live alongside airports are by no means blighted, but can benefit an awful lot from them. My constituency has a somewhat smaller—in fact, much smaller—airport than Heathrow at Lydd, which works under the name London Ashford airport. It is applying for an extended runway so that it can offer more local and regional services. But the arguments that people in Romney Marsh in my constituency would make about why they support the expansion of that airport are very similar to the hon. Lady’s remarks about Heathrow. The economic benefits of that investment in aviation and having a vibrant airport in the locality are good for the local economy and create jobs, rather than turning people away. That is
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appreciated by many of the hon. Members who have spoken in this debate so far, whose constituencies either contain an airport or are within the economic hinterland of one.
I welcome the thrust of the Bill, in particular the remit of the Civil Aviation Authority to focus on the consumer experience and passengers as its primary motivation. That will help the regulation and support of airports. I am especially drawn to clause 1 of the Bill, which sets the CAA’s general duty. Subsection 1 provides that it
“must carry out its functions…in a manner which it considers will further the interests of users of air transport services”.
Subsection 2 adds a duty to promote competition. I am sure that people will have amendments and ideas that will be discussed in Committee, but I wonder whether those two points may be combined into one, so that the CAA should consider promoting competition as part of supporting and furthering the interests of air transport services, rather than as a separate point. Many of us would see that those two things can be combined, because competition helps to improve the level of quality and service.
I have in mind especially issues of capacity, which may be at the heart of the concerns that many air transport users face. It was mentioned earlier in the debate that one of the particular issues that air transport passengers might face is the time delays caused by flights being required to stack because they do not have a landing slot. In my constituency in Kent, that is a particular cause of noise and environmental pollution. One of the best ways to clean up the aviation industry and reduce its carbon footprint would be to reduce the amount of time planes spend in the air unnecessarily. Much of that happens simply waiting for a landing slot.
Extra runway capacity in the south-east of England is a way to manage aviation much more effectively and reduce planes’ stacking time. Although some might say that increasing aviation capacity might lead to environmental pollution, much better management of planes in the air would significantly reduce it. It is a serious point, and the CAA should think of it when considering the air passenger experience.
Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case. Does he accept that the argument made by some that we should just manage things differently, rather than having more runways, does not make sense? We need more runway capacity.
The hon. Gentleman has anticipated my next point. Extra runway capacity helps deal with issues such as stacking. It is also increasingly important to ensure that the UK economy is connected to the world. I am concerned by the fact that numerous economic centres in emerging economies around the world, such as India, Brazil and particularly China, do not have
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direct flight connections to the UK and London. That must be cause for concern, and extra runway capacity would help manage it better. It would also help us to deal with some issues that hon. Members raised earlier, such as the fact that domestic flights are priced out of the major hub airports when more attractive international options become available. That reduces the number of options available to domestic aviation customers. The CAA should give particular consideration to that under the terms of the Bill.
Indeed, the CAA’s own report on aviation, published earlier this month, highlighted that the need for extra runway and aviation capacity, particularly in the south-east of England, was of primary concern. It should be a concern for all of us considering the future of aviation in this country and the need to connect our economy to the economies of the world.
As has also been discussed, some major European regional airports and hub airports have more connecting flights to UK airports than does Heathrow. We are all aware of the number of UK regional airports that now have direct flights to Amsterdam and Frankfurt, and from there to the rest of the world. Indeed, the people who own Lydd airport in my constituency might see that as a model for sustaining the business case of smaller regional airports like theirs, which could offer flights to other hubs with connecting flights to the rest of the world.
We cannot ignore the fact that well-connected hubs are at the heart of a thriving aviation system. Our major hub, which will always be near London, will need to be connected to major points around the world. We must also ensure that there is extra capacity that our regional airports can use as well. That is of primary importance. The Government have said that they want to consider where future aviation capacity might come from. I welcome that step, and I think that we should consider it wherever it might be, but it means that the UK will have to plan for a major, substantial hub airport that will serve us and our economy well for many years to come.
Planning and environmental concerns have been raised, particularly their impact on small regional airports. I have been frustrated by the process that Lydd airport in my constituency has gone through. I appreciate that the expansion of airports is always controversial, particularly for local communities, and often divides opinion. I know that some people feel strongly against it. I believe that it would be good for the local economy, as do many people who live in proximity to the airport. After the decision is taken—in the case of Lydd airport, the district council has voted clearly to approve expansion—it is frustrating when that decision is called in and there is a further time delay of some years so that a public inquiry can consider the application. It is certainly frustrating when that happens at the end of a process that involved a previous public inquiry and public debates.
In the planning system, if we believe that we need extra runway capacity, particularly in the south-east of England where demand is very high, and if communities and the Civil Aviation Authority are prepared to support it, we should consider how such projects can be delivered efficiently and in a timely fashion, to support not only the greater needs of the aviation industry in our country but the needs of local economies. It is of fundamental importance if the community are on board and want the decision to be taken.
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I support the thrust of the Bill. I believe that its objectives are to give this country a more efficient aviation network and improve and streamline the system of regulation. However, I will make one final point. In considering the role of Heathrow airport, which, as other hon. Members have said, might be the only airport facing a price cap given its dominance of the UK market, we should ensure that it competes and will continue to compete not only with airports in the UK but with major hubs in Europe. In many ways, Heathrow’s natural competitors are not Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester but Amsterdam and Frankfurt. As a trading economy, we must ensure that our major hub airport is at the centre of the aviation world, not in the siding.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): It is my privilege and great pleasure to be the first member of my party to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) on her maiden speech. It was a superb speech of which she can be rightly proud. I am sure that members of her family who heard it will be equally proud. She mentioned Russell Kerr as one of her predecessors. In the 1960s, when I was a student, Russell Kerr came to speak to our university Labour club, of which I was then president. I knew him well, and I know that were he alive today he would be equally delighted to have such a wonderful successor. She spoke very well and has a strong speaking voice. I am sure that she has a great future in the House.
I will speak briefly about aviation matters. It is nice to follow the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), because my first ever holiday flight was taken from Lydd airport in a Bristol 170, too many years ago to remember now. It was an interesting experience.
I support some of the previous speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) spoke for the town, as I hope to. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) made a particularly strong speech, for which I commend her. I listened with great interest. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) made a point about developing the regions and building regional airports.
My first point involves security and immigration. We must ensure that the UK Border Agency and all security staff at our airports are sufficient to do the job, that all our airports are properly staffed, that staff are properly paid and that the whole system of immigration control and security at airports is adequately funded. We cannot cut corners in such matters.
I know from experience that we have not funded Luton airport as well as we should have done. I visited immigration staff there some 10 years ago, and they complained bitterly that there were not enough of them to do the job properly. They wanted to stop drugs coming in—from Amsterdam, for example—but they could not do a proper check on all passengers. We must ensure that airports are properly staffed and that, in these times when the Government have chosen to cut spending, those important matters are not underfunded.
Another important point was made about airport capacity, particularly in the south-east. I was one of those in our party who did not support building the third runway at Heathrow, and I am pleased that both
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our party and the Government have now accepted that it will not be built. I have always argued that we should make maximum use of existing capacity in the south-east in the first instance, and that we should ensure that we make greater use of regional airports.
Germany was mentioned, and it has several major airports in different parts of the country. We have focused too much on the south-east, and we have a lopsided geography; too much of our population and economy are in the south-east, and not enough are spread out into other areas. Although I represent the south-east, I appreciate that we need to do much more to develop the regions economically. That means serving those regions with long-haul flights so that they can be developed better.
Luton airport can make a significantly greater contribution to capacity in the south-east. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South that we could take at least 7 million more passengers a year. At the moment, the airport cannot take the longest-haul flights, but new generations of aircraft are coming through, such as the Boeing Dreamliner, a composite-bodied aircraft that can fly longer distance with a higher payload and more efficient fuel usage. If the Dreamliner flew from Luton, it could serve the south Asian subcontinent, which would be significant for Luton, and the western seaboard of the USA. That generation of aircraft is coming, and I look forward to them flying from Luton.
In the meantime, however, we must maximise Luton for the use of medium and short-haul flights. Much of the traffic that goes to Heathrow could come to Luton. I have even argued that Luton could become a satellite airport for Heathrow—part of the south-eastern hub, in a sense—but we would need a rapid transit link between the two airports, which is possible. There is a railway track that diverges at Cricklewood on to the western region, so we could have a fast shuttle service from Luton Airport Parkway station direct to Heathrow, and it could act as a satellite to Heathrow in the longer term. Imaginative measures could be taken to enhance airport capacity in the south-east.
I will not say much more, as others wish to speak. I hope, however, that the Bill will be improved as it passes through the House, and that the important points made, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West, will be taken into account and acted on.
Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) and to have witnessed the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra). Having visited her constituency several times a couple of months ago, I can understand why she chose to speak in this debate—I have never seen planes fly so low, except at an airport, and at one point I could almost see what passengers were eating for their lunch. It is obviously an important part of her area’s local economy.
I cannot claim to live in or represent a constituency quite so close to an airport, my nearest one being East Midlands airport, which is about 20 miles away—I know that number well because I use East Midlands Parkway station to travel down to London. It is one of those deceptive airport parkway stations in that it is not
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possible to get to East Midlands airport from it without catching a bus—except that the bus has been cancelled because no one used it. It is a bit confusing, therefore, for someone arriving from abroad at East Midlands airport, thinking that they can catch a train but finding that they need to get a taxi or some other form of transport to get there. Perhaps, in the long run, HS2 might rectify that, and we might actually get a rail station on the site of the airport.
I join other Members in recognising the Bill as a sensible way of improving the regulation of airports. It is right to start by acknowledging how important airports are to the economic growth of their local areas and of the country as a whole. Many Members will know that East Midlands airport has the distinction of being one of the biggest freight hubs in the country, employing a substantial number of people. Not everyone living under the flight path and who gets to experience night-time freight planes, which sadly do not tend to be the most modern or quietest of planes, will share that enthusiasm, but the effects of the serious number of jobs created ripple out to nearby constituencies, including mine, which is home to the UPS depot in Somercotes.
