§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [5th July], That the Clause (FACILITIES FOR CONSULTATION AT CERTAIN AERODROMES) proposed on Consideration of the Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), be read a Second time.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
It might be for the convenience of the House if, rather than picking up the threads of my speech where they were snatched from me a fortnight ago, I were to recapitulate the questions I put on this new Clause. Hon. Members in all parts of the House, I believe, welcome it, originating as it did from the proposition put forward by the Opposition and incorporating in its new form certain drafting improvements which we do not wish to oppose.
I ask the Minister, in regard to the interpretation he would seek to put on the new Clause, two questions. The first is, what type of airfield he thinks would qualify for the designation. Secondly, how would he define adequate facilities? I think we recognise that there are throughout the country a number of airfields where traffic is building up and where there is no statutory requirement for any form of consultation between the management of the airport and those living around it or making use of it whose interests are, or would be, affected. Some cases have already been instanced. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test 1836 (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) mentioned Southampton Airport and today we may hear mention of Luton Airport, Birmingham Airport and Abbotsinch Airport or a number of airfields where traffic is increasing, and as a result perhaps causing local residents to be somewhat more disturbed than in the past.
In addition to airfields which one could call fairly definite future centres of internal and external traffic, there is a category which I should like the Minister to consider. It is airfields where the main activity is club flying. I have had some correspondence with him in the last few weeks in which I have put a particular case which affects my constituency. It is the possibility of future development at Fairoaks, in the constituency of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), but which affects a number of my constituents because the use made of it is thought by some of them to cause annoyance. In a case such as this, would the Minister make use of the designating powers which the new Clause will give him?
If the Minister answers that this is very different from, say, Luton or Southampton airfields, I concede the point at once, but I would not necessarily agree that the facilities for consultation at this stage have to be precisely the same or have to be set up in precisely the same way as in other cases. I certainly would argue that if he is reluctant at this stage to extend very widely outside the more obvious cases the requirement for consultation under the Clause, there is at least an arguable case for running a number of pilot schemes. I should like him to give consideration to the possibility of applying this procedure to airfields where the main activity is not so much scheduled or charter jet services but other forms of activity which impinges on local residents.
The second point concerns the definition of "adequate facilities". Perhaps this phrase will be reasonably defined only in the light of experience. Some of the experience we already have of similar provisions under the Airports Authority Act will be helpful. What has happened at Heathrow and Gatwick, and what we hope will happen at Stansted, sets a pattern as to what might be done in the case of the aerodromes we are now considering.
1837 It is important that an outline should be given of how the Minister sees these words being interpreted, both for the guidance of airport managements and for the information of those who would hope to have the opportunity of making use of facilities of this kind for consultation.
I think that there is some anxiety on the part of some of the municipal airport operators that the provisions of the Clause may put them to some trouble and expense. I should have thought that these anxieties were exaggerated. I think it unlikely that any very considerable expense could result from setting up any sort of consultative machinery. I doubt very much whether it would be a major financial burden on their operations. It would be useful if the Minister could take this opportunity to reassure them on that point.
What follows after consultation? When consultation has taken place through the facilities provided between the airport management and all the other parties who are entitled to be consulted, what does the Minister see as the logical consequence? Does he think that there should be an obligation upon the airport management to take account of representations made to it; and how far does he think it should go? I realise that these are very difficult questions for him to answer in abstract, but if he can give an indication of his thinking, it would be helpful because, valuable though the consultative facilities will be—I think that they will be valuable, not least to hon. Members, who would otherwise find the complaints coming straight to them—their value will depend largely on an understanding in the public mind that after consultation there will be action. If there are representations that the established flight-paths cause unnecessary annoyance to local residents, or if there are other consequences of the airport's operation and expansion which affect the interests of people living round about, they will need to know that there is some obligation upon the management to take account of these and to alter the way in which it has hitherto administered these aspects of its activities.
I realise that it is difficult to go beyond that at this stage. Much will depend on how the Clause is operated in practice. We would certainly accept any declaration by the Minister that he would 1838 operate it in the most reasonable and sensible way. The problem is the impact of airfields on people, and we must all agree that it is very much in the public interest, and in the interest of the aviation industry, that the causes of friction should be removed so far as possible. Where they cannot be removed entirely, at least the reasons for their existence should be clearly understood and discussed, because my experience, and that of many other hon. Members, will probably serve to show that, unless there is some safety valve in an area like this, where grievances can quickly build up, there is a tendency for public reaction to become exaggerated and for people to take views about it which are not reasonable but which they can scarcely be blamed for holding and advancing when they have no opportunity to make their points, to discuss them, to have them answered, and to have the assurance that, where they have grievances, they have some expectation that action will be taken to put their grievances right.
If I can leave it to the Minister to give as full an answer as he can to those words, I would simply reiterate that the Clause is a further improvement to a Bill which has been much improved in its passage through the House, and it is an improvement, I believe, for which many people throughout the country will in due course have reason to thank both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that with the new Clause we are discussing the two Amendments to the proposed Clause:
a, in subsection (3) to leave out 'under this section' and insert:'made by statutory instrument subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament'.b, in subsection (3) at the end to add:'but any order varying or revoking a previous order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament'.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are discussing the hon. Gentleman's Amendment to the proposed Clause. He cannot move it.
§ Mr. Howie
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. Amendment b, which stands in my name, arises from the Amendment which was tabled by Opposition Members. It appears that the Government were prepared to accept the spirit of that Amendment but that it did not follow the usual form of words which Parliamentary draftsmen use for specifying that an order should be subject to annulment by a negative resolution. I am a great believer in doing everything in the correct way. I have therefore been advised on what the correct words should be and I have tabled them, with the assistance of my hon. Friend the Minister of State. This is probably the only time in my life that I have ever had an Amendment on the Notice Paper which starts with a very good chance of being accepted.
Much credit is due to the Opposition Front Bench, first because the Clause arises from one tabled by the Opposition in Committee, and secondly because of the Opposition Amendment to the proposed Clause, which was right in principle, if not in its drafting.
In Committee my hon. Friend the Minister of State's predecessor said this about the Opposition's new Clause:… I begin to think of one local authority airport, which I shall not mention by name, where I am not absolutely satisfied in my own mind, in view of recent developments, that machinery for consultation is adequate." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee G; 20th June, 1968, c. 312.]I have no idea which local authority my hon. Friend had in mind. Suffice it to say that, had he intended to speak of Luton Airport, this sentence would have applied absolutely accurately. I do not know if my hon. Friend was referring to Luton Airport. Obviously, I cannot say that he was. The consultation between the authorities at Luton and my constituents is not very good. It is suspected in Luton, and even more strongly in surrounding areas, that Luton Corporation intends to expand its airport considerably. The Corporation is thought to be intending to spend about £9 million to £10 million on it.
I say that the Corporation is thought to be so intending, because nobody knows. The local auhority will not admit that it intends to expand. It is deduced that it intends to expand. The fact that nobody knows whether the Corporation intends to expand its airport is proof 1840 that the consultation is much less than adequate.
The hon. Member for Hemel Hemp-stead (Mr. Allason) has devised a form of consultation which is very suitable. He receives letters from his constituents complaining about Luton Airport, and he sends them on to me. He deals with them as well, but sends them on to me, and I utter a shrill cry of pain and try to do something about it, but there is very little that can be done.
