HL Deb 07 May 1999 vol 600 cc949-52

1.40 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th April be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Aeroplane Noise Regulations 1999 be approved.

The need to implement the latest European directive on aeroplane noise has provided the impetus to brigade in a single measure the noise certification requirements of four other European Council directives which are currently implemented in three separate statutory instruments.

Noise certification is complex because of the numerous categories of aeroplanes which must be included and the number of different standards which apply. However, for all their apparent complexity the regulations are principally an exercise in consolidation. There is little in them which is new and nothing which places additional burdens on either the aviation community or the regulatory authorities.

While these regulations involve no direct increases in noise stringency, they do consolidate and unify in a single measure the standards covering the vast majority of aeroplanes currently flying in the UK. I commend these regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th April be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee]. —(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, air noise certification is where I entered politics. I long remember a dinner party in Kew, sometime in the 1960s, attended by two people from the Ministry who told us categorically that it would be impossible to reduce the noise made by jet engines because their power would be reduced and the aeroplanes would fall out of the sky. All I can say is that I have used that example over many years to illustrate the power of demand for quietness, or any other product of engineering, as a way of making engineers concentrate their attention on something which is required by the general public.

I am delighted to welcome this consolidation of the existing regulations. It will obviously make life easier. We will not have to peer into all sorts of different tomes.

But one minor point puzzled me. Regulation 14 gets rid of the preceding four paragraphs. Does that mean that the various derogations contained in those four paragraphs will disappear on 1st April 2002?

Secondly, can the Minister reassure us that Regulation 24, which allows the CAA to permit exemption from Chapter 3 noise standards in the run-up to April 2002 for the purposes of fleet management, is not a back-door route to any softening of attitudes to compliance?

Finally, I am sure the Minister will be able to reassure us that pressure for a continuing decrease in noise emissions from aircraft will be maintained.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, these regulations covering aircraft noise are to be welcomed. While it is unconnected with these regulations, I wish to plant an idea among those who have an appropriate interest. The technology concerning aircraft emissions falls some 40 years or so behind vehicular emissions. Is it not time to address the problem of aircraft emissions?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we on these Benches have no objection to these regulations. As the Minister said, they are essentially a consolidation of existing regulations and, as far as I am aware, they do not introduce anything new. I am also pleased that, as far as I can see, they do not impinge on any of the difficult current issues, such as hush kits, Concorde flights to the United States and fully-laden Boeing 747–400s.

However, I am slightly concerned about Regulation 13, which gives a list of so-called developing nations whose aeroplanes are exempted. First, I am surprised that Saudi Arabia is considered to be a developing nation. I thought it was one of the richest countries in the world. Also, I am surprised to see both Libya and Iraq included in the list. It is unlikely that any of their aircraft will come to this country. I understood that if they did, they were likely to be shot down.

Apart from that, I give the regulations full support.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, in relation to the comments of my noble friend Lord Simon, we have heard a great deal about greenhouse gases over the past year or two following the Kyoto Summit. My noble friend made the point, quite rightly, that there seems to be no improvement in the engineering design of exhaust emissions. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said, that is probably because there was no pressure upon the engineers to concentrate on that aspect. I firmly believe that if pressure is brought to bear, people will come up with solutions. The Kyoto targets have to be met by the motor industry. To some extent they are being met by the electricity generating people and it seems odd that the airline industry is exempt from the restrictions, like so many other things. It is also exempt to some extent from the ownership restrictions of airlines about which we have heard before.

The other exemption which I find odd is the exemption from any fuel tax. The airline industry gets all its fuel duty-free. I suspect that if pressure was brought to bear on airlines to sort out some of these problems, one would find solutions coming very quickly.

Finally, I understand that some third world countries might need to have exemptions from these regulations, but they are related to noise and they are safety regulated. Surely all aeroplanes that land in this country should have to comply with the same regulations.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, aeroplane noise standards are agreed within the International Civil Aviation Organisation and are set out in the chapters of Volume 1 of Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention of 1944 and implemented by contracting states in their own territory. Legislation to apply the ICAO noise standards in this country has existed since 1970, but the international nature of aviation means that measures to control noise are most effective when co-ordinated across national boundaries. We have therefore supported the growth of UN legislation to apply the standards agreed in ICAO.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, raised the issue of derogations in paragraph 14. They will disappear because after 2002 aeroplanes will have to meet the highest current standards. I can assure the noble Baroness that there will be no softening of attitudes to compliance as it is closely monitored by the CAA.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, raised the issue of Libya and Iraq. The developing nation schedule at the end of the regulations apparently includes exemptions for aeroplanes from Libya and Iraq. However, those exemptions are subject to any sanctions and embargoes which the UN may have imposed on specific states. That is explicitly stated in the notes to the schedule attached to Directive 92/14 EEC and applies to all EU member states. However, it was not copied out on the face of the regulations.

My noble friends Lord Simon and Lord Berkeley raised issues relating to pollution, and a question was also raised about fuel tax exemption. The exemption is internationally agreed through ICAO. We agree it should change, but by international agreement to avoid distortion.

The other question raised concerned air pollution. Aircraft contribute around 2 or 3 per cent of global man-made pollution. Over the past 20 years they have become twice as fuel efficient per passenger kilometre. The UK Government play a leading role in the environmental committee of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which is investigating the effects of aircraft pollution and looking for ways to make them cleaner. A special report on aviation and the global atmosphere has been prepared under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is expected to be published in June.

In terms of the UK, our White Paper policy indicates that in the near future we hope to consult widely on proposals for new legislation to help airports enforce noise mitigation measures or enable local authorities to enforce noise mitigation agreements. However, where airport operators have adequate noise measures in place, new legislation may not be relevant. Kyoto has charged the ICAO to work on the allocation of emissions from international aviation so that they can be included in the Kyoto process. I hope that I have answered all the points raised, and I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.