§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ [Establishment and purpose of Aviation Security Fund]:
Baroness BURTON of COVENTRY moved Amendment No. 1:
Leave out Clause 1.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in rising to move this Amendment, I thought that it may be for the convenience of the House if I were to suggest that in speaking 1570 to this first Amendment I might also include Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 8. This, I think, would save the time of the House and when we reach the other Amendments they could be dealt with formally. I set down these Amendments to delete Clauses 1 to 4 because I saw no other way. My position—and I think the same applies to both noble Lords who have added their names to these Amendments—is that this levy should be imposed neither upon the civil aviation industry nor upon the air traveller. We believe that the Government should continue to meet the cost which is, after all, incurred by the Crown discharging what is a basic duty under our Constitution of the Crown, as was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in Committee.
§ If the Government are able to suggest any other way by which this might be achieved, I should be relieved because my submission to the House is that the Government are completely wrong on a matter of principle. The House is aware of the issue at stake. Everyone, and certainly every air traveller, would ask for, and expect, the best possible security checks. But similar expectations apply to the community as a whole. They apply to people in Northern Ireland, they apply on our streets, in our trains, on our Underground, in our shops. They apply everywhere in these troubled times.
§ My Lords, to my mind the question is this: Who should pay for this security? I will put the case as succinctly as possible. In view of what transpired on Second Reading and in Committee, I think I can summarise what I have to say in seven points—and I hope that these points will remove most of the contents of the brief of my noble friend the Minister who is to reply.
§ The first one—and I want to be fair on this; I think that the country and both Houses of Parliament have no idea how strongly the civil aviation industry, the airlines and the airport authorities object to what is being done. My noble friend the Minister was fair and, on Second Reading at col. 976 of Hansard for 9th March, he said that this decision was not expected to be popular with the industry. But I think everybody has a right to be heard and to have their case considered.1571
§ The House may not be aware that in January of last year there was a meeting at the Department of Trade called to discuss the proposal that charges should be imposed for security at United Kingdom airports to recover the cost of aviation security. Present were representatives of IATA, British Airways, British Caledonian and all other British airlines. Also attending were representatives of the British Airports Authority, the Aerodrome Owners Association and the Joint Airports Committee of Local Authorities, together with representatives of three trade unions and BALPA. I am informed that the general view of those attending was that, because of the nature of the threat from terrorist activities, which was aimed not at the industry but at Governments in an endeavour to influence their policies, it was on this score alone inequitable to charge the airlines or their passengers in order that the Government might protect themselves.
§ There was solid opposition to the proposals on the part of the airlines present and by the various airport authorities represented and, in particular, by the non-BAA airport authorities. I gather that the chairman of the meeting attempted to sum up by saying that there was a consensus agreement, but that this was strongly opposed, particularly by British Airways who refused to accept that there was any consensus whatsoever. I should like to add here in view of my last remark that my information has not come from British Airways.
§ My Lords, the second point: the remark that we hear so frequently, that 80p is little enough to pay for security. My noble friend Lord Oram said at col. 977 of Hansard on 9th March that 80p per arriving passenger is a small price to pay for protection. I hope very much that my noble friend will not repeat that statement when he comes to reply because price is not what we are discussing and it is not what we have been discussing all along.
The third point: on Second Reading I asked the Minister if it was not true that no EEC country deals with its security in such a way, and if it was not correct that our partners in the Community were somewhat surprised at this proposed action. In replying, the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said that none of our partners in the EEC had introduced an aviation
security levy on these lines. He then went on to say something which I regarded as alarming, and this brings me to my fourth point. My noble friend said at col. 1000 of Hansard:
However, it was put to us by the representatives of the international airlines that other countries might well follow our example, and that possibility was taken into account in reaching the decision.
I am sorry, my Lords, I do not accept that. I think that the Government had made up their mind.
§ What disturbed me was that I had been able to pay a compliment to United Kingdom policies when saying that I believed it to be true that the United Kingdom is widely regarded as one of the few States whose aviation policies are trend-setting. In the past, these policies in the United Kingdom have been largely instrumental in curbing the inclination of some States to impose aviation security charges in breach of their international obligations. Any reversal of United Kingdom policy in this field, such as is now contemplated, is certain to be widely followed. I said that on Second Reading. I regret that that prophesy of mine seems, according to the Minister, likely to be true. Upon reflection, I would hope that the Government and my noble friend would regard any such action as a retrograde step and would not wish to be the trendsetter on such a slippery slope.
§ Point 5: my Lords, we do not tax workers at airports, and many air travellers are workers going about their business every bit as much as anyone else. We do not tax visitors at airports; and I suggest that it is quite abnormal for persons living in or passing through problem points to be subject to a special tax.
§ Point 6: I would ask the Minister, Is it then the intention of the Government to tax sections of the community which may be at risk? If so, are they going to tax all of them or is this to be done on a selective basis?
§ I come now to my seventh, and last, point. I believe it is unanswerable that neither the airlines nor their passengers are responsible for creating the security risk at airports, and that they are merely the victims of terrorist attack. In these circumstances, what special justification exists for discriminating against this particular section of the community and of the 1573 public by requiring them to pay for the protection to which they are entitled and which is provided free of charge to other members of the public?
On Second Reading, at column 986, I quoted from a confidential letter sent to IATA by one of our EEC partners. I wish once more to use a very small section here:
The levying of such a tax is unacceptable: the States have the obligation of ensuring personal security on their territories and more generally of making certain their laws are observed. Their expenses in doing so are properly included in the overall budget of the nation and/or the local communities.
The aim of hijackers and terrorists is to bring pressure on Governments. Surely that is undeniable. Passengers do not create the need for this service. The threat is directed against the community at large and against Governments in general. It is a function of government to provide such protection. It is not something that has to be bought by individuals. I beg the Government, even at this late stage, to look at this dangerous procedure again and, in the light of what has been said, to withdraw the proposed charge on a matter of principle. I beg to move.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, who has put up a formidable case at the Second Reading and Committee stage of this Bill. As she said in her concluding remarks today, the nub of this issue is a straightforward question: is it a sound principle for the Government, having quite rightly laid down the security measures to be followed at United Kingdom airports to prevent hijacking, to impose a levy upon airports and so upon airlines and passengers to meet the costs? To put it more simply: is it right to increase air fares to raise the £19 million which such security costs the Treasury today?
The Minister at earlier stages argued that the owner of the premises, the private property, should be responsible for meeting the costs of any security which is necessary. To use his own quotation, restaurant owners, shops, jewellers and, in reply to a question, banks have to make their own security charges. But, my Lords, in these cases the assaults are made by criminals on the property of individuals or bodies, be they banks or 1574 cafés. In the case covered by these clauses, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, stated so emphatically at an earlier stage, the assault is made by the Queen's enemies on the nation, and it is the nation's responsibility and the Government's responsibility not only to lay down the standards to be followed but to meet the cost.
Incidentally—and I agree, of course, that this is a secondary consideration—the way in which this is to be done leads to inequities. The average has been taken of the cost of security measures at existing airports. They range from less than 30p to over £2. They vary according to the character and surroundings of the airport, and the average of 80p has been reached which, when it gets to the passenger, on existing evidence becomes £1. That may be regarded as an insignificant addition to the air fare. It is certainly an insignificant addition to the air fare from, say, Sydney or Hong Kong, but it is a 10 per cent. addition to the fare from Ostend to Southend. What is more, in this country, owing to the mode of calculation and of application of the charge, if you travel from London to Newcastle or Edinburgh it is an extra pound and if you travel back it is another pound; so that is an addition of £2 to the internal fares. Incidentally, no other member of the European Community adopts such a system. If they did, there would be an addition of £2 to package holidays within the Nine countries.
