Lord Craig of Radley debates involving the Department for Transport during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Tue 20th Apr 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments & Lords Hansard
Thu 28th Jan 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Thu 21st Jan 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Tue 28th Jul 2020
Wed 12th Feb 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 10th Feb 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Britain’s Railways

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Monday 24th May 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend raises an important point and highlights why Great British Railways is so desperately needed, in that we have so many different operators and indeed types of train services—be they passenger or freight—trying to access limited track in certain areas. It is the case that we will continue to invest tens of billions of pounds into the railways on new lines, trains, services and electrification; we want to provide the stable foundation for innovation and future investment. My noble friend mentioned the Beeching closures. The £500 million Restoring Your Railway Fund remains open, and any ideas should be forwarded to that fund.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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[Inaudible]—the experience, particularly of Southern, has been blighted from time to time by industrial disputes. What involvement have the rail unions had in helping to formulate these new plans? Post Covid, many people may continue to work part-time from home, reducing passenger numbers below the 2019 figure of 1.8 billion per year. What assessment have the Government made of this likely reduction?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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On the first issue raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Keith Williams met with the general-secretaries on a number of occasions while he was carrying out this review. As I previously mentioned, we need to create an efficient and sustainable railway; that is in the interests of passengers, taxpayers and the workforce as a whole, so we will of course continue to work with the unions to achieve that as we take these reforms forward. On future demand, we are confident that people will return to the railways, and in line with the road map we will continue to work closely with the sector on measures to enable people to come back again, and to come back quickly. This includes the introduction of a flexible season ticket, which will be introduced across the network and which will make it easier for those people who commute, say, two or three days a week. It will make that more cost effective for them, and that will be introduced to coincide with the final step of the Government’s road map out of lockdown.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, for her gracious apology on behalf of the department for its omission. Of course, I accept that the amendments are necessary and, like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I thank all the people who have been associated with the Bill during its fairly long passage. I hope it may now pass into law.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I too support these amendments. Finally, this Bill, which started its passage through Parliament in January 2020 is to reach the statute book. I am sure that, with a justified sense of pride and relief, the Minister and all those in her Bill team, who worked so hard to achieve this outcome, deserve the commendation received from all sides of the House.

It is a piece of legislation that will not stand still. The announcement that the CAA has approved trials of beyond-visual-sight operation of drones will need to be reflected in the instructions for policing unmanned aircraft presently set out in this legislation. That process will continue, I hope smoothly, as technology and experience help to chart the way ahead. Meanwhile, I join in commending the efforts made to enact this important business, for air traffic management in particular.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their constructive engagement on these amendments, and for their comments and short contributions today.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister and her officials for the time and patience they have devoted to explaining the Bill and, in particular, the many amendments. I am very grateful to them, as I am to the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Tunnicliffe, and all noble Lords who added their expertise to our debates.

This Bill is, I believe, the third recent attempt at aviation legislation. On Report, I called the Bill a bit of a mess: it is, indeed, an extraordinary saga, worthy of featuring in one of the excellent briefings we get from our Library about historic aspects of our proceedings. There can rarely have been a year between Committee and Report on a Bill, and certainly not a year of such momentous events. Covid and Brexit have both had a profound effect on aviation, and technological development meant that drone capability has greatly increased.

There are now three elements to the Bill; it started with only two. The modernisation of airspace seemed urgent a year ago—less so now that flights are at a fraction of previous numbers. However, concerns remain for airport operators about the conflict between the CAA’s new enforcement powers and other aspects of their role. There are concerns about the financial costs of modernisation at a time when airports have suffered severely financially, and concern about the requirement to release so-called spare airspace capacity for general aviation.

The wholly new section on slot waivers is a direct result of the pandemic and is welcome in order to avoid environmentally damaging ghost flights, but I remain concerned and hope that the Government will make sure that in future the rules are tightened to ensure fair competition and fair prices for consumers.

The section on unmanned aircraft has been subject to wholesale rewriting because of the changed legal situation. However, it is still far too narrow in scope, concentrating on new police powers rather than on the modern capabilities of drone technology and how drones should be used safely and effectively.

My amendment, which would have ensured a wholesale review, narrowly failed to secure a majority. However, I hope that the Minister and her colleagues will take that approach in the near future, because BALPA, our airports and airlines, as well as many drone manufacturers and commercial operators, believe that more is needed on this. The Bill now goes to the other place and I am sure that many Members there will pick up on the issues that I have referred to.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, from the Cross Benches, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, and the Bill team. I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak.

As others have pointed out, the Bill must have gained an entry in the Guinness book of records. It started life in your Lordships’ House with its First and Second Readings over a year ago. After Committee in early February, it sat month after Covid month in the pending tray, then, at the last minute, the Bill team had to drag it swiftly into a new framework—one created by that large amendment to ANO 2016 that took effect so close to Report. However much forewarned, it cannot have been a straightforward task to draft and present so faultlessly the plethora of government amendments required to bring the Bill up to date. That was a great effort that all should admire.

