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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I have heard what the Minister said. To some extent that shows up the defects of the procedure in this House under which certain Bills are dealt with in Grand Committee where amendments are not divided upon and therefore certain measures do not appear until Report. It is possible for the Minister almost to lay a trap for us at this stage into which we can fall because we have not been forewarned in time. Of course, had we been forewarned we could have corrected the defect. I listened very carefully to what the Minister said. I believe that most people who buy travel insurance are blissfully unaware that it does not
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I refer to a practical point. It is presumably the case that if the House carries the amendment tonight, it will have to be considered in the other place and the Government will have the opportunity to bring back to us an improved amendment, which I am sure, judging by the mood of this House, the whole House would be willing to accept.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, that is what I was about to say. We are saying to the House of Commons, "The Select Committee has put the evidence before you and has made an extremely strong recommendation that you should abide by that evidence". By seeking to amend the Bill, we will present the House of Commons with the opportunity to do what it said that it would. However, I reiterate the pointI think that it was underlined by the noble Lord, Lord Faulknerthat very many people who buy travel insurance through the internet are not aware of the extent of its cover. I am not sure what the Mondial insurance to which he referred includes. I am not sure whether it would cover the failure of EUjet. It may cover one's health while on holiday, but I have no idea. Without having all the small print available, you are not really aware what you are buying.
In the circumstances it is important, bearing in mind the support that we have had from all around the House, that this matter is divided upon. That will simply give the House of Commons the opportunity to revisit an issue that it did not adequately consider. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
28 Mar 2006 : Column 694
"COMPENSATION: AIRPORT EXPANSION
(1) The Secretary of State may direct specified aerodrome authorities to introduce compensation arrangements for property owners whose properties have been adversely affected by proposals for airport expansion.
28 Mar 2006 : Column 696
(2) The terms of the compensation arrangements will
(a) ensure that the property owner is financially no worse off than if the property had not been adversely affected by the airport expansion proposals; and
(b) include advance guarantees to purchase any properties affected.
(3) Such arrangements are to be introduced as soon as practicable following the Secretary of State's direction."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the implications of the burgeoning aviation industry are felt far and wide, but nowhere more so than by those communities living in the shadow of our major airports. We have already discussed several times today the problems that those communities suffer on a daily basis, but they pale in comparison to the plight of those communities threatened by airport expansion. It is important to recognise that due to the distinctive character of aviation, the blight suffered far exceeds the territorial extent of the physical development. The difference is significant. When one builds a railway line, one does not expect the train to leave the tracks and create noise and nuisance over a mile away. The inherent nature and attendant problems of aviation make it unique, which has consequences for the way in which we must compensate for the blight that it can cause.
The amendment is designed to address the problem of generalised blight, which materialises as soon as any major airport expansion plans are made public. The problem was recognised in the 2003 air transport White Paper, when the Government signalled:
I declare at this juncture my interest as leader of Essex County Council, since much of my understanding is drawn from my experience of Stansted Airport's expansion plans. BAA's home owner support scheme has proved woefully inadequate; so inadequate that Takeley parish councilwhich is the major village involveddecided to pursue legal action. The case was before the High Court at the time of the Grand Committee. Although provision for judicial review was not granted, the case remains significant in two respects. First, it is clear evidence of the strong feeling in local communities that this approach to compensation is inadequate, arbitrary and unfair.
"the White Paper envisages a scheme to provide redress to those affected by 'generalised blight' and paragraph 12.16 envisages the relevant class of beneficiaries to be 'local people', without limiting such redress to those within a particular noise contour . . . By limiting the compensation scheme to providing redress for those 'worst affected' rather than minimising the impact on local people as envisaged by the White Paper, it failed to address instances of generalised blight which fall outside the boundary, and it is based on an irrational distinction between properties falling inside the boundary and those falling outside it".
Consequently, at the hearing it was argued that the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully by granting policy support for the construction of a new runway at Stansted while failing to ensure that appropriate measures were in place to compensate those impacted by generalised blight. Since those were measures that the Government committed themselves to in the White Paper, the legal team argued that the Secretary of State thereby infringed the European Convention on Human Rights. I will not go into the more legal processes, but obviously people felt very strongly about it.
I am no lawyer, but it seems that the present practice of encouraging airport operators to introduce a voluntary compensation scheme has failed the Government's stated purpose in the White Paper. The nature of the existing arrangement has the potential at least for the Government to be found in breach of their obligations under the convention.
In light of that potential and the obvious unfairness of current voluntary compensation schemes, it would seem eminently sensible to accept the amendment and give statutory force to an equitable compensation proposal that chimes with the Government's sentiments and policies as set out in the White Paper. I beg to move.
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