HC Deb 28 January 1997 vol 289 cc155-6 3.35 pm
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South-East)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to control the level of aircraft noise at airports and aerodromes; and for connected purposes. This is a modest Bill which responds to concerns about noise levels expressed by those who live near airports. It cannot be a substitute for Government regulations, which many hon. Members have pressed the Government to introduce. The Bill is about research.

Governments across Europe are concerned about the effects of noise pollution. Aircraft landings and take-offs cause the greatest amount of noise—and at some airports there are landings every two to three minutes. The impact of aircraft engine emissions on the environment and on health should not be underestimated. Many residents complain of ill health, which they attribute to living near an airport or under a flight path. The disturbance to residents caused by night-time flying is well documented. Night-time flying is one of the most obvious causes of noise pollution—many hon. Members receive regular correspondence on that subject—and can cause a great deal of disturbance and inconvenience to sleeping residents.

This Bill enables the Civil Aviation Authority to carry out research into, first, the use of hushkits; and, secondly, technology, including aircraft computers and so on. As well as examining ways of making hushkits more effective, it is important to conduct research into alternative forms of noise reduction.

In order to enable older aircraft to meet the chapter 2 standards, it was necessary to fit them with engine mufflers known as hushkits. They are relatively inexpensive, but they do not reduce the level of chemical emissions from aircraft engines. There is also a growing feeling in aviation that hushkits will not, by themselves, produce a satisfactory reduction in noise pollution.

Many aircraft that are currently classed as chapter 2 will be upgraded to chapter 3 by fitting them with hushkits. Unfortunately, many of the hushkits will provide only the bare minimum of noise reduction that is required in order to satisfy chapter 3 rules, while some of the new generation of aircraft are so far inside the restrictions that it almost makes a mockery of those rules.

Luton airport is currently developing a new computer system for aircraft that will enable pilots to monitor the level and direction of an aircraft's noise emissions, and allow them to alter the flight path so as to reduce the impact on residential areas.

Some companies replace old engines with modern ones which not only reduce noise pollution more effectively, but cut the amount of chemicals emitted. However, the fitting of new engines is more costly, and many companies prefer to use the cheaper hushkits. There is a significant difference between the level of emissions produced by planes that simply have hushkits fitted, and planes that have new engines. That has been acknowledged by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Transport.

The Bill has two aims: first, to raise the basic level of chapter 3 standards, and secondly, to encourage new research to be carried out by the CAA and the Department of Transport into ways of reducing noise pollution.

It must be stressed that the Bill is a short-term measure only, designed to alleviate some of the problems that residents living near Britain's small airports face day and night from older aircraft with poor noise pollution controls. It is not and should not be a substitute for a Government Bill to deal with the problems of noise pollution around all Britain's airports.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jim Cunningham, Mr. Brian David Jenkins, Mr. James Pawsey, Mr. Bill Olner, Mr. John Butcher, Mr. Robert Ainsworth, Mr. Jon Trickett, Mr. Stephen Timms, Mr. Jimmy Wray, Dr. Norman A. Godman, Mr. Geoffrey Robinson and Sir Dudley Smith.