For the noble Baroness herself, it must have been a considerable challenge to master her brief on this complex subject so fully and comprehensively, and I pay tribute to her, too. I admit to having been something of a thorn in her side, but she willingly and courteously exchanged, both on and off the Floor, on our respective views. In her reply to my amendment on Report, she got one point spot on: she said that she suspected that I might not be reassured.

I expect the issue to resurface, but honest differences are the meat and drink of legislation. Given the complexity of this subject, the noble Baroness earns credit for her steady determination. When discussing drones a year ago in Committee, she said, referring to the future of manned and unmanned aircraft traffic management, that it would be

“a whole new world of pain.”—[Official Report, 10/2/20; col. 2111.]

I hope that the passage of the Bill has not been too painful for her. From the Cross Benches, I thank her and the Bill team for their efforts.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who I think is back in contact.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 14 and give notice that I am minded to put it to a vote at the end of the debate. As I said earlier, this Bill is a bit of a mess—through no fault of the Minister; it is simply the passage of time, and time has definitely taken its toll. This applies in particular to the clauses on unmanned aircraft.

Since 2016, I have been urging the Government to bring forward legislation on drones. The Minister reminds us from time to time that unmanned aircraft include model aircraft, but I am concerned here solely with drones. In the five years since I first addressed this issue, drone technology has been transformed, and so has the number of drones in operation. They are of massive importance to our military, to the police and other emergency services, and to countless businesses across the UK. It is wonderful, transformative technology; it is also very worrying technology. In the wrong hands, drones carry illegal drugs, take illicit mobile phones into prisons and threaten major loss of life by interfering with flights, as we saw at Gatwick in 2019. “Wrong hands” obviously includes criminals, but also careless and untrained hands.

Since we started this Bill in 2019, EU legislation has been updated, and that is reflected in the details of the amendments here today. But they do not reflect the broader approach that is now needed. The Bill is a wasted opportunity, because it is largely a list of additional powers for the police. That approach is unsatisfactorily narrow, and my amendment outlines the broad approach that I believe needs to be taken. It needs to address the serious concerns of BALPA, the Airport Operators Association and many airlines about safety and security risks from drones. I have specified the range of issues I am worried about, but I do not believe it is an exclusive list. Some of them relate to technical advances, such as the availability of geofencing and remote ID. Others relate to possible shortcomings in criminal law in relation to the deliberate weaponisation of drones. Potential risks from overseas exist now that the technology allows longer-distance flying.

The amendment in this group in the name of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, also raises important issues about commercially used drones, which are often specialist and valuable. My amendment addresses the issue of the appropriate minimum age to be in charge of a drone. EU legislation allows a minimum age of 14, and the Government have supported this. But that is a minimum: it does not have to be that low within the EU rules, and, in any event, we have of course left the EU. Legislation allows drones to be registered to anyone over 18, but they can be flown by people younger than this, and there is no requirement for the registered owner to be present and in the line of sight of the person flying the drone. So, the question is whether this is sufficient supervision.

In preparation for this debate, I spent a long time online looking at adverts for drones, from under £100 to thousands of pounds. In all the adverts I looked at, I saw no reference at all to the rules on registration and supervision, line of sight, heights for flight and so on. Presumably, all that comes with the instructions in the box. But I am not entirely sure that everyone reads the instructions in the box carefully.

Also untouched by this Bill is the issue of privacy. There are serious concerns that drones can allow invasions of privacy. I said earlier that the Bill concentrates on police powers, but police use drones as a tool themselves, and they are a very useful tool in fighting crime. The vast majority of police forces now use drones, but there appears to be no overall dedicated guidance for police on the way in which they are to be deployed, or provision of information on how they should be used. This is a potentially controversial area, as we saw when Derbyshire police used drones at the start of the pandemic to watch walkers in the countryside, with the potential to levy fines on them.

This is a fast-developing technology, and my amendment recognises that by seeking a review of the legislation within six months, and every year thereafter, to ensure that it is, and remains, fit for purpose. I am not prescribing solutions, just outlining issues to be addressed and asking for a more comprehensive and effective approach to the whole issue of drones.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 14 and shall speak to Amendment 15, which stands in my name. It is a probing amendment and I shall not divide the House on it.

After Committee, I was informed that unmanned aircraft and drone operators holding CAA permission for commercial operation—PfCOs—were concerned about the scale of the police powers introduced by the Bill. Recent changes to the ANO 2016 affecting the use of unmanned aircraft have dispensed with PfCOs and new categories for unmanned aircraft operations are provided for all users. The concern is that use of the police powers designed principally for recreational users or potential criminal use could cause commercial operators loss of time or money, or even cause them to fail to meet a contract.

