Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Ms Buck: I appreciate that the hon. and learned Gentleman and others have pursued matters to do with Nottingham East Midlands airport for a long time and have expressed their concerns. I am sure he will carry on doing that. The central thrust of our approach is that the airport is not failing in its duties to monitor noise levels, so there is no argument for intervention.

Our opponents try to portray our developing aviation policy as predict and provide. That is a deliberate misrepresentation. More capacity is needed, not to allow the unconstrained meeting of demand, but to act responsibly to support future economic growth and the UK's competitiveness. Several hon. Members referred to the broader issue of aviation's contribution to climate change. Although that is outwith the Bill's scope, it is an important point and we should use every opportunity to make the Government's policy clear.

Aviation produces carbon emissions equivalent to just 2 to 3 per cent. of the UK total. Emissions on international travel are not allocated to states under the Kyoto protocol. However, we are all aware that aviation has grown significantly in the past few years and is projected to continue growing. We flagged up in the air transport White Paper the fact that aviation emissions could amount to about a quarter of the UK's total contribution to global warming by 2030.

Some hon. Members referred to the recent report by the Tyndall centre. I welcome that contribution to the debate. The report is based on its projections of demand and emissions, which are in excess of the figures that we recognise. Its picture is unduly bleak. However, there is common ground and we all believe that action is needed. It is for that reason that we have taken an international lead in pressing for aviation emissions to be included within the EU emissions trading scheme from 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter. That will be a priority for the UK presidency starting this week. The advantage of emissions trading as a mechanism is that it enables us to
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1107
determine an environmental outcome and allow operators flexibility over how best they achieve that outcome.

That should assure the House that we are committed to working to tackle the major environmental challenges that aviation poses. The Bill includes more detailed measures that supplement that action and offer the prospect of making a valuable contribution to tackling environmental challenges at a local level.

Mr. Brazier: The Minister has not addressed the central objection that all monitoring—whether we are talking about noise, night flights or emissions—is by the airports themselves. That concern has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Will she address it?

Ms Buck: I am about to move on to that. I was setting the environmental issues in a slightly broader context. They may not be in the Bill, but they are a legitimate concern to a number of individuals.

The Bill specifically relates to environmental aspects—noise and emissions—that can have an impact on the quality of life for those living near airports. Linking airport charges to emissions would be put on a statutory footing and the Government would have the ability to intervene should that be necessary if, for example, an airport is in breach of agreed EU air quality limits.

Amending the powers by which we control noise at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will give us more flexibility to introduce measures to encourage the replacement of older aircraft with quieter new ones. A noise limit creates an incentive to use quieter aircraft in a way that movement limits on their own do not. As has been made clear, any change will be subject to full consultation. It is worth pointing out that between 1985 and 2003, the population exposed to daytime noise above the 57 dB level at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester declined by 21 per cent. It is important that we understand that noise reduction can be achieved, and has been achieved, by aircraft.

Justine Greening: How do you know that for sure when you are not measuring noise in places like Putney?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Maria Eagle): By using the correct terminology.

Ms Buck: As my hon. Friend says, the hon. Lady should use the correct terminology.

The hon. Lady and, I think, the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) argued in the debate last week that we should have a different definition of noise to reflect the actual noise of aircraft, rather than their certification. As we explained in the consultation document on night noise, we have limited discretion under EU rules for doing what she suggests. There is an internationally recognised system of noise measurement, and that is the one that we adhere to. I am afraid that we are not in a position to implement her proposals.

The next night restrictions regime until 2012 will be based on current legislation—a number of people expressed concerns about that—and will continue to
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1108
incorporate a movements limit. Airports' ability to set up noise-control measures and impose penalties on aircraft operators will be enshrined in statute, but airports should follow a balanced approach when introducing new measures. Hon. Members made some important points about noise measurement, including noise averages and the value of decibels to determine nuisance. Although the Government use well established measurements, we are undertaking further research to help us inform the debate.

David Taylor: Under what circumstances and in what way would the Minister intervene if a regional airport failed to introduce what was broadly seen as an adequate noise-mitigation system?

Ms Buck: Discussions on NEMA have revealed a desire that the Secretary of State has power to intervene to designate if we believe that the airport is not acting effectively.

David Taylor: Which powers in this Bill?

Ms Buck: The powers are extant and we believe that they are adequate for the purpose.

Mr. Garnier: What evidence does the hon. Lady have that Nottingham East Midlands is doing what she says or thinks it is doing? Our experience in Leicestershire is that it is a thoroughly inadequate responder to public concern.

Ms Buck: I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman and others take that view, but the review in 2002–03 did not give the Government any reason to believe that the airport is failing to undertake its duties effectively to control noise. The power to intervene and designate remains and would be used if there were grounds to believe that the airport was failing to implement controls effectively.

Several Opposition Members expressed their dislike of airports having the duty to impose penalties, arguing that they would not be willing to do so. In fact, airports have a long history of imposing penalties. I was pleased to note that the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) recognised that, even though he went on to express some reservations. One major airport has cited legal reasons for failing to tackle the planes that fly off noise-preferential routes, illustrating both a willingness to use new powers and the reason why the powers in the Bill are required. As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley, with his considerable experience, pointed out, successful airports rely on good community relations. We do not believe that we need a new quango or another layer of bureaucracy; we need the clarification of powers in the Bill.

Mr. Brazier: The Minister has been generous in giving way but still has not addressed the central issue that nobody except the airports themselves monitors noise, emissions, whether flight paths are accurate, and so on. What independent check of any sort is there in prospect?

Ms Buck: The power of designation remains if we believe that airports are failing in their duties. We believe that airports will use the powers. Indeed, we have
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1109
been lobbied by airports for a clarification of them. If that fails, the power of designation remains as a fall-back.

We do not believe either that the proposals constitute a privatisation of justice, as asserted by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough. Penalty schemes are not criminal; they are economic incentives for good performance and we believe that they will be effective.

Mr. Garnier: The hon. Lady says that the penalties are not criminal, but they are still penalties. They are still a disbenefit to the organisation that is fined and still a penalty under the European convention. She must get her head around the fact that something disobliging will happen to the aircraft operator—or not. It is no good bandying semantics. We are talking about an organisation that has an interest in not fining and in not setting a penalty.

Next Section IndexHome Page