Clause 64 - Review etc of airport operation services

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Minister of State, Department for Transport 4:15 pm, 6th March 2012

In response to the points raised by my hon. Friend, I shall explain the aim of clause 64. It contains provisions designed to ensure that the markets relevant to airport operation services are kept under review by the CAA and that the CAA has appropriate mechanisms to provide advice and assistance to the Office of Fair Trading, the Secretary of State and the wider public.

Subsection (1) places a qualified duty on the CAA to keep the provision of airport operation services in the UK under review and to collect information about such provision to facilitate the CAA in carrying out its concurrent competition functions set out in chapter 2. Subsection (2) places a duty on the CAA to provide information, advice and assistance to the Secretary of State and the OFT about any matter relating to its concurrent competition functions—on request, if that is practicable, or on its own initiative.

The power to prepare and publish reports relating to airport operation services in subsection (4) is intended to enable the CAA to publish market studies where it considers that appropriate. That will enable the CAA to make use of its sectoral knowledge in examining a whole market in order to identify, and assess the best way of remedying, competition concerns. Subsection (5) gives the CAA the discretion to exclude commercial information or information relating to private affairs from the published document in certain circumstances. Subsection (6) enables the CAA to carry out, commission or provide financial or other support for research in respect of exercising its functions under this clause.

In response to the examples raised by my hon. Friend, I am, as I have said on a number of occasions, reluctant to start suggesting constraints in the context of the Public Bill Committee on the flexibility that we propose to give the CAA, but he can be reassured that as the CAA is subject to a duty to act in a proportionate way, there are limits to the scope of what it would be appropriate for it to do by way of reviews.

The CAA is required to act in an efficient manner by the regulatory framework. That naturally puts constraints on the ambition of the reviews that it would carry out. I would not expect the CAA to seek to trespass on what  is, rightly, the territory of Ministers in making decisions on potential capacity needs in the south-east, and I certainly cannot envisage this provision being used to create lots of research on air passenger duty. I think that that would certainly fall outwith the scope of the kind of reviews contemplated.

I do not want to make absolute declarations on what the CAA might or might not do—as I said, this is a flexible provision—but I do not think that either of those areas of work is likely to be the focus of the CAA’s work on this.