Borrowing Powers of Civil Aviation Authority

Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 1st February 1990.

Alert me about debates like this

10 pm

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out '£500' and insert '£450'.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, leave out from 'million' to end of line 11.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

I move the amendments as one of the Members of Parliament representing Heathrow airport. Some 70,000 electors will be seriously affected by parts of the Bill if certain plans go ahead.

I felt compelled to table the amendments earlier this week because of what has occurred since the Standing Committee considered the Bill on 18 January. On 23 January, British Midland Airways published a report calling for exactly the changes at Heathrow that were discussed when the money resolution was debated on 17 January and when the Committee considered the Bill on 18 January. The report estimates the cost of the changes at Heathrow at £50 million—exactly the sum that I seek to delete, thus making it impossible for the Civil Aviation Authority to spend money on what was suggested in those discussions and in the report.

On Second Reading, the Minister for Aviation and Shipping gave two reasons for wanting the Bill to be enacted, one of which concerns us now. He said: One project is the central control function; it has been called the tunnels in the sky concept. It involves a major restructuring of the airspace over south-east England and will increase capacity in the terminal manoeuvring area over the south-east by at least 30 per cent. when it is fully in place in 1995."—[Official Report, Second Reading Committee, 20 December 1989; c. 3.] So far so good. I have no objections if the Bill does that, but the problems start when one asks where the 30 per cent. will land. When the Bill was considered previously, various hon. Members urged the CAA to spend money to enable much of that extra 30 per cent. to land at Heathrow airport.

Two suggestions affecting Heathrow were made in those previous discussions, both of which will need the use of the borrowing powers if they are to be implemented. They are, first, ending the daily runway switch at 3 o'clock and, secondly, allowing more night flights. Those were the common themes that ran through much of the discussion on how further to utilise Heathrow. Surprise, surprise, those were two of the five proposals put forward by an independent airline, which it costed at £50 million, the amount which I seek to delete from the Bill. In case anyone doubts whether an independent airline's proposals for Heathrow affect the CAA, I tell the House that in order to get the details of what was being proposed by British Midland Airways I had to ask the CAA for them. So it is involved and must be stopped.

Let us look in some detail at the purpose of trying to spend the £50 million that I am anxious to prevent being spent. It is to try to create 75,000 extra slots—extra landings and takeoffs—at Heathrow. That would represent about 22 per cent. additional traffic movement a year through that airport.

The report, in seeking to spend that money, suggests that five alterations should be made. They are that mixed mode operations should alter the runway switching; that there should be a reduction in the lateral separation of aircraft as they are flying around the airport; that there should be new taxiways to make it quicker for aircraft to get off the runways; that there should be an extension of the working day; and that airline efficiency should be improved.

When the Bill was considered previously, those of us who opposed such matters were described unflatteringly. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), for example, said in Standing Committee: The environment lobby groups—comparatively few—suggest that all the people around the airport are up in arms about noise. That is not true. It is a 'not 'in my backyard' approach, because while they are happy to have the M25 and other major roads nearby for their convenience, a lorry driving along the M25 creates much more noise than an aircraft".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 18 January 1990; c. 6.] My hon. Friend went on to try to persuade everybody that quieter aircraft would get rid of the problem.

I give that quotation to make the point that my opposition and that of my constituents to some of what is proposed is not a mindless, knee-jerk, "not in my backyard" approach to everything that might be suggested for Heathrow airport. My constituents and I have no objection in principle to some of the money that is to be borrowed being spent to improve air traffic control. Indeed, if that makes life safer for us, we are happy. Nor have we any objection to the money being spent on improving the taxiways, and if it means spending money to improve airline efficiency, we would welcome that.

But if any of the £50 million is to be used to enable mixed mode runway use to take place at Heathrow or to increase the number of night flights, I must make it crystal clear that I and all my constituents, irrespective of party, will fight the proposals tooth and nail.

In trying to persuade the House to clip the wings of the Bill, it is vital that I explain to the Minister in detail what bothers me and thus give him a chance, if he can, to reassure me that the money that is to be spent will not be spent on the aspects to which I have referred.

What is it about mixed mode runway use to which we object so much? At present, at Heathrow airport at 3 o'clock each day the runways are switched round so that a runway used for takeoff in the morning is used for landing aircraft in the afternoon, and vice versa. That came about because an aircraft taking off makes much more noise than an aircraft landing. That is equally true of quieter aircraft and older noisy aircraft; there is still more noise on take-off.

