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Session 2001- 02
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Air Navigation (Environmental Standards) Order 2002

Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Thursday 31 January 2002

[Mr. Bill Olner in the Chair]

Draft Air Navigation (Environmental Standards) Order 2002

9.55 am

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): On a point of order, Mr. Olner, concerning a point of principle. We are considering an important order that is highly technical and will regulate how aircraft noise, fuel, smoke, unburned hydrocarbons and emissions are handled throughout the United Kingdom. However, in paragraph 6 of the explanatory note, the Government undertake to put a copy of the regulatory impact assessment in the House of Commons Library. I checked in detail twice last night and again this morning, and the document is not in the House of Commons Library. The Committee cannot debate the subject properly without it. If you do not have any powers to rule that the Committee should be postponed, Mr. Olner, I ask the Minister to consider whether the Committee should be postponed, so that when we debate the matter and decide whether the order should be passed, we have had an opportunity to study the assessment and are properly informed.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Further to that point of order, Mr. Olner. My constituency is greatly affected by Manchester airport, as the Minister knows, and I back my hon. Friend's comments. Noise, aircraft emissions and other issues are of great interest to my constituents. It is impossible to judge how this important order will affect my constituents without the regulatory impact assessment, which is a prerequisite for better government, which the Government say that they support.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) rose—

The Chairman: Is the hon. Gentleman rising on the same point of order?

Mr. Brazier: I am, Mr. Olner. I, too, have a constituency interest, as Manston airport is just outside my constituency. The airport is expanding and its flight path is directly over my constituency. The regulatory impact assessment could throw up safety aspects as well as the obvious issues of noise and pollution, the consideration of which is the main purpose of the order. It is important for a proper debate to consider possible safety implications, especially in the light of 11 September.

The Chairman: It is not in my power as Chairman to postpone the Committee, but I will take note of the points raised by hon. Members and ask the Minister to address them.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. David Jamieson): Further to that point of order, Mr.

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Olner. I can put hon. Members' minds at rest. The regulatory impact assessment will not affect the material discussion of the order. Hon. Members have real concerns about noise at airports in their constituencies. I assure them that sight of the document would have no impact on the problems that they describe. However, it should be in the Libraries of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and I apologise on behalf of the Government if it is not there. There are copies in the Committee this morning, if hon. Members need to see it. I will check whether it has arrived in the two Libraries. If it has not, I undertake to ensure immediately that it does.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Further to that point of order, Mr. Olner. I assure the Minister that I checked carefully last night and again this morning, and the Head Librarian has checked all the post; the document is not in the Library of either House. I ask the Minister again whether he will consider postponing the Committee, as we cannot have a sensible debate on the matter when the document is not available.

The order is technical and important and it will affect all the airlines. However, we do not how they will be affected or whether they will be competitive with airlines in the rest of the world, especially in the light of 11 September. How can we discuss such an important matter without the relevant document?

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman is going very wide of the order to link it with 11 September and security. The Minister told the Committee what is included in the regulatory impact assessment.

I am grateful to hon. Members for bringing to the Committee's attention the fact that the document is not available. I take it that, in future, the Minister will ensure that the relevant papers are available for hon. Members. I suggest that we now proceed.

10 am

Mr. Jamieson: I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Air Navigation (Environmental Standards) Order 2002.

It is a pleasure to sit in the Committee under your careful and watchful eye, Mr. Olner.

I want to say a word about the point of order that was properly raised by the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown). I did not doubt his word that the document was not in the Library; I said that I would make independent checks and find out why.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the order is simply drawn; it consolidates orders already in place and brings in a few extra matters. Hon. Members who raised wider issues about 11 September in relation to airports will not find much solace in the order.

The order has two main purposes: first, it will enable the United Kingdom to continue to discharge its obligation to adopt the technical standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, known as ICAO. The order introduces into UK legislation the most recent aircraft emission limitation standards recommended by ICAO for carbon monoxide—CO—and oxides of nitrogen—NOx—and the most recent noise certification standards for light

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helicopters. That is the limit of the order in terms of changes to the regulation.

Unlike those agreed for other types of aircraft, there are no internationally agreed noise standards for microlight aircraft, so the UK Civil Aviation Authority has developed national standards for those aircraft to protect people affected by their operations. The order continues the development of those standards for microlight aircraft registered in the UK and seeks, as far as practicable, to harmonise them with others in Europe.

Secondly, as part of the drive for better regulation, the order simplifies UK legislation on aircraft noise and emissions certification. It reduces the number of orders from four to two, by revoking two existing orders and transferring standards where they are still relevant. The order consolidates existing legislation on noise certification for supersonic aeroplanes, microlight aeroplanes and helicopters and aircraft emissions.

I want to make a few general points on aviation and the environment. In many ways, aviation in this country is a success story. The industry directly provides jobs for more than 180,000 people in the United Kingdom, and contributes some £10.2 billion to our gross domestic product. Notwithstanding the events of 11 September, the numbers of air passengers and the carriage of freight are expected to grow. But that success and the continued expansion of the industry must be balanced against the environmental impact of aviation.

In December 2000 my Department published a consultation document, ''The Future of Aviation''. Its purpose was to invite views on what is needed in a fully integrated and sustainable approach to air transport policy for the next 30 years. It is clear from the responses to that consultation that many organisations and individuals are concerned about the adverse environmental effects of aviation.

People living in the vicinity of airports or overflown by aircraft may experience problems from aircraft noise. Gaseous pollution from aircraft can affect local air quality, and aircraft may increasingly contribute to climate change. That is why the Government are actively seeking ways to ameliorate noise and exhaust emissions from aircraft.

Mr. Osborne: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jamieson: Not at the moment. There will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to speak, and I will respond to the points that he makes.

Because aviation nowadays is such an international business, the UK works actively in ICAO to improve environmental standards for aircraft. In that context, the work of ICAO's committee on aviation environmental protection is of particular importance. My Department, along with the Department of Trade and Industry, plays its full part in that committee, ensuring that those ICAO standards are reviewed and updated to reflect the latest scientific knowledge and technological developments. The aim of that work is to ensure that the standards that ICAO recommends are technically feasible and economically reasonable, as

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well as environmentally beneficial. It is part of continuing international efforts to encourage the development and use of cleaner, quieter aircraft.

The problem of aircraft noise is not restricted to jet aircraft at the major airports, such as Heathrow. Noise from aircraft such as helicopters and microlights landing and taking off at local airfields can also cause misery to local residents, especially in the summer months.

The current noise standards for helicopters are applicable to all helicopters, regardless of take-off weight. The associated compliance procedures are complex and consequently expensive. A perusal of the schedules at the back of the order bears that out. The order therefore introduces new noise standards and simpler noise test procedures agreed by ICAO for light helicopters with a maximum take-off weight of less than 2,730 kg. In demonstrating compliance with the new standards, those lighter helicopters will show that they would also have met the original ICAO noise standards. The simplified testing procedure will reduce the cost and time involved in proving compliance with the standards.

The order prescribes new noise certification standards for microlight aeroplanes. As I said in my introduction, there are no internationally agreed noise certification standards for microlight aircraft. Therefore the CAA has developed a noise certification scheme for microlight aircraft registered in the UK. The standards in the order are more stringent for newly registered microlights than under the existing provisions. The order will also harmonise the noise limits to be applied in future to single-seat microlight aircraft with those applied to two-seat microlights.

On gaseous exhaust emissions, the order will continue to require that jet aircraft shall not land or take off in the UK unless they are independently certified as complying with the current ICAO standards relating to the prevention of the intentional venting of fuel following engine shutdown under normal flight or ground operations, and for the emission of smoke and unburned hydrocarbons. The order will also introduce the latest standards agreed by ICAO to limit carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen emissions from aircraft engines. Those emissions are implicated in the acceleration of climate change and contribute to local air quality problems, especially in the vicinity of major airports.

Enforcing the provisions of the order will be the responsibility of the CAA. The CAA is already the UK body responsible for independently certifying that jet engines comply with existing ICAO standards. It will also empower the CAA to issue certificates to UK-registered aircraft where it is satisfied that they meet the applicable standards for noise and emissions, and will give the CAA the power to detain non-compliant aircraft in the UK.

As is normal practice in reaching recommendations on ICAO standards, representatives of manufacturers and airlines, among others, were consulted. Indeed, ICAO directly involves such stakeholders in the process. The requirements introduced by the order

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have been discussed and developed in consultation with UK industry. In addition, the relevant requirements have been discussed with microlight aircraft manufacturers. I am confident that the order will not impose unjustified or unreasonable requirements on industry, and that aircraft produced in the UK will be able to meet them fully, if they do not already do so.

Indeed, rather than imposing a burden, giving effect to ICAO standards generally ensures that UK aircraft can operate freely within most, if not all, the 187 ICAO member countries. Introducing microlight standards more in tune with those of other European countries is expected to have similar benefits for UK manufacturers. The order should help them to sell abroad more easily and help owners to travel abroad more easily.

Much work has been done to minimise as far as possible the environmental impact of aviation. As a Government, we believe that more needs to be done, and much work to that end is in train as part of the work for the promised White Paper to develop our civil aviation policy. The order is a modest but timely and significant contribution to the continuing effort to improve aviation in the meantime. I hope that the Committee approves the order.

10.10 am


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Prepared 31 January 2002