The noble Lord who replied for the Opposition said that 50 per cent. of those coming to this country are foreigners, and he seemed to think that disposed of the issue. But I hope he will not repeat that point, for this reason: the mode of calculating the charge to be made to passengers, charging them on arrival, is a matter of convenient arrangement, as the noble Lord who spoke for the Government said. Indeed, power is taken to change the arrangement to a charge on the outgoing passenger, if that proves more convenient. My contention is that it is the obligation of the Government not only to control but to pay for the security measures at British Airports, whether they are being used by United Kingdom citizens or by foreigners.
In fact, there is a little arithmetic here: the Treasury have obviously been busy. 1575 They have taken an average of the existing cost at airports, as I said, varying from under 30p to over £2. That comes out at 68p, not 80p. But in order to support the higher figure, the noble Lord who speaks for the Government was good enough to supply a break-down, and it is rather interesting. For good measure, certain other elements are added—not only "security at the point of departure" but "aviation security training". "Protection of air navigation is another item, and "Navigation installation", "Administrative costs", "Contingency for future measures" have been added—and that makes it only 75p. So it is rounded up for convenience to 80p and when it gets to the passenger it has become 100p. It is an odd business, this matter of Departmental arithmetic, to average out and to secure a nice round figure.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? Can he say whether, in the figures that he has given us, he has taken account of the changes that have been agreed and which will form part of the regulations, and in particular that the first 2,000 passengers through any airport will not be charged?
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
My Lords, I did not, of course, work out the figures for myself. I relied on the material circulated last week in a letter that was also received by the noble Lord.
Yes, my Lords; that information was conveyed to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, during the previous debate on the subject.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
No, it was not, my Lords. He declined to read out the letter to the noble Baroness. He circulated it to those who had taken part in the debate. I just want to be accurate on this point. There is another point also here—
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me? He will be aware that my noble friend put down a Question for Written Answer soliciting this information: that was given and is on the record.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
My Lords, quoted accurately from the material that I was supplied to me. If anyone denies 1576 that in fact the average at present is 68p and that with these additions it becomes 75p, and by Departmental arithmetic it becomes 80p, and by the airlines' activities it becomes 100p, then I shall be glad in due course to hear. But there is another point here. It has been announced already on behalf of the internal airlines that as from 1st April fares are to go up—the figure quoted was £3—and it was officially stated that it embodies this element. But this Bill is not yet launched and the regulations have not been produced. It really is an affront to this House for action to be taken and for an official announcement to be made that fares are to embody that element in future before in fact this Bill has received the approval of Parliament.
However, I come back to the basic principle, which is really this: Is this form of terrorism to be a national responsibility, paid for out of the national Exchequer, or is it to find its way in an augmented form as a flat increase in passenger fares, in some cases involving a microscopic percentage and in others an appreciable charge? I submit that, important as other sections of this Bill are, this part of it is wrong in principle. It is not a matter of Party politics: I suggest to your Lordships it is a case for wisdom and not whipping. The basic principle is wrong, and I hope that this House will reject these clauses as involving a principle that is wrong and unfair to the air travelling public.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will, I think, be more than well aware by now of the strong feelings of principle which this proposal arouses in all quarters of this House, and the only reason why I do not seek to take any time of the House to put forward further arguments on this point is that I think he and the House are fully apprised of them.
I would only, on a question of principle, venture to add that the noble Lord made, as he always does, the most gallant efforts last Thursday to argue the unarguable. It is always one of the most agreeable spectacles of this House to watch him doing so, and he tried to cite examples and precedents for this proposal. But, with respect, there are no exact precedents. 1577 I think the noble Lord himself accepts that internal protection by traders in this country against ordinary crime, over and above that which is provided by the Crown, constitutes no precedent.
On the other hand, no one, apparently, so far has suggested—and I hope that the Government will not—that, when our fisheries are menaced by attacks by foreign naval ships or others, they should have to pay for the protection of the Royal Navy. No one has suggested that the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, being subjected to constant onslaught by the Queen's enemies, should pay extra for that. Indeed, as we know, the boot is on the other foot and the British taxpayer has put forward very substantial subventions indeed to sustain the Northern Ireland economy and the Northern Ireland taxpayer in the grim situation which they are facing. While the noble Lord can, at least, claim to be an innovator, what I am suggesting to him is that this is a bad and a dangerous innovation.
I shall not weary the noble Lord by repeating the earlier argument, but he will recall that protection of the subject against the Queen's enemies was the reason for which society and the State came into existence. It was because the Crown promised protection that the Crown received allegiance. I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that some of us, who feel that there is quite a considerable principle here involved, are very disturbed indeed at the suggestion that that principle should be eroded, and that the Crown should sell its protection to those of its citizens who are endangered by foreign enemies.
As the noble Lord knows, most of those involved in the industry hate this proposal. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton—I must not call him my noble friend, but since he was a friend of mine for so long, when we were colleagues in Government together, I am tempted to do so—drew attention to the calculations which the Association of British Chambers of Commerce have made and circulated to noble Lords. I do not, myself, attach great importance to those, save that they demonstrate the muddle which the Government get themselves into once they depart from the clear-cut grounds of principle that the Crown should not sell its protection. In fact, it looks as 1578 if the Government have made every effort to load every possible cost on to the costs of security.
I shall be interested to know whether the noble Lord challenges the statement made by the British Association of Chambers of Commerce, which is a responsible body with considerable resources, that only 68 per cent. of the amount obtained by the levy would be required to pay for security. The rest would be the Government's collection charges, an additional payment to the Government for some unascertainable reason and very generous costs of collection for the airlines. But it illustrates—and this is the only reason why I quote it—the muddle into which the Government get themselves.
Similarly there is the question, which the noble Lord answered, put by his noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry. I cannot say that the noble Lord answered it willingly. He was subjected to those pressures by the noble Baroness of which, having been once myself on the receiving end, I have a very fine appreciation. It was only in response to those powerful pressures that the noble Lord, to that extent—if he will pardon the colloquialism—came clean on this.
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He will, I am sure, if he wishes to be fair, agree that I showed instant and full willingness to supply the information for which my noble friend asked. It was only the length and complicated nature of it that made me suggest that it could best be put on the record by another means. It would have taken a full 20 minutes to spell that out, and that would have been, I suggest, showing disrespect to your Lordships' House.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, I can only say that it took about a full 20 minutes for the noble Baroness to extract the promise from the noble Lord, so that we are about 50/50 on that. I am not expressing any ingratitude to the noble Lord, because the answer is very revealing. I do not know whether noble Lords have looked at this. This is a Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and answered at column 1468 of the Official Report for 15th March. The items are really surprising. There is 1579 £3½ million for the police. Perhaps the noble Lord would tell us whether, in the present undermanned state of the police force, those police would be disbanded if hijacking were to stop, which, hopefully, one day it will. If not, it would appear that this is quite an entertaining attempt to put £3½ million of the necessary costs of the police on to the airline traveller. There is £500,000 for contingencies, which is a comfortable margin, even for a Government, to seek.