Switching runways was felt to be a way of helping people living near the airport to come to terms with the situation, so that they would have trouble in the morning and less trouble in the afternoon. They would know where they stood and at what times the switch would take place.

Lest the House does not think that that is important, I will explain what goes on in my constituency. People get to know the switching times for the week. If they must go shopping or visit friends, they do it when the nearest runway is noisy. If they want to be at home or do gardening, they look up the runway arrangements for the week and plan their lives accordingly. So it is as relevant now as when the scheme was first introduced.

If the CAA is tempted to spend some of the money to make it possible for that 3 o'clock rule to be relaxed, it should be warned that not only will it be resisted but that is will be wasting its money. When the Bill was considered previously, two points were made about the arrangement, and we should consider them because they show what happens when people who are not connected with the airport are allowed to try to pose as experts and tell their colleagues what is going on.

When the money resolution was debated, my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams said of the arrangements there: I wonder whether my hon. Friends are aware that at Heathrow every day at 3 o'clock the runways are changed, rather like the changing of the guard. That results in about a half-hour gap in operations as the CAA changes the runway pattern."—[Official Report, 17 January 1990; Vol. 165, c. 362.] When the Bill was considered in Committee the following day, my hon. Friend said: Heathrow is closed for about 20 minutes as the runway configurations are changed."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 18 January 1990; c. 4.] Within a matter of hours, half an hour had become 20 minutes.

This afternoon, I rang up national air traffic control services to double check that my memory was correct. It confirmed that the switch round at 3 o'clock is almost instantaneous. It does not stop operations and there is no drop in the hourly rate of aircraft movements in that hour. As well as being opposed by us, if the CAA is tempted to spend any of the money in getting rid of the 3 o'clock rule, it will not find any more slots from that manoeuvre.

There seems to be a suggestion that some of the money could be used to increase the number of night flights. The British Midland Airways report does not say that. It says, "Let's not get into the argument about night flights. Let's turn night into day and extend day-time by half an hour at either end." Instead of having a ban from 11·30 pm until 6 am—not a complete ban, but a very severe curb on flights in and out of the airport so that my constituents can sleep—and instead of giving them peace and quiet during those hours in the summer, it is suggested that the hours should be midnight to 5.30 am. Again, it is suggested that that does not matter because aircraft have become quieter. My constituents are not overfussed about whether they are woken up abruptly or gently; they simply object to being woken up. Until my hon. Friend the Minister, the CAA or British Midland Airways can come forward with a silent aircraft, we are implacably opposed in my constituency to any increase in night flights or any tinkering with times, so that, by a sleight of hand, people can say that it is not night time after all.

I have tabled two amendments. My hon. Friend the Minister is keen to have 30 per cent. more aircraft circling over London. I do not necessarily oppose that. British Midland Airways is keen to spend £50 million of the money that we are considering tonight to divert 75,000 of the extra slots to Heathrow. The test we have to apply is to consider for what the money will be used. For what will the £50 million—which my amendment seeks to restrict—be used? If it is to be used for airline efficiency, that is fine. 1 support it if it is to be used for better air traffic control. I also support new taxiways, but unless my hon.

Friend can assure me that the money will not be spent on more night flights, that it will not be used to turn night into day and that it will not be used to scrap the arrangements that have been worked out over the years to protect the interests of my constituents, I hope that all hon. Members will join me in opposing spending money in that way, which will harm my constituents and will do no good to civil aviation.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) on his ingenuity in tabling amendments to raise some of the serious issues which concern me and all hon. Members who have constituencies around Heathrow airport. With some precision, my hon. Friend quoted some of the comments made on the money resolution and in Committee. I am sure that he has also noted in those debates the words of our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground), who put the case well for the residents in the area, although I know that my hon. Friend was not a member of that Committee.

I hope I can go some way to reassure my hon. Friend that the money that we are talking about is not intended to increase the amount of time for night flights. I answered a question from my hon. Friend on that matter just yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has rejected the CAA's argument for a relaxation of the night restrictions, because of some of the well-known fears that my hon. Friend and his neighbours have put to us many times. There is no intention of changing the night-time restrictions until 1992, when they will be reviewed. We will need to see where we go then. The money is not being used for that. I ask my hon. Friend not to press the amendment to a vote.

