HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1171-99

10.13 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)

I beg to move, That the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) (Amendment) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 17th February, be approved. It is the intention, subject to approval, that the order should come into effect on 1st April, 1972, the date on which the Civil Aviation Authority assumes its major functions. The order is a purely procedural one, involving no transfer of responsibility for policy on the noise certification of aircraft. That remains with the Secretary of State.

The order provides, by amendment of the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order. 1970, for the transfer from the department to the Civil Aviation Authority of the executive function of certifying aircraft for noise purposes and of ensuring that the conditions relating to certification are complied with. The Authority will, of course, by virtue of its former Air Registration Board component, possess all the expertise necessary for this task.

The Instrument tidies up the original order by substituting the words "Secretary of State" for the words "Board of Trade" in those provisions which relate to the making of regulations. It also increases the penalties for failure to comply with the provisions of the order to bring them into line with penalties for breaches of other air worthiness regulations.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

That was a brief introduction from the Minister, though it seemed to cover most of the main points. It did not, however, cover a number of matters and it is to those that I shall allude.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that this Instrument amends the No. 823 order of 1970, which was introduced by the Labour Government. He is also right to say that it transfers responsibility for most of the old order from the Board of Trade to the Civil Aviation Authority, which is to be established by 1st April of this year, except for the making of regulations. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention, how- ever, that it also increases all the penalties.

Mr. Noble

I did.

Mr. Mason

The right hon. Gentleman made only a cursory reference to that fact.

We should be proud of our lead, because in 1966 we convened an international conference which 26 nations attended and flowing from that conference was established what has become known as the Aircraft Noise Registration Scheme. Many countries have followed our lead; and when we laid the order in 1970 we were creating a precedent, and we can be justly proud of our achievement in this context.

However, in the last two years we have had a major constitutional change, with the proposed establishment of the Civil Aviation Authority. Unfortunately, we shall lose the independence of the Air Registration Board, which is coming under the umbrella of the Civil Aviation Authority and which will be known as the Airworthiness Requirements Board. It was keen to keep its old initials, even though its title is being changed.

But there is no mention anywhere in the order of this and, in view of the fact that the Instrument is about noise certification and is concerned wholly with the certification of aircraft noise—this was one of the duties of the old A.R.B. and therefore will be one of its primary concerns as the Airworthiness Requirements Board within the Civil Aviation Authority—I should have thought that some reference to this aspect would have appeared in the amended order.

In view of this omission, perhaps the Minister will bring us up to date about the independence or loss of independence of this body. To what extent will it play an important rôle, as I hope it will, within the new Civil Aviation Authority?

This order, like the old one, does not cover supersonic aircraft. I appreciate that there is an Order in Council in this connection, but may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether there will have to be a new order or whether this one will be amended when Concorde comes into service?

The third of the first set of minor points to which I wish to refer is the fact that this order, like the old one, allows the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority to grant exemptions to certain aircraft in certain circumstances. A little enlightenment of the House as to how this will be done and the circumstances the Minister envisages would be helpful. How does he visualise some aircraft being exempted from the noise certification regulations?

My main point is about the penalties mentioned in the order. Although they have been increased, they are by no means sufficient. During the past two or three years, as most hon. Members who have taken an interest in the problems of the environment will know, people have been insistent that polluters must pay, and there has been a surge of public opinion demanding stiffer penalties for those who pollute the seas and our land with toxic wastes and those who pollute the air with aircraft noise.

On Article 14 of the old order, No. 823, now being amended by this order, there are three grades of penalty. First, in Article 14(3) of the old order, there is a £10 fine which is now being raised to £50 for a first offence, and a fine of £20 which has been amended to £100 in this order for second and subsequent offences. These fines cover offences such as refusing to produce a noise certificate within a reasonable time or not surrendering one that has been revoked.

In other words, a licence may be being used and an aircraft may have been modified and altered and may now be noisier, breaching the regulations as a result of modifications, yet the aircraft operator or pilot is getting away with it, and will continue to get away with it until he is questioned about the old licence, through not having surrendered it in a reasonable time or because it has been revoked and he has been using it. He will be fined £100, and in some instances he will have been getting away with operating a noisy aircraft until challenged about an old certificate. That fine is certainly too small.

Second, if a person—who may be a pilot or an operator—wilfully obstructs or impedes any member of the Civil Aviation Authority or any member of the Secretary of State's Department from carrying out his duties under the order, he will be fined £100; under the old order it was £50. For a second offence he will be fined £200, with the possibility of six months' imprisonment. That is for a man who will obstruct in spite of the fact that he may also be operating a noisy aircraft. He can do that possibly a number of times until he is caught, and then he will be fined only £100 for a first offence. That, too, is ridiculously small.

My chief objection is on the main penalty. The old order states that if a person contravenes the main provisions, if he ignores completely the law governing aircraft noise and does not have a noise certificate and takes off and lands in the United Kingdom, if he uses a forgery or a noise certificate that has been altered, revoked or suspended, if lie lends his noise certificate to someone else, if he makes false representations to get one, or if he fails to comply with any direction given to him by the Civil Aviation Authority regarding compliance with these noise regulations, he is liable to a fine not exceeding £400, and he shall be liable, on summary conviction on indictment, to imprisonment not exceeding two years.

I repeat: if such a person flouts completely the noise certification laws, he wilt be liable to a fine not exceeding £400, with the possibility of imprisonment not exceeding two years. These are paltry penalties for pollution of the air.

