Draft Air Navigation (Environmental Standards) Order 2002

[back to previous text]

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am grateful for the Minister's detailed explanation. Opposition Members want higher standards in matters such as emissions, including hydrocarbon emissions, fuel venting and noise. It is always desirable that we should have the highest standards in the world, and the many millions of people who live near airports in this country want that, too.

Equally, however, we must recognise that the aviation industry has been in a parlous state since 11 September. Introducing any legislation that places our aviation industry at a competitive disadvantage to foreign airlines, particularly now, will put at risk some of the 180,000 jobs in the industry that the Minister mentioned.

We shall examine the order closely to ensure that the standards that will be required of operators and manufacturers are not unreasonable, but it is difficult to do so without a regulatory impact assessment.

The Minister said that compliance procedures for helicopters were extremely complex, and anyone reading the order would say amen to that. The quid pro quo is that they will be expensive to implement, and our manufacturers will be at a competitive disadvantage. If other companies can manufacture helicopters for other markets that do not have the same high, exacting standards, there will be a problem.

I draw the attention of anyone who doubts that the order is complicated or technical to paragraph 3.1.2 on page 13. I crave the Committee's indulgence, as I am not a mathematician, but I shall try to describe the formula in layman's terms. I hope that you will bear with me, Mr. Olner, because that will take a little

Column Number: 8

while. Then I shall ask the Minister to explain the formula and how it operates.

Mr. Jamieson: In detail.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: In detail, and with examples. The formula is

    LAE = 10 log l t2 PA(t) 2dt T0 t1( P0 )

and it would be useful if the Minister could explain that. [Interruption.] If I have got the formula wrong, perhaps hon. Members will correct me. The paragraph states:

    This unit is defined by the expression:—

and then gives the formula, and a helpful note underneath, which states:

    Where T0 is the reference integration time of one second and (t2 – t1) is the integration time interval.

Obviously, the explanation is supposed to be helpful, but I found that it made the whole thing even more difficult to understand.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I wonder whether, like me, the hon. Gentleman thinks that that is, in fact, the formula published in the Evening Standard a month or so ago for measuring the performance of the public-private partnership for London Underground.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is a growing trend in government. I am sure that the Government have expert mathematical consultants to whom they pay vast fees in an attempt to get the formulas right. We need an explanation of the formula so that we can make sure that those expensive mathematicians working somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall, or even more expensive consultants, are getting the formulas right. I came across an even more complicated formula when we were discussing a statutory instrument on teachers' performance related pay, which makes this formula pale into insignificance. We need an explanation, but we need to move on.

I have given plenty of examples of how complicated and technical the order is. I have some serious questions that I should be grateful if the Minister could answer. If he cannot do so this morning—it is a long series of questions—perhaps he would write to me and put a copy in the Library.

I have already hinted at my first question: what is the additional and total compliance cost of the order, to the enforcing authority, the CAA, and to the aircraft operators and manufacturers? Secondly, the Minister said that the order replaces three previous orders. What types of aircraft are included in the new order but were not included in the previous one? From what the Minister has said, we can conclude that they are helicopters and microlights. Thirdly, I should be grateful if the Minister could describe in a little detail the standards required for helicopters and microlights. The Minister helpfully told the Committee this morning that he has had consultations with the industry on both those matters. Because they are very technical, would he tell us whether the industry will have difficulty in meeting the standards, what it

Column Number: 9

said in the consultation and whether there were any objections?

My fourth question concerns paragraph 24 (d), which raises an interesting and curious point of principle. The order applies not only to British citizens but to

    Commonwealth citizens, British protected persons

and, most interestingly,

    citizens of the Republic of Ireland.

How can a UK Parliament seek to regulate non-UK citizens—citizens of the Republic of Ireland—who might operate British aircraft outside the United Kingdom? I should be grateful if the Minister addressed that point.

