HL Deb 17 July 1979 vol 401 cc1369-74

7.17 p.m.

Lord TREFGARNE rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th June, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the three Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper. With your Lordships' permission, I shall speak now to both the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order 1979, laid before the House on 20th June, and the Carriage by Air Acts (Application of Provisions) (Second Amendment) Order 1979, laid before the House on 22nd May, subsequently moving the latter only formally. The third Motion standing in my name, dealing with Lloyds (General Business) Regulations 1979, is an entirely different matter to which I shall speak separately.

The first 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. Noble Lords may recall that a very similar order was considered by this House during the last Parliament. However, that version was not approved in the other place before the recent election, and in the interval opportunity has been taken to amend Article 6(1) following the undertaking to review its provisions given at that time by the then Government.

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 (ICAO) had agreed in 1969. These standards applied initially to new types of heavier subsonic jet aeroplanes, but were later extended by ICAO to new production of older types of such jets; and effect was given in due course in the United Kingdom to this extension of the original ICAO standards.

Since the original ICAO standards were introduced here by the 1970 order, ICAO has adopted new and more stringent standards for new (post October 1977) types of heavier subsonic jet aeroplanes, and introduced other changes including standards for propeller driven aeroplanes. The United Kingdom now needs to give effect to all these new standards and to extend, following an earlier ICAO decision, the applicability of the original subsonic jet standards to smaller subsonic jet aeroplanes. It is these new standards which the draft order before us will bring into effect; at the same time the order will give effect to the requirements of the EEC draft Directive on Limitation of Noise Emission from subsonic Aircraft—which was given support in the other place on 19th June.

The ICAO standards are set at levels which have been shown to be technologically feasible and economically reasonable for the class of aeroplane to which they apply. The aviation industry in the United Kingdom has for some time known of these latest ICAO standards which were published in detail in July of last year, and of the United Kingdom's commitment to introduce them.

This order, like the 1970 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 consultation with the Secretary of State. It is the order and the associated CAA exemptions document which together give the detailed and desired effect. It is proposed that exemptions should in general be given to categories of aeroplane for which there are no ICAO standards. But exemptions will not, in general, be given to non noise-certificated light propeller driven aeroplanes (other than home built aeroplanes) first entered on the United Kingdom register from 1st January 1980; nor to non-certificated subsonic jets on the United Kingdom register after 1st January 1986. These important steps are consistent with ICAO policy on restricting non-certificated sub-sonic jets and with the recommendations of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC); although, in some respects, the United Kingdom restrictions are more stringent than the minimum of the ECAC recommendations.

Aircraft noise constitutes a formidable problem around the United Kingdom, and indeed other, major airports, although noise certification standards already applied should ensure a continuing improvement in the noise climate around most airports throughout the next decade. However, the Government are well aware of, and understand, the feelings of people living near airports and are concerned to continue to seek further achievement in reduction of noise at source, by pressing ahead with improved standards. Introduction of these new standards demonstrates the importance attached to reducing aircraft noise, while at the same time recognising the legitimate rights of users, operators and manufacturers.

These new standards strike a balance between these conflicting interests; and they will contribute to a significant reduction in noise at most airports in the future. Noise certification has already contributed to a marked reduction in the noise climate around our airports, and at Heathrow about 34 per cent. of all movements are by the newer noise certificated jets, compared with about 28 per cent. one year ago, and 19 per cent, two years ago. I hope that the House will approve this order.

I come now to the second order, which also affects air transport, but there the similarity ends. It deals only with non-international carriage and changes only the way in which the limits of the carrier's liability are expressed. The provisions of the Warsaw Convention as amended at The Hague—which apply to the international carriage by air of persons, baggage and cargo—are given effect in this country by the Carriage by Air Act 1961. Article 4 of the Carriage by Air Acts (Application of Provisions) Order 1967 applies the provisions of Warsaw/Hague—with certain exceptions, adaptations and modifications—to non-international carriage and to the carriage of mail or postal packages. The 1967 order limits the carrier's liability in respect of the death of, or injury to, a passenger to the sum of 875,000 gold francs (3⅓ times as much as the limit in international carriage).

The amendment order would substitute 58,000 special drawing rights for this gold franc limit and make equivalent substitutions in the case of baggage and cargo. This amendment is desirable because, under the amended articles of the Inter- national Monetary Fund, there is no longer an official link between sterling and gold. Two protocols to the Warsaw Convention, which were adopted at Montreal in 1975, substitute amounts in special drawing rights for amounts in gold francs; and the Carriage by Air and Road Act 1979 gives effect to Protocol No. 2. That change in our domestic law will be brought into force when Protocol No. 2 has been ratified by the 30 States needed to bring it into operation. There is, however, no need to wait until then before making a change in respect of non-international carriage.

The advantage in making a change now is that we can apply to non-international carriage the new procedure for converting into sterling the sum specified in the order. At present the sterling equivalent is specified by order and a new order is made from time to time as the value of sterling fluctuates. The current Sterling Equivalents Order was made in January 1978. A new order was made on 29th June and comes into effect on 1st August. By reference to the average value of sterling in May of this year, it specifies £35,860 as the equivalent of 875,000 francs. Under the amended Application of Provisions Order, the Treasury will certify the current value, using the IMF daily rate. This will ensure an accurate and up-to-date result in place of the out-of-date approximation used at present.

Your Lordships approved the first draft of the order when it was laid before the last Parliament, and I hope you will approve this one also. I now beg to move the first order standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th June, be approved.—(Lord Trefgarne).

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of the whole House may I thank the noble Lord for explaining in detail the contents of these two orders. I am sure that noble Lords will be interested to read in Hansard tomorrow the details of what the noble Lord said. I think noble Lords will have been particularly interested and pleased to hear that 34 per cent. of aircraft movements at Heathrow comply with the new orders. Obviously arrangements are in hand for the level of compliance to increase continually during the next few years. I am sure that those who reside near Heathrow airport will be pleased to know that in fact noise levels are likely to decrease in the future. With those remarks may I thank the noble Lord for explaining the orders.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, with regard to the noise certification order it is not so much the Second Report of the Joint Committee in this Session which is of interest but rather the Fifteenth Report of the Joint Committee in the last Session, because at that time the order which came before the Joint Committee was merely an enabling order which only said that the Authority may issue a noise certificate even although the applicant has fulfilled all the requirements. It seemed to the Joint Committee that it was impossible to envisage circumstances in which the applicant had fulfilled all the requirements demanded of him, and yet the Authority would still be justified in withholding a certificate.

The Joint Committee expressed their disquiet about this. The Joint Committee, therefore, are gratified to find now that the order which comes before us is not merely enabling, it is mandatory. It says that if the application fulfils the requirements, the Authority shall issue a certificate. This seems the only just course to adopt and I am pleased that this change has been made between the last order and this one.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to both noble Lords for the helpful observations they made. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is right that a slight but none the less important change was effected between the last order in the last Parliament and this one. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, referred to the reduction in noise around airports. Under this regulation and the associated ones, non-noise certificated aircraft were not admitted on to the British register from 1st October last year, and will not be permitted to operate—I am referring to British registered aircraft—after 1st January 1986, so certainly there will be a steady improvement in the noise climate around our airports between now and then. I am obliged to both noble Lords for their helpful observations and I hope that your Lordships will now approve the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.