If the Government are serious when they say that the polluter must pay and are serious in their endeavours to curb aircraft noise and to improve the quality of life around our aerodromes, they must show it. These pitiful, paltry penalties are just not enough.

The right hon. Gentleman must remember—although he did not take the Bill through the House; his hon. Friend did that—the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill. Under the old Act a fine of £1,000 was imposed for an illegal discharge of oil into the sea. In the 1971 Act the right hon. Gentleman's Department raised that fine to £5,000. But hon. Members, aware more than the Government of this upsurge of feeling on environmental grounds that the polluter should pay, moved an amendment in Committee, received support from the Government and raised the fine to £50,000. It came to the House on Report and Third Reading and was accepted. So the oil polluter, the illegal discharger of oil into the seas or rivers, if he is caught, is made to pay.

Will the Government be as serious about pollution of the air? The right hon. Member might say he would consider increasing the penalties in accord with those imposed on polluters of the ocean. He might try to keep abreast of the Secretary of State for the Environment who announced last week that the dumpers of toxic waste, even for ordinary offences, would be liable in his projected legislation to fines of £400 or six months' imprisonment or both. The real polluter, the irresponsible polluter who dumps toxic waste and causes damage, could be subject to an unlimited fine or five years' imprisonment or both.

Those who act irresponsibly, break the law and pollute the air by creating aircraft noise beyond the permitted levels; those who are indifferent to its effects on the old people, the sick and patients in hospital; those who are deliberately demeaning the quality of life for thousands who live around our airports, are just as guilty as those who illegally discharge oil into the sea and rivers and are akin to those who irresponsibly dump toxic waste.

Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that the penalties in the order are insufficient to deter. I hope, if he can constitutionally manage it, that he will promise tonight that they will be amended before they pass through the House of Lords. If that is constitutionally impossible will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw this order and increase the penalties to bring them into line with those imposed on oil polluters and toxic waste dumpers? If he did that he would receive the commendation of the whole House.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)

I welcome the order and look forward to the Civil Aviation Authority and to the valuable work that I am sure it will do for civil aviation and for the control of noise pollution.

I should like to put three brief questions to the Minister on points which require slight clarification. The first relates to the monitoring of noise. I should appreciate some further guidance on how this will work and whether the C.A.A. will take the initiative in securing the proper monitoring of noise. In my experience it is not so much whether an aircraft has a noise certificate but the way in which it is flown that matters. Obviously the related questions of flight path and steepness of climb or the flight path on landing are just as relevant, if not more so, than whether the engine itself has passed a noise test.

I wonder whether the Minister can give more guidance on who will be responsible in future for providing and ensuring that more will be spent on the research and development of quieter engines. Will the Authority accept as one of its responsibilities that it will put pressure on the Government to ensure that enough is made available, a little more than at present, to promote quieter engines?

I should like guidance from the Minister about night flights and their control. I have a problem at the East Midlands Airport. Although it is relatively small compared with London and Luton, the problem is increasing. We should like assurances that the Authority will accept responsibility for protecting the public in the surrounding areas from any increasing noise pollution that may result from night flights.

I welcome the order as an important move forward, as is the establishment of the Authority. I am sure I have support on both sides of the House in wishing it every success.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

I am in something of a dilemma because I do not know whether I am allowed to identify the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. I think he is present, and he is no stranger to us. I hope he will take account of the minimum penalties that have been imposed. They really are minimum penalties. For example, the fine has risen to £50 for a first offence. I believe a flight path for Heathrow or Gatwick affects at least 200,000 people, which means we are talking about one-tenth of a new penny per four people awakened at night. That will not add greatly to the cost of a charter flight.

Taking the maximum fine of £400 and assuming the same number of people being awakened—a conservative estimate —it still means that under one new penny will be the cost of waking four people on a flight path. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) that it is not nearly enough. The Government are trying to encourage Insomniacs Anonymous.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman the new Chairman will use a little more vigour and forcefulness in enforcing the regulations than has been suggested by his right hon. Friend, for whom I have a high regard. My right hon. Friend pointed out that offenders are fined only when they are caught. Those of us who know how people can exceed the speed limit and not be caught realise the number of times operators can break the noise barrier and not be caught. The numbers of people affected are out of proportion to the size of the fine.

One encouraging sign is a reply I received on 28th February from the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry: Without waiting for the outcome of international discussions on reducing the noise of existing aero-engines, the Government are urgently considering a programme of work, aimed at possible development of saleable hardware for the United Kingdom engines involved, and the extent to which support is desirable from public funds.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 4.] I hope the new Chairman will demand that this pledge is honoured, that existing aircraft must and will be made quieter.

There is no need for people to be awakened at night. I spent the latter part of my war as a navigator on night fighters. I suppose I was young; I suppose I was vigorous. I led a useful night life and slept well and was never awakened. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that now I am awakened constantly by aircraft taking off from Heathrow.

There are people in my constituency, in Manchester and in Derby who would be delighted to work to secure a quieter aircraft with a lower pitch of noise. I make two pleas. First, will the right hon. Gentleman give full financial support to the production of aircraft and aircraft engines which will produce a much lower threshold of noise? This would enhance and improve the environment; it would increase the opportunities of employment for people now out of work. Secondly, will he listen to the plea of my right hon. Friend and review the penalties in this order? They are trivial; they are frivolous. Will he please make them realistic and punish those who wake us at night?