Here, again, we have a very clear confirmation of what I ventured, perhaps rather uncharitably, to suggest last Thursday; that is, that basically this is an exercise in order to enable the Department of Trade to satisfy the Treasury that they are reducing their estimates, without actually reducing their expenditure. These figures—for which I give the noble Lord credit, because he produced them: and I beg noble Lords to look at them—are an indication that everything possible, and perhaps some things that are not possible, have been loaded on to this, which sustains my suggestion as to the real purpose behind this proposal.
There are only two other points on which I wish to detain your Lordships, but they are both important. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred to the argument, which I believe was originally put from the Opposition Front Bench, though with becoming half-heartedness, that this was quite a good thing, because a good deal of it fell on foreigners. Not all that much will fall on foreigners. Because of the system, which the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, explained, 45 per cent. falls on domestic flights, which are mainly used by our fellow countrymen and half, if not more, as a rough average, of the remaining 55 per cent. are probably British subjects on British airlines.
But that is not the point. The point is that if this system is started, it is inconceivable that foreign countries will allow us to pay for some of our security at the cost of their nationals, without retaliating in kind; and, indeed, there is every indication—and I challenge the noble Lord, Lord Oram, to deny this—that if this goes into law some, at any rate, of our colleagues in the European Economic Community will do the same. That will, of course, entirely destroy the argument 1580 that foreigners are paying. What is more, it is an area of imposition where we in this country are particularly vulnerable, because of the large proportion of our aviation which goes abroad. One of the objections to our adopting these proposals is the near certainty that other countries will follow suit, and British aviation in particular, and international aviation in general, will be loaded with these further charges.
Given all those objections, it is necessary for a moment to look at this proposal in proportion. Is it really necessary? We are talking of £20 million a year, give or take a few pounds. That is about one-hundredth of the amount which, according to the public prints, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is considering remitting in his Budget next month. It is one two-hundredth of the amount which he has been asked by the TUC to remit. It is, on any calculation of a contemporary British Budget, within the margin of error. No Chancellor of the Exchequer would pretend that he could forecast revenue precisely within a limit of £20 million. It is simply a marginal figure. Given that the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I make no complaint about it—is contemplating, on any view, very substantial remissions of taxation, does it really make sense first to violate an important principle, which once violated will almost certainly be further extended? Does it make sense to risk repercussions on British aviation? Does it make sense to impose specific—and in the case of local flights—quite severe burdens on a limited number of people for a sum of money about which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not lose five seconds' sleep, which he would not even reckon he could calculate precisely in his forthcoming Budget? Surely the good sense is to drop it.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, because I travel a great deal this is a matter in which I take a particular interest. I must say that my noble friend has made a very strong case in principle for the deletion of the clause from the Bill. My noble friend thought that if the Bill was to go forward as it now is it could be a trend setter for other countries. I say to my noble friend that in one respect I hope it is a trend setter. If other countries would spend as much as we do and provide the 1581 same efficient form of control in surveillance at airports, many of us who fly would do so with a greater sense of ease and comfort than we now do.
When I have travelled and seen some of the forms of control—I will not mention the airports—sometimes I have felt like getting off the aircraft and trying to fly with another airline that demands proper surveillance. It is a question of money. I have no doubt at all that for many years, until human nature has changed itself, the sort of surveillance we see at the airports will have to continue. It may well be that we shall have to spend more money, perhaps a greater percentage than we now do, in order to have more sophisticated forms of control. The potential hijacker is learning all the time ways and means by which he or she can get round the various controls. Naturally I should like to see air fares come down; nothing has given me greater satisfaction in recent months than to see certain trends—though I can say they are only trends—in those flights where there is very great competition. I would wish to see the Singapore and Hong Kong air fares come down at the same rate as they have come down on the routes between London and New York. I have no doubt at all that very large sums of money will have to be spent at United Kingdom airports if we are to maintain our present standards. Flow is the money to be raised?
I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, spoke so lightly of a sum of £20 million. When I was in Government I could think of quite a number of causes, which even the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, would happily have put his name to, requiring expenditure of £20 million. In a period of stringency £20 million is quite a considerable sum of money. I must recognise—and I hope the House will recognise—that air passengers, in percentage terms of the general population are still a relatively small number. They enjoy considerable privileges by flying. Much of our aircraft has been subsidised in one way or another by the taxpayer.
I wonder therefore whether the principle to which noble Lords, and my noble friend in particular, attach so much importance is one which we could support, or whether we should not look at the situation logically and say that £20 million 1582 is a lot of money. With the passing of time it may well need to become more, and the special services that are required because of the nature of flying which makes aeroplanes so vulnerable should be a cost and a charge upon the passenger. I accept that if one is flying internally on a day flight between London and Glasgow and Glasgow to London the cost is something of an anomaly. I do not know whether that is something that can be looked at. I believe that if we take air flights in general this is a fair charge upon the passenger and a charge that a passenger will not object to when he knows that as a consequence he is receiving proper security at the airport.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene before he sits down? How does the noble Lord reconcile this imposition on the air traveller with the fact—I believe it is a fact—that the services of the Royal Navy in a very similar situation are given free to our fishing industry?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I suggest to the noble Lord that it is quite different. The Navy are providing a service which they have always provided—
§ Lord SHEPHERD
—for the protection of the waters and the free movement of ships, the service available to others; but this is a special service, in terms of the general public, of a limited number of people. It is not a very heavy charge, but I think it is a charge which it is right should be borne by the passenger.
§ Earl AMHERST
My Lords, I give way to no one in my admiration of the indefatigable perseverance of the noble Baroness in pursuing any matter that she pleases—a perseverance that amounts to dedication—but I must admit this afternoon that her perseverance does not persuade me to change my mind. I shall not weary your Lordships with the arguments that I raised at the Second Reading of this Bill in favour of putting the cost of airline security on the industry, so that it will trickle down in one way or another to the passenger, rather than lumping it upon the general taxpayer, so many of 1583 whom never fly at all. Sufficient to say that if the noble Baroness is determined to press her Amendment to a Division she will not have support from these Benches.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships' House for more than a few moments. I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that £20 million is not an insignificant amount. We move in astronomical regions these days, but, in the general context, I certainly do not think that £20 million is negligible. What moves me to rise in my place on this occasion is that what is at stake is not the source of £20 million—whether it should come from the general taxpayer or whether it should come from the consumer of a particular kind of service—but rather the principle which is involved. Personally and professionally, I am in favour of charging to the consumers of goods or services the costs, direct or indirect, to which those goods or services give rise. I should certainly be wholeheartedly in favour of charging the consumers of products whose production inevitably causes pollution the costs of the pollution involved, but I suggest that these things are not at all in pari materia.
Airlines—in whose defence I find myself directly speaking perhaps for the first time in my life, because I am not entirely favourably impressed by the services which are provided at Heathrow for instance, which I use not infrequently—do not give rise to offences against the general security of the public. The object of the terrorist is not the discomfort of consumers or the profits of the airline. His object is to coerce the Government into making certain concessions. Whether it costs £20 million or £40 million, it seems to me that it is a matter of principle that the Government should, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has reminded the House on more than one occasion, pursue the object for which Government exist; namely, the maintenance of general security, and should foot the bill rather than shift it on to a particular group in the community.
