Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far into the Heathrow story. I accept, of course, that noise from aeroplanes is acutely disturbing and distressing to people who live right by an airport. What concerns me and, I suspect, many of my parliamentary colleagues from LeicestershireI am glad to see the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), and I refer also to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), the shadow Secretary of State for Transportis the noise and pollution caused by aircraft a little further from the airports themselves. The hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire has wholly within his constituency Nottingham East Midlands airport, which is strangely named, being wholly within Leicestershire and wholly owned by Manchester as well as havingsurprise, surprisea Derbyshire postcode. That, of course, allows all sorts of people to avoid responsibility for what it does to, for example, my constituents.
David Taylor : Will the hon. and learned Gentleman dissociate himself from the observations of our geographical neighbour, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who has on occasion said that he regrets changes in flight paths that have brought noise to people in the county of Leicestershire who were not familiar with it and that that noise should perhaps be returned to people in urban areas who were better able to endure its impact?
Mr. Garnier: I did not quite hear the hon. Gentleman. If he intended to refer to the hon. Member who represents Melbournethat is to say, the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd)I can say that he and I have had our agreements and disagreements about activities at Nottingham East Midlands airport. If he intended my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton, I can say that my hon. Friend was, in essence, saying that we required a balance of good behaviour from the airport and understanding among those affected by its activities. What we are not getting at the momentI think that the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire would agreeis that sort of balance.
I want briefly to put forward a plea on behalf of a constituent, Mr. John Neilson, the chairman of the LEI group, which is a mixed travel agency and tour operator business operating in Market Harborough and
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employing about 30 people. He is primarily concerned about the air travel trust arrangements in clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill. He would like the introduction of the £1 levy system advocated by the Federation of Tour Operators and the Civil Aviation Authority. When the Minister responds, I hope that she can do a little better than her hon. Friend the Minister of State did in opening the debate and give a little more encouragement there.
The more difficult part of the Bill is the first four clauses, dealing with the introduction of amendments to the Civil Aviation Act 1982 in relation to charging and the imposition of penalties. There is, no doubt, some good sense in the amendments to section 38 of the 1982 Act, which would allow airports to fix charges in respect of aircraft or classes of aircraft by reference to a number of things, including the amount of noise caused or the nature and extent of any inconvenience resulting from that noise. It may well be that those who are fortunate enough to serve on the Standing Committee will have to come to grips with what expressions such as "inconvenience" actually mean in practice. More to the point, they will have to deal with what "vicinity" means. The charging arrangements will allow an airport to take into account pollution
My constituents, who live between 30 and 50 miles from Nottingham East Midlands airport, have a different view of "vicinity" from that of the constituents of the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire, who live right by it. I hope that the charging system will allow for my constituents, who live further away but who are inconvenienced by the airport, to be taken into account.
Mr. Brazier : I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for his giving way during his powerful speech. May we, perhaps, hope that the definition of "vicinity" will be wider than that given in the Licensing Act 2003, which effectively cut out even people living really close to premises from having any say in consultation?
Mr. Garnier: I suspect that we can hope all we like. We must await the Government's response in due course, but it is important that they should, both in Committee and later, at least take on board the points that my hon. Friend and I have made.
I want to concern myself not so much with charging, which must simply be a matter between the airport operators and the airport users, but to ask the House to consider rather more carefully than the Minister of State perhaps invited us to do earlier the imposition of penalties. The Government are permitting the justice system to be privatised. That is strange from a Labour Government, who, having objected to privatisation of the prison system, seem to be embracing with great enthusiasm the privatisation of the justice system. They are permitting private companiespublic limited companiesto impose penalties on their customers that should more properly be imposed by a state organisation, namely the court system or something equivalent to it.
I find it amusing, if not surprising nowadays I am afraid, that a Labour Government are introducing a private justice system. Had it been introduced by a Conservative Government, those on the Labour Benches would be hopping mad. There we are: we live in strange and interesting times.
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Assuming that the parliamentary arithmetic pushes that aspect of the Bill through, we are to have it. The Government should, however, be a little careful about its effect. I am wholly unconvinced that a private justice system will deliver the sort of arrangements that will police noise and emissions according to the best intentions of those who seek to bring in new powers. Nottingham East Midlands airport is going to be one of the policemen or judges exercising the private justice system over its customers, and the news section of the NEMA cargo division website states:
"Bill Blanchard, NEMA Cargo Development Manager, said: 'the results for 2004 are very encouraging. NEMA has strengthened its position as the UK's No. 1 "pure cargo" airport and overtaken Gatwick to become the second largest cargo airport in the UK and the 13th largest in Europe. These figures show that industry is using NEMA more and more to ship their "just in time" products by air. NEMA ha always been a regional asset and now has a growing national role to play in this business'."
What sort of justice system is it that will allow the commercial managers of airports to trawl around the air industry marketplace inviting customers in to use their airports so that they may move up the table of high-performing or high-volume cargo airports? What sort of justice system is it that will allow those sort of organisations then to impose penalties on the very people whom they wish to use their airports?
David Taylor: In short, is the hon. and learned Gentleman making the point that the powers to direct non-designated airports, such as Nottingham East Midlands airport, to establish, amend or revoke penalty schemes should be vested not in the airport itself but at worst in the relevant local authority and at best in the Secretary of State for Transport?
Mr. Garnier: The powers should be operated by some dispassionate agency, some third party. Were the hon. Gentleman or I to have the misfortune to be caught speeding or shoplifting[Laughter.] As he is a justice of the peace, I say that carefully. We should not expect the decision about whether we should be imprisoned or fined to be made by the shop that we had invaded; it would be made by the courts. So it is that when an airline abuses the regulations and the limits as to noise or emissions, it is the very user, or beneficiary, of that aircraft who imposes the penalty. In an ideal world, it would be perfectly possible for Nottingham East Midlands airport to arrange a system whereby it would approach that question with some degree of dispassionate disinterest, but I find it extremely difficult to envisage such circumstances when we have Mr. Blanchard and his friends from NEMA trailing around Europe trying to attract more and more business.
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what assessment he has made of airports or operators with the power to penalise aircraft that do not obey the existing rules? The system that he is talking about is in operation at designated airports.
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