There are issues, however, with changing any regulatory regime and the possibility of introducing an economic regulator. When I saw the Bill, I feared that these regulators might decide that regulating only three airports was not enough and that they might want to expand their remit to cover a few more, including, for example, Birmingham or Manchester—two airports that my constituents would use regularly, being only about 55 to 60 miles apart—so I welcome the fact that the Bill introduces no real change to how new airports can be brought under that regulatory regime. I do not see the need for economic regulation, given the amount of airport competition in the wider midlands area. I carried out some research to see how many airports I could get to in a 60-mile drive. In addition to East Midlands airport, there were Birmingham, Coventry, Doncaster, Sheffield and Manchester. That is a lot of choice for people booking a holiday, and the number of destinations available from all those airports provides plenty of choice for both scheduled and packaged flights.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) said that even with so many airports in the area, many people still have to use Heathrow for long-haul flights. Those of us who, to our shame, do not always holiday in the UK know, from comparing flights and prices, how often we can fly only from Heathrow—unless we fancy a couple of changes at Paris or Amsterdam, for example. We need to spread out to the rest of the country some of that capacity and some of those direct flights to the most important trading countries and holiday destinations.
I have touched on the environmental impacts of airports. It is strange that we are producing a Bill setting out how airports can be licensed under an economic regulatory regime, because most of our constituents would think that, when looking to license an airport or impose conditions, the possible environmental damage would be taken into account. The main consideration that people raise is probably the noise for surrounding houses. There must be some link between that and regulation, because it would be strange if a licence could not be removed from a company that was blatantly and flagrantly flouting those regulations—although I
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accept that we do not want multiple regulators regulating the same things, and I recognise that those noise issues are best addressed elsewhere.
The one issue in the Bill that will get the attention of consumers and passengers is the welcome extension of the ATOL rules. I speak as someone who keenly looks at the price of flights and holidays—I check out the various travel agents and airlines, and pick the cheapest one—but it is always difficult to find out whether something is covered by ATOL. That problem is not helped by the reality of how people book holidays. Everyone knows that package holidays are covered. Twenty years ago, 97% of holidays were package holidays, but it is now less than 50% and falling. The concern is that people do not realise that they do not have ATOL protection. Some might say, “Well, we should all have travel insurance, and surely airline failure is covered in my travel insurance policy,” but actually people have to check their travel insurance carefully to find out whether they are covered—many do cover it but some do not or put a limit on how much can be claimed.
If I book a flight with a cheap airline—let us take Ryanair as an example, although they are all much the same—I will probably appreciate that it is a point-to-point flight and that the airline does not take responsibility for delays or anything else that might impact on me. When I get my ticket confirmation, however, I might get an advert reading, “Do you want cheap car hire?”—through a separate car hire company—or, “Do you want one of these cheap hotels we’ve found?” To what extent does that become a package that would come under the flight-plus rules, or are those completely separate bookings that I choose to make through the hotel and car hire providers? It is not entirely clear whether that would be a package in the way that I might understand a Virgin Holidays package, with a flight and hotel, to be.
It is important to tease this out and ensure that when we make this change we make things clearer for the consumer, and that we do not lead more people to think, “I’m definitely safe and covered now,” when, actually, they have bought the flight separate from the car hire company or hotel. One option would be to make everything covered by ATOL. That would ensure complete clarity and freedom of competition between travel agents and airliners. I accept that there is the risk that if I book my flight through the Dutch KLM website, rather than the UK one, I might get it for £2.50 less because I would not have to pay for the ATOL cover, but we are not talking about a huge material amount on the price of the flight. It would, however, get us the clarity that we are rightly seeking.
Overall, I strongly welcome the Bill as a simplification of the regulatory regime for airports. Everyone wants all our airports to offer the biggest range of destinations and airlines, and to be as cheap as possible so that we can get the cheapest flights. The Bill will take us some way in that direction. I welcome the clauses requiring airports to publish full passenger service information, and I agree that it should include the whole passenger experience, from arriving at the airport to the annoying behaviour of some airports that prevent us from dropping people off without paying for parking or make us drop them off so far from the airport that they have to lug suitcases around—not to mention those trolley charges that result in us carrying three suitcases around the
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airport just to save £1. All those costs should be clearly published, so that I can compare what my full journey costs will be and ensure that I do not need a taxi from somewhere or have to pay all those little hidden costs, and so that I can also understand and fully appreciate what the cost and quality of my full airport experience will be.
James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills), who spoke eloquently about a range of subjects and touched on the licensing issues arising from this Bill, which I, too, hope to speak about. It is also a pleasure and an honour to follow the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), who spoke so clearly and persuasively about her constituency. Having visited Feltham and Heston only quite recently, and given its close proximity to Heathrow, I have no doubt that she will take a long-standing interest in aviation matters.
I welcome this Bill, which is a long overdue measure to tackle some of the problems arising from outdated regulation that our aviation industry faces. There are a number of good measures in the Bill. In such a monopolistic market, it is important that the Government should set out a clear set of regulations to ensure that passengers get the best deal. This Bill goes a long way towards delivering that, notwithstanding the range of comments made by Members from across the House this evening.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the Bill is the commentary on, and the rules set out for, the role of the Civil Aviation Authority. Clause 1, chapter 1—one of the first things in the legislation—says:
“The CAA must carry out its functions under this Chapter in a manner which it considers will further the interests of users of air transport services regarding the range, availability, continuity, cost and quality of airport operation services.”
We are presented in this Bill with an opportunity to look at how we deliver aviation services right across the country and, in particular, what might be done to secure the future of some of our regional airports. In their comments on the draft legislation, members of the Transport Committee raised concern that regional airports do not always feature as highly or prominently as they perhaps should. They are a vital part of our economy. They produce an extremely important economic boost for the areas in which they are based, but they are also important for transport right across the UK.
Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): My hon. Friend is making some powerful points about regional airports. He is absolutely right that we need to encourage investment in regional airports to get our economy growing. Does he not also think that investment in regional airports in the north is probably more important than investment in regional airports in the south-east, in moving us away from the north-south divide, which is having an impact on our economy in the north?
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James Wharton: My hon. Friend, who is a member of the Transport Committee, has, in true expert fashion, predicted much of what I want to say. Later I will touch on some of the points that he eloquently raises.
The regional issue, which is so important for those of us in the north, as well as those in the south-west—indeed, it is important for those in any part of the country that is that much further from the capital—should not and will not go away. My constituency is served by Teesside airport, which covers three constituencies: Sedgefield—I see the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) in the Chamber—Stockton North and my constituency of Stockton South. Teesside airport has quite a long and interesting history, which I will not dwell on, although the recent history, which is relevant to what I want to say, sadly shows a certain level of decline. In 2006, around 1 million passengers went through the airport; in 2011, the figure was fewer than 200,000.
When I say Teesside airport, some hon. Members look at me with a little confusion, because they will have heard it referred to as Durham Tees Valley airport. A few years ago the name was changed, against much local opposition and amid much local concern. As far as I can tell, whether by looking at maps or historical records, Tees valley as a geographical area does not exist, and Durham is rather a long way away from the airport. None the less, Teesside international airport was officially renamed Durham Tees Valley airport. As a local MP, I raised the issue over the summer. Indeed, I was involved in a campaign to change the name back to Teesside airport, because I know that the issue concerns many of my constituents and those in surrounding areas. Indeed, the Evening Gazette, an excellent local daily newspaper, ran the campaign quite prominently and, certainly recently, it was the second most subscribed to and commented on campaign that it had run. The campaign sparked off a great deal of comment and contributions from local people, because it goes to the heart of some of the challenges we face in that sub-region of the north-east, the strength of identity in Teesside and the value that local people place on it. However, a name alone would not change the future trajectory of an airport or its business or economic success.
Nigel Mills: I rise to give my hon. Friend some hope for his campaign. A few years ago, East Midlands airport changed its name to Nottingham East Midlands airport, in the face of huge opposition in Derbyshire and Leicestershire, which jointly fund the airport. The name was eventually changed back to East Midlands airport, so such campaigns can be successful.
James Wharton: I thank my hon. Friend, and I hope that in the fullness of time that is exactly what will happen. However, there is a more pressing issue, which is relevant to today, than simply the name of the airport, important as that is: the airport has recently been put up for sale.
Again, I will not go through too much of the detail of how the airport got into that position—the hon. Member for Sedgefield recounted much of the recent history earlier—but I can say with absolute certainty that the fact that it has been put up for sale is a cause of great concern for many of my constituents. We know—I know, as a local person and a local MP, and my constituents know—that only recently Teesside airport was vibrant
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and successful. It was a highly successful sub-regional transport hub that provided not only international flights, but quick and easy domestic flights down to London Heathrow. Those flights were provided by BMI—British Midland International—and when that service was withdrawn, that had a serious detrimental impact on what has proved to be the airport’s long-term future.
The issue was raised, at some length and on a number of occasions, by the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) when he was Regional Minister, under the last Government. He campaigned diligently to have Heathrow slots reinstated for Teesside, on the basis that it was an important domestic route that would put passenger flow through the airport and play an important part in providing an economic transport boost to that part of the north-east. He campaigned hard, although sadly unsuccessfully. This is a cross-party issue, with, I believe, cross-party support.
That brings me to some of the specific parts of the Bill before us today. Subsection (1)(b) of clause 18, which deals with what the CAA has to take into account in putting conditions on an airport’s licence, refers to
“such other conditions as the CAA considers necessary or expedient having regard to the CAA’s duties under section 1,”
“In performing its duties under subsections (1)…the CAA must have regard to…(d) any guidance issued to the CAA by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Chapter”.
It is my contention that this Bill opens the door for the Secretary of State to instruct the CAA, through the guidance issued, that it must give proper attention and pay heed to the overall economic needs of the sub-region in the north-east.