I will add only that if the contrary principle be adopted, and an attempt be made by Government to charge different groups of consumers and producers with 1584 the costs of general policing according to the risks to which these services are particularly liable, they will find themselves in a very controversial muddle. Surely in this case we should stick to the plain and elementary rule that the maintenance of general security is a function of Government and should be paid for by Government and not surreptitiously shifted on to the expense accounts of particular bodies of producers.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, does the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, wish to speak? It is usual for Front-Benchers not to shut out Back-Benchers.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for giving way; if he wishes to speak now, he is very welcome to do so.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, I certainly do want to speak now. It is usual for Front-Benchers to allow Back-Benchers a short period of time in which to speak. Perhaps the noble Lord will learn later. I have listened at every stage of this Bill to the arguments put forward so eloquently on every occasion by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, reinforced as she is today most powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I have listened also to the very powerful and convincing arguments for their case which have been put forward by the Government.
A balance of considerations is involved, and I do not honestly know on which side I come down. I am reminded of a very old music hall song of years ago when the girl in question sang:You lift me up and you knock me down And I don't know where I am.I feel rather like that. Nevertheless, I believe that it would be entirely wrong, upon different grounds about which I shall speak in one moment, for the noble Baroness to divide the House. I believe also that it would be entirely wrong for the House to support the noble Baroness and her Amendment. All noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the Amendment have admitted that it deals with principle. Not to put too fine a point 1585 upon it, it is a wrecking Amendment. If this Amendment and the other Amendments are carried, the Bill is worth nothing.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would allow me to say a word? The Bill contains a number of most important additional provisions—for example, in respect of the borrowing powers of British Airways, the British Airports Authority and the CAA. The Bill contains many valuable provisions and I hope that it will pass into law.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
Yes, my Lords, but the main part of the Bill—this levy—will be killed, and that is one of the Second Reading principles of the Bill. The Bill had its Second Reading in another place and then went through all its stages. Constitutionally, this House does not, as a rule, vote against the Second Reading principles of a Bill which has been brought from another place. I submit with all humility to your Lordships that it is a very dangerous precedent for us virtually to kill this Bill in the Lobbies. I sincerely hope that the noble Baroness will think better of dividing the House. If she does divide the House, I hope that every noble Lord will realise that we shall be killing the main parts of a Government Bill which have been passed by another place. I admit, of course, that certain parts of the Bill will continue. However, the main part, the levy, will be killed, and it is not constitutionally right that we should so do.
§ Lord GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, if I may detain your Lordships for just a very short while, I happened to be in charge of civil aviation at the time of the hijacking of those aircraft to Daltonsfield and of the infamous Leila Kahled. It was from that moment on that the Government realised the amount of extra money, time and effort which would be needed to develop the best available security service in order to help civil aviation to carry on its business in the normal way.
I could not help smiling gently to myself, bearing in mind our past position, when I listened to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter who, in the days when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was certainly as avid in promoting what he 1586 thought was right as he was in getting his pound of flesh from everybody whom he thought could reasonably provide it. My noble friend was not Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the time of which I am speaking. However, at that time the Treasury began making noises to the Board of Trade, to the effect that if it were necessary to support the security system which was gradually becoming more and more obviously needed, perhaps somebody else ought to pay for it.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, in view of my noble friend's very kind personal reference to me and his confirmation that I was not at the Treasury at the time that these conversations took place, perhaps he would allow me to tell him that when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury I should have regarded myself as wholly incompetent if I had allowed a fiddle of this kind by which a Department reduced its Estimates without reducing its expenditure.
§ Lord GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend has, I have no doubt, established in your Lordships' eyes the high reputation which I always had for him when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and my noble friend who have spoken about this matter are right on one essential point: that this is not a cost which ought to be borne by the airlines or the passengers concerned. There is no question about it whatsoever. It may be that we have prisoners on our hands who have created trouble in some way or another, perhaps for political or other reasons, and these hijackings take place in order to force the Government's hand. This problem has nothing whatever to do with whether or not any of your Lordships or I want to fly to Majorca, Glasgow or anywhere else. It is simply and solely, because flying happens to be of the nature that it is, a very easy way, particularly from some airports, for hijackers to get on to the aircraft concerned and create the sort of problems they do. It is in no way comparable to other industries having to pay for their own security where they have jewellery or pictures or something of high quality to protect. If the noble Baroness wishes to divide the House I, unlike my noble friend Lord Balfour, will have no hesitation whatever in coming with her.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, I have listened with careful attention, meticulous attention, to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and I am inclined to follow him. It is very difficult to form judgment or to reach a reasonable point of view as a starting point. But then he proceeded to search around for a strong argument to support his contention, if one can regard it as a contention, not being able to form a judgment. He managed to get an argument. It was remarkable, and it causes some confusion in my mind. He asked how we can vote against something when the other place gave the Bill Third Reading. But then the other place is in a rather peculiar situation in this context, because its Members receive free warrants when they travel by air and they do not have to pay anything extra. So I think we ought to exclude the reference to the decision of the other place, for, after all, it is not very impartial in the matter.
In fact, I would interpret Lord Balfour's situation as similar to an observation by the mayor of a particular local authority who was anxious to ingratiate himself with his constituents; when he was appointed he said his intention was to be neither partial nor impartial. I think that is the best conclusion we can reach.
One idea occurs to me: that we are threatened not only by potential hijackers but by muggers. You walk along the street, you go to Picadilly Circus—you can go, but I do not go—and what happens? You may be attacked by a mugger. Are we to be asked to pay a special sum as protection against mugging? It is precisely the same principle. I am bound to say that, much as I dislike voting against the Government, particularly when we are approaching a General Election, nevertheless I do agree with those who say that the principle that the Government must be held responsible for the protection of the community is one which it is difficult to argue against. Either the Government must be held responsible or must be held irresponsible. I prefer to regard the Government as responsible. I am bound to say that if the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, decides to divide the House, I shall find myself on her side.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, this is one of the rare occasions 1588 when I find myself at odds with my noble friend Lord Balfour; it is on the particular point he made about what is the convention or constitution as to how this House should operate. I think he used the word "constitution". He said that, because the Bill had had a Second Reading in another place and here, we ought not to attempt to amend it on Committee or Report stage. I do not think that can possibly be the case. I am very confused because I remember that, as recently as last week, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, wanted to deal with what he thought was a matter of high principle on Second Reading, we were told in no uncertain terms from both Front Benches and from all sides of the House that the convention was that we gave the Bill a Second Reading and then dealt with it in Committee.
Here is an ideal case, I should have thought, where the second convention—the one I always thought was the accepted one—would work. The Bill was given a Second Reading and now at Report stage there is a chance, without dealing with the overriding principle affecting all the items in the Bill, to amend one part of it which argument has shown justifies change. While on so many occasions I find my noble friend's judgment very sound indeed, on this occasion I think it would undermine the ability of this House to be of any use at all in helping to frame the legislation of this country.
§ Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE
My Lords, I did not intend to supplement anything that my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas, who knows about civil aviation, has said, but really air travel is the biggest nuisance we have had in history to hundreds and thousands and millions of people who do not use it. Hundreds of thousands of people live beside aerodromes and they are constantly awakened late at night by aircraft flying in and flying out. Aircraft are used by a minority of people. The Government come and offer them a subsidy to insulate their houses against noise, so that if they are inside they do not hear it; but if they happen to be outside there is nothing they can do unless the Government supply them with earplugs.
