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Compensation Agency

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. David Hanson): I have today published the Compensation Agency's combined Corporate Plan (2005–08) and Business Plan (2005–06). The Corporate Plan sets out the long term strategic goals for the Agency over the three-year period, and the Business Plan sets out the Agency's key objectives and performance targets for the coming year.

Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Ship to Ship Transfers (Firth of Forth)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): Forth Ports plc has submitted a revised and amplified oil spill contingency plan to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The revision and amplification of the plan has been prompted by proposals that ship-to-ship transfer of oil carried as cargo should take place within Forth Ports' harbour authority area. Ship-to-ship transfer is a lawful activity. Ship-to-ship transfers within harbour authority areas already take place in the UK at Scapa Flow, Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and Nigg Oil Terminal, in some cases for as long as twenty-five years.

The MCA's role is limited to approving harbour authorities' oil spill contingency plans to ensure that they address the potential risks of activities carried out in those areas, including ship-to-ship transfers. There is no provision for the MCA to reject an oil spill contingency plan submitted to it. It must either approve
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the plan or, if the plan is not compatible with the National Contingency Plan or is not appropriate for dealing with oil pollution incidents which may occur in the area in which the harbour authority or operator has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility, it may direct that the plan be altered. It is the duty of the harbour authority to alter the plan if so directed by the MCA. Failure to maintain the plan (with any directed alterations) or failure to implement the approved plan in the event of an oil pollution incident is a criminal offence.

The MCA will co-ordinate a public consultation to assess the implications for relevant nature conservation sites of Forth Ports' revised and amplified oil spill contingency plan. The consultation is designed to establish whether the revised and amplified plan will adversely affect the integrity of those nature conservation sites.

The Government have reached no view on the applicability of the ECJ judgment of 20 October 2005 on the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, commonly known as the Habitats Directive, outside the context in which the case was brought.

However, the substantive provisions of that Directive demonstrate the need for an additional activity—an appropriate assessment of the impact of the plan on the conservation objectives of designated protected sites in the Firth of Forth—which has not hitherto been explicitly addressed during the approval process but which, in my opinion, ought to be carried out as a matter of good policy.

Given the very strong interest which this subject has generated on local economic, environmental and public health grounds, I consider it entirely appropriate that such an assessment is conducted and taken into account when analysing the adequacy of the oil spill contingency plan to deal with incidents in the harbour authority's area of responsibility as the MCA is required to do under the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention) Regulations 1998.

The consultation will include the submitted oil spill contingency plan material and supporting information from Forth Ports and Scottish Natural Heritage. The consultation will assess the implications of the plan for the protected sites (in view of their conservation objectives) with a view to ascertaining whether the plan will adversely affect the integrity of the sites concerned.

The planned duration of the consultation exercise is 12 weeks. Time will also be required, after the consultation period is over, for the analysis and presentation of the results of the consultation. At the end of this process, in the light of the consultation responses and taking into account the advice of Scottish Natural Heritage, the statutory nature conservation authority, the MCA will finalise its appropriate assessment and consider whether any amendments to the plan are needed.

Airports Policing

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Government have decided to amend the Civil Aviation Bill to clarify the responsibilities of airport managers and police in relation to the protection and
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policing of airports that have been designated by the Secretary of State under section 25 of the Aviation Security Act 1982 ("the Act"). There are currently nine airports designated for policing purposes—Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Prestwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The primary responsibility for policing activity at these airports lies with the Chief Constable and the airport manager must make such payments in respect of policing the airport as the manager and the relevant authority may agree. If they cannot agree, the Secretary of State may be required to determine the amount to be paid to the police by the airport manager (section 26(3)).

Recently it has become clear that the relationship between the responsibilities of airport managers, aircraft operators and others carrying out security activities directed by the Secretary of State under Part 2 of the Act (sections 10 to 24) and of the Chief Constable whose officers police a designated airport under Part 3 (sections 25 to 31) is uncertain and also that the scope of the Secretary of State's power under section 26(3) of the Act is unclear.

Given the importance of this issue to the UK's aviation security programme the Government have therefore decided to use the Civil Aviation Bill to seek to amend the Act, to clarify the relationship between the activities of the airport manager and other directed parties at an airport, and policing activities in order to prevent disputes on this point and to provide a more independent method for settling any disputes that may arise in future. The aim of the amendment is to acknowledge that designated airports require both directed parties and police to perform activities, but that in making policing decisions the Chief Constable should be aware of the role of the directed parties and deploy his resources so that they complement those of the directed parties.

In addition to seeking this amendment, the Government have also decided to commission an independent, wide-ranging review of policing at airports. The review will aim to identify a sustainable approach to the policing of airports which takes account of the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in protecting an airport and in particular addresses the need for funding arrangements that are objective and transparent. The review will be asked to compare the present method of policing airports with that of other modes of transport to establish any differences or similarities in policing approaches, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities that may apply. The review will also consider whether the principle of designation can be made to work. If it cannot, the review is asked to propose alternative options. I expect the review team to report back with recommendations by spring next year.

As far as the amendment is concerned, it will be helpful to the House and to those affected by it if I set out in detail its effects:

Where an aerodrome has been designated under section 25 of the Act the respective responsibilities of directed parties and the police will be defined. In addition, the manager of the aerodrome, the police
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authority and the chief officer of police (the three parties) shall be required to enter into a police services agreement (the Agreement). The Agreement must:

Where the three parties (i) cannot reach an Agreement because they disagree on a particular aspect such as the level of policing to be provided, or (ii) having reached an Agreement are in dispute as to its terms, construction or operation, the matter will be referred to determination by an expert. The expert must be independent of both parties and have had no prior involvement in the dispute to be determined. The expert's decision will be final and binding, save that a party may appeal to the High Court on a point of law. An expert's decision may, with the permission of the High Court, be enforced as if it were a judgment of the High Court (and may, in particular, be enforced by the use of powers in relation to contempt of court).
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Any of the three parties is entitled to ask the Secretary of State to set up the determination. The expert should be a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the particular dispute, and agreed by the aerodrome manager on one side and the police parties for the other side. If the parties cannot agree, the Secretary of State will require each side to appoint an expert and those two experts to appoint a further panel member to act as chairman.

The expert will determine the procedure to be followed in determining a dispute, but any procedure must give each party to the dispute an opportunity to make representations. The Secretary of State will also have an opportunity to make representations before the expert.

Where the case is referred because the parties cannot reach an Agreement, the expert will rule on the dispute and if necessary set out what the provision should be.

Where the dispute concerns a police services agreement which has already been signed, the expert may:

The definition of the parties' respective roles in protecting an airport and provision for expert determination of any disputes will have effect from today's date and appropriate transitional provision will be made. The provisions regarding the police services agreement will take effect on Royal Assent.