§ Joan Ruddock
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has reached conclusions following the second stage of the consultation on night restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
On 17 November 1998 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions issued the second of two consultation papers on the next night restrictions regime for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, to apply from 31 October 1999 until the end of the 2004 summer season. This second consultation paper took into account all relevant responses to the preliminary consultation paper issued on 27 February 1998.
The November consultation paper was in two parts. Part 1 was concerned with all aspects of the night restrictions regime now applying at the three airports. Part 2 examined options for changes to the preferential use of Heathrow's runways at night. The decisions I am announcing today are concerned with Part 1 of the November consultation paper only. Consideration of the responses to the options examined in Part 2 is continuing and a separate announcement will be made on that in due course. Decisions on Parts 1 and 2 of the consultation paper are not inter-dependent.
The current night restrictions are among the most stringent in Europe: night movements by Chapter 3 noise certificated aircraft are not limited at most other leading airports. We said in the preliminary consultation paper that we did not expect to propose major changes to the night restrictions for the next regime. To relax the restrictions significantly or to ban night flights entirely would not be consistent with the Government's objectives set out in the consultation paper.379W
We have decided to implement the proposals in the consultation paper, but with four modifications.
- (a) The proposal to reduce the seasonal noise quotas for Heathrow from winter 1999–2000 onwards to nearer the level of current usage is to be implemented but with smaller reductions in the noise quotas than proposed. The winter season noise quota will be set at a level which is below quota usage in winter 1998–99.
- (b) The proposal to reduce the seasonal noise quotas for Gatwick progressively from winter 2001–02 onwards is to be implemented but with larger reductions in the noise quotas than proposed.
- (c) The proposal to reapportion the Gatwick movement limits pro rata to the length of the summer and winter seasons is not to be implemented and the current apportionment of the movements limits is to be retained for the next regime.
- (d) The proposal to increase the noise quotas for Stansted, while maintaining the incentive for airlines to use quieter aircraft at night, is to be implemented but the reasons underpinning it differ to some degree from those set out in the consultation paper.
The overall effect of the decisions is to put in place a new night restrictions regime at the three airports which will contribute towards achievement of the Government's objectives set out in the consultation paper. The decision to reduce the noise quotas for Heathrow to nearer the level of current usage, and in the case of the winter season to a level below usage in winter 1998–99, will help safeguard the improvement in the noise climate during the noise quota period brought about since 1993 under the current regime. The decision to reduce the noise quotas for Gatwick by more than proposed in the consultation paper, in conjunction with the decisions we have reached on other aspects, is expected to bring about an improvement in the night noise climate around the airport over time. The decision not to reapportion the Gatwick movements limits pro rata to the length of the seasons will enable airlines to develop services in summer by more than would have been the case under the Government's proposal, but other environmental benefits will be provided through the larger than proposed reductions in the noise quotas. The decision to increase the noise quotas for Stansted by about 3.5 per cent. per annum will provide for the further development of the airport broadly as envisaged in 1993 and 1994.
The full decision and the reasons for the decision are dealt with in the document "Night Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted: Revised restrictions with effect from 31 October 1999", copies of which have been placed in the House Library.
In reaching these decisions we have taken into account the disturbance caused by night flights and the need to ensure that local communities are not exposed to excessive levels of aircraft noise at night. Account has been taken of the existing noise climate around each airport, the local circumstances of each airport, and the distribution of population under their principal arrival and departure tracks. These have been weighed against the aviation interests involved, the existing air services using each airport and the wider economic considerations. We believe that the decisions announced today will protect local people from excessive levels of aircraft noise at night.380W
Copies of responses, except where the author has requested confidentiality, will be made available for inspection by prior appointment at the DETR Information Centre, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR.