Clause 77 - Crown application

Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:30 am, 8th March 2012

I beg to move amendment 62, in clause 77, page 45, line 37, leave out subsection (3).

Welcome back, Sir Roger. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair again. The amendment is timely given that the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Father of the House led the tributes to Her Majesty in the Commons yesterday. With the beginning of the formal celebrations of Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee year, we start the morning’s session with a royal amendment.

Subsection (3) raises the distinction between Her Majesty in her private capacity and her duties as the monarch. Will the Minister of State simply clarify that distinction? We are in no way, shape or form doing anything other than protecting Her Majesty’s interests. I am sure that the Minister will be very able to explain.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Minister of State, Department for Transport

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for explaining his motivation in tabling the amendment and the entirely loyal motivation behind his seeking clarification. I am happy to set out the reason for the reference to Her Majesty.

The usual constitutional position is that the Crown is not bound by statute unless the Act of Parliament in question clearly says so. As parts of the Bill implement the European airport charges directive, it is necessary to bind the Crown—for example, Government Departments and Executive agencies—to ensure and to be seen to ensure full implementation of the directive. The Crown does not currently operate any civil airports, and although we do not see that position changing, the reference ensures that the UK is seen to be fully compliant with our obligations under European law.

We have, however, distinguished the situation of Her Majesty acting in her personal capacity, as is consistent with general practice. Although part of the Crown, we seek to follow the usual constitutional position, in part because we see no prospect of Her Majesty operating a civil airport on her own account—essentially as a sole trader. We feel that excluding Her Majesty in her personal capacity is not likely to lead to any risk of a loophole emerging in the system of economic regulation of airports.

Given that reassurance about the motivation behind the provision in clause 77, I hope the shadow Minister will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am sure that Her Majesty will be mightily relieved that her Government and loyal Opposition are looking out for her best interests. I am very pleased to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 77 ordered to stand part of the Bill.