HC Deb 29 June 1971 vol 820 cc265-306
Mr. Millan

I beg to move, Amendment No. 29, in page 32, line 16, at end insert: (7) If a person fails to perform any duty imposed on him by subsections (2), (3) or (5) of this section, he shall—

  1. (a) be guilty of an offence and be liable on summary conviction to a fine of an amount not exceeding £250, and
  2. (b) if the failure continues after his conviction of an offence under this subsection arising from the failure, be guilty of a separate offence under this subsection on each day on which the failure continues thereafter and liable to be fined accordingly.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that with this Amendment we discuss the following Amendments:

No. 30, in line 18, leave out 'the preceding subsection' and insert: subsection (6) of this section'.

No. 31, in line 32, leave out 'the preceding subsection' and insert: 'subsection (6) of this section'.

Mr. Milian

Clause 29 was a new Clause introduced by the Government during the Committee stage and deals with the regulation of noise. The Clause was given a very warm welcome by Members on both sides of the Committee. I am sure that it will be warmly welcomed by all Members of the House because it gives very enhanced powers to the Secretary of State for dealing with the very difficult problem of noise.

There may be some doubt about how toughly the Government will use the new powers given in the Clause. I was rather disappointed by the fairly lukewarm approach which the Minister seemed to have towards the exercise of his power under the Clause. That is a point which may be argued by a number of my hon. Friends who have a much stronger constituency interest than I have in the nuisance that can be caused by noise from an aerodrome.

The Amendment deals with the penalties which may be imposed for the failure of any person to carry out the duties which are imposed on him by the Clause. It is an extraordinary situation, and a very unsatisfactory one, that the only part of this Clause which attracts penalties is subsection (6)(b), dealing with the failure of the manager of an authority which has been designated under the Clause to make to the Secretary of State such reports as are specified with respect to the noise measured by noise monitoring equipment which he may, under another part of the Clause, be bound to install at the aerodrome concerned.

This is obviously a matter of importance. If one has noise monitoring equipment established and if there is a duty on the manager of an aerodrome to make reports about noise levels as measured by that equipment, it is very important that the reports are submitted. It follows, therefore, that if reports are not properly prepared and submitted, there ought to be some penalties attaching to that failure. Therefore, I agree that it is perfectly reasonable that in subsection (7) we ought to lay down penalties for failure to submit the reports.

6.45 p.m.

I completely fail to understand why the other parts of the Clause do not attract similar penalties. There is a sanction in subsection (1) which the Secretary of State may use where an operator operates his aircraft in contravention of the Clause, and therefore, perhaps, we do not need any further sanction there, and similarly under subsection (6), where one is dealing with the submission of reports from the noise monitoring equipment. With the establishment and installation of the equipment there is the sanction that if the person concerned does not install the equipment, the Secretary of State may install it and send him the bill. That is a perfectly agreeable and effective sanction. But in other parts of the Clause where major duties are imposed on a manager of an aerodrome, under subsections (2), (3) and (5), these are the subject of the Amendment because in these cases there is nothing laid down in the Clause regarding the penalties for failure to comply.

Subsection (2) is important because it empowers the Secretary of State to direct the manager of an aerodrome to secure that facilities for using the aerodrome are withheld, to the extent specified in the direction, from aircraft of which the person offending is the operator and from his servants, and it is the duty of the person for the time being managing the aerodrome to comply with this direction. This deals with the specific nuisance that may have been caused by the operation of a particular aircraft. When an obligation is placed upon the manager of the aerodrome to see that the nuisance does not continue to be committed, it is important that there should be some sanction if, for good reason or bad, the manager does not comply with the obligation.

Subsection (3) is a major part of the Clause because it includes, for example, provision for limiting the number of take-offs and landings at a designated aerodrome. It is basic to the whole of this problem of noise that a power of this sort should rest with the Secretary of State. It is indispensable that, once his powers have been exercised under the Clause, whoever is manager of the aerodrome should immediately comply with the directions given to him.

Subsection (5) contains a general power for limiting or mitigating the effects of noise and vibration. Again, this is a very important duty that would be placed upon the manager of an aerodrome. It seems indispensable that there should be some sanction if he does not carry out his duties.

As distinct from the duty under subsection (6), which is the subject of a penalty as the Clause stands, the duties under subsections (2), (3) and (5) are imposed by directions rather than by orders. I dare say that this is of some significance. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not use that as an argument against my Amendment, because if the Amendment were accepted it would involve consequential Amendments to impose these duties by orders rather than directions. All of us would want that to be done. I make that point as a preliminary to the main argument because the wording is in that particular form. It may have significance in terms of drafting. It should not be of significance in the substance of the argument.

In Committee I asked the right hon. Gentleman what would happen if these various obligations were placed on the manager of an aerodrome and the manager did not in practice comply with them. I have received a letter from the right hon. Gentleman confirming, at rather greater length and with more precision, what he was able to say in Committee. The Minister has told me that he did not think that it was appropriate—he gives no particular reason for that—to make a breach of the duty a criminal offence. He also says: In England and Wales, where an illegal act which affects the public is committed or threatened, the Court has jurisdiction to grant an injunction at the suit of the Attorney-General. … A member of the public can also sue for an injunction, without the aid of the Attorney-General, if he can show that interference with the public right involves an interference with his private rights or that he suffers special damage, peculiar to himself, from the interference with the public right.

In Scotland I understand that the position is, as the right hon. Gentleman has explained it to me, that a member of the public can sue for interdict where his interests are affected or likely to be affected by an illegal act. In the case of a failure to perform a statutory duty he could apply to the Court of Session for an order for specific performance".

As a Scottish Member I will say something about the Scottish position first. I am not a lawyer. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. John Smith) is a lawyer and no doubt if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will be able to deal with this matter more fully and more effectively than I could.

I understand that this is a very unusual kind of provision in Scotland. It is highly undesirable that in any circumstances failure of the duty on the part of a manager should have to be counteracted by a member of the public taking action on his own. It is not an effective sanction. It is not reasonable to expect a member of the public—I am talking about Scotland; no doubt similar provisions apply to England—to take action in the Court of Session. The ordinary member of the public who suffers from a noise nuisance may be a person of limited means. For that matter, he may be a person of limited intelligence or limited experience in this sphere. It is not right in any circumstances to say that an individual affected should be under an obligation to take such action.

Mr. Noble

I do not want to spoil the flow of the hon. Gentleman's argument, which is sensible and right. There is no doubt in my mind that, if any airport manager is breaking the directions which have been given by the Sec- retary of State, as soon as this comes to the Secretary of State's attention he will be able immediately to take action by interdict. It is only if an individual perhaps thinks that something is going wrong and decides to take action on his own without consulting my Department that it would be necessary for him so to do.

Mr. Millan

I take that point. My point at present, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman basically disagrees with this, is that for a member of the public certainly in Scotland, and as I understand it, in England the possibility of his taking a case to the Court of Session in Scotland and to the appropriate court in England to get the body concerned to discharge its duty under the Clause is a completely ineffective safeguard which can be ignored.

What the right hon. Gentleman has not explained to us is why, even if there is a right on the part of the Lord Advocate in Scotland and of the Attorney-General in England, the Clause should be expressed in this way. I dare say that, if the Law Officer concerned is sufficiently apprised of the position and acts with sufficient speed, a result could be obtained at the end of the day which is not very different from that which would be obtained as a result of the Amendment.

However, it would be necessary to go through a couple of steps. There would first be an action in the courts to put the "offender" under the duty, and it would be only on a continued failure after such a successful action that any question of penalty would arise. On an important matter like this I see no reason why it should be necessary to have that double kind of action—first an action for specific performance and then an action if the offence continues.

After all, throughout the Bill penalties are imposed for what compared with this are minor breaches of the law. Penalties are prescribed for faiure to send in information to the Civil Aviation Authority. In some cases it may be comparatively trivial information. A penalty is prescribed to be imposed on anyone who, on being asked for information, fills up the form negligently These are all minor matters. In some cases, even if there were an offence probably no harm to the public would be occasioned.