10.15 pm

I should emphasise that we are not adding £500 million to the CAA's borrowing limit. The CAA is already close to reaching the existing limit of £200 million, which was set in 1980. The limit represents an increase of £300 million. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the CAA is embarking upon an ambitious capital investment programme, amounting to £600 million over the next 10 years. Much of the programme will need to be financed by borrowing, because many of the individual projects are long term, and the CAA will not be able to recoup all the cost from the airlines which use the improved air navigation services which will result until the equipment is fully operational. Therefore, it will take time.

The new equipment includes a new en-route centre costing £200 million, a central control function at £30 million, Scottish radar at £18 million and computer ware at £22 million. The list is substantial. If my hon. Friend were to push his amendment as drafted, it would reduce considerably the borrowing powers of the CAA and impede the programme which it is important to accommodate. It would also mean that we would need further legislation in the not-too-distant future.

The Bill is in two parts. First, it allows for a borrowing requirement of up to £500 million and, in due course, a possible extension to be given by affirmative resolution of the House. Therefore, there will be other opportunities to see whether the CAA is spending the money as my hon. Friend wishes, and whether it is investing and providing the efficient utilisation of air space that we all want.

I commend my hon. Friend on the way in which he presented his proposal. I hope that I have reassured him that the money is not meant to get rid of the mixed mode operation or to end night-time restrictions. I understand my hon. Friend's concern about that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is present, also understands his concern. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press the amendment to a vote. We have heard loud and clear his message on the two issues that he has raised.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

I hear what the Minister has said, and I thank him for it. Perhaps I could do a deal with him. If I were to withdraw the amendment, perhaps he would be willing on occasions to come and have tea with me at 3 o'clock so that I can remind him of what happens. Perhaps from time to time, or even tonight, if the debate goes on a little longer, he will have a nightcap with me at 11 o'clock or half-past 11 so that he can notice how much quieter Spelthorne becomes when the planes stop rumbling overhead. If that is acceptable to him—I hope that he will nod his head vigorously—

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East 10:18 pm, 1st February 1990

The House will have heard the plea both for late-night drinks and for less aircraft noise from the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). We have noted the Minister's reply. Perhaps he does not want to say in public whether he will meet the hon. Gentleman later in his constituency; we can understand if he wants to keep that quiet. The plea of the hon. Member for Spelthorne about aircraft noise is common. Like him, I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) speak about it earlier in a cavalier fashion.

I have some questions to put to the Minister. I hope that by so doing I shall not unduly detain the House or prevent the Minister from keeping his late-night tryst with his hon. Friend, either within the confines of the Palace or in his hon. Friend's constituency. Nevertheless, I think that the House needs some reassurances from the Department about the effect of the measure, especially its effect on air safety.

First, can we be assured that the Civil Aviation Authority has enough capital to make the investment that will be necessary for all the new safety and capacity requirements envisaged for the aviation world in the 1990s? A second question arises directly from that one: can the Minister give us any assurances about the accuracy of the CAA's forecasting over the next decade? He will, I hope, agree—or he may agree; I had better not put words into his mouth—that the CAA made a fundamental error in the early 1980s in cutting the number of air traffic controllers, and that it has taken us until now to recover from that decision. I hope that he can assure us that the predictions about aviation in the 1990s will prove more accurate than those of the last decade.

Did the Minister see the "Scottish Eye" programme on Channel 4 on Saturday evening? It raised a number of disturbing questions about air traffic control and aviation safety. The travelling public—or at least, those who watched the programme—will have been alarmed to see air traffic controllers expressing fears about what they described as the cutting of corners in air traffic control training, and referring to considerable under-investment in such training. Perhaps most important and worrying of all was what air traffic controllers said about the under-recording of "near misses": it seems that recording them reflects badly on air traffic control procedures, and on traffic controllers themselves.

The Minister looks a little pained at that. I did not see the programme—although I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the House did—but I feel that some of the questions that it raised are serious enough for him to examine and answer.

I was even more concerned—these will be my last words on the subject of the television programme—to learn that the air traffic controllers who were interviewed were silhouetted rather than shown full-face, and that their voices were distorted to avoid identification. If those safety fears exist—and the fact that they were expressed in the programme suggests that they do—why should those expressing them have to do so in semi-secret, in order—as they put it—to avoid persecution and disciplinary problems at work?

Have the Government considered the impact of deregulation in the 1990s, especially on air space? We must bear in mind the fact that more smaller aircraft are likely to use British airports as airlines make use of the fifth-freedom rights that the Government believe will be introduced during the decade. Is the extra demand on air traffic control being catered for, and can the Minister assure us that an increase in the number of smaller aeroplanes will not lead to a reduction in safety measures, or even to more delays?

