Amendment 14

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 21st January 2021.

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Baroness Randerson:

Moved by Baroness Randerson

14: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—“Review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft, and whether it provides sufficient protection to individuals.(2) The review should make reference to, but is not limited to—(a) whether privacy legislation is sufficient to cover threats posed to personal privacy by unmanned aircraft;(b) the merits of introducing mandatory remote identification;(c) the merits of introducing mandatory geo-fencing;(d) whether criminal law sufficiently protects against—(i) the modification of unmanned aircraft; and (ii) the weaponisation of unmanned aircraft;(e) whether there should be a minimum age for the purchase and operation of unmanned aircraft, and what the appropriate age would be;(f) whether the CAA’s system for registering operators of unmanned aircraft ensures sufficient supervision for those who are under the age of 18 operating unmanned aircraft;(g) whether a licensing requirement should be introduced for unmanned aircraft above a certain weight;(h) the Government’s strategy for managing risks arising from unmanned aircraft operated from overseas.(3) The review must make a recommendation as to whether the Government should bring forward further legislation in the light of its findings.(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a further review in the same terms every 12 months after the review under subsection (1).”

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

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.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Crossbench

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?

My purpose with this amendment is to seek government reaction to the need to provide for CAA-authorised and open operations in ways that the police powers in the Bill will do nothing to threaten or interfere with their commercial use and market growth. Other specialists, such as firemen and ambulance drivers, are set separate rules to other road users, which the police observe. Will the Minister agree to proposing further amendment to police powers in this Bill to address commercial uses and demonstrate the Government’s laudable commitment to supporting this fledgling industry? I sense that there is strong backing for this industry and the Minister’s direction to the Bill team would help to deliver it. I shall be happy to assist in the preparation of any amendments she decides to table.

Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 4:45 pm, 21st January 2021

My Lords, I support the probing amendment tabled by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, to insert a new clause. I will not repeat what he just said, but I underline its importance. If we go back in time a little, the Minister may recall that, when she first took office on drones, we—the UK—were a bit behind the curve compared to France, Ireland and Canada. Now, we have an opportunity to take the lead, which is what this new clause is partially about. I want to re-emphasise to Her Majesty’s Government that this industry, in particular, is here to develop commercial distribution and to function at all, the police should not be involved. It should be left to the CAA. It is fair to be open and say to my noble friend that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and I have been in discussions with the industry—particularly with its legal representative, Richard Ryan, who is a well-known and very well-qualified barrister.

I shall give a couple of practical examples. I have been involved with drones almost since the day they were invented. If you have a situation with a constable—let us say in Sandy, where I live—who, under Schedule 9, is simply asking for reasonable grounds for belief, which may be founded on a complaint by a passer-by, the consequence is quite significant for a commercial operator as the constable will have the power to request information while the flight is taking place. I do not know whether the Minister has had a go at flying these things—I hope that she has—but they are not that easy; I speak as a former pilot and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, is a very experienced pilot. Anyway, the flight is still taking place, and the operator is being interrupted. Currently, under Part 1 of Schedule 9, paragraph (1)(a) states that while

“a flight by a small unmanned aircraft is taking place”,

the constable may, as paragraph 2(1)(a)(ii) states, require the person to provide

“information that would assist … the constable to verify that … that flight” is valid. The issue with this is: who takes responsibility for the flight when the pilot is being interrupted by the constable? What if the drone switches out of GPS mode and into attitude mode? It then clearly requires more care and attention with respect to carrying out flight safety under Article 241 of the ANO 2016. I know that my noble friend has all these details at her fingertips, but I remind her that Article 241 clearly states:

“A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.”

I have a couple of other points, which are perfectly practical as well. The amendments to Schedule 9 rely on the fact that a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a provision of the ANO 2016 is or was being contravened, as well as other aspects. How would the constable know at that time what precise provision of the ANO 2016 was being contravened? In practical terms, this is unachievable, due to the complexity of the legislation and/or further amendments to the ANO, leading ultimately to a possible miscarriage of justice.

