I am grateful to the Minister for informing us about the Aviation (Offences) Bill. I recall participating in the early stages of the proceedings with the Under-Secretary. That was an enjoyable experience. I learned much from those preparations.
There is much agreement in Committee about the provisions of the Bill that cover alcohol testing for
pilots, and we support them. The Under-Secretary said that the Government do not imagine that many pilots will fall into the categories referred to in the provisions. However, he said that some devices would need to be adapted for the tests, so presumably there will be a short period of preparation for that. The Bill sets out to give precedence to alcohol testing, and creates new aviation and maritime offences for air and sea pilots and other personnel in safety-critical positions.
It is regrettable that the Government did not see fit to include provisions relating to aviation offences, air rage, and disruptive passengers intoxicated with drink or drugs in the Bill. We are in danger of creating two categories of offences. Perhaps the Minister was told that his Department could not have as big a Bill as it wished, but that is not the best reason for excluding offences that relate to passengers. Such offences could also apply in a maritime sense; there might be disruptive passengers on a disco riverboat or chain ferry. However, one feels most vulnerable as an air passenger. We are disappointed that the Government did not make one package and include disruptive passengers on planes and ships in the Bill. It would have been a much neater way of proceeding. Now, there will be a category of offence relating to those working in safety-critical functions, even though passengers could feel equally jeopardised by disruptive passengers.