10.36 p.m.

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

Before my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) even takes up his onerous duties as Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, he may be running with a blunderbuss round the Chiltern Hundreds protecting them from aircraft noise at Luton, because the functions of a Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds have never really been defined.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), having introduced numerous Statutory Instruments himself, knows that there is no procedure whereby the House can amend them. I remind him that twice my Bill which would have enabled that to be done was rejected. I think this may be yet another occasion when the House would wish to have power to amend one aspect of an otherwise worthy and welcome Statutory Instrument.

One does not need to be an arithmetical genius to see that the alternative to the six months' maximum prison sentence is a fine equivalent to £7.50 a week for the same period of six months. There is no logical relationship between the maximum fine of £200 and imprisonment for a term of six months. Manifestly, the £200 has been put in as a joke, not as a serious attempt to stop anyone from doing anything.

We must also bear in mind that this order, like everything else, has to queue up for time in the House. Thus, when legislating, even by Statutory Instrument, we should make sure that to some extent we anticipate inflation as well. Moreover, the penalty is not related to the size of aircraft. A penalty which might deter the operator of an aircraft carrying 120 passengers is less likely to deter the operator of one carrying 450 or, in the not too distant future, 650. These are the quanta we have to bear in mind when framing our penalties. The right hon. Gentleman rightly referred by analogy to the Oil in Navigable Waters Act. We were concerned that penalties should be adequate in that Act to deter operators of vessels with a gross tonnage of 500,000. Already, Boeing 747s are in operation. We will be seeing larger aircraft still during the lifetime of this order. I suggest that maximum penalties of about £25,000 would not be amiss—not minimum penalties but maximum penalties. Maximum penalties are imposed by the courts when they are satisfied that there has been persistent, impertinent, flagrant abuse of the law. That is when maximum penalties are inflicted, and they are intended to be punitive. That is the point of having a high maximum penalty.

Enforcement action is expensive. It is expensive to keep the men and equipment in action night and day monitoring aircraft not only on take-off, but on landing as well. Everyone is fascinated by noise on take-off. Many airports have been sited with that fascination in view, and what is forgotten is that the butt end of the airport points at a large city over which the aircraft come in to land. It is important not to forget that because, as one moves further in the direction of large turbo-fan aircraft with high tip speeds, the high frequency shriek from a compressor on approach can be much more infuriating and disturbing to people than the much lower pitched roar from the jet efflux on take-off. That needs to be borne in mind.

I regard these penalties as derisory. They were probably thought up by the same clot who put tiny penalties into the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, who imagined that by increasing them slightly he had earned his living for the next 24 hours. I do not share that view.

Manifestly, this order cannot be amended. That is not the fault of the Secretary of State or the Minister. That is the fault of our procedures. Equally manifestly, we need to have this order, otherwise on 1st April the existing legislation might become unenforceable by wrong terminology. That I do not know.

What I should like is not an undertaking from my right hon. Friend that he will do what it is not within his power to do, which is to amend the order, but that he will, within the present Session of Parliament, introduce another order with substantially increased penalties. I should be very happy for that to be done.

With those few words, I commend to my right hon. Friend the merit of being ahead of events, rather than behind them.

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

I merely want to add briefly to what hon. Members on both sides of the House have said to the Minister about the inadequacy of the penalties in this order. It is true that it is not possible to amend a Statutory Instrument of this sort—or of any sort—and I therefore suggest that the Minister ought to withdraw the order, or allow it to be negatived, and bring forward another order with more adequate penalties.

I dare say that the right hon. Gentleman will fairly draw the attention of the House to the fact that the order amends an order dated 1970, which came into operation fully only on 1st January, 1971, and he will perhaps say that if the penalties in the 1970 order were adequate as from the commencement of 1971, then the penalties in the order before us must also be adequate because it is such a short time since the previous order was produced.

But what that argument fails to take into account is that there has been a considerable change in public opinion in the last 18 months or two years. There has also been a considerable change in opinion in the House, as evidenced by what happened on the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, in which an Amendment moved in Committee was subsequently accepted by the Government. It is evidenced, too, by the action which the Secretary of State for the Environment is taking about the dumping of toxic chemicals, for which he is providing considerably increased penalties in legislation which will be put through the House, with the co-operation of both sides of the House, on an emergency basis. There has been a considerable change of view in the last two years or so which ought to be reflected in this order. I agree with those who say that the present penalties are inadequate.

It might have been useful if the Minister had given more information about the monitoring equipment, for example, at various airports and its adequacy; whether he intends under Section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1971, to ask local airports which do not have such equipment to install it and similar facilities. He might, without transgressing on the rules of order, have said something about progress on Section 29 of the 1971 Act dealing with noise at airports. It seemed to many of us that the penalties in this Section were inadequate. We tried to press on the right hon. Gentleman in Committee and subsequently that the sanctions should be increased and while we did make some impression it was not as much as we would have wished.

In the light of our discussions on the 1971 Act and this evening, it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken sufficiently seriously the question of noise and the imposition of adequate penalties for flagrant breaches of the various regulations. I hope he will listen to what is being said because this is not a party matter but something about which all hon. Members are concerned, irrespective of whether they have an airport in or near their constituencies. There is genuine feeling that we ought to tighten up our noise prevention legislation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not persist with this order but will be willing to allow it to be negatived or take it back and produce another with much more in the way of adequate penalties.