If there were an offence under this Clause, serious harm would be done to very large numbers of people. They would suffer nuisances from noise which they have no right to suffer because the manager of the aerodrome concerned would have been given directions to put matters right. In these circumstances, there is everything to be said for the swiftness of the law coming into operation immediately and for the manager concerned not having any period of grace but being subject immediately to the criminal offence.

In his letter to me the right hon. Gentleman says, as regards the English situation, that an injunction would follow as a matter of course, except where the injunction would place a public body in serious difficulty, in which case the Court may allow the body a reasonable time to comply. Although that may sound reasonable, I believe that it is not reasonable. If the manager of an aerodrome is given a direction, we must assume that in the direction all considerations of timing, and so on, have been taken into account. Once the direction has been issued. I see no reason why there should not be compliance with it. Therefore, there should be no period of grace while the Attorney-General considers the matter. There has been a breach whether or not the Attorney-General decides to take out an injunction.

My limited experience teaches me that these legal matters are never done with tremendous expeditiousness. The Attorney-General takes the public body concerned to court. There is a delay in the hearing. The public body says that if it were subjected to the injunction it would be difficult for it to carry out the direction. Then it is given a period of grace. Only at the end of that period if the public body has still not done what it was asked to do in the first place would the question of criminal penalties arise. I see no case for this. As all through the Bill at particular points of time there are imposed on people who in some cases will have much smaller resources than the manager of an aerodrome designated under the Clause obligations which attract penalties if they are not complied with, there is no reason why the same procedure should not be followed here.

This is not a political argument. All hon. Members want the Clause to be made as effective as possible. I very much hope that the Minister will either accept the Amendments as drafted or accept the sense of them; because I think that the Clause, admirable as it is at present, badly needs strengthening.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) suggests that the Clause needs amending and widening and that this Amendment would alter the meaning of the Clause from something fairly general to something specific.

I am not opposed to the principle behind the Amendment. If the Minister agrees in principle to altering the Clause, attention will have to be paid to the facts of life as regards aircraft noise. Subsection (6)(a) contains phrases such as "in an area" and "in the vicinity" with references to measuring points. These phrases will need a great deal of strengthening if they are to be meaningful. The measuring points could be mobile. Fixed measuring points placed 3.5 nautical miles from the take-off point are well known to every airline pilot. Mobile points would be an effective deterrent. If the measuring box could be looked upon as a sort of random aerial breathalyser, that would add considerably to the teeth of those who want to cut down on aircraft noise.

7.0 p.m.

The distance from the airport is very important. The presence in the Chamber of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) and the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) possibly indicates that a spot 3.5 nautical miles from an airport is not the only place where the effect of noise is felt. There are many instances of noise at 15 miles being as great a disturbance.

If we are to reconsider the Clause, as I hope we shall, the facts of life of noise should be taken into account, and not just Federal Aviation Regulation No. 36, which is the generally-accepted criterion for noise measurement. "Community noise" is the phrase the Americans use for aircraft noise. The community in this instance is fairly widespread. The three-degree glide path could be examined. My right hon. Friend may agree that discussions with B.A.L.P.A. on the interlocked aspects of safety and noise as areas upon which the Clause should be more definitive, would also be helpful.

The Amendment clearly defines offences, but it might be difficult to support specific fines for specific offences. Subsection (b) of the Amendment would be particularly difficult to put into operation.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will have another look at the Amendment, because the spirit behind it is right.

Mr. Russell Kerr

I am rather relieved that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) has sat down. I was beginning to be frightened by his reference to random aerial breathalysers with teeth.

I warmly commend the Amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan). No one who has the honour to represent one of the London Airport constituencies, as I have, can have any doubt that the noise problem is one which we neglect at our peril. It is getting worse, largely because of the increasing volume of traffic. Noise has become a major pollutant of the environment for many thousands of people, despite the fact that a certain amount, though not enough, has been done by way of sound-proofing grants. I should like to see them increased. Considerable amounts have also been spent on the reduction of aero-engine noise, and a certain amount has been done by way of control, with night-flying bans and so on. But it is a continuing problem on which we must make a continuing attack.

In addition to being a major nuisance— indeed, a scourge—in the lives of many thousands of people, noise produces marked ill-health for a sizeable minority. Five or six years ago I had the opportunity of discussing these problems with the person who was the acknowledged leading authority in the country, Professor Richards, then director of the Institute of Noise and Vibration at Southampton. He told me that, although the noise was a nuisance for most of the people within the areas affected, perhaps up to 10 per cent. are likely soon to be suffering a medical disability in the form of nervous exhaustion and a number of related diseases. In other words, we are here talking about damage to people, and not merely inconvenience.

That is why I strongly commend the Amendments. To me and to many thousands of my constituents the time is past when we can afford to be semi-permissive about these problems. Now is the time for a tightening up. Whenever we get an opportunity, such as my hon. Friend's Amendments present, we must act.

Mr. Rankin

I do not want to be critical one way or the other. While I do not wholeheartedly support what my hon. Friend has just said, he has my sympathy.

I remind those who are troubled by the noise aspect that last Saturday Concorde flew up to Prestwick, and not a soul knew that she had done it—and I am on the flight path. She gave a little exhibition there and then continued to Edinburgh. Not a single newspaper made even a comment on that until the Monday morning. So we must remember that those who are responsible for devising these Concordes which we talk so much about and those who construct them are as fully seized of the problem of noise as are those of us in the House. Earlier in our consideration of the Bill I pointed out that while we hear a great deal about noise in London almost every day aircraft are flying over the House at a height—I can only guess—of about 200 ft. above the House.

Mr. Russell Kerr

It is more like 2,000 ft.

Mr. Rankin

I am not tied to any particular figures. I invite any hon. Member to go to the top of the House and try to judge the height of an aircraft above him. He can make an estimate that easily lies between 200 and 2,000 ft. But whether it is 200 or 2,000 ft., not a single hon. Member known to me, nor any official, has ever complained about the noise made by aircraft over the House. It seems that if I say any more I might appear to be defending noise, and I am not doing anything of the kind.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Surely my hon. Friend will agree that as the crow flies we are at least 12 or 13 miles from the nearest airport. Is not that relevant to the point he is making? If he went nearer to Heathrow, might not he find it a rather different problem?

Mr. Rankin

I use Heathrow Airport twice a week. I confess that the noise of an aircraft taking off is a bit of a humbug at the airport.

We are talking now of ordinary aircraft —for example, the Trident, which is one of our best airliners for the transit of ordinary people. It makes a good deal of noise. But then, if one is to get up to Glasgow inside an hour, which is what passengers want, the Trident must have engines that will get her there in the 54 minutes it now takes. That is essential. I have such confidence in the Trident that I never have any qualms when moving through the air in it at that speed. Speed is what everyone here wants. Speed is what the public wants. As a result of that speed, at seven o'clock tonight a Trident took off from Heathrow to Glasgow. There were also flights at four o'clock, five o'clock and six o'clock this afternoon. There is another at 7.30 p.m. and the last will go at 9 p.m. Everyone of these aircraft is packed. There is the same service from Glasgow to London.

Let us accept the fact that it is the speed which has attracted the passengers. When one is in the plane, one does not hear much noise. It is the people outside who hear it. That is where the control must come in and where the Minister is responsible. We have him on the end of a string in that respect. But we must face the fact that people want speed. As I have pointed out before, as a result of the advance in the science of travel, millions of ordinary working people are, at this time of year, because of the cheap fares, enjoying holidays all over the world. They can be provided because of speed. They could never have achieved such holidays if we were still using DH Rapides, which some of us used to know well and which used to take 3¼ hours to Glasgow, not 54 minutes.

Mr. Joseph Harper (Pontefract)

You could have walked it.

Mr. Rankin

My hon. Friend says that one could have walked it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am interested in speed also—but the speed of the debate.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Does not my hon. Friend agree that, although people do want speed and comfort of travel, there are other things which they want as well —notably, a little quietness around their home firesides?

