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The Airports Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Empey (Ulster Unionist Party). The Bill would amend the Airports Act 1986 to:

  • Enable the Secretary of State to give directions to airport operators “in the interests of ensuring sufficient national air infrastructure between hub and regional airports”.
  • Require the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), when advising or being consulted by the Secretary of State, to take into account “the need to ensure adequate services between hub and regional airports”.

Concerns have been raised that airlines might re-allocate slots at Heathrow currently used for flights to and from regional airports such as Belfast to more profitable international routes, particularly if a proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG goes ahead, or if a decision were taken not to expand Heathrow.

Lord Empey introduced similar bills in the 2011–12 and 2012–13 parliamentary sessions.  On both occasions, the Government commended the aims of the bill but said they could not support it as it would be incompatible with EU law.  EU legislation governing the allocation of slots at airports only permits government intervention in specific circumstances.  Moves to amend this legislation as part of the European Commission’s ‘Better Aiports’ package stalled in late 2012.


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