HC Deb 06 January 2004 vol 416 cc153-4
10. Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op)

What steps he is taking to reduce aircraft noise at regional airports. [145874]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty)

Our preference is that local solutions should be devised for local problems wherever possible. The White Paper—"The Future of Air Transport"—sets out the basic framework within which local controls should operate., and as soon as parliamentary time permits, we will legislate to strengthen the powers of airport operators to combat noise.

Mr. Reed

I welcome my hon. Friend's answer. I am sure that he is aware that night-time noise at East Midlands airport is a major concern for a large number of my constituents. This is a complex issue, and much of the work being done by the Loughborough research centre at the university shows that the number of people awakened by aircraft noise at night is not as high as we might suspect. However, a large number of my constituents are concerned about this. Will my hon. Friend set out in greater detail what stringent noise controls are to be introduced to ensure that recent improvements are built on, so that the many people who feel strongly about this issue are reassured about the future growth of the airport?

Mr. McNulty

My hon. Friend will know that a fairly stringent package of noise constraint measures already exists. At this stage, in the light of the publication of the White Paper, it is entirely up to East Midlands airport to come forward with proposals on how it expects to grow in the context of that package. I repeat that we want to secure a local solution wherever possible. In addition, bullet point 4 of paragraph 3.11 of the White Paper states that we will consider national designation if there is evidence of a major noise problem not being dealt with adequately through local controls. In the first instance, however, it is up to East Midlands airport to respond to what we have said in the White Paper.

Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the situation at Coventry airport? There is currently no regular passenger service from there, but Thompsonfly has now announced that it intends to launch a budget airline operation from there in March. This has been done without any local consultation or consent, yet the service will rely heavily on regular night flying. This will represent a considerable environmental onslaught on many of my constituents. What powers does the Department have to help us to deal with this situation?

Mr. McNulty

In the first instance, we would seek a local solution as any airport develops. In the last resort, however, if we feel that local solutions are not working, we can designate them nationally and take a far more stringent and legislatively focused reaction to noise and other environmental issues. That is a last resort, however, and we urge people to secure a solution locally in the first instance.