For example, a building inspection by a drone operator might involve manoeuvres putting the drone closer to the structure than would be acceptable for a hobby user. Were the police to order the immediate grounding of a drone in such a CAA-approved use or, looking to the future, of a drone with CAA operational authorisation for beyond visual sight, extended visual sight or even swarm flights, this could lead to business disruption and loss. Would the police consider a complaint from the public reasonable grounds to order grounding? Would the police authority be responsible for such a commercial loss? I expect not, but serious cases might lead to some form of claim by insurers or the operators themselves, so it is reasonable to suggest that, for flights with CAA operational authorisation, the most the police might be required to do would be to seek presentation of the CAA approval licence, as new Schedule 9 envisages. If still concerned, the police should report the operator to the CAA, which already has extensive statutory powers for investigation and sanction.

As the Minister informed me in an exchange of letters we have had about this amendment, new risk-based categories apply to all UA activities, but this does not seem to be any reason for commercial operators, however approved or risk-assessed by the CAA, to be less concerned about the difficulties they might face if the police powers were to be exercised in ways that, maybe inadvertently, were to delay or interfere with the approved use which the CAA had given to the commercial operator.

These operators are further concerned about the level of knowledge of the relevant extensive ANO and CAP 722 publications required of regional police forces to deal with unmanned aircraft operating commercially and whether their increased workload will be funded, particularly as this activity expands. No one would welcome a breach of trust between the police and commercial businesses if police involvement were to be disruptive to commercial use. In further exchanges with the Minister—I thank her for her engagement with me over these concerns—I have not been given sufficient reassurance about the way police powers in this Bill will be used so as not to lead to potentially harmful outcomes for the commercial operator.

There is considerable growth potential in the commercial use of UAs and, indeed, in the market globally for such remotely controlled devices. The Government quote an addition of £42 billion and more than 600,000 jobs by 2030. The Bill provides an opportunity to show that such commercial users are recognised and being supported by statute and regulation specifically designed to deal with, but not onerously restrict, their activities.

A further consideration is whether some statutory approved way to claim for loss, disruption or damage to the business of the commercial operator—for example, if its unmanned aircraft was incorrectly impounded by the police—should be provided. Would this too be by means of secondary legislation, as envisaged for appeals against fixed penalty fines?

Covid-19: Transport for London

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 29th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The health of our key workers and transport workers is at the forefront of everything we are doing at the moment, which is why the Government support running full services across public transport to enable social distancing. Automation, for example contactless payment, is one of the things that can reduce the spread of the virus. Automation of driverless trains, for example, would again be a matter for the mayor but we would support looking into it.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, before Covid struck, Crossrail’s full operation had been delayed by four years until 2022 and estimated costs increased by almost a third from the 2009 figure. What further delay and cost increases, due to Covid working restrictions, have been calculated and reported so far? Will all these additional costs have to be financed by TfL and the London authority?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble and gallant Lord will be pleased to hear that there was an update from Crossrail recently about the schedule and total costs. The project is now completely under the control of TfL. It is its responsibility to finish it. We are in discussions with TfL about further financial support for Crossrail, but we are very clear that Londoners must also foot the bill.

Spain: Travel

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Tuesday 28th July 2020

(3 years, 12 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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My noble friend is absolutely right: travelling nowadays is not the same as it was before. I implore all people looking to go abroad to check their travel insurance. Many travel operators are now offering flexible packages, including packages that can be cancelled with a refund if they need to be. I encourage people to look around the market. The travel industry is responding and, although travel is not the same, it should be possible for at least some people to get away this summer.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, other European nations with large tourism in Spain did not adopt this Government’s abruptly introduced self-isolation rule. How many, if any, have done so since the weekend? What differing scientific, economic or other factors have the Government identified which led to this major difference of judgment and action and which those who might lose pay or even their job through self-isolation can explain to their employer?

Covid-19: Airline Sector

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(4 years ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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My noble friend is absolutely right in that regional connectivity was, and remains, a priority for the Government. The restart, recovery and engagement unit within DfT is working with the aviation sector to look not only at international travel but at how we make sure our regions stay connected. I am sure that my noble friend is aware that we already have public service obligation routes between Londonderry and Dundee and London; previously, before the demise of Flybe, we had such a route from Newquay. We take regional air connectivity very seriously and will come forward with a review in due course.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the airlines’ hated 14-day quarantine, introduced by regional government regulations, is due to be eased. Should the airlines and countries concerned be confident that the Government and devolved Administrations will amend their regulations to remain in step on a national basis? If a so-called handbrake change were applied either by a foreign country or by the United Kingdom Government to reintroduce quarantine, would it affect the whole of the United Kingdom?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I thank the noble and gallant Lord for that question. The Government have worked, and continue to work, closely with the devolved Administrations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure as coherent an approach as possible across the four nations. We will announce further details on the regulations, including a full list of the countries and territories from which arriving passengers will be exempted from self-isolation requirements, later this week.