If my memory serves me right, it was at last year's Conservative party conference that the Secretary of State for Transport announced a new control centre to replace the one at West Drayton. That was one of the few good things he said. One could be even more cynical and say that it was one of the few things he said, but, as cynicism would be inappropriate from Opposition Members—especially at this time of night—I think that we should hear more details from the Minister. Now that the tumultuous applause at the party conference has died down, I think that he should tell us when the work will begin, where the new centre will be and when it will come into operation.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

Can the hon. Member tell us when the Labour party debated transport at its conference, or whether it is still reviewing its policy?

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

The Minister surprises me. Strictly speaking, that is not a matter for this debate, but I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to reply briefly. If the Minister had been tuned in to the Labour party conference on the Tuesday—

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Actually, I was not there, but I had a very good reason. I was ill and unable to attend the conference at all—the first time for over 20 years that I had been deprived of a fraternal week by the sea.

I think that it was on the Tuesday of the conference week that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) made his usual pugnacious contribution, which—remarkably for a Labour party conference, because we do not usually go in for these things—was greeted with a standing ovation. It was not quite as tumultuous as the one that greeted the Minister's right hon. Friend, but then it was not as well rehearsed as the ones—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I hope that hon. Members on both Front Benches will now set a good example by returning to the Third Reading of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I apologise for having allowed that intervention to lead me astray momentarily. Of course I will come back to the Bill.

Does the Under-Secretary of State, as regulator for what was the British Airports Authority—now BAA plc—intend to have any consultations with the Civil Aviation Authority about the forecast increase in landing charges in the current year? Does he believe that the CAA will take any action, as it did last year, to restrict fare increases? I want briefly to draw his attention to a cutting from the Sunday Times of last week.

In an article headed "Bargain flights grounded as airlines' costs soar", Francis Rafferty pointed out: The CAA has just spent £50m on a new radar network and £20 million on an air traffic control computer which will be in operation this summer as part of a £600m programme.The CAA last week said it was relaxing the 10-day notice period to allow airlines to put up fares quickly.`Our landing fees at Gatwick will increase by 49 per cent. from April,' said Malcolm Naylor, managing director of Bryman Airways. 'Changes in the pricing structure mean that our tiny 46-seaters will be charged £382 per landing, the same as a Jumbo Jet.' I do not know whether, at this time of night, the Minister can give us any reassurance about the likely impact of such costs on airline fares. I hope that he will concede that it is a worrying trend and not likely to assist the Government's well-publicised, albeit very unsuccessful, battle to reduce inflation.

Finally, I want to draw to the attention of the Under-Secretary of State an aspect of air safety in this country that is often overlooked. I hope that this Bill will go some way to tackling it. I refer to the increasing use of foreign registered and operated airlines leased by British airlines.

My understanding is that these aircraft are neither maintained nor operated to United Kingdom standards; nor are they subject to normal checks and controls by the Civil Aviation Authority. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us—preferably tonight, but, if necessary, at some future time—that the increase in borrowing powers will go some way towards reducing this problem.

Many British aircrew believe that foreign crews leased to British airlines fly longer hours than would be permitted if they were United Kingdom nationals flying with United Kingdom airlines. In some parts of the industry, there is considerable concern that in these cases maintenance does not conform to United Kingdom levels.

There is no point in the Government and the CAA insisting on United Kingdom airlines adopting more stringent maintenance practices and reducing crew flying hours if the result is that airlines bypass the laws and bring in foreign crews and aeroplanes. Many passengers fly with British airlines because they feel safer doing so, and it would surely be a betrayal of their faith and trust if, through Government policies, there was even greater use of foreign aircraft in the future.

As a side issue, we allow crews and aircraft to operate in this country from countries that would not allow us to operate there. I refer especially to the United States of America. Certain aeroplanes that are certified for use in that country fly in the United Kingdom—one has done so for over two years now—without any United Kingdom certification, whereas the reverse would not be permitted in the United States of America. In our view, it is not something that should be permitted here.

Although I have asked the Minister a considerable number of questions, I hope that he will be able to answer them, if not this evening, at least in the very near future—in which case the Opposition believe that the Bill should receive its Third Reading tonight.

Photo of Mr Peter Griffiths Mr Peter Griffiths , Portsmouth North 10:31 pm, 1st February 1990

In the Second Reading Committee, 1 said that I had no objection to the principle of the Bill. I still hold that opinion and I do not criticise its basic concept.

