HL Deb 10 March 1965 vol 264 cc73-8

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to intervene to repeat a Statement which has been made by my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation in another place about the Government's proposals for alleviating the disturbance from aircraft noise.

After reviewing the measures currently being taken, we have come to the conclusion that some further assistance should be offered to residents in the vicinity of Heathrow. The volume of traffic, particularly jet traffic, at Heathrow is far greater than at any other aerodrome in this country and is bound to increase. We have therefore decided to accept the principle of the recommendation, made in the Report of Sir Alan Wilson's Committee on Noise, about the soundproofing of rooms in private dwellings.

Grants of 50 per cent., subject to a maximum of £100, of the cost of soundproofing of up to three rooms will be made available to householders in a defined area around Heathrow for work carried out with prior approval and to an approved design. These grants will be payable in respect of soundproofing of existing private dwellings and those completed by January 1, 1966 and confined to owners or residents in the defined area on that date. The work must be completed by December 31, 1970, when the scheme will come to an end.

The area will comprise Staines and Stanwell wards, in Staines Urban District; Langley ward, in the Borough of Slough; the parishes of Horton, Datchet and Wraysbury and part of the parish of Iver in Eton Rural District; East Bedfont, Feltham North, Hounslow West, Hounslow Central, Hounslow South, Hounslow Heath, Cranford, Heston West, Heston East, Spring Grove and Isleworth South wards, in the London Borough of Hounslow; and South Ward and part of Hayes Ward, in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The area will be subject to review in the light of any changes in ward or parish boundaries before January 1, 1966.

The Government consider that the cost of these grants should fall on those whose activities cause the disturbance, or those who benefit from such activities. We intend, therefore, to introduce an Amendment to the Airports Authority Bill at present before Parliament to enable these grants to be paid by the British Airports Authority under a detailed scheme which will be published by Statutory Instrument. It will be for the Authority to determine whether, and if so how, their revenues need to be increased to meet the cost of these grants. Local authorities around Heathrow will be asked to help the Airports Authority in administering the scheme.

The Government accept the view of the Wilson Committee that the amount of aircraft noise around Heathrow is unique in this country, and that a similar arrangement for the payment of grants in respect of the soundproofing of private dwellings is not required in the vicinity of any other airport. Since the introduction of the proposed Amendment to the Airports Authority Bill will represent a major change in its content, the Government have felt it proper that this should be done in Committee rather than on Report. They therefore propose to discharge the Order for the reception of the Report on Thursday, March 18, and to recommit the Bill for the same day.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, as I am sure are all your Lordships, for repeating this Statement. We shall clearly have an early chance of discussing the substance of it when the Airports Authority Bill is recommitted, so I do not propose to go into that. But at first sight, although I am sure these proposals will be welcomed by the residents in the area, it seems to me that they are going to lay a fairly heavy financial burden on the proposed Airports Authority. It would therefore be helpful if the noble Lord could give the House some indication of the number of houses likely to be involved in this measure.


My Lords, I am afraid that I am not able to give the number of houses, although I have an estimate of the cost. When the number of houses is available, I will give it to the noble Earl later, if he wishes, or on the Committee stage. But, assuming that 40 per cent. of those eligible obtain grants, the cost would be £2½, million, which, amortised over 20 years, would cost the Airports Authority £220,000 per annum. Increased charges on the airlines for night jet operations at Heathrow could be considered by the Authority if they seemed necessary. I understand that this may also enable the Authority to increase the amount of business they get, and in fact this is reckoned to be good business.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that this approach by Her Majesty's Government will be welcomed by those responsible for operations, since they have always been fearful that greater restrictions would be put upon aircraft and their pilots as regards the use of full power or change of direction soon after take-off; and that this is a far wiser and safer way of approaching this problem?


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, who of course knows a great deal about this subject from the airline operational point of view. I might perhaps add, for the convenience of the House, that I have acquired a map which shows the boundaries. This will be placed in the Library. It may also be of interest to the House, or to those who are familiar with the Wilson Report, to know that this map covers the whole of what is called the 55 N.N.I. line—the Noise Number Index.


My Lords, while welcoming this statement, may I put one point to the Minister? I do not expect an answer now, but perhaps he will give it on Committee stage of the Airports Authority Bill. There should be safeguards against the unnecessary application for grants for houses just because they happen to be situated in these parishes or wards. I have a friend who lives less than half a mile from London Airport. I have stayed with him. He gets little noise, if any at all, because in relation to the main runways his position is such that aircraft do not affect him. He is included in one of these parishes which the Minister has mentioned. Surely the question should be the position of a house in relation to the runways and flight plans, and not whether it happens to be within a certain radius of Heathrow?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, because his comment enables me to make a further point. The safeguard is, of course, that the householder will undoubtedly have to pay out of his own pocket part of the cost for this work. I think he is unlikely to do so, merely for the sake of getting a grant of £100 if the noise does not unduly bother him.


There is such a thing as "Keeping up with the Joneses".


My Lords, if the whole of this 50 per cent. grant is to be borne by the aircraft users, why is the other 50 per cent. to be borne by the householder? Why not by Her Majesty's Treasury?


My Lords, I should have thought that Her Majesty's Treasury were the last people who should bear the cost. This seems to me to be a suitable mixture of rough justice and incentive.


My Lords, may I ask whether this proposal includes the insulation of the bedrooms and the living room, because the housewife may be subjected to this nuisance all day?


My Lords, I would say to the noble Lady that it applies up to a total of three rooms in the house.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether there will be a recording of the noise level in each house—that is to say, the number of decibels in each case—before it is agreed to insulate?


My Lords, if the noble Earl looks at the Wilson Report and also studies my Statement, and particularly if he looks at the map, he will see that that is not so.


My Lords, just for simplification, may I ask whether it would be more convenient to take the Amendments already down for Report stage of the Airports Authority Bill during the Recommittal of the Bill, or would the Government propose to leave the Amendments in which I am interested for Report? I do not mind.


My Lords, I should have thought it would be better to leave the noble Lord's Amendments to the Report stage. That would seem to be the correct procedure, rather than to go back over them.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how it is proposed to soundproof these houses? Is it by means of cladding materials along the walls of the house, or by means of double windows with a cushion of air, in which case presumably they will then need fresh air from time to time in the house; or will air-conditioning be provided? Could the noble Lord elaborate a little as to how the soundproofing will be done within the maximum of 50 per cent. grant or £100 per house?


Perhaps we have had enough discussion on this. The noble Lord perhaps knows more about sound than I do.