Covid-19: Aviation

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 4th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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As the level of infection in the UK reduces below that of other countries, we need to minimise the risk of transmission that might be reintroduced from abroad. That is why the quarantine has been put in place. We accept that it is going to have a negative impact on the aviation industry and the tourism sector, and we are working closely with both sectors to make sure that they get through this crisis as best they can.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, will the 14-day isolation period after arrival at UK airfields include individuals who travel overseas on business from the UK and return later that day, or perhaps, say, after less than 48 hours at their destination? If so, will regulations state a maximum time allowed overseas for economic reasons to forgo the isolation period? Will the regulations apply to private charter passengers flying out from and back to small regional or private airfields, as well as those flying on commercial airlines?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, the quarantine requirements apply to all individuals who are arriving in the UK, irrespective of the time that they have spent outside the UK. They are all required to self-isolate, except for a very small number of exemptions. This applies to all individuals, however they choose to leave the UK, whether that be on a charter aircraft or indeed using another form of travel—for example, a ferry or the Eurostar.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

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Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 10-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (10 Feb 2020)
Moved by
24: Schedule 8, page 64, line 9, leave out “controlling” and insert “in control of or has operation of”
Member’s explanatory statement
Probing amendment regarding whether an unmanned aircraft flying automatically on a pre-programmed route is the responsibility of its operator, even when it is not being manually controlled at the time from the ground.
Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 26. These are probing amendments about the phrase, in lines 8, 6 and 16 on page 64,

“the person is controlling the unmanned aircraft”

and seek the Minister’s response to a query I raised at Second Reading as to whether it would encompass all instances concerning an airborne unmanned aircraft where a constable required a person to ground it. As unmanned aircraft and drone technology advances, there may be pre-programmable types that, once airborne, will no longer be under active control from the ground.

As we advance into 5G, it might be possible for two or more individuals to have apps on their smartphones able to handle more than a single drone and passing control of them from one person to another. On a bigger scale, and as we know, this is what happens now when RAF operators controlling an RAF Predator UAV in the air over Syria from their base station in the United States pass monitoring and control to another operational team at RAF Waddington in the UK. Such control-sharing activity, scaled down, must be widely available soon, if it is not already.

With an app on a smartphone, I and many others can already turn lights or other devices on or off in our home at any time and from anywhere in the world with a wi-fi link. It will surely be possible for AN Other on the ground to switch from one UA onboard programme to another with just a smartphone. Noble Lords may have further suggestions of how and in what way drone and other unmanned aircraft capabilities will advance.

My amendment seeks to probe whether the present wording of Schedule 8, about an individual “controlling”, is sufficiently embracing to meet present and future possibilities of unmanned aircraft operational misuse that a constable wants to stop. The amendment would cover more than in-hand control while airborne, which smacks merely of attempting to deal with the single hobby-type user. Until an incident has been investigated, it may not be clear whether the operator is just a lone nuisance type, as may have happened at Gatwick, or a member of some terrorist team with advanced technology at their disposal. In other words, is the present wording of the Bill sufficiently comprehensive for a constable to act to cover all types of possible future operation that could be unlawful? Indeed, what should the constable be required to do if the operator is not physically controlling the flight of the UA? Perhaps this, too, needs to be covered for completeness, for I doubt that even my amendment would be adequate.

This is my second amendment and, as I mentioned, it is purely probing, to seek a response from the Minister to my concern that the present phrasing may be overly restrictive and so inadequate. I beg to move.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for introducing this small group of amendments and giving us the opportunity to probe this wording, because it is incredibly important that we understand that the wording is fit for purpose. While I understand the intention behind his amendments, after careful consideration the Government believe that the existing wording in paragraph 1 of Schedule 8 regarding a person or persons controlling an unmanned aircraft is fit for purpose in relation to both manual and pre-programmed operations.

On Amendment 24, regarding the power for a constable to require a person to ground a UA—unmanned aircraft—a constable could exercise this power in relation to a UA performing a manual or pre-programmed operation if they had reasonable grounds for believing a person or small group of persons to be controlling that aircraft. Where this reasonable belief exists, the constable could require a person to ground the UA regardless of whether it was pre-programmed or not— hence the existing wording is sufficient for the power to be effective in the circumstances envisaged by the noble and gallant Lord.

A similar issue arises in Amendment 26; again, “controlling” refers to the UA when it is being flown either manually or in a pre-programmed mode if it is capable of that. It is therefore our view that the distinction that the amendment seeks to make would have no discernible benefit, since the description implies a person controlling a UA in line with the existing wording in the Bill. However, the Government recognise that UA technology is constantly evolving, and we will continue to keep our policies under review to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.

On the point made by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur about helicopters and pipelines, he is quite right that unmanned aircraft will increasingly be used for tasks such as patrolling pipelines, railways and all sorts of other things. However, under the current regulations drones should not fly over 400 feet and must remain within line of sight—to go beyond line of sight is against the regulations. They must have permission to do either of those two things. To get that permission, one would assume that those operating the helicopter would be aware that there might be drones operating in that area.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about identifying the person, the constable must have a reasonable suspicion that the person is controlling the unmanned aircraft. That is not infallible, but a reasonable suspicion is not certainty. Therefore, given that the drone must remain within line of sight, a person will probably be able to be seen.

I hope that, based on this explanation, the noble and gallant Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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I thank the Minister for her reply, which I shall obviously want to look at. I am still left very unclear about the depth of thought that has been given to this. She talks about situations where somebody is obeying the law and this does not matter, but I am concerned about the individual who is not obeying the law—who is flying above 500 feet and beyond sight of their drone. It seems to me that more is required than is presently available in the Bill—but at the moment I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.
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Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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I will speak to my probing Amendment 27 and to Amendment 30. I follow the strong words that we have just heard from the noble Lord.

As I and many others stressed on Second Reading, the risk of a mid-air collision involving unmanned aircraft being operated illegally is very serious and even catastrophic. It would be remiss not to reflect the seriousness of that danger in the punishment awarded. Indeed, it might also be worth considering whether some form of third-party compulsory insurance should be acquired by all operators of unmanned aircraft.

The misuse of an unarmed aircraft should be liable not only to a fine, or imprisonment if the misuse were to be catastrophic, but should invariably include the forfeiture of the unmanned aircraft and its associated kit for any misuse that falls outside a single instance of the fixed penalty range of misbehaviour. A deterrent to misuse before flight is of potentially greater value than just a monetary punishment as the result of an airborne offence. Even in the fixed penalty range of misuses, a persistent offender should face the risk of forfeiture, or at least confiscation for a period of time.

It is too early to delve deeply into the secondary legislation that will introduce the fixed penalty arrangements. However, as with fixed penalty notices for car drivers, is it intended that a points system will be set up, so that an individual who repeatedly offends and amasses a number of penalty points within a set time will then face the confiscation of their unmanned aircraft and associated kit, either completely or at least for a period of time as the consequence of their repeated misbehaviour? The deterrent value of such a scheme is well worth considering, although I recognise that the administrative details for it will need careful thought and could even be deemed excessive.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby
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My Lords, I would like to speak in support of Amendment 25, and again, I had hoped to see my name attached to it. I am not sure whether the Committee fully appreciates the sheer scale and numbers that we are dealing with. My judgment, as someone who has been keeping some track of what is happening, is that probably 2 million drones have now been sold and presumably are being flown. I have had the privilege of serving on the Public Accounts Committee with the noble Lord opposite, and on a number of occasions he and I would probe into issues in depth. I therefore say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that the probing which the noble Lord has done should be listened to and assessed very carefully.

Yesterday I went to a briefing on the importation of illegal tobacco. I have never smoked so I have no real personal interest other than ensuring that the revenue that should legitimately go to Her Majesty’s Government does so. There is little doubt that the people behind the illegal importation of tobacco are incredibly creative and show enormous genius, with the result that huge quantities are coming into this country. Allied to that is illegal drug importation, to which the same applies. I have just renewed my shotgun licence. The police are exceedingly careful about the renewal of such licences, not least by those of the older generation, in which I put myself. I am not surprised about that. The police checked thoroughly into where the guns are kept and whether they are properly locked away, and that we had security arrangements to ensure that if someone did break in, alarms would be set off.

We are absolute beginners in this field of activity and its implications. My friend the noble Lord on the Benches opposite is right to say that we are dealing with the rogue element but—as I have demonstrated by giving just two examples in drugs and illegal tobacco importation, and there are others—the rogue element is there in great profusion. Moreover, drones themselves provide a wonderful facility for illegal importation activities. Even if my noble friend on the Front Bench is not able to accept the wording of the amendment, I hope that she will think about it seriously and possibly come back at Report either to accept it or to table it with some minor modifications.

I will say to noble Lords that if we do not take action at this point in time, we will rue the day.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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If the noble Lord will bear with me, that drone would probably be confiscated by a constable for a different reason.

In our opinion, the amendment on forfeiture would also provide a potentially disproportionate penalty for those who commit most likely very minor offences of failing to ground an unmanned aircraft when asked to do so by police, or failing to comply with a constable’s request to inspect that small unmanned aircraft. While we feel that it would be disproportionate to insert these powers of confiscation and forfeiture regarding these two offences, it should be noted that the police have powers of confiscation elsewhere in the Bill and already in law.

Under the Bill, the police will have the power to stop and search a person or vehicle where they have reasonable grounds to suspect they will find an unmanned aircraft that is or has been involved in the commission of one of the offences specified in paragraph 2 of Schedule 8. This is for more serious offences, such as interfering with aircraft. This stop and search power gives the police constable the power to seize anything they discover in the course of a search if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is evidence relating to one of those offences.