I accept that this issue has been visited before. As I have mentioned, the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East raised it a number of times when he was Regional Minister on behalf of the region as a whole. However, there is a new factor that should now be taken into account: the Government’s recent announcement—a welcome announcement for the economy in the north—that High Speed 2 is to go ahead. At the moment, HS2 goes up as far as Leeds. It will provide some travel time benefits for those travelling down from the north-east, but it does not yet reach stations in the north-east of England. I am sure that in the fulness of time it will do so. Indeed, I and other hon. Members—on a cross-party basis and across the north-east—will no doubt be making the case for investment to bring high-speed rail as far north as is necessary for our constituents to benefit from the economic opportunities that it provides.
None the less, in the foreseeable future, high-speed will not come up as far as Teesside, Newcastle or the north-east region at all. Therefore, although the Government have recognised, through their investment in HS2, the value of cutting journey times to the capital and ensuring that our country—and our nation—is as interconnected as possible, with high quality, high-speed journeys from north to south, they have not yet come up with a proposal that would help to bridge the gap that little bit further north, in the areas and communities that I and so many colleagues across the House represent.
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HS2 therefore provides an opportunity for the Secretary of State to consider whether provision should be made for Teesside airport to be given particular weighting to ensure that it has a slot at Heathrow. Teesside will feel the benefits that HS2 will bring to the north, but not quite as acutely as those living in Leeds, for example, or in places from which they can travel to the stations that it will serve directly. Those benefits have been recognised by the Government, and the Bill provides the Secretary of State with the opportunity to set criteria that would allow the CAA to take into account the need for faster travel times from Teesside airport and from that part of the north-east that I represent.
This is both my appeal and my question to the Minister. My appeal is that the Department consider whether the guidance that will be issued under the Bill should take special account of Teesside’s unique position, just outside the envelope of HS2, so that it could benefit from regular, high-speed connectivity with the capital. My question is whether that interpretation of the Bill is accurate, and whether that option would be open to the Secretary of State if the proposals should become law. If it is not, I urge the Government to consider amending the Bill. If it is accurate, I am sure that colleagues across Teesside and the north-east will join me in urging the Secretary of State to ensure that the provisions are used to maximum effect to take into account the needs and views of individuals and businesses in my constituency and in the surrounding communities. They have used Teesside airport over many years and they have been well served by an excellent, local, well-managed service on their doorstep and offered a range of flights. Sadly, however, that service has gone into what I hope is a short-term decline in recent years. I ask for action to be taken, and for the Government to deliver the Heathrow route that would bring great benefit to the people whom I am proud to represent.
Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): I should like to associate myself with the comments made by colleagues following the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra). She gave the most powerful exposition of Heathrow’s economic contribution that I have ever heard. When so many people are calling for a brand new hub in the Thames estuary, it is worth bearing in mind that for every person who finds that overhead air traffic disturbs the ambience when they are enjoying a gin and tonic, there are many others, including her constituents, who depend on Heathrow for their livelihood. I hope that as we consider the future capacity of aviation, we will be able to have a mature debate on the economic consequences of moving an airport and of airport expansion, as well as on the environmental consequences.
The Bill has been a long time coming, and I was slightly amused by Opposition Members’ complaints about the so-called lack of scrutiny, given that it has had a gestation period of some six years. It contains some new measures, but we shall have plenty of time to consider them in detail during its passage through the House. They lend themselves to being added to the Bill, and many have already been fully considered by the previous Government as well as this one. It is also worth noting that although a number of airlines have raised concerns about the Bill, the industry generally supports this package of reforms.
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The Bill will put the regulation of civil aviation on a modern footing. A great deal of effort is often put into drawing up systems of regulation that are fit for purpose at the time, but they generally get parked and are not looked at again until something goes wrong. In this case, nothing has gone wrong, but it has become patently obvious that this system of regulation is not fit for purpose, as it is the best part of 30 years old. It was drawn up at a time when the aviation industry was rather different from the one we have now. In the intervening period, we have witnessed massive growth in the number of airlines, a greater propensity to fly among business travellers and consumers alike, and the emergence of an industry characterised by much more aggressive competition. Those changes in the marketplace have created a need for a different kind of regulator from the one provided by the current regime.
A key aspect of the existing system is the duty to secure adequate provision of services, but that task is clearly redundant, given the amount of competition that now exists in the industry. Better and more efficient regulation means removing those responsibilities, which will not deliver the efficient marketplace that we need, and ensuring that the regulator focuses instead on those duties that will do so. Putting the interests of the air passenger first will achieve that, as it will ensure that the market works effectively and not to the disadvantage of consumers.
I welcome the fact that at the heart of the Bill are reforms of the duties of the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that protecting the interests of the air passenger will become its primary purpose. This amounts to a simplification of the previous regulatory structure, which was much more about economic regulation. At the core of the new regulator’s functions is the need to ensure that the market works effectively and to the benefit of all passengers.
By focusing on outcomes for passengers, rather than on the provision of services, the Bill provides a framework that is more likely to deliver a better customer experience. I speak as someone with a background in regulation from a consumer perspective. Many other methods of regulation could learn from this model. It has always been my view that if we get the focus on the consumer right, many other benefits will follow. That is not to say that we should throw away all models of economic regulation, because the structure of the market must obviously be taken into account, and regulatory action is still required to ensure that providers do not act as cartels. However, we need to look at the consumer’s experience from start to finish.
Central to the Civil Aviation Authority’s new consumer focus will be its duty to promote better public information. I reiterate the point made by other colleagues that information is all, and that transparency is the best way to empower consumers to look after their own interests. The provisions will give consumers a one-stop shop where they can find information and compare airlines and airport providers, enabling them to make a more informed choice.
My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) talked about booking his holidays, and I have to say that I have had similar experiences. People tend to look at the headline price, but that does not always tell
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us the whole story. The most obvious example of that is Ryanair, but of course we all know that we are going to get screwed over when we fly with Ryanair. The reality is, however, that we need to bear in mind the cost of parking the car, the cost of dropping off and the cost of travelling to the airport. When we do a straightforward search to book our airline tickets, we are never going to get the whole picture.
We need as much information as possible to be presented to us in a user-friendly way, although it will be a challenge for the CAA to provide it in as user-friendly and easily navigable a form as possible. A similar example is the Financial Services Authority, which draws up massive amounts of consumer information. It provides comparative tables allowing us to compare 400 types of mortgage or 1,000 insurance products, but almost no one knows that they exist, and very few people access them. The new duty on the regulator is welcome and will be valuable to consumers, but it will be of use only if consumers know how to access it and navigate their way round it.
Shifting the focus on to consumers will make the experience of passing through an airport much more enjoyable. The speed with which consumers can disembark, collect their baggage and get through passport control makes a great deal of difference, and I hope that that kind of information will also be properly communicated by the regulator. It goes without saying that if someone knows that their experience in a particular airport or with a particular airline will be easy, they are much more likely to choose that option. As the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) will know, using London City airport is a delightful experience. People can turn up within 10 minutes of their flight, get through the airport, get on the plane and take their baggage with them. It is a much more user-friendly experience than at any other airport. People will pay more for that advantage, even though they might not get the best quality aeroplanes. Information is very important for helping people to make an informed choice.
As for the tools and penalties the regulator will need to perform the job, we have already talked about information, but that will get us only so far. When the regulator has to intervene because the service is not good, it needs to have appropriate tools and penalties. I see that the Bill will mean the transfer of some powers from the Secretary of State and from the Competition Commission. That is welcome, but in this new system of regulation it is important that all players understand their own obligations.
As we have seen elsewhere, when multiple bodies are involved in regulation, there is often some overlap and, indeed, some underlap, as it is not quite clear where the buck stops. We saw that happen with catastrophic consequences in the financial services industry and in health. I hope that the Department for Transport will provide much more clarity on who should act, when, why and how so that it is absolutely clear where the buck stops for each part of the responsibility under the new system.
Serving the customer is central, and I have already mentioned information issues. I welcome the provisions for the CAA to produce more information about the environmental consequences of aviation. As I said, this will become more important as we look at the options for future airport capacity. It is clear that there is a need
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for expansion to serve London and the south-east. When so much noise is being made about the potential for a new hub airport in the Thames, I hope that the CAA will pay due regard to the environmental consequences of such a development, as well as to the economic consequences for airports such as Heathrow. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston back in her place.
On behalf of colleagues in north Kent and south Essex, I have to say that the case made so far for a Thames estuary airport is weak. The only strong argument I have heard is that it is beyond the boundary of Greater London. For me, that is not sufficient justification for the creation of a new airport hub.
I am pleased that the new CAA will have to consider the health and safety impacts, as well as measures taken with a view to reducing, controlling and mitigating the adverse environmental effects of civil aviation across the UK. Once it takes forward these responsibilities, we may end up being able to have a much more mature debate about these issues than the present one, which frankly tends to bring out the worst nimbyish tendencies in all of us.
Finally, I would like to say something about the provisions that will transfer the security regulation powers from the Government to the CAA. I strongly believe that the CAA is better placed than the Department to ensure that airlines and airports are discharging their responsibilities effectively, although it is of course important that Ministers retain responsibility for overall policy. This move clearly makes financial sense, as I believe it will save the taxpayer some £25 million. That cost will ultimately be borne by consumers, but as it works out at 2p per user, I think it is one that the consumer can afford to absorb.
To summarise and conclude, aviation policy and provision are essential ingredients in the competitiveness of a 21st century economy, and it is clear that some of our competitors are making more progress than the UK in this regard. If we get our aviation policy right, there will be clear advantages for jobs and growth. An appropriate system of regulation fit for the 21st century is central, so I am pleased to support the Bill.
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): I start as others have done by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) for her maiden speech. All Members who visited her constituency during the by-election campaign recognised and appreciated the economic significance of Heathrow airport to her constituents. For me, it was a complete reality check to recognise how closely her constituents experience the airport through the flight paths and the low-flying aeroplanes that travel down in proximity to the runway. That was a real eye-opener for many of us, but we recognised at the same time that many of her constituents were employed by the airport. I for one maintain that Heathrow is a massive economic hub, not just for London and the south-east but for our country. I have been a frequent traveller through Heathrow.
