HC Deb 08 April 1974 vol 872 cc11-3
13. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will ban all jet take-offs from Heathrow airport by night.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Night jet departures from Heathrow in the summer months from April to October are already severely restricted. A total ban would pose serious problems but the possibility of applying restrictions in the winter months is being considered.

Mr. Jessel

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is the summer months when people object most because that is when they have most windows open at night? Is he aware that it is intolerable that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people are disturbed at night so that a few hundred people can derive the benefit of cheap night fares? Is he aware that my constituents warmly welcome the progress made by the last Government in cutting by five-sixths the number of night flights, from 1,638— [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I am only reading the figures. The last Government cut the number of night flights from 1,638 in the summer months of 1971 to 261 in the summer season of 1973. Cannot the present Government try to make further progress in the same direction?

Mr. Davis

This is a continuing process, as the hon. Gentleman will realise. It does not help his case when he tries to make rather small party points. The take-offs are permitted at present only in exceptional circumstances. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that last summer the number was reduced to 265. There are real difficulties in imposing a total ban, as he knows. He is well aware of the exceptional circumstances which cause these night flights.

Mr. Molloy

Is my hon. Friend aware that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) has said, the volume of complaints about planes leaving and arriving at Heathrow has increased considerably in the past 12 months? Can he look into the reasons for this? Will he also consider having discussions with the local authorities in the area to see what help they can give, together with him, in trying to alleviate the problems of certain sectors of the community who are grievously affected by this noise?

Mr. Davis

The matter is under constant review. I have decided to confer not only with the local authorities concerned—this is an on-going process—but with the London Boroughs Association, which has a real interest.

Mr. Heseltine

Does not the Minister realise that a large number of people living in West London will be greatly dismayed by the way he treats the question of aircraft noise? Will he now tell the House why he is not prepared to let hon. Members know details of the reviews he is carrying out of Maplin, upon which the only possible method of alleviating noise in West London depends, when we are told by other members of the Government that it is necessary to give all possible information for a full discussion before decisions are made?

Mr. Davis

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. When the hon. Gentleman suggests that anything I have said this afternoon has dismayed people, he should realise that I have in no way departed from his policy in dealing with these matters. As I understand the position, he, too, consulted. I propose that consultation shall be an on-going process throughout.

Mr. Molloy

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Because of my hon. Friend's reasoned response I have decided not to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows that that is a waste of time, which will be remembered against him.