PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

CIVIL AVIATION (AERIAL ADVERTISING) REGULATIONS 1995

Tuesday 19 December 1995

LONDON: HMSO

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. James Hill

Allen, Mr. Graham (Nottingham, North)

Bendell, Mr. Vivian (Ilford, North)

Brandreth, Mr. Gyles (City of Chester)

Bright, Sir Graham (Luton, South)

Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)

Chidgey, Mr. David (Eastleigh)

Clark, Dr. Michael (Rochford)

Etherington, Mr. Bill (Sunderland, North)

Hayes, Mr. Jerry (Harlow)

Heppell, Mr. John (Nottingham, East)

Norris, Mr. Steve (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

Pickthall, Mr. Colin (West Lancashire)

Randall, Mr. Stuart (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Speed, Sir Keith (Ashford)

Stevenson, Mr. George (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Tapsell, Sir Peter (East Lindsey)

Thurnham, Mr. Peter (Bolton, North-East)

Timms, Mr. Stephen (Newham, North-East)

Mr. P. Evans, Committee Clerk

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3 Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation Tuesday 19 December 1995

[MR. JAMES HILL in the Chair]

Civil Aviation (Aerial Advertising) Regulations 1995

4.30 pm

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Civil Aviation (Aerial Advertising) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 2943). It is helpful that the Minister is present on the day on which the Government have reduced the transport supplementary grant to local authorities by 17.5 per cent. in real terms—£42 million will now be taken out of transport initiatives. The Government have tried, rather amusingly, to suggest that the Secretary of State for Transport is thereby giving a greener tinge to the local transport settlement. Someone is clearly working overtime in the press department.

The Chairman: Order. We should keep to balloons.

Mr. Allen: The mind rushes immediately from the topic of transport settlements to balloons and aerial advertising. I have several concerns that I hope the Minister will allay; I am sure that he will. Several bodies, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England, have written to members of the Committee. The CPRE is "disturbed at the potential environmental implications of the proposed relaxation of regulations governing aerial advertising. The new regulations are likely to lead to a marked increase in the use of aerial advertising in rural and urban areas, with concomitant visual and aural instrusion. This could have a detrimental effect on the ability of visitors to enjoy the intrinsic qualities of the countryside, including its peace and quiet. The effects are likely to be particularly marked in sensitive rural areas, including National Parks." It is "especially disturbed at the proposal to allow the use of aeroplanes for towing banners and illuminated signs on helicopters." Although part of the service is now contracted out, it was put to me today that the helicopters of the Coastguard Agency, for which it is famous, might display the logo of various commercial concerns as they go about their business of fishing people from the Solent and other places near your constituency, Sir James. I do not know whether the Minister finds that a helpful development, but I am sure that he will reassure us about it. The CPRE goes on to say that "any controls available under other legislation will not be sufficient to prevent environmental damage arising." It is "unaware of the Government having undertaken an environmental appraisal of these proposals." Will the Minister inform us whether any environmental appraisal has taken place? 4 The CPRE suggests "that regulation has an important role to play as a means of safeguarding environmental quality. Advertisement regulations play a critical role in safeguarding the beauty of the English countryside." It shares the Government's commitment to removing unnecessary regulation on businesses and local government but does not believe in deregulation for its own sake. Opposition Members are concerned that the proposal will have adverse effects on the environment. I hope that the Minister will answer our queries and reassure those who believe that the proposals could lead to further visual instrusion when such intrusion is already sufficient.

