Clause 2 - Secretary of State’s general duty
Civil Aviation Bill
Division number 5 - 8 yes, 12 no
Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative)
I am delighted to put forward the reasons why the Committee should support clause 2. It is similar to clause 1 in many ways, so I will probably not need to detain the Committee at length. Clause 2 reflects the fact that although a key tenet of the reform proposals are to transfer more powers to the CAA and take politicians out of key areas of airport economic regulation, as is consistent with best practice, the Secretary of State will still carry out certain important functions. Clause 2 seeks to impose on the Secretary of State, in carrying out those functions, broadly the same framework of duties that we discussed at length in relation to the CAA and clause 1.
Clause 2 provides that when the Secretary of State exercises any function under chapter 1 and most of chapter 3 of the Bill, she will be subject to the same primary duty as the CAA, and to similar, although not identical, supplementary duties. As is the case with the CAA, those additional duties will affect and inform the manner to which the primary duty is applied, but cannot override it. The overall effect of clause 2 means that where the Secretary of State issues guidance to the regulator, as she is empowered to do, she will need to have regard to the duties set out in clause 2 when making decisions. In particular, she must do so in a way that is consistent with the primary duty to passengers and owners of cargo.
The Secretary of State’s primary duty will be to:
“further the interests of users of air transport services regarding the range, availability, continuity, cost and quality of airport operation services…The Secretary of State must do so, where appropriate, by carrying out the functions in a manner which the Secretary of State considers will promote competition in the provision of airport operation services.”
As we discussed in relation to the CAA, there may be instances where different groups of end users have different priorities and conflicting interests. Clause 2 provides a similar way to reconcile and deal with those issues. There may be conflicts between the interests of users of air transport services where the Secretary of State carries out her functions with regard to the primary duty.
Clause 1(6) provides that if the Secretary of State considers there is a conflict between the interests of different classes of users of air transport services, or in the different matters referred to in subsection (1), she should carry out her functions so as to further such of those interests as she thinks best. So the discretion that we have conferred on the CAA is similarly conferred on the Secretary of State in dealing with this type of conflict of interest, which we discussed in relation to the earlier amendments.