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Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman's postbag, like mine, contain many letters from residents under flight paths expressing concern about the noise of individual aircraft that wakes them up, rather than about theoretical values, quota systems or wonderful maps of areas affected by noise? Is he, like me, concerned about the noise of an individual aircraft that wakes and disturbs people?
David Taylor: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. The problems experienced by my constituents tend to be in the communities that lie around the airport, which are under virtually every flight path coming into or out of the airport. Given the strong business lobby for a quota only system, it is only a matter of time before the movements limit is abolished.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): At the same time as the Bill has been going through Parliament, in my constituencya good part of which is under the flight path; I live under the flight path myselfa consultation has been taking place which would have the effect of increasing the number of night flights and therefore the amount of night-time disturbance. Another consultation, also affecting my area, is planned for next spring. It would end runway alternation and increase the amount of disturbance during the day. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those consultations expose the fact that the Bill is not intended to reduce disturbance, but that it is a framework to allow the industry to follow its planned direction of predict and provide, with ever-increasing flights and without regard to what happens to people on the ground?
David Taylor: I am sympathetic to the point that the hon. Lady makes. I am fairly sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will refer to similar matters if he catches the Deputy Speaker's eye.
The problem in relation to noise is that there is no official noise index to show night noise in the UK, although Leq is recognised during the day period,
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between 7 am and 11 pm. However, the Government produce noise maps for airports at night using Leq contours. They argue that it is an adequate way of expressing aircraft noise levels, and they produced noise for London Heathrow airport for its recent consultation on the night noise regime, which the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) mentioned.
That method can be totally inadequate as a way of assessing the impact of a small number of noisy events distributed over an otherwise long and tranquil period. That is explicitly endorsed by the World Health Organisation in its guidelines for noise levels. It states:
"Where there are no clear reasons for using other measures, it is recommended that LAeq,T be used to evaluate more or less continuous environmental noises. However, when there are distinct events to the noise, as with aircraft or railway noise, measure of individual events such as the maximum noise level (LA Max) or the weighted sound exposure level (SEL) should also be obtained in addition to LAeq,T."
As planes get marginally quieter, many more will be allowed to fly at night under a pure quota count regime. It is the frequency of noise events that can ruin a night's sleep. If I am woken up, say, by all noise events over 90 dB, I will not be pleased to hear that twice as many, even if they are 92 dB rather than 95 dB, will be countenanced under a future regime. Therefore, it is essential that the numbers limit on noise on night-time movements is retained.
Justine Greening: I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene twice. He raises a valid point because my area of Putney has no noise monitoring in process, so the only way to monitor the amount of noise that we have to bear is by literally counting the number of planes overhead. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that what the Government propose in the Bill will take away the one control that we have and my constituency will be left with no means whatever of assessing the amount of noise other than by our own ears? We are looking for something far more scientific than that.
David Taylor: I accept that point in its entirety. The hon. Lady's predecessor in the seat that she represents made a powerful case in this Chamber and in Westminster Hall on a number of occasions, and no doubt he will be in a position in future years to echo that case again.
I was making the point that it is dubious statistically to equate a 3 dB reduction with a halving of annoyance, even at the individual event level. EPNdBeffective perceived noise decibelsis a measure of noise energy, and it is by no means certain that a halving of noise energy results in a halving of noise heard by the human ear, despite the name that is used.
The Government's attempt to use the Bill not to tell those who live around airports exactly how many night flights they can expect and to disguise the true number is in the eyes of many a cynical manoeuvre. The various judicial review hearings instigated by London boroughs around Heathrow airport in recent years resulted in the High Court forcing the Department for Transport to
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continue revealing publicly exactly how many night flights the industry was to be alloweda straightforward way for noise-affected populations to understand clearly exactly what was going on over their heads.
The complex and difficult to follow quota count system seeks in effect to bamboozle residents into thinking that more night flights somehow equals less noise and less sleep disturbance, which is a counter-intuitive proposition for my constituents as what Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted get today, Nottingham East Midlands airport will encounter sooner or later. That is why absolute numbers must always be made available as part of any night flights regime. If they are not, and as the Bill seeks to set aside any responsibility to reveal night flight numbers, clearly the suspicion arises that someone is or could be trying to hide something. That is not a very defendable position, particularly when the High Court has, in the laudable and understandable interests of fairness and clarity, previously found against the Department for Transport on this very issue and determined that true numbers should always be revealed.
At present, the Government control night noise at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted via the noise quotas, and other airports in the UK use a similar systemquieter aircraft using less of the noise quota. However, the only way to stop the number of movements increasing, which is the problem for communities lying around airports, is to maintain the current controls, and that means that the proposed change in clause 2 that I seek to delete should not be enacted.
I shall conclude with one brief comment addressed to those right hon. and hon. Members who do not represent airport communities in the London area, where the airports are designated. Why should such Members who represent seats affected by the activities of other airports be concerned? Quite simply, the types of restrictions used for designated airports will be and are a model for controls at many regional airports, and a precedent of no limits at Heathrow would be used cynically by the industry to argue that there should be no movement limits at all in any other regional airport. This is a danger for every airport community in the United Kingdom.
Clause 2, which I seek to delete in amendment No. 21, is purely for the advantage of the airline industry and it will be to the disadvantage of the airport communities. For that sole, significant and powerful reason it should be removed in its entirety.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) in his excellent amendments, particularly amendment No. 1 which seeks to delete clause 2(2). Many of my constituents live under the flight path into and out of Heathrow from the west. We have experienced growing numbers and growing volumes of noise from aircraft movements at antisocial times of the night, even under the current regime, and there is a great fear that the Government's proposals today will make this considerably worse.
I support those colleagues in the House who have already made it clear that we need some limit on the numbers of aircraft movements as well as an overall
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control on the amount of noise, because it matters very much how many times noisy aircraft go over during the night, and even more, when during the night they might go over. Under the current regime, with some control over aircraft numbers, there is a tendency for there to be more flights closer to the times when people are going to bed or waking up. If we remove all numerical controls on flights, there will undoubtedly be more flights over the course of the night, at the times when it will be even more difficult for people who are trying to sleep in a rather quieter environment, when other background noise is less pronounced or has disappeared.
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