Mr. Rankin

There is always a moment for prayer. How is one to get the public to achieve that? That is a personal decision. Quietness is in one's own hands. However, I will conclude now because I wish to give other hon. Members a chance to get into the debate.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

If I should not be out of order, I should like to break new ground by directing my remarks to the Amendment. But first I want to refer to the important point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley), and I hope that the Minister will make some reference to it. It concerns the orders to be made under this Clause. It is important that these should be specific and not reflect the vague terms of the Bill. I hope that he will recognise that the type of noise which gives most annoyance to the largest number of people is landing noise—the long-drawn-out noise which covers such large areas.

Curiously enough, no airport in the country at the moment measures landing noise in the regular course of events. The airports measure take-off noise, which is short and sharp and is soon over and which discomforts relatively few people. I hope that these orders will not just concentrate on take-off noise, although in some places it is necessary to measure it. In most areas, however, landing noise is the main problem.

The Amendment would achieve something that is most necessary. I congratulate the Government on including the Clause. We on this side do not think that it is yet perfect, but it is a move in the right direction and is something which has not been done since the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, which took the represensible step of removing from the citizen his power to sue. This is the only type of noise for which the citizen has no redress in this country. It is impossible for any citizen to sue because of aircraft noise. It is a grave blot on our legal system that, almost alone of any country, our citizens are deprived of the right to sue over this type of noise. It is the only type of noise or other pollution about which we cannot take action in the courts.

The Clause takes some step towards restoring that right, although a limited one. It does not go far enough. I hope that, in another place, there will be the repeal of these provisions of the 1949 Act and the restoration to the citizen of his right to sue. That would be a short, sharp way to deal with the matter, and the right way.

The right hon. Gentleman might ask, if this were to be done, what would be the protection against irresponsible litigation? The answer, I believe, could be the fiat of the Attorney-General or the Secretary of State might be required to permit legal action to take place, but that the citizen should be totally deprived of legal action is fundamentally wrong. If the citizen is to be deprived of legal action, the Clause, good as it is, needs the teeth which the Opposition suggests, to give it even the semblance of the alternative to legal action.

It is an absurd situation in which one can say that a number of things may not be done but that the Minister has no penalty to impose—nothing that he can do about it except to say, "Do not do it", or to get an injunction. I am no lawyer but I understand that it is much more difficult to get an injunction and much more of a problem to make the injunction stick than to get damages, because damages can be repeated if the offence is repeated. An offender is unlikely to repeat the offence because he knows that the damages could be very considerable in respect of a second offence. We could say definitely that in certain London hospitals the damages which could be awarded as a result of the interference with operations through aircraft noise could be very high.

Although I welcome the Clause it is incomplete without the Amendment and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it. If he does not, I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will feel that the matter must be pursued in the Lobby.

Mr. Ernie Money (Ipswich)

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down will he deal with one point? He spoke of the difficulty of irresponsible litigation. Would he agree that there are existing safeguards in the Noise Abatement Act and that the same sort of thing could be applied here?

Mr. Jenkins

That is a valuable contribution. It would in my view be entirely possible to prevent irresponsible litigation. That we should be totally deprived, in this country of all countries, of any right to sue seems to be a sin and a shame. I hope that the Government will put this right.

Mr. Warren

I should be more inclined to support a different approach to this problem. While we are trying to stop the noise, it is more important to look at the way in which we can currently prevent the problems of aircraft noise generation pursuing us across the country. I have in mind the point made about community noise. There are an infinite number of improvements which could be introduced by the British Airports Authority and the national air traffic control system and I hope that the Minister will be looking at these subsequently with a view to their introduction.

Some methods have been mentioned earlier. There is for instance the general situation about air traffic control procedure. There is the question of whether the glide path, currently fixed at 2½ degrees could not be made somewhat steeper—three degrees has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley). There is also the point about the curved approach paths. I do not understand why it is necessary for us to endure the noise in central London when it could be easily avoided, with complete safety to aircraft operations, by using a curved approach to London Airport when landing in a westerly direction. I am sure that this would make a tremendous difference to the views of the hon. Members for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) and Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins).

We have the ability to limit aircraft take-off and landing. The problem is most pronounced in the London area where millions of people hear virtually every aircraft that passes. It must have some effect on them. There is a tendency, although airline pilots will deny this, for many aircraft approaching London to fly below the glide path and then intersect it. This means that they are flying much lower than they need to. I hope that there will be much more stringent air traffic control to ensure that unnecessary noise levels are not imposed on us.

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East spoke of mobile measuring points and I can see the virtue of policing unexpectedly those who might be deviating. However, it is necessary to establish a wide knowledge of noise profiles for each type of aircraft and to be able to identify the height of an aircraft at a given time. If we could agree upon a standard for noise measuring levels, akin to those already in agreement in I.C.A.O., then I would accept the mobile measuring point concept. We have to stick to the facts. We must have accurate measurements so that we do not have people believing that Concorde is the only aeroplane which makes any noise.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) is one of the most experienced Members, subjectively, in noise problems with Concorde and he assures us that there is not the noise problem that we believe. I think that he is substantially correct. It is important not to condemn something out of hand because it makes a noise. This is a mistake we could easily fall into and I am afraid that if we accept the Amendment we should end us with legislation rather than the means of controlling procedures.

Mr. John

Does the hon. Member recognise that the Amendment seeks to lay down what should happen when someone disobeys a regulation made by the Secretary of State? It is accepted that the Secretary of State should take into account what the hon. Gentleman says when imposing his regulations. If a person disobeys those regulations should not that constitute a criminal offence?

Mr. Warren

That is why I hope to hear my right hon. Friend telling us about the Government's future attitude to the problem. I hope that he will be able to consider a much more substantial attack on the whole problem of noise. When we remember that the United States is spending £20 million a year on noise reduction in aerospace ventures we do not seem to be tackling the problems involved in the reduction of current noise and the identification of noise sources and getting down to the containment of noise. I hope that we can look forward to a progressive programme rather than a restraining one of the type proposed by the Amendment.

Mr. John

I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) in his opinion about this Amendment. He should study the wording of Clause 29(2) and (5). Subsection (5) says: The Secretary of State may give to the person managing a designated aerodrome such directions as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purposes of limiting, or of mitigating the effect of, noise and vibration … All the hon. Gentleman's observations were directed towards what ought to be taken into account when he is doing that. This Amendment deals with the subsequent processes. If the manager of the aerodrome fails to carry out that direction what sanctions do we have?

The right hon. Gentleman dealt with this in column 790 of the Committee proceedings, and he raised the subject again in the letter which has been quoted by my hon. Friend. On both occasions he carried less than his usual conviction on such matters. He says that it is inappropriate for behaviour of this type to be designated as a criminal offence. What is the difference between subsection (6)(b) which calls upon the manager of the aerodrome to render reports about noise levels and a person disobeying the Secretary of State's directions to mitigate noise levels? The first is a criminal offence while the second is not. There is similarly the question of byelaws in Clause 31. These may be made for regulating or restricting advertising within the aerodrome and if a person contravenes such a byelaw he may be fined. Why should that be regarded as a criminal offence and the ignoring of the Secretary of State's direction under Clause 29(2) or (5) not be so regarded? I am not at all impressed by the procedure laid down for the rectification of this.

7.30 p.m.

First, one can generally say that civil procedure is more tardy than criminal procedure and injunctions are normally granted only when damages are not an adequate remedy. Secondly—and this is occasioned by personal experience of a case in which the Attorney-General sought an injunction in regard to quarrying proceedings—it is not a particularly speedy process. Where we are dealing with a person who has disobeyed the Secretary of State, the essence of the matter is that there should be speed. Thirdly, it is completely unsatisfactory to expect a private person to take this sort of action even after the Attorney-General has had his bite or has looked at the matter. The private person, be he legally aided or not, is at a considerable disadvantage when seeking an injunction against a large and powerful authority which is an expert in its field, a field which is not redolent of outside experts. Therefore, this deserves to be a criminal offence. Without that, the Clause, admirable as it is, is lacking in specific sanction.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what sanction there is in an injunction? An injunction will merely prevent a person from continuing to disobey a direction of the Secretary of State, and the only penalty which will be visited on him will be his liability for costs. That is not good enough. It should be a criminal offence so that repetition of the offence is a continuing offence. For all these reasons, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendments and thus save the necessity of quarrelling over a Clause which is in essence a good Clause which we welcome.