The consultative body, whatever it turns out to be, is proved to be absolutely necessary in the Luton context, if in no other. Luton Airport is on the extreme edge of the borough. If the borough were a square, the airport would be in the bottom right-hand corner. The flight paths in and out of the airport fly over other contiguous local authorities, whether urban, rural district, or county council.
The interesting point is that, in so far as there is direct profit to be gained from the airport, it goes to Luton, but in so far as there is a great deal of nuisance and annoyance derived from the airport, that is carried more heavily by the surrounding areas. Therefore, the obvious means of redress, namely, action through the local authority elections, is not very satisfactory in the Luton context [An HON. MEMBER: "Or in others."] That may be so, but particularly in Luton, since the major weight of pain is carried by people outside the borough, that means of redress is not really open to the people concerned. In any case, local authority elections and such matters are carried on in a rather wider context than just one specific quarrel. It is clear, therefore, that a consultative body is much needed.
Now, the questions which arise from acceptance of the principle of a consultative body. First, what will it comprise? I dare say that the Minister has given thought to this, but the new Clause says little about it. Who would be represented on the consultative committee, assuming that it is to be a committee? For example, the Ratepayers Association of Luton has made representations. Would such an organisation be directly represented? I notice that the Amalgamated Engineering Union—I am not sure what its name is now, and I think I have it wrong; I seem to be very 1841 much tied up with unions nowadays— the Amalgamated Engineering and Foundry Workers Union has made direct representations to the Department of Employment and Productivity about the nuisance caused by Luton Airport. Would a trade union be an appropriate body for direct representation or, perhaps, through the trades council?
Next, the question of facilities. What would the facilities be, and, more important, who would decide whether the facilities were adequate? Would the owner, the local authority operating the airport —in this case the Borough Council— which provided the facilities decide that they were adequate, or would the facilities be judged by, say, the Board of Trade or another Ministry? If they were thought adequate, what range of consultation would the Minister have in mind? I assume that the question would cover the physical expansion of an airport, as appears to be likely in Luton, but would it cover in addition what one might call the business expansion of an airport? If new operators came to the already thriving airport and proposed scheduled flights or charter flights, would that business decision be a matter upon which public consultation would be sought?
Would the consultation cover certain basic matters as to whether jet aircraft were permitted to use the airport, and, more particularly, would the consultation cover the question of permission for night flights of jet aircraft? If such flights were permitted, would the number of night flights come into consideration? All these are matters for precise and close consultation.
I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to answer these questions. I strongly support the underlying principle of the new Clause, and I consider that my Amendment (a) will strengthen it substantially.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
As the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) has said, there is grave concern in our part of the country about the extension of flying at Luton Airport. This year, B.A.C. 111s started flying. I do not know where they make the most of their noise, but they certainly make a great deal over my cottage, which seems to be roughly in line with the runway, in the Hemel Hempstead Rural 1842 District Council area. This month, Boeing 737s started, and they also make a pretty foul noise and they seem to fly fairly low. Yet to come are the Convair Coronados which, I believe, are just about the noisiest aircraft likely to be found anywhere.
It is not surprising, therefore, that there is concern not just in and around Luton at the way in which Luton Airport is operating. The hon. Member for Luton spoke of the possibility of doing away with night flights, but I understand that the difficulty here is that, unless jets are operated to full capacity, they are not really worth operating at all. It seems that there will have to be a certain number of night flights, but they should be strictly controlled, and controlled by the Government.
The new Clause refers to the possibility of neighbouring local authorities being consulted. What is a neighbouring local authority? Clearly the Hemel Hempstead Rural District Council would be a neighbouring authority, being not far from the town of Luton, but the rest of my constituency is concerned, too. More distant district councils, for instance, Berkhamsted and St. Albans, are deeply concerned. So are the Harpenden and Tring Urban District Councils, for the noise goes on over a long distance. Would the term "neighbouring" cover a distance of up to, say, 10 miles?
On 13th March I raised the question of noise with the Minister of State at the Board of Trade and he replied:In my view, this is a matter for the airport owners, Luton Corporation, who are best placed to decide what restrictions are necessary.I responded that the Government had a duty to concern themselves in the matter, to which the Minister replied:I fully agree that people must be protected, but this is a corporation of elected representatives. They are right on the spot and I think that they will watch the interests of their own people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1359–60.]I wonder what "the interests of their own people" are. I suppose that those interests are the welfare of Luton Corporation and of Luton Airport; they certainly do not cover an interest in the welfare of my constituents, yet my constituents ought to be consulted.
1843 We have formed a body known as the Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which now has a good number of members and is very active in trying to induce Luton Corporation to do something about noise. But it does not seem to be having great success. We have noisier and noisier aircraft and more and more flights travelling over urban areas.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Did I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that we are producing noisier and noisier aircraft today?
§ Mr. Allason
I gave the sequence in which aircraft had come to Luton, and I spoke finally of the Convair Coronado. I do not know exactly at what point this aircraft will arrive, but I am told that it is quite the noisiest. Luton Airport certainly is carrying noisier and noisier aircraft.
I shall not weary the House with a series of examples, but here is one. It concerns Boeing 737s. This is one letter which I have received:On Friday, 12th July, during the course of 25 minutes centred on 21.30 hours approximately, a Boeing 737 flew over five times emitting a trail of black smoke and disturbing by noise my concentration on my academic work. At this time the Control Tower had told my wife that the aircraft had been instructed to keep clear of Harpenden. This aircraft was at a very low altitude.(ii) Saturday, 13th July. My wife and I were both awakened at 06.30 hours by a very low-flying aircraft.(iii) During the course of Saturday, the Boeing 737 caused disturbance and emitted black smoke at very low altitude on numerous occasions.(iv) Sunday, 14th July, I was awakened by a low-flying aircraft at 02.00 hours, and just as I was settling down to sleep again I was disturbed further at 03.00 hours. Another low-flying jet at 03.30 also woke my wife, and removed any possibility of sleep that night for both of us.(v) As I am writing this letter on Sunday morning the Boeing 737 has again caused violent disturbance.We have now suffered considerable disturbance on an increasing basis for several months. (I would remind you of our previous worst night, 1st July, when we were both disturbed at the following times: 00.25, 00.45, 01.45. 02.30, 03.30 hours and had no sleep at all.)My wife and I are both professional people and we are finding it increasingly difficult to carry out our professional duties efficiently 1844 during the day because we are suffering from the lack of so much sleep. I wish you to bring this letter to the notice of the Airport Committee before it decides to spend £15,000 on a consultant's fee for the development of this airport.11.30 a.m.
This letter has been sent to the President of the Board of Trade, and is one example of somebody living in a town being seriously upset by the present arrangements at Luton Airport. There is a possibility of extending the airport, and it is appalling that the Luton Airport authorities are apparently entitled to ride rough shod over the opinions, and to the detriment of the comfort, of those living nearby. I hope that the Clause is sufficiently strong to bring pressure upon Luton Airport to ensure that the lives of of those living around the airport are not made intolerable.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
On a point of order. Subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that we are getting a little wide of the Clause. A Clause which will be discussed later on deals specifically with the control of noise, and this matter could be discussed then.
§ Mr. Speaker
Now that we have started in this way, it would be better if we carried on and restricted our debate on the later Clause. I hope that in arguing the need for this Clause hon. Members will not pursue examples in too much detail.