My next point is very relevant to what is happening in the Covid world at the moment. What is the position if a remote pilot is conducting numerous flights at the same time, whether it is at a drone lightshow or transporting medical supplies on behalf of the NHS at scale? Some of these flights could be beyond the line of sight. This is relevant because, when we start operating at scale, the police will have significant powers which can harm the industry, create unnecessary reputational damage and be of significant cost and disruption to the whole unmanned aviation supply chain.

I have half a dozen other examples, but I do not think that the Minister wants to hear them this evening, although I would be more than happy to supply them. I ask her to reflect that this is a new industry that can and will create many jobs, increase skills and set the UK up as a leading pioneer in unmanned aviation. A system that confronts companies with such onerous terms in the legislation, that captures absolutely all operators, is, in my and my noble friend’s judgment, flawed. We have a situation where the Government have taken a view. We have looked at other jurisdictions, such as Canada—a country I know quite well—where the legislation is about half the scale of ours.

My final thought is that the potential for the loss of income, innovation and opportunity will be significant if this law applies to commercial operations, or those with an operational authorisation, especially in the short term. There is significant reliance on a constable knowing all the relevant aviation laws that apply. This is no good when a drone operator, for example, has a roof survey the next day which he cannot perform because his equipment has been appropriated by the constable in lieu of an investigation with no time limit.

Here is a wonderful potential industry. We need to make sure that, yes, there is control, but that can be done by the CAA, an organisation for which I have had the greatest respect as a pilot myself. Leave it to the CAA—that is what should happen. I hope my noble friend will reflect on some of the evidence that we have managed to produce this afternoon.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, we have heard a very powerful case from the previous speaker. I see no reason for me to detain the House unreasonably and will speak briefly, principally to Amendment 15. My concerns in Committee centred on what I saw as the need to isolate potentially irresponsible non-commercial users of drones from those who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, seek to exploit commercially this new and innovative use of the technology.

During the debate on 27 January last year, I raised the issue of the confiscation of equipment. On 12 February, I raised the same issue, in particular where rogue operators breached the rules. There has to be a procedure in place which more clearly separates and differentiates the potential rogue operator from the legitimate commercial operation. Fines are too often no deterrent. We know from government stats that there is a high incidence of non-payment among those who have little respect for the law. We need a separate, more vigorously enforced regime for rogue drone operators. We cannot treat CAA-authorised operations in a way which appears similar to that in which we treat recreational users.

The danger in the Government’s approach is that the recreational user will be the beneficiary of the developing, lighter-touch regime that will ultimately and inevitably have to apply to commercial drone operations. This is inevitable as commercial operators exert increasing pressure for the introduction of such a regime to protect commercial viability. Alternatively, if this does not happen, commercial operators will be penalised by the more vigorous approach that will inevitably have to apply to the recreational user. The systems proposed are flawed.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, has valiantly sought to convince the department and Ministers of the dangers, but has received little reassurance to date by way of response. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, can clearly see the writing on the wall and therefore seeks a review of the new regime at a later stage. She is to be congratulated on the persistent way in which she has pursued these matters over a number of years. Either way, the system when tested will need to be reviewed. We need two, distinct sets of rules and regimes; a separate regime that is fair to all.

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

My Lords, I remind the House of my role as president of BALPA. I thank the Department for Transport for its constructive engagement with officers from BALPA in getting this far—goodness knows, we have spent a long time getting this far with this Bill.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that rogue drone operators are clearly very different to the responsible drone operator that we wish to deal with. However, I am not sure that supporting this amendment is the right way forward. The Bill is not the right vehicle to include a requirement to review unmanned aircraft legislation. It cannot just be left to the CAA, as has been suggested, because if there were a major incident, government would be expected to have a role and to respond. At the same time, the development of drones is proceeding at an enormously fast pace. Will the Minister reassure us that a system of regular review will be put in place?

