HC Deb 16 April 1969 vol 781 cc1136-7
16. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Technology what progress is being made in technological research into limiting the noise created by aeroplane engines, particularly in the vicinity of airports; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Benn

The principal advances will come with the development of much quieter "new technology" engines of which the RB211 is the prime example, and investigations into the nature and measurement of aircraft noise. The international scheme for aircraft noise certification, which is now being negotiated, should have a particularly beneficial effect in the vicinity of airports by the early 1970s.

Mr. Dudley Smith

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him if he will recognise that with increasingly sophisticated aircraft this will become a more and more crucial problem in the years ahead? Will he also bear in mind that while, obviously, it is the large airports which are the ones at which the most trouble will be caused, there is a good deal of interference from the municipal airports and the smaller airports and that that ought to be taken into consideration in the research?

Mr. Benn

I would venture to say that noise is one of the major political problems facing the community in the next 10 to 15 years. I am glad to be able to report that, as far as the work which we are doing is concerned, a great deal of effort is being put into this, and that although it will still be a formidable problem, because people are moving in larger numbers at higher speed, I do not rule out the possibility that there will be some real improvement.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

While accepting the optimistic nature of my right hon. Friend's reply, which will be warmly welcomed, may I ask him how does he tie in with the estimate of the Chairman of the British Airports Authority that there will be no improvement in noise levels at London Airport in the next 15 years?

Mr. Benn

I think my hon. Friend must not confuse the problem arising from increases in traffic with advances which will come as the result of quieter engines—these high bypass engines which Rolls-Royce has developed and Pratt and Whitney and General Electric are developing abroad—which will bring definite improvements which, I think, will be of some benefit to people iving near airports.

Mr. David Price

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that in the sound vibration laboratories in Southampton University we have the leading unit in Europe and perhaps in the world in dealing with this problem, and will he assure the House that in looking at its own responsibilities in this matter of sound vibration his Department will continue to support that laboratory?

Mr. Benn

In the laboratories in Southampton they have amongst other things a contract from the Ministry of Technology. Work is going on at Farnborough, Boscombe Down and Pyestock—into the muzzling of noisy helicopters, noise due to the run up and take off of aircraft, of steep descent, and rapid take off. We are taking this matter very, very seriously.