The summary of all the stop and search offences was given out at the all-Peers meeting and I am very happy to send round this ready reckoner, which shows which offences fall under stop and search if there is suspicion of them. They are, for example, flying above 400 feet or within an exclusion zone of an airport. If there was a stop and search in that case, that item could be seized as evidence. Similarly, when entering and searching a premises under warrant using the powers in the Bill, a constable might seize an unmanned aircraft or any article associated with it if they have reason to believe it has been involved in the commission of one of the offences set out in paragraph 7 of Schedule 8.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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The noble Baroness said the constable has the power to seize, but has he powers to retain and make forfeit, or would it be just a temporary seizure until such time as the courts had dealt with the circumstances? The point of my amendment, and I believe that of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is that of a deterrent for illegal use. Seizure or forfeiture would be a very good deterrent. As we mentioned earlier, we are dealing not with people who are behaving and who we are trying to encourage to grow their legal use of drones, but with people who might be or are operating them illegally. Those are the people I want to deter.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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The noble and gallant Lord makes a very interesting and valid point about deterrence, which is probably quite separate from the line I sought to convince him of. Noble Lords have mentioned that a very good drone might cost, say, £500, but the penalties we are talking about for some of the offences that could have been committed are fines up to a maximum of £2,500.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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If, indeed, they are paid, which I will come on to—perhaps in the letter—because there are some very significant deterrents. If we are after a deterrent, we have those deterrents. Do we feel it is proportionate for property to be forfeited for fairly minor contraventions? We do not.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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I am sorry to interrupt again, but on a minor thing, as I said in my opening remarks a single misbehaviour under what would be a fixed penalty notice would not be a cause for forfeiture, but repeated misbehaviour that might individually be at the level of the fixed penalty notice should be taken into account. That is why I suggest that, under those circumstances, forfeiture, at least for a period if not completely, should be part of that penalty.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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The noble Lord makes an interesting point. I suspect that in those circumstances, the person would just go out and buy another drone. We are between a rock and a hard place: drones are not so expensive that forfeiture is a huge issue, versus a fixed penalty notice, which may also be significant. We do not feel that forfeiture would make a significant difference to the deterrents. The penalties already in place are good ones. However, for the sake of completeness, I will mention that under current law, if a person has refused to ground their unmanned aircraft and has been arrested for an offence, the police officer has the power, under Section 32 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, to search the arrested person and to seize anything that is evidence.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I am aware that that is the noble Lord’s position, but I am not sure that evidence exists that if confiscation becomes part of the Bill, it automatically means that nothing bad will ever happen to drones—or that it will make any difference at all—given that the penalties are already far higher than the cost of a drone.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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I come back to the point that the purpose is its deterrent value. It would also have a public relations value. Rather than telling the owner of a drone that he or she may not fly it in a particular way, confiscation would have a deterrent value. This would encourage good behaviour and be a public relations exercise to show that the Government are taking seriously the possibility of a catastrophic accident if a drone were to hit a civilian airliner.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I agree with the noble and gallant Lord. The Government obviously take seriously the potential of a catastrophic accident. For those kinds of offences, the deterrent is far greater than having one’s drone taken away: it is a lengthy prison sentence and an unlimited fine. I remain unconvinced at this time that the confiscation or forfeiture of a drone is an additional means of deterrent.

I am trying to think of an example of an item being forfeited purely to provide that kind of deterrent effect. I will ask my officials to look at the issue and perhaps that will produce more convincing evidence.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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What I said about Gatwick is that there is no silver bullet; there was not one piece of legislation that would have stopped Gatwick.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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As a result of what happened at Gatwick, steps have been taken. So, it is not a case of just legislation stopping or not stopping it. Additional measures have been taken which make it less likely that the problems at Gatwick will arise again. At least, I hope that is the intention of the steps that have been taken.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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The noble and gallant Lord is right; a number of steps have been taken. On the legislative side, we have looked carefully at what we can include. One of the steps taken as a result of Gatwick is that we asked CPNI to step up its work on counter-UAV technology and it has been carrying out tests. It did a call-out to industry; industry sent it whatever it had in detect, track and identify technology; and CPNI has been methodically working its way through it to see whether the technology works. Some of it does not.

We are looking carefully at providing a catalogue for airports to say to them, “This is the technology that works. We at CPNI, since Gatwick, have checked this technology and it works.” Those are the kinds of things we have been doing.

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Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe (Con)
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My Lords, I offer my apologies as I was not able to be here for Second Reading, which I know traditionally one is before one speaks. I draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register, which lists me as the president of BALPA, an office that I am very pleased to fulfil.

I support the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. These are basically safety amendments. We are looking for a positive statement from the Government, which I am sure will be forthcoming. Amendment 33A, as the noble Lord has said, is about the safety features being inoperable. We are particularly concerned if they are disabled deliberately. Of course, sometimes they are inoperable because they just do not work but on other occasions they can be deliberately disabled, and clearly that should not be allowed.

