HC Deb 04 May 1965 vol 711 cc1239-68

Question again proposd, That the proposed words be there inserted in the Lords Amendment.

Mr. Stonehouse

I was saying that it would have been possible for the Government to have accepted a much higher N.N.I. figure, bearing in mind that the nuisance suffered by those who live within the N.N.I. area index of 60 to 70 is much worse than those who live within the 55 N.N.I. area. We decided to accept the Wilson Committee's view that about 55 N.N.I. was the point up to which noise was acceptable. This means that people who live just outside this boundary line are suffering a grievance in that their localities do not come within the line that has been drawn. However, I am sure that they would not, because of that, resent the fact that some of the householders who live nearer the airport and who suffer more noise and discomfort than they do will enjoy the advantages of this scheme.

I now take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). He said that the Wilson Committee expectation of noise in 1970 is already upon us. I must correct him. It has not yet been reached. We anticipate that it will not be reached until 1969.

It will be seen that we are being generous in two respects. First, we are anticipating the Noise and Number Index in 1970 in 1969 and, secondly, we are departing a little from the Wilson Committee's Report in paying the grant not only to householders who live within the 55 N.N.I. zone but also to those who live within the wards which are cut by that line. So householders some way away from the 55 N.N.I. boundary line will enjoy the grants because their wards are caught by that line. I might add that this decision was made and the localities chosen partly for administrative convenience. Nevertheless, we are being more generous than the Wilson Committee originally proposed.

I thank the hon. Member for Richmond for his tribute to the civil servants and officials who have been concerned in preparing this scheme. They had done a very fine job indeed and I am sure that the whole House will wish to be associated with that tribute.

The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick asked what was being done at international airports abroad, the system of grants being paid and whether they were being paid in respect of houses beneath the glide-path. The House will be interested to know that in no other country are sound insulation or sound proofing grants being paid. I hope that the scheme will be approved tonight, for we are breaking completely new ground. We will be the first nation in the world to accept community and social responsibility for paying sound insulation grants to householders near airports. There is no doubt that other countries are following what we are doing and will, perhaps, emulate us.

Despite the persuasive way in which the Amendment was moved, I must ask the House to reject it, both because of its rather faulty wording and because it is superfluous, since the Minister already has power to decide the localities which will enjoy the benefits of the scheme.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

I doubt whether my hon. Friends who have spoken to the Amendment will regard the Parliamentary Secretary's reply as very satisfactory. It seems that this is one of the difficulties which arise from the method by which the Amendment has been brought before the House. We are not being given a proper opportunity to discuss, on a reasonable basis, what ought to be the boundaries of the area for which grants will be paid. Since the intention is that the Statutory Instrument laid should be subject to the negative Resolution procedure, we shall not get a chance to discuss it adequately.

The Parliamentary Secretary said, first, that the words of my hon. Friend's Amendment were imprecise. It does not seem to me that in the new Clause they need be precise. Precision can be given to them in the Order which the Minister subsequently lays. He said, secondly, that in any case my hon. Friend's Amendment was unnecessary because subsection (2) already gave the Minister the necessary power. Here again, owing to the method which has been chosen to bring this legislation before the House, we already know, because the Minister has made his statement in the House, what are the boundaries he proposes to choose. So it is not of very much help to my hon. Friends to be told that the Minister has power to do this when he has already said that he will not do it. In fact, we should have been given an opportunity, preferably in a separate Bill, or, if necessary, when we come to the Order, to discuss, and to amend if possible, the boundaries within which these grants shall be paid.

I am quite sure that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Ministry have done everything in their power to make the best measurements and estimates they can, but there is no certainty that the somewhat arbitrary measurements that the Government have taken will prove to be adequate or satisfactory in the years ahead. If I remember aright, the Wilson Committee did not in any case recommend 55 N.N.I.; it referred to the range 50–60. Therefore, in any case, the Minister is cutting out a certain area.

It seems to me to be both unnecessary and ungracious to refuse at this stage to give at least the hope to my hon. Friends that what is clearly a very serious nuisance to them, and one that may indeed be as great as the nuisance suffered by those in what the Minister in his statement described as the vicinity of Heathrow, will be treated in the same way. If the Parliamentary Secretary believes that the Amendment is unnecessary, I should like to be sure that the position is really covered by the new Clause. The new Clause uses the words "near an aerodrome" and the Minister in his statement spoke of being in the "vicinity" of Heathrow. May we have an assurance that if future noise figures justify it, seven miles, seven and a half miles, even nine miles out will be considered to be near or in the vicinity of the airport? This is a matter of definition about which we should be told.

Mr. Stonehouse

I should like, with permission, to reply to that point. There is no restriction. Subsection (2) of the new Clause states: A scheme under this section shall specify the area Dr areas in which dwellings must be situated far the grants to be payable … That wording obviously gives the Minister power to specify any locality that he considers should enjoy the benefits of a scheme of this type.

Mr. Maude

But is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that the wording gives full power, considering what is in the first line of subsection (1) of the new Clause? The general power given to the Minister must surely be under subsection (1), which says: … If it appears to the Minister that dwellings near an aerodrome … What we want to know is how near is "near". If "near" was not seven miles or seven and a half miles out, the power in subsection (2) would be governed by the power in subsection (1), and the Minister would not be able to give the grant.

Mr. Stonehouse

I think that the hon. Gentleman is splitting hairs. It stands to reason that if houses are under a glide-path they must be near an airport and, therefore, they will fall within the understanding of subsection (1).

