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Standing Committee Debates

Draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2006

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Tenth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


†Mr. Martyn Jones

†Bellingham, Mr. Henry (North-West Norfolk) (Con)
†Bottomley, Peter (Worthing, West) (Con)
†Buck, Ms Karen (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
†Burden, Richard (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab)
†Clapham, Mr. Michael (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab)
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey (Torridge and West Devon) (Con)
†Creagh, Mary (Wakefield) (Lab)
Dorrell, Mr. Stephen (Charnwood) (Con)
Hammond, Stephen (Wimbledon) (Con)
†Jones, Lynne (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
†Laxton, Mr. Bob (Derby, North) (Lab)
†Leech, Mr. John (Manchester, Withington) (LD)
†Miliband, Edward (Doncaster, North) (Lab)
†Roy, Mr. Frank (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)
†Slaughter, Mr. Andrew (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush) (Lab)
†Swinson, Jo (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
†Walley, Joan (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab)
Mr. Mark Oxborough, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Brazier, Mr. Julian (Canterbury) (Con)

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Thursday 16 March 2006

[Mr. Martyn Jones in the Chair]

Draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2006

2.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Ms Karen Buck): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2006.

I trust that Members will not be detained very long this afternoon, Mr. Jones. I shall take just a moment or two quickly to outline the purpose of the order. I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce it.

2.30 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

2.45 pm

On resuming—

Ms Buck: The purpose of the order is to reflect in Scottish planning law the change in air traffic services provision that occurred when National Air Traffic Services was split off from the Civil Aviation Authority following the Transport Act 2000. That Act paved the way for setting up a public-private partnership for NATS. Prior to the establishment of the PPP, the provision of air traffic services was the responsibility of the CAA, of which NATS was then part.

Part 1 of the 2000 Act provided for a licence to be granted to a licence holder who is authorised to provide air traffic services. The present licence holder is NATS. The CAA retains a role only as the regulator of the services.

The order applies to Scotland only. It is designed to assist NATS to meet the operational requirements for the provision of en route air traffic services in Scotland. It does that by making the licensed subsidiary of NATS—NATS En Route Ltd—a statutory undertaker. The order enables NATS to gain exemptions from planning restrictions on operational land in which it has an interest.

The exemptions are the same as those that used to be employed by the CAA when it ran air traffic services. Nothing extra is being added. They are important because air traffic control equipment such as radar and navigation aids must be sited precisely to meet operational requirements and to help ensure that air traffic movements are carried out safely and effectively.

Following the splitting-off of NATS from the CAA, certain provisions in Scottish law that apply to the CAA need to be changed to ensure that Scottish
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legislation reflects the present system of provision of air traffic services. Minor changes are therefore needed to three pieces of Scottish legislation. The details of the changes are in the explanatory notes to the draft statutory instrument.

It would be reasonable to ask why Scotland-specific legislation was not dealt with sooner. Unfortunately, it was not possible to deal with all the outstanding matters in the time available during the passage of the 2000 Act through Parliament. In anticipation of this problem, section 277 of the Act was specifically included to enable consequential amendments to be made, subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. We used the power in respect of the UK as a whole in the Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2001. The House will recognise that we are following the same pattern as before, and using the same powers, in introducing an order to deal with Scotland-specific legislation that was not dealt with at the time.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): That is very convincing, but it does not explain why there is a gap of six years.

Ms Buck: That is an entirely reasonable point. The gap was partly caused by staff changes following the NATS privatisation; a need to ensure proper liaison with the Scottish authorities, which has become consistent throughout; and a need to find a slot in parliamentary time to enable this to happen. The hon. Gentleman makes an entirely reasonable point, but I hope that the thrust of it is “better late than never”.

There has been good liaison with the Scottish Executive on the order. It is important that the amendments are included in Scottish legislation, and I am grateful for the co-operative spirit that enabled this to be brought to fruition. Although planning law is devolved to Scotland, the amendments relate to the specific interaction of planning law and aviation, and have as their purpose the proper conduct of the reserved matter of aviation. Therefore, the amendments are properly to be treated as a reserved matter.

2.48 pm

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I am embarrassed not to be a full member of this Committee. As I wish the Minister well in her swan song, I shall not suggest that “better late than never” has a wider application than Labour transport policy.Could the order have been made earlier? Six years is a very long time—it seems an extraordinarily long interval. The Minister anticipated the question from this side of the House.

The explanatory notes state that the statutory instrument will enable

    “Scottish town and country planning legislation to take account of the provisions in Part 1 of the Transport Act 2000”

and will enable the licence holder

    “to meet the operational requirements for the provision of en route air traffic services”

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and to site air traffic control equipment in precise locations. That begs the question of how things have been done in the past six years. Have NATS and the subsidiary been using imprecise locations? Have there been or are there any safety implications as a result of imprecisely sited items put in place over the past few years? Does NATS have any sites in mind for the purpose of building its navigational aids on which it envisages a difficult time with the inspectors in the near future? Is there any local objection to a particular site that has given rise to this sudden rush of memory to the brain? Will the statutory instrument have any implications for a particular area?

In asking those questions, I am conscious of being an English MP asking a question about a matter that exclusively affects Scotland, but I am entirely unembarrassed about it. Scottish MPs could perfectly well ask questions about arrangements for Manson airport next to my constituency in the same way. The question is what has prompted the Government finally to bring the matter forward at this late stage, and has a particular planning decision jogged their memory?

2.50 pm

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): I broadly welcome this tidying-up legislation. I echo the concerns put forward from the Conservative Benches about the time that it has taken to bring it forward. I think that everybody understands that in the immediate aftermath of devolution it would have taken some time to iron out the differences and the way in which the order would have to be drafted, but six years seems excessive.

I have just a few questions to raise. The NATS contract gives it a licence to run air traffic control for a period of ten years. Given that we have already had a six-year delay, that takes us up to 2010. If the licence is not renewed at the end of the contract, will there be transparency about what organisations are tendering for it, and what further legislation will be required to come before the House?

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There is a difference between NATS having the power in question and the power residing with the Civil Aviation Authority, which is a Government agency. That raises questions of accountability. What safeguards will there be for residents, local authorities and the Scottish Executive if NATS want to site their radar and other equipment on particular pieces of land without having to go through the same planning processes as they would usually have to? What accountability and procedures will there be if people want to disagree to sites that are sensitive or objected to for some reason? I would welcome answers from the Minister on those points.

2.52 pm

Ms Buck: I may have to write to hon. Members on one or two of their questions. We all accept that the delay has been long, but as I said, that is to do with staffing changes and finding the appropriate moment. No specific proposals have prompted the order. It is a tidying-up order, but we needed to find the time to get it clarified.

We need to ensure that in future, although nothing has arisen in the intervening period to prompt the order, if a decision on siting were taken, there would be no risk of a challenge or a delay in the siting of equipment. Such siting is usually for a temporary period, and clearly must be done to ensure the safe promotion of air traffic control.

On the points raised by the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire, there is no implication that will change the accountability arrangements. The order is consistent with the provisions that apply to the CAA and the arrangements in place in the rest of the country. If there are any specific points that I have not covered I will be happy to write to the hon. Lady. I hope that we will be able to proceed expeditiously.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Transport Act 2000 (Consequential Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2006.

Committee rose at six minutes to Three o’clock.


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