The serious concerns of BALPA are not limited to where we are today but look to where we might be tomorrow. We hear, for instance, about the problems with multiple use of drones, where one person controls more than one drone. The first instinct is to say, “That’s terrible, isn’t it? We really should have only one person per drone,” but let me put another scenario to the House. If someone is lost at sea, or there is an air crash, you may well want to have a swarm of drones covering a wide area. For that to be effective, you would need one central person to be in control so as to investigate what was beneath, and being observed by, a number of drones. It is not quite as simple as some people seem to imagine.

I would like the Minister to assure us that there will be a regular review, and that she will come back to the House at an appropriate time, possibly in answer to a Question, or put something in the Library, outlining the principles which could follow that review. It is no good saying that we want one every five years or every two years; we need to be able to respond fairly quickly to matters as they come up. I will certainly not be supporting a Division, as passing this clause would not take us forward at all. However, my hope is that some of the principles contained therein are the sort that should be borne in mind in developing the policies that we want to see for the effective and reasonable control of drones, commercially and privately.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat 5:00 pm, 21st January 2021

My Lords, there is a real and strong disagreement within your Lordships’ House. There are those whom I would call almost the “free enterprise at all costs” people, such as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. They would have very little and ineffective regulation of the system. Then there are those who are being cautious about the fact that this is a rapidly developing industry, while we know that some part of the industry is in the hands of the most unscrupulous people.

I do not accept the assertions of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that a police constable is going to interfere with people whom he knows are legitimately carrying out proper business of this sort, such as looking at bridges or buildings. These people will, or should, be registered in a separate register of those who have legitimate reasons to fly drones. Those who do not have a legitimate reason should, in many cases, be subject to the full force of the law because much of what they are doing is illegal.

The other thing is that drones can be a big nuisance factor. We will come on to that in a later amendment, when we talk about areas of outstanding natural beauty. But in her approach to this, the Minister should think about people who are legitimate drone owners—those who are licensed and registered with the CAA, and presumably the local police or enforcing authority—and those who probably should not be let near drones, and are using them for nefarious or criminal activities. However, in considering this amendment, it is important to say that this industry is developing very quickly. The thought of it proceeding on its way with a formal system of being able to review the way it is turning out, probably fairly often, seems a sensible precaution.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I will direct my comments to Amendment 14 but will listen carefully to the Minister’s response to all the points made in respect of Amendment 15.

Amendment 14, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft and whether it provides sufficient protection to individuals. The amendment also sets out a number of issues to which such a review should refer but to which it should not be restricted. The review would be required to make a recommendation on whether the Government should bring forward further legislation in the light of its findings.

Unmanned aircraft—drone—technology is developing fast, and the Government need to ensure that they are proactive, not reactive, when it comes to legislating, where necessary, to reflect developments in this technology and the expansion in the use of drones in the public services, by the Armed Forces and in both the commercial and leisure sectors, as well as by those whose priority may not be operating drones safely and responsibly.

As has been said, unmanned aircraft offer great benefits to society but can also lead to significant areas of concern. Emergency services are utilising drones to save lives, and parcel and freight companies, for example, look to use drones to deliver vital medical supplies as well as day-to-day purchases. Unmanned aircraft are now used in many industries to carry out work that is potentially hazardous for human beings or can be done much more quickly or thoroughly by the use of drones. They are also used by the police, as we have seen during the current Covid-19 crisis and the associated lockdowns—an aspect to which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred.

However, there is another side, as we saw from the drone sightings at Gatwick Airport not so long ago, which resulted in flight cancellations and diversions affecting many thousands of passengers. It led, I believe, to a COBRA meeting being convened and the Army being called in, and it also highlighted the urgent need for this Bill, which nevertheless has been going through this House at a snail’s pace and still has to go through the Commons.

We have to be in a position to be sure that legislation keeps pace with developments in the increasing use, and, most importantly, potential misuse, of unmanned aircraft, as they become more sophisticated and powerful in what they can do and for how long—as well as in their range and areas of activity, not least the monitoring of civilians, and in relation to who uses them. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also said, drones are used for criminal activity as well.