10.47 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

I am not sure whether this order goes to the root of the trouble. It may have to do with the certification of aircraft noise and types and the noisiness of their effluxes, whereas what probably worries the public far more is how these things are used. It may be all very well to give a certificate for a certain engine for noise emitted under laboratory conditions, but those who live in London, on the lee end of what must be regarded as a single-runway aerodrome, which is always 280 or 100, know that it is most unpleasant to live at the landing end of a runway.

Over and over again these great monsters clamber across the sky in a "nose-up" posture, with a vast engine output, while all their appendages are dangling, across from the neighbourhood of this building through darkest Chelsea, Fulham and God knows where until finally they end up at runway 280.

This is the curse of London, and. I do not think the certification of any single type of engine will make the slightest difference; neither will the penalties. Some of the smaller aeroplanes in use by our domestic airlines produce more hideous noise than the monster Jumbos. The Jumbos are less offensive than some of the planes which fly, for example, between London and Manchester. The certification of the engine has very little to do with the nuisance caused to those who have to live underneath.

The real answer is not classification, not noise testing, not permissible decibel levels but allowing planes to come down almost vertically. Instead of hanging on sky hooks and scratching across the top of London they could come down in a 25 degree instead of a 2½ degree flight path.

I suspect that the order has nothing whatever to do with the improvement of the conditions in which the inhabitants of London have to live. We must have a much more radical approach to the approaches of London Airport.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)

I make no apology for speaking once again in the House on the subject of air noise which is a major and insufferable nuisance in the lives of thousands of my constituents, particularly those unfortunate enough to live within piercing earshot of Heathrow in Cranford and Harlington. As long ago as 1963 the Wilson Committee on Noise said that the aircraft noise nuisance at Heathrow was more than people should be allowed to tolerate. In 1963 there were 60,000 jet movements—take-offs and landings—a year. Today there are 300,000 movements, including over 200,000 jot movements.

On an earlier occasion I pointed out the enormous cost to the community around Heathrow arising from loss in house values and amenity. This brings me briefly to the question of soundproofing homes. I see the right hon. Gentleman raises his hands in horror, but I hope he will bear with me because this matter merits consideration.

I have previously criticised the utterly ineffective grants system for soundproofing. It applies only to homes built before 1965. There is no logic in this. Double-glazing has to be paid for in most instances by purchasers of houses built since that date, and I can see no reason why if the purchaser lives in a noise zone to which the grant applies he should be denied a grant for this purpose. Indeed, recent occupiers are most likely to be young married couples with young children who suffer greater harm to their health and development from this incessant racket than any other section of the community. I hope the Minister will remove this restriction.

I refer the Minister to another reason why so small a proportion of householders who are entitled to a grant take advantage of it. Having been sound-proofed, the house is liable to be rated by the local authority at a higher level. The occupier thus gains on the one hand, and on the other hand he might lose considerably more over the years because of the increase in his rates. Will the Government do something about this problem, possibly by enabling a householder, whose rates have increased simply by virtue of the installation of sound-proofing under the grants scheme, to claim a rebate of the rate increase from some central authority?

Sections 40 and 41 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, deprive individuals of the right they would otherwise have of taking legal action for nuisance against aircraft operators. It is therefore all the more incumbent on the Government to ensure that their legislation to control aircraft operators who irresponsibly exceed the permitted noise levels is matched by adequate penalties for those in breach of the orders. If the penalties are inadequate, the law and this House are brought into contempt. If the penalties are so negligible as to be derisory they will be shrugged off, much as many motor car owners are basically indifferent to fines for unlawful parking.

Mr. Noble

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman with attention and care, but this is nothing to do with this order. There is no question in this order of whether people are offending by coming in in a noisy fashion. It simply relates to whether they have a noise certificate.

Mr. Sandelson

I do not think that is a broad enough view at all of the Minister's own order. I do not want to develop this on legalistic lines, because I know there are others who are anxious to take part in this debate. I take the Minister's point and I shall be happy to discuss it with him elsewhere.

This order increases the penalties laid down in the principal order of 1970. The Government's awareness of the meagreness of the earlier penalties which have resulted in the Amendments that are contained in this order should have prompted them to a serious consideration of what, in the nature of the offences and in relation to the sort of offenders with whom we are dealing, would constitute genuinely deterrent penalties. Instead, they have simply tinkered with the figures as if they were adjusting them to take account of recent inflation in the case of domestic goods or something of that kind. The new penalties in the order are utterly risible and are no more likely to bring home to contraveners of the Act the gravity of the offence than were the earlier penalties in the 1970 order.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

Does it occur to my hon. Friend that this might be a printer's error and that either one or two noughts could have been missed off each of these figures?

Mr. Sandelson

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that intervention. One of the Minister's own hon. Friends a few moments ago described the order as a joke, and that would seem to be the consensus of opinion on both sides of the House tonight.

I do not wish to introduce any further note of farce into this debate than that to which the order itself gives rise, but I believe in some places in Britain a fine of £50 can be imposed on dog owners who permit their pets to foul the pavements. Is the Minister seriously suggesting that the equivalent fine is appropriate for a person who breaches the noise regulations and causes great distress to thousands of people in their own homes, often in the middle of the night? Air noise must be recognised for what it is, one of the most harmful forms of environmental pollution. Where it can be avoided, there is no excuse for it.

