Aircraft Noise

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Tom Brake: I seek clarification. I have not previously attended a European Standing Committee. I know that as I am not formally a member of the Committee I cannot vote, but may I say something on behalf of the Liberal Democrats?

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The Chairman: But of course.

Tom Brake: Thank you, Mr. Cran. I simply want to say that we support the directives.

5.1 pm

Mr. Viggers: I declare a sort of interest, as a former pilot. Before I was elected to Parliament, my wife and I lived in Richmond, which is on the approach route to Heathrow. I was regarded as something of a freak because my favourite activity was to lie in the garden with a deckchair and a pair of field glasses. I thoroughly enjoy aircraft and I had no qualms about the noise, but I recognise that that attitude is now out of date.

It is incumbent on all of us to be conscious of noise pollution and other forms of pollution, such as light pollution. I recently saw a map of the United Kingdom showing the extent to which light has become a major problem, and darkness something to be sought. I welcome the general thrust of the directives. Although we all have our own views about the manner of Britain's approach to the European Union, it provides a useful forum for discussion of matters such as noise pollution. I join my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) in welcoming the proposals.

5.2 pm

Mr. Jamieson: We have had a useful debate, in which some interesting points were made. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington and I have something in common—the fact that this is the first time that we have served on a Committee of this type. In a moment of humour, he managed to agree entirely with the proposals—a very rare occurrence. Usually, he has a long string of questions, every one of which I answer assiduously on every occasion. I am delighted that we have both been broken in together today.

One concern expressed—quite properly—is that under the directive local groups have to be consulted and have the right to challenge decisions that they consider unreasonable. In one sense, that gives extra strength to local people who might have strong views about the noise from an airport.

As for noise-related operating restrictions, a compromise amendment to the directive is proposed that would leave the United Kingdom free to set environmental policies and targets. That is consistent with our wider international obligations, in particular those enshrined in the ICAO resolution A33–7. It enables local solutions to local problems to be developed—a point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green—and provides for the circumstances of developing countries.

The first directive would repeal the hushkits regulation and thus remove the source of a dispute that has been running for some time between the European Union and the United States. It also strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of aviation and those who are affected by aircraft noise. I hope that the Committee will agree that the United

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Kingdom should accept the proposed directive with the compromise amendments that are now being offered.

We believe that the directive on the framework for noise charges would benefit from clearer justification; some technical improvement might also be needed. I hope that the Committee will agree that the United Kingdom should pursue those matters constructively with the European Commission and fellow European Union member states.

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Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee takes note of European Union document No. 15014/01, draft Directive on the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Community Airports and No. 5119/02, draft Directive on the establishment of a Community framework for noise classification of civil subsonic aircraft for the purposes of calculating noise charges; and supports the Government position to ensure that the proposed Directives allow the development of a coherent and balanced approach to managing noise nuisances at UK airports consistent with existing ICAO rules and standards.

Committee rose at five minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cran, Mr. James (Chairman)
Dean, Mrs.
Foster, Mr. Michael Jabez
Gibson, Dr.
Hoban, Mr.
Quinn, Lawrie
Viggers, Mr.
Vis, Dr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington)
Caplin, Mr. Ivor (Hove)
Jamieson, Mr. David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions)
Moss, Mr. Malcolm (North-East Cambridgeshire)

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