Amendment 33B says a single person can operate only a single drone at any one time. That we see as a matter of basic safety, and we hope it will find favour. On Amendment 33C, as the noble Lord has said, regulations concerning drugs and alcohol are fairly common in industry and in all these situations. I hope the Minister will feel able to give a positive response to the amendments and read into the record the Government’s support for at least the intention of what we are seeking to do.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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My Lords, I too support the thrust of these three amendments. On the first of them I would need to be quite clear, though, whether the requirements of particular safety features are a legal requirement. If they are not, I believe that they should be; but I assume that they are, which is why they are mentioned in this way. I also note in passing that the phrase

“in charge of a small unmanned aircraft”

is used. We have been talking about various ways in which those aircraft are managed. Is there somebody controlling them or are they being operated? For the sake of clarity, if we are going to use a word such as “controlling”—or any other word—it should be part of the legislation to define what is meant by the phrase or phrases that are used in it.

The amendment regarding one single unmanned aircraft could be restrictive but, to start with, that is perhaps the right way to go—not to immediately talk about allowing two or more, or even a swarm, of small unmanned aircraft to be flown. In passing, if such an arrangement were allowed would the collective weight of the swarm be taken into account, rather than just the weight of an item within that swarm? That could affect it, bearing in mind the weight limitations that are already in legislation.

On the point of the third amendment, alcohol, I know that the Minister talked about alcohol in the letter that she wrote. She said that if it were necessary, it would be a matter for an air navigation order because alcohol and drugs are of such significance in the safety of aviation. The Explanatory Notes refer to anybody fulfilling an aviation function, but surely the operator or controller—the man, woman or child in charge of a small, unmanned aircraft—is performing an aviation function. The Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 seems a very appropriate place for alcohol and drugs to be covered, rather than leaving it to an air navigation order.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Portrait Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Con)
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My Lords, I add my support for these amendments, particularly Amendment 33C. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister needs to go no further than to look at the provisions and requirements in the armed services for those who are engaged in the use of drones. Although the rules here will presumably apply to civilians, those provisions are sensible in regard to the questions of alcohol and drugs, and of control. Maybe she could find the precedent that she needs if she looks at the service agreements for those involved with operating drones in the services.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)
Monday 10th February 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 10-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (10 Feb 2020)
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, for the convenience of the House, I draw attention to the penultimate line on the front page of today’s list, which states that the target for the day is to complete Amendment 23. That means that we are not going to do drones today. No Member has moved from their seat; never mind.

The essence of this group of amendments, with which I broadly agree, is to prevent mission creep. Having sat on the Front Bench opposite, I recall that whenever you create a right for the Government to do something or other, civil servants will creep up to you and say: “Make sure it is not restricted, because you might need it.” I fear that, far too often, they do.

The Minister wrote to me and several other noble Lords. On the second page of her letter, under the heading “Proportionality”, her second sentence states:

“It is the government’s intention that, at least initially, the powers to direct in clauses 2 and 3 would only be used by the Secretary of State in relation to ACPs that have been identified within the airspace change masterplan, currently being developed by NERL through the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) with a view to incorporation of the masterplan into the CAA’s airspace strategy”.


I read the whole sentence for the avoidance of doubt. The words that sprung out at me are, “at least initially”. Further on in the letter, the Minister seeks to soften those words with a series of intentions. However, intentions are not law: they are the words of the Minister. If she repeats those words into Hansard they become a little more useful. Nevertheless, there is a serious issue with that part of the Bill ending up in mission creep. There are so many things for which the CAA or the Government might wish to use these powers.

I share the view that the task in front of those who are trying to deliver the programme is such that consultation—ideally on the face of the Bill, as put forward by Amendment 4—would be useful. It would certainly be useful to hear the extent to which the Minister can assure the House about consultation. On the appeals procedure, I refer again to the noble Baroness’s extremely useful letter, in which she says:

“There is no formal appeals process against an ACAA decision relating to individual ACPs. CAP1616 is a fully transparent process in which consultation and engagement exercises are run throughout.”


With the greatest respect, a consultation and engagement exercise is not an appeal. Because of the extent to which this process is entirely within the CAA’s ambit, one can see a situation where, without some hook in primary legislation, small fish in this sea could find themselves swamped. A formal appeals procedure somewhere in the Bill might usefully add to it. I hope that the Minister will be able to react to those ideas.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I first pick up the question that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, started with, which is whether we shall end at the target of Amendment 23. My understanding is that we shall, because that has been agreed through the usual channels. Amendment 24 is in my name, so it is important that I can be confident that we will stop, if we get that far, at Amendment 23. I take the nodding to mean that that is the case and I appreciate it.

While I am on my feet, may I ask a more general question about all these amendments? There has been a great deal of talk about the interests of the civilian side of the aviation industry and how it interacts with the Department for Transport and the CAA, but I am not clear how the Ministry of Defence’s position will be properly safeguarded. The CAA has RAF representation, but I do not feel that that is at a high enough level and I would like to be reassured that the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence are in continuous contact, at the right level, on these points. The Ministry of Defence, and the Royal Air Force in particular, needs aviation space not only for getting in and out of airfields; they also have training needs and other areas that have to be safeguarded if the Royal Air Force is to continue to be effective in its training.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for introducing this group. I also thank my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate. I note that he strayed into the area of costs, which is the subject of a later group, but I look forward to his later contribution. As many noble Lords have pointed out, it is important that the Secretary of State is given the powers required to deliver airspace modernisation, but also that these powers are proportionate and do not go further than needed.

