HC Deb 20 April 1970 vol 800 cc181-207

10.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)

I beg to move, That the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order, 1970, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th March, be approved. I propose to speak briefly to the background, purpose and terms of the Order; and, at the end of the debate, it might be convenient to the House if, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I were to speak again to clarify any points that have arisen during the debate.

This will be the first Order to be made under Section 8(2)(r) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, by virtue of Section 19 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1968. It represents an important landmark in measures to protect the human environment from the adverse consequences of progress—in this case aircraft noise. The most promising and, ultimately, the most satisfactory way of combating the aircraft noise problem is to produce quieter aircraft. The purpose of the Order is to ensure that this is done.

The advent of new technology engines—the development of high by-pass ratio gas turbine designs, of which the Rolls-Royce RB211 series are the best known—together with research expressly directed to acoustical characteristics and noise suppression modifications, has provided the opportunity for dramatic improvements to future types of subsonic airliners. A concentrated effort of research has gone into this work at home and abroad, both in industry and in research establishments.

The Government's continuing contribution to this effort is shown by the fact that expenditure by the Ministry of Technology in sponsorship of an expensive and extensive programme of research into aircraft noise problems was about £1.2 million last year and will be rather higher this year. It is through work of this kind that the technology which underlies the noise standards in Schedule 1 of the Order we are debating tonight has been established—and we of course look to still better things to come.

Many hon. Members will be aware, from past proceedings in this House, of the process of international consultation which, because aviation is international in character, has been necessary before mandatory standards of quietness for aircraft could be introduced. My right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, took the chair at the first International Conference on Aircraft Noise which the British Government convened in 1966. One of the most important results of that Conference was that the "tripartite" countries—the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America—pressed urgently ahead with the task of devising a workable noise certification scheme. The noise standards of the present Order, and their intended scope of application, are precisely based on proposals which, under British leadership, were recommended at the end of last year by a Special Meeting on Aircraft Noise for adoption under the Chicago Convention by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The Order is therefore part of what will be an international system when a new Noise Annex to the I.C.A.O. Convention has been promulgated.

In addition to international consultation we have rightly been concerned to carry with us the industries in this country—both airlines and manufacturers—whose interests are of course vitally affected, as well as the wider public interest as advocated by active and responsible representative bodies. At various stages throughout the process of drawing up the basic requirements for aircraft noise certification there have been detailed consultations within this country which produced many suggestions for improvements. I should like to pay particular tribute to the constructive spirit in which the very considerable and important task has been assisted by the Society of British Aerospace Companies (S.B.A.C.) and their member firms and by our own airlines; and encouraged by such bodies as the British Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise.

The broad purpose of the Order is to compel the manufacture and use in the years ahead of the much quieter airliners for which the necessary noise reduction technology has been firmly established on a basis that is reasonable in economic terms. This purpose is accomplished by identifying the lowest noise levels, as measured under careful test conditions, which are now achievable with confidence when starting the design of new subsonic types; and by requiring these aircraft to possess what I hope will come to be known as a "certificate of quietness" as a condition for using aerodromes in this country.

The standards required by the Order for the issue of a certificate reflect current technological capability; as and when further noise reductions can be achieved we shall come forward with fresh proposals for more stringent standards.

I should mention briefly some of the main provisions of the Order. Article I establishes the dates for the coming into operation of different parts of the Order. The date from which an aircraft to which the Order applies must, unless exempted, have in force a noise certificate is 1st January, 1971. Here I would enter a word of explanation because we do not expect that at that date there will yet be airliners in operational service which will have been designed and built to meet the noise standards in Schedule I, on which a certificate would be issued. Aircraft have a long gestation period for their design, development and introduction to airline service. The requirement to achieve the noise standards involved can be met where the manufacturer knows from the outset what noise levels need to be met. It had been our hope that the first high by-pass ratio engined airliner, the jumbo jet Boeing 747, would, from the outset, be able to comply. But the initial production models of this aircraft, some of which are already in airline service, though quieter than the long-haul jets with which we are familiar, will not be quiet enough to meet our very demanding standards. We could of course have set higher noise levels for these jumbo jets. But, because we understand that before very long modifications will be introduced on the Boeing production line to achieve full compliance, the best course seemed clearly to be to maintain the standards and to exempt early production 747s as is provided for by Article 16.

Article 3 identifies the aircraft to which the Order applies. These are turbojet and turbofan aeroplanes, excluding light aircraft, VTOL and very short take- off types, and supersonics such as Concorde. My hope is that a subsequent Order or Orders will deal with these exclusions when the necessary technology has been developed. But I would stress that the aircraft types which are covered by the present Order are those which, in the foreseeable future, will be main replacements for the existing airline fleets which are the source of the major noise problem around our airports.

Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

What is the objection to including VTOL, STOL and SST aircraft and then using the exemption in Article 16 of the Order, as the Minister of State has done for jumbo jets? This would surely be a simpler arrangement than to bring in another Order on a future occasion.

Mr. Roberts

That is a fair point. The reasoning was that, as the technology is not available, nor imminently available, it would be best to exclude them in this way, but I see no difference of principle between the way we have adopted and the one advanced by the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that we would have gained anything by adopting the method he has suggested, but I do not think there is any basic difference between us.

Airliners powered by high by-pass ratio engines are pre-eminently those for which the noise standards have been devised. Other types powered by turbojet and turbofan engines continue in production, and it is not possible to deal with current aircraft in a scheme based on the technology for future aircraft types. Article 3(1)(d)(ii) deals with this, and reflects a recommendation to I.C.A.O. to exclude from coverage low by-pass ratio engined aircraft in respect of which the airworthiness certificate application for the first aircraft of the type was accepted before 1st January, 1969, and which evidently cannot now have the necessary acoustical technology built into them from the start of their design cycle. We could not find an appropriate and watertight definition to accomplish such an exclusion. Accordingly, to ensure that we can follow the internationally recommended criteria in a manner that is nondiscriminatory and consistent with differing airworthiness procedures in other countries, current types will be exempted as specially provided.

Article 4 makes the requirement to possess a noise certificate issued either by the Board of Trade or, subject to appropriate safeguards, by the authorities of the State where the aircraft is registered. Article 5 deals with the issue and validity of noise certificates to the standards set out in Schedule 1. Articles 6 to 14 make the provisions that are necessary to administer and enforce the certification scheme.

Finally, I come to Schedule 1 which sets out the noise standards for different weights of aircraft which are required to be met, at three measuring points which between them establish the total inherent noise characteristics of an aircraft. The noise standards are expressed in EPNdB—effective perceived noise decibels—which is the unit of measurement developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation—IS.O.—that most faithfully represents differences of aircraft noisiness as heard by people. The scale is logarithmic, that is a difference of 10 on the numerical scale represents a doubling or a halving of perceived noise.

It is these noise standards, maximum permitted noise levels, which have been at the centre of the consultations to which I have referred. I would commend them to the House by saying that by comparison with current types they represent, weight for weight, roughly a halving of the noise-at-source characteristics of aircraft. I would stress that the maximum noise levels of 108 EPNdB represents the highest noise that will be allowed for even the largest of future subsonic airliners. We are therefore putting a firm, and I hope final, limit to the noisiness of these aircraft.

Hon. Members may, however, be dismayed if they compare the 108 EPNdB maxima with the existing 110 PNdB monitored noise limit for jet take-offs at Heathrow and Gatwick. I would reassure them by saying that these are not directly comparable. First, the units of measurement, EPNdB and PNdB, are not exactly comparable. Second, the distance to the relevant certification measuring point is not the same as the variable distances to monitoring points. One or two hon. Members have raised this point with me and I thought that I would reassure them that this difference should not unduly disturb us.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of 108 EPNdB, was the weight of 272,000 kilograms or more, on which the maximum figure becomes admissible, chosen for some inherent characteristic of that weight or because this was the weight of a particular aeroplane?

Mr. Roberts

Offhand, I would say that it was the weight of the particular type. I believe that applies to the schedule. I will check on that before the end of the debate. I think I know what the hon. Gentleman is referring to.

In sum, I would say that the noise certification standards, which cover lateral and approach as well as fly-over noise, represent a very much more significant reduction to disturbance that the difference between 108 EPNdB and 110 PNdB would appear to suggest.

This Order is a first and very important step. It illustrates in a practical way the leading contribution made by this country to i he beginning of a solution of this difficult and important problem.

The United Kingdom is the first country to implement the standards recommended by the Montreal Conference. With the introduction of the initial scheme, attention is now being turned to the possibility of quietening current types of aircraft. Work will also be devoted to considering noise certification schemes for other aircraft not covered by the Order, such as supersonic transports, vertical take off and landing and short take off and landing aircraft, so that the point made by the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) is met in that way. Work is proceeding on this class of aircraft now that we have made this initial move with the categories which I have described.

Several Hon. Membersrose

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak and all of them suffer from aircraft noise. Brief speeches will help.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. F. V, Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

The Opposition welcome the general purpose of the Order. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, it is the first and an important step towards redressing the balance between economy of operation, which has been in the interests not only of operators, but of an increasing number of air passengers, and those on the ground who suffer the effect of noise in the vicinity of aerodromes, or because they live underneath busy flight paths.

Nevertheless, the Order will bring only limited comfort to those who are most seriously affected, because it applies, as it can apply only—and this is no criticism of the right hon. Gentleman or the Board of Trade—to future as opposed to current aircraft, and I observe from the note with which the right hon. Gentleman has kindly provided me that it is made clear that they will not be in general operation until the mid-1970s. I therefore press the right hon. Gentleman to keep the House up to date about the progress made towards quietening existing types of aircraft and particularly to put the whole problem into the perspective not only of the cost of the modifications which may be necessary, but of the repercussions for the valuable contribution to the British economy which air transport makes.

As we get larger aircraft, especially the 747, and are constantly told that they make less noise than their equivalents, and we do not seem to have any fewer of them, although they carry many more people, it sometimes occurs to me to wonder whether we ought not to consider the problem of controlling capacity, so that airlines do not operate way above possible load factors, thereby causing unnecessary noise simply by running half empty aircraft until such time as the passenger load catches up with capacity.

