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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 19 and 21, which were tabled in my name. Amendment No. 19 relates to the fixing of charges imposed on aircraft operators who breach noise and emission requirements. It seeks to ensure that the local authority in whose area the airport is situated is in agreement with the scheme that has been designed. Amendment No. 21, as the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) said, seeks to delete clause 2, which attempts to substitute quota counts for the existing numerical limits on air traffic movements at designated airports. Without my amendment No. 19, the Bill could be a polluters' charter, because airport managers can write their own rules and set their own noise levels, as was debated at some length on Second Reading. I will not repeat the thrust of that debate, but no other industry has been handed such a licence. It is like asking the breweries to tackle alcoholism, or the fast food industry to tackle obesity. No other industry has been handed a charter to set its own pollution levels and no other industry is allowed by lawas would be the case if the Bill were enactedto ignore the local authority and the local community. No other industry is given such immunity from the law.
In my constituency, the Nottingham East Midlands airport, as it styles itself, has one of the patchiest records on night-time noise climates of any European airport. Unfortunately, the Minister, or perhaps her predecessor, did not give sufficient weight to independent reports that say that night-time noise and the penalty regimes associated with it are intolerable and unacceptable. Nottingham East Midlands airport, which is owned by the Manchester Airports Group, has already drafted a noise control scheme in the form of a 10-point plan, and it intends to double night-time noise. Its version of a noise control scheme is designed to increase the number of aircraft movements without having any regard to noise and without any care for the community. I would be concerned if my amendment No. 19 were not incorporated in the Bill.
Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. In my brief contribution to Second Reading, I made the same pointthere is no independent process for determining whether the control regime, or the charging regime that stems from it, is appropriate to the circumstances. My one doubt about my hon. Friend's amendmentwhich, I recognise, has local supportrelates to the choice of the local authority as arbiter. The Civil Aviation Authority, or a similar body, would be much more appropriate to determine whether such a scheme is well designed.
I accept the thrust of my hon. Friend's argument. If a regional airport such as Nottingham East Midlands airport is located in a small to medium-sized
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authority with correspondingly few resources, it may be difficult for the authority to represent properly the concerns of its communities. The county tier may be a more appropriate level, so my hon. Friend makes a fair point.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentleman both for his contributions to these debates in the Chamber and outside and for allowing me to intervene. I agree with his hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) that if we limit the controlling authority to the local district council, we will run into exactly the same problems that we have experienced with the planning of ground developments at the airport. Surely, if we are to deal with Nottingham East Midlands airport, which has considerable financial weight, we need an organisation as big as the county council, which is equally equipped. At a later date, would he consider moving local control from the district council to the county council, as we will achieve a better result that way?
David Taylor: As I suggested in my response to my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), that is probably a worthwhile improvement. Indeed, the amendment refers to "the local authority" without specifying which local authority, so the county council may be the appropriate body in certain circumstances. I fear that Manchester Airports Group or other organisations that own regional airports could use the powers in the Bill in an unacceptable way. The residents of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are distant from the shareholders and council tax payers in Manchester so, in this case, the pollution starts far from home. We need a locally accountable and responsible group to intervene on communities' behalf. All the residents' groups with which I have had contact about Nottingham East Midlands airport are alarmed about the lack of external accountability and are disappointed that it is not yet part of the Bill, as my amendment proposes.
The Government have repeatedly refused to designate Nottingham East Midlands airport, and my amendment compensates for that failure to act. The mantra of local solutions for local problems suggests that there should be a local agreement between the various partiesthe airport, the communities, local authorities and airport usersbut, in practice, that does not occur. The Bill does not create the environment for a local agreement. It provides the power for the airport to impose its will in certain circumstances. It disfranchises the residents and disempowers the local authority. That is what I am trying to tackle in the amendment.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way again. There is a further powerful point, which was touched on briefly by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan)there is no process even for the airport user companies to challenge what the airport might do, other than through the normal commercial process of taking their business away, which may not be an option open to them. I remain puzzled by the Government's determination to place the power solely
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in the hands of one private sector body, without any process other than the courts, presumably, as a challenge to the reasonableness of its actions.
David Taylor: I do not dissent from a word that my hon. Friendmy neighboursaid. It may be that the Minister, whom I greatly respect, believes that the Bill will get the problems of noise and penalty regimes off her desk. I do not think that it will, particularly if the airport designs and imposes an unacceptable regime. If, as in the case of Nottingham East Midlands airport, the airport continues to be noisy at night, the problem will come bouncing back to the Minister even more loudly.
Unamended, the clause is contrary to democratic principles. Through the democratic process people should have a voice in shaping the regimes that try to protect them from the environmental downsides of large aviation neighbours. It is contrary to the principles of sustainable development, which call for noise reduction and increased participation. The clause is contrary to our own Government's principles of a local solution. Imposition by the airport, as anticipated in the amendment, without the involvement of a local authority, perhaps the county council, will not be a solution. We need to introduce into this part of the Bill some element of accountability.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that what his and our amendments represent is certainty? For an airport operator who wants to expand or residents faced with the possibility of blight in the coming years, the amendments would provide some certainty within which all stakeholders could operate. At times, huge capital investments are made in the industry. Surely all concerned deserve a framework within which to debate and resolve issues such as pollution.
David Taylor: I agree with the hon. Lady. What is needed is a greater degree of formality. With the present legislative and regulatory regimes, if a non-designated airport is unwilling to go very far down the road that a local community might like to see it travel, there are no levers to apply to that airport. It may have been subject to a section 106 regime at some point in the past, but without designation, which we are not discussing, there is a fog of uncertainty about its obligations.
People sometimes say that independent consultative committees have some powers to influence the way in which airports operate. My constituents are extremely concerned about the way in which the ICC works in our area. I suppose it is not much different from those in other parts of the country. The policies that Nottingham East Midlands airport put to the independent consultative committee are not locally based policies. They are based on Department for Transport policies, without any regard for what people in the local community want.
It is difficult to express in words the extreme and long-lasting frustration that my constituents feel about centrally devised policies being rubber-stamped by airport management, with no effective local say or input. The recent White Paper effectively told Nottingham East Midlands airport what its future growth will be and
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what it must do to ensure that that growth takes place, with a master plan process that simply repeats what is in the White Paperliterally, a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must have real local authority input.
Amendment No. 21, the second of the amendments that I tabled, deals with the quota count system. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton made a fair summary of the weaknesses of that approach. It professes to be a regime that will encourage the uptake of quieter aircraft, but its numerous shortcomings allow far more planes to fly at night while maintaining the same so-called noise climate. Although the planes may indeed be marginally quieter, it is the number of noise events, rather than a few decibels more or less, that causes the misery of sleep deprivation to residents living under flight paths. No matter what regime is designed and developed, it is essential that the cap on numbers of movements which exists in designated airports is retained. The Bill as currently worded merely enables the Secretary of State to set a limit based on noise rather than movements.
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