I travel by air a great deal. The Government pay for my travel up and down 1589 from Scotland to this House, but I pay for a lot myself. I think it is only reasonable that we should pay because the nature of the beast lays it open to terrorism. If you take motoring, it is exactly the same; it injures enormous numbers of the citizens of this country who never get in a motor-car. The Government do not pay; they force every motorist to pay for third party insurance. That is what the Government do to protect the lieges against a danger that has arisen because of modern technology. It is exactly the same with air travel, and I am perfectly certain the passengers should pay.
The Earl of SELKIRK
My Lords, the principle of this has been fairly well established today, and the question, to my mind, is whether the Government have overcome this principle; whether they have put arguments which deal with it. They started the argument with things like football grounds and dockyards, which, to my mind, have no conceivable relationship with the sort of problem we are dealing with. They do not contain the element of blackmail of Governments. Indeed, the most dangerous place to be today is in a motor-car. In Cologne a senior industrialist was murdered; in Paris one of the senior industrialists is still held by hijackers; in Rome an ex-Prime Minister is held today by terrorists of some kind. There were also the recent events in a motor-car in Israel. Very soon you could extend this to some sort of extra insurance for motor-cars.
To my mind, this is no serious attempt to overcome this problem. The significant statement is the one made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade during the Second Reading in the other place:I would never pretend that these things would not have arisen had we not been obliged to make financial savings".—[Official Report: Commons, 16/1/78; col. 162.]In fact, are there any savings at all? It is pure cosmetics. The savings may be in the Government Budget; they may be referred to as such, but they are not real savings at all so far as this country is concerned. I hope the Government will look at this issue very carefully indeed. I think we feel that this is a dangerous way to start—and I think particularly of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord 1590 Shepherd. The sum is going to increase enormously. Is it wise to pass this on to the airlines?—because, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, everybody in this country benefits from the very considerable invisible earnings of our aviation industry. I shall certainly support the Amendment.
§ Lord THOMAS
My Lords, I must declare an interest as I have been an executive of airlines for many years past, and I am currently. I support the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, which was so ably put forward by herself, the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and my old Minister and noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. The Bill as it stands is discriminatory, unfair, wholly objectionable to the airlines and particularly badly balanced as between the long-range and short-range passenger.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, if there are any other noble Lords who wish to intervene they are more than welcome to do so. I feel a bit like Daniel in the lions' den. I am a junior Member of this Front Bench facing the onslaught of not only the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and a distinguished Member of the Cross-Benches, but so many ex-Cabinet Members and Members of the Privy Council who choose to sit on this side of the House. However, I shall do my best. I shall do my best because, despite their eminence, I happen to disagree with them.
The Civil Aviation Bill 1971 provided in principle for the industry to stand on its own two feet. The proposal under consideration is, in some respects, I believe, a continuation of that wholly desirable policy. It must be said that if the airlines are not called upon to pay for these charges someone else will have to do so. There are arguments which I acknowledge and to which I have listened, as to who else ought to pay. However, the fact is that if the airlines are not called upon to pay, as proposed under the Bill, then the Government will have to pay. They are, of course, already paying to some extent, but if the facilities are required to be improved or increased then, of course, Government expenditure in this regard will also have to be increased.
1591 It has been consistently argued from the Opposition both in your Lordships' House and in the other place, that every possible means ought to be taken to contain and control public expenditure. The proposal is, I believe, a step, in that respect at least, in the right direction. I accept that, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said, this is simply some form of disguised taxation. But it is, I believe, a form of indirect taxation which is better than direct taxation, and to that extent at least it would have my support.
The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and, I believe, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, disputed the assertion which I made at a previous stage that this charge would largely or to some extent at least, fall upon foreign nationals who cannot necessarily claim the protection of British police services. I find it difficult to accept what they say in that respect. I am persuaded that foreigners who choose to use our facilities, especially those who are only in transit through United Kingdom airports—and there are a very great number of those travelling through Heathrow—ought not necessarily to be entitled to expect these facilities especially since they must be applied particularly to flights coming from or going to very sensitive points: they ought not necessarily to expect that these facilities are provided gratis or for nothing.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, raised a very interesting point which I should like to emphasise; namely, the question of retaliation. The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, quoted the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and said that it could be expected that European countries, and indeed others, may well introduce similar measures if this measure becomes law. However, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, reminded your Lordships that at very many airports in Europe the facilities are minimal or non-existent. If one result of this Bill is to persuade these inadequate Governments to provide better facilities, even if they have to charge for them, I should think that that was a wholly admirable and desirable thing.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, will my noble friend permit me to return to my argument? How can my noble 1592 friend ensure that, if overseas administrations in areas which he says are lax impose a charge of this kind, they will use it for the application of effective protection?
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I confess that I cannot direct any particular Government to spend their funds in a particular way, but it must be said that those Governments that do not provide very good facilities at present always claim that it is the cost that is holding them back. If they were given a facility for making a charge, then hopefully they can be expected to improve the facilities. There are, after all, pressures available to be applied to these people, other than debates in your Lordships' House, which may have beneficial and desirable effects.
§ Baroness BURTON of COVENTRY
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, from where he quotes when he says that there are other airports in other countries where they say that they cannot install security because of cost. I have not read that and I should be glad if he could give your Lordships a list.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Baroness on that point, because by saying where the Governments have denied or refused to install these facilities because of cost, in the same breath I say where the facilities are bad, and it would be wrong for me to say such a thing in your Lordships' House.
Much has been made this afternoon of principles. Nobody holds dearer the principles espoused than I do. However, I should like to offer your Lordships some other principles which I think are equally valid in this context. For example, the railways provide their own police service, which they pay for themselves and the cost of which is part of the fare which we all pay to travel on the railways. Mention has been made of football matches. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, mentioned football matches in a previous debate. The cost of additional police services as regards football crowd control falls upon the clubs. Jewellers who are in a particularly risky situation have to pay themselves for the cost of Securicor or other security organisations.
1593 Airlines are now asked to bear additional security costs and the noble Baroness and others complain that that should be so. Airlines are also required to train their crews properly, and nobody suggests that they should not have to pay for that. Airlines are also required to maintain their aircraft properly, and nobody objects that they should pay for that. However, when they are required to police the passengers going on and off the aircraft and to pay for it then, for some reason, we now all complain.
§ Lord GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, my noble friend is really totally ignoring the whole point of the argument. Whether it is the football crowd, the jeweller or anybody else, they are protecting their own interests. The aircraft industry is being asked to pay for this to protect the Government's policy in a whole range of different things. It is a totally and absolutely different point.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to his view and I believe that I am entitled to mine, and mine is different from his. One final analogy that I should like to suggest really takes up the point that several noble Lords have made, that this is in some way different because airlines are being compelled to adopt these standards of security. However, that is a principle that has long since been breached. On this matter I would yield only to my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who, for example, has consistently opposed in your Lordships' House the suggestion that seat belts ought to be made compulsory. However, unhappily, crash helmets, for example, have long been compulsory for motorcycle riders and nobody suggests that motorcycles riders should not pay for their own crash helmets; but they do.
I now have to consider what advice I should give to noble friends sitting behind me who have yet to make up their minds on this matter. This is not a matter on which we would seek to whip; it is a matter on which they have to make up their own minds; but I see no reason to oppose the Government.
§ 4.10 p.m.
My Lords, this debate has, indeed, given us yet another opportunity—and there have been many—to go 1594 over the arguments concerning the major purpose of the Bill. Whether or not we accept the arguments of my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry, I think we would all agree that she admirably summarised the case in favour of her Amendments without any waste of words. We have had other summaries of the cases that have been deployed on earlier occasions, although I can not always say that there has been no waste of words.
