HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 cc1123-5

Lords amendment: No. 57, after Clause 61, insert: ,—(1) Where an airport is designated for the purposes of section 78 of the 1982 Act (regulation of noise and vibration from aircraft), the Secretary of State may, after consultation with the airport operator, by order require him—

  1. (a) to provide, maintain and operate such equipment as is specified in the order (in accordance with any instructions so specified) for the purpose of monitoring the movements, within an area so specified, of aircraft on flights to and from the airport, and
  2. (b) to make to the Secretary of State such reports as are so specified with respect to the movements monitored by the equipment in pursuance of paragraph (a), and to permit any person authorised by the Secretary of State for the purpose to inspect the equipment on demand at any time;
and it shall be the duty of the airport operator to comply with the requirements of the order. (2) Any reference in subsection (1) to the movements of aircraft shall be read as a reference to the routes taken by them measured by reference to both direction and height. (3) Subsection (9) and (10) of the said section 78 (enforcement) shall apply for the purposes of this section as if, in subsection (9) of that section, any reference to subsection (8) of that section were a reference to subsection (1) of this section.

Mr. Michael Spicer

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 85 and 91.

Mr. Spicer

The new clause enables the Secretary of State, after consultation with the airport operator, to impose on him a requirement to monitor the movement of aircraft—that is, their direction and height—on flights to and from the airport and to make reports. This will be done at the airport operator's expense, but it is a matter for the airport operator whether he chooses to cover the costs of installing and operating the monitoring system through airport user charges.

The new clause will enable compliance with the noise preferential routes to be more effectively monitored. That information will enable us to assist airlines in making greater efforts to keep to noise preferential routes. That, in turn, will make for the more effective limitation of aircraft noise and disturbance around designated airports. The enforcement of compliance will, of course, remain with the Government.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I welcome the new clause as one of great importance. Those of us with constituency interests in and around airports or the flight paths of aircraft continually receive complaints about aircraft noise and there has been a feeling that proper checking has not been taking place.

I hope that the Minister will confirm that helicopters, in particular, and not just fixed wing aircraft, will be covered by the provisions. Certainly in my constituency the biggest problem is the large number of complaints about helicopters not following the agreed preferred routes and not complying with the rules, but when we take the complaints up we are often told that the constituent is wrong abut where the helicopter was flying.

Provided that helicopters are covered, I believe that they must be, I welcome the help provided by the new clause in relation to monitoring, and so on, and I give it a warm welcome.

Mr. Steen

First, I must declare an interest in British Island Airways, which flies noisy planes that have been quietened by hush kits. I must also declare an interest in British Midland and in its subsidiary companies, Loganair and Manxair. There is considerable concern about the new clause. Noise is rather like security in that there is no limit to the amount of money that could be spent on abatement and safety.

Can the Minister give an undertaking that the clause will not be used to drive the smaller airlines, which often use older planes, out of business by insisting upon noise abatement equipment which is so expensive to install? I remind the Minister that British Island Airways was asked to install hush kits on its BAC 111 jets at a price of about £100,000 a plane, which added up to over £1 million for its fleet. According to the monitoring equipment, the actual noise on take-off is the same. The Secretary of State must not be persuaded to exercise the powers in this clause in such a way that he insists on more and more equipment being added to aircraft which will in theory make them quieter but which means that beyond the perimeter of the airport the sound to the public is exactly the same.

The clause gives the Secretary of State too much power which, in the wrong hands, could be exercised in the wrong way. Can the Minister give some reassurance to the smaller airlines, which cannot afford the mammoth expenditure that the state airlines can afford on new, hush-kitted planes, that they will get help from him if he insists on them increasing noise prevention?

The point must be made in the House that whereas the penalties on our airlines are considerable if they fly planes which go beyond certain noise levels, planes from Africa, for example, can continue to fly into Heathrow and into Gatwick even though they are noisier than the planes that our airlines are allowed to fly. I think particularly of the 707s, which our airlines are no longer allowed to fly but which Nigerian and Cyprus airlines will be allowed to fly for another two years. That is discrimination against our airlines.

Perhaps in his reply the Minister can say something about his wish not to discriminate against our smaller airlines or in favour of Third world countries which are today flying noisy planes into Heathrow and Gatwick.

Mr. Michael Spicer

I shall be happy to discuss that matter in detail with my hon. Friend. We have had an Adjournment debate on the subject initiated by him or perhaps by my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Edward du Cann). It would be out of order to deal with the matter now because the new clause deals specifically with compliance with noise preferential routes.

I am grateful for what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has said. I have felt strongly about the matter for some time. It seems nonsensical to have noise preferential routes and to have no means of ensuring that they are adhered to. Although costs will be involved, I am grateful for the support of the hon. Gentleman on this important new clause. I can give the assurance the hon. Gentleman sought that helicopters are included.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

Forward to