Question, That the proposed words be there inserted in the Lords Amendment, put and negatived.

Mr. Braine

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 29, at the end to insert: and the local authorities concerned". Had the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) been accepted, it would have followed automatically that the Minister, in exercising his function of requiring the Airports Authority to make grants towards the sound-proofing of dwellings, would have been empowered to do so in respect of airports not owned by the Authority. The House did not accept that Amendment. Nevertheless, our point in putting down both that Amendment and this one was to make it plain that, if their Lordships' Amendment becomes part of the Bill, it constitutes a precedent of very great importance to all who dwell near busy airports where the noise factor may grow, and not just to the four airports named in the Bill.

In my view, it is morally indefensible to say that those who live next door to an airport owned by the Authority shall be eligible, if the Minister so decides, for grant, whilst those suffering from the same nuisance, but living next door to an airport not controlled by the Authority shall not be eligible. Such a situation could not be tolerated for long if one of the airports not listed in the Bill gave rise to a major noise nuisance, and I do not see how the position can be tolerated now.

The Parliamentary Secretary chided me a little earlier this evening for wanting to give to the new Authority a responsibility that it was not equipped financially to undertake. We are in this difficulty precisely because of the way in which the Bill has been handled. Had the principle enshrined in their Lordships' Amendment first been discussed in this House, we could have got the matter into perspective. We could have discussed the proper division of responsibility. We might have agreed that there was a case for doing something now for Heathrow and for other airports—not only those listed in the Bill but others, later, when the nuisance became sufficiently large.

To take powers to deal at some time in the future with Stansted, where the number of aircraft movements is less than it is at Southend, and where there is nothing like the huge concentration of population we now have in south-east Essex between the Crouch and the Thames, is more than short-sighted. The test should be the extent of the nuisance. However, since my hon. Friend's Amendment was not accepted, I cannot seek to widen the Bill in any way, that is, the Bill as it may be amended by their Lordships.

What I am concerned with here is to see whether there is a precedent which may lead other Governments, of a more enlightened administration in the future, to extend the payment of grants to people towards cost of sound proofing their dwellings. The precedent is one on thoroughly sound lines.

10.15 p.m.

This is a matter affecting local environment, not only dwellings but hospitals and schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Dudley Smith) spoke of a maternity home in his constituency which was affected and, earlier, I referred to a school which was affected by excessive aircraft noise. Other hon. Members have also referred to hospitals, apart from the nuisance that is caused to ordinary householders.

I am sure that in a matter affecting local environment it is right that there should be consultations with the appropriate local authority. Certainly, in my constituency it was the local authority which took a lead in making representations on the subject of aircraft noise. This was only right, because the local authority derives a very substantial rate revenue from the airport. I would point out that local authorities already do possess very considerable powers where noise and other nuisances are concerned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) spoke earlier about the effect of noise, especially aircraft noise in his constituency and its effect on health. Parliament has already recognised the close connection between health and noise and it will not be lost on hon. Members that action taken by a local authority under the Noise Abatement Act of 1960 is not taken by local authorities as a planning authority, but as a health authority.

It seems indefensible, therefore, that before making a scheme under the Bill the Minister should consult not only the airport authority, but also the local health authorities concerned. This is the purpose of my Amendment. It seems to be entirely reasonable and in line with our practice when dealing with environmental matters. I hope, therefore, that the very reasonableness of this suggestion will commend itself to the hon. Gentleman and that he will show his readiness to accept what I propose.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I feel very attracted towards the Amendment put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Braine) because it brings in an entirely new slant on this Lords Amendment. I have felt that for too long now people living near an airport have been at the mercy either of the Airports Authority or of the Government. Although Members of Parliament may batter away at Governments, not very successfully, I believe that Governments would pay much more attention if local authorities were brought in to support Members of Parliament. I like the idea of bringing in the health authority, which would be able to advise on the making of a scheme. It would give local information to the Authority and to Ministers in connection with any scheme which is introduced.

This is a sensible proposal and one which the Parliamentary Secretary would probably like to accept. When making up his mind whether to give a grant to a ward, or to an area a little beyond that ward, he would be well advised to take the advice of the local authority.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

I support this excellent Amendment. I suggest that there are two reasons why it should he accepted. The first is that which has been touched on. When dealing with nuisances of the type which an airport noise is, one is dealing with local people round about the airport. The natural body to consult about that must always be the local authority. I cannot conceive of the Minister making an Order under the Lords Amendment without consulting the local authority. I cannot see what is to be lost by writing into the Bill the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) and, therefore, giving to the local authorities and to those concerned with the Bill the assurance that it will meet the requirements which they think it should meet.

The second reason is one about which I feel even more strongly. The Parliamentary Secretary may agree that I have reason for adducing this reason tonight, because in my constituency is Prestwick Airport, which is a classic case of how a local authority, because of its interest in health and its concern at all times for the well-being and efficiency of the airport, can help in the development of an airport, particularly one which is trying to grow and increase its traffic.

The Minister of Aviation has visited Prestwick. I am sure that, if the right hon. Gentleman were here, he would tell the House that he met representatives of the local authorities and, in particular, the Prestwick Airport Development Association, which is largely drawn from local interests and local authorities round a bout. The right hon. Gentleman must have been impressed by the quality of the advice they gave and by the interest they showed in the development of the airport.

If the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend were written into the Bill, it would give these local people, not only in Prestwick but at other airports, the feeling that they were being considered and that they had a right to be considered when a matter such as noise in the vicinity of the airport was being considered. I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary would wish for a moment to under-value the help which the Minister and the Authority will get from active and interested help from local authorities in the area. He would have nothing to lose but a great deal to gain by accepting the Amendment.

Mr. Stonehouse

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) rather damned the Amendment in his first few words, because he made it clear that he wanted it to apply to Southend and to any other authority having an airport in its locality. That is the primary reason why the Amendment is unacceptable. We are concerned in the Bill with schemes which may be laid before the House in connection with the Airports Authority, and at this time we expect that there will be only four airports connected with the Authority.

It is our intention to consult and keep in contact with the authorities around any one of these airports which may be affected by one of these schemes. Certainly, it is the intention in connection with the scheme at Heathrow that the authorities immediately around, in the areas where these grants will be paid, will play an important part, acting as a go-between between the householders and the Authority. We hope that there will be close co-operation.

The hon. Member suggested that before such a scheme could be introduced every corporation in the country which had an airport and had a noise problem would have to be consulted. He referred to the importance of the position at Southend, but we do not wish that to be confused with the responsibilities of the Airports Authority in connection with the sound insulation scheme around Heathrow.

Mr. Braine

I do not wish the hon. Gentleman to be under a misapprehension. Although the term "local authority" is used in my Amendment, I was careful to explain that I was referring to local health authorities. In the case of county councils, the local health authorities and the local planning authorities are one and the same, and although there may be a big problem around Heathrow the Minister would probably have to consult with only one or at the most two authorities elsewhere in the country. I do not see that the reason which the hon. Gentleman has given is convincing.

Mr. Stonehouse

I should like to explain that without the help of the proposed Amendment we are already in close touch with the authorities concerned. I have met representatives of the authorities around Heathrow who participate in a consultative committee. We discuss these problems with them. Therefore, the suggestion that we need the Amendment to carry on these discussions is incorrect. We shall bear in mind the point about working out schemes with the various health authorities in the localities concerned.

In planning for the particular sound insulation scheme, which the Bill will give the Minister authority to put forward for the Airports Authority to administer, we are obtaining the best possible scientific, technical and health authority advice that we can obtain.

Sound insulation schemes at hospitals and schools are quite outside the schemes which we are discussing. We are concerned with sound insulation grants for householders. The sound insulation of schools and hospitals, which we hope will go ahead around Heathrow, in particular, is the responsibility of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Airports Authority is not being asked within this scheme to accept responsibility for the insulation of those institutions.

The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) pointed out the great importance of keeping in close touch with the authorities around Prestwick. We appreciate the value of these contacts but this is hardly relevant to our discussion of a possible scheme at Heathrow towards the end of the year. It may be many years before a similar scheme would be introduced for Prestwick. I confirm that it is our intention to have the closest possible contacts with the authority in any locality that may be affected by an increase in noise at any airport for which the Airports Authority is responsible.

Therefore, we believe that this Amendment is superfluous and I ask the House to reject it.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Channon

I cannot understand the Parliamentary Secretary's attitude. He has been saying, "We are already consulting the local authorities concerned, and, therefore, we do not see why this should be written into the Bill." This is fantastic. He is not legislating only for the present. The Bill will be law for a long time, and, therefore, there should be a duty on the Minister of Aviation to consult the local authorities concerned. The art of getting Parliamentary business through the House is not in delaying matters about which we are agreed. Why cannot this Amendment be accepted?

The Parliamentary Secretary says that it is intended to consult the local authorities concerned now and in the future. Why, therefore, is there any objection to accepting the Amendment? Can the hon. Gentleman envisage circumstances in which it would not be right to consult the authorities concerned?

Mr. Stonehouse

There is still some indecision about which authorities would be concerned, and we want to avoid that.

Mr. Channon

As the Bill is drafted—I argued earlier that it should be widened, but I was unsuccessful—it applies to four airports. This Amendment applies to the local authorities concerned with those four airports. I cannot see what the fuss is about. The Minister says that he is consulting at the moment and has every intention of consulting in the future, and yet he wastes Parliamentary time by refusing to accept this Amendment.

Mr. Braine

In the case of Stansted Airport in Essex there is only one health authority that the Minister would have to consult, namely, Essex County Council. Where is the difficulty?

Mr. Channon

I agree with my hon. Friend. I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary makes such heavy weather of this Amendment. Why cannot he just accept it? He refuses to accept this Amendment which would compel his successors to do the job. He is doing the job anyway. The Minister of Aviation and the Parliamentary Secre- tary, admirable men as I am sure they are, will carry out this duty in a reasonable way and, no doubt, their successors will do so, but why should we not bind their successors to do so?

This is a perfectly easy and simple Amendment which we could have discussed in three minutes if the Parliamentary Secretary had only understood the point. It states that whenever the Minister is considering laying an Order under the Bill and intends to produce a Statutory Instrument he shall consult the Authority and the local authorities concerned. As my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), with his great experience at the Ministry of Health, knows, the most important person to be consulted is probably the local medical officer of health, because he will know whether considerable damage and inconvenience is caused to the residents in the neighbourhood as a result of noise at the airport. The medical officer of health is responsible for environmental health in his area.

The Parliamentary Secretary will lose nothing by accepting the Amendment. He is being stubborn for no purpose whatsoever. He says the Amendment is superfluous. I do not agree. We are not legislating merely for 1965. This Bill is unlikely to come before the House again for many years. All we are seeking to do is to provide that when the Minister prepares a scheme he shall have a duty to consult not only the Airports Authority but the local authorities concerned.

I am not asking that the Minister shall consult Southend local authority, because Southend will not be covered by the Bill as the Amendment relating to Southend has been rejected. The Bill merely enables the Minister to deal with these four airports. Why make such heavy weather of the Amendment? Why not accept it quickly and then get on to the main Amendment? This waste of time is absolutely ridiculous. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member is."] I am not wasting time. Hon. Members who interrupt have only just come into the Chamber and by their interruptions are prolonging rather than shortening this debate.

I propose to sit down in precisely a minute's time, but I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to consider: what is wrong with the Amendment proposed to the Lords' Amendment? He says it is superfluous. All I can say is that it may be to the hon. Gentleman, but surely it should be the duty of the Minister to consult the local authorities concerned. The Minister has a duty in this matter to bind his successors in this way. It would be totally unreasonable to produce schemes without consulting the local authorities, and I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept the Amendment.

Mr. A. Royle

I should like to support my hon. Friends and to try to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider this matter. There are a lot of local authorities in a wide area round London concerned in this matter. I do not see that there would be any disadvantage in accepting as it stands the Amendment proposed to the Lords Amendment. If it is superfluous it will not do any harm to the Bill. I again plead with the hon. Gentleman to reconsider his attitude, and see whether he can accept the Amendment.

Mr. Younger

I am really most disturbed at a remark the Parliamentary Secretary made a few moments ago—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

The hon. Member has already exhausted his right to speak on this Amendment to the Lords Amendment.

Mr. Royle

The Parliamentary Secretary is underestimating the interest which local authorities throughout the whole of the area, certainly round Heath Row itself, are taking in this. The new London Borough of Richmond, the Borough of Brentford and Chiswick and many others would very much value the consultation of which we ask. I again ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider his attitude, and accept the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Stonehouse

I should just like to say that any authority wishing to make representations to the Minister or to me is perfectly welcome to do so. We are only too delighted to meet any councillors or representatives of authorities to discuss with them any proposals which they may have. I simply repeat that it is not necessary for the House to write in a statutory obligation on the Minister to consult in the way which has been suggested.

Question, That those words be there inserted in the Lords Amendment, put and negatived.

Mr. Stonehouse

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This new Clause from another place details the way in which the Statutory Instrument the Minister proposes to lay before the House will be dealt with. It is proposed that the Minister should have power to make a scheme for grants to be paid for dwellings around an airport which is the responsibility of the Airports Authority.

As the House is aware from the statement which the Minister made on 10th March, the Minister has in mind the particular problem of noise at Heathrow. We have accepted the Wilson Committee's Report that the noise problem at Heathrow is unprecedented, is unique, and, therefore, demands special attention.

Hon. Members who have criticised us for any delay in bringing a scheme forward must surely direct their scorn and complaints against the previous Minister who failed to do anything to deal with this problem—

Mr. Braine

The hon. Gentleman is putting up an Aunt Sally.

Mr. Stonehouse

—despite the case brought forward in the Report of the Wilson Committee. The last Administration failed to do anything about the problems which hon. Members opposite have spent hours today describing to us in such heartrending terms. It has been left to this Administration to do something about a social problem that is of undoubted concern to many people who live around Heathrow.

Judging from the contributions made so far in our discussions this evening, and from the representations and correspondence that the Ministry has had, both directly and through various hon. Members, the scheme is very welcome to many thousands of householders around Heathrow. I am glad that there is still further confirmation that the scheme which we are bringing forward in the proposed Amendment from another place is so welcome.

It is a great pity that hon. Members opposite, who have tonight made so many useful and valuable points in the debates on the Amendments, failed to make those points adequately and strongly enough to convince their right hon. and hon. Friends who had responsibilities in the Ministries concerned before the election.

Mr. A. Royle

I regret that the hon. Gentleman is making this issue into a party political point. One of the things that we have always had in this House—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is not making an intervention. He is making a speech. There is no Question yet before the House.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am simply trying to put the whole matter into perspective, because we have been criticised for the delay—

Mr. Braine


Mr. Stonehouse

—in the scheme.

To those hon. Members who are concerned about the way in which this was introduced in another place and has been brought to the House of Commons in the form of Lords Amendments I can only say that it would have been much easier for us had the previous Administration accepted the principle and done preparatory work before the election. I well recognise the sincerity of the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) and I recognise the work that my predecessor, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) has done in this matter. Notwithstanding that, the last Administration failed to accept the Wilson Committee recommendations and, therefore, it was left to this new Administration to start work almost from scratch to work out an acceptable scheme. That is what we are discussing on the Lords Amendment.

Towards the end of the year, my right hon. Friend the Minister will lay a Statutory Instrument which will give full details of the scheme which he has in mind. In his statement of 10th March, he announced the wards around Heathrow to which the scheme will apply. It is his intention to bring the scheme into effect so that houses which have been completed by 1st January, 1966, can take advantage of the scheme. Grants of up to 50 per cent. of schemes up to a total cost of £200 for each house will be made so that householders can be protected by insulating their homes against the noise from Heathrow. It is proposed that the scheme should end on 31st December, 1970, so that there will be a full five years for householders in the localities concerned to take advantage of the scheme. This will help to meet the many complaints that have been made about noise around Heathrow.