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I welcome the Bill and the emphasis it places on furthering the interests of passengers and the modernisation of the Civil Aviation Authority. I suspect that many of my remarks will already have been made, but there is no doubt that reforming the existing framework to slash back the rigid regulation and the burdensome bureaucracy currently in place is a positive step. Granting the CAA greater independence from the Government will take important aspects of aviation regulation—the designation of airports for price capping, for example—out of the political sphere, while enabling the CAA to take on the responsibility to enforce competition law will help empower passengers and cargo owners.
The future of aviation in this country and the economic benefits derived from air travel that we have heard about in the debate will no doubt depend heavily on this legislation and subsequent actions from the CAA. I hope that the CAA will utilise its new powers wisely and act in a way that promotes competition to make our airports competitive and strong.
We should remember that our airports are not just places where passengers and cargo are transported across the world, as they are vital economic hubs essential to jobs and growth in our economy across the country—not just in London and the south-east. As we have heard from many colleagues, regional significance is key. Ministers and the CAA must be mindful that while this Bill will support competition between airports in the UK, our airports need a regulatory framework that, importantly, lets them attract investment so that they can compete with their global rivals.
Anyone who has travelled regularly overseas on business will recognise and acknowledge the improvements that many other countries have made to their airports. As we have heard, whether it be Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and the Gulf or India, amazing things are being done with their airports. This brings us back to the point about consumer experience, but also the experience of business travellers. This is not about convenience alone, but about making sure that these are vital economic and competitive hubs.
Many of the airports are impressive. They have expanded their capacity. Dubai, for example, built another airport in next to no time. Such developments make these cities and countries much more attractive for business and leisure purposes. Passengers who travel to various destinations are stopping off at these airports, which have incredible facilities—new runways and terminals, for example. This frees up capacity and enables our economic rivals to develop airport hubs. We need to wake up to this and learn from their experiences. We need to look at what has worked and what has not worked. It is amazing that some countries seem capable of building these airports overnight. We talk about being open for business, but if we want to be an economic powerhouse, we have to get some insights from these other countries.
These rival airports offer ever-increasing numbers of destinations to fly to, so we have to face the challenges of capacity—not just at Heathrow, as the regional airports are also important. I do not want to see our airports becoming the end-point for global aviation travel rather than being an important hub. We must facilitate this
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hub issue and link up to worldwide destinations. I certainly do not want to see the UK losing out to other hubs, including European hubs. At a time when we need to ensure that Britain is open for business, if we do not act swiftly enough to come up with the right kind of aviation approach and strategy, we will lose out on international competitiveness. I hope the Minister will assure me that, observing their duties as set out in clauses 1 and 2, the CAA and the Secretary of State will further the interests of users of air transport services, will take all necessary steps to ensure that our airports are the most attractive places for passengers to visit, and will offer passengers more choice.
As consumers, passengers want not just the best possible price but a good travelling experience. Over the years terminal 5 has overcome its initial major teething troubles, but I remember what it used to be like there for people travelling with families. Nothing can be worse than a dreadful airport experience, particularly for those travelling with young children. Such experiences can be really off-putting, especially when airlines are not co-operative in informing people about what they can and cannot take on board, and I hope that there will be some improvement in that regard.
Innovation and investment are also key issues. I think that we can do more to increase business travel, and to help our regional airports. We in Essex have Stansted airport, which is not far from my constituency: it is 15 minutes’ drive up the A120. Stansted has had an interesting time over the past few years, partly because it has expanded to become a hub for new airlines servicing the United States and Asia. That initially represented something of a trial for the airport. It started at what was a bad time for the global economy, when there was a lack of business passengers. I believe that the Bill can help to empower Stansted and other regional airports, so that they can innovate and invest in accordance with their own regional growth strategies at a time when enterprise zones are coming on stream.
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): My hon. Friend has mentioned regional airports, airports in Essex, and innovation and investment. Is she aware of the work that has been done at Southend airport, which has received considerable support to enable it to expand and provide the area with a real economic boon?
Priti Patel: I know about that work. I also know how hard organisations such as Essex chamber of commerce and other business partners and stakeholders are working to assess viability and sustainability and attract investment to Essex and the south-east.
Stansted serves more than 18 million passengers each year, and is the third busiest airport in the United Kingdom in terms of passenger numbers. In that respect, it ranks only slightly below Heathrow and Gatwick. Its planes fly to 150 destinations, and it offers many scheduled flights to European airports as well as flights on low-cost airlines. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) mentioned one of those. Members have also mentioned the environment. Stansted has a great record of mitigating environmental problems, minimising the disruption caused by noise by ensuring
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that 99% its of aircraft stick to their flight paths. Half the number of passengers travelling to Stansted use public transport.
I have mentioned Stansted for economic reasons. It is a vital catalyst for regional and national growth, it is a cargo hub, and it employs more than 10,000 people. One in six of those jobs is filled from my constituency and the wider district of Braintree. Such airports—Heathrow was mentioned in this context by the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston—are vital in providing our constituencies and regions with employment and investment.
It is essential for Ministers and the CAA to bear in mind that increasing airport capacity is not an unreasonable objective. Environmental concerns have been mentioned, but above all we should consider the interests of passengers and the need to demonstrate to the world that the United Kingdom is open for business. This is not just about airports in the south-east; it is about UK plc. I touched on the role of enterprise zones earlier. They will be central to the facilitation of inward investment, and I think that they should be complemented by a great and robust aviation strategy for the United Kingdom.
Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): It is a pleasure to take part in a debate that has featured a sparkling maiden speech from the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra). I spent a great deal of time in what is now her constituency, trying to ensure that she did not get the job. My wife lived there when we were courting, and I know it reasonably well. I know, too, how important the biggest airport in the country is to the constituency, and how many people work there. I know that she will be a very good champion of all her constituents, and I congratulate her again on her maiden speech.
It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who reminded us of the importance of runways in the context of aviation. There was an incident not so along ago when a jet coming into Heathrow did not quite make it, and that proved that runways are all-important.
Let me record my sympathy for the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers), who was to have responded to the debate. I hope that I am correct in describing her as a right hon. Member. If she is not one, she should be, for she is excellent. Unfortunately, in a bid to become road safety Minister, she was injured in a cycling accident and is undergoing surgery.
As we have heard from Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston and my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), aviation plays a critical role in UK plc. My constituency, which is in the heart of the midlands, near junctions 15 to 19 of the M1—anyone who remembers seeing the old Rugby radio mast while driving up the M1 will know where it is—is now typified by a number of jobs that rely on the aviation industry. It is a hub for all the cargo that is shipped up from Heathrow, down from East Midlands airport and across from Birmingham. It is because so many jobs in my constituency rely on the aviation industry that I wanted to speak in the debate.
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However, aviation is important to the economy in many other ways. I was recently lucky enough to travel to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. All the people whom I met in those growing economies had this in common: they were desperate to come to the city of London, and, if they had any money, they wanted to spend it here. We need a gateway that can accept all those fantastic consumers of the future, and can welcome those who wish to do business with us and invest in us.
The experience at Heathrow airport is very different, however; it is a shopping centre with a couple of runways attached. For the Heaton-Harris family, getting to a gate at Heathrow airport involves an awkward shopping experience. The last flight I caught out of there cost me only a couple of hundred pounds, but the shopping experience almost trebled that. I know only too well, therefore, how much business comes from airport shops.
Turning to our country’s larger airports, much of our aviation regulation is governed by 1980s-style legislation, which is one of the reasons this Bill has been introduced. This Government and the last Government both realised it needed to be updated.
Mark Reckless: My hon. Friend talks of 1980s-style legislation as if it were a bad thing. Does he not remember who our Prime Minister was at that time, and might he therefore like to reconsider that remark?
The Bill offers a package of reforms to make regulation and the sanctions that support it flexible, proportionate, targeted and effective. It proposes removing unnecessary regulation and intervention by central Government and devolving more responsibility to the independent specialist regulator, the CAA. It also seeks to make the CAA accountable and to ensure that it weighs both the costs and benefits of its decisions. Further, it proposes that some of the costs of regulating aviation should be moved from general taxation to the aviation industry, so that the people who use it, pay for it. That is the right way forward.
Above all, the Bill puts the consumer first, and I am all in favour of that. I am a regular customer of the aviation industry—although I would like to be a more regular customer—and when booked on a Ryanair flight I become the Michelin man, as I will wear all my clothes because I do not want to pay the excess sum for booking in a suitcase. I am also the man who has to repack his “smalls” in front of the waiting British Airways passenger queue because my baggage weight has exceeded the limit and the lady at the check-in desk has said, “23 kilos and a few extra grams is too much.” I am all for more deregulation and common sense in the aviation industry, therefore. It is very important that the consumer is put first in respect of the regulation of airports, which have substantial market power. The CAA’s primary duty should be to consumers. Passengers and, importantly, the owners of cargo must have a greater say.
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The Bill also gives the CAA a role in promoting better public information about airline and airport performance. I support the clauses that provide that. Transparency and greater information are essential. As a consumer, I like to be able to look at relevant information and choose my airport and carrier. In that regard, the more transparency, the better.
Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I agree about the need to reform regulation. Does my hon. Friend agree that we also need a proportionate approach? Newquay airport is in a neighbouring constituency to mine, and it serves all of west Cornwall. It is vital for connecting Cornwall with the rest of the UK and beyond for business and other purposes. We must bear in mind the importance of such small and remote airports that may not—
Chris Heaton-Harris: I agree with my hon. Friend. I used Newquay airport once, and it is small but perfectly formed. The small airports around our country serve as important regional hubs. Because they serve the regions so well, they become very important to the local business community, such as in respect of inward investment. My hon. Friend is right to stress the need for a proportionate approach.
The environmental impact of aviation gets the juices of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) flowing; indeed, the bulk of his speech was about that subject. Measures to be taken to mitigate adverse effects are relatively well addressed in this Bill, and I am sure they will be fleshed out in Committee.
