Conditions of licences

Space Industry Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 23rd January 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:00 am, 23rd January 2018

I beg to move amendment 17, in clause 12, page 9, line 41, at end insert—

“(ea) must consult the Environment Agency or (as appropriate) the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency or Natural Resources Wales;

“(eb) must consult any relevant local planning authority;”

This amendment ensures that the devolved Administrations are consulted in regards to respective Environment Agency bodies.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 18, in clause 12, page 10, line 4, at end insert—

‘(9) In subsection (6) a “relevant local planning authority” means a local planning authority with jurisdiction over any location which would be significantly affected by the licence application.”

This amendment defines ‘relevant local planning authorities’.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will be brief, Mr Bone. The amendments aim to tighten up some of the ambiguous wording in the Bill. They are intended to ensure that if space activities were to be established under any of the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, their respective environment agency bodies would be consulted before any decision was made on granting an operator licence in their jurisdictions. Will the Minister assure us that he will ensure that the regulator will properly consult the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency or Natural Resources Wales, as well as any relevant local planning authority, before an operator can be granted a UK spaceport licence?

I tabled amendment 18 with the aim of properly defining a “relevant local planning authority”. We believe that the Bill is too vague and have expanded on its wording to ensure that a local planning authority is defined as an

“authority with jurisdiction over any location which would be significantly affected by the licence application”.

I have seen the Minister’s collegiate approach to the Committee and hope that he will note Opposition concerns, and I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment if he addresses the important points I have raised.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.

I support the amendments and hope that the Minister can answer some questions. I am speaking with a constituency interest, as Natural Resources Wales is in my constituency. As that constituency borders England, and has a maritime border, issues such as those we are considering are of regular concern to my constituents. A recent example was the building of the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station on the other side of the Bristol channel. Various significant concerns were raised about the granting of licences for the disposal of mud, which is being removed from the Hinkley Point site to the Welsh side of the channel.

I do not want to get into the specifics of that example, but as there is a question of potentially hazardous materials and the potential for cross-border contamination within the UK, I agree that the matters should be the subject of proper consultation with the devolved authorities, given the likely consequences of anything untoward happening.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

I welcome the amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West and I certainly support it, because three of the potential sites are in Scotland, and one is in Wales. However, as we have discussed, the industry could grow and while there is not currently a site in Northern Ireland, there could be in future. It is important that the devolved Governments should be respected and consulted.

The Government introduced new clause 1 on environmental impact right at the start, when we considered clause 2, and it is crucial that they should respect the devolved Governments’ environmental agencies and local planning considerations.

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

I thank hon. Members for raising important issues on consultation with relevant environmental and planning bodies. The regulator will identify what assessments of environmental effects are appropriate, during the pre-application process. In reviewing those assessments and deciding whether conditions should be attached to a licence, the regulator may wish to have an input from various environmental bodies. However, requiring consultation with the relevant environment agency and local planning authority before deciding what conditions to attach to a licence is not necessary, and may end up being disproportionate.

For example, once the industry has developed, multiple launches may occur under a separate but almost identical licence. In such a case it would be disproportionate for the regulator to have to consult the environment agency and local planning authority for each new licence. It is also worth noting that clause 2 requires the regulator to take into account any environmental objectives set by the Government, which would include any issued by the environment agency.

The existing planning, regulatory and environmental framework will continue to apply, and environmental bodies will have a say, in accordance with their statutory remit, at the relevant stages, such as when planning permission is applied for. I hope that in the light of the Government amendment and the provisions already in the Bill, Members will agree that robust assessments of environmental effects will be conducted and considered prior both to the granting of a licence and to the imposition of conditions under the Bill. I would therefore ask the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East to withdraw amendment 17.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

I wonder whether the Government would consider including consultation with these agencies within the environmental impact assessment in clause 2, as amended by new clause 1. The Minister talks about consulting with the Environment Agency but, obviously, in the devolved administrations there are three other environment agencies and they should have their place.

Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Transport), Minister of State (London)

I would not want the Committee to think that we have not been engaging closely with the devolved Administrations in the development of the Bill, because we have, and over a considerable period. We have worked with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at official level to ensure that all the devolved Administrations are content with provisions in the Bill. I have been out in Northern Ireland myself to discuss the opportunities this Bill presents to businesses there.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport)

While these amendments intend to ensure that the respective environmental bodies would be consulted were space activities to be established in any of the devolved Administrations—Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales—I do not think the Government have gone anywhere near far enough on that. On that basis, I want to push the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Division number 2 Caledonian Pinewood Forest — Conditions of licences

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clauses 13 to 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17