My next points jump back in the legislation, for which I apologise, but I wanted to raise points of principle before moving on to more detailed points. Fifthly, the order applies to aircraft registered and operating in the United Kingdom. Does it apply to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and will it put British aircraft operators at a disadvantage compared with their foreign competitors? My sixth point jumps back to paragraph 4(3)(a): what are the ''A Conditions'' and the ''B Conditions''? Seventhly, why does the order not apply to

    an aircraft landing or taking-off at a prescribed place?

Does that mean that an aircraft always taking off from the same airport and landing at that same airport is exempt?

My eighth question is why the requirement to be certified under paragraph 12 shall not apply to

    an aircraft landing or taking off at a prescribed place?

Paragraph 21 relates to penalties. Will the Minister confirm whether I am correct in interpreting that under the order penalties can be enforced against foreign nationals operating aircraft in the United Kingdom? In enforcing the procedures, the CAA would ask the ''commander'', as it is cited in this order—pilot is the common euphemism—to produce a noise certificate. There would probably be an altercation. The pilot might not speak good English. He might say, ''I am not subject to your regulations. I am going to take off and fly this aircraft back to Libya''—or Afghanistan, or wherever he happened to come from. In such circumstances, what is to stop a pilot exercising his right to take off, even if the British authorities do not feel that his standards comply with the order?

Paragraph 22(1) concludes with the curious wording: ''punished accordingly''. We are debating serious matters. The Minister has a parliamentary draftsman. Does the phrase ''punished accordingly'' have any legal precedent, which would give it some credence? If not, it seems sloppy. What does it mean, and should it be tidied up? Otherwise, there will be many court cases to discover exactly what it means. This seems a case of sloppy drafting.

Paragraph 23(1) relates to whether the order applies to the Crown and Her Majesty and states:

    this Order shall apply to, or in relation to, aircraft belonging to or exclusively employed in the service of Her Majesty.

Column Number: 10

We know that it applies to aircraft operated on Her Majesty's behalf, but there is a contradiction in sub-paragraph (2), which states:

    Nothing in this article shall render liable to any penalty any Department or other authority responsible on behalf of Her Majesty for the management of any aircraft.

So the order applies to Her Majesty or those operating aircraft on her behalf, but they will not be liable to any penalties. That seems a curious anomaly.

Sub-paragraph (3) exempts military aircraft and one would probably say that that is reasonable. But I undertook an armed forces parliamentary scheme with the RAF, as I believe you did, Mr. Olner, so know that the RAF operates many civilian-type aircraft that are used largely for the civilian-type purpose of transporting military people, but not only military people: for example, VC10s regularly take off from RAF Brize Norton to take civilians to the Falkland Islands via Ascension. These essentially civilian aircraft should be subject to the same provisions as other civilian aircraft. I would be grateful if the Minister would address that issue.

The Minister, other hon. Members and I have had a long debate about the transferral of a number of CAA current powers to the new air traffic public-private partnership, National Air Traffic Services. Will the applications of the order be in any way enforced or informed by NATS? Does NATS have any role in the order or is this solely a matter for the CAA?

That is a long list of questions, but this is a technical order, and Committees are set up to examine such matters in detail. Many Members have airports in their constituencies, and microlights, helicopters and civilian and military aircraft operate from several airports and aerodromes in my constituency. Therefore, my constituents on both sides of the issue will have an interest. The Minister is right: people sitting in their gardens on a Sunday afternoon are worried about the droning noise from microlights, so it is right that we include them in the order. We are not complaining about that; we simply want to know whether the standards are achievable, because they are far too technical for an ordinary lay Member of Parliament such as me. We rely on the Minister to tell the Committee honestly what consultations he has had with the trade and what objections it made. Such orders always go through a period of negotiation. Have the standards in the order increased or decreased from previous drafts?

I thank you for your ruling on the point of order, Mr. Olner. I do not want to labour the point, but simply to ask in the nicest possible way that as the Minister and I do many orders, please, in future, may we have all documents available in good time so that we are able to study them and be more informed for the debate?

10.26 am

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 31 January 2002