I have a number of questions about the drafting of the Order. The first is general, but it arises particularly on Article 5 and concerns whether this is a proper responsibility of the Board of Trade as opposed to the A.R.B. It seems that the A.R.B. will advise the Board of Trade on the results of necessary flight tests and about the sort of tests which are appropriate, but basically one is testing equipment rather than personnel. This seems to be a fundamental purpose and function of the A.R.B. rather than of the Air Safety Department of the Board of Trade. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would dwell on that particular point when he winds up. On the face of it, this appears to be an A.R.B. function. The A.R.B. has a great international reputation and it might be easier for everybody if it became a less rather than a more political problem.

The second point I want to raise arises on Article 5(2), where it appears that the Board of Trade is given very wide discretion indeed in regard to the imposition of conditions. Article 5(2) reads: The Board shall issue every noise certificate subject to a condition as to the maximum total weights at which the aeroplane may take off and land and may issue such a certificate subject to such other conditions relating to standards as to noise as they think fit. Looking at it from the point of view of the air transport operators, it seems that this could introduce a quite intolerable degree of uncertainty. I have no doubt that it is wise to set a target, as the right hon. Gentleman described it, within current technological capabilities. If one does not set a target improvement will not be attained. But it is equally important that the target should be certain in its definition. There should not be any question of unforeseen conditions being attached by virtue of this Article which might render the efforts of the manufacturers, the A.R.B. and the operators abortive. It is not only constitutionally undesirable that the Government should have these powers, in effect, to make the rules as they go along; but, as I have suggested, it can be damaging to the British aircraft industry and, indeed, to the air transport operators who make a substantial contribution to our balance of payments.

In Article 5(4)(a) the Board of Trade is to approve modifications and the materials with which they are carried out. Surely this too is a basic function of the A.R.B. rather than of the Board of Trade.

A similar criticism arises on Article 8 which appears to give the Board of Trade powers to suspend a noise certificate before it has any good grounds for so doing. The article goes on to say that the board can modify, revoke, etc., when there are grounds for so doing. But a suspension could be equally damaging to an operator. As a pure question of the rule of law, I think that the operator should know where he stands from the start and not be subject to the possibility of suspension on the flimsiest of uncorroborated allegations.

I turn now to Article 10 and the question, which runs through the Order, of what is an "authorised person". We are not told who is to be authorised, how he will be authorised, what qualifications he will have to inspect aircraft and deduce anything useful from that operation and, perhaps more important, how we will prove to the people to whom he purports to give directions that he is in fact authorised. This is crucial to a number of the offences that the Order creates. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will elaborate on this mythical "authorised person", because he is a very important figure in the Order. We should be clear as to who he is, how he proves himself to be authorised, what his qualifications are, and so on.

Article 10 gives this gentleman the power to direct an operator, with fairly dire results if the operator disobeys the directions. In what form are the directions to be given? It is important that they should be clear and unambiguous, otherwise we shall have difficulties with people who are accused of having breached a condition arguing that they did not fully understand what the condition was. This applies particularly to Article 13 which creates the offence of breaching a condition.

I view the proviso to Article 11 with some surprise. Government-owned aerodromes are to be in a curiously privileged position, in that the authorised person must have the permission of the commandant, or whoever it may be—the person in charge—of the aerodrome. It is difficult to know why a Government servant which, presumably, the authorised person is, should be in this particularly difficult, or less favourable position, in relation to Government-owned aerodromes—and offhand I can only think of those in the Highlands and Islands—as opposed to other types of aerodromes. I do not know whether the B.A.A. aerodromes are Government-owned. Perhaps it could be argued that they are, but, as the Order does not apply to military aerodromes, it seems a curious distinction.

Article 14 is important, because it deals with penalties for the various offences which are created, but I question whether the penalties begin to make sense if one is really going to enforce the Order with a view to alleviating the problems of noise. It is true that perhaps the most important articles, Articles 12, 4, 9 and 14, are dealt with in paragraphs (4) and (5), but for what one would have thought were fairly serious offences the maximum penalty is £10. When one thinks of the extra value that could be added to a flight by breaching a condition, £10 is cheap at the price, so that it seems that this is only scratching at the problem.

Paragraphs (4) and (5) deal with the more serious offences. In paragraph (5), which refers among others to Article 9, one finds a rather curious situation, in that there is a maximum fine of only—and I say "only" advisedly—£200 for something which is fraudulent. Article 9 sets out the basis of offences in relation to noise certificates. It says that a person shall not, with intent to deceive, do certain things. Here is something which is pretty flagrant. When one reads about the things which a person must not do, one is rather surprised to find that there are not less serious offences when he does them through pure negligence. He may lend a certificate, or allow it to be used by somebody else, or he can make a false representation for the purpose of procuring for himself or any other person the issue, renewal or variation of any such certificate. If he does that through pure carelessness, it does not matter. It matters a lot to the people who may be affected by the noise. I think that the Article 9 offences ought to be in two categories. There ought to be a relatively minor sentence when there is no intent to deceive, but a fairly savage sentence when there is fraud, because this is what it would amount to.