Although I fully accept that there are other householders who suffer from noise nuisance outside the localities which have been detailed, it would have been impossible to have widened the area which will enjoy grants without, perhaps, placing too great a burden upon the Airports Authority. We have accepted the line of demarcation which the Wilson Committee laid down in its report and in its anticipation of what the position would be in and around 1970. The Wilson Committee said that the Noise Number Index, the noise acceptable, would be between 50 and 60 N.N.I. and we have taken the mean of that, 55 N.N.I., as being the line for which grants would be paid. As I said when we were discussing an earlier Amendment, we have gone further than the Wilson Committee in that it is proposed that the grant should be paid to any ward crossed by the 55 N.N.I. line. This will be the intention when the scheme is laid before the House at the end of the year, but the House will have an opportunity to pray against the scheme if it so wishes and to have a debate on that occasion.

10.45 p.m.

Under subsection (4), it is the Minister's intention to authorise or require local authorities to act as agents of the Authority in dealing with applications for payment of grants. We hope to have the fullest co-operation of the municipal authorities concerned and I am sure that it will be obtained. They have shown very great interest in the problems of noise abatement around Heathrow and I am sure that most if not all of them will welcome the fact that this scheme is to be brought into effect in the very near future.

We trust that the House will recognise that in approving the Amendment we are creating something of a precedent. For the first time the community is accepting responsibility for noise created around an airport. We are the first country to do this and we are breaking completely new ground and I believe that the House and the public will be grateful to us for doing that.

Mr. Maude

In trying to score a political point, the Parliamentary Secretary has been guilty of a certain amount of what I can only describe as misrepresentation. He said that the Lords Amendment had been universally welcomed from this side of the House and that the Government had come forward with what he described as an acceptable scheme, for which he took some credit. But, unless he was asleep, he cannot have realised that the overwhelming majority of speeches from this side of the House were made precisely because my hon. Friends do not regard this as an acceptable scheme. This is the whole difficulty which is inherent in the Amendment and in the method by which it has been put forward.

The Parliamentary Secretary has made great play with the fact that the community, as he described it, has accepted a social responsibility for this problem and that the Government have accepted the recommendations of the Wilson Committee. Neither of those is true. The Wilson Report recommended that the community should accept responsibility and should pay for it. The recommendation was that the money for grants for soundproofing should be found by the Government. In fact, so far from the Government on behalf of the community accepting this recommendation, they have rejected it. They have passed the cost to the Airports Authority which is given power to recoup, presumably from the operators or other users of airfields.

Mr. Stonehouse

Surely the hon. Gentleman will accept that the Airports Authority, when it is set up, will be part of the community, and, therefore, will accept a social responsibility on behalf of the community. What we have done is to accept that the body which creates the nuisance must accept the financial responsibility for dealing with it, and I would not say that that in any way conflicts with my submission that this is accepting a social responsibility.

Mr. Maude

It means that the Government are trying to get the kudos for this on the cheap. They are placing this burden, which the Minister estimated at £2¼ million, or £220,000 annually, on the Airports Authority, with a virtual injunction that it is to recoup it, presumably largely from the operators who are the people described as creating the nuisance.

Mr. Stonehouse

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that he would put the burden directly on the taxpayer?

Mr. Maude

I am saying that the Government are claiming to have followed the recommendations of the Wilson Committee. That Committee recommended that the Government should pay, and the Government have not accepted its recommendations.

Mr. Stonehouse

Did the hon. Gentleman accept them?

Mr. Maude

We did not accept the Committee's recommendations. The Government are saying one thing, and doing another, as they so often do. If the Parliamentary Secretary intends to try to argue about the community accepting the social responsibility, he must not try this sort of bluff, because that is all that it is.

The effect will be to increase airport charges to operators and users by the amount of the annual charge to the Authority. Charges at London Airport are already about the highest in the world, and this will increase them still further. Why do not the Government have the courage to say this, instead of all this high-flying talk about the community accepting responsibility, as if this were money falling from heaven by some divine dispensation? In the last resort this money will come out of the profits of the airlines, if any, or it will go on to the tickets paid for by airline users. That is what the Government's generosity amounts to. We all know why this Measure has been introduced. It has been brought in to get the Prime Minister off the hook. From the Government's point of view it is being done in the cheapest way, and it is a token sort of concession to an election pledge at that.

It is not easy now to say how adequate the form of grant will be. Owing to the thoroughly unsatisfactory method which the Government have chosen to introduce this new Clause, we are in the difficult position that, while we know—because the Minister has made a statement in the House—what he proposes to put into the Statutory Instrument when it appears, it is not specified in the new Clause.

The Minister has said what the boundaries of the area are to be. He has said at the maximum grant is to be. It is to be a 50 per cent. grant, with a maximum of £100. That means that for something which the Wilson Committee suggested would cost at least £300—that was for a three-bedroom house, and we can bet that that cost has now risen—the Authority will pay one-third.

The most important criticism which must be made about this rather unsavoury political manoeuvre is that a specific area is to be laid down, which as far as I can gather, will not even follow parish boundaries, because at one point we had part of a parish referred to. It will follow the arbitrary noise contour line on the Wilson Committee's map, and the Statutory Instrument, when it is introduced—and this is one of my main objections to the method used—will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure only, which means that the House will have to reject it in total, or pass it in total, and will have no means whatever of amending it, or of altering the boundaries, or even of hearing arguments as to whether the boundaries are the right ones or not.