Last Friday, the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the penalties that he proposed for offences involving the deposit of waste. The penalties to he embodied in that Bill are realistic. They are a clear warning to would be offenders, and they will have a genuine deterrent value. I suggest that the Minister for Trade should take a more realistic look at the penalties in this order. He will receive our congratulations and those of the general public if he comes back with a different scale of penalties.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

The point has been made clearly by a number of hon. Members that, as much as anything else, aircraft noise is concerned more with the way that aeroplanes are flown than with the tabs that one sticks on their certification. It occurs to me to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade again whether he will consider the establishment of mobile measuring points at airports. In vain is the snare set in sight of the bird. Everyone in aviation knows that airline pilots know when to make their aircraft noisy and when not to.

My right hon. Friend has been rather unfairly attacked. He has a good record in dealing with this subject. He has tackled resolutely the problem of aircraft noise, especially that resulting from night jet flights, in a way which has not necessarily pleased everyone. No one can say that he has been inactive.

We are right to be concerned about this problem. If the Government are faced with either moving noise away from people or eliminating it altogether, should not we choose the latter option? If we do, is the siting of airports at places like Foulness as important as spending a fraction of the cost on a deliberate attempt to eliminate aircraft noise?

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) asked whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) would be using his blunderbuss to charge round the Chiltern Hundreds. I offer a word of caution. If blunderbusses are to be used in relation to aircraft noise, we should try to aim as accurately as possible with those rather inaccurate weapons.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) mentioned the Concorde. I suggest that it should not be singled out for exceptional treatment. Flying sub-sonically, it is an ordinary aircraft. It should not be expected to make more or less noise or to conform more or less diligently to noise levels than any other aircraft.

There is little doubt that approach is the more anti-social noise than that of fly-over. This has been raised in this House many times. I was in Windsor twice last week, and the noise of aircraft coming in on a low-angle glide path is clearly about the most appalling form of pollution by aircraft noise.

Finally, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend one question about the original Statutory Instrument and the draft order before us tonight. This is not meant in any way facetiously. Article 7(b) includes the phrase, not exceeding £200 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months. If B.O.A.C., for instance, offends against the order and a sentence of six months imprisonment is passed, who in B.O.A.C. will be sent to prison?

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

I should like to introduce a rather different note. I ask the Minister to withdraw the order and to include in the next order some Government support for those manufacturers who adopt a more constructive approach to the problem. I recommend that the Minister should seriously consider what the RB211 has already achieved in this direction. He must know that the RB211 has got a Mark 2, which will be a tremendous improvement on the Mark 1 which is itself a remarkable improvement on all aero engines known today. The right hon. Gentleman must also know that the production of the Mark 2 by Rolls-Royce depends substantially on the sale and commercial viability of the Mark 1 in the TriStar.

I contend that the Government, if they are serious about the problem, might look at it from this point of view rather than adopt what appears to me a punitive approach. They must know that the ability to produce the Mark 2 will require a good deal of finance in terms of research and development. There is no doubt in the minds of the engineers that it can be done. This is an admirable lead not only in terms of anti-pollution, but in the production of something essentially British. I appeal to the Minister to discuss this matter with the engineers responsible for the production of the engine. If the Government are serious —I want to believe that they are—they should take constructive steps in this direction rather than penalise those who are using the air.

We must agree that there is a certain amount of inevitability about the use of the air. We just cannot stop using it. I am not convinced that whatever penalties we apply they will be enforced because their enforcement will require such a large technical staff, and the finance involved will be considerable. I suggest that the money can be better spent by looking at the problem from the point of view of those who can produce the kind of aero engine which will give us the anti-pollutive effects which we desire without all this monitoring about which we have heard tonight.

I ask the Minister to look at what the people concerned have already done in this direction and to examine what they claim they can do. It might be that in that direction the Government will succeed far more than in the puny order which they have brought before the House tonight.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

First, I should like to take up the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) that people who install double glazing in their homes should not, in consequence, have to pay higher rates.

In principle, his wish on this point has already been met. In a court decision, a year or two ago, a judge held that sound-proofing a house in an area suffering from aircraft noise was analagous to a repair rather than to an improvement in the sense that it was restoring the house to the status quo before the aircraft noise arrived, so to speak, and that, therefore, increased rates should not be payable. This decision is not widely enough known, either by the general public or by district valuers. If it were, many people who are now paying additional rates would not have to do so.

My right hon. Friend said that the order was purely procedural, but every speaker so far has been aware that behind it lies a most acute social problem which is causing misery, and in some cases ill- health, as was demonstrated in an article in the Lancet six or nine months ago, to large numbers of people.

My right hon. Friend has replied to all the letters that I have sent him on behalf of Twickenham constituents and has shown himself very sympathetic. In this vexed problem of aircraft noise, he has shown more effective concern than any of his predecessors, particularly in his decision to ban night jet take-offs from Heathrow, which was widely welcomed in my constituency and around, and which his predecessors had failed to do, despite being requested to do so. Likewise, the Government's decision to site the third London airport at Foulness has been warmly welcomed.

But I hope that my right hon. Friend will not rest on his laurels, but will regard what has already been done in this field as only a beginning. In particular, I hope that in future more teeth will be put into these orders, in the shape of fines that really hurt. The fines which we have heard about tonight sound about as effective and about as disproportionate as, for example, the £2 fine for causing obstruction on a main road, when thousands of people may have been held up for five or ten minutes each. This House has been inclined to set maximum fines too low over a wide field, and this is another example.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will try to obtain international agreement on the use of quieter aircraft engines. This should not be as difficult as it might sound, There are after all only four major aircraft engine manufacturers in the world—ourselves, the Americans, the French and the Russians.