§ Mr. Rankin
I take it that in discussing the Clause the House is meeting as a body of people primarily interested in one of the greatest industries owned by Britain, that is, the aircraft industry and all that is associated with it. There are employed in this industry 245,000 persons, doing a magnificent job and producing aircraft unequalled in the world. Although I sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) said, I cannot support his arguments.
I travel in the Trident 3B and I have been travelling in that aircraft ever since it took the air. It is not unduly noisy. I would not support anyone who suggests that an aircraft is noisy, for this reason; whether we like it or not, people want to travel in aircraft at much greater speed than when I started to fly 20 years 1845 ago. In those days aircraft flew at 95 m.p.h. No one today would tolerate that, and no operator would dream of putting an aircraft of that type into the air.
§ Mr. Holland
The hon. Gentleman was referring to noise levels and the possibility of complaints under the consultation procedure. When he spoke of the noise level of the Trident, was he referring to the noise level when he is in the Trident as a passenger, with the engines behind him and in a sound-proof cabin, or was he referring to the noise made by the Trident in revving up on the ground and coming in to land, which affects people living below?
§ Mr. Rankin
I hope that when we talk of noise during the debate we need not indulge in the process of dissection that the hon. Gentleman has just indicated. When we talk about the noise made by an aircraft, generally we mean the noise made by an aicraft flying in the air above us. That is the test. Hon. Members know that the aircraft noise is not heard to the same extent by the passengers. I hope that it will be understood that when we speak of noise we speak of the noise made by an aircraft flying overhead.
I am either lucky or unlucky, but not only do I fly in the Trident 3B—and I hope to be flying in it tonight—but I also sleep in the aircraft—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must come to the Clause, which seeks to set up machinery for consultation.
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not know which aircraft the hon. Gentleman refers to; 1846 it may be one in his imagination. However, that aircraft was mentioned by his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Allason rose—
§ Mr. Rankin
The aircraft to which the hon. Gentleman referred is an aircraft which is now in general use and an aircraft which is not distinguished by its noise.
I wish to refer specifically to the Clause before us. If it is understood that we are dealing only with the Clause and that ancillary matters can be dealt with later, then I am satisfied, but I understood that the debate would cover not only the wording of the Clause but the matters to which I referred, and that we would be able to discuss noise.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are not discussing noise itself in this debate. It can be argued that one of the matters to which the machinery of consultation which the Clause seeks to set up might be referred is disturbance caused by noise.
§ Mr. Rankin
I will leave it at that, Mr. Speaker, and, if necessary, return later to the topic of noise. To deal specifically with the Clause, the Clause states:This section applies to any aerodrome which is managed by a person other than the British Airports Authority….I take it that, as worded, the Clause excludes from its effect the British Airports Authority, and that exclusion applies to any aerodrome managed by the Authority. The British Airports Authority manages Prestwick. Therefore, Prestwick would be excluded from the Clause—
§ Mr. Rankin
No. I am not giving way. Clarification will come from the Minister.
As I was saying, Prestwick is excluded. Prestwick is within easy reach of Abbotsinch, yet Abbotsinch will come within the purview of the Clause. Gatwick will be excluded, according to the Clause. If these words do not mean what they say, I take it that my hon. Friend will say 1847 so in due course. In addition, Edinburgh has refused and still refuses to take over its own airport, and I understand that negotiations are proceeding whereby the airport there will be taken over by the British Airports Authority.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. William Rodgers)
Perhaps I might help my hon. Friend, though I had it in mind to wait until I replied to the general discussion. I think that he will recall that, in the British Airports Authority Act of 1965 there is provision for the consultative facilities. The purpose of the Clause is to extend the possibility of providing these facilities for all airports.
§ Mr. Rankin
Very well. I take up that point, then, on the phrase which asks foradequate facilities for consultation with respect to any matter concerning the management or administration of the aerodrome which affects their interest".Those are very wide powers, in my view. One wonders how the management of an airport will be affected by this arrangement. Here is a new committee ostensibly created for the purpose of dealing with the problem of noise, but which will also have some say in the management or administration of the airport concerned. If a company operating from that airport decides to have a particular aircraft, it will not be merely a matter of management and administration for the airport, but can come under the supervision of the committee created to deal with noise which, through that channel, can assume a position in management.
As I indicated earlier, aircraft are getting bigger and bigger and flying faster and faster. One cannot by any conceivable means have more powerful aircraft travelling more quickly without having engines which make more noise. Noise is associated with power. However, thanks to the genius of our technologists, we are beginning to build engines which have power without necessarily increasing the noise. The best example of that was the BAC211—
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are drifting again into a general debate on whether aeroplanes should be noisy. We must keep to the issue of whether we set up consultative committees.
§ Mr. Rankin
I was merely illustrating this because of the phrase in the Clause allowing the proposed committees dealing with noise possibly to intervene in management and administration. It can be easily seen how that could happen.
Design proposals for the Boeing 747 are now being reviewed. That aircraft might be one of the noisiest creatures that we have ever had in the air. If operators want to use that machine—and the demand today is for that type of machine—the problem of using it will come before the committees dealing with noise which will be operating at almost every airport in the United Kingdom. It follows that such a committee must have a voice, whether or not it is a deciding voice, in seeing what type of new aircraft will be flown from its airport. In my view, that is conferring powers on such a committee which it ought not to have.
That does not mean to say that those of us who look at the problem in this light want to see noisy aircraft. No one does. Certainly I do not. But I know from experience that this talk about noise is very much overplayed. I say that because I have the experience in London of sleeping beneath the flight path of outgoing and incoming aircraft, and I have the same experience at Abbotsinch.
In the Press yesterday, there was an indication that a committee would be formed in Renfrewshire on similar lines to those existing in several parts of England. That news item mentioned a town which is not near an airport. I lived in it for a number of years; the town of Barrhead. It is not near to any flight path; and it can hardly be said to be near any airport. Yet it is suffering from aircraft noise.
I believe that the problem is exaggerated, and I am also firmly of the opinion that the men concerned with building aircraft and engines from design through all other stages are as much seized of the problems as any noise committee could be, and they are concerned with the production of good, fast, capable aircraft large enough to meet the demands of the age in which we live.
In welcoming my hon. Friend to this job, and wishing him every success in it, I hope he will proceed very carefully in dealing with this Clause.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that we are on the first of a number of Amendments to the first of three Bills on the Order Paper. We have a lot of work to do.
§ Mr. Burden
This is a very important Clause involving a number of issues which can be raised only at this time. I should like to express my pleasure at seeing the new Minister of State present, and I ask him to convey to his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) our appreciation of the wonderful help which he gave the Standing Committee.
I find myself in some conflict with my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), who read out a whole catalogue of complaints, apparently from one person. The complaints would have had more validity if they had come from more than one person and they would have been even more valid if that person had resided near an aerodrome, or in any of the many London streets where lorries make so much noise.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
If my hon. Friend is in any need of a detailed catalogue of complaints about aircraft noise, I assure him that I get plenty from Richmond and Barnes in my constituency.
§ Mr. Burden
; Of course there is a problem, but it must also be accepted that many people take these matters to extremes.
§ Mr. Burden
It is all very well for my hon. Friend to say, "Really!", but many people complain without proper justification. I must admit my interest in that I am a director of an airline, but I hope that that does not in any way obscure my judgment.
