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Night Flying Restrictions

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty): On 8 April 2003, Official Report, cols 9–10WS, we announced publication of a consultation paper on night flying restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The present night restrictions regime for those airports applies until 31 October 2004: the consultation paper explained our proposal to defer our intended review of those night restrictions and to continue the present regime for a further year. The consultation period ended on 11 July 2003.

Briefly, the reasons for our proposal were:

The proposal to extend the current night restrictions regime for one further year indicated that all the common arrangements—the hours of the restrictions, the system for classifying aircraft and other detailed aspects of the regime—should continue unchanged until the end of the summer season 2005 (30 October 2005).

We also proposed that the movement limits and noise quotas for the winter season 2004–05 and for the summer season 2005 should remain the same as those for winter 2003–04 and summer 2004 respectively at each of the three airports.

The consultation paper also

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The consultation responses encompassed the full range of interests, including airport consultative committees, local authorities and parish councils, environmental and other groups and individuals from around all three airports, plus airlines and aviation bodies. The decision that I am announcing today relates only to the arrangements for 2004–05.

After careful consideration of all relevant points made in the responses, we have decided to extend the night restrictions regime at all three airports as proposed. The reasons for doing so remain largely as set out in the consultation paper and summarised in this statement, and were accepted by many of those responding to the consultation. We welcomed the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, received three days before the consultation period closed. That judgment clears the way for our forthcoming review of policy on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

There was a wide but not universal acceptance among those who responded specifically on the proposal to extend the current regime for a further year, that this was appropriate, although a substantial number of local authorities and local groups from around all three airports indicated that they want a reduction in night flights, or a complete ban, in the longer term. There was some comment on the size of the movement limits and noise quotas for 2004–05, especially from those commenting on the findings of the main technical review about the classification of aircraft for night restrictions purposes.

The issue that has attracted attention from this review is the finding that the version of the Boeing 747 most commonly operating at Heathrow during the restricted hours was noisier in normal operations than its certificated noise levels by the noise certification procedures of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). There are many reasons why monitored noise levels will not match certificated noise levels, particularly because certification testing is carried out under strictly controlled meteorological and acoustical conditions and using defined flight path procedures which may differ from those used in-service. However, we have drawn the results of the work to the attention of international experts currently examining the ICAO noise certification requirements to ensure that they reflect modern operating practices and conditions.

Some consultees suggested or implied there should be an immediate substantial cut in the noise quotas if these aircraft were not reclassified. The Government does not accept immediate action would be appropriate. This is a matter which the Government believes should be considered in the context of the new arrangements and requirements which flow from Directive 2002/30/EC (now transposed into domestic law: SI 2003 No. 1742) when the wide ranging review takes place.

At Gatwick and Stansted the mix of aircraft operating at night is different, as are issues relating to the size of the noise quotas. The 1999 decision included small progressions (downwards at Gatwick, upwards at Stansted) in the noise quotas over the five years of the night restrictions regime. In the consultation paper we

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indicated that we had considered whether to continue these progressions for a further year but that, as the progressions were small and the services operating at night were in a considerable state of flux, we believed it better to have no change between the last year of that scheme and a one year extension. None of those who responded to the consultation paper suggested an increase in the quotas for Stansted but at Gatwick some local consultees suggested cutting the movements limits and noise quotas which are currently under used, particularly in winter. Given the difficulty in the current consultation round of establishing whether and to what extent any cut might be appropriate, the Government remains of the view that the status quo should be maintained pending a full consideration of all the issues.

We have therefore decided that, at each of the three airports, the movement limits and noise quotas for the winter season 2004–05 and the summer season 2005 shall be the same as those for winter 2003–04 and summer 2004 respectively. These are:

Winter Season 2004–05

Movements LimitNoise Quota




Summer Season 2005

Movements LimitNoise Quota




This decision maintains the balance struck between the conflicting interests in 10 June 1999, Official Report, cols 378–79. We are satisfied that this will remain the appropriate balance for 2004–05 whilst we carry out the further review of night flying restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Copies of all the responses, except where the author has requested confidentiality, are available for six months for inspection by prior appointment at the DfT Library and Information Centre, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE.

I am placing in the House Library a summary of the responses, including points relating to the general principles and policies underlying the night restrictions and to the ways in which we intend to take forward the results of the reviews relating to the classification of aircraft for night restrictions purposes and of the separate review of the departure noise limits and the related noise monitoring arrangements. The responses on these other matters will be taken into account in developing proposals for the next night restrictions regime for consultation in due course. The summary of responses is also available on the Department's website:


Gurkha MAS Policy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): On 4 June 2003, it was announced that the Ministry of Defence would

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undertake a review of Gurkha Married Accompanied Service (MAS) policy. The aim of the Review was to consider whether the current arrangements were satisfactory and what changes, if any, would be necessary. In examining possible changes the Review team are also considering whether any of the special circumstances of Gurkha employment justify MAS restrictions and, if so, to what extent.

The Review team is studying a number of options, the detailed work of which is not yet complete. I had originally hoped to announce the outcome of the review to the House by the end of 2003. I anticipate being in a position to make a full and substantive announcement on the outcome of the review to the House later in the year.

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