There is a need to ensure that legislation continues to provide sufficient protection to individuals and that this does not get overlooked in this developing field of technology. There needs to be a mechanism for ensuring the continued adequacy and appropriateness of existing legislation, including this Bill, in a field of activity that is expanding and moving forward and will continue to do so with some rapidity.

It is not sufficient to say that legislation will be kept under review: there are so many areas nowadays, across so many departments, where the Government tell us that legislation is kept under continuous review. We need something in the Bill to ensure that, in such a fast-developing field as unmanned aircraft and the uses to which they are put, regular reviews of legislation take place, covering, but not limited to, the specific points referred to in the amendment. It is equally important that Parliament has a clear role in the review process, which is also provided for in this amendment. Amendment 14 has our support.

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I will take each amendment in this group in turn, starting with Amendment 14, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which the Government believe is neither necessary nor appropriate.

The purpose of Part 3 is to attach police powers to offences in a separate piece of legislation—the Air Navigation Order 2016—and to other offences. Therefore, this Bill is not the appropriate place for a requirement to review unmanned aircraft legislation. Furthermore, a number of reviews are already due to take place. I hope this will satisfy the noble Baroness that her amendment is not necessary.

The ANO 2016 is the legislation that currently sets out offences that are specific to unmanned aircraft. Article 275 of the ANO 2016 states that it must be reviewed every five years, and its first statutory review is due to be completed by August 2021. This review will assess the extent to which the law surrounding unmanned aircraft, in so far as it is laid down in that instrument, is operating effectively to achieve its objectives. Of course, this may well be within the noble Baroness’s six-month timeframe.

As the impact assessment for the Bill states, this legislation will be kept under continuous review to ensure that it achieves its objectives: to address the key gaps identified from the 2018 consultation on the future of drones in the UK and to improve the ability of the police to respond to UA misuse, thereby reducing the irresponsible and malicious use of UA. This is in line with the Government’s practice of keeping all UA legislation under review, regardless of whether there is a legislative requirement to do so.

Moreover, ordinarily, a five-year timeframe applies to post-implementation reviews of legislation. This is recommended in the Government’s better regulation framework and the requirements of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, in relation to new measures adopted in secondary legislation regulating business and the voluntary sector. Furthermore, the Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy, published in October 2019, commits the Government to continuing to develop proposals for inclusion in future legislation, so that the legal framework within which operational responders must operate does not become obsolete or hamper their ability to respond to and investigate malicious drone activity. I am very much hoping that these forthcoming reviews will reassure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that the Government take our ability to legislate for the fast-moving world of the unmanned aircraft sector very seriously indeed, and we have work ongoing to make sure that our legislation is up to date.

The noble Baroness briefly mentioned the use of drones by the police. We have had a few conversations about this issue. It might be worth reassuring her that the police have to abide by the same laws as everybody else. Drones are incredibly helpful to police forces and can often be used in places where there is risk to life or where a helicopter might be too expensive or not as efficient. The police have to act within the same laws as everybody else and have operational procedures that overlay those laws in terms of the right way and right circumstances in which to use drones. Decisions for their use are put into place by each police force, which has clear guidance on how they are to be used.

Responsible use is of course really important—for example, on the collection and use of video footage, again, unsurprisingly, the police have to follow the same laws as everybody else. There is also a legal position on public bodies’ use of video footage that is well regulated by directed surveillance authorities. The police are responsible for ensuring that data is collected, processed and stored in accordance with the law. In terms of the safe operation of a drone, the police must do so in accordance with the Air Navigation Order 2016 and, where needed, if the operation is slightly riskier, they will have to apply to CAA for operational authorisation —as, indeed, does anyone else. If any individual has concerns about the use of drones by police, of course they can make a complaint to the police and crime commissioner or the mayor, where appropriate.

