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Lord Davies of Oldham : My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she moved her amendment. She said that her thinking was in complete accord with the Government'snot quite, but it is a good try. If we keep working at it, I am sure that we will get unity of purpose.
Spending from designated airports' penalty schemes and non-designated airports' noise controls schemes is meant to fund projects that could add to the quality of life for the community around the airport. In making these provisions, the Bill reflects existing practice on the part of designated airports and the practice of some non-designated airports in making community donations. Where these arrangements exist, it is common to find that a community trust fund has been established to administer the grant payments, with local authorities and representatives of the airport's consultative committee generally included as trustees. It is also common practice for the consultative committee to be informed about the operation of the scheme. We think that this is a better model than the one put forward by the noble Baroness.
The noble Baroness will note my reference to local authorities, and I know how keenly she admires and advocates their role in our national life. The problem with airport consultative committees is that a burden would be imposed on them that it is not appropriate for them to undertake: specifically, the requirement in each of these amendments that the consultative committee should consent to payments made under a penalty scheme. Airport consultative committees are just thatconsultative. They are not decision-making bodies, and given the wide range of interests that
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are represented on them, it would perhaps be unreasonable to expect them always to reach a consensus on airports' use of penalty funds.
The presence of members of an airport's consultative committee on a charitable trust set up to distribute payments received for breaches of noise controls is a different matter. If the trust has been set up for that express purpose, it becomes a decision-making body. We believe that, in practice, airports will continue to consult appropriately on the distribution of penalty scheme funds, including seeking advice from and providing information to the consultative committee, where one exists. We do not believe that it is necessary to put this requirement in the Bill, nor do we think that that is necessarily the best way to act.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in this regard the Opposition have totally misunderstood the purpose of the consultative committee, which, as he said, is to give advice? This amendment virtually gives it a veto, does it not? I think that that is entirely wrong and inconsistent with the purposes of the airport consultative committee.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend who, as ever, has expressed my argument more succinctly than I have managed to do. The amendment would give these bodies a power of veto, and we do not think that they are constructed in such a way as to enable them to exert such powers. In addition, not all airports have been designated for the purposes of Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. Therefore, not all airports will have a consultative committee to be involved in any noise control scheme the airport might establish. We would expect such airports, which are likely to be small, to make proportionate arrangements to ensure that their noise control schemeincluding payments from penalties, which they would enjoy to a lesser degreewas reasonable and transparent. It is important to ensure that the legislation is sufficiently flexible to deal with the widely differing circumstances of British airports and the arrangements they expect to make with their local community.
This is a good shot on the part of the noble Baroness. I commend the obvious objective of having the penalty payments used for the benefit of the local community who are most directly affected by the noise and pollution that an airport inevitably produces. But as my noble friend says, we do not think that airport consultative committees can exercise a veto. What is more, no such bodies exist in many small airports.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister. He has, without blinking, responded to the amendment I did not move. That is not his faultit is mine. I spoke to Amendment No. 10 and he, quite properly, responded to Amendment No. 8, but none of us seems to have noticed.
I thank the Minister very much for his reply to my Amendment No. 8, which was grouped with Amendment No. 13. I still think that Amendment
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No. 8 would have been perfectly appropriate and the local community should still benefit from the airport trust in the way it does. However, I intend to withdraw the amendment and shall not speak to Amendment No. 10, although the Minister might like to respond to it. We will all get confused and bored if I go through Amendment No. 10 again and it appears in Hansard twice. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
In section 60(3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 (c. 16) (power to give effect to Chicago Convention and to regulate air navigation, etc.) at the end of paragraph (e) insert "avoiding areas designated as National Parks"."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am giving the Minister the opportunity to offer us a few words of comfort. The purpose of the amendment is to draw attention, as I did in Committee, to the way in which the tranquil areas of this country are fast disappearing. I have some maps from the Campaign to Protect Rural England to show how these areas have diminished.
I was told in Committee that there was no such legal term as "tranquil area" and that the amendment I moved then was invalid. I am seeking to preserve some areas of peace in this country from which noise is, as far as possible, excluded. The purpose of the amendment is to ask the Government to ask those authorities responsible for setting up air traffic routes that they should, as far as possible, avoid the national parks. There should be some areas of tranquillity.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, it certainly does not extend to trains or tractors. In fact, the noble Lord might agree that the increasing presence of aircraft flying over national parks is causing mounting distress. Trains have largely been accepted when they do go through national parks, while I am afraid that tractors are part of the country scene anyway, although they are not terribly noisy. But aircraft are extremely intrusive.
Will the Government ask the authorities responsible for the routes that aircraft take across the country to avoid, if they can, national parks? We are seeking not to set a prohibition but to ask that there are some areas of tranquillity in our country. I beg to move.
