HL Deb 02 April 1979 vol 399 cc1775-82

6.16 p.m.

Lord JACQUES rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th March, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords this order is intended to replace the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order 1970 as amended. It carries forward most of the provisions of the old order, but widens the scope of aircraft noise certification. Rather than prepare a further amending order, it seemed preferable to begin again with an entirely new and comprehensive order.

The purpose of the 1970 order was to give effect in the United Kingdom to noise emission standards to which members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation had agreed in 1969. These applied initially to new types of heavier subsonic jet aeroplanes. These standards were later extended by the organisation to new production of older types of such jets and in due course effect was given in the United Kingdom to this extension of the standards set by the organisation.

Since introduction here of the 1970 order the organisation has adopted new and more stringent standards for new (post-October 1977) types of heavier subsonic jet aeroplanes, and introduced certain other changes. The United Kingdom now needs to give effect to these new standards, and to introduce standards agreed previously by the organisation for propeller-driven aeroplanes. The United Kingdom also needs to extend, following an earlier decision of the international organisation, the applicability of the original subsonic jet standards to smaller subsonic jet aeroplanes. It is these new standards which will be brought into effect by the order that is now before the House.

The standards which the International Civil Aviation Organisation has developed are set at levels which have been shown to be technologically feasible and economically reasonable for the category of aeroplanes to which they apply. The aviation industry in the United Kingdom has for some time known of these latest standards of the organisation, which were published in detail in July of last year; they have also known of the Government's intention to introduce them in the United Kingdom.

Like its predecessor, this order is drafted very broadly to bring within its scope whole categories of aircraft, while at the same time making provision for exemptions by the Civil Aviation Authority after consultations with the Secretary of State. It is, therefore, the order which, coupled with the associated Civil Aviation Authority exemption orders, gives the detailed and desired effect.

It is proposed that exemptions should, in general, be given to categories of aeroplanes for which there are no standards set by the international organisation. However, exemptions will not, in general, be given to non-certificated subsonic jets acquired by United Kingdom operators after 30th September 1978, nor to non-certificated subsonic jets on the United Kingdom register after 1st January 1986. Both these important steps were foreshadowed in the airports policy White Paper and are in line with the recommendations of the European Civil Aviation Conference, although in some respects the United Kingdom restrictions are a little more stringent.

Aircraft noise constitutes a formidable problem around our major airports although noise certification standards already applied should ensure a continuing improvement in the noise climate through the next decade. The Government well understand the feelings of those who live around airports and well know that they must press ahead with improved standards. In reaching international agreement on these new standards, the Government have demonstrated the importance which they attach to reducing aircraft noise, while at the same time recognising the legitimate rights of users, operators and manufacturers. I believe that these new standards offer a balance between these conflicting interests, and that they will contribute to a significant reduction in noise at most airports over the years ahead. I hope that this House will approve the new order. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th March, be approved.—(Lord Jacques.)

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for introducing the order. I must at the outset declare an interest in this matter. I am employed by a company at Gatwick called British Island Airways which will be affected by the provisions of the order in a specific way to which I shall come in a moment.

May I say straight away that everyone in the industry fully appreciates the need for regulation of aircraft noise. As I have said previously in your Lordships' House, aviation can no longer trample upon the communities around airports with impunity. It is right that arrangements should be made to control the noise made by aircraft; to encourage the use of quieter aircraft; and indeed, to impose regulations and restrictions upon the older, noisier types. In that context I was pleased to note that the British Airports Authority has recently introduced a sliding scale of landing fees so that aircraft of the older noisier types now have to pay higher landing fees. Arrangements of that type, which I think are quite right and proper, will in due course no doubt encourage the accelerated retirement of those older aircraft.

There are some minor administrative matters arising out of the order that I should like to put to the noble Lord before I come on to one particular matter which affects me acutely. First, the requirement for a noise certificate is, I think, a comparatively new one, although of course aircraft have been required to observe certain standards before now. However, I wonder if the noble Lord can say whether each aircraft will be required, or is required, to undergo separate flight trials to obtain its noise certificate, or whether it is possible, and will be possible, for the Authority to issue a noise certificate arising out of one set of trials to all aircraft of the same type? That seems to me to be a desirable administrative arrangement. Secondly, can the noble Lord say from what date certificates will be required? Thirdly, what arrangements are being made to carry out the necessary flight trials? Finally, what charge will be made for the certificates? All those are comparatively minor matters of which I told the noble Lord in advance and I hope that he will be able to answer them now.

However, there is one particular matter as regards which I have a special interest which I must declare to your Lordships. The company for which I work has for a number of years, together with its predecessors, operated a comparatively large number of newspaper and mail flights from Gatwick and those contracts have, in some cases, been running for as long as 20 or 25 years. Until now there has been no major difficulty in obtaining the necessary permission to operate those flights from Gatwick. Last year, which was the first year when restrictions were imposed on propeller aircraft operating from Gatwick, after some initial consultation and discussion with the scheduling committee at Gatwick Airport, the necessary number of movements was forthcoming, but this year a major problem has arisen. Out of a total of 1,250 night "slots" (as they are called) required for the operation of these mail and newspaper flights—all of which, as I have said, have been operating for a number of years—it has been possible to secure only 472 slots. Thus, at the present scale of operation, the mail and paper flights will have to cease around the end of May.