Mr. John Smith (Lanarkshire, North)

I follow the argument proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) buttressed by the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) and will look briefly at this matter from the point of view of the law of Scotland.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Craigton pointed out, there is a difference between subsection (6)(b) and subsections (2), (3) and (5), in that subsection (6)(b) refers to a specific criminal offence. That raises the question of what sanctions there are for subsections (2), (3) and (5). I have very little knowledge of the law of England, but, as I understand, the sanctions might be by way of injunction and perhaps by order of mandamus to enforce the fulfilment of a statutory obligation.

In Scotland, in place of the injunction there would be an action of interdict, not a common action but one which might have some practicability. When it comes to enforcing a statutory obligation rather than preventing a wrong, we run into a severe difficulty from the lack of an effective sanction. There is no such process in the law of Scotland as an order of mandamus. In place of that there is a provision in Section 91 of the Court of Session Act, 1868, which enacts that the court may order a specific performance of any statutory duty under such conditions and penalties—including fines and imprisonment consistent with the statute —in the event of the order not being implemented as seem proper to the court.

That is a much more limited power available to the court and it is very infrequently used. Indeed, it is normally used against public authorities which are failing to carry out a statutory obligation. I have had a look at some of the cases in which it has been used. In Carlton Hotel Company v. Lord Advocate in 1921, one of the judges described it as a remedy which was peculiar and drastic. It would be most unfortunate to have as a sanction for this impartant provision in the Bill a peculiar and drastic remedy.

The remedy has been used since, but most infrequently. It is a question of dealing with what may be repeated breaches of directions given by the Secretary of State, and there should be a penalty such as the one used in subsection (6)(b), namely, making it a criminal offence with a penalty which can easily be enforced for repeated breaches of the offence, rather than having resort to rather arcane legal sanctions because of the legislature is unwilling to follow the logic of extending the criminal sanction in subsection (6)(b) to the rest of the provisions in Clause 29.

For these powerful reasons, I ask the House to support the Amendment, which is extremely practical and is designed to give legal force to the desirable proposition of putting the Secretary of State in the position of having speedy, effective and reasonable legal remedies instead of the rather arcane and out-of-date methods which are presently applied.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

I am sure that when the Secretary of State reads Clause 29(3)(a), which deals with the maximum number of occasions on which aircraft can land and take off, he will realise that people living in the vicinity of small airfields which are subject to training flights suffer severe persecution throughout the summer months. The landings and take-offs of small twin-engined aircraft are sometimes just as noisy as those of large aircraft, because they do not at any time on their circuits get above the 1,000 ft. minimum. If the Minister says that the management of the airfield will be liable to a fine, I agree with my hon. Friends that a £50 fine does not meet the case of an airport which commercially will be making an extremely favourable contract for these night-after-night landings and take-offs.

Hurn Airport is owned by the local authority, and there was recently so much agitation from the public in the area surrounding the airport that the College of Air Training was forced to return to Southampton, so that Southampton will now be getting the benefit of this nightly problem. If the Minister is able to impose a penalty for flagrant breaches where there is a large number of landings and take-offs I shall be very pleased

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) said, and I compliment him on getting in a second before I did. In Southampton we are extremely worried by the number of trainer aircraft which do their landings, circuits and bumps continually over populated areas, passing over houses at roughly two-minute intervals. I had a lot to say about this in the last Parliament, and I succeeded in securing an improvement for a little time when the nuisance was transferred to Hurn, but now it is coming back.

Unless penalties are imposed, as the Amendment recommends, the whole Clause will be meaningless. Will the Minister say whether Clause 29(3) applies to trainer aircraft? That is not clear from the Bill. We know that the Minister can make an order to restrict the number of take-offs and landings, but we do not know whether such an order applies to training aircraft.

We all appreciate that pilots have to be trained and that the College of Air Training has to go somewhere but, to alleviate the nuisance this has caused in Southampton for a long period, will the Minister give an assurance that trainer aircraft are included in the Clause? Secondly, will the Minister and those responsible be vigorous in making regulations? Thirdly—and this is where the Amendment comes in—will he ensure that when those regulations are made that there is a sufficient penalty behind them to ensure that they are kept?

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

When considering penalties we should also consider the nature of the offence and in particular the rules the Minister intends to lay down. He should realise that controls which are appropriate for London Airport are totally unsuitable for other airports, and that certainly applies to Luton Airport. For example, the measurement of the 3½-mile point at Luton dead in line with the runway roughly coincides with my cottage, but since there is a 45-degree turn immediately after take-off, the air craft, happily, fly some way away from my cottage. The worst conditions at Luton Airport happen to be nine miles away from the airport. At one mobile measuring station the county council has ascertained that there is as much noise from a BAC-111 at that point nine miles from Luton as would be allowed in any part of Heathrow. The reason is that at 3,000 ft. a BAC-111 is allowed to open up on full throttle. My constituents in that area are suffering an incredible noise level.

I hope that the Minister will lend a ready ear to the idea that if any aircraft at any point on the ground exceeds 102 P.N.dB. that shall constitute an offence.

Mr. Onslow

If my right hon. Friend should feel disposed to accept these Amendments, I hope that would not be because of some of the arguments which have been advanced in this debate, which seem in part to rest on the assumption that all airline operators are guilty until proved innocent. I know this is a fashionable point of view, but I do not subscribe to it.

I believe that airlines have taken considerable steps to mitigate noise nuisance. Indeed, it is in their interest, and in the interest of their employees, to do so; and it is certainly in the interests of manufacturers to assist them. It may be that airlines could be given greater stimulus in the future than has been the case in the past, and that awareness of the community as a whole of the need to preserve the environment from pollution is bound to provide such a stimulus. But if we go too far, this will be reflected in a lower return on investment and fewer employment opportunities.

We shall be in considerable danger if we do not keep constantly in mind that the environmental band waggon comes down strictly on the side of the rich. It may well be that employment opportunities will be denied to many people in aviation because of a section of the community, principally the well-to-do. This will be detrimental to people who otherwise would have found themselves working to improve their prospects in this sector. This word of warning should be sounded, otherwise there may well be a backlash against environmental considerations of the kind embodied in these Amendments.

Although I acquit the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) of deliberate intention to promote this kind of situation, if the public are led to feel that all pilots, airline operators and aircraft manufacturers are part of a vast anti-social, noise-creating group, it will have a detrimental effect on many people including those who are represented by some hon. Gentlemen opposite.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Money

There is a great deal of sense in this Amendment which provides the "teeth" of this legislation. We know only too well from experience of town and country planning legislation that, unless teeth are provided, certain people are prepared to do everything they can to get round various provisions.

Noise is like sin: everybody is against it in principle, but nobody knows what to do about it. Ever since the publication of the Wilson Report there has been uncertainty about the steps the Government should take to curb what has become greater and greater infringement of the rights of individuals. This whole piece of legislation is going a great deal of the way, but unless teeth are provided we are thrown back on a situation in which the ordinary person is not protected by the civil law. It is impossible to start proceedings of this sort in the county court and if the people have to go to the High Court it is an expensive and tedious form of proceedings.

The wording of the Amendment will provide an effective mitigation. I do not feel there is a risk of irresponsible legislation because that could be guarded against by the sort of safeguards which exist in the Noise Abatement Act which has worked remarkably well. I have an interest to declare since I live some seven miles from Stansted. The only way we find helpful in making plain what we feel about persistent over-flying and low flying is to ring up the duty officer consistently at ten-minute intervals throughout the night.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

The Amendment has detected a weakness since the manager of an airport is not particularly interested in minimising noise. He is interested in the increasing commercial prosperity of the airport and in increasing traffic and the frequency of movements. I am therefore wondering whether he has enough incentive to comply with these provisions if there is no further encouragement for him to do so.