Responsibility to civil aviation was placed on the Board of Trade in 1966 and this is one of the measures to regulate its position and enable it to carry out its duties. Under Section 1 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, the Board of Trade is also charged with the general duty of organising, carrying out and encouraging measures for the development of civil aviation. The Bill is a move in that direction.
1850 I freely admit that the Board of Trade gets many complaints about jets flying at night, but the United Kingdom is the only country with regulations to the extent which we have them to control jet night flying. These proposals—and I am sure that this is one of the reasons for the consultation Clause—will interfere even more with flying, and I am sure that the Minister will be concerned to encourage co-operation and understanding among interested persons so that airports shall be used as much as is practicable.
The only legislative obligation on the Board of Trade is that mentioned in Section 14 of the Airports Authority Act, 1965, which requires the British Airport Authority, and which will now require others, totake such measures as the Minister may direct for limiting noise and vibration or mitigating their affects and, in particular, in restricting their effects and for restricting the use of any aerodrome owned or managed by the Authority to aircraft and persons complying with the Minister's requirements in that behalf.The Minister, therefore, already has considerable power, and I presume that, under this new Clause, he will take the opportunity to widen his powers of designation to ensure the closest cooperation and discussion with interested parties.
But it will be very difficult for him to decide where the restrictions on interests should be. Must it be a group of people? Should people organise themselves into groups in order to minimise the effects of noise? To what extent should interested parties group themselves together? What interests would be regarded as coming within the purview of the Clause? All these matters are left rather vague at the moment, and we should have some elucidation.
In any event, the Government must hold a reasonable balance between the benefits of maximum operation of the great international and local authority airports and economic dividends. For every 1 million passengers who come into London Airport, £12 million accrue to this country, which shows the tremendous importance of ensuring the fullest possible use of our airports.
Of course we want all the safeguards to limit vibration and noise and those of my hon. Friends who are worried 1851 about what may happen at Luton and other local authority airports should remember the example of London. In 1966, the number of jet night flights from London was fixed at 3,500. The total number then amounted to about 8,000 including also turbo-prop and propeller aircraft. There has been a steady diminution in numbers since then, because of the phasing out of propeller and turbo-prop aircraft. The Minister has power to ensure that there is no undue noise and that power has already been exercised.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
Does not my hon. Friend realise that the limitation on night flights at London Airport has had the result of diverting many of them to another London airport, Gatwick, in my constituency?
§ Mr. Burden
I appreciate that, but the Minister has power to limit night flights from Gatwick if he thinks it right to do so.
There will always be some nuisance from aircraft noise, but the aircraft industry is of tremendous importance to these islands and we have to try to strike a very delicate balance, I do not envy the Minister his job in this respect. I am sure that, when the consultative machinery is set up, the Minister will make use of the fact that considerable efforts are now being made to reduce the noise of aircraft—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into a general discussion of noise. We are talking about machinery for consultation.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Burden
Yes, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I can deal with this point more fully on Third Reading.
I know that the Minister is aware of the fact that very considerable measures are being taken, and in this context it is important that he should also ensure that there is considerable flexibility in the discussions with interested parties, because of the improvements and constant changes in circumstances that can influence judgment and consideration. In principle, we all welcome the broadest consultation, but it will be extremely difficult for the Minister to ensure that con- 1852 sultation is reasonable and proper and that it safeguards the rights of those who are interested in reducing noise and other matters that might arise. It is essential not only that the Minister should bear in mind the proper rights of the aircraft industry, including the operators, but that people who at times might find unpleasant the very considerable noise from aircraft should be brought to realise the enormous economic advantages that this industry brings to the country.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to the House for a misstatement. My reference should have been to the Trident 2B, not to the Trident 3B.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Listening to this debate, it is astonishing to realise that on Second Reading this Bill contained no reference to or powers in relation to noise. What has happened to this Measure between that stage and this constitutes an enormous victory for the anti-noise lobby, and this should be generally realised. As it is, the Minister will have new powers. The new Clause gives the Minister powers in relation to local authority and other aerodromes that he already possesses in relation to British Airports Authority aerodromes.
At the same time, one may well ask why the consultation powers that have existed for quite a long time in regard to Airports Authority aerodromes have been so ineffective—as, by and large, they have. The consultation that has taken place since 1965 has not reduced the general volume of aircraft noise. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) has pointed out that in some respects successful attempts are being made to quieten the jet, but even he will not dispute that the totality of aircraft noise has increased in recent years, and is likely to go on increasing, and the invention of the jet has made the noise peculiarly irritating to people.
§ Mr. Rankin
When my hon. Friend refers to the totality of noise, has he in mind the fact that so many aircraft are now flying and that few were flying before? Does he refer merely to their numbers?
§ Mr. Jenkins
No, I refer not only to the number of aircraft but to the amount of noise they make, and to the fact that jet aircraft are noisier than their predecessors. The chief factor is the total quantity of noise. A limited amount of noise, whether from a local authority or other aerodrome can be tolerated, but if it occurs time and time again it becomes intolerable.
The Clause constitutes a profound change. The reason why consultation has until now been unsatisfactory is that the Minister did not have specific powers in relation to noise. By Clause 18 the Minister acquires powers specifically related to noise, and that is why his responsibilities in relation to the whole process of consultation, not only with local authority aerodrome but with aerodromes generally, will acquire a reality and an effectiveness which until now they have not had.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
It is important that there should be consultative machinery even in the airports outside the control of the British Airports Authority. I would not go so far as did the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who said that up to now these consultation powers had not been effective. I believe that they are becoming more effective. But it is important that they should be in the hands of local authorities, which have the capacity to deal with these problems at the right level.
In the Gatwick area we have a consultative committee based on the county council. It has recently proved effective. But it has proved the more effective because there are also local and national protest groups which have organised themselves to put forward their grievances and requests in an orderly and disciplined manner. Such bodies are needed. They collaborate with and stimulate the consultative body, which covers many subjects apart from noise—as, for instance, the benefits to trade in the locality as the services grow up round the airport, and the economic growth points and the planning problems that the airports help to create. But the protest groups are important for the protection of ordinary people living in the area who are affected by the aircraft noise of landings, take-offs and stacking round the airports: they should have disciplined bodies which earn 1854 for themselves access either through consultative bodies or direct to the Minister to take up the subject of noise which can, if unchecked, be a great infringement of the personal liberty of people round the airports.
All of us who look at this problem in the round want the air traffic to perform its quite wonderful function in opening up one country to another, and opening trade and ideas. We do not want that to be reduced, but we do want through well organised channels to be able to bring the pressure of public opinion to bear on the Ministry and through the Ministry to the aircraft industry to design quieter engines. This is a function of the consultative committees backed by protest movements.
I pay my tribute to this combination in the Gatwick area in order to give heart to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), who is hard by Luton. Recently, this consultative committee has worked closely with the Minister. It has had many meetings with him and with the Parliamentary Secretary. In the end, we have got noise levels established in that area which I do not think would have been established as early or as specifically without good and lively consultation machinery, backed by us the local Members of Parliament and a local protest group and the headquarters of the national protest group, which is the British Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which are becoming disciplined bodies working very closely with the consultative committee.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that to some extent the excellent activity which has occurred at Gatwick has been necessary because of equally effective activity occurring round Heathrow, in the sense that we have succeeded in dispersing some noise to him? Does not he agree that what is needed is not specific activity in certain areas but the generalised activity which may stem from this Bill?