The Minister said in reply to a Question recently that considerable sums have been spent on research in this country into quieter aircraft engines. One hopes that that money will be put to good use and that any certification will also be backed by a system of financial inducements to aircraft operators to operate quieter aircraft engines, so that a noisy aircraft landing at an airport would have to pay a much higher landing fee—and I mean "much" higher—than a quieter aircraft. Possibly the differential coming from noisy aircraft could be used to relieve the rates in the surrounding areas.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. Philip Whitehead (Derby, North)

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) appeared to be saying, if I may borrow a phrase from P. G. Wodehouse, that, though he was not disgruntled with the Statutory Instrument, he was not exactly "gruntled" with it either. That is the overall view of his hon. Friends and, expressed in somewhat sharper terms, it is also the view of hon. Members on this side.

The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), whose reputation as a prankster still lingers in Derby, and who knows a good joke when he sees one, has described the penalties in the order as a joke. I should have thought that they were rather a poor joke. His suggestion of fines a hundred times the size of those provided, far from being extreme, was if anything an understatement.

Two or three years ago I had to arrange interviews with a number of pilots, admittedly mostly on charter airlines, all of whom were derisory about the provisions at airports for monitoring aircraft noise and about the extent to which the E.P.N.dB. count could be exceeded simply by the angle at which the plane was taking off. To what extent does the Minister consider that the monitoring facilities under the parent Instrument, particularly paragraphs 13 and 14 of it, are effective? How many prosecutions have there been of aircraft and proprietors of airlines who have been caught avoiding the regulations which now exist?

I suggest that, in considering the parent Instrument, we are rapidly approaching the time when the existing noise levels applying to the present generation of jets will have to be revised. The existing levels are, at best, only a poor minimum, and the level of 108 perceived noise decibels for take-off and landing may be inadequate in relation to the lifetime of the present generation of jets that are in service. These jets will remain in service for the rest of the 'seventies and may need to be phased out from the busier urban airports.

Proposals of this sort have been advanced in the United States for urban as opposed to country airports. Although the United States has a chaotic system of airport regulations—the F.A.A. does not have anything near the British regulations—this phasing out proposal has been made, particularly for older jets which only just come within the existing regulations. This point should be considered because if the present regulations were properly applied, many of these aeroplanes might soon not come within them.

I endorse what has been said about the new generation of jet engines and the extent to which the Government should be supporting these developments. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) mentioned the RB211, in which the House knows I have a direct constituency interest. But it is not merely the RB211 that is involved, although this aircraft is providing double the thrust of the present generation of aircraft with something like half the noise level.

Looking forward to the wide-bodied aircraft of the next generation, it would be a tragedy if the left hand of the Government in this matter did not know what the right was doing. The right hon. Gentleman must be sure that in his section of the Department he and his colleagues are putting the maximum pressure on their counterparts in another section to see that the right steps are taken, particularly in such matters as funding and the development of a quieter generation of aeroplane engines.

I am speaking not merely of the RB211 but, for example, of the M 45H engine for the German VFW aeroplane which it is said lays down a noise footprint about one-sixth that of some of the twin—engine aeroplanes that are now flying. It would be a tragedy if we did nothing about the existing generation of jet aeroplanes during the period when they must remain in service.

It is clear that the cost of engine retrofits for many aeroplanes, and particularly for the largest jets, is prohibitive, certainly for most airlines. However, it is not out of the question to approach airlines to see whether or not alternative approach and take-off procedures could be adopted.

I commend to the Minister a study which appeared recently in Airline Management relating to North-Western airlines in the United States. By altering the angle of take-off and landing significantly, for an additional cost of about 1 million dollars in fuel the airline has been able to achieve a significant reduction in noise levels in take-off and approach. The converse is also true. Many airlines have been altering the angle of take-off and approach but not to achieve minimum noise levels. They are doing this to dodge the regulations and wherever possible to save on fuel.

For these reasons the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw this Instrument until such time as he has studied these various matters with a view to increasing the derisory, ludicrous and ineffective penalties.

11.19 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

I am brought to my feet by the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who referred to aircraft flying over darkest Chelsea. I take it that he has been in my constiency recently and seen the performance of the street lighting. Perhaps he finds it not too good during the night, but if he came during the day he would be astonished at the performance of the street lights.

In Chelsea our ambition is not to be called darkest Chelsea but to be quietest Chelsea. We consider that the appointment of a constituent of mine as Chairman of this important body is a very good omen. It hope that we shall not be disappointed.

My right hon. Friend is looking restive, so I shall be brief.

Mr. Noble

Very restive.

Mr. Worsley

Would my right hon. Friend say a little more about international agreement? The whole question of noise certification depends on effective international agreement.

Second following the remarks of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), on the question of how aircraft fly rather than the question of noise certification, it has always seemed to me that if only we could bring in aircraft on a very slightly steeper glide-path this would make all the difference over central London. I ask my right hon. Friend to address his mind to the fact that it is 3 degrees at present, but if it were 4, 5 or 6 degrees, still within perfectly safe margins, this would make all the difference.

