HC Deb 15 May 1981 vol 4 cc1033-8

Amendment made: No. 1, in page 1, line 5, after '1.', insert— 'After section 56 of the Act of 1967 there shall be added the following section—56A'. [Mr. Rifkind.]

Mr. Bill Walker

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 12, after 'of, insert— 'power driven heavier than air'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 3, in page 1, line 12, at end insert— '(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) above the term "aircraft" shall include any model aircraft which is driven by a petrol engine.'. No. 10, in page 1, line 21, at end insert— '(3) In this section—

  1. (a) "aircraft" includes model aircraft.
  2. (b) "vehicles" includes model vehicles.`.

Mr. Walker

The object of amendment No. 2 is to spell out exactly what kind of flying machine or aircraft it is intended should come under the byelaws of local authorities, so that the authorities may exercise control over the landing and taking off of those aircraft.

In the Committee debates, it was obvious to me and to others that there was some doubt as to exactly what was meant by the definition "aircraft". I understand that the promoter, my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser), intended to cover aeroplanes and not balloons. I thought it wise to put down this amendment so that there would be no doubt in anyone's mind as to what was intended. According to Jane's "All the World's Aircraft", if it is simply described as an "aircraft", the definition includes: All man-made vehicles for off-surface navigation within the atmosphere, including helicopters and balloons. Chambers' dictionary describes an aircraft as any structure or machine for navigating the air". The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" states: All aircraft fall into two general categories—lighter-than-air or heavier-than-air. Several distinct types are recognized within each group. Each may perform a variety of missions calling for modifications for special usage. Lighter-than-air craft rise and float because they displace a volume of air the weight of which is equal to or greater than the total weight of the aircraft. Such craft include balloons and airships". A balloon is a light, nonporous bag (usually spherical) filled with hot air or a light gas (hydrogen or helium) to which a basket (or car) may be attached to hold pilot and passenger. The wind provides the only propulsion. I do not believe that it was ever intended that the balloon should be covered by this clause. It is aimed at the heavier-than-air craft and they derive their flight capability (lift) from the dynamic reaction of the air flowing around suitably shaped aerofoil sections. That would include gliders.

We are here concerned primarily with noise nuisance, and that is why it is necessary clearly to describe and put beyond doubt the kind of flying machine that we wish to cover with the clause. The definition that I have produced is the definition used in air navigation for describing aeroplanes and gliders with engines— a power driven heavier than air aircraft.

Amendment No. 3 is, I suggest, misleading, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) would be well advised not to press it. Model aircraft are not in the main propelled by petrol engines. They do not use that fuel. They use a diesel type of fuel containing methanol, ether and other additives and operate with a glow plug. If we were to use the hon. Gentleman's definition we should catch only a relatively few model aeroplanes. I do not believe that this is what the Bill intends. It seeks to cover all aircraft which fall into the category of being power driven and heavier than air, regardless of whether they are models or full size.

Amendment No. 10 in my name would cover model aircraft. It ensures that model aircraft and vehicles are covered. If I have understood my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus accurately, I believe that he wants to prevent noise from engines whether fitted to model vehicles and model aircraft or vehicles and aircraft. I hope that the short but clear definition that I have produced is in accordance with what he intends and will be accepted.

Mr. Dewar

There are few areas of human endeavour in which I would give best to the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker), but one in which I certainly do is the internal combustion engine when fitted to model aircraft. I am prepared to accept his guidance. I should be happy not to proceed with amendment No. 3. I tabled it as minor matter. In Committee we discussed the obtrusive noise of model aeroplanes that are flown on a fixed wire. They can produce a persistent and annoying buzz. I put the amendment down to remind the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser) that the problem had worried the Committee. If he is sympathetic in principle to this idea it is no doubt something that car. be examined in another place, where a better draft can be devised.

Mr. Peter Fraser

Since the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has indicated his intention not to proceed with his amendment I shall confine myself to those tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker). I thank him for his assiduous attendance every time the Bill has come before us in the House or in Committee and for his attention to the details of the Bill.

I deal first with amendment No. 2. Today and in Committee my hon. Friend has given us a learned discourse on a subject on which I am bound to bow to his superior knowledge. However, notwithstanding his comments I am not convinced that amendment No. 2 adds anything to the existing term "aircraft". It appears simply to exempt lighter-than-air power-driven aircraft such as airships. No doubt a power-driven airship could be just as noisy as any other aircraft. No doubt he was concerned to ensure that powered gliders were covered by the term "aircraft", and I can asure him that they are.