Paragraph (4) of Article 14 refers to the contravention of Article 12, which refers to a person wilfully obstructing or impending somebody acting in compliance with the Order or in the exercise of power given under this Order. I come back to the problem of proving the authority of the authorised person. We could have a situation in which it could be argued in defence that the person concerned had no idea that the man was operating in exercise of his powers. That should be clear, and if it is not it should be a written-in form of defence if the person believed, or had cause to believe, that the man was not operating in exercise of his powers.

I now come to Article 15. I am a little concerned about the proviso to subsection (1), to the effect that nothing in this Article shall render liable to any penalty any Department or other authority responsible on behalf of Her Majesty for the management of any aeroplane. We are clearly dealing only with civil aircraft, because the next paragraph excludes military aircraft.

From Article 14 it is clear that in normal cases both the operator and the commander of an aircraft will be liable, but in Article 15 we exclude the equivalent to the operator, namely, the Department. The assumption is that the responsibility falls upon the commander. But is not he, technically, an "other authority responsible"—the words in the proviso? I think that he very likely is. If he is not, it would be helpful if it were explained why, and were made absolutely clear that simply because the aircraft is a civil aircraft operated by a Government Department there will not be a let-out if the conditions of the certificate are breached.

Article 16 deals with the question of exemption. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that one purpose was to exempt the early models of the 747 because of the delay in producing the quieter engine. I imagine that the Board of Trade may have in mind other types of exemption, and it would be helpful if we knew what other reasons might induce the Board of Trade to exempt further aircraft, because if there are too many exemptions the Order will be nullified, and I am sure that that is not the intention. It would be a reassurance to be told that there is a limited category of exemptions. It would also be of interest to know whether any provision is to be made for the early models of the 747 eventually to be fitted with the quieter engine, or the attachment to the engine, or whatever makes it so much more quiet.

My next point concerns Schedule 1, paragraph 3(2). The right hon. Gentleman drew attention to the fact that be- tween the crucial weights of 34,000 kg. and 272,000 kg. a lineal proportion of of noise will be allowed in relation to weight. I am sure the intention is that this should be represented by a lineal graph between the pairs of figures, of 102 and 108 at point (a), 93 and 108 at point (b), and 102 and 108 at point (c), but the Order does not say so. It does not say that the lineal variation will be between any fixed points, although that is clearly intended. At the moment the Order provides that we shall just have the lineal variation, with no starting point and no finishing point.

The point was made that we shall be roughly halving the noise. It would be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman would explain what he means by that. This is rather a subjective problem. I was quite fascinated by the literature which the right hon. Gentleman so kindly sent me. I was immensely flattered that anyone should think that 30 years after giving up any attempts at pure mathematics I would understand it. There is a splendid formula for bringing in the subjective element, but it is beyond me. I thought for a moment that it was a music score. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the Minister of State for attempting to inform me. I welcome the Order, but I rather doubt whether I would pass it as an alpha-plus in drafting.

Several Hon. Membersrose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. I remind the House that the time for this debate is limited, and the House would be assisted by brief speeches.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Order, but I share some of the doubts that have been expressed about it. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) taking a rather different line from one which I thought he took earlier, when he seemed to give the impression that he was not greatly concerned about the problem of aircraft noise. I am glad to know now that he is. I share his doubts about the operation of the Order. He occasionally appeared to express doubt that it might be excessively effective, but I do not think that that will prove to be the case.

It is a fairly sound general rule that the more complicated and difficult a piece of legislation is the less effective it is. Most pieces of legislation that are effective are simple. Ineffectiveness is produced as soon as the law moves into complication, where it seems that legislation will cope with a certain situation; that it will come into effect in certain circumstances; that it will meet every objection; that talks will be had with the operators; that nothing in the legislation will upset anyone too much; while at the same time giving the impression that something is being done. The Order seems to move some way in that direction. Nevertheless, it is good that the Government should be attempting to do something about this problem.

My right hon. Friend has said that this country is giving a lead. It is true that we have taken the lead in international discussions, and for that my right hon. Friend is entitled to receive credit, but one aspect which it is very necessary for us to consider is that in this respect our own citizens are deprived of legal rights which citizens of other countries possess. Much of the legislation proposed and the protections suggested are necessary only because none of our citizens can sue any aircraft noise maker in the ordinary courts of law. In the United States of America, and in many Continental countries, it is possible for a citizen to take action in the law courts in respect of this type of noise as in respect of any other form of noise.

Mr. A. Royle

This situation will be changed when I bring in my Ten-Minute Rule Bill, which is down for introduction in July. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support my Bill when I bring it forward

Mr. Jenkins

I will not only support it, but might consider adding my name as a sponsor, if given the opportunity.

The Order is rather a paper tiger, but it has value. Its value is not that by tomorrow it will halve the amount of noise. If people living near such a source of noise imagine that the totality of noise they are enduring will be sharply and suddenly reduced, they are very much mistaken—

Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)

Nor is it possible.