This, of course, has been the burden of so many of the speeches which have been made by my hon. Friends this evening. The plain fact, and the Government must know it, is that they have chosen a method of introducing this redemption of the Prime Minister's election pledge which is constitutionally quite wrong and most unsatisfactory. This should never have been done in this way at all.

It is a long-standing principle of Parliament that where a Government measure confers benefits on a particular, specified area of the population, and denies them to another, then those who think they are aggrieved should have the opportunity to go before a Committee of this House and argue their case. In fact, if this had been done in the proper way, which is by a special Bill, it would have been a hybrid Bill subject to that special Committee procedure, and the Government know this very well.

Because they were not prepared to subject themselves to the proper hybrid Bill procedure, they resorted to this shabby subterfuge of catching a quite different Bill, a train which had gone practically the whole way through the tunnel and was practically at the other end, the Airports Authority Bill, and at the very last moment tacking on to it a general power for the Minister to introduce a Statutory Instrument at a later stage which the House will have no opportunity but to pass in toto or to reject in toto.

I say very strongly that this was a monstrous procedure to adopt. It is really an abuse of the procedures of this House. The Minister should never have lent himself to this at all. There should have been ample opportunity for the people on the boundaries of these quite arbitrary and, for all we know, scientifically not very accurate areas to be laid down, and for people outside them in the constituency, for example, of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) and others, to argue their case for inclusion.

Whatever one may think about whether or not the scheme is satisfactory, and whether or not the grants are to be satisfactory, the method chosen and the whole procedure is terribly unsatisfactory, and the Minister should be ashamed of himself.

Mr. A. E. Hunter

I have been in the House since just after 7.30 p.m., listening to this debate. I have taken part in many aircraft noise debates, over nearly 10 years. We have always endeavoured to join forces on non-party lines in pressing previous Governments to do something to abate this great nuisance to the people, but after listening to the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), and his party line tonight, I think that he has destroyed what has been done in the House before.

The hon. Member has never taken any interest in this aircraft noise question. I know that his constituency is far away from the battlefield of noise in Stratford-on-Avon, but I can remember when the hon. Member represented Ealing, South, much nearer London Airport and he then took no interest in aircraft noise and never attended any of these debates. To-day, he is taking a different attitude entirely on a party line.

Mr. Maude

Since the hon. Member is attacking me, he may recall that the time when I represented Ealing, South, was a long time ago, before the jet aircraft noise problem arose there, and I never had any letters from my constituents at all.

Mr. Hunter

There were Adjournment debates in the House between 1955 and 1957 when the hon. Gentleman was here representing that constituency, and never once did I see him present. The aircraft noise around London Airport was a problem then.

I am pleased that some hon. Members are converted to the idea of soundproofing. This matter did not start last October. The Wilson Committee recommended that certain areas shown on maps in the Report should be given financial aid towards the cost of soundproofing people's homes. After consultations and meetings, the local authorities sent me a soundproofing scheme, which I sent to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who was then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation. He showed me every courtesy and every attention, and I placed before him the local authorities' scheme for sound proofing certain private dwellings of people affected by aircraft noise.

11.0 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman was sympathetic. I am sure that if he had had the powers, he would have done something along the lines of soundproofing, but the Lord President of the Council of the day made a statement in the House of Lords to the effect that the Government would give no soundproofing grants. We never even got a debate on the matter. I pressed for a debate on the Wilson Report, but the then Government never allowed time for soundproofing to be discussed. Yet hon. Members opposite say tonight that they want to extend the scheme. I do not object to the scheme being extended, but the previous Government said that they were dead set against soundproofing. There is no denying that, so it is rather hypocritical of them to come here tonight and make out that they are so keen about extending soundproofing to other areas when the previous Government refused to do soundproofing anywhere.

I congratulate the Minister. In my constituency, this step by the Government is welcomed. He stands in very high regard in my constituency, not only because of the soundproofing scheme, but also for his excellent work for the airlines and for civil air transport. The scheme with which he has come forward has been amended in the Lords, but the Airports Authority Bill, which, I believe, was drawn up by the last Government and was pigeon-holed, waiting for this Government, had already gone through this House. To avoid the delay of producing another Bill, the Government took the course of amending the Bill so that the scheme could go through more quickly.

I am very pleased that this has been done—

Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central) rose

Mr. Hunter

Just a second.

There is one point about which people are especially concerned, and that is the question of night noise. A number of people have said to me, "We can put up with it in the day, but we want to sleep at night." The double glazing giving the protection from noise will be a great help to people living near London Airport where grants are given. I do not say that previous Ministers did not try to abate this nuisance. I remember the efforts of about five Ministers. We were given earth banks and also mufflers to keep out the ground noise, but there were no soundproofing grants or schemes. I know that the hon. Member for Banbury did all that he could in meeting local authorities and residents and in trying to get some solution to the problem.

It is a big problem and the problem will grow, but I think that soundproofing and double-glazing is a step in the right direction. It has been welcomed in my constituency. All my constituency does not come under the scheme, but it does apply to the worst-affected parts—Cranford, Bedfont and North Feltham. I am sure that this is not final, and, I hope on a future date, the Minister will again consider the matter.

I trust that my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic attention to cases of old and sick people who are unable to find their 50 per cent. towards the cost of soundproofing their homes. Such cases are bound to arise.