§ Sir G. Sinclair
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point. It is important that this should be treated as a national matter. There would be a great gap if the consultative bodies were prevented from taking action in connection with airports that, although small today, may be very crowded and noisy in a 1855 few years' time. People living round those airports should get into the habit of disciplined consultations early on, and should see that the airport authorities take the local populations into their confidence and tell them what they are trying to achieve and how they hope to mitigate noise and make life tolerable in the vicinity. This has been done to a great extent by the airport authority in the Gatwick area, which has gone out of its way to establish good relations with the people living round about.
The Minister doubtless realises that he is dealing with more than a national protest about unchecked noise; it is an international matter. That is why various consultative and protest bodies are now organising internationally to deal with this problem. A noisy jet which starts its journey at Tokyo will be just as noisy when it takes off again from Heathrow or Gatwick. This must be controlled on an international basis. The consultative bodies and protest bodies working together should put pressure on the Minister and on the aircraft industry. This Clause is a welcome contribution to the adjustment that will have to take place between the needs of modern air travel and legitimate interests of those who are affected by aircraft noise.
§ Mr. A. Royle
I agree with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) said. I go further than he does in connection with the formation and membership of the new consultative bodies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), who has been largely responsible for getting this Clause agreed by the Government. He has done a good job, not only in respect of the running of airports throughout the United Kingdom but also in respect of the people who are affected by aircraft noise.
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), whose constituency borders mine, has as much knowledge as I have of the subject, and his constituents suffer as much as mine do from the noise of aircraft approaching London Airport. He and I know how important the consultative machinery is. I go with him more than I go with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking in agree- 1856 ing that there is a lack of impact by these consultative committees. They meet regularly and have the benefits of the administration and organisation of great local authorities behind them, but in the consultations in which they have been concerned a real sense of urgency has been seen only when Members of Parliament representing areas round about, and associations such as the British Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, and the one in my constituency—the Kew Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise—came on the scene.
These bodies are not composed of cranks; their members want to see realistic proposals put forward, in cooperation with airport authorities. I hope that in the future, as a result of this sensible and realistic Clause, firm action will be taken in respect of other local aerodromes.
I was a little concerned when my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) spoke earlier about the agreed 3,500 limit on night flights. This matter considerably affects the setting up of consultative committees. My hon. Friend was right in saying that the Minister agreed this limit in 1966. I detected that my hon. Friend welcomed it, but I also detected a hint in what he was saying that in view of the increase in aircraft movement since that time he might want the Minister to raise the limit. I hope that the Minister will disillusion my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Burden
The number of night flights has been reduced, and at a later stage I shall probably deal with the reasons why this limit should be looked at again. Future jets will be only half as noisy as the present ones.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Royle
That is what worries me. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press that view too far—or, if he does, I hope that the Minister will not accept it. It will be a long time before the noise of a jet aircraft is halved. I hope that it will be in my lifetime, or in my hon. Friend's lifetime, but I have grave doubt whether it will come in either of our lifetimes. I know that the aircraft industry is working very hard to produce quieter aircraft. That is important, bearing in mind that the new consultative 1857 machinery will have to discuss with the owners and occupiers of airports the annoyance caused by aircraft coming in to land as well as taking off. In my view the fact that the aircraft industry is working hard to produce quieter jets will begin to take effect in six, seven or eight years' time. In the meantime it is important that there should be financial incentives to operators using aerodromes to make use of quieter aircraft.
This has begun to be accepted internationally, as a result of the very good conference that the Minister of State's predecessor—the present Postmaster-General—instituted two or three years ago. This was a good move, and it has set up among international bodies a train of thought and co-operation concerning aircraft noise and the running of airports which will be very benficial to the nation. The Clause is extremely useful. It is appreciated by those hon. Members who represent constituents who are suffering an intolerable strain from the noise caused by aircraft.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that this noise is exaggerated. It may be exaggerated in his view, because he lives in the centre of London—perhaps somewhere that is not exactly under a glide path. He should spend a night at Richmond, Kew, or Barnes, where he will get very little sleep, and he will get very little pleasure during the day, if he sits in a deck chair in a garden in my constituency and sips a gin and tonic.
§ Mr. Rankin
In addition to all those places I have been to Feltham and Datchet, and every one of the little villages round London Airport, to test for myself the extent of the noise.
§ Mr. Royle
My invitation remains open in spite of that. I should love to entertain the hon. Member in my constituency, not only with sustenance for his internal enjoyment but also with the noise from the aircraft above.
I wish the Clause a fair wind. It is an excellent one, and I congratulate my hon. Friend for bringing it forward and the Government for accepting it.
§ Mr. Holland
Unlike most hon. Members who have spoken I have no points to raise concerning noise, but I am rather concerned about the sort of consultative machinery that the Minister has in mind. 1858 In Committee, we were a little vague, and rightly so, about the nature of the machinery which should be set up. We talked in very general terms about consultation and the facilities for it, but did not go so far as the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) who spoke about a formal committee, perhaps with trade union representation, or as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who also spoke in terms of formal machinery, perhaps with consultative bodies. We are concerned more with channels of communication for people whose interests may be affected than with formalised machinery to meet regularly and consult, whether or not there are particular matters to be considered.
My reason for asking about the nature of the consultation and the consultative body which the Minister may have in mind, is that, unlike most hon. Members, I have not one airfield in my constituency or near it, but two, and of entirely different kinds. There is a private airfield managed by a private company for club flying, with an air taxi service, which has rather different connotations from the Airports Authority type of airport, with jets. But, just outside the constituency, is the Nottingham Municipal Airport, which effects my constituency.
These are entirely different types of airfield with different management, and clearly the same machinery would not apply to both. So what we want from the Minister is not a specific, clearly defined body which will have a statutory obligation towards everyone, no matter what kind of airfield is involved, but a sort of maximum and minimum requirement facility. I do not know if this is what the Minister proposes, but I hope that he will tell us his thinking. A minimum requirement would be very simple, probably in the form of a channel of communication. The maximum requirement may be much more sophisticated, as would be needed, for instance, for Luton Airport.
But we need some guidance on this point, because this is our last opportunity before the Bill becomes law. Although this was less important when we raised it in Committee, it is important now to know what it is in the Minister's mind and to have some idea of the variations in facilities which should be available for 1859 the different types of airfield and management.
§ 12.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
Mr. Speaker, I should explain that I am a retired aviator— indeed I think that I am the only Member of this House who has bombed the Equator, without I hasten to add doing any injury to it. I am also interested, both financially and by temperament, in the manufacture of aircraft engines. I am anxious for the progress of aviation with the immense benefits which it brings to this country, not only through the aircraft industry itself, but through all the industries which are drawn up alongside it. The House might therefore think that both my interests and my inclinations would lead me to oppose the Clause, but in fact I support it.
It provides for those who run aerodromes to consult those who live nearby. Although "consultation" is very much a depreciated word, and nowadays often means little more than an opportunity to let off steam or, worse, prior notice of a decision already taken, the Clause is nevertheless a welcome if halting step forward, because it is a step away from the old-fashioned attitudes which so damage the cause of aviation.
