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Clause 18 - Licence conditions

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 1st March 2012.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport) 1:15 pm, 1st March 2012

The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point about the publication of any performance expectations by any company, but I would hope that common sense would prevail. As a passenger, if I looked on the website to find out about an airport’s performance and I saw a cautionary notice that stated, “We are investing £1.5 million in improving our services, and in the meantime our expected baggage-arrival time of 25 minutes may be 35 minutes,” I think I would understand that. The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, however.

In clauses 83 onwards, the Government state that they want to collect the data, so there is no disagreement between us. The data must be collected and published, and passengers must have the opportunity to examine those data. We do not disagree that someone has to do that job, but we say if it is a licence condition, let the airports do it. They are best equipped to do it; they are already doing it in some instances; they are on the ground, so it is easier for them to do it; and the CAA can monitor it. Regarding concerns about the contemporariness of the data because of particular conditions, websites can be updated regularly to communicate any changes. I do not think there is a huge difference between the Opposition’s view and the Government’s, but the question is whether data collection ought to be a licence requirement.

The last amendment in the group, 20, concerns support for stranded passengers. Some airports raised a side issue with the Opposition, and I am sure with coalition colleagues as well, about the dangers of making support for stranded passengers too prescriptive. Requiring airports to house stranded passengers at the hotel nearest to the airport terminal, which is sometimes the most expensive, might cost airports more than if they were licensed to move passengers to hotels within or around the estate. To be perfectly frank, that is a matter of detail as far as we are concerned. We want passengers to have confidence that they will be protected if they are stranded as a result of being let down by an element of the service they expect. We all know that being stuck at an airport, even as an adult, can be a pretty frustrating experience, and if someone has family members with them there is even more pressure.

Providing support for stranded passengers is in keeping with the thrust of the Bill. Clause 1 states that the primary duty is to the passenger. If being a stranded passenger is not a difficult experience, what is the essence of the primary duty? We therefore think that the amendments are not unreasonable, and that a licensing requirement is the best way to deliver them. We are keen to hear from the Government in due course.