The measuring equipment at Heathrow seems to be of two kinds. One is the measuring equipment used by the airline to control its own traffic. The other equipment is contained in mobile vans run by the Department of Trade and Industry. Could not some of these mobile vans be used in an impartial way to determine the various noise levels at particular points?

Mr. Noble

I will try to reply to what has been the longest debate so far on Report, though on this subject this perhaps was foreseeable. I reply with some willingness because I know how seriously a large number of people are affected by aircraft noise; I shall try to make one or two general points in answer to the debate before coming to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan).

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) said that we had to look at the facts of life and, indeed, we are doing so. I spent the whole of Friday looking at the facts of life round Heathrow. Our new Clause—and I am grateful for the congratulations to the Government on introducing the Clause— is drawn in a fairly flexible way, for specific reasons of which I know my hon. Friend will approve, so that we can vary what is done according to the facts of life at the very varied aerodromes with which we shall have to deal. However, the fact that in many parts the Clause is drawn flexibly does not mean that the directions should not be specific. All the points made by my hon. Friend are very sensible. Certainly they will be looked at, and I hope that it will be possible to comply with them. If my hon. Friend has a spare moment, possibly in the Smoking Room, I suggest that he discusses some of his points with one of our pilot Members. What is sensible to us as laymen is often nonsense to the pilots.

I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr), in whose constituency I spent a day on Friday. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility of soundproofing grants and so forth. Following my day in the area, where I spoke to a great many people, I am looking critically at what the Government are doing and might do. However, as a result of my day at Heathrow, I do not entirely agree with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) that landing noise is the worst. Anyone fairly close to the end of a runway where V.C.10s, Tridents and 707s are taking off knows that take-off noise is considerably worse. I spent time at both ends of all the runways.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

I admit that takeoff noise is louder. However, the number of people discommoded is greater as a result of landings because of the slowness of approach and the large amount of ground covered. Millions of people are affected by landings, whereas the number affected by take-offs is likely to be thousands and possibly only hundreds.

Mr. Noble

I accept that, although, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the control of landing noise is one of the most difficult to undertake since the glide path is fixed and the pilot has to maintain his aircraft at a certain slope. Any infringement of noise is almost certainly put down to the pilot having to correct the angle of his aircraft in a way that is essential for its safety.

Mr. Adley

My right hon. Friend says that he spent a day at the airport. Can he assure us that he will not attribute to sideline noise, which is not generally considered anti-social, the same harm as is attributed to take-off and landing noise? Sideline noise at the airport is one which rarely draws complaints from people.

Mr. Noble

I think that I know what my hon. Friend is after, though having spent a day at the airport I regard all noise as objectionable. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) spoke about looking at the various problems of glide paths, curved approaches, and so on. Incidentally, I understand that the glide path at London is already 3 degrees and not 2½ degrees. I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall look at any suggestions, provided that they give us both safety and a better result.

My hon. Friend also spoke about the £20 million being spent in the United States on noise reduction. We are keeping closely in touch with the U.S. authorities and hope to get some benefit from their work. However, I remind the House that, if the United States Congress agrees, we are committing approaching £145 million to trying to build probably the quietest engine in the world, and one which will be of great help in these matters.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) stuck strictly to the Amendment. However, as he is not here at the moment, possibly I might be allowed to deal with his points when I come to the Amendment.

The answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) and the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) is that, while training flights are noisy, to the extent that they take place from any B.A.A. airport or any other airport licensed for public use, under the new Clause they will come under the powers of designation, direction and so on from the Secretary of State.

From a fairly steady correspondence with my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), I know almost every point in his constituency over which an aircraft passes, and almost minute by minute at night. My hon. Friend has a very serious problem, and all that I can do is to assure him that I am well aware of it.

I come, then, to the group of Amendments that we are discussing. I am concerned to try in any way within reason to stop the increase of noise in these areas and, if possible, to reduce the noise. I am therefore not in conflict with what hon. Members on both sides of the House have said. However, I am a little worried about the form of the Amendments. We are discussing aircraft operational matters, and my advice is that they are not suitable for criminal offences. Those concerned are people like the British Airports Authority, Glasgow Corporation, Manchester Corporation and others. Those are the people whom, it is suggested, we have to fine for misbehaving and ignoring directions.

Airports which are designated under the Clause will be airports licensed for public use. We are not dealing with curious fly-by-night bodies, and I do not agree with the hon. Member for Pontypridd that the use of an injunction is either slow or ineffective. My reason for taking this line is that I have been assured that, if there were breaches of directions given by the Secretary of State, it would be possible to get an emergency injunction far quicker than a prosecution through the courts. In many cases, an injunction could be obtained on the same day.

I want if possible to stop anything which creates noise, though not necessarily to fine either Glasgow Corporation or the British Airports Authority. After all, any fine goes straight back through our pockets in tax or rates——

Mr. Money

May I point out to my right hon. Friend that any sort of injunction would almost certainly have to be on terms as to costs and, in those circumstances, would prove quite outside the pocket of the ordinary citizen?

Mr. Noble

I was coming to that point. It is not suitable for the ordinary citizen to have to do it. But it would be a matter, in almost all cases, of the Secretary of State approaching the Attorney-General complaining that a certain authority was contravening his directions and asking for an injunction to be taken out at once. I am told that that could be done very quickly and that, if the injunction were broken thereafter, the offending authority could be fined heavily for contempt of court, for breaking the injunction, or whatever it was.

I am, however, prepared to look at the point in the light of what has been said by hon. Members. I shall discuss it again with my legal advisers. If we feel that there is likely to be any real reduction of noise as a result of providing for fines of this sort, while not necessarily accepting the exact form of the Amendments, I am determined to use any power that I can to reduce noise. The only reason for my slight resistance at the moment is that I am advised that this would not give me any extra power whatever. However, I will look at it again. If it will give me an extra weapon in my armoury I promise to take it.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. John Smith

When reconsidering this matter with his advisers, will the right hon. Gentleman also re-examine the startling proposition which he put forward that it would be unsuitable to fine Glasgow Corporation or the British Airports Authority? It is difficult to understand why they should not be fined but that some other individual who runs an airport should be fined. What reason is there for a public authority not being fined?

Mr. Noble

Perhaps I was making my point in shorthand and therefore too quickly, because we have had a good debate on it. When we are dealing entirely with local authorities and the British Airports Authority there is a great deal less satisfaction in imposing fines. We want to stop them doing something stupid rather than fine them, because the fine is paid not by them but by the taxpayer. Therefore, it does not have the same deterrent effect on that type of body as on an ordinary individual with his own business.

Mr. Mason

The right hon. Gentleman has given an unsatisfactory reply to a lengthy debate on a matter in which there is a great deal of interest. He was kind, understanding and sympathetic, but his reply was neither very effective nor acceptable.

The Minister said that he would reconsider whether there is any value in this idea. He has already had time. We are grateful for Clause 29, but it is only partially effective. Subsection (7) imposes a fine only on a person managing a designated aerodrome if he does not, at his own expense, maintain and operate noise measuring equipment, submit reports when requested, and allow his noise measuring equipment to be inspected at the wish of the Secretary of State. That is a fine imposed on an aerodrome owner concerning his own equipmnt.

What of those who create the noise? This is the nub of the argument. In subsection (2) the right hon. Gentleman has power to stop a noisy operator from using an airport. In subsection (3) he has power to allow a noisy operator to use an airport, but to lay down directions limiting his operations. In subsection (5) he is given power to issue directions to the manager of an airport laying down how much his aerodrome may be used by noisy aircraft.

For all these owners, managers and aircraft operators there are no penalties if they contravene directives. The right hon. Gentleman compels the airport owners to have the necessary equipment to check noise levels, submit reports, and so on, and fines them if they disobey, but the noise makers have no sanctions applied to them.

