July 6, 2005
The Civil Aviation Bill has received its second reading in the House of Commons. At its ‘committee stage’ a number of significant amendments were tabled by MPs, following discussions with AEF. These amendments have all been rejected.
The Civil Aviation Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons on 27th June.The Bill is now at ‘committee stage’ and a number of significant amendments have been tabled by MPs, following discussions with AEF. (But see “update” below.)
The bill is largely a tidying-up exercise on the 1982 act, but there are changes in line with policies signalled in the aviation White Paper.
Most of the provisions are of little concern to us but there are two important new provisions.
While the Bill continues to allow noise restrictions to be based on limits to flight numbers, it allows for alternative noise limits. This is clearly intended to facilitate the government to dispense with the current absolute cap on the number of movements at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, as signalled in the White Paper. This is a matter of considerable concern and the AEF has persuaded a number of MPs to oppose the clause at committee stage.
The other main change is that the act allows airports and the Secretary of State to impose restrictions and charges in respect of emissions (pollution). The 1982 act only referred to noise.
Perhaps the most important point to note is that while the Bill allows airport operators to introduce restrictions and charges for noise and pollution, it does not require them to do so. They have very little incentive to do anything. And while the government can force airports to impose restrictions and charges, all the evidence is that the government has no interest in using its powers.
The Bill has now passed through committee stage. None of the amendments tabled by opposition MPs was accepted, but this was largely to be expected, since the balance of committees is weighted towards the party in power and amendments not palatable to the Government can always be voted down.
However, a number of important issues were debated and our work was useful going into ‘report stage’ – the third reading of the Bill, which will take place in the Autumn. We intend to work with the Department for Transport over the summer on proposals for truly independent noise monitoring and consultative committees that will be acceptable to the Minister and hence have the support of the Labour whip in the vote following the third reading.
The text of the committee sittings has been published; the ‘Night Cap’ clause is debated at the very end of the first sitting and beginning of the second.