Essentially, we are dealing with Clauses 1 to 4, which are all based on the principle of transferring the burden of aviation security costs from the general taxpayer to the industry. When this Bill was debated in another place this principle was not called in question by the Opposition. Although it has been questioned in your Lordships' House today and previously, I acknowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on behalf of the official Opposition in this House has reiterated the support for the principle which was given to it by his colleagues in another place, and I appreciate the spirited way in which he put forward his arguments.
It would be idle to attempt to deny that there are important arguments in favour of the costs of aviation security being paid for by the Government—that is, ultimately by the taxpayer. No one can have listened to, or have read, our debates at earlier stages of our consideration of the Bill without recognising that this is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said, a clean-cut, one-sided issue, and I do not attempt to pretend that it is. There are arguments on both sides and it is a matter of judgment where the balance lies. Indeed, I would suggest that that is acknowledged by the very fact that hitherto it has been the Government's policy to pay for the special measures required to meet the threat of international terrorism. Incidentally, one of the advantages of that policy is that if the Government pay for the measures, that makes them easier to enforce.
However, I must point out once again that although it is a fact that hitherto the Government have paid for these special measures, that has been the exception rather than the rule in matters of security. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has given parallels which are now familiar to us in our discussions and which were deployed extensively in the debates in 1595 another place. Railways, restaurants, football grounds and other property owners pay for the protection of their property and of the people who use its facilities. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said when he said that in this matter there are no exact precedents, and I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, on an earlier occasion pointed out that these things shade from one situation into another.
But in reaching our judgment we must weigh up even more generally comparable situations in other areas. Although in some of these cases of course the problem is not nearly so severe as it is in the case of the hijacked aircraft, I believe that they contain principles which help us in reaching a judgment on the particular matter that we are considering this afternoon. I would remind noble Lords that in earlier situations airports and airlines have also paid for their security and policing. Before 1974 the British Airports Authority Constabulary and the Manchester and Birmingham Airport Police were wholly paid for by the airport authorities. Until now the Exchequer has paid only for the additional costs attributable to the special measures required to meet the threat of international terrorism. The Bill proposes that in future the fund—that is, the industry—will pay for these additional costs instead. Putting the cost on the industry is, in fact, reverting to the norm. I believe that we must recognise—it is a most unfortunate fact of life, but it must be recognised—that hijacking must now be regarded as a crime to which aviation is likely to be habitually subject.
A number of noble Lords—notably the noble Lords Lord Hill of Luton and Lord Boyd-Carpenter—have referred to the information which has now been published about the costs and have made their analyses. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, directed one particular point to me when he quoted the estimate of the chambers of commerce that only 68 per cent. of the sum to be raised will be spent on security. I must tell him that that is not true. In fact, 78.3p of the 80p is the present estimate for next year.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, when the noble Lord says 80p, surely what the passenger will pay is £1?
My Lords, not necessarily. It is entirely a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority to decide how the 80p is passed on. The Government and this Bill do not in any way make it into £1. The Bill provides for and the regulations will provide for, an 80p levy.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, when the noble Lord speaks of the Civil Aviation Authority does he not in fact mean the British Airports Authority?
My Lords, those that determine fares. The point is that under the regulations and the announcement that we have made the levy that will be charged under the authority of this Bill is 80p. Of that, 78.3p is the estimate for next year. Moreover, if this is exceeded, the deficit will be carried forward; if it has been over-estimated, it will be corrected in subsequent years. It is not for me to comment on what, as I have said, is eventually passed on by way of fares. I am dealing with the powers that we are asked to legislate for in the Bill. Other authorities will exercise their powers with their own judgment.
Of course, it is no surprise that the industry has not welcomed the proposed levy. It was pointed out by my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry on Second Reading—and she has done so again today—that various sections of the industry have indicated their opposition to it. But that should come as no surprise The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I agreed at the Committee stage that the Bill does not reduce expenditure. We are not arguing on that. It imposes a charge—let us make no mistake about that—or call it a levy, or a tax, or what you will. Any tax or levy is bound to be unpopular with those who have to pay it, although I must say that, so far as one can judge from Press comment at the time that the levy was announced, the general public reaction was not unfavourable. I believe that there are many who would wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend Lord Shepherd when he says that air passengers want to be sure of security 1597 measures, and that they believe that it is worth paying a levy to achieve that.
As I have said, this is a matter of judgment, and I do not expect to be able this afternoon to convince those who have already made up their minds and have taken a contrary view. But I have felt it necessary to repeat the arguments which have been deployed a number of times before and which, in another place, were categorically accepted on behalf of the Opposition by Mr. Norman Tebbit, as they have been here by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.
There is one other aspect of this matter. It is new. I have not introduced it before, but I think it is important that I should put it before your Lordships. If these Amendments are carried, and if these four clauses should be omitted from the Bill, it would not necessarily have what I presume to be the desired effect of making the Chancellor of the Exchequer find another £19 million in his Budget and of making the general taxpayer pay. After the Government's decision of principle had been notified to the industry—and that was at Christmas 1976—the Department of Trade held consultations with the industry to determine the best method of administration.
For example, one idea which has been touched in on our debates and which was put forward was to put a levy on each passenger which he would have to pay in cash as he checked in for departure. That proposal was quickly rejected in the discussions. But another method based on existing powers in existing legislation was much more attractive; it is what we have come to call non - reimbursement. Section 23 of the Protection of Aircraft Act 1973 says that the Secretary of State may reimburse aviation security costs. Equally he may not. He could simply announce that he would cease to reimburse costs incurred after a certain date.
This course had two strong attractions: it would not require any legislation such as we have been discussing in this Bill, and it would save the administration from having to collect a lot of money and pay it out again mainly to the same people who had paid it in. Views in the industry on this question were divided, but there was a substantial body of opinion in favour of non-reimbursement. There were two main reasons why the Government eventually decided to reject that course, and 1598 those arguments were based on equity and security.
The costs of security measures at each airport vary widely one from the other. This is not, in the main, because one airport is more efficient than another but because of circumstances outside their control, such as the design of the airport, the proportion of high risk flights, the amount and pattern of traffic and the level of threat. The degree of security provided for air passengers is uniform throughout the country, though the measures may vary. For example, the cost of security at Luton airport, which we have quoted before, is a little over 30p per passenger, whereas at Liverpool it is as much as £2. Naturally Luton airport would prefer the non-reimbursement system, which we did closely consider, but if we were to adopt it I do not think it would be long before my right honourable friend would be receiving a deputation from Liverpool airport stressing the difficulties they would have in finding the money to finance their security measures. We think—and this was the conclusion that we reached when deciding to introduce this Bill—that spreading the load is the fairer system.
However, the security point is perhaps more important. The Protection of Aircraft Act gives power to the Secretary of State to make directions about the security measures which must be taken. But, in a typically British way, we have hardly ever had to use these directions. The security advisers of the Department of Trade visit airports and recommend the measures which should be taken. Their advice is always accepted because they virtually have a cheque book in their pockets. The measures which they advise will be paid for, and naturally this makes for a very happy relationship.
If, on the other hand, the costs were to be borne by those who incurred them in the first place, we should have to increase the staff to make much more regular inspections; we should have to make many more directions; and sometimes there would have to be prosecutions. I am not saying that this is an impossible system. Indeed, this is largely what happens in the United States where all measures are laid down legally and the costs fall on the airlines, or the airports. But we think that the system provided for under this Bill, which admittedly has no precise precedent, is much preferable.
