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Civil Aviation Bill

3.59 pm

Report received.

Clause 1 [Aerodrome charges: noise and emissions]:

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we turn to noise for the first few amendments. Amendment No. 1 would insert "shall" into new Section 38(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 because large aerodrome operators should have a duty to monitor noise and to fix charges in respect of aircraft which exceed noise limits. Since we discussed this matter, I have visited Birmingham airport, which has very good noise monitoring arrangements. It has devices that measure when aircraft deviate from flight paths and it charges aircraft which do that. The money goes into a trust fund, which is distributed for the use of the local community.
 
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However, the airspace of Birmingham airport is shared with Coventry airport. Coventry airport does not have a noise regime. Noisy aircraft use Coventry. In that case—I am sure that there are other cases around the country—there is unfair competition. One airport says to operators, "You shall obey the noise regulations"; another airport, sharing the same airspace and flying over the same towns, does not have such a regime. It, therefore, attracts older, noisier aircraft, with obviously detrimental effects on the living conditions of people who live there.

Amendment No. 2, which is in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, makes reference to the proportion of more "noise made by aircraft". This goes back to a point that I made in Grand Committee—noise does not rise proportionately. Noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, which means that it rises much more steeply than on a normal scale. An increase of a few decibels means a doubling of noise, whereas raising the fine from £100 to £200 is not necessarily proportional or the way to deal with the problem. That is also the purport of Amendment No. 5, which states:

Under these small amendments, large-scale aerodrome operators must have a noise regime, which should contain penalty charges which are proportional to the noise emitted by aircraft. I beg to move.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, my name is attached to Amendment No. 2, but I support the thrust of all the amendments in the group. It is very logical that we will have a lot of discussion today on noise and penalties on the amount of noise. To give stronger reference in the legislation to noise is very important, which is why we fully support the amendments.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken on this issue, which we also covered in Committee. It has been suggested that aerodrome operators will not voluntarily use the provisions in the Bill to fix their charges by reference to noise or emissions of aircraft. The Government take a different view of that. The provisions have been brought forward to provide clear powers for airports to fix their charges by reference to aircraft emissions as well as aircraft noise. I am confident that they will make use of them.

The power to charge by reference to noise has been available to airports since 1982, and as noble Lords know, many of the larger airports already make charges: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham—mentioned by the noble Lord—Manchester, Luton, Nottingham and East Midlands all operate within these provisions. He identified an airport which does not. Within the framework of the Bill it will be possible for it to do so, and the airport will be encouraged. Further, he will recognise that he is contrasting a smaller airport with Birmingham airport, which operates twice as many
 
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flights. I do not say that air traffic for Coventry is negligible, but Birmingham is much more significant and already complies.

The policy is flexible because of the diverse nature of the operation of airports. We have over 140 licensed airports in this country and necessarily the Bill will apply to them all. That would include Tiree airport, which in 2004 accommodated only 868 flights. As anyone who has visited Tiree knows, it would be difficult to suggest that aircraft noise or emissions create an enormous problem. But Amendment No. 1 would put an absolute duty on airport operators to fix their charges with reference to aircraft noise and emissions. However, the problem is that we would then impose a heavy regulatory duty on an airport as small as Tiree and a number of others which may be a little larger, but not much. That is why I argue for the flexibility now provided in the Bill.

I recognise that noble Lords may be concerned that some airport operators might not wish to take up these powers even when local circumstances suggest that there is a strong case for them to do so, but new Section 38(4) of the 1982 Act contained in Clause 1 gives the Secretary of State the power to direct, by order and subject to negative resolution, specified aerodromes to use their powers in this clause. While I do not prejudge the position regarding Coventry—it is an instance identified by the noble Lord as a result of his visit—if the Secretary of State had a clear indication that Coventry ought to comply with these requirements but was not doing so, the power is available to make an order to insist that it does so. Airports themselves have been using the power to set noise-related charges for over 20 years. Should there be a problem, we have the reserve power.

Under normal circumstances, decisions on the charging regime should be a matter for the airport concerned. Those decisions will be closely linked to the noise control scheme set up by the airport itself to address the effects of its operations on its locality. Therefore I must emphasise that airports are all too well aware of the needs of the area in which they are situated—and this is especially true of the larger airports. They are subject to intense local pressures because of the obvious challenges that airports can present at times to the environment. They are concerned to meet local needs in this regard. That is why we leave it to them to make judgments, while holding the reserve power. The noble Lord has pressed his case again today after presenting it eloquently in Committee and he has been supported by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. However, I hope he will recognise that the Government's position is entirely reasonable.

Government Amendment No. 3 in this group is a minor, technical amendment. It may be useful if I explain it now. Clause 1 inserts a new Section 38 into the 1982 Act. Subsection (3) of the new section defines noise and emissions requirements. The amendment simply ensures that a cross-reference is made to both mentions of those requirements, in subsections (1)(d) and (2)(d), rather than solely, as at present, to subsection (1)(d). In due course, therefore, I hope that noble Lords will feel that this amendment is
 
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reasonable and will offer the Government their support. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, the noble Lord is relying on the good will of the airports and their sense of duty—

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, with respect, may I remind noble Lords that this is Report?

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, and he is right that we should probably have specified the airports that we wished to include. It would probably have been quite a long list. His instance of Tiree, which is obviously a tiny airport, is at one extreme of the argument. I am seeking to make the Secretary of State exercise his powers to direct specified airport authorities to fix their charges in such a manner. I am not seeking to put this into place at Tiree but at a big airport near one of the largest conurbations in the country.

Obviously, the wording of my amendment might be slightly defective, but it is important to press on the Minister that people should not get away with environmental damage when their competitors are constrained by noise regulations, and that the charges should reflect the actual problem of noise. It is a huge problem in this country, which many people bear, and to which I do not think that he has given adequate consideration. In light of his reply, I acknowledge that my amendment might be defective, and if so, I shall rely on him to come back on this issue. In the mean time, I want to ask the opinion of the House.

4.12 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 141; Not-Contents, 128.


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