Finally, we have two runways, not one, at London Airport. It would make an enormous difference to my constituents if they knew, perhaps on alternate days, whether one or other of the runways was to be used. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility that there should be, as a matter of announced precedent, one or other of the runways used on alternate days, so that at least we knew when we would be quietest Chelsea and when darkest Chelsea.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

May I first—[Interruption.]—I do not know why the Minister is complaining. The debate finishes at 11.43 p.m., and not at 11.30 p.m., as he seems to suppose.

I take issue with the Minister on his intervention during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson). When my hon. Friend was talking about noise, the Minister seemed to imply that this was only a matter of certification. But I draw his attention to Regulation 4(b) of the original regulations, which is being amended and under which amendment penalties are being laid down. It not only provides that an aircraft ought to have a certification but also that the conditions subject to which the certificate is issued are complied with. That clearly brings into the ambit of the debate the question of noise. I am sure that the Minister is fair enough to acknowledge that his intervention was misplaced in that case.

Where they have doubted the value of this order, hon. Members opposite have taken the point that it is the flyer who is responsible and not the aeroplane. I draw their attention to Section 29(1) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1971, under which again the right hon. Gentleman has the power, by a notice, to provide that it shall be the duty of a person who is the operator to secure the taking-off or landing in a certain way so as to minimise noise. If the Minister were to make use of that power, a great deal of benefit would be accorded to the community.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that on the Civil Aviation Act his Department consistently underestimated the question of penalties. On a number of Sections, for example, Section 21, it was Opposition Amendments which caused them to be raised. I believe that the Government have similarly underestimated the gravity of this issue and underestimated the fines laid down. The fines laid down under paragraph 7 of Article 14 are miserably inadequate. We do not doubt the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity in wishing to avoid a form of environmental pollution. But in dealing with environmental pollution, what we want from the Government is not only the reaction to dramatic events such as the dumping of cyanide and the spillage of oil, but also the steady, consistent application of penalties. In the penalties that the right hon. Gentleman has laid down in the order, he is way out of step with the Department of the Environment. I invite the Minister to take the order back, look at it again and bring in a better and more fitting one.

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

I apologise for having missed the early part of the debate. I wanted to take up points put so far, and to qualify one point made about angle of approach and take-off. There are safety factors here, and the House would be misinterpreting public opinion if it thought the public, in order to obtain peace and quiet, wanted pilots to engage in noise separation practices which might conceivably have other dangers, namely that an aircraft might be forced down into a highly-populated area.

Among the points I wish to stress is the need for a much more serious attempt at international agreement. I went with the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) a year ago to hearings in New York over possible introduction of noise regulations in the guise of health requirements, which were designed, in effect, to prevent Concorde from landing in New York. But the thing which I think struck the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East, and it certainly struck me, was the wild passion on the matter.

The Federal Aviation Authority was very anxious that there should be no attempt to change the civil aviation requirements by a sidewind, as the lawyers put it, by using the health regulations. But there was no doubt that this was of tremendous political potential. One or two highly important political people, engaged in their own campaigns, were unready to see us or speak to us because they thought it would be unpopular to be associating with anyone promoting what was thought to be a noisy aircraft.

My second point concerns the enormous importance of quieter engines, such as the RB211. When we were considering the RB211, before it was authorised, I was impressed by an American manufacturer who came to see me and said that opinion about aircraft noise was growing so rapidly in the United States that before existing aircraft were taken out of service there would be public pressure for retro-fits of the new, quieter engines and they would create a possible market for the high by-pass ratio engines like the RB211 instead of the existing types because the public were not prepared to accept noise levels of existing jets.

Just as the Secretary of State for the Environment is making grants available to clear up certain derelict areas in the country in order to create employment and at the same time to beautify the environment, so there is an aircraft parallel here. It would be open to the Department of Trade and Industry to improve the environment and promote employment by stimulating the development of the quieter engine, perhaps further work on short take-off and landing and, indeed, for all I know, airships for longer-term potential.

I wish finally to draw attention to an element which the House very often ignores in these matters, and that is that it is not the change in technology that determines the future but the change in public attitudes. Consider the period from 1962 to 1972 in which the Concorde was developed, a matter in which I have a constituency interest. It was a quite astonishing engineering achievement which was much documented in the Press and which allowed the world to be cut in half in terms of travel. But I am utterly persuaded that over that 10-year period something much more significant occurred and that was that public attitudes towards noise and speed altered. This was not chronicled to anything like the same extent as the chronicling of the engineering achievements.

Therefore, in presenting the slightly higher fines which the order provides, the Minister must know in his heart that he is only scratching at the surface of a far larger problem which, if we ignore it, will become such a major factor that public pressure will build up to the point where it damages every interest we had, including employment, population distribution, and so on. With that in mind, even if he is not able to accede to the request to withdraw the order, I hope he will recognise that he is doing something very small tonight and that a great deal more will have to be done in far wider areas before this situation is met.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Noble

In moving this order the House will have noticed that I took only 1½ minutes. This is a purely procedural order. We have had a most interesting debate. I have enjoyed it all, and—I am certain—so has my right hon. Friend who in due course will be taking on the Civil Aviation Authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) said that, it was very nice to have a constituent who was taking on the Civil Aviation Authority; well, he has another, answering the debate!

I have listened with real interest and with a great deal of sympathy to almost everything that has been said. One or two hon. Members have been kind enough to suggest that in the months that I have been responsible for civil aviation I have spent probably more time than any other Minister looking, listening and attending to these problems. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is quite right; there are changes in public opinion, and we have to pay attention to them because they matter a great deal.

