Wednesday, 1 February 2012

New Laws For Air Travel Must Protect Environment - Huppert


Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert called on the government to take more action to protect the environment as new legislation governing the aviation industry makes its way through Parliament.

Julian, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Transport Committee said that he wanted to see more consideration given to environmental issues in the Civil Aviation Bill which received its Second Reading in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday, January 30).

“The real costs of airplane emissions are often hidden and the government has a duty to make them known as a first step towards making sure that something can be done to reduce them,” he said during the debate.

He added that although the Bill gives new powers to publish information on the environmental impact of aviation there is no duty on the Civil Aviation Authority to act on that information.

“Aviation accounts for a significant and growing proportion of our carbon emissions and it also has a significant noise impact, which we must take into account,” he said. “The body that regulates aviation must have regard to these facts and bear some responsibility.”

He asked Transport Minister, Norman Baker: “Will he consider more carefully whether it would be a good idea to put environmental duty in the Bill so that as many steps as possible can be taken to protect the environment?”

Mr Baker said that Ministers would have an “open mind” if he could demonstrate that the Bill did not have the power to take action that was needed.

Julian welcomed moves through the Bill to make air travel more passenger focused and extend the scope of ATOL to give travellers more protection.

He told Parliament that, for too long transport policy had been based on the “top-down, central control of large systems” rather than passenger-focused and “viewed from the bottom up”.

“We in the Liberal Democrats particularly welcome the Government’s aspiration to put passengers at the heart of airport operations and the sections of the Bill that help to accomplish that,” he said.

He also welcomed moves to extend the scope of ATOL, the organisation which protects consumers’ rights, to give passengers the assurances they deserve.

“It is clearly absurd that only a small proportion of holidays are covered currently and that many consumers are simply unaware whether they are protected or not,” he added.

And he said: “I hope that in committee we can ensure that the Bill properly delivers the government’s aims and creates a sustainable future for civil aviation in the country based on open data, proper regulation, sustainable transport and passenger-led reforms.”

Later Julian said: “The aviation industry is developing fast and this Bill gives us the opportunity to put in place the necessary legislation to make sure that we can offer passengers the best safeguards while at the same time doing everything we can to protect our environment.

“Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions and if we don’t get this Bill right and make environmental considerations a key part of this legislation we could cause untold damage.”