4.34 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Steve Norris): Mr. Hill—perhaps I should call you Sir James, although the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) has perhaps inadvertently killed off any chance you might have of achieving that august title. It is, none the less, a pleasure to see you and those of my hon. Friends who have been kind enough to join me on this festive occasion. I shall not detain them long. I note the hon. Gentleman's remarks. He said something about not believing in "deregulation for its own sake". That is ostensibly a reasonable statement, but it betrays socialists' natural propensity to control. They are control freaks every one, and no less so since they started adding the word "new" to everything that they do. Like a failed advertising agency, they labour under the mistaken belief that an old product can be relaunched just by adding "new" to the formula. I was interested that the hon. Gentleman should have cited the CPRE as being worried about this modest measure. The original proposals were sent to a number of environmental organisations, among them Friends of the Earth, which is not noted for its support of the Conservative party, although I am sure that it has many Conservatives among its members, as we are all friends of the earth. Other organisations circulated included the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the CPRE, and the Countryside Commission. None of them complained at the time, but it now appears that the CPRE—perhaps prompted by the hon. Gentleman—has had second thoughts. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want to bring mischief to his new and elevated role as transport spokesman, but it is possible that the Labour party has misunderstood the regulations. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that the skies would be filled and darkened with a proliferation of balloons, kites, airships and aircraft of all sizes. He appeared to fear that they would zoom around our quiet and beautiful places, our heritage areas and our forests and woodlands advertising all sorts of products, but he is mistaken. In reality, the new regulations mean that the controls on advertising remain as rigorous as ever. The change involves the choice of advertising methods, which will be increased. There is a mild illogicality in the present regulations, which is why they are being changed. For example, balloons in free flight—the type that Mr. Branson 5 favours and which are so attractive when one sees them overhead—are allowed to display only certain advertisements, principally those that refer to the balloon's owner or charterer. The new rules provide that balloons in free flight can carry any advertisement; so it is not a question of whether there is a balloon, only of whose advertisement appears on its side. The present regulations allow any smallish tethered balloon—that is, one with a capacity of less than 20 cu m—to display any advertisement, subject to planning permission, but not to fly banners off their mooring cables. The measure before the Committee will allow such balloons to fly banners off their mooring cables, subject to obtaining planning consent. The hon. Gentleman fears that that will cause a massive change in our rural and urban landscape. I do not share that fear. Airships are at present allowed to display any advertisement and to carry luminous signs. Hon. Members will recall seeing the Fuji advertisement on the airship that flew over Westminster occasionally in the summer. The present regulations allow an aeroplane to display certain advertisements, primarily the name of its owner or charterer, and to tow banners. However, it is not legal to display an independent advertisement on the side of an aeroplane. The new regulations will allow the owner of an aeroplane to give up the opportunity to advertise his airline and display an advertisement for a hamburger on the side of his machine. Frankly, the hon. Gentleman's remarks made me doubt his commitment, and that of his party, to a really free market. The Opposition would deny an aeroplane operator the right to display what he wanted to on the side of his aeroplane. It is nonsense to suggest that the new regulations invent the notion of carrying banners behind aeroplanes. It is also nonsense to suggest that the regulations affect the movement of aircraft. That is covered by the Civil Aviation Authority, a notoriously safety-conscious body which does not allow aircraft carrying signs to fly at less than 1,500 ft over urban areas. At that height, signs are hardly visible and that is why they are not commonly employed. I have no fears about the regulations. I do not want to suggest that the hon. Gentleman would dream of wasting the Committee's time, but there is nothing in the regulations that those organisations objected to before and I see nothing to cause them to object now. The proposals will not weaken planning controls but will widen the choice of advertising methods in areas where advertising is already allowed. 6 For clarification, we cleared the original proposals with the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Air Safety Group. The Civil Aviation Authority safety regulation group was also consulted. All those groups are content that the proposals contain no adverse safety implications. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North will withdraw his prayer or that, if they are forced to, my hon. Friends will vote him down.

Mr. Allen: I am rather taken aback by the Minister's tirade. I would have thought that he would bring a warm glow to the Committee, having slashed the local transport expenditure grant by 17.5 per cent. today. Clearly he has not entered into the spirit of Christmas, although he seems to want to spread good will on the sides of aeroplanes. He used the example of hamburger advertising on the sides of planes; perhaps that is what lies behind the order. However, there are people who think the order is significant. Advertising agencies have given a warm welcome to the end of the restrictions. The Sunday Telegraph quoted a spokeswoman for Cordiant—formerly Saatchi and Saatchi, a body with which the Minister is no doubt familiar—as saying: "It is an exciting new medium with which we will be able to target a very important audience." She went on to say: "Hot air balloons are already an excellent shop window for advertisers and aircraft will follow suit." Clearly, the regulations are not an irrelevance, as the Minister tried to make out. There will be a significant change, which has already been latched on to by advertising agencies. The issue has also been raised legitimately by the CPRE through its representatives in the House. It is sad that the Minister dismissed its concerns in that off-hand way; I hope that he will consider more seriously our needs for reassurance about the preservation of our countryside and amenities.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Civil Aviation (Aerial Advertising) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 2943).

Committee rose at seventeen minutes to Five o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Hill, Mr. James (Chairman)

Allen, Mr.

Bendell, Mr.

Brandreth, Mr.

Bright, Sir G.

Chapman, Sir S.

Clarke, Dr. Michael

Norris, Mr.

Thurnham, Mr.