The difficulty has been caused because certain types of movement at Gatwick have been re-classified as quiet and have thus taken some of the quiet movements allocated to BIA. Furthermore, a number of new operators will appear at Gatwick this summer, some of them under encouragement from the Government to move from other airports, and the difficulty therefore is that the total number of movements available—namely, 3,500—is not sufficient to cover the existing requirements of established operators, having regard, as I have said, to the new operators that have arrived.

I hope that the Government will consider the implications of the restrictions they have placed on the movements at Gatwick—both the so-called quiet movements and indeed the so-called noisy movements. I ask whether they would not feel it right that whoever is operating the newspaper and mail flights, especially the mail flights—because, of course, it may not always be the company with which I am connected—ought to be exempted from the control of night movements? They would, of course, I agree, have to give some undertaking to operate quiet aircraft only; and any exemption granted should be available to anybody operating the mail flights. But, unless the Government can see their way to making some exemption in this matter, there will be a real difficulty. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to assist.


My Lords, I find it a little disturbing that Article 6 which deals with the issue of noise certificates is only permissive and is not mandatory because it says that, The Authority may issue a noise certificate … if it is satisfied that the aeroplane complies with the applicable standards specified". The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, on which I have the honour to serve, was not very happy about that and no doubt the noble Lord has seen what the Committee has said on this point in its Fifteenth Report. I should have thought that compliance with the required standard was the only issue in the case, and that if the authority was satisfied that the standards were complied with by the aircraft it would invariably grant a certificate and no other consideration of any kind would enter into the matter. That is why I would submit that Article 6 ought to have been mandatory, and not just permissive.

We cannot amend an order. All we can hope for is that the noble Lord when he replies will say that he can envisage no circumstances in which the authority, if satisfied, will not proceed to issue a certificate. If he will go further, and say that in his opinion it would in those circumstances be improper for the authority not to issue a certificate, it will become perfectly plain to the authority that it is intended that it should treat the order as virtually a mandatory order, and not as something which is permissive, so that it can refuse a certificate on some whim unconnected with the standards specified and the compliance with them by the aircraft.


My Lords, first, may I thank both noble Lords for the way in which they have received the order, but more especially for having given me notice of their questions. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, first, asked whether each and every aircraft would have to be tested. The answer is: no. The issue of a noise-type certificate following successful completion of flight trials on the first example of a type will allow noise certificates to be issued to subsequent examples on receipt of evidence that they are similar in all relevant respects to the aeroplanes which gained the noise-type certificate. Further flight trials will not then be required.

His second question was as to the date from which the certificate is required. Although the order will come into im- mediate effect, in practice no aeroplanes at present flying in the United Kingdom will immediately require a noise certificate if they did not formerly need one. The precise date on which a given aeroplane will require a noise certificate will vary according to its class. The first class of aeroplane to be affected by the order will be that of the light propeller aeroplanes produced after 1st January 1980.

The third question was: what were the arrangements for flight trials? Flight trials are normally carried out by the constructor and witnessed by the Civil Aviation Authority. However, this order will not result in a sudden increase in the number of flight trials needed, for the reasons which I have already mentioned. The fourth question was about the charges. The Civil Aviation Authority will continue its present practice of charging in relation to the work carried out prior to the granting of a noise certificate, but making no specific charge for the granting of the certificate itself. In the case of an aeroplane of a type for which the CAA has previously granted a noise certificate, no charge is currently made. The Civil Aviation Authority has power to make such a charge under Section 9 of the Civil Aviation Act 1971, but there is no present intention to exercise that power.

As the noble Lord undoubtedly appreciates, the question of night restrictions at Gatwick and Heathrow is distinct from that of noise certification. This order will have no effect one way or the other upon the arrangements for night restrictions. The overall levels of night movements at Gatwick have been set as part of the Government's long-term strategy to reduce disturbance from aircraft movements at night, although the allocation of movements to individual airlines is a matter for the Scheduling Committee. The Government believe that there could be a general relaxation of these controls only if this was shown to be justified by the results of current research into the relationship between aircraft noise and sleep disturbance.

I turn now to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. Article 6(1) is not a mandatory provision; it is enabling and is in line with other provisions in air navigation orders which provide that the Civil Aviation Authority may issue certificates and licences if satisfied as to the relevant matters. Examples of such certificates and licences are certificates of airworthiness and flight crew licences. Although the Government will undertake to reconsider the use of the word "may" as opposed to the word "shall" in this article, they believe that this review should cover all aviation legislation where the Civil Aviation Authority is empowered to take action, and that it would be unwise to make the change in isolation, dealing only with this particular certification. The Civil Aviation Authority will always give a noise certificate if satisfied as to the requirements.

On Question, Motion agreed to.