The greater part of England and Wales is covered by what is termed "controlled airspace". This contains a complex, multi-layered network of routes and airways established over many years to provide a safe
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and efficient flow of traffic to and from airports from ground level to the designated international UK airspace exit and entry points, as the noble Lord will know.
There are a number of factors that have to be taken into account when designing airspace. Safety of design is paramountand we have discussed that at previous stages. I am sure we are all agreed that that must be right. Fly-ability, complexity, air traffic controller workload, and environmental matters all are considered as well. However, government policy does not preclude overflight of national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty, as it is often impractical to do so.
We understand the concern that noble Lords have expressed about protecting designated areas of the countryside from the noise and visual intrusion effects of overflying aircraft, although the aircraft noise levels will be relatively low. Section 70 of the Transport Act 2000 sets out the Civil Aviation Authority's general duties when exercising its air navigation functions, and specifies how any conflict in the application of these provisions is to be resolved. Section 70(1) makes it clear that the safe provision of air traffic services is the overriding consideration. The authority must also consider secondary issues, such as efficient use of airspace, the interests of stakeholders, environmental matters and, of course, national security objectives. In doing so, if there is a conflict in applying these considerations, the authority must apply them in the manner that it thinks is reasonable.
The Secretary of State has given directions to the authority, under Section 66(1) of the 2000 Act, in respect of all United Kingdom airspace. These are concerned with, among other things, the environmental impact of air operations, and require the authority to perform its air navigation functions in the manner that it thinks best calculated to take into account the need to reduce, control and mitigate as far as possible the environmental impacts of civil aircraft operations, and in particular the annoyance and disturbance caused to the general public arising from aircraft noise and vibration, and emissions from aircraft engines. They also require the authority to take into account the need for environmental impacts to be considered from the earliest possible stages of planning, designing, and revising airspace procedures and arrangements.
Where proposed changes to the design or provision of airspace arrangements or to the use made of them might have a significant detrimental effect on the environment, the authority must notify the Secretary of State of the likely impact and of plans to keep that impact to a minimum. Where those changes might have a significant effect on the level or distribution of noise and emissions in the vicinity of a civil aerodrome, they must also ensure that the manager of the aerodrome, its users, any local authority in the neighbourhood of the aerodrome and other organisations representing the interests of persons in the locality have been consulted.
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The Secretary of State has provided guidance to the authority under Section 70 of the Transport Act on environmental objectives to be taken into account when carrying out its air navigation functions. The guidance states that changes to airspace arrangements should be made after consultation only where it is clear that an overall environmental benefit will accrue, and where airspace management considerations and the overriding need for safety allow for no practical alternative. The guidance specifically notes that overflight of national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty is not precluded. Given the sheer area that they cover, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, will knowthese AONBs and national parks cover about a quarter of England and WalesI do not see how it could be otherwise that the guidance specifically notes that overflight of national parks is not precluded.
The guidance does say, however, that the authority's director of airspace policy should, where practical, pursue policies that will help to preserve the tranquillity of the countryside. I hope the noble Lord will see that there is direction and guidance to ensure that the policies do try to preserve the tranquillity of the countryside where that does not increase significantly the environmental burdens on congested areas. As he will know, that is in line with the Government's aim of giving stronger protection to the most valued landscapes in designated national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. However, given the geographical constraints of the UK, the location of centres of population, the complex nature of the national traffic service route structure and its interrelationship with adjacent states and the associated international route structure, as well as the military training and danger areas, there is very little scope for air traffic to avoid specific areas on the ground.
In the en route phase of flightthat is, the phase outside terminal airspaceany decision to introduce deviations in routes to avoid specific areas such as the national parks, as this amendment would require, would not be an option. It would require significant additional airspace to control flight profiles, and controller workload to manage such airspace would be significantly increased, leading to reductions in capacity and some safety concerns. From an environmental perspective, the impact of avoiding areas such as the national parks would be greater because aircraft would have to change power settings and configuration to fly less straightforward routes, leading to increased fuel burn and associated emissions.
Where it is possible to avoid overflight of national parks and AONBs below 7,000 feet without adding to those environmental burdens on more densely populated areas, it clearly makes senseand I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshawto do so. We want that to be on record. However, government policy will continue to focus on minimising overflight of more densely populated areas below this altitude. In accordance with long established government policy on national parks, we
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will continue to give priority to minimising the impact of aircraft noise on as many people as possible. We believe that would strike the right balance, which is what we are looking for.
I hope that explanation of the reasoning behind the Government's policy, which has been that of successive governments, will convince the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and that he will withdraw the amendment.
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