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Lord Brabazon of Tara: Before the Government Deputy Chief Whip intervenes, perhaps I can reassure him that my noble friends and I intend to speak on a number of the amendments. We are mainly concerned with matters of clarification. However, one or two possibly substantial points arise, although I shall not object to any of the amendments.
Perhaps I may say to my noble friend and to Members of the Committee that I find this procedure quite helpful. It in fact gives the Opposition two bites of the cherry. We can listen to the Government's arguments on their own amendments at this stage in the Bill; the Bill will then be reprinted for us tomorrow and we go into the ordinary Committee in a week or 10 days' time. At that stage, if we wish, we can go over all the same ground again. Similarly at Report stage. So we get an extra bite of the cherry, which is helpful. We will also have the benefit of being able to read the Minister's explanation of his amendments rather than having to react to them immediately as one does at the ordinary Committee stage.
Having said that, I have a point on this grouping upon which I should like some clarification. It concerns Amendment No. 10--the new clause after Clause 15. Having laid down a framework for both the Competition Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority in Clauses 1 and 2, the Government understandably want the Competition Commission to come within the new clause. However, reference to the Competition Commission under Clause 11 requires it to investigate whether matters referred to it,
The modifications it makes under Clause 15 are those needed to prevent effects adverse to the public interest. This is a much wider test than the objectives set out in the new clause and could conflict. I wonder if the Minister could comment on that. The obvious solution is to limit the investigation by the commission to matters operating against the framework set out in Clauses 1 and 2. But that would rather take the teeth out of any reference. A public interest provision could be included in Clauses 1 and 2, but that would make them rather wide in scope. Is the Minister in a position to comment on that?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Amendments Nos. 6 to 11 deal with the role of the Competition Commission in the licence modification process. Clause 14 grants the Competition Commission a power of veto over some or all of the proposed licence modifications set out in a notice served upon it by the CAA. That power is limited to circumstances where the commission thinks that the CAA's modifications would not have the effect of remedying or preventing the adverse effect specified in the commission's reference report.
Amendment No. 6 will have the effect of clarifying the extent of the application of the commission's power under this clause so that the commission is able to give a direction only where it thinks that the CAA's proposed modifications either go too far or do not go far enough. Although in common parlance the words "appropriate" and "needed" have much the same meaning, we consider that "appropriate" in this context may be misinterpreted so as to extend the commission's power beyond that which is intended.
The amendment will ensure that the commission is able to exercise its potentially swingeing power only in the necessary circumstances. Thus there is a back-stop provision for the commission to intervene at this stage in the licence modification process. The prime responsibility will remain with the regulator but the commission will be able to interpose a check if the regulator seems disposed to be too lenient or too draconian.
Amendment No. 9 will require the commission, after making a licence modification, to bring the fact to the attention of all parties likely, in its opinion, to be affected by it along with the reason for making the modification. That will be done through the publication of an appropriate notice, and in the case of a licence holder the CAA and the Secretary of State, service of a copy of the modification itself. In that way we shall introduce greater transparency into the modification process where the Competition Commission has become involved.
Amendment No. 10 is the first of the two new clauses directly related to the application of the commission's veto and modification powers which are exercisable under Clauses 14 and 15. This new clause requires the commission, when exercising its functions under subsections 15(2) and (3), to have regard to the CAA's duties set out in Clause 2. In this way both the CAA and the Competition Commission will, when considering licence modifications, be having regard to the same considerations. Accordingly, where the commission has exercised that power of veto under Clause 24, it will arrive at a modification which is entirely consistent with the CAA's general duties and which the CAA will be able to enforce.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: On Amendment No. 3 the sort of conditions which the noble Baroness asks about are those which might be imposed on those who benefit from an exemption, and conditions such as requiring the grantee to register with the CAA where that seems necessary, supplying the CAA with specified information or using specified types of equipment. Similar provisions are made in other utility legislation, and the Government consider that this amendment will enhance the regulatory regime, by giving it greater flexibility and allowing it to be tailored as necessary to the circumstances of the industry.
("(1A) In particular, provision of the following kinds may be included--
(a) provision requiring the licence holder to enter into an agreement for a purpose specified in the licence and provision for determining the terms of the agreement;
(b) provision requiring the licence holder to comply with any requirements imposed at any time (by directions or otherwise) by a person with respect to any matter specified, or of a description specified, in the licence;
(c) provision requiring the licence holder, except in so far as a person consents to its doing or not doing them, not to do or to do such things as may be specified, or of a description specified, in the licence;
(d) provision requiring the licence holder to refer to a person for approval or determination such matters as may be specified, or of a description specified, in the licence.
(1B) A reference in subsection (1A) to a person is to--
(a) a person specified, or of a description specified, in the licence for the purpose concerned, or
(b) if the licence so provides, a person nominated for the purpose concerned by a person falling within paragraph (a);
and any of those persons may be the licence authority or some other person.").
After Clause 8, insert the following new clause--
POWER TO EXCLUDE SERVICES FROM EFFECT OF SECTION 8
(" .--(1) If a notice given by the CAA to a licence holder so provides, such air traffic services as are specified in the notice are to be treated as not being authorised services for the purposes of section 8 in its application to that holder.
(2) A notice under subsection (1) may specify the air traffic services by reference to part of a licensed area.
(3) A notice under this section may be modified or revoked by a further notice given by the CAA to the holder concerned.").