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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are a number of us in the Chamber who thoroughly approve of the present number of flights at Heathrow and would like to see more of them? Does the noble Lord realise that some of us do not agree at all with the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, about the important airports of the world and that we would add Sydney, Rio and many of the Asian airports to that list, all of which do have air terminals and airports that are very close to their main cities? Indeed, this is an added tourist attraction. Further, is he aware that every night my husband welcomes the sound of Concorde flying over and hopes that it may long continue? There are many people living in central London who are not disturbed by air traffic noise. However, we have every sympathy with those living right next to an airport.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I bow to the noble Baroness's experience of airports of the world. When the noble Lord was speaking, it certainly occurred to me that there are a number of airports that are situated closer to the city centre than is the case with Heathrow. The importance of Heathrow to our economy and to our well-being is very much recognised by this Government. That involves a significant number of movements into London.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, perhaps I may persuade the noble Lord to go a little further into something that he referred to a short while ago; namely, another improvement in noise levels. Not everyone is aware of there having been any improvement at all. Will the noble Lord just think a little about the effect of these constant flights over Kew

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Gardens, where the real delights and beauty of the place are spoilt to a very large extent by this awful phenomenon?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, since the noble Lord had responsibility for these matters, I believe that the noise of aircraft has significantly reduced. However, perhaps I am wrong in that respect and civil aviation was not part of his portfolio at that time. If that is so, I apologise to the noble Lord. I am not entirely familiar with the changes in Whitehall boundaries.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the department of which I was a very humble part thought that air transport had nothing to do with transport.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I think that we can see the progress that has been made by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister in this respect. There have been very significant changes. When comparing weight for weight, current aircraft noise is actually something like a sixth to a tenth less than was the case previously. There are also more movements and aircraft are larger. Nevertheless, as compared with about a decade ago, the average aircraft is half as noisy as it was in the past. That is a great tribute both to those who put pressure on the manufacturing industry and to the industry itself world-wide.

Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, following the question of my noble friend Lord Elton, what is the earliest time in the morning at which aircraft may make an approach to Heathrow? At what times are aircraft switched over from the north to the south runway at Heathrow?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the two shifts, as it were, run from seven o'clock in the morning to three o'clock in the afternoon and from three o'clock to eleven o'clock at night. We shall shortly introduce a night-time alternation. There are few take-offs but many landings at night.

Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, I asked what is the earliest time in the morning at which an aircraft may make an approach to Heathrow. I think that it is probably about half-past four. I say that as I too am a resident of Pimlico!

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we have greatly restricted night-time flying into Heathrow although, strictly speaking, there is no absolute ban. We have limited the number in agreement with the airlines and the airport. Take-offs tend not to occur before four o'clock in the morning.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, there is a rumour that Biggin Hill may be developed as a further large airport. Is this a rumour or a fact?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are rumours around the country that almost every former military airport

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is about to be turned into a mini Heathrow. A number of schemes exist but no decision is pending as regards Biggin Hill or the vast majority of the other airports which are the subject of rumours.

UN Security Council: UK Veto

11.21 a.m.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to retain the United Kingdom's veto seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, we are opposed to any change to the current veto rights of permanent members of the UN Security Council. But the UK has long argued that the veto should be used with restraint and in a manner consistent with the principles of the Charter. We have been true to our word. It has been almost 10 years since the UK last cast a blocking vote.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that robust Answer. I recognise, as it clearly does, that Britain's role as a veto power in the Security Council is part of our position as a pivotal power in the world. What plans do the Government view as possible for the enlargement of the Security Council permanent membership, and does that inevitably mean that additional permanent members would be veto members? Will it be possible to constrain the number who would be admitted to make the council continue to be workable as it has begun to be since the end of the Cold War?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, no decision has been made in relation to whether any of the countries who may be invited to figure in enlargement should have vetoes extended to them. That matter will have to be discussed in due course. We do not believe that expansion only in the non-permanent membership would restore confidence in the council, nor would it accurately reflect the realities of the modern world. We are hopeful that things will move forward to enable enlargement to take place.

Lord Stewartby: My Lords, I also welcome the noble Baroness's robust first reply to my noble friend. Does she agree that the United Kingdom is in an unusual position in having no pretensions to be a super power but nevertheless possessing an effective military capability? It has a long history of respectable participation in international affairs and a distinguished record in peacekeeping and other security matters. It is therefore not only in the United

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Kingdom's interest that we should retain this position; it is in the interests of the wider international community as well.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I respectfully agree.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can the Minister tell us how further development of a European common foreign and security policy affects the position of both Britain and France as permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as the third elected seat normally occupied by a member of the European Union?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, there will be no significant change in relation to the permanent membership. The rules of course will be looked at in terms of enlargement, but there will be no significant change.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the view that intra-state conflict increasingly poses as much of a threat to international stability as inter-state conflict and that as a result the United Nations has been much more actively engaged in peacekeeping roles in its very recent history than possibly in the whole of its previous history put together? At the same time the cases of Kosovo and Iraq have demonstrated that the more frequent use of military force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter increasingly poses a threat to Security Council unanimity and the consensus-based nature of UN politics. In that context, can the Minister outline the ways in which the Government intend to take a fresh lead in rethinking the UN's role in contemporary world politics?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree that we are faced with a new challenge in terms of intra-state conflict as opposed to inter-state conflict. We are firmly of the view that Security Council enlargement would assist in terms of developing a new way forward. Your Lordships will know that the humanitarian aspect has been incredibly important. That is something that we intend to continue to pursue with the Security Council to enhance consensus and improve the way forward.

RN and RAF Patrols: Christmas

11.26 a.m.

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether full naval and Royal Air Force patrols will continue over the Christmas period.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, emergency services such as search and rescue and the RAF's Quick Reaction Alert will be on standby over the Christmas period, as they are every day. Depending on operational commitments, most Royal

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Navy ships and submarines will be in port, either in the UK or in overseas operational theatres. RAF operations overseas will continue as necessary, but normal training will be suspended. These arrangements are applied annually at this time to allow as many servicemen and women as possible to spend time with their families. A full defence capability will be maintained over the period.

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