Mr. Jenkins

Nor is it possible. So, when my right hon. Friend talks in terms of halving the noise, we are entitled to ask him precisely what is meant. One reason why some of us look at these attempts, worthy though they are, with just a little cynicism is that noise does not only consist of the amount of noise made by one aircraft but is made up of the noise of a number of aircraft, and its effect depends on the number of people enduring it at that time. No damage is done if a thousand aircraft make a terrible din in the middle of the Atlantic, but if those aircraft are making that amount of noise over the centre of London it is a major nuisance.

Therefore, an Order that tackles only the amount of noise made by one aircraft tackles only one aspect of the problem. It is an important aspect, but if we are not tackling the quantity of noise and the number of people affected by it we are tackling only one-third of the problem and leaving untouched, in this Order at any rate, the other two important thirds.

We can clearly see how this occurs when we consider the attitude of the aircraft operators, for example, to the location of airports. We know that they and the airlines consider that Foulness, from a purely commercial point of view, is too far away from London to provide an economic airport site. Yet from the point of view of the citizen concerned about noise the location of airports is of the first importance. The necessity to reduce the amount of noise would not be so great if the aircraft were not travelling over highly-populated areas. We welcome the Order, but it deals with only one aspect of noise.

I was glad that my right hon. Friend paid tribute to the British Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, and that he has been able to work with it. I was in at the beginning of this organisation, which is very responsible. I am very glad that it has been brought in, but hope that it has not been brought in a bit too far. For example, I wonder whether we can accept the exclusion of the most noisy aircraft from an Order designed to control noise. That the noise of the Concorde and other supersonic aircraft, which will be a much worse noise and much more difficult to endure, should not be covered or referred to must cause some of us considerable disquiet. It is rather as though the Order were designed, as I think it is, to ameliorate existing situations. When the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) said that it dealt with future aircraft rather than existing aircraft, I was bound to wonder whether it even deals with future aircraft effectively. It deals with future extensions of present aircraft, I think, and that is a fairly limited approach. It may be the only approach possible if my right hon. Friend is to carry with him the wide range of interests whose consent to the Order he has succeeded in obtaining. But we should not be over-confident about what will be its consequences and effect.

I sincerely hope that one day a Government—I hope the present one—will have the courage to say that in this question the bodies that should really decide how much the citizen should endure are the ordinary courts of law. There might be some qualification, perhaps, that a certificate issued by the Attorney-General to ensure that frivolous and unreasonable legal proceedings are not taken. A measure with the effect of removing from the ordinary citizen his right to sue in the courts should not have been carried in 1949 and that right should certainly he restored now. I am sorry that the Order does not restore it but, in so far as it is a move in the right direction, I am glad that it has been introduced. With the considerable qualifications I have outlined, I welcome the Order.

10.55 p.m.

Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

I readily adhere to your appeal, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to keep my remarks short, since a large number of hon. Members whose constituents, like mine, are having their lives rendered at frequent intervals well-nigh unbearable because of aircraft noise wish to speak. I welcome the Order in the sense that at least it is a first step towards calling a halt to a situation which is becoming, if one projects it into the future, unbearable.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) that the Order is really cold comfort. The same point was made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). Reading the Press reports, I thought that it was going to do something about the problem now, but, reading the Order, one finds that it is not going to deal with any aircraft operating now and that it ignores the jumbo-jet. All it does is to impose some very proper restrictions on the amount of noise an aircraft can make after a somewhat uncertain date in 1971 or later. That is fine, but it does not give much comfort or alleviation to the hundreds of thousands of people living in the vicinity of Heathrow and other airports.

The right hon. Gentleman said that, when it came into force, it would reduce the permissible threshold of noise by about half—a very loose figure. As the hon. Member for Putney said, it depends how many aircraft are flying at the same time. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could explain this point in more detail. It would be wrong for the public to be misled into supposing that, after some date in 1971 or later, the volume of aircraft noise will be reduced by half, because I doubt whether that is so.

The crucial factor appears to be how to make the Order effective. I am not talking so much about penalties, although my hon. Friend made a very good point about them, but about the machinery of reporting an infringement. What is it supposed will happen?

Let us, first, take the case of a B.O.A.C. aircraft taking off for New York with a certification which the Order imposes. Its noise is above the permitted level. Under the monitoring system, a report is made that it made too much noise on take-off. Is that report passed to New York and the captain warned when he arrives there that he cannot come back to Heathrow unless he is more careful about noise? Or is there a formal complaint to some body, which will then consider it and perhaps refer it to the Ministry? Will an inquiry be set up? What happens if, after several months, it is decided, on conflicting evidence, that there had only really been a marginal infringement of the regulations? How is this all going to work?

Secondly, is there contemporary legislation in other countries which are signatory to the Convention, perhaps along the lines of this Order. Are the other countries concerned within a matter of a few months introducing in their own legislatures some regulations such as these? If they are not, we shall be out on a limb.