Consultations under the Clause will be largely, but of course not exclusively, about noise. Our attitude to noise and particularly aircraft noise is old-fashioned. It is the same as the attitude of the Middle Ages to smells. This has been vividly illustrated today by hon. Members saying that they have got rid of the smell in their constituency, followed by other hon. Members saying, "But the smell has arrived in mine." Our descendants will think that our attitude to noise is just as extraordinary as we now think that the attitude of the Middle Ages was to smells. Indeed, noise, like smells, is a form of atmospheric pollution—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is becoming a philosophic discussion on noise; we must keep to the Clause.
§ Mr. Smith
I know how strict you are, Mr. Speaker, but my point is this. Of course we can put up with noise, but should we? We can put up with 1860 smells, and disease, which noise may well cause—and with cruelty and slavery—but we do not. Should we put up with noise? A growing number of people do not put up with it and in my view—and this morning's speeches show this—noise is becoming an electoral issue.
This Clause is a first step towards a modern approach to the problem. It is noise which holds back flying. Many people, like myself, are strongly in favour of flying but strongly against noise. The Clause, by enforcing consultation, will encourage the flying world to do more about noise, and moreover will encourage action about noise in just that part of the flying world where least is done about it but where most could be done.
The Clause does not relate to aerodromes managed by the British Airports Authority. On those large aerodromes, noise from large aircraft is a very difficult problem which is being seriously tackled. This Clause will relate to smaller aircraft and smaller aerodromes, where too little is done about noise; where something could be done about it; but where the flying world is apt to use the size and difficulties of the noise problem at national airports as an excuse for inaction at their own airports. We heard this morning the excuse, which I detest on all subjects, that evil A is tolerable because it is less bad than evil B. By helping to divide the noise problem into an intractable part which is being tackled, and a tractable part which can and should be tackled, but is not being tackled properly, the Clause is welcome.
I say again, it will help flying, and particularly smaller aircraft. Noise is the self-inflicted wound of light aviation. Many aircraft can be silenced but are not, and turn the friends of flying into its enemies. By enforcing consultation, the Clauses will help to wean the flying world from other old-fashioned attitudes which do so much harm to the cause of flying. It begins to get us away from the idea that everything must yield to the flier, just as everything yielded to the 19th Century fox hunter—the idea that there is something inherently noble about flying and that simply to take to the air is to become a knight of the air and in some way to help the country.
But the days of Linbergh and Amy Johnson are, unfortunately long past. 1861 Far from being a knight of the air, many a flier is regarded by the earthbound public beneath him as simply a road hog with his wheels off the ground. The ability to fly a small aircraft is exactly as useful to the country—no more and no less—as the ability to ride a horse. It is a sign of mildly adventurous temperament, which is to be encouraged, but which should not be given total priority. The Clause is a recognition of that.
I hope that the Clause will make people ask why on earth, for example, small aircraft should be exempted from the law of nuisance as they are. If you, Mr. Speaker, were to drive an unsilenced, supercharged Bugatti to and fro past my door, I could sue you for nuisance; but if you affix wings and drive it to and fro over my head, I am powerless.
I hope that the Clause will make people ask why lorries, buses and cars should now, very recently, be limited by law as to the amount of noise that they may make; but small aircraft are not. By law, a taxi must be effectively silenced; an air taxi need not be. There is very little difference nowadays between the two vehicles, either in the interior appearance, the mode of use or the way one dresses up to use them. They are entirely comparable vehicles. To treat them in any other way is absurdly old-fashioned.
I hope that the consultations under the Clause will make people address themselves to the problem of selfishness. Because of the noise—only because of the noise—flying for pleasure is the most selfish of all pleasures. It is a pleasure which can be obtained only at the direct price of destroying other people's pleasure on the ground.
It is because we have not paid enough attention to these matters that flying is so bitterly opposed by those to whom it is such a dreadful, and unnecessary, nuisance. By encouraging fliers to put their house in order, the Clause could be a great help to them as well as to local residents, in exactly the same way that trade union pressure through the years has, possibly, been regarded by some employers as a dreadful nuisance, but has nevertheless contributed enormously to the progress of their own industries.
1862 I want to see a flourishing aircraft industry, including a flourishing light aircraft industry and, most particularly, a flourishing aircraft engine industry. It can best flourish with the good will rather than the hostility of the public. Therefore, I earnestly support and commend the Clause to the House.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
There has been considerable concentration on noise, and with very good reason. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) intimated that he might save some of his remarks until we reach Clause 18, but under our procedure we might not discuss Clause 18. It is, therefore, important to thrash out the objectives of the Clause now.
There are two aspects on which I should like to comment. To date, most of the flying referred to in the debate, except for what I call joy-ride or light aircraft flying, has, by implication, been concerned with either scheduled or charter flights. There is another type of flying which is absolutely necessary but which probably causes greater nuisance than any other type of flying to people living around an airport—that is, training flights.
Very often the aircraft merely does circuits and bumps. It uses take-off or climb power for a large part of its flying time. We all realise that it is necessary, but it is not as necessary to do it in thickly inhabited areas as might sometimes be thought. Before introducing the Boeing 707, instead of submitting people living round London Airport to all this inconvenience, B.O.A.C. very wisely arranged to use a former Royal Air Force airfield in Cornwall so that the number of people annoyed by it were very much fewer. That was entirely commendable. One wonders, however, how many other airlines take the trouble to do that sort of thing. If there is sufficient protest about unnecessary training flights, airlines might at least be persuaded, even if it costs a little more money, to think whether they could not do their training elsewhere.
Obviously, a certain amount of practice take-off and landing must be done before scheduled services commence at any airport, but the kind of arrangement to which I have referred is not always made unless there is an organised 1863 channel of local protest. To have an organised channel, which is what the new Clause suggests, is much more convenient to everybody, including the airport authority and the airlines, than having disorganised channels, which is the alternative.
I expect that most hon. Members who are present will still be familiar with the Wilson Report on aircraft noise, which was a truly memorable step. However much effort was put into defining the degree of annoyance which noise causes, no satisfactory parameter has yet been established. One can talk about decibels and phons, but at the end of the day one comes back to Bonzo, who, when asked, "What noise annoys an oyster most", replied "A noisy noise annoys an oyster most".
Noise, irritation and even psychotic or neurotic responses to noises are subjective. If, for example, a nursing home or an old people's home is closely adjacent to an airport, there are, naturally, considerations which should weigh and which might not otherwise need to be weighed.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman seems to be discussing Clause 18, which he, quite rightly, said that we could not discuss. We are talking about whether there should be consultative committees. Noise may be one of the factors about which they may consult.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Yes indeed, Mr. Speaker. The channel along which my thought was flowing, although it had not quite arrived at its destination, was that bodies of this kind should have a formal method of drawing to the attention of aerodrome authorities their anticipation as well as their experience.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
May I commend to the hon. Member's consideration a new index called "The Index of Community Nuisance", the details of which were given in Flight Engineering some time ago, which is of considerable interest in the question of measuring the amount of nuisance from noise over the whole community?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
That is entirely true. That index is an attempt to establish an objective parameter. If I recollect correctly, it includes a quantum of the number of people affected. I was allud- 1864 ing to the effect on an individual person, which is quite unconnected with the number of other people who are also annoyed.
I do not think that we can do very much better than establish, as the Clause sets out to do, a channel for complaint and then cane the responsible Minister, of whichever party he may be at any given time, if, having established a vehicle for complaint and having endowed the Minister with powers, the Bill is simply allowed to pass off as one more piece of formal apparatus which is not used for the purpose for which the House wrote it into the legislation.
