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That the following provisions shall apply to the Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill:
1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 1st February 2007.
3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed. [Tony Cunningham.]
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of expenditure of the Secretary of State or the Commissioners for Her Majestys Revenue and Customs for the purpose of or in connection with preparing for the imposition of a tax on the increase in the value of land resulting from the grant of permission for development. [Tony Cunningham.]
That the draft Street Works (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 4th December, be approved.
That the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Variation of the Finance Act 2003) Regulations 2006 (S.I., 2006, No. 3237), dated 6th December 2006, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved. [Tony Cunningham.]
That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 11902/06 + addendum 1, Commission Communication: A thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides, No. 11896/06 + addenda 1-2, draft Directive establishing a framework for Community action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides, and No. 11755/06 + addenda 1-12, draft regulation concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market; and agrees with the Governments proposed negotiating position relating to the thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides and the authorisation of plant protection products. [Tony Cunningham.]
That Ms Celia Barlow be discharged from the Environmental Audit Committee and Mark Lazarowicz be added.
That Kitty Ussher be discharged from the Public Accounts Committee and Mr. Iain Wright be added.
That Lyn Brown be discharged from the Communities and Local Government Committee and David Wright be added.
That Anne Snelgrove be discharged from the Science and Technology Committee and Chris Mole be added. [Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
Mr. Browne: I wish to present a petition about post offices. The post office network makes a major contribution to urban and rural communities in my Taunton constituency, and it is particularly valued by people without transport, so closures have a particularly detrimental effect on people who live in the surrounding area and on local businesses. The petition states:
To the House of Commons
The Petition of the residents of the Taunton constituency and others
Declares that the post office network in Taunton Deane provides a vital service which is now threatened by Government proposals.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to save the local network of post offices across Taunton Deane.
And the petitioners remain, etc.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): First, may I reassure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that although this debate could last for three hours, I do not intend to make it last any longer than it would in other circumstances.
I sought this debate because I received many complaints from local residents in my constituency about the noise of helicopters overhead. To provide a flavour of those complaints, Mrs. Wisdom of Barnes said:
I really do find it intolerable that very few helicopters, if any, keep to their designated route.
This year the noise from helicopters going to and fro from Battersea has become intolerable. To make matters worse the helicopters frequently seem to be in holding patterns over Barnes resulting in continuous and unbearable noise.
This morning, I felt I was in Apocalypse Now under attack. Its true noise pollution.
In reply to our letters urging the Government to try to find a way of tackling the problem of helicopter noise, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), told us in October 2006 that
where standards are concerned, further progress is dependent upon international negotiation and agreement...No significant technology advances are in prospect...Considerate flying is the key to legitimate operations not causing unacceptable disturbance.
We were provided with contact details for the British Helicopter Advisory Board, but it appears that existing bodies do not take responsibility for the environmental impact of helicopters that fly across our communities, and certainly not for the noise that they create.
I very much welcome the investigation into these issues that was published by the Greater London authority last October, entitled London in a spina review of helicopter noise. The Minister met members of the GLA and staff who produced it to try to begin to develop a response. We are delighted that she did so, and my role tonight is to engage in a pincer movement, and keep up the pressure to secure action to deal with an increasing annoyance.
I would love to tell the House the number of helicopter movements across London, but there is no comprehensive database that keeps count of such movements. Battersea heliport, which is the main heliport in London, has planning permission for 12,000 commercial movements a year, but police, air ambulance and military helicopter movements are not included. The GLA estimates that about 13,000 flights were made to and from Battersea heliport in 2006. There were 11,000 flights in 2003, so the trajectory is for a significant increase every year. The Civil Aviation Authority produces data on helicopter take-offs and
landings, but it does not include flights into or across London from airfields around the capital such as Biggin Hill, Denham and Fairoaks.