The Clause mentions the possibility of detaining an aircraft, but that is farcical. First, there have to be noise checks to establish that an aircraft has contravened the maximum P.N.B. level, whatever it may be, night or day; secondly, it has to be reported to the Secretary of State; and finally, he has to give a directive to the airport to detain the aircraft. Meanwhile there have probably been many breaches of the noise levels before that procedure has been completed. What then? There is no mention in the Bill of anything else that the Minister will do.

We think that it would be far more logical and effective if at the outset the Minister made clear in legislation that those who contravened the set noise levels would be logged, as a result of recordings made on the monitoring equipment, and fined for every offence.

We accept that noise is pollution and that it affects the quality of life. We have accepted in the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill and the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution) Bill that polluters must pay. Yet the Government are not prepared to enforce that concept in this instance.

Mr. Onslow

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that if a pilot is able to establish that the noise infringement results from a manoeuvre which he had to undertake to safeguard his passengers, he should be fined without defence?

Mr. Mason

The hon. Gentleman knows that within the framework of a fines procedure there is bound to be an escape clause for the possibility of avoiding an accident. Various situations may arise—air misses and so on—when the P.N.dB. level may be exceeded during the day or night. I accept that there will be such occasions, but that should not prevent the right hon. Gentleman from writing into Clause 29 a fines procedure for those who regularly breach maximum noise levels.

I know that the Minister has received shoals of requests from people living near airports demanding re-routing of traffic and fewer landings, especially at night. He also knows of the many lobbies which have been mounted, the petitions which have been submitted, and the anti-noise movements which have developed. Yet he coolly and quietly states that he is prepared to ignore the lot by not introducing fines against noise offenders.

We are serious about this form of pollution. It has adverse effects on thousands of people, particularly the old, the hospitalised, and the students. It has adverse effects on the very quality of life. This is the opportunity to start to control it. If the Minister wishes to gain the confidence of the many thousands of people living near the airports who are affected in this way, he must show that he intends to do something about it. The Amendment seeks to protect people. It aims to improve the quality of life, not to destroy it. We believe that this will be achieved if we start to make the polluter pay.

Mr. Mather

I think that the right hon. Gentleman was unjustly accusing my right hon. Friend, because he is, to my knowledge, the most sympathetic Minister responsible for aviation and aircraft noise that there has yet been in this House. What steps did the previous Government take to solve this problem?

Mr. Mason

Without developing into a lecture on the steps which we took when in office, there was a gradual continuation of what previous Governments had done. For the first time in many years we have a major Civil Aviation Bill and we now have the opportunity of introducing effective steps to curb noise round airports. Clause 29 takes us some way. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept the Amendment, we have a chance to start curbing noise effectively. That is the aim of the Amendment.

Mr. Noble

The right hon. Gentleman is being unfair. I could not conceivably have gone further than to say that if there were any chance of the Amendment being effective, I would certainly introduce it. In my view, and that of my legal advisers, who, after all, are probably the same as his, there is very little chance of the Amendment having any effect whatever on aircraft noise. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to divide on aircraft

noise we can all go into one Lobby. If he wants to divide on the Amendment, we shall have to go into opposite Lobbies.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes, 164.

Division No. 401.] AYES [8.6 p.m.
Albu, Austen Gourlay, Harry Meacher, Michael
Allen, Scholefield Grant, George (Morpeth) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mikardo, Ian
Armstrong, Ernest Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Millan, Bruce
Ashton, Joe Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Atkinson, Norman Hamling, William Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, itchen)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Molloy, William
Bishop, E. S. Hardy, Peter Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Booth, Albert Heffer, Eric S. O'Malley, Brian
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Huckfield, Leslie Orme, Stanley
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Oswald, Thomas
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Palmer, Arthur
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pavitt, Laurie
Clark, David (Colne Valley) John, Brynmor Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pendry, Tom
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Pentland, Norman
Coleman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Perry, Ernest G.
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Prescott, John
Dalyell, Tarn Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Judd, Frank Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kaufman, Gerald Probert, Arthur
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kelley, Richard Rankin, John
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kerr, Russell Rhodes, Geoffrey
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kinnock, Neil Robertson, John (Paisley)
Deakins, Eric Lamond, James Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Latham, Arthur Roper, John
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lawson, George Sandelson, Neville
Dempsey, James Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Doig, Peter Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Dormand, J. D. Leonard, Dick Sillars, James
Duffy, A. E. P. Lestor, Miss Joan Silverman, Julius
Dunnett, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alex Lomas, Kenneth Spearing, Nigel
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Strang, Gavin
Ellis, Tom McBride, Neil Tinn, James
Evans, Fred McCann, John Torney, Tom
Faulds, Andrew McElhone, Frank Varley, Eric G.
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Mackenzie, Gregor Wainwright, Edwin
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Maclennan, Robert Weitzman, David
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Whitehead, Phillip
Foley, Maurice McNamara, J. Kevin Whitlock, William
Ford, Ben Marion, Simon (Bootle) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Forrester, John Marsden, F.
Fraser, John (Norwood) Marshall, Dr. Edmund TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galpern, Sir Myer Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Mr. Joseph Harper and
Gilbert, Dr. John Mayhew, Christopher Mr. James Hamilton.
Golding, John
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) d'Avigdor-Coldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Burden, F. A. Drayson, G. B.
Astor, John Carlisle, Mark Dykes, Hugh
Atkins, Humphrey Chapman, Sydney Eden, Sir John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Churchill, W. S. Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Batsford, Brian Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Eyre, Reginald
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fell, Anthony
Benyon, W. Clegg, Walter Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Biggs-Davison, John Cockeram, Eric Fidler, Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Cooke, Robert Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Boscawen, Robert Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowden, Andrew Cormack, Patrick Fox, Marcus
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Costain, A. P. Gibson-Watt, David
Bray, Ronald Crouch, David Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Brewis, John Crowder, F. P. Goodhew, Victor
Gorst, John MacArthur, Ian Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Gower, Raymond McCrindle, R. A. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McLaren, Martin Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Gray, Hamish McMaster, Stanley Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Green, Alan McNair-Wilson, Michael Rost, Peter
Grylls, Michael Madel, David Scott-Hopkins, James
Gummer, Selwyn Maginnis, John E. Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Halt, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mather, Carol Simeons, Charles
Halt-Davis, A. G. F. Mawby, Ray Skeet, T. H. H.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Soref, Harold
Hannam, John (Exeter) Meyer, Sir Anthony Speed, Keith
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Spence, John
Haselhurst, Alan Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Sproat, lain
Hawkins, Paul Miscampbell, Norman Stainton, Keith
Hayhoe, Barney Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hicks, Robert Moate, Roger Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Hiley, Joseph Molyneaux, James Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Money, Ernle Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Holland, Philip Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Hooson, Emlyn Monro, Hector Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Homstay-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) More, Jasper Tebbit, Norman
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Thomas, John stradling (Monmouth)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
James, David Mudd, David Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Kaberry, Sir Donald Murton, Oscar van Straubenzee, W. R.
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Nabarro, Sir Gerald Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Kershaw, Anthony Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Waddington, David
Kilfedder, James Nott, John Walder, David (Clitheroe)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Onslow, Cranley Wall, Patrick
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Osborn, John Warren, Kenneth
Kinsey, J. R. Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Kitson, Timothy Page, Graham (Crosby) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Knight, Mrs. Jill Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Wilkinson, John
Knox, David Peel, John Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Langford-Holt, Sir John Pounder, Rafton Worsley, Marcus
Le Marchant, Spencer Proudfoot, Wilfred
Longden, Gilbert Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Loveridge, John Redmond, Robert Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Luce, R. N. Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Mr. Tim Fortescue.
Mr. Michael Grylls (Chertsey)

I beg to move Amendment No. 32, in page 33, line 15, after 'Order', insert: 'or designated under section 8 of the Civil Aviation Act 1968'. I think that, in general, the Clause is good because, as we have been discussing, it attempts to control the nuisance value of the noise the vibration of aircraft, and I thought that it was a strange tactic on the part of the Opposition to go into the Lobby against it.

