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Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): With regard to Stansted, which is adjacent to my constituency, is the Minister suggesting that the quotas and aircraft movement limits be complementary? Is that the Government's intention? Or is it their intention to see the limits removed and simply to rely on the noise quotas for night flights?
Dr. Ladyman: No. The Government's intention is that there should be a proper consultation among the stakeholders involved in a particular airport, including the local community, and the most appropriate form of measurement would be the one that would apply at that airport. We are not intending one solution in any particular place at all. We are simply enabling the Secretary of State to have more flexible powers at his disposal so that we can better tailor the noise rules at each airport to the needs of that local community.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): The logic of the hon. Gentleman's most attractive argument is that other airports should be designated as well so that they can be brought under the umbrella of the Secretary of State's care and control. From what he has said, I assume that Nottingham East Midlands airport is an early candidate for designation.
Dr. Ladyman: I am sorry to disappoint the hon. and learned Gentleman; we have no such plans at this point. It would be necessary for local Members and interested parties to convince the Secretary of State that he needed to designate a particular airport other than those that are designated at the moment. The Bill, as I shall point out in a moment, provides effectively the same range of powers to the airport authorities that control other airports as those that are available to the Secretary of State at designated airports. We hope that it will not be necessary to designate more airports, but the hon. and learned Gentleman and colleagues around his constituency would be free to make the case to the Secretary of State if they felt that there were evidence to support the designation of Nottingham East Midlands airport.
Before I continue, may I tell the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow)unfortunately, he is not in his placethat I have reflected and that the answer to his earlier question is the negative resolution?
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I can assure the House that any proposals to change the arrangements by which we control noise at the three designated airports would be subject to consultation in the normal way. Although the Government have a direct role in noise control at the three designated airports, elsewhere, airports are, apart from any planning restrictions that may apply, responsible for their own noise control arrangements, usually as part of their conditions of use; a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd).
That accords with our long-standing policyre-emphasised in the White Paperthat, generally speaking, aircraft noise problems are best resolved locally by the airport working with the local community. In the majority of cases this works well but, in some cases, there has been doubt about what airports can and cannot do within the existing law. That is why, in the White Paper and the Department's document "Control of Noise from Civil Aircraft: The Government's Conclusions", we gave a commitment to clarify and enhance airport powers in statute.
Dr. Ladyman: The local authority has planning responsibility for an airport and an involvement in setting the conditions of its use. Most, if not all, of these airports will have a consultative committee that includes members of the local community and the local council. It is in that context that the local community would be involved in setting these powers.
Mr. Todd: My hon. Friend has been very patient. I have two points for him to consider. The White Paper referred to the need to impose stringent noise controls at certain airports, including Nottingham East Midlands. That would suggest that perhaps there was an objective test of what stringent meant, rather than just how the airport itself chose to define it. Secondly, airports are going through the process of preparing master-plans. What role do those have in determining the local position on noise control?
Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend is right: if we are to have stringent noise control, we have to define "stringent". However, the definition will be different at different airports. Some airports are closer to areas of residential use than others. Such matters need to be tailored according to local circumstances, and that is where the master-plans will come in, because they will have to take account of local needs.
The Bill provides, therefore, explicit statutory powers for airports to make noise control schemes. These powers essentially replicate for non-designated airports the powers of direction over aircraft operators that the Secretary of State will, if this Bill is passed, exercise in respect of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The Bill defines the maximum area within which the airport's powers to control aircraft noise apply, although there is provision for the Secretary of State to alter this in individual cases by consultation. For example, the standard definition is designed to encompass noise preferential routeing for aircraft taking off that goes significantly beyond the boundaries of the airport itself.
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The Bill also puts on a statutory footing the ability of airports to impose penalties on aircraft operators that have not complied with the terms of a noise control scheme. We are already aware of one major airport, for example, which is awaiting statutory powers before imposing discretionary financial penalties for aircraft deviating from preferred noise routes. The power for airports to impose penalties is balanced, however, with a requirement that noise control schemes should provide for an opportunity for aircraft operators to make representations to the airport operator regarding the imposition of penalties.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): My hon. Friend suggests that the airport operator is to be the policeman when an aircraft operator digresses from the authorised route, but the airport operator needs the airlines, not the other way round. Can we be confident that airport operators will impose severe sanctions on airlines in those circumstances?
Dr. Ladyman: It is certainly true that the airport operator needs airlines to make profit at his airport. However, he also needs an airport, which means that he needs the good will, co-operation and agreement of the local council. The local council will be in a position to ensure that the airport operator introduces noise control rules that are appropriate to the local community. That will strike the right balance between the needs of the local community for noise control schemes and the needs of the airport operator to offer a flexible service to airlines.
The ideal situation, of course, is that by airports and airlines working collaboratively, which they do in the majority of cases, the need for financial penalties is kept to the minimum. But where financial penalties are appropriate, the Bill provides for the local community to benefit from the money. In practice, that tends to happen anyway, but not always. The aim should be for the airport to foster co-operation with the airlines and the local community with the use of penalties being a measure of last resort.
In the White Paper, we said that we wanted airports to be able, if they wish, to extend their noise measures. That could, for example, include an overall noise contour or quota system so that they can relate to overall use of the airport, thereby enabling clearer environmental objectives to be set. I would like to emphasise that where existing arrangements are working satisfactorily, the expectation will be that such arrangements will carry on. Our advice is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): Is the Minister saying that the Bill could give the Government powers, should they want to use them, to get rid of a numbers limit during the day, as well as at night?
Any changes that the Government would make to noise regulations at an airport would have to follow appropriate consultation. The Secretary of State's powers under the civil aviation legislation are there for all to see. However, the provisions of the Bill are designed to help airports that may want to refresh or enhance their existing arrangements. For the very largest airports, the Aerodrome (Noise Restrictions)
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(Rules and Procedures) Regulations 2003 set out the procedures that major airports should follow when considering measures to deal with noise problems. That reflects the adoption by the European Union of the International Civil Aviation Organisation's balanced approach, according to which airports should not impose measures more restrictive than necessary to achieve noise objectives or discriminate on grounds of nationality, air carrier or manufacturer.
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