For these reasons I am prepared to accept amendment No. 10 which clarifies a point that caused concern on both sides in Committee.

Amendment negatived.

11.45 am
Mr. Peter Fraser

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 1, leave out line 15.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may also take amendment No. 8, in page 1, line 21, at end insert— '(3) Subsection (1) above shall not apply to the Crown.'.

Mr. Fraser

These are drafting amendments to clarify the position of the Crown in relation to the powers given in the clause. The combined effect of the amendments is to convert into a form more generally used in statute the exemption for the Crown and its servants from bylaws that may be made under clause 1.

The convention is that the Crown is normally bound by statute unless it is given specific exemption. Such an exemption is considered necessary in these circumstances to allow, for example, the use of vehicles by Crown servants acting in the normal course of their duties. That would cover a wide ambit of activity, from the visiting agricultural inspector to the movement of military personnel in the countryside.

There is, effectively, no substantial change as a result of the amendments, but they frame the Bill in a more appropriate form.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Peter Fraser

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 20, leave out from 'for' to end of line 21 and insert 'agriculture, forestry, the maintenance of the land or for the exercise of sporting rights'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With it we may also take the following amendments: No. 6, in page 1, line 21, after 'agriculture', insert 'fish-farming'.

No. 7, in page 1, line 21, leave out 'sport', and insert 'sporting rights connected with hunting, fishing and related activities.'. No. 9, in page 1, line 21, at end insert— '(3) In this section— sporting rights" means rights of fowling, shooting or fishing, or of taking or killing game, deer or rabbits.'.

Mr. Fraser

In Committee a number of hon. Members were concerned that the use of the word "sport" went too wide and might cover more land uses than the Bill intended. The effect of these drafting amendments is to redefine "sport" to make it clear that traditional country sports that are generally accepted as countryside pursuits are exempted.

I recognise that the countryside is increasingly used for a number of leisure pursuits, but it is appropriate to continue the distinction between those sports and the traditional sports that form an integral part of the economy of the countryside.

The amendment that stands in my name is perhaps the most suitable of the three options before the House in that it covers land management while avoiding the unnecessary complication of defining "sporting rights".

I believe that that term has already been adequately defined in the law of Scotland in relation particularly to such matters as valuation and rating. It would present no difficulty as it stands should a court ever be required to consider it.

Perhaps I may anticipate the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) on fish farming. I suggest that the House does not accept my hon. Friend's amendment. I do not expect that, should fish farming develop even further than it has in Scotland, there would be any noise problem. It is an activity that is essentially static, relying on tubs and ponds in the sea apart from a limited use of outboard motors on boats going to and from the buoys and the various set-ups involved. That is unlikely to cause difficulty.

For that reason I invite the House to support amendment No. 5 and to resist the others.

Mr. Ian Lang (Galloway)

I want to speak to amendment No. 6. In Committee when we were discussing the exemptions from engine noise provisions, I raised a question about fish farming and horticulture. My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser) undertook to consider that. I accept that horticulture is subsumed under agriculture. I listened with interest to what my hon. Friend said about fish fanning. However, in speaking to my amendment, I hope that the Minister will respond to some of my comments.

Some people may feel that fish farming, or aquaculture as it is sometimes called, is appropriately part of agriculture. I am not certain that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries would agree. At the centre of my amendment is the question whether fish farming is a branch of agriculture. If it were, that would remove anomalies, but because of its uncertain status I want to clarify its position in the Bill.

My amendment is a probing amendment. Fish farming is an increasingly important industry. It is a new rural industry deeoly rooted in the natural assets and resources of the coastal and inland countryside.

It is true that fish farming was not unknown to the earlier civilisations. The ancient Romans may have had knowledge of it and no doubt in ancient Egypt and even the distant Chinese dynasties one might find traces on friezes or vases. I am told that in my constituency there are the remains of a marine coastal fish farm built by Napoleonic prisoners of war.