The pattern of flights is particularly annoying. We suspect that corporate entertainment is a major cause of aircraft movements, as there are clusters of flights during events such as Ascot and the Farnborough air show, causing disruption for several days. National Air Traffic Services does not keep data on low-level traffic over London, as it focuses on safety and does not think that it should keep track of movements. The British Helicopter Advisory Board, which the Government recommended we contact to achieve action on the problem, does not collect data at all. Each organisation seems to regard the others as data-collecting agents, and they disagree about increases in flights and who is responsible for those flights. As the GLA was forced to conclude, there is no joined-up collection or monitoring of data.
There is a lack of standards, too. There is an attitude in government that anything that business wants in aviation it gets, regardless of the impact on the community. My constituency suffers significantly from noise from Heathrow, and my residents believe that the Governments approach to aviation is one of predict and provide, particularly in the expansion of that airport. There are genuine fears that many more helicopter movements will be permitted in future. There is no incentive to reduce helicopter noise, because there are not any regulations to encourage the use of newer, quieter helicopters. Many fleets are 30 years old and have little new technology, so they continue to disturb people.
When we raised the issue of expansion and additional helicopter movements across the city, we were told that business needs those things. That argument is always made about anything to do with aviation but, interestingly, my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) told me that when he entered the House, there were several helipads in his constituency, including one by the Oxo tower in the middle of the river and one at Chambers Wharf. The argument was repeatedly made that it would harm business in London if those heliports were closed. Following pressure, public inquiries and general activity, they were indeed closed, and the economy of London and Southwark did not collapse. Many spurious arguments are made to justify the constant expansion of helicopter capacity which, it is claimed, is necessary for the survival of London as an economic centre.
New proposals have been made for increased helicopter capacity in east London, perhaps at City airport, and many people believe that we have a growing helicopter culture. Regional Airports Ltd has told the GLA that it wants to be able to shuttle people to and from the London Olympics by helicopter from Biggin Hill. There is a great fear that that practice would set a precedent for regular shuttles to the City.
Residents are disturbed by helicopter noise, but it is hard to determine that objectively, because there are not any standards by which to measure it. In testimony to the GLA, Phil Roberts of the CAA is reported to have said that data on the human response to helicopter noise are limited, so it is difficult to define an
objective measure. We have managed to find methods of measuring noise from fixed-wing aircraft, and I urge the Minister to make progress on defining a standard for helicopters. It is important, however, that we do not repeat a key mistake in the measurement of fixed-wing aircraft noise, which determines average noise. No one ever hears average noisepeople are disturbed by individual events. If the Minister concedes that point, and helps us to make progress on a standard for helicopter noise, I believe that we will not import the problem of averaging, which makes it almost impossible for residents to engage in a reasonable discussion about aircraft noise with the Government, BAA and other parts of the aviation industry.
There are concerns, too, about consultation, the history of which is not a happy one. In 2004, when the CAA reduced the minimum altitude for helicopter flights over London from 1,500 ft to 1,000 ft, it conducted an extensive consultation. The only problem was that all the consultees were from the aviation industry. We must start to consider residents and to understand that they have a vested interest in a good environment for the city. That means that they must be listened to on issues such as noise.
The designated route in the London control zone is essentially the route of the Thames, although the police and ambulances obviously have greater freedom. What enforcement is there of that route? The comments that I quoted earlier reflect a great deal of helicopter activity around Barnes, which is a holding point. It is also where there is a loop in the Thames. As a resident, I frequently see helicopters abandon the route and start to take what they think is a clever short cut, which takes them across the Wetlands centrethe largest urban waterfowl sanctuary in Europeas well as disturbing people under the flight path.
As I was coming into the Chamber for the debate, I was approached by various colleagues. Apparently, there have been three complaints recently from Kingston and Surbiton about helicopter noise. What helicopters have been doing in that area, disturbing residents, is beyond me. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) constantly receives reports of helicopter noise over Hampstead heath and experiences it directly over her own house, so she is conscious that that traffic is increasing and increasingly disruptive. The GLA received many reports from residents in Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs, so the problem is widespread over London. Anywhere that the Thames happens to wander, there seems to be a helicopter noise problem. The Thames is at the heart of this city, so the impact is not just in one or two isolated places.
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