HC Deb 05 March 1990 vol 168 cc629-31
Mr. Snape

I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 4, line 10, at end add— '(5) Before issuing the direction under subsection (1) above the Secretary of State shall seek the views of the manager of the aerodrome concerned.'. The amendment deals with consultations on regional airports. It arises from the debate on the aviation security fund and, under the amendment, we have the opportunity to talk briefly about the costs for regional airports, post-Lockerbie. One of the reasons why Opposition Members plead for greater consultation with regional airport directors is that, post-Lockerbie, additional costs were incurred by regional airports for screening people who enter restricted areas there.

I understand from the Joint Airports Committee of Local Authorities that Birmingham airport has paid £86,000 in capital costs and will pay £514,000 for the running costs of additional safety requirements in the current year. East Midlands airport has had to pay capital costs of £405,000—which is an enormous sum for that airport—and current operating costs are £260,000. Luton airport has had to pay capital costs of £364,000 and current operating costs are £414,000 this year for new security measures.

I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House would be desperately anxious that regional airports should not become the weak link in any security chain. I hope that the Under-Secretary will agree that security measures required at regional airports must be related to the perceived level of threat at those airports, particularly under the present financial regime.

In our view, one of the other positive arguments in favour of an aviation security fund is that it could meet the additional costs at regional airports, rather than the airports having to meet the costs.

The amendment would ensure that, before any additional measure was introduced at a regional airport, the widest possible consultation with airport managers, or directors—to give them their modern title—took place so that proposals were sensible and relevant to the individual airport.

Mr. McLoughlin

The way that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) has moved the amendment is interesting, particularly in the light of previous debates. He drew some parallels with the security fund.

I think that the case made and the evidence quoted by the hon. Gentleman prove that we are laying down strict criteria for airports to abide by. We expect them to do that, and we feel that they should try to arrange finance for it. Therefore, the examples that the hon. Gentleman gave show that the requirements are costing airports money, but they are finding the money.

I know that the whole House agrees on the importance of regional airports for our aviation policy and in providing services for people in the region. We cannot excuse those airports from the necessity of aviation security, and it would be undesirable and wrong to do so. I accept that the Government have to ensure that the security measures required——

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McLoughlin

Yes, but very briefly.

Sir D. Smith

Further to what the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said, will my hon. Friend bear it in mind that, although we are talking about regional airports, many of them are becoming more international, for example, at Birmingham airport the range of flights is expanding all the time?

Mr. McLoughlin

Most hon. Members accept the benefits that regional airports can bring to the regions and to the people who live in them. I take my hon. Friend's point.

The security fund was dealt with adequately and properly in the previous debate, in the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State. The Government must ensure that the security measures that it requires are both practical and necessary. That is why the Department has been discussing draft directions with those whom we consider it desirable to consult. Such consultations enable the Department to understand the practical difficulties that the industry faces when implementing new security measures, and it also allows the industry to understand why measures are necessary to meet security problems. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to issue directions rather than trying to say what should happen at an individual airport by bringing in a statute law. By their very nature, directions can change to allow for the practical details at individual airports.

The amendment would handicap rather than enhance procedures. It requires the Secretary of State only to seek advice, and there is no requirement to take those views into account, but, what is more important, there is no exemption from statutory consultation when the direction has been issued as a matter of urgency, and that would certainly worry us.

Statutory consultations, as envisaged in the amendment, could result in the Department having to contact as many as 50 aerodrome managers before any directions under the proposed section 13A could be made. It would be unlikely to add anything to the present system of informal consultation. The amendment would require aerodrome managers, who are not so directed under clause 2, to give their views about directions which would require others to have searches carried out. That seems to us to be misconceived, because it does not require the Secretary of State to seek the views of those directly affected, and we have no intention of imposing unnecessary or unworkable security requirements on the industry.

Therefore, I assure the House that, except in cases of extreme emergency, the Department will continue to ensure that there is a dialogue between it and the industry about the long-term objectives and developments on aviation security, and about the details of proposed directions. The Department will, of course, take into account the views of the industry, while at the same time trying to persuade it that the proposed measures are necessary, feasible and reasonable. I ask the House to reject the amendment.

6.30 pm
Mr. Snape

That was a disappointing reply. The Minister has said that consultation takes place between the Department and regional airports; we are merely seeking to formalise that arrangement by asking the Secretary of State to obtain the views of the management at the aeorodrome concerned. Surely that is not too much to ask. I remind the Minister that the Government have forced the establishment of local authority airports as arm's-length companies; should not they acknowledge the financial implications of their security directives, and seek the veiws of managers before introducing them?

I am also disappointed by the Minister's failure to concede that the security measures required at regional airports are expensive, and that they should be related to a perceived threat. In Committee, he said that the perceived threat was greater in some airports than in others. In the absence of a national security levy, many airports are identifying a separate security element in their landing charges, but that does not overcome the fact that the cost of security measures at individual airports is not related to passenger throughput.

It is a pity that the Minister does not agree that airport managers' views should be sought before directions are introduced, but I do not wish to press the amendment to a Division; therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 1, in page 21, line 31, leave out from 'charterer' to 'which' in line 33 and insert 'manager or master of—

  1. (i) a British ship, or
  2. (ii) any other ship'.

No. 2, in page 23, line 15, leave out 'or manager' and insert 'manager or master'.

No. 3, in page 23, line 28, leave out from 'charterer' to 'requiring' in line 29 and insert 'manager or master of—

  1. (a) a British ship, or
  2. (b) any other ship which is in a harbour area'.

No. 4, in page 35, line 42, leave out 'or manager' and insert 'manager or master'.

No. 5, in page 35, line 47, leave out from beginning to 'in' and insert 'and the authorised person certifies'.

No. 6, in page 36, line 1, leave out from beginning to 'deliver' and insert 'Where the authorised person does not himself detain the ship, he shall deliver the certificate to the officer detaining the ship. (2A) On detaining the ship, the authorised person or other officer shall'.—[Mr. Portillo.]

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