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Civil Aviation Bill

4.50 pm

Read a third time.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 1:

(1) The Secretary of State shall, no later than one year after this section comes into effect, make regulations under section 20(1) of the Land Compensation Act 1973 (c. 26) (sound-proofing of buildings affected by public works) imposing a duty on responsible authorities to insulate domestic and community buildings, such as schools and nurseries, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, places of worship, libraries and other public use buildings against noise caused, or expected to be caused, by the use of aerodromes for the taking off and landing of aircraft.
(2) Such insulation should provide for internal noise environments equivalent or better than the "good" category of BS 8233 where relevant.
(3) In making provision as to the level of noise giving rise to such a duty in respect of a building or class of buildings, and the area in which a building must be situated if the duty is to arise in respect of it, the regulations must make reference to the noise attenuation of individual rooms in domestic and community buildings such as those outlined in subsection (1) above."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Amendment No. 1 we return to the issue of the adequate soundproofing of properties close to airports. I thank the Minister for the letter which I received this morning, but that letter does not in my view constitute a sufficient response to the amendment, which we moved for the first time earlier in the Bill's passage. We understand that the Government have powers under the Civil Aviation Act 1982, by negative resolution, to make a scheme requiring the operator of an aerodrome to provide the necessary sound insulation to properties around the aerodrome.
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The noble Lord, Lord Davies, said in his letter that the airport would need to be designated. As far as I understand it, the airports at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, with which I am chiefly concerned, are designated airports, and so we can take it that the Government have sufficient power to make it possible that insulation is provided. Our information is that the communities around the airports and most particularly around Heathrow suffer excessively from noise. We are asking that the Government activate their powers to make provision for houses and, more particularly, schools, hospitals and other such buildings to be sufficiently insulated against noise.

The Government have indicated that they will move towards doing that over a 30-year time horizon, but I suggest that for most of the people being affected 30 years is so long that either they will be dead or they will have long since passed out of places of learning. What we seek in the amendment is to hear from the Government what steps they propose to take immediately to give effect to the powers which the Minister's letter says they already have. The amendment is faulty to the extent that we suggest that they take powers; we understand that they already have them. We therefore want to know when they are going to do something about the powers that they already have.

Evidence from the London Borough of Hounslow shows that the noise levels experienced by those who live in that area exceed the amount of noise that people ought to be subjected to. In the White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, there is no doubt that people who live around these airports will have to put up with more flights and more noise. Therefore, I think that this is the right time to say to the airline industry, "You must pay for some insulation". It appears to me that that has a greater call on airlines' resources than cutting yet another pound or two off the ridiculously priced cheap flights that they advertise daily in the newspapers. I believe that they have a duty to the residents around airports that is as great as or greater than their duty to the passengers whom they seek to attract to their flights. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the amendment, which is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. I am also grateful to my noble friend for his letter dated yesterday, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, sets out his comments. I will not repeat the responses as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has given them already.

The key to this issue is the difference between voluntary and statutory schemes. My noble friend said on Report that noise insulation schemes are provided only on a voluntary basis and that some buildings might require extra insulation. He said:

Airports are generally commercial undertakings; they will do what they can as long as it does not affect their bottom line. It is a bit like turkeys not voting for Christmas—they wouldn't, would they? I believe that the only answer is to have a statutory scheme that is
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reviewed regularly, that meets the British and World Health Organisation standards and that covers schools, nurseries, hospitals, places of worship, libraries and the like.

My noble friend implied on Report that people did not have to live near airports and could always move. Given that the price of houses under the flight path is probably less than it is on Hampstead Heath, it is quite difficult to find a place to which you can move within the price range—if you can sell your house.

As for the noise levels to which people are subjected, I wonder whether, if those people were at work for long periods, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act would come into force. Perhaps it is a bit like working in a dusty atmosphere. It is fine saying, "Okay, if you want a job, you work in a dusty atmosphere", but that is what the Health and Safety at Work etc Act is designed to prevent. The same applies to noise. Surely having a good night's sleep and a good environment for your kids to be educated in are just as important as having a sound, clean environment to work in.

In the 21st century, we have very modern airline technology and very modern noise technology, but the poor people—and some of them are fairly poor—affected are often powerless to take any avoiding action. This should not be left to a voluntary scheme. I very much support the amendment and believe that a statutory scheme that is applicable to all UK airports is very important.

5 pm

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I have every sympathy with the noble Lord, and support the amendment. I shall be moving an amendment later, which is in similar vein, about compensation for properties. We had the debate about noise on Report. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, repeated some of the arguments when we went to a Division. The issues of noise, night flights, insulation and valuation of houses are very important and very germane to the people who live near airports, especially if we are to have continued airport expansion and continual flights. I hope that the Government, on this issue and the issue of valuations—

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I often support what the noble Lord says, but, more importantly, he often supports me. Why did not the previous Conservative government introduce the scheme which he now applauds? They did absolutely nothing.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I shall repeat the answer. A future Conservative government will be very different from past Conservative governments, in the same way as the current Labour Government are very different from previous Labour governments. We may as well use those arguments all the time.
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I hope the Minister can give some satisfaction to those who tabled the amendment. I think we all feel the same; it is just a question of how we achieve the objective of having a statutory scheme rather than a voluntary one. I support the amendment.

Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, I declare my interest as a director of Manchester Airport. I rise with respect to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I think that he implied that voluntary schemes will never work. I ask him to visit Manchester or Nottingham East Midlands airport where we have a scheme that is every bit as good as the one being proposed here and which is done entirely voluntarily. Voluntary schemes can work.

My noble friend also mentioned a statutory code, but I cannot understand what the regulation would mean for an airport authority. How much airport noise will houses have to experience before we have to take measures? Will it be measured on the basis of distance, flight path or noise level? The amendment does not say. I think that the House should know what it is voting for before it does so.

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