My object in putting forward the Amendment is to bring within the Clause those private airfields not licensed for public use because, if we could do that, we would make this a truly comprehensive Clause to cover every type of airfield in Britain. In Committee my right hon. Friend said that the Clause covered every type of airfield except the private ones. My worry, and that of many innocent people who live near private airfields, is that noise is just as disturbing whether one lives within two miles of Heathrow, or within a quarter of a mile of a tiresome private airfield, and just as much a pollution of the environment.

Normally I am not in favour of greater central Government control over things that go on in the country. Local authorities can look after these largely local problems, but if they have real powers to mitigate the effect of aircraft noise and vibration over private airfields, I should be grateful for an explanation of how they can be used.

My information is that local authorities have no teeth to control the nuisance of private airfields. It is said that they can control them by planning decisions, but that is looking to future expansion by stealth: it cannot control what is going on at the moment. A borough planning officer said some weeks ago:

Although they can exercise effective controls over the green belt on a terrestrial basis, of what avail is that if the peace and quiet of the country is made hideous for all who live within earshot of an airfield? Therefore, just leaving the matter in the hands of planning committees is not good enough.

Procedures were laid down in Section 8 of the 1968 Act which are adequate in many instances, and there is an effective liaison between the local authorities around airfields and the owners of those airfields. But consultation is not enough if the nuisance goes on. The owner may cynically say that he is ready to listen to the inhabitants, but if he does not have to do anything, what good is that? Planning is no good, and consultation is no good if the airfield continues to cock a snook at the local authority. I should be interested to know how many small airfields have been designated under Section 8.

There is also the nuisance value of training flights. We all know that they have to go on, but does it have to be over highly populated areas? What regulations control such flights? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the controls? Will he use his powers to control this sort of thing?

Of course night training and night flying can only be done at night, but it is surely not necessary, even at the height of the summer, to continue night training flights over highly populated areas after midnight. I have sent my right hon. Friend details of such cases. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) expressed his concern in Committee about the same problem.

It is said that the private citizen can take legal action, but that is not very practical. There is the cost of prosecution and the problem of knowing the height at which an aircraft was flying. If I saw an aircraft flying over, I would not have the least idea of its height. To get a prosecution, one has to judge that it is flying at under 500 feet. It is impractical and wrong to leave that to the private citizen.

An example of how a small airfield can cock a snook at the local residents occurred in my constituency the other day. Residents rang up the controller to complain about night flying at the airfield. One was told, "You get your council to approve our tarmac runway and we will stop night flying". Another was asked, "What are you complaining about? You got your house cheap because of the airfield ". I could quote many more such replies.

This is the problem we want to solve. There is a lot of talk about pollution of the environment, but there will be an increasingly strong reaction against this if we cannot do something about private airfields.

This Clause is very good. All that I am trying to do is fill a small gap. No doubt the majority of private airfields are well run, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept a modest Amendment to deal with a modest but serious problem—the minority who abuse these rights.

Mr. Allason

I greatly welcome Clause 29, bearing in mind its possible target. My right hon. Friend will be surprised to hear that I have an entirely different target in mind.

His argument against the Amendment will probably be that the Clause should not be operated against small airfields because that is unnecessary. But the Clause operates only if an airfield is designated, and it will be designated only if there is a need. I cannot understand why there should be any objection to designating any airfield rather than just those which have so far been discussed. Surely my right hon. Friend realises, after his experience of the pain and stress caused by aircraft noise, how useful such a weapon would be to him.

In Hemel Hempstead about 10 years ago outline permission was granted for a helicopter site just beside the motorway. Now there is an intention to use the site again, and the local people are naturally desperately worried about what is likely to occur, particularly in view of their experience of Luton Airport. This started as a nice quiet little airport and we lived happily amid the lazy buzz of piston-engined aeroplanes which did nobody any harm. Then, about three and a half years ago, they started operating jets from Luton, and life has been made a misery and hell.

8.30 p.m.

What might have been acceptable as a helicopter station 10 years ago is causing grave anxiety and alarm today in view of the beastliness of the machines that are now being produced. This is recognised by the Government in that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has called in the planning application for a public inquiry.

A decision in this matter will no doubt finally be made, but I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey (Mr. Grylls) over this and I am not sure that a solution to the problem will be found along these lines. If the idea of using this site as a helicopter station is killed stone dead, that will be the end of the matter, but what if helicopters are permitted to use it? There will be no further possibility of the Secretary of State for the Environment controlling the activities there, apart from saying that not more than a certain number of flights, perhaps 10 an hour, shall take place. Helicopters are bad enough today. Who knows how they will develop in five or 10 years from now? Once planning permission has been granted, all control will be lost. The Government should have power of control which can be kept in the background and used if really necessary.

I had a long struggle persuading the Government to take powers to control Luton Airport. They finally did so. I beg them to take powers to control other airports to avoid another uphill struggle should smaller airports present the same sort of difficulty that Luton presented.

Mr. Onslow

Whatever response my right hon. Friend may give to this Amendment, I assure him that the reaction he gets from these benches will not be as unreasonable, ungracious or unfair as the reaction he got from hon. Gentlemen opposite on the last Amendment, which was a disgraceful example of what happens when one yields to the temptation to play politics with issues like pollution and play to the gallery by calling a Division on the flimsiest of grounds——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that line.

Mr. Onslow

No, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will not withdraw my remarks, either.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel disposed to accept the Amendment because, anticipating his answer, it will not involve him in an enormous bureaucracy or needing to establish a great machine of control. He will merely need to do what seems to him to be appropriate at any given time.

In 1968 hon. Gentlemen opposite placed an Act on the Statute Book and in it they could have incorporated many of the desirable things they now want to see happen. It was agreed that under Section 8 of that Act private airfields could be designated as requiring consultative facilities. This power has been used sparingly and there may be a dozen such airfields that have been so designated.

I think it may be possible to proceed from there to the point at which it could be agreed to have certain additional powers to enable the Minister to have a measure of control. This may be needed on only rare occasions. It would be a reserve power and there would be no mandatory duty on him. It would, however, be an important power for him to have. It seems that the most appropriate part of the Bill in which to incorporate it is Clause 29(3), and it would not involve the setting up of an elaborate noise monitoring machine.

People are mainly concerned about things like the frequency of training flights and circuits taking place at extraordinary hours during the night. I have had experience of this. I have arrived home at midnight to see lights on aircraft circling and landing on a local field near to where I live. I have always thought it unreasonable that people should be prevented by this activity from sleeping. Sometimes the noise continues until well after midnight. This should be controlled. If my right hon. Friend says that he has powers to control it, I shall not be so indiscreet as to ask why he does not use them, but I do press him to use them. If he says that he has no such powers, he would make that good by accepting the Amendment.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) says that complaints keep flooding in about the activities of major airports. My right hon. Friend will remember that from time to time I have passed complaints to him about aircraft movements from Heathrow. In the past six months I have had no complaints about Heathrow from my constituency. That is, perhaps, because the weather has been so foul. But I have received, and I expect to continue to receive, complaints about the operation of this relatively small, apparently inconspicuous and un-troublesome little field because of the way in which it is used. It would be wholly reasonable if my right hon. Friend would agree that the powers which we now seek to confer upon him would be powers which he might find useful indeed.

Mr. Mather

In Committee my right hon. Friend, referring to a similar Amendment, said that powers like these are kept only over airports licensed for public use, whereas noise affects communities many miles distant from the immediate neighbourhood. Perhaps he could explain the reason for that Statement.

There must be an equal problem from small aerodromes of the sort mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey (Mr. Grylls). Just outside my constituency there is a small private airport, Wisley, which comes to within about 12 yards of my constituency. It is not used much at present but it is about to change hands; therefore, its use may change and it may be a very great potential problem to my constituents in that area. It is a rural area, the only truly rural part of my constituency, and is quiet and peaceful. There is a potential nuisance, and therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be wise to take the opportunity presented by the Bill, which may not occur again for a considerable time, because there will be comprehensive provisions in the Bill to control all types of aircraft noise. My hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey described it as a modest but serious problem. I would suggest that my right hon. Friend looks at the problem in a serious and not a modest way.

