HL Deb 09 July 1981 vol 422 cc917-9

9.34 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 10th June be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these regulations amend the earlier regulations made under Section 2 of the Civil Aviation Act 1978 and will come into operation on 1st August 1981. They have been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which has not drawn the attention of the House to any particular points.

At this late hour, and because of the paucity (if that is the right word) of the attendance in your Lordships' House, I will, if your Lordships agree, paraphrase what I had intended to say, so that your Lordships are not unduly detained.

The regulations reduce the existing levy of £1.60 to £1.50. This reduction has been made possible because the estimates made to arrive at the figure of £1.60 assumed rather higher pay settlements than were in fact achieved and also assumed rather lower traffic figures than were the case during the period in question. We hope to maintain it at £1.50 through 1982–83, but I will have to review the situation in November in the light of figures then available to me.

The other important point in the regulations is that one particular aerodrome, Lydd, is now excluded and will not in future be subject to levy. I have placed a paper in the Library with a number of details on these matters. I hope that with that modest explanation your Lordships will be able to approve the regulations. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 10th June be approved.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for moving the regulations so expeditiously. I have had an opportunity of reading the details of the proposals, which he was kind enough to send me in advance today, and indeed am able to express my gratification that the price of something has actually come down. Although, as the noble Lord explained, the reason for this was that the previous increase was partially brought about by the need to pay off the deficit, it is nevertheless gratifying that this should happen.

Of course, the true cost of security has in fact gone up each year. As the noble Lord said, the estimates for 1980–81 have proved to be over-cautious, and in fact he was able to announce this particular reduction in the charge. My noble friend Lady Burton, who unusually is not present when we are discussing this matter, and I continually raise the question of the effectiveness of the security operations. The noble Lord has pointed to one or two reasons why the estimates proved to be an over-estimate, but I would particularly like to draw attention to the fact of the lower manning levels which he has managed to achieve at Heathrow and Gatwick, and particularly the introduction of centralised searching at Heathrow Terminal 3. In fact, the Under-Secretary of State, speaking to the Statutory Instruments Committee on 7th July, said that the security staff at Heathrow now numbered 37 fewer, and at Gatwick 27 fewer, than in January 1980 and that levels will continue to fall for some time. It is gratifying that this has been achieved without any lessening in the efficiency of the operations.

The only other point I would add is that I hope that when the time for the annual review comes the noble Lord will, as he indicated in advance, try to fix the charge at a similar level. It is most disturbing for the industry to have the charge chopped and changed too often, and particularly to have a change halfway through the holiday tourist season. Of course, on this occasion the industry is in the happy position of not having to increase charges but in fact will be making a saving of 10p. May I finally wish the noble Lord well in the continuous battle to try to ensure that this operation is effectively carried out, and congratulate him on the reductions he has achieved without any loss of efficiency to date.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

On Question, Motion agreed to.