We can impose regulations about our own aircraft and, if we wish to, and as long as we can enforce them, regulations on aircraft of other nationalities coming to Heathrow or other United Kingdom airports, but if the country of origin has no regulations, something similar, coming into operation contemporaneously, I can see enormous difficulties.

The third point is on noise monitoring systems. It is no good having regulations, valuable as they are, unless the noise monitoring system does the trick. I am a layman in these matters, but when I look at Schedule 2 with its extraordinary mathematical formula, with a cross between the nightmare sum one had on the board at school, when one was beaten if one could not do it—I am talking of an out-of-date school where corporal punishment was allowed and still is—and one's income tax return. Unless one is a senior wrangler, it is unintelligible, although I have no doubt the Minister understands it.

Is the noise monitoring system competent to give an accurate rendering of aircraft flying at "sea level mean molecular weight?" If it is not, the Order is less valuable than it otherwise would be, but we have had, in this House, previous discussions about monitoring systems. I know the Minister is keen to get a better noise monitoring system. It is now partly manual and partly automatic. In reply to a Question by me on 28th January, he said it would be largely automatic by 1971. How are we going towards that? My recollection is that in a previous statement, the Minister said that it would be largely automatic in 1970. In a letter to me on 18th February, this year, he explained that there were four automatic monitoring sites at Heathrow and soon, or "speedily" as he said, two more would be installed. How speedily will those two others be set up?

Unless there is a monitoring system which is effective, not only to catch the existing noise level, but to encompass this incredibly complicated new formula, and in respect of aircraft which are on routes they are not supposed to be on as well as those they are supposed to be on, I do not see how it can be effective. While welcoming the Order, and being dazzled by the mathematical formula, I look forward to the Minister explaining, in simple language, the details of Schedule 2.

Mr. Corfield

It is a universal guessing competition.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

It is. It should not go out from this House that this is a panacea for the future for solving all the problems of aircraft noise. I do not think it is.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)

I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends on bringing this Order forward. It is an early milestone and the beginning of a genuine attempt by the Government to help meet the problem of pollution of the atmosphere by aircraft noise. I am possibly one of the few Members speaking in the debate who is not in receipt of regular complaints from constituents about aircraft noise, since I represent a constituency 24 miles from the nearest major airport. However, I am interested in the operating and manufacturing side of this great industry, so important to the nation.

I should not like this occasion to pass without putting one or two questions and making a few brief observations. Does my right hon. Friend think that when we eventually have a Civil Aviation Authority it will put forward these regulations and police them? Can my right hon. Friend also tell us what were the reactions of the operators to this proposal? Do they see this as an obstacle to their operations? Does he have any information about the intentions of foreign Governments, particularly in Western Europe and America, with whom we have a very heavy air traffic?

Is it intended that they will bring forward similar regulations shortly, governing operators, because if this is not so there will be difficulties, even with these tentative proposals, in trying to obtain results in the years ahead?

This may be subjective but, having heard the Boeing 747 take off at Heathrow. I was impressed by its quietness compared with a VC 10 which had just taken off beforehand. The VC 10 had been roaring away minutes after take-off whereas the Boeing sounded rather like a mild sewing machine. Some speakers tonight may have recognised that there is some relief on the way with the large aircraft using the new high by-pass ratio engines which are considerably quieter.

This brings me to the question of the engine manufacturers. Rolls-Royce is an internationally famous company and I hope that the Board of Trade will be able to give it the maximum assistance in keeping abreast of developments, because the competition in trying to develop quieter engines is fierce. The Chairman of Rolls-Royce told me that if one of these companies had a significant breakthrough with the noise problem it would pre-empt the engine market for many years. It is important that Rolls-Royce should be given further assistance in this direction. The Americans spend tens of millions of £s for every hundred thousand £s that we spend on this objective. We have to think not only of the long-suffering constituents of hon. Members who have spoken tonight, but also the position of that major exporting company.

Concorde is obviously a special case, because it is at the frontiers of knowledge. We have yet to see exactly how it will operate with regard to noise. I suspect that it will be fairly noisy, at both subsonic and supersonic levels. I therefore accept that it is a special case and must be so regarded. I see no real possibility of relief with this or existing types.

I suspect that for all air travellers, and the constituents of hon. Members present here tonight, safety must be the first priority. While constituents justifiably will grumble about the noise to which they are subjected, day and night, they would grumble even more if aircraft came sliding down into their vicinity because of noise reduction procedures which, possibly, if they were stepped up, could in certain circumstances endanger an aircraft in taking off.

Airline captains have told me that in certain conditions—high temperatures, heavy loading, long ranges and taking off from Heathrow in a certain type of aircraft—they have deliberately infringed noise regulations to ensure safe take-off. I wonder whether we are not already at the limits of noise reduction procedures. I hope that despite the pressures to which, I know, my right hon. Friend the Minister is subjected, and the pressures on hon. Members, he will not be tempted to take further steps in a direction which, in my opinion, might bring danger to air travellers and to people on the ground.