The Transport Committee raised a handful of concerns during its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. It agreed with just about every Member in the Chamber that the UK needs a healthy, competitive and sustainable aviation industry that includes the very important regional airports, as we have heard, and air services. There are some questions, however, that have yet to be completely answered about the transfer of safety and security to the CAA. There are concerns that the Government are proposing to transfer that important area without proper planning and consultation just to reduce costs. I do not believe for one second that that is the case, but it would be very useful if the Minister outlined exactly what consultation and planning went into the decision. Indeed, there might be some reason to return to these matters in Committee. It also remains unclear how far the Department for Transport will go towards a more efficient outcome-based approach to such regulation. This is an important area of regulation, as the security and safety of aviation is possibly the most emotive part of security and safety.
The Bill also proposes to permit the Secretary of State to change the CAA’s remit through secondary legislation, which, in itself, creates a certain amount of uncertainty. One never knows what will come around the corner next. The Select Committee also found that the division of responsibilities between the Government and the CAA was slightly unclear. I would like to think
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that the Government will ensure that all uncertainties in that area are completely cleared up as we go through Committee.
The main themes of the Bill are very important: growth and competition, consumer benefits, better regulation, the “user pays” principle and the need to reduce the role of central Government. Very few people could argue with those main themes. Indeed, under the “user pays” principle, the savings for the taxpayer as regards aviation security should be about £4 million a year. It is important, obviously, that we get this exactly right.
I broadly support the Bill—and the industry supports many of its measures—but it is important to secure buy-in for all the measures and ensure that they are all properly implemented. It is also important to listen to the industry when making the laws that relate directly to it. When we give power to its regulator in such a way, it is vital that there is, as I said, complete buy-in. Indeed, I know a number of Members received numerous pieces of correspondence from different airlines. The latest to hit my inbox was from British Airways—not that I hope that by mentioning it I will get the black card for the invitation-only lounge, although I know that the other Deputy Speaker was very keen to receive that—[ Interruption. ] And, of course, he would have declared it, in any event. I mention that company because it is vital that the views of the big players in the industry are taken into account. I do not think I will ever be called to make another speech, so I am going to enjoy the next two minutes and fifty five seconds.
Too often, laws have been made and those directly affected by them have not had their views taken into account. Who is directly affected in this case? It is airlines and, most importantly, the consumers. That is why I welcome the emphasis.
I am also wary about the cost of regulation. Using the “polluter pays” principle, we are passing a huge amount of cost away from the taxpayer, which is a very good thing, to the people who use the businesses.
I welcome the theme that runs through the Bill of reducing Government intervention in the regulation of industry. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), who was greatly concerned about the competitiveness of airports and passing down the costs. Past events show why it is important for the CAA to be able to respond, which is not something that many Members have been able to talk about because the Bill is so important and so big. The industry and the regulator must be able to respond in real time to emerging issues, such as the snow of last year and the ash cloud that we all remember from when we were campaigning in the 2010 general election. That is when I realised that the constituency I hoped to represent was relatively prosperous—when I went to villages in its northern part and found the people had all been stranded abroad because of the ash cloud. I am very pleased that the Bill emphasises the need to give the CAA the chance to respond quickly to the kind of awkward situation that we in the United Kingdom have not always been able to respond to properly before.
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we will have the consumer fully in our minds, because we certainly see no transparency in the fares that the aviation industry sticks out there when we try to find a flight at the advertised fare without any extra costs. There should probably be a call at some point for proper transparency to mean that the fare advertised should be the full, final fare and not much else.
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who told us about his courting days under the Heathrow flight path. I am sure that colleagues were delighted to hear that he still regularly returns to Heathrow with his now wife. It is not clear whether they do this on their anniversary or not, but it seems that a certain amount of shopping at Heathrow is involved.
I am also pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who put the case for Essex very well and looked strongly after the interests of her constituency and Essex more widely in her remarks about Stansted, the strong progress on expansion and the strong economic role being performed at Southend. I know that the councils for Southend, Thurrock, Medway, Kent and Essex are working together as a local economic partnership on sensible proposals on aviation and alternative options to the Thames estuary option, which was so ably dismissed by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price). The Secretary of State was not in her place at that time, but I have every confidence that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) will pass on those very strong arguments in private as strongly as he does in public. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the Secretary of State for the very strong support she has shown for our area by holding back the increase in the Dartford tolls and in what she has done on train regulation and fares.
The debate has been largely non-partisan. Indeed, the regulation of aviation has been a non-partisan and technical area on which both parties have worked closely with Whitehall going back all the way to 1967 when the Edwards committee first looked at aviation regulation. It took a full two years to report, in 1969, to the then Secretary of State Anthony Crosland, and the report led to a White Paper from the then Labour Government. With the new Conservative Government in 1970 came the Civil Aviation Bill, which followed through on that preparatory work. There are clear parallels between that work and the way we are working together on these issues now.
It is worth noting that when the CAA was set up it was a pathbreaker for other regulators. The then Minister for Trade, Michael Noble, said, on introducing the Bill, that the CAA would be a “constitutional innovation.” He went on:
“The key point perhaps is that we are in this Bill hiving off a regulatory function. Ministers remain responsible to Parliament for policy, but detailed decision rests with the Authority.”—[Official Report, 29 March 1971; Vol. 814, c. 1173.]
That was new then, but we have since seen the development of regulators in many different contexts. The challenge between ministerial and parliamentary responsibility and expert opinion remains with us today and is core to this Bill.
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A very positive development, in contrast with what we saw in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was the fact that the Pilling review of the Civil Aviation Authority was brought about by elected colleagues on the Transport Committee rather than by ministerial decision. That report was published in July 2008 and was followed up by Labour Ministers in the previous Government in a statement to the House and then in a consultation paper. The fact that that all came as a result of the Select Committee is new and is very much to be welcomed. When the previous Government engendered the proposals, the then Minister noted that
“as now, the CAA will only be able to act where it is reasonable and proportionate and where it has legal power to act.”
“The DfT’s proposals build on many activities already undertaken by the CAA, but give them a clear statutory basis”.
The then Minister did not explicitly accept that the CAA had been operating beyond its statutory remit, but the Bill is long overdue, as it will bring clarity to what the CAA does, and make sure that that is Parliament’s intention.
Steve Baker: Does my hon. Friend share my slight concern that more flexible regulation may result in greater uncertainty in major capital investments in airports? Has he considered whether the CAA will be able to provide the stability that investors need?
Mark Reckless: Our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out three clear principles on quangos and cases in which they might be justified. Conservatives are strongly against unaccountable quangos, but the three scenarios that the Prime Minister set out were, first, a precise technical function that needed to be performed to fulfil a ministerial mandate; secondly, a requirement for politically impartial decisions on public money in particular circumstances; and, thirdly, cases in which the facts needed to be transparently determined. The CAA fulfils the need for a precise technical function to be performed to fulfil a ministerial mandate.
I welcome the Bill. Although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) said, it provides more flexibility, it engenders far greater clarity. To date—and we have given this to the CAA—the authority has had four different objectives, but there is a lack of clarity about their order, so, inevitably, it has great discretion in how it chooses to balance those potentially competing objectives.
In the Bill, under the single duty that the Government propose giving to the CAA for consumers and their interests, it is much clearer where the authority is going. Regulation, while more flexible, should none the less be more predictable to people in the industry and to other stakeholders. That is broadly welcome. The same applies to appeals. If anyone is dissatisfied with a CAA decision, the only recourse is simply judicial review and the application of Wednesbury principles as to whether the decision has been properly made. The appeal process in the Bill is much improved, because a specialist competition tribunal will be introduced, and it will look at the objectives that have been set for the CAA by Parliament. It will assess in an expert yet judicial way whether or not they have been properly met. Ministers are not persuaded that there should be a right of appeal for the Secretary of State on licence conditions, but when regulations are
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extended to price cap anew or to remove a price cap, the Secretary of State may have the right to appeal. It is not clear from the explanatory notes whether that reflects the EU dimension or whether Ministers genuinely believe that that is a positive measure.
The cap application is significant. Manchester was de-designated, and Ministers made that decision—a statutory order was made—but the principles behind that de-designation were not clear, making investment difficult in some circumstances for the aviation industry. If we have a clear parliamentary test of when a price cap is needed, that should provide greater clarity for industry participants.
It would be difficult to have an environmental objective and a consumer objective, then look to an independent regulator to balance the two. The right approach for the greenest Government ever is for Ministers to make those decisions and to set a clear framework, whether in taxation or planning, for industry. That is the best way to balance those objectives.
A key issue is flexibility, and flexibility in the price cap is particularly valuable. The CAA currently has an opportunity to set the price cap only once every five years, and when circumstances change the price regime can be left looking inappropriate, but nothing can be done about it. For example, the CAA’s decision notice, published in March 2008, states that
“at Heathrow, the CAA has built into the price caps contingent funding for the costs of developing further”—
“the option to expand the capacity of the airport.”
The House of Commons Library has confirmed that that was a reference to the potential third runway at Heathrow, which of course did not happen and—Ministers are very clear—will not happen. None the less, Heathrow is still to be regulated on the basis of an RPI plus 7.5% a year increase in the overall landing charge revenue, but there is no opportunity to review that in the light of the decision not to develop a third runway at Heathrow.
The shadow Secretary of State, if I heard her correctly, said that the Government have a blanket ban on expansion at airports in the south-east. I believe that that is quite wrong. Look at what Luton airport is doing through its road show and expansion in capacity or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Witham explained, what Southend airport is doing. Last week I met representatives of Birmingham airport, who talked about expanding by 25 million passenger movements, the vast bulk of which would relieve pressure in the south-east. At Gatwick a significant increase in capacity is planned, even before the second runway restriction runs out in 2019.
The key criterion is the benefit to consumers of the regulation. However, there is something about aviation regulation that makes it different from other regulation, because in the middle there are the airlines. Sometimes their interests are the same as the consumer’s, but other times they are not. The landing charge at Heathrow is perhaps only £16 a passenger, compared with £50 to £80 for “Boris island”, and £16 or thereabouts is really not expensive. Given the economic benefits of using Heathrow, a huge amount of the benefit accrues to the airlines that happen to have slots there. The regulation in those slots is imperfect and has developed over time, but were the regulator to increase charges at Heathrow, it is not immediately obvious to me, as an economist, whether
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that would be passed on to consumers in the usual way. To the extent that Heathrow is almost at capacity and landing charges are so low, despite the high value of a slot, an economic analysis suggests that lower restrictions on landing charges might lead to a lower slot price and greater flexibility for the efficient allocation of slots, rather than that necessarily being passed on to the consumer. How the CAA will regulate this is therefore an important area of principle to consider.