When I entered the Chamber I intended to add to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) when he moved his amendments seeking to reduce the limit on borrowing, because I wished to comment on the actual process of borrowing which, after all, is the real content of the Bill. However, I felt that it might damage my hon. Friend's comments and the Minister's reply if I raised yet a different issue and the matter was not, therefore, dealt with separately.

Although wishing the Bill good speed, I still wish to express my concern about the way in which it is likely to operate in practice. I give my hon. Friend the Minister fair warning that when he comes to the House with the affirmative resolutions that will be necessary before each of the individual tranches of borrowing is made, I shall want to know more than simply the amount and the general purpose.

As I tried to make clear at an earlier stage, the Bill provides for the CAA to borrow in a range of currencies. It does not state that it must spend those currencies in the country to which they apply. If the CAA borrows Dutch guilders, for example, it does not have to buy Dutch radar equipment. It can purchase British equipment. However, that involves changing the guilders back into sterling. Given the volatility of sterling these days, there is almost certain to be either a gain or a loss on the process over a period.

It was to that point that I sought to direct my hon. Friend the Minister during the Second Reading Committee debate. Although he answered my question, I should not have raised the matter again tonight except that, frankly, the more one reads his answer, the less intelligible it is in providing a serious answer to my question about the amount of money that is being put at the disposal of the CAA as compared with the nominal amount that it can borrow.

In the Second Reading Committee, when I asked the Minister whether it would be possible to engage in such operations, he replied no. On careful reading of the Hansard, I have concluded that he meant to say, "Yes, they cannot do it." That is a different matter. He will be faced with the difficulty of explaining how sums that were borrowed in one currency, but were not spent on one occasion in the country of that currency, will affect the total borrowing requirement of the CAA.

My hon. Friend explained to us in the Committee that there will not be an addition to the borrowing powers of the CAA of, say, £500 million or £750 million, but that the CAA will borrow in anticipation of the revenues that it will receive from those who use the airports. I am told that those revenues are paid entirely in sterling. There will be a major accounting problem. My hon. Friend seems to suggest that that will not be so. If the CAA receives its revenues in a variety of currencies, the position will be even more complicated. Perhaps he will clarify the matter.

When affirmative resolutions are brought before the House, shall we know in what currency the original borrowing was made, in which country the purchases will be made and, if there is a difference between the amount borrowed and the amount spent, the purpose for which the difference was used? My hon. Friend may well regret that complication when orders come before the House.

I do not wish to detain the House further or to oppose the Bill, but I give my hon. Friend fair warning of a complication which, to some extent, is of the Government's making.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde 10:36 pm, 1st February 1990

In welcoming the measure, I wish to take this opportunity to ask my hon. Friend some questions about how it will affect air services to the north-west—in particular, Manchester airport and Speke airport at Liverpool, which may be expanded.

My hon. Friend the Minister will be aware that Conservative Members from the north-west have fought for services into Manchester airport. Will he, either now or by letter later, spell out how Manchester may benefit, particularly in air traffic control facilities, from the equipment that the additional borrowing powers may be used to purchase? Many people use Manchester airport to begin their holidays. They are tired of the endless excuse that their flight is delayed because of air traffic control problems. We are trying to win additional services to Manchester to take away some of the burden from overcrowded airports in the south, to which other hon. Members have referred.

Will my hon. Friend respond to the points that I have raised on behalf of air service users in the north-west?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport 10:37 pm, 1st February 1990

I shall respond to as many of the points raised as possible. I begin by welcoming the general approach of the Opposition to the Bill, which is important for the overall future of air traffic control and air safety.

When we discuss air safety, it is important to put in perspective the record of the United Kingdom. We give safety the highest priority. That can never be compromised. There is no doubt that there is sufficient money to cover safety requirements.

The number of air misses related to aircraft flying hours has halved over the past 10 years. I do not take comfort from that, because I should like the number to be much lower. However, it is important to put it in context. We have a reporting system, and all air misses are investigated. I hope that that goes some way to reassuring the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape).

Like the hon. Gentleman, I did not see the television programme to which he referred, but I shall seek to find out a little more about some of the points that were made. I am told that a representative from the CAA said that safety was its business and that it was not concerned just with carrying passengers, but with carrying them safely and making sure that aircraft get from A to B safely. There can be no doubt about our commitment to air safety. That is fundamental.