With those brief observations, I warmly welcome the new Clause.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I feel like tail-end Charlie in this debate, but I believe that I have something to contribute as I have had great experience of dealing with aircraft and airfield complaints. I suppose that the question would not apply to the major airfields, with which the new Clause does not deal.
There have been a great number of speeches from my hon. Friends about the question of noise. Of course noise is an important factor, but it is not by any means the most important. I have files three feet high containing reports of discussions following complaints about the activities at a small airfield in my constituency. These complaints are of a varied type and on the various occasions when I have had an opportunity to both write to and speak with officials of the Ministry, considerable difficulties have arisen, which would not have done so if the local body visualised in this Clause had been in existence.
I have been astonished to discover that if a licence is granted for a field to be used for aircraft purposes, there is at present no really effective control exercisable by the civil aviation authorities. I therefore strongly support the new Clause because it will provide an opportunity to canalise the complaints that are invariably made about the use of airfields.
In the case I have in mind the matter was fortunately resolved as a result of the determination of Hampshire County Council to buy the land on which the airfield was situated. However, the difficulties were myriad. There was considerable dispute over the question of exactly 1865 what land comprised the airfield. These difficulties were accentuated by the problems surrounding common land. Not only the parish council but the rural district council endeavoured to move on these matters, but only when the Hampshire County Council decided to buy the land was the matter resolved. Had the sort of consultative body suggested in the new Clause existed at that time, there would probably have been little difficulty in convincing the civil aviation authorities that something should be done.
Another example of difficulty is presented by those who practise parachuting. Constituents of mine had the privilege of parachutists landing in their back gardens instead of the airfield. We could not discover who was to blame and we could not get any satisfaction in the matter. The sort of consultative arrangement proposed in the new Clause will be of material help in such cases.
Similar difficulties are raised by the problem of buildings close to airfields though not necessarily in the glide path. Many people feel that a greater demand than is necessary is made for the approach and take-off lines. We appreciate that these lines must be clearly but limitedly defined, but greater attention must be paid to this and other matters. For all these reasons —and not merely because of the noise difficulty, although I appreciate that it is considerable—it will be invaluable to have the sort of organisation proposed in the new Clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) spoke of the problem of training, particularly in areas which are becoming built up. I agree with him, and there should certainly be an effective arrangement whereby the times when aircraft may practice are laid down. When I approached the civil aviation authorities on these matters it was impossible for them to reach any decisions because of the difficulty of proof. I mention this in view of the remarks of an hon. Member earlier about it being easy for one to bring an action for nuisance if, for example, a Bugatti was driven past one's door at great speed and with much noise. The contrary is actually the case because it is not easy to succeed with a private action for 1866 nuisance, as it is an extremely technical matter.
When I called the attention of the Ministry to the question of low flying aircraft, I was told to complain to the police. What is the use of doing that when one must identify the aircraft? Arrangements should be made for matters such as this to be resolved. The provisions governing small airfields are in a chaotic condition and the sooner this state of affairs is put right, the better. That is why I strongly support the new Clause.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
As a former Air Force flyer, though not a tail-end Charlie—I cannot claim, like the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith), to have bombed the equator, although I have done some bombing—I hope that I will not be disqualified from making a brief contribution to the debate.
First, however, I offer my congratulations to the Minister of State on his appointment and warmly welcome him to the aviation club which, as is well known, embraces both sides of the House. I assure him that there is no more impressive, hard-working, progressive and Godfearing a body of men and that it is nice to have him among us.
I came here this morning not to speak but only to listen. I have been persuaded into action, however, by two remarks, one made from this side and the other from the benches opposite. The first was made by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) who seemed to strike a complacent note, almost shrugging his shoulders over the treatment to which those living beneath glide paths are subjected during any 24 hours.
§ Mr. Burden
That is not true. I had intended to point out—I would have been out of order had I done so—that greater efforts are being made to reduce noise and that new aircraft will be less than half as noisy as present ones.
§ Mr. Kerr
I concur entirely with the hon. Gentleman's last observations and as long as he assures me that he was not yielding to complacency, I am happy to accept his intervention.
The second observation was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) who said, in effect, that people in Feltham, my constituency, 1867 were virtually immune from this nuisance. I assure my hon. Friend that although it is true that the nuisance is unequally distributed, which is inevitable because the glide paths run in various directions in my constituency, many thousands of people in and around Feltham—notably in Cranford, Heston, West and Hounslow, West—regard this question of aircraft noise as the scourge of their lives.
I shall not delay the House further, save to refer to what Professor Richards said to me a year or two back. Professor Richards, of the Institute of Noise and Vibration at Southampton, is by common consent the top expert in this country on matters of noise and noise control. He told me that there were probably about 10 per cent. of people affected by aircraft noise who suffered from it in a strictly medical sense. This is not merely a question of nuisance but of possible severe psychological or psychiatric damage being caused by the perpetuation of the noise nuisance.
I warmly welcome the new Clause. In so far as it indicates a willingness on the part of the Ministry to seek the cooperation of all sorts of representative bodies—I hope that that is the intention —the Government are to be commended for showing a measure of understanding of this very real problem.
§ Mr. Corfield
We have had an interesting and remarkably full debate on the subject of noise. I do not wish to add greatly to it at this moment, though I join in the welcome to our deliberations which has been extended to the Minister and congratulate him on his appointment.
I thought that it might be helpful at this point if someone referred to the Amendment which we are discussing at the same time. The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) was generous enough to give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) for the initiative behind the new Clause and, more generally, to the Opposition for our Amendment (a), but neither he nor my hon. Friend referred to what it was all about. A brief word on the subject might not be out of place now.
I do not object to the usual riposte of Governments to Oppositions when 1868 they tell us that we cannot draft Amendments because we have not been advised by the draftsman—it seems to be the tightest trade union in the world—but we are delighted that the Minister has accepted the spirit of our Amendment. The principle of it is simple. An Order imposing a duty on aerodrome owners to set up consultative bodies or provide facilities for consultation will create benefits and rights for the people who are thereby enabled to be consulted, and it seems to us that such rights having once been created, it would not be appropriate that they should be removed by an Order which did not come before Parliament. That is the basis of our Amendment. It is a sound principle, and I am glad that the Minister has accepted it.
As for the substance of the new Clause, it is worth re-emphasising, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking said, that this can primarily be a matter only of helping to improve public relations. No one imagines that it gives a full answer to the noise problem. Nevertheless, we all welcome it as an essential step in that direction, however large or small we may each consider the step to be. I suggest that, when the Minister makes Orders under the new Clause, it might well be appropriate in certain cases to suggest, either directly or by circular, to the authorities concerned that they would be well advised to publish a report from time to time indicating the type of complaints which have been brought before the management authority and the action taken or decisions made, so that people may not only see that there is consultation in fact but also judge its effectiveness. The more publicity is given to the results of such consultations, the more likely are people to be determined that they are effective in the way they have not, as the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) suggested, been in the past.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) stressed the importance to this country of the aviation and aero-engine industries and of air transport. None of us is unaware of the immensely important contribution which those industries can make, but I should come down heavily 1869 on the side of my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) and the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) in saying that I do not believe that the interest of the aircraft and aero-engine industries and of air transport will be served unless it runs parallel with and becomes more and more acceptable to the general public interest in this country. This is of the utmost importance, and I am convinced that it is fully realised by those engaged in the manufacturing and air transport world.