The chairman, deputy chairman and non-executive directors of the CAA will be appointed by the Secretary of State, which is very sensible. It is difficult to see why the Secretary of State would also want to appoint all the executives, let alone determine their precise remuneration. We want to ensure proper accountability to Parliament. Some colleagues have mentioned the National Audit Office. I understand that the chief executive would be signed off by the Secretary of State as well, although the nomination would be made by the non-executive directors. I also hope that we would have appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of those appointments.
I am grateful to colleagues on the Transport Committee for the work they have done on this. It is excellent that everyone is working together and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments. It is certainly a strong positive for the regulation of the sector in this country.
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) in what has been an interesting debate with many informative contributions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) said in her opening remarks, however, the Bill’s arrival is something of a surprise and seems to have more to do with the lack of Government business than with anything else. It is timely none the less, and we welcome it and look forward to it reaching Committee.
The Select Committee on Transport has, with its report published on 19 January, furnished us with a good start on the Bill, and the four proposed evidence sessions should mean that we are better informed when the Public Bill Committee begins its work in earnest. As we heard from its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), the Committee has made 12 different recommendations in its report and several other important points, and I am sure that the Bill Committee will want to see all those addressed, as well as the other points in the report which were not recommendations. They will be combined with the Library paper, the Department for Transport’s impact assessment, the explanatory notes, the Bill itself and the personal briefing last week from the Transport Minister of State and her officials, for which we were grateful. As my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood and others have said, we Opposition Members send our best wishes to the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers) for a successful operation and a speedy recovery. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), also wishes to see her back in her place before Committee—otherwise he will be an aviation expert sooner than he might have suspected.
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As I was about to say, we have a good idea about those aspects of the Bill that we will want to look at in particular, given all the background information, briefings and papers with which we have been supplied.
There have obviously been numerous briefings from industry stakeholders, community groups and others, mostly welcoming the Bill in general but asking for specific issues to be raised, and we will do our best to examine them; some we will be able to support, but all we will wish to look at more closely.
My hon. Friend spelt out several issues in some detail. There is a broad welcome for the general reform of the CAA and its role, but questions will need to be addressed about security, environmental duty, passenger welfare and protection, NATS and the role of the National Audit Office. As she said, we have interests in all those areas. She outlined our concern about security and the need for assurances that the proposed new arrangements will be able to respond quickly to events, and on the quality and experience of the staff who will have to be either transferred or recruited. There are also the questions of costs and ultimate decision making.
On the environment, there is a clear change of policy from that of the previous Government. The Transport Committee explored the issue with the Minister of State, and we will wish to return to it because, notwithstanding the fact that many airports are good neighbours to nearby residents, we want best practice to be adopted at all airports. It appears to us that a duty would have been the best way forward.
The passenger as customer needs to be assured that their position is protected at the airport and against companies failing, so we, like many hon. Members, welcome the ATOL changes. As my hon. Friend graphically recalled, however, her experience in the snow last year with the former Secretary of State was not a happy one for her, for him or, most importantly, for the passengers who were stranded, so we want safeguards against such situations. Passengers deserve the best protection against failure, but we recognise that airports are at the mercy of other forces outside their control.
The question about the role of airlines and secondary duties, which the Transport Committee raised, seems to be addressed in the Bill but warrants consideration, as do the various competition structures and appeal mechanisms outlined in the Bill and its schedules.
My hon. Friend raised several other issues, which the Bill Committee will I am sure be keen to discuss with Ministers, including how the aviation consumer advocacy panel will work, the lack of detail on the requirements to publish passenger welfare plans, the performance of the UK Border Agency and baggage handling, to mention just a few.
The Secretary of State opened the debate and clearly outlined the measures in the Bill: the greater accountability in the CAA reforms, the transfer of security and the extension of ATOL. I have mentioned the points that
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my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood made in reply. She welcomed the Bill but expressed the hope that we would improve it in Committee. She commended the Transport Committee, but expressed concern about the time it had been given to do its work. As I have mentioned, she covered comprehensively our concerns, especially on the security provisions.
The hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), whose constituency covers Gatwick, is knowledgeable on aviation matters. He raised several relevant questions, including over the possible break-up of airports and the role of the CAA.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside, the Chair of the Transport Committee, made a useful and insightful contribution, in which she referred to a number of concerns that the Select Committee had registered. As I and other hon. Members have said, we will consider those concerns in the Public Bill Committee.
The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), who apologised that he would not be here for the winding-up speeches, spoke up for business travellers. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood raised important questions about the UK Border Agency. He also spoke about regulation and security.
My former ministerial colleague at the Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris), made the case for ministerial cars strongly. He expanded on the need for a vibrant aviation industry. He argued that aviation need not be and is not the enemy of the environment. He also made a powerful case about the capacity constraints at Heathrow.
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), who I do not think is in his place, confused the Chamber about his position on the third runway. He seemed to make points both for and against it. I wish him well in maintaining the ability to articulate opposite positions. He is in good company in this place. Perhaps he could send me a copy of his press release on his speech, as I am sure that it will be worth reading. He also made good points about the industry and the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) and other hon. Members spoke about regional airports and asked about their role and capacity. He spoke specifically about the future of Durham Tees Valley airport and the impact of the value of Heathrow’s slots on UK aviation. He made a strong case for the continuance of his local airport, as did others. He has been lobbying on that issue for a considerable time.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) raised a number of issues that he wanted to be raised in Committee. I am sure that they will be. He apologised to the House and hoped that we would not be disappointed at his brevity. I assure him that we would never be disappointed at his brevity. I cannot imagine how he arrived at that conclusion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) is another member of the Transport Committee and also has an airport close to his constituency. He drew on both aspects to raise some key points, including capacity.
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The hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) did not seem to accept that the Bill has arrived earlier than expected. Perhaps his ministerial colleagues could clarify that for him and reassure him, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South. The hon. Gentleman raised European comparisons and the critical role that aviation plays in the economy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) raised the need for environmental progress. He spoke about the environmental progress that has been made and about the absence of such a duty in the Bill. He raised the BMI takeover, as did a number of other colleagues.
The hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), another member of the Transport Committee, gave us the benefit of his examination of the key issues. He confirmed that Milton Keynes neither has nor needs its own airport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) made her maiden speech. It was warmly received on both sides of the House, as maiden speeches generally are. Her contribution demonstrated a confidence and self-assurance that I am sure will serve her constituents well in the years ahead. Her description of her constituency and of the significance of Heathrow underpinned the relevance of her contributing to this debate. I hope that her mention of various local media outlets will ensure that her speech is covered well. I would be very surprised if it was not. She undoubtedly has the prospect of a long and distinguished time in this place. I look forward to watching her progress in the years ahead.
The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) was generous in his praise of my hon. Friend’s maiden speech and made a number of points, particularly about how to reduce the environmental impact of stacking by increasing capacity rather than constraining it. I strongly recommend that he talks to his party’s Front Benchers to suggest that they take up the offer of cross-party talks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood. His contribution was very thoughtful and covered the role of his local airports, and I agreed with much of what he said.
In contrast, I disagreed with many of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), who is not in his place. He spoke briefly about security and his opposition to increased capacity, and argued for more regional airport usage. His local airport is already very successful, and he argued that it could do more.
I have to report that, as the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) rose, the batteries in my hearing aids ran out, and sadly the spare batteries were also flat. Some would say that that was good timing, but that would be very cruel. He is very softly spoken even with the amplification at the back of the Benches, but he spoke of the need, or rather lack of it, for regulated competition and of the five airports within 50 or 60 miles of his constituency. He raised questions about the ATOL provisions which I am sure will be asked in Committee, whether he is with us or not.
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The hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) mentioned Durham Tees Valley airport and powerfully supported my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield in the cross-party campaign for it to maintain its position. He was generous to my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston; in fact, I believe he was the first Conservative Back Bencher to own up to having been a recent visitor to Feltham and Heston. A number of colleagues repeated that afterwards.
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) argued for less regulation and more market influence, and consequently a better deal for the passenger, but she also called for clarity in decision making and for a more mature debate—something that Labour has been offering and would very much like to take place.
The hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), another visitor to and admirer of Feltham and Heston and its new MP, accepted that she was making a number of points that had already been raised, but wanted to cover them again. She also raised the important point of investment in aviation across the globe and our falling behind our international competitors in developing our infrastructure.
The hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) explained how important aviation was to his constituency in particular, and agreed that the regulations covering the industry needed updating. He made a strong pitch for a British Airways business lounge pass, and I sure The Daily Telegraph will be very keen to report his progress. He might want to keep us all posted on how he gets on with that one.
As many Members have mentioned, the aerospace and aviation sectors are vital elements of the UK economy. Collectively, the industry is a major earner, manufacturer and exporter. Aviation’s role in connecting us with the rest of the world is key to growth, which has sadly been lacking in the Government’s economic performance since they came into office.
Aviation has made huge strides in addressing its environmental sustainability. At a recent aerospace reception here in the House, it was stated that the new A380 was 25% cleaner and quieter than its predecessors. In fact, it was said to be more fuel-efficient than a Toyota Prius. If someone drove it down the M4, they would not have to pay the London congestion charge.
Aviation is worth £11 billion to UK gross domestic product and employs 200,000 people directly and 600,000 indirectly. It is a critical industry, yet Government policy is in disarray. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood offered cross-party talks to address the critical need for a national plan, and it is a very sad comment on the coalition that the Government did not respond positively. The offer still stands.
The CBI, London First, the British Chambers of Commerce, the TUC and industry stakeholders are seeking a plan—a strategy to map out how aviation will develop and contribute to our economic recovery. They will clearly have to wait for that, for as my hon. Friend pointed out, “better not bigger” is a slogan, not a policy. At least we have the Bill.
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Dr Huppert: The shadow Secretary of State promised me some ideas in her speech. Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to ask her what they are? If so, could he tell us, because she failed singularly to come up with any?
Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman was not listening. My hon. Friend held out the prospect of cross-party talks to see whether there is a way forward to develop a national plan. Labour proposed a third runway at Heathrow but lost the election. We recognise that it would be unrealistic to continue with that proposal. To demonstrate that there were no preconditions to cross-party talks, she said we are dropping the plan for the third runway, so let us talk about options, and about how we increase capacity and whether we need to do so.
As the treasurer of the all-party group on road passenger transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire(Mr Donohoe) asked whether Northolt was the answer. Is the answer the Thames estuary, which has been raised by a number of colleagues, including the Mayor of London? Is it Gatwick? The Opposition, supported by industry, say that there is a capacity issue in the south-east that needs to be addressed. It is all well and good if we come up with a consensus, but let us sit down and talk about it. That is the invitation from my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood.
As I said, at least we have the Bill. We look forward to the Public Bill Committee and engaging with the Government to improve the Bill. We are happy to support it on Second Reading, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I welcome the kind comments from Members on both sides of the House in respect of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport—she is indeed my friend. If she is watching, she ought not to bother but get some rest.
I welcome the many constructive comments in the debate, and I am particularly grateful to the Transport Committee for expediting the process of pre-legislative scrutiny when this earlier slot became available for the Bill. The Committee found that both airlines and airports welcome the Bill.
The Bill process has been going on a very long time, as Opposition Members will know only too well. I accept that it would have been ideal to have slightly more time for scrutiny but, on the other hand, in the aviation industry if a slot becomes available, we must take it. It would not have served customers, passengers or the industry well to have let that slip while a number of months went by, because there is a great deal of Government business to fit in.
My right hon. Friend and I welcome the Transport Committee’s response and look forward to the comments of members of the Public Bill Committee. We will listen carefully to members on both sides of that Committee.
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of that industry is essential to our economic growth. Our reforms have been designed to allow competition to flourish and for our industry to innovate and thrive.
I shall do my best to respond to the many points made in the debate. A number of hon. Members spoke up for their local and regional airports, including Luton airport and Teesside—or is it Durham and Tees Valley?—airport. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) asked for a meeting about his particular situation. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be very pleased to see him and other hon. Members on a cross-party basis to discuss that situation when she is back in the saddle.
As the Secretary of State made clear in her opening remarks, most airports in this country are competitive and look after their passengers. Our reforms are designed to protect the interests of passengers, particularly at the small number of airports such as Heathrow that have substantial market power. For all other airports, the main change introduced by the Bill is that the CAA will be able to bring its expertise to the investigation and remedy of anti-competitive behaviour by having concurrent powers with the Office of Fair Trading.
The Bill replaces an inflexible, one-size-fits-all approach based on five-year price controls with a flexible regime under which regulation can be tailored to individual airports’ circumstances so that the CAA can reduce the scope of economic regulation while retaining essential protection for passengers.
At the heart of the new proposals is a single, clear, primary duty to further the interests of end users—passengers and freight owners, now and in the future. The passenger is centre stage. This will enable the CAA to undertake enforcement action in real time when this becomes necessary. The Chair of the Transport Committee, and the Committee’s report, asks whether we might have greater clarity in the Bill’s definition of users of air transport services and suggested the phrase
“passengers and shippers of cargo, both present and future.”
“a service for the carriage by air of passengers or cargo to or from an airport in the United Kingdom”.
Users of air transport services are persons present and future who are or will be passengers carried by such services, and persons with a right in property carried by such services. This will not cover shippers of cargo, unless they have a right in property in that cargo, because we think it is more important to protect the interests of the owners of cargo, rather than the shippers—again, putting the customer at centre stage. I hope that the Chair of the Select Committee will recognise that the clarification she seeks is in that clause.
Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I have the Belfast International airport in my constituency. Under this Bill, can the Minister assure me that Northern Ireland will soon have a proper aviation strategy, as that is essential for my constituency?
I am happy to advise the hon. Gentleman that the Department for Transport is producing a comprehensive aviation strategy, which according to the Department’s business plan will be published in March.
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He will be able to look at that and see whether it deals with the Northern Ireland situation in which he is clearly interested.
The shadow Secretary of State referred to the issue of future passengers, as against present passengers. I recognise that that is an issue, and clause 1(5) empowers the CAA to determine how to fulfil its primary duty to promote the interests of users when conflicts arise. This is in line with affording requisite discretion to the regulator and taking politics out of regulation. In other words, it would not be helpful for the case the hon. Lady makes to be more specific about the CAA’s powers than the Bill currently is.
One or two hon. Members asked why the airline consultation supplementary duty has been dropped. Stakeholders, including airlines should be consulted by the CAA when it carries out its economic regulatory functions. There is an obligation to consult bodies representing airlines on licence conditions, licence modifications and penalties. Any airline is free to make representations, and we do not believe that the CAA would ignore any relevant representation. Furthermore, whenever a conflict arises between passengers’ interest and those of airlines, the CAA will be bound to act in passengers’ interests, given the primary duty in the Bill. A further secondary duty would not affect that position, which is why we came to that conclusion.
The shadow Secretary of State also asked about resilience. The implication of her comments was that since the former Secretary of State for Transport—with her, it appears—was out at Heathrow, nothing has happened, but nothing could be further from the truth. There have been extensive discussions between the Department and the owners and operators at Heathrow about winter resilience. This winter, I am happy to say that the major airports in London are much better prepared than they were last year. But when the CAA proposes full airport licences, it will of course be required to consult on the content of licences and any subsequent changes to them. It will have to take into account any representations during those consultations when setting conditions, and we will require it to include welfare plans if those are in current and future passengers’ interests. I hope that that gives the hon. Lady the satisfaction she was seeking on that point.
Several hon. Members referred, rightly, to the welcome proposals in the Bill on ATOL, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). He wanted an assurance that consumers would know when a holiday was ATOL-protected, and I can assure him that that is a key objective of the Government in the changes we are proposing. We are also interested, of course, in the Transport Committee’s deliberations on this important issue.
The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) asked whether the Ryanair holiday model would be covered by the ATOL reforms. The intention is to ensure as far as possible that any holiday booked with a flight is covered by the changes. The hon. Members for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) and for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) also raised issues relating to ATOL reform. I confirm that we consulted over the summer on proposals to improve clarity for consumers about the ATOL scheme’s coverage. I agree fully that the current situation can be unclear and misleading for consumers, which is why action is needed as soon as possible.
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We propose to expand the ATOL scheme to include flight-plus holidays that work like packages but lie outside the narrow legal definition. We also propose that an ATOL certificate should be issued whenever consumers purchase an ATOL-protected flight or holiday, as a further means of providing clarity. We aim to announce a decision shortly on the reforms, which can be implemented by new regulations under existing powers. We are taking steps forward on that. The holiday industry has made strong representations that it is no longer clear whether holidays are ATOL-protected. As I said, we think we can deal with that problem by allowing for the addition of more flight-based holidays.
“licence conditions, and their associated costs to airports, may not be proportionate to the benefits delivered”,
and that was the thrust of her point. Ultimately, where costs are associated with licence conditions, users of air transport services will pay those costs. Where the costs of a proposed licence condition are seen to outweigh the benefits to passengers, it will not be in passengers’ interests to impose the condition, so the CAA’s primary duty would not be met if it did so.
The Bill requires the CAA to consult on proposed licence conditions and states that a licence may not include conditions that differ significantly from those on which it has already consulted. It must set out the reasons for conditions included in the licence, how it has taken into account any representations made, and the reasons for any differences from the conditions initially proposed. I think that that makes the case for the approach that we are taking. The fact that putting the passenger centre stage is the CAA’s primary duty will we hope give the hon. Lady the reassurance that she rightly seeks. I will come to security issues in a moment.
The shadow Secretary of State referred to vexatious appeals. I do not think that they are likely to occur. The Government’s proposed regime has features to deter frivolous or vexatious appeals. In particular, in most cases the appeal will not suspend the licence condition’s coming into effect, although the appeal body will have the power to impose interim relief under circumstances. There is therefore limited incentive to appeal for the purpose of delaying the decision.
The shadow Secretary of State also referred to the consumer panel. We believe that it is a useful innovation in the Bill. As she might know, the successor body to the Air Transport Users Council is being consulted on. It was announced on 18 January this year. The CAA will set up the CAA consumer panel as soon as possible and will immediately seek a suitable chair.
Environmental issues were raised by several Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, who was concerned, as were some Opposition Members, about the absence from the Bill of an environmental duty. The matter has been considered carefully. One reason why the Bill does not include such a duty at the moment, although the Government fully accept the need to take the environment into account in aviation, as everywhere else, is that it is thought that economic regulation is not the appropriate vehicle for doing so,
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not least because it enables the CAA to address only airports with substantial market power and only where regulatory intervention is warranted. That currently includes only three airports, but environmental externalities are present at a wider range of airports and need to be factored in. That is why the Government decided to proceed by placing on the CAA an information and publication duty that is considered to be more concrete and of more practical benefit to the public than the previously proposed environmental objective. The CAA is under an obligation to publish such information and can also issue advice and guidance to airport operators.
Dr Huppert: I hear what my hon. Friend says. He is correct that information is helpful and that all airports have a role to play, but will he consider more carefully whether it would be a good idea to put that environmental duty in the Bill so that as many steps as possible can be taken to protect the environment?
Norman Baker: My hon. Friend makes a point that others have made. If he or others want to pursue it in Committee, they will need to demonstrate that there is information that needs to be provided or actions that need to be taken that would not be provided or taken under the regime in the Bill. If he can demonstrate that, I am sure that Ministers will have an open mind.
The hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) made an interesting point about the CAA’s new consumer panel, suggesting that it could help the CAA to decide how to use those powers and what information to collect. That sounds like a good idea, and we will encourage the CAA to consider it. I am grateful to him for his suggestion.
Members on both sides of the House mentioned the National Audit Office. The NAO’s role is to scrutinise public spending on behalf of Parliament, but the income that the CAA derives from the industry is not public spending, as Parliament recognised when it removed the NAO’s role in 1984. The issue of the CAA’s auditors was considered by Sir Joseph Pilling, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned, as part of his 2008 strategic review of the authority. He concluded that there was no need for the NAO to be involved directly with the CAA.