This is an Order for the future. I am not optimistic that we will quieten existing types of aircraft significantly. I do not think that is possible, nor should we give the impression that it is. I do not think that we will be able to do it. We are, however, at least making a start and one looks forward to the future, when I hope that the Civil Aviation Authority will be dealing with these matters and we have aircraft which are considerably quieter than those of today.

11.11 p.m.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

As one who has the rapidly-expanding Gatwick Airport in his constituency, I welcome this initial step on what I regard, as a long road towards the control of aircraft noise and bringing a very necessary and valuable new form of transport within civilised limits.

I welcome particularly the initiative taken by Britain in this direction. I know how much the success of the London conference in 1966 and the international conference in Montreal in December, 1968, and January, 1969, owed to the initiative and preplanning of the British team. I for one pay tribute to the staff of the Ministry for their part in securing acceptance of some very useful conclusions and then working fast to enable the Minister to bring this Order before the House. As the Minister knows, I have on occasion criticised his Ministry strongly for the lack of action in controlling aircraft noise at Gatwick Airport. But this initiative I welcome as an important first step in the right direction towards the long-term control of aircraft noise. But this is a long-term business.

What I should like to know is—and in this question I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe)—what parallel action is being taken by other countries which are equally concerned with us to control aircraft noise? They, too, are subject to great pressures from the populations in their built-up areas. We know this is so in Japan; we know this is so in the United States.

It is, of course, right that Britain should take the lead because we live in a heavily populated island, and because we are one of the great international centres for civil aviation. But if our aircraft industry is not to be lamed, it is important that we should act in parallel with other countries with major airlines.

I hope that the Minister, in winding up. will pay some tribute to organised public pressure. It is due in a large measure to the persistent and hard, disciplined work which many protest organisations have put into this problem that we have seen this Order today. The Board of Trade will need to pay close attention to the controls that organised public opinion throughout this country is demanding. I am sure there will be pressure for bringing in the more stringent requirements of which the Minister spoke when proposing the Order, and I believe public opinion will be a main force in demanding that the exceptions which are made in the Order shall be eliminated and the Order made to cover the new types of aircraft as they come into service. I should particularly like to pay tribute to the British Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise for the statesmanlike approach and genuine hard work and research it has put into its representations to the Ministry, and also to some of the local protest groups which have worked with that body. I hope that this collaboration will persist and that the international collaboration with B.A.C.A.N. is seeking will prove a major force in securing the international control of this growing pollution of our air environment.

I should like to see, as soon as technologically possible, limitations imposed on the noise permitted for supersonic aircraft. I accept that this must take some time, but I hope that the Minister and his team will come forward fairly soon with their proposals for controlling these.

I would join with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) who protested at the almost derisory nature of the penalties provided by this Order. I hope the Minister will have another thought about the adequacy of these sanctions.

I welcome the initiative taken by our major aero producer, Rolls-Royce and the lead that company has established. The hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) said that he hoped that the company would keep abreast of technological advance. I suggest that he should hope that it maintains its outstanding lead in producing quieter engines.

There will be an interim period between now and 1975 or 1980 when the Order will become effective and control the quietness of engines. Here I return to a major criticism of the Board of Trade in its lack of determination in bringing forward control of night jet flights at Gatwick, in my constituency. The night jet flights at Gatwick are already greatly in excess of those at Heathrow. We are facing an expansion of aircraft operation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing only what is in the Order, not night jet flights.

Sir G. Sinclair

The point I seek to make is this. I hope in the enforcement of the Order the Board of Trade will show a far greater determination than it has hitherto in bringing in control of night jet flights, which affect my constituency.

I hope that the Order is a harbinger and that the Minister will soon tackle the planning of land use in the vicinity of airports, and the compensation for development rights in those areas. Finally, now that this initiative has been taken, I hope that the Minister will at last publish a White Paper to tie up all the measures taken by the British Government to control aircraft noise and let the public know what the problem is, what is being done and what is intended for the future.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

I am conscious of the time, and also of my duty to say a few words about the Order, since my constituency provides a 300 ft. high gas holder as a marker for Heathrow. The letters "L.H." are displayed on the side of it. Some people think that this means "left-hand side", but it really means "London Heathrow". This is an indication of the noise affliction suffered by my constituents.

We are an international trading nation, and the number of passengers increases year by year. The civil aviation industry, both in the manufacture of aircraft and in the provision of air services, provides many people with a livelihood. These factors must be borne in mind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) has called the Order an early milestone, but I think a better description would be a late milestone or, perhaps, a meter-marker, as we are approaching the metric measurement and decimal currency era. The Order is an important Measure, but not one about which we should get starry-eyed.

I want to underline what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). His constituency is in the flight path, and people in the flight path at a further distance from the airport are afflicted by noise pain, or excessive aircraft noise.

In the argument about the location of a third London airport, it is no accident that the local trades council at Stansted was in favour of an airport. It would provide a good livelihood. I would make a special plea that all these considerations involving international activity will not militate against people who are afflicted —and who are likely to be afflicted for some time to come—by this noise problem, though I appreciate what has been done with double glazing and so on. I welcome this Order.

11.26 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

I will be brief in order to give the Minister an opportunity to reply.

