New Clause 9

Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8 May 2008.

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Congestion charging (airport roads)

‘(1) Section 163 of the Transport Act 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of subsection (3) insert “, or

(e) by a designated airport operator which exercises the functions of a highway authority under section 65 of the Airports Act 1986.”.’.—[Mr. Leech.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would give powers to airport operators to introduce congestion charging on airport roads where the airport operator exercised the functions of a highway authority. Airports are expanding and rapidly increasing their carbon emissions. A main cause of those emissions is journeys to and from the airport. As airports expand, emissions from vehicles travelling to and from the airport will rise and congestion will increase.

The Bill offers us an ideal opportunity to give airport operators, if they see fit, the opportunity to tackle congestion and emissions and to encourage passengers and visitors to airports to travel by public transport. This measure could also help to tackle the problem of airport drop-offs, which double the number of necessary journeys, compared with people who choose to park and fly.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Gentleman said, he would like to place the airport operator in the same position as a local authority in allowing it to exercise the same functions in relation to a charging scheme, including consulting on and making a scheme, setting charge levels, charging road users, collecting revenue and enforcing penalty charges against those who do  not pay. For a private company to exercise such powers, appropriate safeguards would need to be put in place so that the public could have confidence in the fair operation of such a scheme.

Those are complex issues to work through, including ensuring that the revenue was reserved so that it could be spent only on transport purposes and that it did not offset other allocated funding. We would not want a private airport operator to profit unreasonably from the use of a charging scheme.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

Of course, a private airport operator would not introduce a scheme that financially damaged the airport. It is highly unlikely that they would ever massively increase charges and put passengers off using the airport.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am afraid that we do not think that this is the right time to take powers to allow airport operators to charge on roads for which they are the designated highways authority. Other measures are in place to tackle congestion problems, and there are a number of complex issues to be worked through before the public would accept an airport charging scheme. We therefore cannot accept the new clause, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank the Minister for her remarks. I will withdraw the new clause, but we may choose to return to the subject on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.