I welcome the Bill. It is certainly a step in the right direction. For the first time soundproofing grants are to be given—that is, for the first time in this or any other country. Some people will derive other benefits from the scheme, since double glazing will result in lower fuel bills and a reduction of noise from cars and lorries on main roads as well as aircraft.

Once again, I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of a number of my constituents, and I know that research will be continued by his Ministry to endeavour to solve the aircraft noise problem at its source.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. A. E. Hunter) was less than fair when he accused my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) of bringing party politics into this matter. If anyone is to be accused of taking a party line, it should be remembered that the Parliamentary Secretary started it.

On a completely non-party point, I would be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would clear up a matter which has been worrying me more and more as the debate has progressed. The original statement made by the Minister of Aviation on 10th March referred solely to Heathrow. To my great relief, however, the new Clause includes the four airports covered by the Airports Authority. Despite this, the Parliamentary Secretary adduced as one reason for not accepting an earlier Amendment—in the discussion of which I referred particularly to Prestwick—the fact that it would be many years before Prestwick would be affected. If the Measure is designed to cover the four airports mentioned, surely it should cover them at any time, whether tomorrow, next week, or in 10 years' time.

I have been even more mystified by the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks because he has consistently begun his comments by referring to Heathrow. This is a matter of great concern and if the Bill will cover the four airports men- tioned, it should be definitely seen to cover all four. I would be obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary would confirm, in absolutely unequivocal terms, that what is written in the Bill applies equally to all the four airports and that there is no Question whatever that if any of the other three airports, other than Heathrow, comes into the category as mentioned in the new Clause at any time in the future, it will automatically be included within the orbit of the Measure.

Mr. Channon

I, too, was, astonished to hear the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. A. E. Hunter) accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) of introducing party politics into this issue. Throughout the debate the Parliamentary Secretary has done nothing else, from beginning to end, but try to make party points. I do not blame him for that. If he wants to make party points, that is his business. But for the hon. Member for Feltham to speak as if with a halo around his head and accuse my hon. Friend of making party points is almost beyond belief.

Naturally, the hon. Member for Feltham welcomes the new Clause. Naturally, many of his constituents welcome it. But I wonder whether they will welcome it so warmly when they have examined its provisions. Since many of his constituents will be covered by the Bill, it is understandable that he should welcome the Measure. The hon. Gentleman fails to appreciate, however, that a great many people consider it unjust that the Government should take these powers yet, at the same time, fail to provide for the taking of additional powers in future.

As always with this Government, we have Government by statement rather than by action. People gathered from the original statement made by the Minister that this munificent Government had produced from out of the sky, so to speak, a scheme which would benefit everyone. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon has pointed out, what has happened is that the airline operators and other people concerned will have to take these costs and the people using the airlines will have to pay for the services.

This may be the right thing to do, but the hon. Member for Feltham should bear the fact in mind. I am sorry that I was provoked into attacking him, but it was a disgrace to the House that the hon. Member should have spoken as he did about my hon. Friend.

I should like to put one or two points to the Minister. From my own reading of the Wilson Report, I find, in paragraph 323, that if this work was to be done effectively … the cost per house would average £300. I appreciate that the terms of the Statutory Instrument might be changed, but, at the moment, I believe that the maximum grant to each householder is £100; so, if the Wilson Report recommendation is correct, is it not the case that the householder himself would have to find £200? When this matter was before another place the total figure was somehow reduced to £200—I emphasise, the total cost. Could the Minister tell us now what really is the estimate? What will it cost effectively to soundproof and air condition one of these houses? One of my hon. Friends has spoken about air conditioning, and it is something we should not forget.

I wonder how much we shall be able to achieve with the grant of £100, how effective it will be in dealing with a problem which the Government have set out to tackle. It is to the Government's credit that they are breaking new ground and, so far as it goes, I accept the manner in which it is proposed it should be done, but we should have liked to have discussed the matter before the Bill went to another place. Regrettable though it is that we did not, we all accept, however, that if the Government are going to carry on in this way what we have tried to achieve is the establishment of the fact that any schemes introduced under this legislation shall be fair to all.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has pointed out that the Government are not exercising the full powers and I am also very concerned that the Government are not willing to extend the powers they could have in order to take in other matters; but I will not discuss that further at this hour. At the same time, I must point out that we have had no real assurance about the four airports. There are apparently no plans to deal with Prestwick, and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) pointed out that there had been inadequate plans for the people around London Airport. So, few people will really benefit.

I agree that the Government have taken some powers to deal with the London Airport problem, but if we had had the opportunity to discuss the Bill more adequately, and if the Government had not carried the Bill through Second Reading, and Committee and Report stages and passed it on to another place before this scheme ever came forward, we should have been better able to deal with this particular matter.

11.15 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman says that it was our fault that the Government did not come forward with this Bill earlier, but that is absolute rubbish. The Government should not have come forward until they were ready, and should not have dealt with the matter in this way. The hon. Gentleman's argument has no weight whatsoever. The Government should have included this Clause in the Bill at the time, when it could have been dealt with in the normal way.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us exactly how much he thinks this scheme will cost the residents in the area concerned. How much does he estimate it will cost to soundproof and air condition these houses? We know that only a maximum of £100 will be made available by the Authority. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that if any airports other than those listed in this Measure come up to the noise level of Heathrow he will go some way to meeting our legitimate request that similar arrangements will be available in those cases? I hope that he will be prepared to give us such an assurance.