I want to see an enormous increase in the domestic use of aircraft in Britain as well as internationally. But we must not forget that even in the United States, a far more developed country from the point of view of air travel, only a small proportion of the population—about 8 per cent., I believe—ever set foot in an aircraft. The great majority of the people concerned with aeroplanes are concerned about the effect which they have on their lives on the ground. I know that the industry realises that, and I do not believe that we serve those industries well by belittling the problem of noise and its environmental effects.
I hope that we shall not overstress the substantial advances which are being made in the quieting of engines. These advances are being made and we welcome them, but what is happening is that engines are being made quieter per lb. of thrust and not necessarily per aeroplane, because aeroplanes are getting bigger. Although we may well have immense improvements in the noise level of engines of the same power, we are demanding more and more power to put bigger and bigger aeroplanes into the air. These are not, therefore, matters about which we ought for a moment to be complacent or to appear complacent.
I welcome the Clause, the Minister's acceptance of the spirit of our Amendment, and the assiduity of the hon. Member for Luton in working out in his Amendment the right form of wording.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. William Rodgers)
We have had two hours of thorough debate, with about 14 contributions from the back benches. It has all been most worth while. From my point of view—I thank those hon. 1870 Members who have welcomed me to what I gather is the rather particular and unusual club which I have now joined— I have found this morning's debate a helpful education for me in one part of my responsibilities. If I do not have time to touch on all the points raised, I assure the House that I shall bear them all in mind and reflect upon them in the time ahead.
The new Clause deals with the question of consultation, and I shall not go wider or engage in a full discussion of all aspects of the problem of noise. It is a most important problem and one with which we must continue to deal. If there is time and opportunity on Third Reading, I may say a further word about it.
On the question of consultation, it is clear that a balance must be struck. I have no doubt that there is a real and growing social problem with wide consequences flowing from the growth of air traffic, but I am equally certain that air traffic will continue to grow, and it is desirable in economic terms as well as, indirectly, in social terms that it should. We must, therefore, find a middle course. In my view, it is possible to reconcile the need for less noise and the control of the adverse effects of the growth of air traffic with the growth of air traffic itself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) said that the Clause was an enormous victory for the anti-noise lobby. I am happy to acknowledge his own special rôle over some time now in drawing attention to the severity of the problem, and I am prepared also to acknowledge his description of the Clause. I put it in this way. In so far as the balance was not previously right, the Clause will help to redress it. A fortnight ago, when we first discussed the Clause, the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) said that there was a real need for good public relations with the local communities. That sums it up. Without mentioning individual cases, one must concede that sometimes in the past public relations were not as good as they ought to be, sometimes airport operators did not explain what they were trying to do or the problems with which they were dealing, and sometimes they were reluctant to give an ear to those who complained.
1871 I was interested in the view of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) of the success of consultation at Gatwick. This is a very reassuring precedent. Although I cannot say that under the Clause there will be no conflict, everyone will be satisfied and Members of Parliament will not be troubled by letters—because they will, and no one is ever satisfied—once the Clause is through and the Bill becomes law so that airfields are designated, we shall have a much better chance of living together with this problem than in the past.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), who a fortnight ago pioneered the discussion which we have had today by making typically shrewd comments on the contents of the Clause, asked three questions. In answering them, I shall take up some of the points made this morning. My hon. Friend asked whether the method of consultation would, for example, include bringing in residents' associations of one kind or another. I think that was in the minds of other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie). The answer is of course, yes. Without wishing to lay down the form which consultation will take, I do not hold the view in this case or any other than the only legitimate expressions of public opinion can come from elected authorities. Often a voluntary group of people, a protest movement as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, can represent something of consequence and should be listened to. So I would not exclude residents' associations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, also asked what were adequate facilities for consultation. The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland), who took up this point this morning, helped me in answering when he referred to maximum and minimum facilities. He made the point that it may be necessary to have machinery, but it should be machinery tailored for the purpose, neither more nor less. That is absolutely right because we do not want a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Although I am not prepared to say whether this will prove to be the case, it may often be that formal consultative 1872 machinery will be required. A committee which may serve that purpose, but on other occasions some other form of machinery, perhaps of a more informal kind, will meet the bill. We have to see how things go and to recognise that different circumstances may require a rather different response.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton asked who at the end of the day would decide whether the facilities for consultation were adequate. In all this we must recognise that common sense must prevail and there will be give-and-take in discussion with all sorts of people. Although the machinery cannot satisfy everyone in each case, I hope that it will go a long way towards doing so, but at the end of the day it will be for the courts to decide whether the form of consultation is adequate or not. My hon. Friend also raised the question of the possibility of trade unions being involved in consultation about whether facilities were adequate, what form they took, how frequently they operated, and who was involved in the whole process.
The hon. Member for Hemel Hemp-stead (Mr. Allason), who apologised for not being able to be present now, raised an important point. As he made it well, I do not think I need take it much further. He made a point which gets to the root of the new Clause and consultation when he quite rightly said that Luton Airport is the responsibility of Luton Corporation whereas the local authorities in his area have no say in the management of that airport. He was making the case, as I think he intended, for this Clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, also asked what consultation would be on. I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) to say that there would be a danger if consultative committees became responsible for supervision. Of course these committees can discuss a wide range of questions, certainly flight paths and new runways, because they would have a bearing on amenity in all its aspects. Again, we must ask for common sense in consultation because consultative committees cannot manage airports however wide their powers for consultation will be. I hope we shall find a middle, reasonable 1873 course in which those who have responsibility for management manage but those who are consulted are listened to.
§ Mr. Rankin
If I follow my hon. Friend correctly, he is saying that these consultative committees will have some say in laying down runways—the direction and so on—which is sometimes challenged, and is now being challenged at Abbotsinch. If that function is recognised, is there not a danger that they will always try to employ it and therefore impinge on management?
§ Mr. Rodgers
There is always the danger that they may assume responsibilities which they do not have. The management must lie with those who control the airport, but that does not preclude those who are consulted from expressing views on a wide range of subjects. I have never believed that there is one only one way of running things—that those who have the power should exercise it. Most of us listen and learn. An operator will find life a great deal more congenial in every way if the decisions he makes are decisions which take full cognizance of the views of others in the locality, which I interpret as a very wide area indeed in present circumstances.
I cannot say this morning which airports may in due course be designated. It is better to say that we exclude none but will include none before we have considered it fully. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), in a very moderate, constructive and helpful speech, made the point well when he again drew attention to the need to devise machinery which was reasonable and sensible. He said that we might find where facilities were required even in the case of airfields used for club flying which could not be excluded although they would be rather different from airfields where there is a growing volume of jet traffic.
I hope that I have covered the majority of points that have been made. If there are others which I have not fully dealt with, I shall take note of them. I commend the new Clause to the House. As the House understands, I cannot accept the Amendment in the name of the Opposition, but my hon. Friend the Member for Luton has put forward an Amendment which embodies the spirit which I shall be happy to accept.
§ Question put and agreed to.1874
§ Clause read a Second time.
Amendment made to the proposed new Clause: In subsection (3), at the end add:
'but any order varying or revoking a previous order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament'.—[Mr. Howie.]
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.