HL Deb 19 December 2001 vol 630 cc341-2

8.57 p.m.

Lord Filkin rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order deals with some consequential effects of the Transport Act 2000. Part I of the order simply amends the Aviation Security Act 1982 so that NATS—alongside the CAA or the manager of an aerodrome—becomes one of the authorities responsible for the security of an air navigation installation. In other words, they are responsible for the protection of their own equipment.

Parts II and III of the order amend enactments which refer to statutory and other undertakers and town and country planning legislation to bring them four square with the Transport Act. These powers are broadly commensurate with those of the CAA and are granted to NATS En Route Ltd, which is a subsidiary company of National Air Traffic Services Ltd.

The order does two other things not connected with NATS. Part IV amends certain provisions which place restrictions on the disclosure of information so as to give the CAA, in its role as economic regulator of air traffic services, access to the same sort of information as other regulators require.

I hope that your Lordships will support the broad thrust of the order and give your consent to it being made. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Filkin.)

Lord Bradshaw

My Lords, I wish to comment on the order as it transfers permitted developer rights to a private company. We all know, for example, that Railtrack acquired permitted development rights when it was privatised. Since then we have had misgivings as regards some of the uses of those permitted rights.

NATS has not had a good start in the private sector. I am concerned that the Government are again transferring these quite extensive rights to a private sector company and may live to regret that. It is possible that NATS could stray further from the public sector than it now is and become a different company and exercise those rights in a way which was not intended. That could cause trouble in the future. I hope that the Minister will comment on that.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, the granting of permitted development rights to NATS or its subsidiary company as a statutory undertaker is tightly circumscribed. The rights are to carry out essential development on and around operational land relevant to NATS En Route Ltd. They do not apply to the parent company in its wider position. For example, under this power NATS would not be able to create for itself a new office block on an airport site. It has permitted development rights only in relation to radar installations or air communication systems in a limited number of sites in the United Kingdom.

The natural anxiety is expressed that a company which is a private company, albeit that the Government have a golden share and the largest shareholding, might do something amiss. That cannot take place in the circumstances because the order is tightly drawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.