HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc790-1

Lords amendment: No. 472, in page 157, line 13, leave out ("contain") and insert ("consist of").

Mr. Hill

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 473 to 479.

Mr. Hill

The amendments clarify what is expected from the mayor's strategy so as better to reflect the intentions of the White Paper. We have defined what the strategy may consist of, removed the separate reference to the spatial development strategy and ensured that the Environment Agency is consulted when the mayor prepares or revises his strategy. We have provided that the mayor's strategy may contain information about the impact of noise on those living and working in London.

In response to Opposition amendments, "ambient noise" now includes transport rather than transport services and the mayor may include other descriptions of noise that he considers to be appropriate. There is provision for including in the strategy noise caused by aircraft and traffic and noise from a fixed industrial source. The White Paper commitment was that the mayor would not deal with neighbour noise and we have ensured that local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive will continue to deal with matters using powers under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.

There are two additional provisions. We have placed a duty on any person providing air navigation services to consult the mayor, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, when the provision of those services would have a significant adverse effect on the level or distribution of noise in Greater London or any part of Greater London.

The duty is limited to air navigation services only so far as they amount to the lateral or vertical alteration or addition of routes used regularly by civil aircraft before landing at, or after departing from, any aerodrome; or substantial alterations to the procedures used for managing the arrival of civil aircraft at aerodromes. It does not apply in relation to tactical decisions necessary in day-to-day air traffic control. The mayor will also be added to the list of organisations to be consulted by aerodromes designated under section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.

Mr. Woodward

I have a simple question about amendment No. 478 for the Minister. As so many other hon. Members wish to speak, doubtless his officials will be given the chance to scramble some answer to him. Under the amendment, the mayor will have the right to be consulted on new flights and flight paths and be allowed to give his opinion. Opinions are all well and good, as we in the House know, but the crucial question is, what force will his opinion have on the air navigation services?

Mr. McDonnell

I echo that question. It would be helpful to have clarification of the weight that will be given

to the mayor's opinion on this matter. From my constituency perspective, I wholeheartedly welcome the amendment, which will give us the opportunity for further debate about the impact of noise on many of our constituents in west London. It will give us a further lever to influence the direction and flow of aircraft and reduce the impact of noise on our communities as a result of that. I hope that it will also allow us to confirm some of the issues that we need to debate in connection with any further planning proposals that the British Airport Authority makes for Heathrow and a potential third runway.

Mr. Brake

I suspect that the same question will be asked three times, so that will save the Minister time. I echo what other hon. Members have said: I am pleased that the impact of noise on those who live and work in Greater London will appear in the ambient noise strategy and that aircraft noise will be included in that. However, the Minister must clarify exactly what he means when he says that any person providing air navigation services must consult the mayor. Residents in south-west London are glad that the mayor will be consulted, but if an increasing number of flights still goes over their heads at all times of the day and night, that will not give them much satisfaction.

Mr. Hill

First, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) for welcoming the provisions. I am aware that he is closely concerned with the issues and that a consultation on runway alterations has taken place locally. That is exactly the sort of issue that the mayor and the Assembly would be expected to deal with in due course.

The hon. Members for Witney (Mr. Woodward) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) asked what force the mayor's opinion will have. The simple truth is that the mayor has no absolute powers in this matter. However, he or she will be an influential person, personally elected by 7 million Londoners. It is therefore entirely predictable and reasonable that the mayor's representations will be seriously taken into account by the relevant authorities. It remains the case, however, that it is an opinion in a process of consultation, and consultation means that views have to be taken into account before a final decision is made.

To some extent, the question is akin to the sort of question that constituents might ask about representations made by Members of Parliament—I am certainly often asked about the force of my representation. We cannot always quantify the force of our representation, but as individuals with a democratic mandate in our locality, we know that our representation is normally taken into account. The mayor represents a massive constituency and has a massive mandate, so his or her opinion will be seriously considered by the relevant authorities.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 473 to 481 agreed to.

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