Mr. A. Royle

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that this scheme has been overwhelmingly welcomed by this side of the House. Whilst we welcome any Measure that will in any way relieve the distress caused all round this area by noise—and we certainly welcome the fact that the position of some of the constituents of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. A. E. Hunter) will be eased by this scheme for soundproofing—we do not welcome the scheme as a whole, because it does not the job properly. The area benefiting by it has been narrowed down too much.

In his statement on 10th March, the Minister said: The area will comprise the Staines and Stanwell wards in Staines Urban District; Langley ward in the Borough of Slough; the parishes of Horton, Datchet and Wraysbury and part of the parish of Iver in Eton rural district; East Bedfont, Feltham North, Hounslow West, Hounslow Central, Hounslow South, Hounslow Heath, Cranford, Heston West, Heston East, Spring Grove and Isleworth South wards in the London Borough of Hounslow; and south ward and part of Hayes ward in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The area will be subject to review in the light of any changes in ward or parish boundaries before 1st January 1966."—[OFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1965; Vol. 708, c. 413.] That sounds a very impressive list, but it does not do the job properly, because it does not cover the areas really affected. I was very sad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he could not agree to extend the scheme under the first Order to be made to include areas under the glide-path at a distance of 9 miles from the threshold, and 2 miles wide. That refusal will cause even greater distress and depression to hundreds of thousands of people.

If the Parliamentary Secretary feels that he cannot make any gesture now, perhaps he will give an assurance that he will institute an annual check on noise levels in other areas. Perhaps he will undertake that if at any time that check were to show that noise levels were up to the N.N.I. he has been using as a guide, he would immediately bring in an Order to include that area within the scheme. I think that that will give a great deal of pleasure and bring hope to the hundreds of thousands who have been excluded from this scheme.

The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

We have had three hours and forty minutes of fairly wide-ranging, and, on the whole, extremely constructive debate on this subject. I doubt very much whether we would have got further. I have taken note of the points, mainly constituency points, but none the less important, which a number of hon. Members' have made.

From some Members we have had two speeches and in nearly all cases the first was better than the second. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), was perhaps the least courteous of those who spoke during the debate, though I noticed that after he had spoken a more querulous note entered the voices of those who followed him, which says much for the power of the leadership on the benches opposite.

The hon. Member made it clear that not only did the last Government not do anything about this, but that if he had any power he would do nothing about it at present. I wish to make no party points beyond that.

What greatly surprises me is that it was thought to be very wrong that this scheme was not manna from Heaven, but that it had to be paid for by somebody. I thought it was the Conservative philosophy on these matters that money raised by taxation had to be paid for by somebody. It is certainly our view that it is well within the resources of the Airports Authority to provide this money. The surplus at Heathrow was £2 million last year.

Mr. Maude

The Minister must not put words into my mouth. I did not say that I disapproved of the method, though I think that it has to be watched to see that it does not impose too high a charge on the users of London Airport. My point was that the Parliamentary Secretary kept saying that the Government had adopted the recommendations of the Wilson Report and that the community had accepted responsibility for it. I just said this is not true.

Mr. Jenkins

The Government have accepted responsibility for seeing that something is done about the problem and that the funds are provided to meet it. I do not think that it will constitute too heavy a burden.

There are two points, in particular, I wish to deal with. One is the slightly mystifying question of the cost of this scheme. It is perfectly true that the Wilson Committee did talk about a figure of £300 for sound-proofing up to three rooms. That was in a report made about two years ago. The natural assumption would be that the cost might have risen since then, but in fact, that is not so. All our estimates, fortified by the views of the Building Research Station, are that the costs of effective soundproofing schemes have fallen substantially since then.

It is possible to use a much smaller and much cheaper ventilator. There have been important developments in this field, so that it is now a firm estimate that sound-proofing up to three rooms of the average house can be done for just about £200, of which the Authority will pay up to a half.

The second point raised was the question of what happens when another airport reaches the same level of noise as that which persists at present around London Airport. The position clearly is, and it is indicated by the form in which we tabled this Amendment, that should other airports within the control of the Airports Authority reach a figure such as we are proposing to deal with here, that is, the 55 N.N.I. contour, we would certainly consider it necessary to act. If other airports not within the control of the Authority were to come within this figure there would be a case for doing something as far as they were concerned.

It would have been totally inappropriate to deal with airports which are not and never will be within the control of the Airports Authority in a Bill dealing with that Authority. The only practical problem with which we have to deal at the moment is that surrounding London Airport and by far the quickest way of dealing with it was to put in an Amendment, admittedly at a late stage, into the Airports Authority Bill which was currently going through the legislative process. If we had not done that—and I apologise for any inconvenience caused—while it might have been slightly more convenient for the House it would have been a great deal less convenient for the residents in the area affected. This has enabled us to deal with the practical immediate problem with which we were faced.

It also seemed reasonable to us—because although the problem is a London Airport problem at the moment it may not remain so indefinitely—that we should put in the other three areas. I am perfectly sure that, had we done otherwise, we would have had a great and fairly justified outcry from the other airports that this proved that we were putting up the Authority to take over the municipal airports at some time in the future. It would have been quite inappropriate, in a Measure dealing with the Authority's airports, to have in it other airports municipally and privately owned throughout the country. If the noise around other airports approaches the level at which the nuisance to residents in those areas is comparable with that at London Airport it follows that we would need to look at that problem and deal with it at the appropriate time.

In view of what the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, the hope for those who live around them is that the present Government will be still in power when the nuisance arises.

Question put and agreed to.