1599 No one in another place or here has at any stage questioned the unhappy necessity for taking these security measures. These four clauses, which have been approved by all Parties in the House of Commons, essentially provide for the method of financing these measures.
Baroness WARD of NORTH TYNESIDE: My Lords, will the noble Lord give me one moment? Does he not think that, if the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, had been in the Commons instead of having been translated to the Lords, something might have been brought up and that that would have been to the benefit of the Amendments that we are arguing today?
My Lords, if the noble Baroness is suggesting that the ranks of the Opposition in another place have deteriorated in recent years, I should feel inclined to agree with her. I want to conclude by urging the whole House to think very considerably about what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said on the constitutional point. He speaks with considerable experience and authority in this matter. If I may say so to my noble friend Lord Shinwell, he gave an entertaining comment on Lord Balfour's speech but it was scarcely at the same level of statsmanship as that from the noble Lord opposite.
I would urge your Lordships to think seriously on this matter before making any such fundamental change in this Bill as to leave out these four clauses. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that there are other important parts of the Bill; but these four clauses are the hub of a very major part of the Bill and therefore to reject them would be tantamount to emasculating the Bill.
If your Lordships follow the course, which I hope you will not, of following my noble friend into the Division Lobby if she divides the House, then I feel sure that the Government will of course have to give great consideration to the situation and I have little doubt that my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in another place will advise the House of Commons to disagree with your Lordships' House in these Amendments.
I believe that this House should get into that kind of conflict with another 1600 place only on matters of very great moment and very high principle indeed; and, frankly, although this is an important Bill, it is not of that measure. Therefore, I very much hope that noble Lords have a due consideration for the rightful place of this House in the Constitution of this country will make sure that that situation does not arise and that your Lordships will vote decisively against the Amendment.
§ Lord O'NEILL of the MAINE
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the reason why I and many of my noble friends, in the past, have had the honour of supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, is because she speaks for the consumer? Surely one of the raisons d'être of your Lordships' House—which, incidentally, the Party opposite wishes to abolish—is that we should speak for the consumer with an independent mind. That is why, if the noble Baroness divides the House, I shall, as I have so often done in the past, have the greatest pleasure in supporting her.
§ Baroness BURTON of COVENTRY
My Lords, we have had an excellent debate and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part, whatever their views. I shall not detain the House for many seconds. At the outset I wish to take up the point made by my noble friend Lord Oram and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. When Lord Oram says that, if we pass these Amendments, the other place might send back a Reasoned Amendment, I accept that, and of course that is the process We opened business this afternoon by agreeing to a Commons Amendment; there is no question of getting into conflict with another place. I submit that, if this House is to have any standing whatever, it must be able to suggest Amendments to Bills which come to us from another place; anything else would not be tenable.
Probably I am biased, but in my view the Government have made a very bad case on this issue I noticed that Lord Oram got back to the 80p per passenger point by invoking my noble friend Lord Shepherd through another door; but we are not discussing price. I was sorry to hear Lord Shepherd say it was a matter of money; I went out of my way at the very beginning to say it was not a matter of 1601 money. If I remember correctly, when he was asked about naval protection being given to fishery vessels free of charge, I think Lord Shepherd said, in effect, "That has always been the case". Equally, it has always been the case for the unfortunate people living in Northern Ireland that we all pay out of general taxation for protecting them, and I should have thought that the two were on the same level.
I really do not think—and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, thinks this, either—that whether or not this levy is approved will make any difference to the noise, so I pass on from that to the point at issue between us, which is whether or not the Government of the day are responsible for the protection of their citizens against the Queen's enemies. I do not think that a football match or the trains or the
§ Underground represent an external threat from the Queen's enemies. Lord Oram tried very hard to explain the point and he told us how the Exchequer had paid for additional measures since 1974, and I am merely suggesting that they should continue to do so. I believe very much that, whatever the result of the Division, it is the duty of Government to protect their citizens from external terrorist threat, and I therefore hope very much that your Lordships will follow me into the Division Lobby.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 77.1603
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Fortescue, E.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Adeane, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Gainford, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Alport, L.||Gisborough, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Greenway, L.||Robbins, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Henley, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Hill of Luton, L. [Teller.]||St. Helens, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Hood, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Brockway, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Burton of Coventry, B. [Teller.]||Hylton-Foster, B.||Shinwell, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Ilchester, E.||Sligo, M.|
|Chelmsford, Bp.||Inglewood, L.||Somers, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kinloss, Ly.||Spens, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Lauderdale, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Loudoun, C.||Thomas, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lyell, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|De Freyne, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Dundee, E.||Mancroft, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Merrivale, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Effingham, E.||Mersey, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Monk Bretton, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Monson, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Mottistone, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Colville of Culross, V.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.|
|Alexander of Potterhill, L.||Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Grey, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Hale, L.|
|Amory, V.||Crook, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Amulree, L.||Davies of Penrhys, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Denham, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Henderson, L.|
|Banks, L.||Dowding, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Eccles, V.||Jacques, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Janner, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.||Kaldor, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Gaitskell, B.||Leatherland, L.|
|Castle, L.||Gladwyn, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Champion, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Pannell, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|McCluskey, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)||Strathspey, L.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Peddie, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Maelor, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Meston, L.||Raglan, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Molson, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Morris, L.||Shepherd, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Snow, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]||Willoughby de Broke, L|
|Oram, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.||Wise, L.|
|Paget of Northampton, L.||Stone, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Contributions to the Fund]:
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Lord ORAM: moved Amendment No. 2
Page 4, line 13, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
("(b) the regulations first so made may, if not made before 1st April 1978, be retrospective to that date so that the first period prescribed for the purposes of subsection (2) above shall begin on or after that date;")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, This is an Amendment to make it clear that the regulations may provide for the security levy to be made by reference to passengers arriving from 1st April 1978, even though the regulations may not have been approved by both House of Parliament and made until some later date, which I hope will be very shortly after the Easter Recess. There is no change of substance or intention. The Amendment is necessary merely to make it clear that there is power to make regulations after 1st April 1978 which will be retrospective to that date. The possible retrospective effect of this subsection was made quite clear, both by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, during the Second Reading debate in another place, and there was a lengthy discussion of it during the third sitting of the Standing Committee. However, the point was raised again by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, during the Committee stage last Monday and this caused us to have another look at it, to see whether the wording was quite clear, and we were advised that it was capable of improvement. Consequently I have put down this Amendment.
§ The date of 1st April 1978, was in fact chosen for the convenience of the industry, because that is the date when nearly all airport authorities increase their landing charges. They normally give several months' notice of such increases to the airlines, so that they can take them into 1604 account in the complicated processes involved in fixing their fares; and the tour operators need even longer notice, since their brochures for summer holidays go to press during the previous summer. Those were reasons why 1st April was chosen. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for having stressed the point about retrospection. As I have said, this gives us an opportunity of suggesting an improvement in the wording to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, I rise mainly to deny paternity. I should not like to leave the noble Lord or the House under the impression that I had done anything to facilitate the almost indecent haste with which the Government—flushed, no doubt, by their enormous majority on the last Division—are proceeding with this measure. It seemed to me—and this is why I raised the point at an earlier stage—that one needed a very strong case in principle for retrospective legislation, particularly where that legislation imposes taxation, as this does. I still see absolutely no reason why the Government are in such haste to apply this levy that they have not only to introduce this Amendment at this stage but have also to operate the tax even before the regulations can be either published or, certainly, approved. It is indicative of the whole rather shabby way in which this transaction has been handled. On the whole, as between the Government and Shylock, I prefer Shylock.
