HL Deb 29 June 1954 vol 188 cc95-7

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the withdrawal by amendment of Air Navigation Orders, of the right to obtain remedy from the courts, they will impose upon aircraft manufacturers special conditions so as to confine to a reasonable standard the noise of aircraft under test in the course of production in order that the legitimate interests of owners and occupiers of neighbouring property are properly safeguarded.]


My Lords, for over thirty years a measure of immunity has been given in respect of actions for nuisance by reason of the flight of aircraft. This immunity was extended by an Order made under the Air Navigation Act, 1947, to cover actions in respect of noise caused by aircraft on the ground on Government aerodromes and on licensed aerodromes. The Air Navigation Order, 1954, extends this immunity to aerodromes on which repair and manufacture of aircraft is carried out.

The programme of rearmament which we have agreed to carry out makes the manufacture of modern jet aircraft essential in the national interest. Her Majesty's Government are aware, and the manufacturers themselves are aware, that this inevitably causes some inconvenience to those in the immediate vicinity of airfields. It is for that reason, as my right honourable friend the Minister of Supply said yesterday in another place, that a large sum of public money is now being expended on devising methods for muffling or screening the noise of aircraft. In addition to departmental investigations, experiments with this object in view are being carried out at the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Southampton and by the College of Aeronautics. The manufacturers have been carrying out on their own initiative a range of experiments and applying devices for the same purpose, involving considerable expenditure. The Government are pressing on with these experiments, which are beginning to produce results. They are prepared to consider further steps by way of imposing more restrictive regulations at any airfield where it may be in the public interest.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. The point I am a little doubtful of is whether the introduction of these regulations may have taken away from manufacturers the incentive to produce sound removers. I should be obliged if the noble Earl would say whether the position is that manufacturers are, in fact, pressing on with their experiments, and whether, if satisfactory results are not produced, say within twelve months, he would then consider the withdrawal of the Orders.


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, may I support the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, and ask the noble Earl to bear in mind that the statement made in another place yesterday, as I read it, was for long-term research rather than for research which is going to bear fruit in the near future. Could the noble Earl give some assurance that the manufacturers will take reasonable precautions in the near future when operating under the Order which is now under discussion.


My Lords, will the Minister also consider suggesting to his right honourable friend the advisability of making a statement that, unless results are achieved in the comparatively near future, the Order will be withdrawn? As the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, has said, there appears to be no financial incentive to manufacturers to find a solution to this problem.


My Lords, I think noble Lords can rest assured that there does remain a considerable incentive in this matter, quite apart from the pressure of the Minister himself. There is continual public pressure, and public pressure is not exclusively exercised through the Law Courts; it is exercised in other ways, too. I am afraid that I cannot give an undertaking that this Order will be withdrawn in twelve months. I must ask noble Lords to bear in mind that there is a conflict here between individual right and national interest, and we cannot pretend there is not. What I have said in the past—and I believe that I said it in discussion the other day—is that the most important thing is the readiness of Ministers to meet anyone who has a genuine complaint and to discuss any problem arising. I feel that, at the present time, that is the way in which the matter should be approached. I should like to say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Of course, the problem of the noise of aircraft is a long-term one; but I did say in my reply that results are beginning to bear fruit and are being applied immediately reasonable methods are found possible.