Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): This is a Bill of one big issue and several smaller ones. I shall refer to the smaller ones first. First, there is a review of the position of local authorities on airports. I am in two minds about the proposals. I once served on a local authority that handed over its airport, John Lennon airport, to private ownership. Looking at the new powers, one feels slightly envious. At that stage, we were not worried about subsidies, to which the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer) referred, but about liabilities.
Another small issue of which we are vaguely supportive is bolstering safeguards for holidaymakers; no one is agin that. Also, the Bill replaces an appeal mechanism for route licences with a consultative mechanism and a judicial review. I am relaxed and happy, if not especially excited, about that. There is also the right of the Secretary of State to command health safeguards, which we all welcome and applaud.
When that is stripped out, we are left with a Bill that tries to use economic instruments for environmental effects, which is the real test of the Bill. The Bill is largely silent on the favoured main method for addressing emissions, which is emissions trading. Members will be aware that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
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Research recently produced an horrific report, in which it was sceptical about the utility even of emissions trading in solving the crisis we will get into: effectively, that airline emissions are going to exceed carbon dioxide emissions very shortly. The key test for the legislation is how it deals with that.
The Bill will allow a scheme of charges, weighted for noise and emissions. It appears to allow flexible and sensible administration of that scheme, taking into account not simply numbers of flights, but volume, frequency, noise contours, direction and timingall the factors necessary for sensitive assessment. If it is not done properly, it will be backed up by the Secretary of State's powers to intervene. The scheme will be consulted on with the industry and will presumably, in the end, benefit the surrounding community.
If one looks at the Bill in those terms, one cannot genuinely argue against it, but one can seriously question whether it does enough. The fundamental flaw, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members, is that the principle behind it is that aerodromes will charge customers at no real economic benefit to themselves. As both parties are commercial enterprises, that is an odd commercial model. If it does not work, an element of Government coercion and pressure will come to bear, as well as public pressure. The scheme will happen in some way or other, but if the Government become lax over time or are too easily fobbed off by the aerodromes, and the community is bought off, in one way or another, will the Bill really be enough to keep a downward pressure on noise, pollution and environmental damage?
We all acknowledge, after all, that we are working in a competitive economic environment, with many new airports coming on line, including some by the seawe heard the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) speak rapturously about how easy it was to get to Cardiff and how, presumably, it could be done with very limited environmental damage. However, if we could go back in time, nobody would choose Heathrow as a natural site for an airport. Other airports may be developed that present a more relaxed environmental regime, and what then will happen to the major airports? The schemes that they have started, which initially have real bite, could over time end up relatively toothless. Commercial reality will at some point kick in and trump environmental considerations, especially in a global marketplace, as other hon. Members have pointed out. In the north-west, on environmental considerations alone, John Lennon airport would be expanded more than is presently proposed on the ground that take-off could be over the river. On the other hand, one would not necessarily expand Manchester airport, because more environmental hazards are present. However, both are being expanded, predicated on an increase in air traffic in general, so the result will be more kerosene from more fuel-efficient aircraft.
The commercial edge, which the Government recognise, is displayed by the fact that the objects of the penalty and charge schemesthe carriers, with whom the aerodromes tradeare included as consultees. However, as I pointed out to the Minister, it does not appear to be a statutory requirement to consult the local community when drawing up a noise control scheme. The local community may be consulted and it may be
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good practice to consult it, but if it is not consulted or the consultation is unsatisfactory, it is not obvious what formal redress the community would have. I am sure that all people who live near airports would relish a more active role in setting the standards and in gauging the effect. As the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) said, assessing noise is a complex and possibly subjective business, because it strikes people in different ways. That means that consultation with the local population could add something. People in Cheadle, Nottingham or Blackpool could have an input, but the Bill does not appear to require that that input be taken properly into account by the aerodrome.