I turn to the amendment tabled by noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, which generated an interesting and lively discussion on permissions for commercial operators. Now that the implementing regulation is in place, there is no difference in the requirement to obtain a permission for a commercial or a recreational operator. I will call them “recreational operators” but there are all sorts of different operators. That is absolutely right, because I do not subscribe to the view that “commercial” is good and “recreational” is necessarily bad. Creating that false dichotomy is not really helpful.

It is down to risk, rather than who the person is with their hands on the control. So the implementing regulation draws no distinction between commercial and recreational flights and the ANO has already been amended to reflect that. Of course, the offences that noble Lords are discussing today relate to that ANO but do not amend the ANO itself. So the need to obtain a permission for a purely commercial operation has now been revoked—but, of course, that could be a good thing. Many commercial operators will now be very pleased, because they will not need to apply for a licence to fly a drone which a recreational operator standing right next to them could fly without a licence.

It strikes me that this should actually be fairly good news for commercial operators; therefore, it is only the higher-risk operations in the specific or certified category where a UAS operator will require authorisation or certification from the CAA. Most commercial operators will be perfectly competent and able to get that permission, authorisation or certification and, indeed, have it to hand in the unlikely event that a police officer or constable believes that something is not being done in accordance with the law. So I do not accept the scenarios of doom and gloom whereby dreadful things will happen if somebody has to put their hand in their pocket and pull out a piece of paper to hand to a police constable and say, “Yep, I’ve got my authorisation, here it is”, and the flight could quite frankly continue.

The police have been heavily involved in the drafting and preparation of the Bill and they have not said that they feel that this intervention with a commercial operator would be particularly onerous or difficult. They are content that they will be able to work with operational partners to make sure that the aspects of the Bill are implemented successfully. So the legislation makes it very clear what the requirement for police to engage with the UAS operator is—to establish what authorisation they have and the category they are flying in, be it for recreational or commercial use. Where there is any doubt whether an operator is acting in a lawful way, the police will be able to draw on the guidance provided. Again, I do not fear that the police will not know what they are doing in this regard. The Bill makes it clear that the police, in engaging with a UAS operator, can require information to be provided about what category they are flying in and what consents they have.

So I hope that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, will feel reassured. I suspect he may not, but it is not our intention to carve out different sets of rules for commercial and recreational operators. We absolutely understand and respect the commercial unmanned aircraft sector; we believe it has a huge future in our country and beyond and we do not want to put anything in its way or stop people doing their jobs. However, people in that sector do not justify special treatment; they should be treated exactly the same as anybody else who flies an unmanned aircraft, and that is what the regulation does. I believe it actually simplifies the system and that it will have some advantages for commercial operators, some of whom will not now need a permit to do their flights.

I hope that, based on the reassurances I have given to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, she will choose to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 5:15 pm, 21st January 2021

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate; it has been very interesting. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support, for signing the amendment and for his clear explanation of his position.

I thank the Minister for her response, but I am afraid that she has not reassured me. There has been a very interesting range of views, but the Bill is just a start. My contacts with the drone industry indicate that it believes that a modern, strong legislative framework would be helpful to the industry and not a constraint. I know of several organisations that retain very serious concerns about drones and their operation in the modern world, and about their safety and the societal impact of, for example, illegal activity.

The Minister very fully outlined the Government’s approach, saying that it is neither necessary nor appropriate to have the reviews that I suggest. She referred to the ANO 2016 and the statutory review this year, which she has referred to in previous conversations. I looked at that review, but it does not have the breadth of the one that I am calling for and is not in line with the scope of the amendment that I have tabled. I am afraid that, without a commitment from the Minister to the kind of comprehensive approach that I have in mind, I feel compelled to call a vote on this amendment.

Ayes 255, Noes 274.

Division number 2 Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] - Report — Amendment 14

Aye: 255 Members of the House of Lords

No: 274 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Division conducted remotely on Amendment 14

Amendment 14 disagreed.

Amendment 15 not moved.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 5:34 pm, 21st January 2021

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 16. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and Minister may speak once only and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Clause 17: Part 3: interpretation