Many other points were raised in the debate, but I am conscious that I have taken much longer than the shadow Minister. I therefore do not have time to deal with the issue of the smalls raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris)—he went on at some length about that—but I can assure Members that all comments will be taken onboard. If I have not answered any questions, I will ensure that a letter is sent from the Department.
Civil Aviation Bill (Programme)
That the following provisions shall apply to the Civil Aviation Bill:
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1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 15 March 2012.
3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
4. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(James Duddridge.)
Civil Aviation Bill (Money)
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Civil Aviation Bill, it is expedient to authorise—
(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided, and
(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(James Duddridge.)
CIVIL AVIATION BILL (CARRY-OVER)
That if, at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament, proceedings on the Civil Aviation Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.—(James Duddridge.)
Business without Debate
PRIVACY AND INJUNCTIONS (JOINT COMMITTEE)
That this House concurs with the Lords Message of 25 January 2012 and that, notwithstanding the Resolution of this House of 14 July 2011, it be an instruction to the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions that it should report by 15 March 2012.— (Mr Heath.)
FINANCE AND SERVICES
That Jonathan Reynolds be discharged from the Finance and Services Committee and Mr George Howarth be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection .)
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Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak this evening about the Lidice massacre and the events that followed, which demonstrate that amidst even the worst evil something good can flourish. No one in the House will need reminding that last Friday was Holocaust memorial day, which marks the day 67 years ago when Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops and reminds us all of the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
We will never fully understand or come to terms with extermination on such a scale just a few generations ago, but thanks to the Holocaust Educational Trust and the many other organisations that work to tackle hatred and discrimination, I hope that we might go some way to preventing it from happening again, at least on such a scale. May I therefore take this opportunity to put on record my appreciation for those organisations and pay tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust and others for their work?
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic about 20 km west of Prague. The events that I will speak about in a moment were triggered on 27 May 1942 by the assassination of the Nazi Lieutenant-General and Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, who is said to have been a close friend of Hitler. As Heydrich travelled through Prague, two Czech parachute agents carried out an attack on his transport vehicles. Although he was not mortally wounded by the blast, the attack led to an infection that killed him on 4 June 1942. Hitler is said to have been wild with rage, and wanted to make an example of the Czech people. He ordered the arrest and execution of thousands of Czechs and sanctioned the destruction of Lidice.
On 10 June 1942, just six days after Heydrich’s death, Nazi troops moved into the village of Lidice and rounded up all 173 of the men who were over 16 years of age. By the afternoon, all of them had been executed. The 203 women of the village were rounded up and, after the forced abortion of four pregnant women, were transported to various concentration camps. It is believed that three women died on the death march, and 49 women were subsequently tortured to death. A total of 105 children were separated from their mothers. On 2 July 1942, 82 of those children were gassed at Chelmno extermination camp on the orders of Eichmann. Only 17 of those 105 children survived the war. The village of Lidice was set on fire and the remains destroyed, so that no evidence of Lidice having ever existed could be found, albeit with the entire murderous attack being filmed by the SS.
Dr Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab):
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this Adjournment debate so near to Holocaust memorial day. I visited Lidice in 2007, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Mrs James), where we saw, not only at the memorial garden but in the museum, a film called “The Silent Village”, which depicts what happened. It was made in 1943, as a result of the remarkable co-operation between the South Wales Miners Federation and the
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Government’s Crown Film Unit. The film tells the story that my hon. Friend is now outlining. I use it for teaching purposes, to tell the story of what happened all over Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Would my hon. Friend commend that film for educational purposes today?
In all, only 170 of Lidice’s population of around 510 people survived the war. Similar reprisals were carried out across a large area of what was Czechoslovakia. It is estimated that in total around 1,300 people were killed. However, unlike with other Nazi murders, there was no attempt to hide what had taken place.
Almost as soon as the news reached Britain, Barnett Stross, a doctor and city councillor in Stoke-on-Trent, enlisted the help of local coal miners. Together they set to work on founding the “Lidice Shall Live” movement, a name created by Stross in response to Adolf Hitler’s order that “Lidice shall die for ever”. Stross invited the Czech President, the Soviet ambassador and the president of the miners federation to a launch event, which was attended by around 3,000 people. In the months ahead, donations were collected from miners and other workers to rebuild Lidice. In Barnett Stross’s words:
“The miner’s lamp dispels the shadows on the coalface. It can also send a ray of light across the sea to those who struggle in darkness”.
The link between Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent carried on after the war ended, with Barnett Stross elected in 1945 as Member of Parliament for the area now largely represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), although parts are also in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley).
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate and on representing the views of his constituents in Fenton and elsewhere. I agree with him about the heroic role played by Sir Barnett Stross. Does he agree that it is hugely important that Stoke-on-Trent pupils understand the heroic part that the city played in world war two, not only because of Sir Reginald Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire, but because of this story of internationalism and solidarity in a city that has, unfortunately, in the past been plagued by fascism and the British National party. This is a story of hope.
Robert Flello: I agree with my hon. Friend. Stoke-on-Trent is a city that has much to offer and fantastic potential. We need only to look back at its history and at the wonderful things that its people have achieved to see that its future is assured. It can rightly be proud of the positive things that it has done, although it needs to learn lessons about some of the negative things that have plagued it in recent years.
In 1947, Lidice began to be rebuilt, with the help of the £32,000 raised by people from the potteries. That is the equivalent of about £1 million in today’s money, which is not a bad feat for an impoverished community
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in north Staffordshire. In 1955, Barnett Stross led an initiative to construct the world’s largest rose garden, with 23,000 roses donated by numerous countries around the world. The rose garden formed a bridge between the site of the old Lidice and the new Lidice. In 1966, Barnett Stross initiated the new Lidice art collection.
Stross made numerous visits to the rebuilt Lidice, ultimately being awarded the highest state award possible by the Czechoslovak Government, as well as a British knighthood in 1964. Sadly, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the Lidice massacre, the events of June 1942 and the links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice have been largely forgotten. Unfortunately, few of my constituents were aware of the “Lidice Shall Live” campaign, or of the critical role that the people of their city played in helping the surviving residents of Lidice to return to their newly rebuilt village.
I am therefore delighted that, following initial work by Alan and Cheryl Gerard, a group of my constituents, businesses and councillors have come together to ensure that the tale of Lidice will live on. On Friday, the “Let Lidice Live” campaign was launched in Stoke-on-Trent, involving a partnership between that group, Staffordshire university and Stoke-on-Trent city council. Through the formalisation of links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice, a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary in both countries, and the continuation of the highly successful international children’s exhibition of fine arts, the campaign seeks to ensure that the story of the massacre, and of the heroic response, will live on, not just this year, but for years to come. It is worth noting that the children’s exhibition of fine arts, which was established in 1967 as a national event, became an international one in 1973 and has gone on to become well known among children and teachers, not only in the UK but all over the world.
Dr Francis: On the theme of art, education and internationalism, is my hon. Friend aware of the work of the Josef Herman Trust? The film, “The Silent Village”, was made in the village of Cwmgiedd, near Ystradgynlais in the Swansea valley. Josef Herman was a Polish artist who came to Ystradgynlais fleeing anti-Semitism in the late 1930s. Today, the secretary of the trust is one of the children who played a part in the film. I pay tribute to Betty Rae Watkins, who is now encouraging children to become engaged in art and, through that, to learn about the holocaust and about one of its survivors, the great Polish artist, Josef Herman.
The 70th anniversary will be marked by a Lidice exhibition at the European Parliament in Brussels, and there will be two new documentaries about the events in 1942 and the surviving children. There will be a commemoration on the anniversary of the day of the massacre, which will be attended by the Czech president. The city of Stoke-on-Trent has a great programme of events to mark the anniversary, with more being planned.
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As time goes by and we lose first-hand accounts of Nazi atrocities, it becomes all the more important to educate future generations about the consequences of intolerance and prejudice, and about the atrocities carried out during the second world war and, sadly, since. Events such as Holocaust memorial day provide a crucial focal point, but at times it feels as though the sheer scale of the slaughter in the second world war can be too horrifying to comprehend, and the individual stories risk being lost. Lidice provides an illuminating light amidst one of the darkest periods of human history, with the generosity of the British people and the defiance of the residents of the village ensuring that Lidice did indeed live.
Sadly, as we have seen in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur in just the last 20 years, we have not seen the end to genocide or a limit to the suffering that we as humans are willing to inflict on our fellow man. It is my belief therefore that it remains vital that we never forget what happened in places like Lidice, and I hope that the Minister will join me in paying tribute to those who seek to ensure that Lidice shall live.
The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello)on securing this debate, on doing the House a huge service by reminding us of the true horror of what happened in Lidice in 1942 and on illuminating for us the links with Stoke-on-Trent and the huge sum of money raised from miners to rebuild the village. We heard about the 3,000 miners who attended the public meeting called by one of the hon. Gentleman’s predecessors, Sir Barnett Stross. It is good to be reminded of these important parts of our history and European history, and he has done that at an appropriate time, with last Friday being Holocaust memorial day.
Holocaust memorial day gives us the opportunity to remember the victims of this most evil of periods in the world’s history, along with subsequent victims of genocide—as the hon. Gentleman reminded us, such evil does not go away—and atrocities during the war, such as the terrible massacre at Lidice. It also gives us time to reflect on the lessons of the past: genocide does not occur overnight; it is a gradual process and begins when the differences between us are used as a reason to exclude or marginalise, leading to prejudice and hate. We need to learn the lessons of the holocaust, so that future generations do not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is why it is important that young people are taught about the holocaust—to ensure that prejudice and discrimination are not allowed to take root in our society.
The Government firmly support holocaust education, which is why we have allocated £1.8 million this year to promote young people’s understanding of this period of history. About £1.5 million of this funding is for the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project, in which I understand the hon. Gentleman has participated. I add my tribute to his for the work of the trust.