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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op):
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is a county colleague who latterly, with other county colleagues on the Opposition Benches, has joined the campaign for the designation of Nottingham East Midlands airport.
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I am attracted by new clause 4, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain why Members of Parliament need to act as a sieve for any inquiries that are referred to them. There are Members representing constituencies around regional and other airports whose interests seem to lie perhaps more with aviation than with the communities that they represent.
Mr. Duncan: The hon. Gentleman raises a serious point. I shall flash back to amendment No. 1, given that the hon. Gentleman tabled a concomitant amendment which would have deleted the entire clause. He might consider that our approach is preferable because it would delete only the offending parts of the clause, rather than the whole clause. He may want to rethink that.
It is fair to say that the technicalities of tracking aircraft are complicated. It is necessary to go through different air traffic control zones. The play-back of radar tapes or information systems is not as easy as replaying a video. There is expense and, inevitably in a matter of nuisance, some people become exercised and are likely to throw a disproportionate number of complaints at an airport, particularly through campaigning organisations. To persuade the Minister, I hope, that I am being absolutely reasonable in tabling the new clause, I thought that a good model for setting up a monitoring system was that of the ombudsman, where we go through the filter of a Member of Parliament. In many instances, the process is automatically ticking the box and sending on the complaint. However, I think that all of us in our constituency life will have said to someone, "I will send it to the ombudsman but are you really sure? Don't you think that you are a bit illogical here, there or somewhere else? Aren't you going over the top? Have you lost your perspective?"
To set up a system that is logical, practicable, fair and sensible, it is reasonable to use a Member of Parliament as a filter. We determined that it would be more persuasive to the Minister to have that layer of approval and sifting so that, as with so many complaints about this place, it is not necessary to field many complaints that are frivolous and malicious. I hope that that argument will be persuasive to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): As I understand it, it is the intention to apply the new clause to commercial flights. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is not his intention to extend the clause to general aviation, not least because the logistical and technological demands that would be put on general aviation by so doing would probably be unaffordable to the British general aviation community?
Mr. Duncan: Yes, I can confirm that. That is exactly why we have referred to the commercial flights officer. We chose our words carefully to address exactly the concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed. I hope that that adds even further to the powers of persuasion that we are able to exercise. We hope that the Minister will accept our argument.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) will, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, speak on new clause 6. I will leave that clause primarily to him, especially as he is an expert on insulation. He will hit me later.
Amendment No. 9 arises because of our concern that the Bill does not form part of a coherent and complete environmental policy. Consideration in Committee showed that it did not do so. We believe that airlines have a right to be properly consulted and informed. The Minister stated in Committee:
"There is no question that aviation has an impact in environmental terms, and we need to rise to the challenge that it presents. Those living close to airports have genuine anxieties, which the Government and I recognise absolutely and we must move forward in responding to it."[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 5 July 2005; c. 6.]
The Bill states that aerodromes may fix their charges by reference to noise and emissions and may do so to encourage the use of quieter aircraft that produce lower emissions. Both objectives are laudable and we do not demur from that. However, the Minister's response does not quite square with the fact that achieving lower noise and emissions objectives perhaps requires targets. At present, there are no determinants of success and there is no compulsion even to report progress. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) went further into that in Committee.
Evidently, seeking the cover of legislation has little to do with an appreciation of real environmental impact. We know that some airports levy charges, but no evidence has yet been presented to show that these have helped reduce emissions or, for that matter, noise. The amendment is an attempt to ensure that we have the facts at our disposal to make sure that the improvements that we want to see can properly be measured and appreciated.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con):
One of my constituents' concerns is the expansion of Stansted airport, which wants not only to increase capacity on one runway but to construct another runway. It is all very well for the Government to talk about reducing emissions, but is it not understood that that does not square with the planned massive expansion of air travel over the next 10 to 15 years?
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Mr. Duncan: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have omitted to say that one can have an imbalanced regime of charges that can deliberately skew the economic benefits or appeal of Stansted compared with Heathrow and Gatwick. There is deep concern in the aviation world that within the Bill are provisions from which will emerge decisions and a regime that will create an artificial case for the expansion of Stansted. The imbalance and inequity that it is thought will emerge from this has caused deep concern. It has the prospect of being utterly perverse.
The Minister needs to tell the House that there will be some form of uniformity in the manner in which contracts that allow penalties, fines and charges for noise and emissions will be applied. If they applied only to two airports and not as much to another, funny things would happen. That means that the Bill would not succeed in being a universal, cogent and coherent environmental measure. We need some serious answers from the Minister.
We are asking that airports monitor emissions and noise levels annually and publish the annual figures and statement of intent as a price for confirming in law considerable powers. That hardly seems unreasonable. It is not burdensome to require them to publish those details, because if they do not know them in the first place the Bill means nothing whatever. As the Minister herself pointed out in Standing Committee B on 5 July,
"details of an aerodrome's charging policy will be available as part of the condition for use of the aerodrome. In the case of BAA, which runs the designated airports, the conditions for use are made publicly available on the internet. Similarly, Manchester is an example of a non-designated airport that does so."
"As regards noise, the largest airports are covered by the Aerodromes (Noise Restrictions) (Rules and Procedures) Regulations 2003 which implement the European directive on noise-related restrictions . . . It includes a description of the effect of a noise climate without further measures and, for those measures already planned to lessen noise impact over the same period, forecasts noise contours, including an assessment of the number of people likely to be affected by airport noise." [Official Report, Standing Committee B, 5 July 2005; c. 36.]
The agencies are collecting figures but, again, I have serious concerns about the methodology used for the measurement of noise. We simply ask the airports to prove that the charges produce the results specified. If they treat them as a means of milking the airlines, the airlines should have recourse to the Secretary of State. None of that should be burdensome, and it would simply provide minimal information on something that is of huge public concern. Much of the information is already being provided, and the amendment would simply put its provision on a statutory footing. It is not "Mission: Impossible"it is not even mission tricky.
As I said earlier, amendment No. 10 essentially defines the Secretary of State's concomitant duties in setting targets for the emission and noise to define a logical regime within which the Bill's powers could be exercised. The amendments are a constructive contribution to the Bill, and they give it far more cogence as well as more coherence and a better shape.
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They will make the legislation far more palatable and practicable for those affected by it, whether they are airlines or people who live under flight paths. We hope that the Minister will see reason and appreciate our good intentions in tabling the amendments. I very much hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we can press at least amendment No. 1 to a vote.
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