It is wrong to criticise legislation for not doing something it was never intended to do, but the Bill has missed a trick that would be useful, helpful and timely, and that could be achieved without much kerfuffle. We could specify a minimum standard of airport security in the Bill, which is a critical issue due to the genuine concerns about terrorism affecting airports. Regional airports see much people trafficking, and those responsible often target the weaker security at some of the newer airports. The massive expansion likely in airports will also lead to problems. Airport security is often administered by a range of bodies that do not always co-ordinate well. It would be helpful if the Government could find some opportunity to consider the environmental dangers of airport expansion and some of the security elements.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): I thank the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) for his excellent and balanced contribution, as well as the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) for his straightforward view of some complex issues.
From the contributions we have heard, the aviation industry is clearly a key concern not only for my constituents but for residents under flight paths throughout the UK. The economic benefits of the industry are undeniable. Thousands of jobs depend on Heathrow airport, especially among those living in Poyle and Colnbrook, close to the airport. Pilots, engineers, stewards, ground crew, drivers, cleaners and construction workers enjoy jobs and incomes supplied by our noisy neighbour at Heathrow. It is important that those livelihoods are maintained, locally and throughout the country. I therefore broadly approve of the measures in the Bill, but a balance must be struck between the economic benefits and protecting and improving the quality of life for all those living under flight paths.
Over the past couple of years, I have spoken with some 4,000 residents across the Windsor constituency and I have received hundreds of responses to residents' surveys. I have attended key aircraft noise meetings and I have met and exchange correspondence with BAA, pressure groups such as HACAN ClearSkies and Ministers.
There are several ways in which the quality of people's lives can be improved without undermining the continued success of the aviation industry, but it will take political will, and careful scrutiny and amendment of the Bill in Committee. As my hon. Friend the
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Member for Putney (Justine Greening) ably pointed out, the noise of a single aircraft can ruin a good night's sleep. In my constituency, the residents of Datchet, Horton, Wraysbury, Windsor, Poyle, Colnbrook and Old Windsor know that only too well. It is the actual noise of the aircraft hitting the eardrums of residents that counts, not the theoretical noise of an aircraft engine in a factory.
I call on the Minister, and the others who will scrutinise the Bill in Committee, to try to move towards monitoring and recognising the actual noise on the ground, both in airports and in surrounding areas. I also urge her to consider elongating the night-time period to between 11 pm and 7 am, so that people can get a good night's sleep.
Will the Minister encourage BAA to use the latitude granted with the use of variable landing fees? If a quieter aircraft were charged significantly less to land at night than a noisy aircraft, the commercial pressures would enable the airlines to change their behaviour quickly. If a dirtier, more polluting, less fuel-efficient aircraft were charged significantly more, I am sure that the airlines would introduce more environmentally friendly aircraft more quickly, without the need for additional legislation.
If the environmental issues are of concern, does the Minister accept that, with the projected increase in air traffic, the Kyoto targets for 2010, 2020 and 2050 could be missed? If so, what action is suggested in the Bill to put that right? It seems to be a hotch-potch of small measures, many of which I welcome, but it does not tackle environmental pollution.
At present, we have a complex system of noise quotas averaged over various lengths of time and across various areas, but I emphasise again that it is not the average level of noise that ruins the quality of life. A single noisy aircraft at, say, 4.30 amit could be a 747 coming from the far eastcan ruin a good night's sleep.
Heathrow has both a movement limit and a noise quota. By removing the movement limit, the Government could open the floodgates to an unlimited number of flights if the noise of individual flights is reduced, even marginally. I hope that today the Minister will confirm, and give a guarantee to the people of Windsor, that no more movements will be allowed in or out of Heathrow. Or will she fail to do so, thereby confirming our fears that this is a back-door route to increasing the number of flights?
If the Government truly care about the quality of life of people under flight paths, they must do all they can to maintain the 480,000 flight limit at Heathrow, to extend the night-time period and to provide commercial incentivesor encourage their usetowards quieter aircraft and less aircraft noise on the ground. I urge Ministers and members of the Committee that will scrutinise the Bill to do their utmost to try to fulfil those goals.