But it is none the less true that the debate has been about a subject well away from the order that we are considering. The major issue of penalties for noise has been raised; but in the order we are not considering penalties for people who infringe the noise limits set for aircraft landing or taking off, or revving up engines too fast at the wrong speed; the order has nothing to do with them. The penalties in the order are for people who do not have or contravene the appropriate noise certificate.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Craig-ton (Mr. Millan) and the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) said that I am wrong, but I have checked five times with the Official's Box that I am right about this. I am certain that my officials are right. We are not talking about contravention by pilots of regulations concerning the number of E.P.N.dB.s at which aircraft can take off and operate at different heights; we are talking about people who have not got or contravene noise certificates. These penalties have been brought in in order to be all-square with the people who break the rules of safety laid down by the Air Registration Board. I should have thought that the House would accept that as being comparable and reasonable.

If we had been talking about the people who make too much noise either because of faulty operation of the aircraft or otherwise, I still think that much of what has been said in the debate would have been very wide of the mark. People have talked about flagrant abuses. Over the last two or three years the number of cases in which noise has been recorded as unduly high has been dropping steadily. The record at each monitoring airport—and over 99 per cent. of the aircraft are monitored at these airports—has been dropping steadily, month by month, and certainly year by year. So we are achieving something. There is no question of people flagrantly abusing regulations which this House has asked airlines and pilots to adopt. It is stretching the imagination too far to talk about it as being in the same category as leaving hundreds of tons of cyanide on tips, or even 50,000 tons of oil in the Channel. The number of contraventions amount to under 0.1 per cent. in most months.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) asked about Concorde. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) made the point, quite rightly, that Concorde should be considered as an ordinary aircraft. In due course, when international agreement is made about these aircraft, I hope that we will not have to make some special arrangement for Concorde. That in itself would be a denigration of the extraordinary achievement of British technologists in bringing it about.

I had a good deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). I am certain that when he was buzzing about the night skies during the war he was thoroughly conscious that the noise he was making was some comfort to the people down below because they hoped he was keeping worse noises away from them. I am sorry that he should now be woken often at night by aircraft on their more normal peacetime operations.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Normal, but with obnoxious noise.

Mr. Noble

I quite agree. The Department and the Government as a whole are giving maximum support to every type of investigation whether research into engine types, into different landing methods, or into different routes to be flown by night. We are spending an enormous amount of time and effort in trying to reduce the appalling burden of aircraft noise in the area as a whole.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) thought a £200 fine was a joke. I know our salaries have gone up a little, but I still think it is quite a significant maximum fine for the sort of offence we are discussing, not for some of the other offences that hon. Members hoped or thought we might be discussing. A maximum of £25,000 would be totally out of keeping with the point we are discussing.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop


Mr. Noble

I have very little time, and we have had many speakers.

Mr. Sandelson

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong about the scope of the order.

Mr. Noble

I have asked for a long time, and I am assured that I am right. If I am wrong I will apologise to the House. I cannot do more than to continually ask and be told.

The hon. Member for Craigton said it was a short time since the last order. That is true, but it is not the basis of my argument, which is that I believe that in this case it is right. We are taking noise extremely seriously, and have been doing so for a very long time.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) talked about Sound-proofing. This has no direct relevance to the order, but, as he knows, I have spent a great deal of time in all the constituencies around London airport. We have examined the problem, and I hope soon to be able to announce some help. I realise how serious the problem is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East talked about mobile measuring points. In certain cases these might help, but we are getting fixed points over a very large number of areas, and I doubt very much whether pilots can know exactly what is happening and adjust their behaviour accordingly.

The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) mentioned the RB211, and was right to say that that generation of aircraft engines is very much less noisy than those we have at the moment. I do not think he can seriously feel the Government have not done what they could to encourage production of that engine as at least part of their move against noise problems.

Mr. Dan Jones

I was hoping they would do a little more.

Mr. Noble

That is always a hope, and we always hope that we may be able to do a bit more on aircraft noise.

Mr. Dan Jones

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Noble

The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) was correct to say that in dealing with noise on approach one is running into very critical safety problems. Since I am not a technical expert, I would not say we have all the answers right yet. We have to balance the question of safety against the question of noise and make certain that, if we err, we err on the side of safety.

Mr. Sandelson

The burden of our criticism is directed to the penalties that are laid down in the new order. Would the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to explain how he comes to embody in the order such derisory penalties?

Mr. Noble

If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House when I began my speech, he would not have missed that point.

Mr. Sandelson

I was here.

Mr. Noble

I looked for the hon. Gentleman and did not see him. The penalties the hon. Gentleman spoke of are not those which are affected by the order.

Mr. Mason

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that I was not on that point?

Mr. Noble

I think the right hon. Gentleman did not specify what penalties he thought were inadequate. All his hon. Friends who spoke about noise——

Mr. Mason

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We cannot allow this to go on. The right hon. Gentleman is not addressing himself——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. The point of order will run the debate out.

Mr. Noble

Hon. Gentlemen have been addressing themselves to the amount of noise an aircraft makes in a particular take-off or landing, and that has nothing whatever to do with this order. We do not intend to rest on our laurels——

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of Proceedings on the Motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER, put the Question pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) (Amendment) Order 1972, a which was laid before this House February, be approved.