Mr. Noble

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having put a very difficult point well and very responsibly. I appreciate the force behind the argument inherent in the Amendment. It seems reasonable that an aerodrome designated for consultative purposes under Section 8 of the 1968 Act should also be subject to Governmental controls over noise.

In answer to the point made by my hon. Friend in moving the Amendment, about 33 aerodromes have been designated under the 1968 Act, of which all but nine are licensed for public use. However, I do not believe that any such link should automatically exist. Noise is not by any means the only reason leading to designation of an aerodrome under Section 8 of the 1968 Act. The latter provision covers consultation with respect to any matter concerning the management or administration of the aerodrome, as it affects the interests of those using the aerodrome or living near it. Noise need not be a factor in designation under Section 8.

What is more, even if noise is a local factor, it does not follow that it is a factor of national importance also justifying Governmental control. My hon. Friend said that he did not want the Government to control everything, though he would like it to control this noise problem. The reason why Clause 29 was limited to aerodromes licensed for public use is that these include all the cases where the noise from traffic using an aerodrome ranges far beyond the immediate neighbourhood. Leaving aside the B.A.A. airports, the amount of traffic at aerodromes licensed for public use ranges in 1969 from about 70,000 movements in the case of Glasgow, for example, to about 23,000 movements in the case of Tees-side. The busiest 20 non-B.A.A. airports licensed for public use accounted for about one million aircraft movements in 1969. Public transport traffic is not limited to aerodromes licensed for public use, but in practice the great bulk of that traffic—scheduled and charter services—uses such aerodromes. In practice, therefore, the aerodromes licensed for public use include those involved with regular airline traffic the noise from which spreads far beyond the aerodromes in question.

In contrast—I merely make these points to my hon. Friend to show that there is sometimes a danger in doing what the House wants and bringing a new Clause into a Bill, because as soon as this is done I am pressed to go further along the road—the geographical extent of the sound effects from aerodromes not licensed for public use is different in being much more locally confined. The Amendment would bring nine of these 70 aerodromes licensed for ordinary use within the ambit of the Clause. The use of such aerodrome is limited to the licensee and persons specifically authorised by him.

I am concerned about the potential scale of administrative effort that any extension of the Clause could demand from my Department. At present, under powers confined to B.A.A. airports, about 50 staff are engaged full-time in my Department on noise control and abatement measures, which to all intents and purposes concern Heathrow and Gatwick and their immediate vicinity. Even a relatively restrained use of the power under the Government Clause to designate any of the 35 non-B.A.A. aerodromes licensed for public use would, therefore, involve a very substantial effort in terms of central Government staff and resources.

Therefore, I place my store on continuing action by aerodrome managements themselves, although, if that is not forthcoming, we shall certainly not shy away from using our powers of designation. However, I see no justification for the call on staff and resources potentially involved in provisions under which the Government could be pressed to invoke the powers, not just on 40 aerodromes licensed for public use, but in respect of other aerodromes whose use has a purely local effect.

As a practical person, I say to my hon. Friend—my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) made the same point—that it is all very fine and large to say that, if the Minister has these powers to cover every sort of airfield, he need use them only in cases which he thinks are particularly bad. It is not whether the Minister thinks that he should use them. It is whether my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead thinks that the Minister should use the powers. And if the Minister does not use them, God help him.

This is right and proper, but we must not overlook the fact that, once powers are taken in respect of every type of airfield, the Minister will be driven by pressures from all over the country to using his powers and the number of staff and the amount of resources will rise greatly. The alternative is that the places that need the protection will not get it because the staff will be scattered too thinly around.

Mr. Allason

As the Government have expressly taken from the citizen the right to sue against aircraft noise, is it not for the Government to protect the citizen?

Mr. Noble

This is true to a considerable extent, but the government need not be central. It can be local.

Mr. Onslow

I do not know whether White Waltham is one of the airfields designated. I believe that it has about 50 per cent. more movements a year than has Tees-side. I also believe that the operators at that airfield, under a self-denying ordinance, carry out a lot of the night flying training over Belgium. If an order were to be placed on an airfield like that to the effect that there was to be no flying after midnight, all that would be required would be for the citizens to police it. There would be no need for additional civil servants.

Mr. Noble

I do not know without a little research whether White Waltham is designated.

The first consideration was the effort necessary in terms of staff and resources. The second consideration is that the operational procedures that we prescribe at Heathrow and Gatwick for noise abatement purposes are of limited efficacy and are certainly inappropriate, if not downright impracticable, at the smaller aerodromes concerned only or largely with private flying and flying instruction. We lay down, for instance, at Heathrow and Gatwick maximum noise levels and minimum noise routes. We require aircraft taking off to reach a minimum altitude at specified points and then to cut back power. We employ a three-degree glide slope and prohibit incoming aircraft from joining it below specified altitudes. These are the only measures open to us with which to put some restraint on noise from aircraft in the air. Not only are they of limited effectiveness, as the speeches on the last Amendment showed, but they are applicable only to the medium or large jet transport aircraft for which they were designed.

The bulk of aircraft using aerodromes other than those licensed for public use are not of those types, nor are private flying instruction procedures susceptible to such requirements. The only practical and effective control against noise at those aerodromes licensed for ordinary use, and not licensed at all, is therefore to limit or curtail aircraft movements at the aerodrome, either by number or by period and time of day.

This form of control, being a physical rather than a procedural control, is readily open to the local planning authority to apply and enforce. I have already referred to the purely local impact of noise from operations at aerodromes licensed for ordinary use, but I must caution the House against attempting a panoply of regulation by central Government in these circumstances. If control is needed, the only practical and effective form is available to the local planning authority in the shape of limitations on movements.

Such a control can be imposed as a condition of planning permission. As a last resort, where absolutely necessary, it could even be introduced by the local planning authority as a fresh condition after planning permission had been given, just as such permission can be revoked altogether by resort to the provisions for discontinuance of use. I do not suggest that these possibilities of last resort are straightforward, because they give rise to questions of financial compensation. But I doubt equally whether the scale or intractability of the local problems of the smaller aerodrome is such that it cannot be dealt with by local planning machinery.

The House should not think that in taking this view the Government are shirking a legitimate responsibility. If problems arose at those small aerodromes in the form of low flying, for example, which contravened safety regulations or air traffic control requirements, that should and would be tackled by prosecution, which if necessary my Department would undertake. But where within a purely local framework the problem is one of the use of an aerodrome in ways for which planning permission was given or which it could regulate appropriately, I am reluctant to use powers or responsibilities which take matters out of the local planning authorities' hands.

This is a problem which straddles both my Department and that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, as many problems in this field do. He and I will keep in close touch about it, and where necessary supply local planning authorities with the relevant information.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead has spoken of the possibility of a helicopter port being built which might be a nuisance to his constituents. In such a case it is, first, up to the local authority to lay down such conditions as it thinks reasonable. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will support this. That is the correct way to deal with such problems, serious though they are, which con- cern a comparatively small area around a small airport. My hon. Friends asked me to take powers of designation, but I do not believe that this is something which the Government could easily control any better centrally than can be done locally.

Mr. Grylls

I am grateful for what my right hon. Friend said. But can he say exactly what the planning regulations are that local authorities—county councils, rural and urban district councils—can use to exercise the control? If control can be exercised locally, I agree that that is very good. But my information is that local authorities have no control other than the control of expansion, and we are talking not about expansion but about the existing situation. Perhaps my right hon. Friend could let me know the position and in due course, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, advise county councils so that they are fully aware of it. Many of them are not fully aware of it at present.

Mr. Noble

I certainly will draw my hon. Friend's attention to these powers and explain how they will operate. He will recall that earlier I said that there are cases of existing aerodromes which are not particularly straightforward and might involve the local planning authorities in having to pay compensation. In a case where serious environmental damage was done, I am sure that the local authorities would be willing to face that.

Mr. Grylls

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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