Clauses 2 and 3 of Part 1 give the Secretary of State the power to direct a person involved in airspace change to progress an airspace change proposal as required, or direct a person to co-operate with somebody else who is progressing an airspace change proposal. This means that airspace change will not be held up. I think that is an established fact and all noble Lords can agree with it. Additionally, it ensures the delivery of the full range of airspace modernisation outcomes. Again, I have already mentioned that there are many important initiatives within airspace modernisation. These may be related to safety, capacity, noise, air quality, fuel efficiency, improving access to airspace for all users, military access or the introduction of new technology.

On improving access to airspace for all users, the issue of uncontrolled and controlled airspace has been rumbling along for a little while. It dates back to 2018, so airports have been aware that there was going to be a further look at airspace classification for quite some time. Initiative 10 of the airspace modernisation strategy was set out by the then Secretary of State and enhanced in October 2019, when the air navigation directives directed the CAA to progress the identification of airspace volumes. This is all about the balance between commercial aviation and general aviation. I do not believe that a single Member of your Lordships’ House believes that one necessarily has to have priority over the other. It is a question of proportionality and balance.

I want to mention military airspace at this point. We speak to the military all the time. When I was Aviation Minister, I used to chair the Airspace Strategy Board, the highest level of ministerial oversight over airspace modernisation, and somebody from the MoD was on the board. I forget what rank he was, but he made me feel quite small so he was quite senior, and he would contribute to our discussions. In my time on this Bill and in my previous life as Aviation Minister, I was not aware that people from the military had concerns about this process or the processes we oversee. We work well with them, ensuring that they have the access they need and know the processes for RAF Northolt to have the right routes to upper airspace, for example.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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My Lords, the two points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, and the noble Baroness are well illustrated by Newquay Airport in Cornwall, where I live. I use the airport occasionally. It is subject to a public service obligation which the county council has negotiated to ensure four return flights a day between Newquay and a London airport. It has been very successful. There has been recent discussion, as noble Lords will know, to change the London location from Heathrow back to Gatwick, for reasons we do not need to go into today. The point is that Newquay has a few flights going to other places in the UK, on the continent and in Ireland. It is also the base for Richard Branson’s latest idea of getting to the moon—taking passengers there, or something—which may be the subject of a government grant. It is odd, but if it was required to make changes to its airspace because of some other reason, the airport would be in severe financial difficulties. That is why it has been given a PSO: because it is an important part of improving the transport between Cornwall and London.

One can challenge or disagree with some of the text of the amendment, but the principle is there. If, when she comes to respond, the Minister does not like the wording, perhaps she can go away, have some discussions about it and come back with more acceptable wording. We should hold on to the principle of a small airport not being put to severe financial difficulty because of something over which it has no control.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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I have no particular difficulty with the idea of compensating somebody who is being adversely affected by a decision for larger national reasons, but going back to the concern about the Ministry of Defence interests, let us suppose that a Ministry of Defence interest is such that it needs to be accepted. Looking ahead, the Armed Forces will have drones as well as manned airframes. Their needs may be quite unusual compared with the normal. In those circumstances, a decision would have to be taken either in the interests of the Ministry of Defence or the commercial civilian operator concerned. I am not clear how such a decision would be arrived at. Perhaps, once again, the Minister will be able to make it clearer to us all where the Ministry of Defence fits into this type of decision.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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During the discussion that the Minister held in Committee Room G, I took the opportunity to talk to the legal advisers to the department, who assured me that consideration was being given to the financial detriment that may arise. How you determine that is quite difficult because if somebody has a detriment, presumably somebody has a gain. It will be a question of offsetting one against the other. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that this applies also to remote areas of Scotland with access to the very busiest airports, such as Edinburgh—which is much prized by the small places that have one or two flights a week but is considered almost a nuisance by the large airports.

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Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley
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My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can clear up something in my mind and perhaps in those of other noble Lords. We have talked about general aviation in the usual sense but, looking to the future, we will get more unmanned aircraft either working commercially in one form or another or working for the emergency services and so on. Will they get classified as general aviation? If so, should not their interests also be taken into account? I would like clarification on that particular point.

Lord Trefgarne Portrait Lord Trefgarne
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My Lords, I likewise thank the noble Baroness. I must declare an interest. The Light Aircraft Association referred to in the amendment was once the Popular Flying Association, of which I had the honour of being president for a number of years, although I have long since ceased to do that.

There is some merit in concentrating the Secretary of State’s mind on these matters from time to time. I am therefore not unsympathetic to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe—although hopefully today’s exchanges will serve the same purpose.