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The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. It is nice to hear her taking up my banner. Air pollution is a very important factor in human health, and increasingly we are finding that lower and lower levels of air pollutionsometimes we are talking about parts per million and trillionare affecting particularly young children, whose immune systems are hardly formed. I was very interested to learn that cattle and sheep are born with their immune systems fully intact. It takes six days for the immune systems of mice to be intact; it takes six months for the immune systems of children even to begin to be intact. It takes quite a long time after that for the central nervous system to be intact. So we need to ensure the safety of our children and safeguard them from chemicals, the properties of which we simply do not know. This is a good case for the precautionary principle to be brought in, so I support the noble Baroness.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I, too, support the sense of the two amendments tabled by the noble Baroness. We believe that compensation should be available for people who are affected by aerodrome-related operations or the expansion of airports.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I, too, support the principle of the amendment. It is great that Clause 8 is in the Bill, because it is terribly important that the Secretary of State has a duty to ensure the good health of people on board an aircraft. We heard a number of stories at previous stages of the Bill about problems in some aircraft, and it seems reasonable that the people who live around airports should have an equal measure of protection. Whether they have the same health problems or other health problems, those are still health problems. If the Government think it was worth including proposed new subsection (1A) in Clause 8(2), the amendment would fit very closely next to it and would make a proper balanced package between protecting the people in the aircraft and the people who live around the airports.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in this debate, although the balanced little package of my noble friend Lord Berkeley looks very unbalanced from the perspective of this Dispatch Box. I will seek to establish before the House why that is. The amendment would extend the health-related duties of the Secretary of State to include persons living in the vicinity of aerodromes in respect of any "aerodrome-related operations" which may affect their health. It would draw the Secretary of State's functions very widely indeed. We do not believe that they need to be extended in this way.
The United Kingdom is in the vanguard of taking responsibility for these issues and our proposed new general duty has been widely welcomed on all sides. But the amendment goes far wider than your Lordships' committee ever envisaged or the Government believe is necessary. It looks as if it could encompass any health issues relating to "any aerodrome-related operations". It could thus give the Secretary of State a duty in relation to all the service industries in airports, as well as to the airlines. Presumably, it could cover traffic congestion around airportsfrom passengers arriving or departing, from logistics companies servicing the shopping malls, or from cargo handling operations. It could possibly extend to other health issues concerning catering, baggage handling or security to the extent that these impact on,
To the extent that those living in the vicinity of aerodromes are engaged in any form of business, those businesses are covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, which extends the duty on employers to include the health risks to the wider public arising from their work activities. We do not think that duty on businesses should be placed on the Secretary of State for Transport.
Airports are no different as places of employment from many other industrial centres where there are issues of noise, traffic or related issues. People living in the vicinity of airports, like those living in the vicinity of other industries, are covered by laws relating to traffic, planning and noise. There are already policies and statutory powers in place that seek to mitigate the impact of aviation noise and emissions on local residents. We have stated our commitment to the World Health Organisation guideline values. I am delighted that the noble Baroness has absolved me from repeating in technical detail all those values. We will continue to produce further research on the impact of aviation noise and emissions on health as it emerges from other sources.
We do not consider that there is a need for this extra layer of duty to be placed on the Secretary of State in relation to aerodromes. Such a greatly widened amendment would also have considerable practical and resource implications, which the Government could not accept. I understand the motivation behind the amendment because it is on the side of good in being concerned about the health of our fellow citizens. But to put this duty on the Secretary of State
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for Transport would be inappropriate and not helpful. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept this argument.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and I also thank noble Lords who have contributed. I hope very much that the noble Countess, Lady Mar, does not think that I have stolen her thunder. I did not mean to do that.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the noble Countess has always espoused these areas and is very much more expert than I am on this. I thank the Minister for his reply. We have had a good debate around this subject on two occasions. I do not intend to divide on this matter. However, it is important that the effect on people who live in such close proximity to fumes and extensive amounts of noise is not lost in our enthusiasm for ensuring that air travel is more frequent, planes are larger and everything else that will happen in the future.
We must continue to recognise that there are adverse impacts to travel, which have a direct effect on people who live very close to airports. I hear what the Minister says about health and safety. We would probably suggest that that is not working brilliantly, but I would not want to be held too closely to that. We need to ensure that legislation is carefully implemented to protect people who live near airports. I thank noble Lords who have joined in this discussion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"AIR TRAVEL TRUST: CONTRIBUTIONS BY INDIVIDUAL PASSENGERS
(1) There shall be a levy to be known as the Air Passenger Levy ("the levy"), which shall be charged on the carriage on an aircraft of a chargeable passenger.
(2) A "chargeable passenger" is one whose flight begins at an aerodrome in the United Kingdom and who travels outside the United Kingdom.
(3) Regulations under this section may
(a) specify the amount of the levy,
(b) set a ceiling on the amount to be collected from the levy, and
(c) require operators of the aircraft to pay the levy to the Air Travel Trust.
(4) Regulations under subsection (3)(b) which set a ceiling for the amount to be raised by the levy must
(a) ensure that contributions to the Air Travel Trust Fund cease once this ceiling is reached, and
(b) allow for the levy to be reintroduced if the level of funds accrued from the levy falls below 50% of the amount specified by the ceiling."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on a day when this House has been detained for an hour or so talking about the supremacy of another House, it is very
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fitting that we come to an issue which has been reported on very thoroughly and recently by a Select Committee of another House.
The ATOLAir Traffic Organisers' Licensinglicence enables passengers stranded abroad, when their air carrier fails, to return home and for refunds to be made to ticket holders who have yet to travel. It protects UK package holiday-makers, but it covers a declining proportion of the UK travel market. It does not apply to the growing number of UK leisure travellers who book directly with scheduled airlines and pay by debit cards and various other things, which I am sure will be touched on in the debate. In 1996, 96 per cent of people were protected: in 2004, 66 per cent were protected. Estimates for 2010 are that only 20 per cent of people will be covered, if that.
The Government's decision to reject the advice of the regulator appointed by themthe CAAwhich said that they should add a modest levy of £1 to the cost of international travellers' tickets, means that millions of holiday-makers will remain vulnerable. That is an actual and not a theoretical risk, which was brought into sharp focus by the collapse of EUjet only a few months ago when thousands of passengers were stranded. Although many were repatriated, they were repatriated to places a long way from Manston airport in Kent, where, I think, they took off. Of course, if passengers have travelled to the airport by car, it is not much compensation to land at Manchester or somewhere else and have to go back to Manston for their carsand also pay for the privilege of travelling from Manchester to Manston.
Many people think that they are protected when they fly abroad. That number is very high because people think that they have ATOL cover when they have not. In fact, most travel insurance policies do not cover air carrier insolvency. The Government believe that relying on the insurance market, coupled with voluntary arrangements, amounts to a policy of adequate protection from the consequence of an airline collapse. We do not. I think that view is shared by noble Lords on all sides of the House and it was very strongly endorsed by the Select Committee in its report.
A £1 levy would soon build up to a sizeable sum of money. We have made provision in the amendment, since it was first moved, to arrange for the levy not to be collected once a reasonable sum of money has accumulated. It would not be activated again until the money was spent, so it would not be a constant drain. In many respects, it is a deregulatory measure, because a lot of people are not being regulated. We have to face the fact that the ATOL scheme is almost on the point of collapse.
In this amendment we are giving the Government the opportunity to refer to this fairly recent report and to amend the Bill to make it a better Bill which gives protection to the increasing numbers of people who journey abroad. I beg to move.
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