§ Clause 8 [Power to make byelaws in relation to noise, vibration and pollution]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 not moved.]
§ 4.49 p.m.
Lord TREFGARNE moved Amendment No. 6:
Leave out Clause 8.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is simply a probing Amendment. I raised this point at a previous stage. I am anxious to know how it is the Government proposed to implement the undertaking given in the White Paper on airport policy, which said inter alia, that noisy aircraft—for want of a better, more technical definition—are to be removed from the British register in 1986, and indeed no further examples of these types are to be permitted on to the register, which is a slightly different point, from October of this year. I think this may require new legislation, and I am wondering whether the noble Lord could tell us how the Government propose to deal with it. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, indeed asked the question which he has just repeated, and I wrote to him on the point. I hope he has received the explanation.
It will be coming; it went some time ago. I am sure it would to the convenience of your Lordships' House if I were to summarise what is contained in the letter which the noble Lord will receive. At present, certain aircraft are not covered by the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order 1970, either because the order does not cover subsonic jet aircraft weighing 5,700 kilograms or less or because they are aircraft exempted by the CAA from the noise certification requirements under the order. Therefore, a further order is at present being prepared to introduce new or revised standards for new types of aircraft that have been agreed by ICAO. Among other things, this new order will extend the application of the orders to subsonic jet aircraft weighing 5,700 kilograms or less. The main effect, however, will be achieved by the CAA's narrowing of the existing exemption to take account of the Government's decision. I hope that gives the noble Lord the information for which he asked.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. There are certain points arising out of that which would wish to put sue with the noble Lord, but they are not, I think, a matter for your Lordships now, and I can perhaps correspond 1606 with the noble Lord. Unless any other noble Lord wishes to speak on the matter, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 1 [Minor, consequential and consolidation amendments]:
§ 4.52 p.m.
Lord BOYD-CARPENTER moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 15, line 10, at end insert (""In subsection (2) of section 1 for the word "twelve" there shall be substituted "fifteen"."")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a small point which I raised at Committee stage and on which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, after consulting the present chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, has been good enough to reply to me by letter. He told me——he will not mind my quoting the letter—that the present chairman of the CAA regarded 12, which is the present maximum number, as "a good working number". Apart from the fact that I have the highest respect for the judgment of the present chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, I would not myself dissent from that. However, I think that, from that answer, I draw a different conclusion from that which, by implication, the noble Lord, Lord Oram, drew. If 12 be "a good working number", it must surely from time to time be inconvenient that it be also a maximum. It would certainly be much more flexible to have a margin, so that if, for example, one member is due to retire in some months' time, and it is desired to bring on another member, the number can rise above 12 by a moderate degree in the interim period.
§ My Lords, if one were looking at this from the point of view of practical efficiency, I am perfectly certain the noble Lord would accept the Amendment, because it makes sense and there will be no opportunity, probably, for a great many years more to do this, for hopefully there will not be another Civil Aviation Bill for another six or seven years. I rather suspect that what really lies behind the noble Lord's attitude is that he does not want to delay the Bill by having to go back to the Commons, even very quickly, to take one Lords Amendment. But I would ask him, before I decide what line I will take on this Amendment, to 1607 consider the argument whether, if both he and I accept, as I think we do, the judgment of the present chairman of the CAA that at present 12 is "a good working number", then the necessary inference to be drawn is that it would be desirable to have some margin over that, be it 14, be it 15 or be it 16. I beg to move.
My Lords, I acknowledge at once, as I think I did at Committee stage, that the noble Lord has brought forward some cogent arguments, particularly the one that it would give a certain flexibility in making appointments if we were to have a larger number than 12. But he I think agreed that it would be wrong for the Government to legislate in this matter, or to accept his Amendment, without consulting the present chairman of the CAA; and, as he has indicated and as I indicated in my letter to him, the present chairman. Mr. Foulkes, has rather firm views on the matter. That being so, although I do not wish to reject by any means the whole case that the noble Lord has put forward, I am sure he will feel that we could not go against the advice that we have received during the course of the week.
However, I believe he has raised not only an interesting but an important point. It may be that there will be an earlier opportunity than he projects for a reconsideration of this matter. But in any case I hope he will concede, in the light of the brief history of this matter since he raised it, that we need to have an opportunity to study it further before making any such change. I therefore hope he will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, what my noble friend decides to do with his Amendment is a matter for him, but if he chooses to take a robust line he will certainly have my support. I take the view that 12 is the minimum reasonable number for the Authority; and, while I accept what has been reported as the views of the present chairman of the Authority, I think the point made by my noble friend—that, after all, this is only an enabling provision—is an almost overwhelming one. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Oram, could accept this Amendment with rather more alacrity than he seems to be showing.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, I remain unconvinced by Lord Oram's argument, and I feel tempted to put the matter to the arbitrament of this House; but I feel that, having given the Government Chief Whip as near as may be a heart attack earlier this afternoon, one would probably be hauled before the International Commission for Human Rights if one were to press this further, because Chief Whips, as we all know, are an oppressed class for whom everyone has the greatest sensitivity. Therefore, while I shall not in fact seek leave to withdraw my Amendment, I shall not put in Tellers and should the House in its wisdom or lack of it (and I would think lack of it) see fit therefore to negative the Amendment, I should be, in that technical sense, content.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ [Amendment No. 8 not moved.]
§ Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution):
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill he now read 3a.— (Lord Oram.)
§ Baroness BURTON of COVENTRY
My Lords, before we part finally with this Bill, may I express the hope to my noble friend that, as we came within—I was going to say an ace, but I do not know whether it is two aces—of victory, and as we had, I am told, the Front Benches of both the main Parties against us, he will see that the Secretary of State reads our debate most carefully and takes into consideration what a very large number of people in this House felt.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene but what the noble Baroness has said expresses so well what I have in mind that I should like merely to say how very much I agree with her. I think, in all seriousness, that the earlier debate, about which I was light-hearted a moment or two ago, showed how noble Lords in all parts of the House who were free of official trappings or trammels, or whatever they may be called, had the gravest doubts about this measure. 1609 Therefore, if the Government intend to take advantage of their narrow victory to operate it—and to operate it, as I said earlier, with really quite indecent speed—then I hope that they will do so with the knowledge in their minds that it is, on the whole, a step which is at the best a dubious one and that it is a bad precedent. This will be watched with great care and trouble by a good many people to see whether or not it creates a precedent and whether that precedent is followed.
To the rest of the Bill, as I said at a much earlier stage, I am more than prepared to give a great deal of support: the borrowing powers for the Civil Aviation Authority and the improvements generally in the law are excellent. For that reason I should not wish to sec the Bill founder; but I think that we should kid ourselves if we let this Bill go forward to the Royal Assent without having put down a marker to the fact that in one way—and that one way is the introduction of this levy—its passage marks a bad day for good administration in the United Kingdom
My Lords, I should not wish to reiterate the arguments but, since the noble Lord has referred to the narrowness of the recent vote, I would remind him that Winston Churchill once said that one vote was enough; and by that measure two votes are doubly enough.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and returned to the Commons with the Amendment.