I give a restricted welcome to this Order. It represents the greatest move forward taken by any Government on this matter since my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) introduced the noise monitoring system in 1960. I also welcome the Order because so many people who live under the glide-path of London Airport, including my constituents, are getting to a state of despair over the noise situation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and the Minister both mentioned B.A.C.A.N., and what it has done behind the scenes to forward this Order.I would also mention K.A.C.A.N., the Kew Association for Control of Aircraft Noise, and the considerable part it has played in this matter, though I doubt whether those organisation would agree with all the details in the Order, many of which will have such little effect over the years.

The despair which I have mentioned has recently manifested itself in the attempts by some people to close Heathrow Airport on Sunday. This action did not have my support and was regretted by the Minister and his Department. But it is strange that this sort of peaceful demonstration should be deplored and yet at the same time the Prime Minister on television encourages other sorts of demonstrations to take place. However, I will not go into party political points at this time.

Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 says that the …noise levels required shall be measured at the following points"— and (c) says— on the approach to landing, at a point on the extended centre-line of the runway. 120 metres vertically below the 3° descent path. How many miles would this be from the threshold? It seems to me that it would be very close to the threshold of the runway, possibly 400 ft. high and perhaps a quarter of a mile away. This does not help the situation of people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) and in my own constituency who are five, six, seven or eight miles away from the threshold of the runway but where the noise at present is becoming increasingly intolerable. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could comment on this matter in his reply.

My second point is that the Order makes no mention of the great pollution caused in areas beneath the glidepath to London Airport, particularly at Heathrow, by smoke from jet engines. I know that the Minister is looking into this matter at present and I appreciate that he is interested in this point. But I would point out that pollution from this smoke is increasing and is a great cause for concern to many residents who live in the outlying areas near major airports. I feel that the Order should include the power to bring some sort of control to bear on the production of aircraft engines which make too much smoke.

I welcome the Order in that restricted manner. I have a sneaking feeling that it might turn out to be only a form of window-dressing, because it will take so long before it has any real effect. With those brief comments, I feel the Minister should be congratulated for bringing forward the Order.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I am extremely sorry that other hon. Members have been prevented from taking part in the debate. Perhaps injudiciously, I have confined myself to seven minutes, according to the clocking I have been given. I hope that in that brief time I shall not miss out any point of fundamental importance, remembering that the Order has been generally welcomed, although, quite properly, there have been reservations about the extent to which it will help with this difficult problem. I share those reservations and I deliberately pitched my comments when introducing the Order as low as possible because I did not want our pleasure at this start on the right way to combat this problem to lead us to exaggerated and over-early expectations.

As the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) and others have said, it will be some years before we benefit from the results of the Order. There will be a peak of activity which has yet to come, although we are practically there. Once it is reached and the replacement of existing types by new types of aircraft begins, we shall commence a kind of improved glide-down of noise.

The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) was among those who stressed that there was a good deal of psychological concern in halving noise. It is an expression of the perceived disturbance in the same conditions having regard to the same weightage as between one type of aircraft, for instance, the 707, and another type or mark, for instance, the latter model of the 747, which will have the proper fitting for conforming to this requirement. I will not go into the calculations, but there are logarithmic calculations which indicate that 10 points constitute a doubling or halving of the effect.

But it is anybody's view as to what the psychological impact is. There is yet to be discovered—and I have struggled with these fascinating and fearsome arguments as much as any layman—a formula which will reasonably precisely state in mathematical terms the difference which will be perceptible. A halving has been suggested as the likely difference between the types I have mentioned. I have not time to go into detail about the query about the linear arrangement. I know that this issue was not raised as fundamental to the Order, but I take the point. I, too, would prefer to express the weight in pounds. Perhaps I may later expand on this without prejudice to the Order.

May I briefly consider some of the assurances for which I was asked? The first concerned international co-operation. We may reasonably expect that other countries will follow our lead. I do not put it higher than that, but it is a substantial expectation. When the convention is promulgated by the I.C.A.O., it will become effectively a standard requirement for the participating countries, and that means well over 100.

The Montreal conference was participated in by 29 countries, including the Soviet Union, which was an observer, but an adherent observer. We have evidence that the Soviet Union proposes to co-operate. So, while we anticipate promulgation by the I.C.A.O. and are ourselves going ahead with it and applying it after the due dates, we have every expectation that the others will come in and fall into line, so that there will be bilateral and multilateral collaboration among all countries concerned.

Monitoring will continue and will apply to all aircraft, including the new ones. I should like to give a more up to date statement than I can tonight on the progress of monitoring. The progress that I indicated is being maintained. I will try to give the hon. Gentleman more information about the transition from manual to automatic if he puts down a Question or has a word with me.

I agree that unless penalties are sufficiently strong and effectively applied, a good deal of the advantage of the Order may be lost. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks at Article 10 plus the other articles concerned, and also that he looks again at the last article that he quoted where, in addition, or as an alternative to fines, imprisonment is also provided for. So there are some swingeing— It being one and a half hours after the commencement of Proceedings on the Motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKERput the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business).

Question agreed to.