In essence fish farming is a new industry which has expanded dynamically over the past 20 years. It is of inestimable value to country areas where it creates new jobs. In Scotland about 400 jobs have been created in the industry. That may not seem a large number in total but in country areas it is a substantial figure. The total output has a value of about £5 million per annum. About 30 million trout and 300,000 salmon are produced, with a fair proportion going to export.

The industry is important because of its growth potential. The House will be fascinated to know that at present we eat one trout per person every four years, so the scope for expansion can readily be seen. Recent developments have strengthened the case for fish farming being treated as a branch of agriculture, notably the victory in the shape of agreement by the Government by means of an amendment to the Local Government, Planning and Land Act, whereby fish farming was effectively de-rated as from 1 April this year and was placed on the same basis as agriculture. That was strengthened by moves to render fish farming eligible for grant aid under the agriculture capital grants scheme. That, in turn opens the door to various European Community grants.

The picture is confused because fish farming is being discussed in another place under the Fisheries Bill, whose main aim is to set up a Sea Fish Authority, in place of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. The Scottish National Farmers Union was alarmed at the prospect that the sea fish authority might be given power to raise levies from fish farmers, which the union regarded as an agricultural preserve. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) referred—a Bill that one would imagine was concerned primarily with land and the countryside—there is a proposal for the setting up of a marine nature reserve. Fish farming is experiencing a crisis of identity. It is not just a psychological crisis. It has important implications for finance and other resources. Fish farmers are denied access, for example, to the services and funds of the Central Council for Agricultural and Horticultural Co-operation for help in marketing development. The enabling legislation of the Agricultural Training Board prevents the extension of that board's activities to fish farming. In the same way the Agricultural Research Council is debarred from researching fish farming. Finally, there is a dispute about where control of the industry should be vested, whether under the jurisdiction of area fishery boards or under that of some agriculture-oriented organisation.

That matter cannot be solved in this minor Bill—I do not mean that in a pejorative sense to my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus. We are primarily concerned with engine noise and he implied that that was not a problem with fish farming. I could show him a photograph of a pneumatic discharge trout-feeding trailer being towed by a tractor. That is but one of the mechanical aids used in this capital-intensive industry.

I am anxious to establish that fish farming—which at present is neither fish nor fowl—is more clearly defined as a branch of agriculture. I should be glad to hear the Minister's comments.

My amendment No. 9 attempts to define the term "sporting rights". I understand that the concept of sporting rights is understood to the law of rating, but I hope that my amendment, which defines it as rights of fowling, shooting or fishing, or of taking or killing game, deer or rabbits", may be a further helpful clarification of the matter.

Mr. Rifkind

I accept amendment No. 5. The inclusion of the words the maintenance of the land deals with most of the important points raised in Committee that concerned a number of hon. Members.

I understand that the definition of "sporting rights" as proposed in the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) is considered unnecessary as the meaning of sporting rights is well understood. Therefore it may be unnecessarily restrictive to spell that out in the Bill, although I have no objection to the way that he has suggested doing it.

I was impressed by the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway in support of fish farming. The Government take a similar view of the desirability of expanding the industry. The amendment is concerned with noise and the extent to which fish farming is considered as having processes comparable with commerce and industry. I understand that some processes, such as the extraction of water and the discharge of effluent, might be more readily compared with commercial and industrial processes. Therefore, for the purposes of the regulations, it might be more sensible not to accept amendment No. 6.

12 noon

I accept that that is not a strong argument. If ultimately agriculture is held to include fish farming my hon. Friend's amendment would be unnecessary as that would be covered by the existing wording of the Bill. However, if fish farming is not encompassed in agriculture, that suggests that it would be inappropriate to make a specific further exemption, especially if the noise associated with some of these processes would make it more comparable with a commercial process and therefore suitable for these regulations. I hope that my hon. Friends will feel that it is not necessary to press that amendment to a Division.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 8, in page 1, line 21, at end insert— '(3) Subsection (1) above shall not apply to the Crown.'.—[Mr. Peter Fraser.]

No. 10, in page 1, line 21, at end insert— '(3) in this section—

  1. (a) "aircraft" includes model aircraft.
  2. (b)"vehicles" includes model vehicles.'.—[Mr. Bill Walker.]

No. 11, in page 2, line 8, leave out '1 of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1981' and insert '56A of this Act'.

No. 12, that clause 1 be transferred to the end of line 20 on page 8.—[Mr. Rifkind.]

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