HC Deb 09 April 1986 vol 95 cc270-1
Mr. Ancram

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 10, line 25, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

'(5) References in subsection (1) to carrying on the business of operating an airport as a commercial undertaking include references to carrying on any activities which, at the time when the direction in question is given, are carried on at the airport or on airport land—

  1. (a) by the principal council, or (as the case may be) any of the principal councils, who control the airport,
  2. (b) by any subsidiary by whom the airport is owned as mentioned in section 11(3),
  3. (c) by any person managing the airport under the terms of any lease or other arangement made by or on behalf of the principal council or councils who control it or by any such subsidiary, or
  4. (d) by any person who has been granted a right to carry on activities there by any council, subsidiary or person falling within any of the preceding paragraphs,
with the exception of any activities which the Secretary of State has, before the date referred to in subsection (2), agreed with the principal council or councils who control the airport should not be carried on by the company to be formed in pursuance of the direction. (5A) In subsection (5) "airport land", in relation to an airport, means land which is attached to the airport and was on 1st April 1986 administered with the airport as a single unit.'. Under clause 12(1) the Secretary of State may require a principal council controlling an airport to form a company for the purpose of operating the airport as a commercial undertaking and carrying on any activities which appear to the council to be incidental to or connected with carrying on that business". We are concerned that, left as it is, the present wording might allow a principal council—perhaps inadvertently—to take a too narrow view of what activities fall within either clause 12(1)(a) or 12(1)(b) and draw up, accordingly, a narrow memorandum for its public airport company. As a result, the company might be prevented from undertaking the full range of activities that the Government would expect it to undertake and would, indeed, prevent the transfer under clause 14 of the assets used in those activities. Hon. Members concerned will remember the assurances that were given by the Government in Committee that any facility which is part of the necessary equipment of the airport, such as the car park, terminal, duty-free shop or any matter to do with the operation of the airport, such as the fire station, baggage facilities or the freight cargo terminal, will be included in the scheme.

The proposed amendment, by requiring that the business of operating the airport as a commercial undertaking should include any activities carried on at the airport or on airport land, whether by the council, its subsidiary, or manager or a concessionaire, at the time when the direction to form an airport company is given, avoids a too narrow view being taken with the consequence either that the principal council is frustrated in that it cannot transfer relevant activities to the company, or the Government's intention is frustrated for the same reason. Conversely, should the council wish to bring within the ambit of the airport company any activities incidental to or connected with the airport business, but not at the time of the direction part of the airport business, it may do so under the provisions of clause 12(1)(b), subject, of course, to the Secretary of State's approval of the scheme under the provisions of clause 14.

The provision is necessarily widely drawn, and it is recognised that in some cases it might be better to exclude a particular activity which would fall within the provision. In such a case the activity may, by agreement between the Secretary of State and the controlling authority or authorities, be excluded.

I believe that that clarifies the situation that was referred to in Committee. I ask the House to support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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