The hon. Gentleman was critical of our failure to forecast growth as well as might have been done. That is always a problem with forecasting. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. Air traffic has increased by about 48 per cent. during the past 10 years. It would have been a brave person who made that forecast. Air traffic has grown by 7 per cent. in the past 12 months, due partly to our liberalisation policies, which have meant cheaper transport and more people travelling by plane.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I am perfectly prepared to accept that to forecast a traffic growth of 48 per cent. in the 1980s would have been fairly difficult, but I was complaining about the fact that the CAA got it so wrong that, until five years ago, it was reducing the number of air traffic controllers. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that that was a fundamental error.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

A lot of effort has gone into reversing the shortage of air traffic controllers.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the training of air traffic controllers. We cannot make safety a high priority and then cut the training programmes for air traffic controllers. We are considering the possibility of training people in different aspects of air traffic control, such as the flying tunnels concept, as opposed to airport work. I hope that that will help to reassure the hon. Gentleman.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth. North (Mr. Griffiths) made an important point that I am sorry I was unable to clarify in Committee. The CAA can already borrow in foreign currencies and the Bill extends its powers to ecu. One reason for that is that much of its revenue from Eurocontrol will come in ecu. It needs Treasury approval for any borrowing in foreign currencies, and that will be clearly shown in its accounts. If my hon. Friend is not satisfied, he will be able to make his complaints when we deal with the affirmative resolution to increase the sum to £750 million.

There is no doubt about the importance that the Government attach to regional airports. We are committed to the role that they can play. It is nonsense that someone from Derbyshire, Manchester or Sheffield should have to travel to London to join a flight. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had a meeting in the United States on that issue and we hope to make further progress. If the matter had been easy to resolve, it would have been resolved a long time ago. Regional airports can play a vital role in air traffic control and in making travel more convenient for our constituents. My constituents probably use the East Midlands airport, but we are not too far from Manchester.

I hope that hon. Members will give this useful and valuable Bill its Third Reading. It gives the CAA the flexibility that it needs to organise the finance for its ambitious and vital capital development programme.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I made three or four other points in the course of my speech—deregulation and smaller aircraft and the impact of fifth-freedom rights on United Kingdom airspace; landing charges and their impact on fares throughout the United Kingdom; and the use of foreign-registered planes and crews. I do not expect an answer immediately on those points, but I should like an assurance from the hon. Gentleman that he will consider them and write to me in due course.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

I shall certainly write to the hon. Gentleman in greater detail about the three points that I have not covered, particularly the last one.

I was not wholly surprised at the amount of debate which the Bill has generated, even though it could easily be seen as a mere technical measure both in Committee and the House. Aviation is an important subject. I fully understand that, whenever hon. Members have the opportunity to debate it, they use it to bring to the Government's attention some of the issues which are important to them and their constituents. It is right that they should do so, and we shall take note of the number of comments made not only by Members who have airports in the vicinity of their constituency, but by those who would like more development of regional airports, to which the Government are wholly committed and feel is important.

In the light of those debates, I commend the Bill to the House and trust that hon. Members will agree to give it a Third Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At column 405 of yesterday's Hansard, 31 January, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) complained to Mr. Speaker that he understood that, without any notification, the Minister had made an attack on him, and that he regretted that. I understand that, in the previous debate today, the hon. Member for Bradford, South attacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) without warning. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rule whether it is in order for a failed Minister, failed Member and failed Member of the European Parliament, with one of the most marginal seats in the country, to complain one day that he is being attacked without warning, and the very next day to attack one of my right hon. Friends without any warning?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If that point of order is in order, is it in order for the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) to use exactly the same type of language about my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer)?

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke and I did the hon. Member for Bradford, South the courtesy of advising him that we intended to raise this issue. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rule whether it is customary in the House to raise points of order affecting individual members of other parties, without doing what we had the courtesy to do?

Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With reference to that same extract from Hansard, is it in order for a colleague in the House to eulogise his past achievements when his track record indicates—as I personally experienced as a small business man at the time—that he was quite outstandingly the worst Minister with responsibility for small businesses that there has ever been? For such a person to present a case in the House about one of the finest Ministers there has ever been is surely a gross error. Does the House recall that, prior to the hon. Member for Bradford, South being a Minister with responsibility for small businesses, he took on the job after the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) had jumped into the Mersey rather than support the Labour Government in their desire to join the European Community?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Eulogies of past achievements are not unknown in this place. I can confirm to all the hon. Members who raised points of order that it is customary, if an hon. Member wishes to criticise another hon. Member, for him to give notice to him or her before doing so.