HC Deb 07 June 1976 vol 912 cc901-3
15. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he is taking to reduce aircraft noise near Heathrow.

Mr. Clinton Davis

We keep noise abatement measures under constant review and every effort is made to secure a progressive reduction in aircraft noise.

Mr. Jessel

Will the hon. Gentleman act with greater urgency in view of the reports today of a higher level of incidence of mental illness in the vicinity of Heathrow? Does he accept that it is intolerable that tens of thousands of people can be disturbed at night so that a few hundred others can get marginally cheaper foreign holidays? Does he accept that there is a strong feeling in favour of a total ban on all night flights?

Mr. Davis

I will, of course, consider very carefully the reports to which the hon. Gentleman has referred and which appeared in the national Press today. He may accept my undertaking on that. But he knows that the problem of night jet restrictions is formidable. The Government are committed to the progressive reduction of night noise disturbance, and the policy study upon which we have embarked is designed to formulate a long-term strategy for the achievement of that objective.

Mr. Molloy

Will my hon. Friend consider carrying on with the proposition, which he himself inaugurated a few years ago, of consulting from time to time those London boroughs, such as Ealing, that are gravely affected? From those earlier discussions many useful suggestions emerged on which my hon. Friend acted. Will he reinstate such procedures?

Mr. Davis

There is no need for me to reinstitute them, because they are activated constantly. My hon. Friend may rely on the fact that during the policy study to which I have referred the local authorities will be fully consulted.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the change of take-off route over Heathrow, which was the subject of experiment 12 months ago, is not now causing additional nuisance to people living in north-west London in general?

Mr. Davis

No, I am not so satisfied. Again, this is a difficult problem, and if we simply transfer a problem to another area, that is not very satisfactory. There are no easy solutions here, but the Government are looking carefully at, for example, the division of the Mole Valley route, which concerns a number of hon. Members, and consultations about that will be embarked upon in July. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about north-west London, but I am not sure that he has a remedy available any more than I have immediately.

Mr. Buchan

Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that this problem seriously affects not only London boroughs but many other constituencies, including mine? When he looks at the general strategy for dealing with noisy aircraft, will he also look at other remedies open to him, particularly the provision of more generous grants for the soundproofing of housing in the neighbourhood of airports?

Mr. Davis

In the very recent past, we have substantially increased the noise-insulation grant. I agree that this problem is not confined to Heathrow but affects many airports throughout the country.

Mr. Michael Morris

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a rumour that part of his strategy involves resurrecting the third London airport? Will he confirm that that forms no part of the strategy?

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman must not be so alert to rumours. He will be aware that the consultative document relating to airports in the London region has already been issued, and another consultative document dealing with airports in the region will be issued in the next few weeks. There will then follow the most clear consultations with local authorities and other environmental groups throughout the country—including airlines—in order to try to determine a national airports strategy, something which the Conservative Government singularly failed to do.

Mr. Tebbit

Would the hon. Gentleman like now to take advantage of his second chance to answer my earlier question without being either petty or churlish and confirm that the Government have no intention of prohibiting noisier aircraft by law and no proposals to give incentives to operators to introduce quieter aircraft to replace their noisier fleets?

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman's original question, which I well understood, was not designed to be particularly helpful. He knows that studies are being undertaken into these matters. It is no help in trying to resolve a difficult problem affecting many thousands of people if he behaves in a rather bad-tempered way.