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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment (a) to the proposed clause, at end of subsection (4) insert--

'including any duty arising under or by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972 (as amended).'.

New clause 27--Exercise of powers, duties, and functions under Part I--

'The powers, duties and functions given or imposed on the Secretary of State or the CAA in sections 1, 2, 38, 49, 80, 81, (Disposal of shareholding in the designated company) and (Orders for possession of aerodromes, etc.) may be exercised or fulfilled notwithstanding anything contained in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended.'.

Amendment No. 382, in clause 1, page 1, line 10, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended,'.

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Amendment No. 147, in page 1, line 14, at end insert--

'(aa) to ensure that air traffic services are not provided or managed in a manner which might prejudice the national security of the United Kingdom;'.

Amendment No. 383, in clause 2, page 2, line 5, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended,'.

Amendment No. 384, in clause 38, page 24, line 14,, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended.'.

Amendment No. 388, in page 24, line 29, at end insert--

(c) to relinquish the licence;'.

Government amendments Nos. 125 and 126.

Amendment No. 385, in clause 49, page 32, line 1, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended,'.

Amendment No. 389, in page 32, line 21, at end insert--

'(5A) The rights accorded to the Crown by the special share under this section shall not be subject to any limitation that may be imposed through the European Communities Act 1972 as amended.'.

Government amendments Nos. 127 and 128.

Amendment No. 386, in clause 80, page 50, line 30, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended,'.

Amendment No. 387, in clause 81, page 50, line 33, at beginning insert--

'Notwithstanding anything in the European Communities Act 1972 as subsequently amended,'.

Government amendments Nos. 134, 129, 135 to 138 and 130 to 133.

Mr. Raynsford: The theme that unites the new clauses and amendments is the important subject of national security. The Government have proposed amendments designed to improve the Bill further in respect of national security; the Opposition have proposed amendments that are essentially destructive, and based on false assumptions about the interplay between the PPP and national security. I intend to compare and contrast the proposals, because they highlight important differences between the Government's approach and that of the official Opposition.

8.30 pm

The Bill already contains substantial measures designed to protect the national interest in respect of security. Clause 81 empowers the Secretary of State to give directions to a range of people engaged in aviation and related activities in times of hostilities, severe international tension or great national emergency. Contravention, or failure to comply with a direction, is an offence punishable on indictment by unlimited fines and/or imprisonment.

9 May 2000 : Column 730

New clause 5 enables the Secretary of State by order made by statutory instrument, but not subject to parliamentary procedure, to provide for taking possession of, and using for the purposes of the armed forces, any aerodrome, aircraft, or other things in or around the aerodrome in the event of actual or imminent hostilities, severe international tension or great national emergency. In other words, it is a power not to direct, but to intervene directly.

An order made under that power may include provision to secure compliance with the order, including the detention of aircraft. There is an entitlement to compensation from the Secretary of State in the event of any person suffering direct injury or loss arising from compliance with an order under the new clause. In default of an agreement between the claimant and the Secretary of State, provision is made for the amount to be settled by arbitration.

The new clause allows for greater flexibility in the choice of action that may be taken in times of hostilities. The existing power in clause 81 requires directions to be given to persons as a pre-condition for securing various controls. The new clause allows possession to be taken of aircraft or aerodromes that are the subject of an order without the need first to identify their owners or operators or to give notice. Further, instead of obliging a recipient of a direction to secure that assets are taken into the possession of the Crown, the new clause enables the Crown to take possession directly without relying on the recipient complying.

Amendments Nos. 125 to 133 are consequential to the new clause. Amendments Nos. 134, 137 and 138 substitute the new term "undertaking" for "business" to match the language in Council regulation 2407/92. Amendment No. 135 omits the requirement for prior consent of the Secretary of State or the Director of Public Prosecutions before a prosecution. Amendment No. 136 is consequential in that it applies to the new clause the definitions in clause 82 and provides for the order to be a statutory instrument not subject to parliamentary procedure.

Those are wide-ranging powers that reflect the importance that the Government attach to national security measures. Although the contents of new clause 5 were largely present in the Civil Aviation Act 1982, we have introduced it alongside the direction-making power to ensure that the Government have available to them all the means that they may need to defend the national interest at such times. Those are real, tangible protections. I commend them to the House.

By contrast, the Opposition seek only to fuel fear and suspicion. New clause 27 and the accompanying amendments are simply mischief making. They purport to ensure that the United Kingdom can exercise the functions and powers of transfer and direction under the clauses on the mistaken assumption that what we are proposing would conflict with European law, that European law will develop in such a way as to give rise to such a conflict, or that EU institutions will take over, or replace the Eurocontrol treaty arrangements.

Those matters were debated ad nauseam in Committee. I hope, although not with great confidence, that we will not end up covering the same ground in the same detail tonight. Although I respect and share the enthusiasm for national security that the hon. Member for North Essex

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(Mr. Jenkin) demonstrated in Committee, I tired of dealing with his fanciful interpretations of European Community law and his scaremongering on Community competence. Indeed, some of us in the Committee suspected that the mere mention of the term "Eurocontrol" was enough to elicit a Pavlovian reaction from him and some of his hon. Friends. The best interests of UK air traffic services are served not by flogging that particular dead horse, but by putting NATS in a position to benefit from the changes that will and must come about in Europe.

As many of us know from our travels throughout the continent, all is not well in the state of Denmark--or, indeed, in France, Italy, Switzerland and a number of other countries in the core area of Europe--with regard to air traffic management. The reasons are many and complex, but among the most important is the fragmentation of the system, with efficient airspace management being constrained by national boundaries, inflexible allocation of airspace between military and civilian use, and continuing under-investment in the air traffic control capacity needed to meet the relentless growth in air traffic movements.

In Europe, there are three key organisations in air traffic management: Eurocontrol is the European organisation for the safety of air navigation and has 28 members; ECAC--the European civil aviation conference; and the European Union. However, the EU's role is very limited, being confined largely to technical standards and the like.

The Government believe that Europe can and must do better. The air traffic management system is crucial for the economic well-being of the continent generally and for the United Kingdom particularly. We are therefore active members of Eurocontrol. There is broad support for the EU's early accession to Eurocontrol.

The Government are also keen to work with the European Commission on its ideas for "A Single Sky for Europe". We do not necessarily agree with every word in the document, but it represents a genuine attempt to deal with the serious problem that I mentioned earlier, and it offers the United Kingdom a real opportunity to have influence over the way in which those issues will be tackled.

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