It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to keep the noise of aircraft on the ground and in the air over the United Kingdom to the minimum consistent with the legitimate requirements of the aircraft operators. My right hon. Friend, the Minister of Aviation, has under consideration several proposals for reducing the disturbance caused to people living near London (Heathrow) Airport, including those mentioned in the Questions.
Is the right hon. Gentleman now admitting that he made a pledge in a speech at Isleworth on 1st October saying that he intended to ban night jet flights? If he is admitting this, surely he should have done the inquiry before making the pledge and not afterwards?
I know perfectly well what I said on that occasion. I have had the opportunity of checking what was actually said. While I did on that occasion criticise the previous Government for doing nothing about the Wilson Report, I said what we would intend to do and the things that needed to be looked at, and I concluded my phrases by saying,
I do not want to raise hopes to the point"—
and then there was an interruption; according to the text, "Applause": I am giving the full transcript—
'and am not going to suggest that planes will be noiseless or silent, or will not fly at all;
but within the limits of what can be done I think we have a right, and you have a right, to be sat satisfied that everything is being done.
That was the pledge I gave.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, as at Plymouth and Chatham he promised a larger Navy, so in that speech at Isleworth on that occasion he gave a categorical assurance that night flights would be banned from London Airport and that homes and other buildings would be made soundproof? Does he not regard that as constituting an election pledge requiring to be honoured? Or was this a question of another piece of specious electioneering?
I do not want to take issue with my distinguished biographer. But like, I think, most hon. and right hon. Gentleman who spoke in the last election campaign, I naturally tried, in the places I visited, to talk on subjects in which they were interested. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman opposite talked on agriculture in agricultural districts—not in the middle of Glasgow, quite understandably. I did feel it right to deal with this problem, particularly as so little had been done about it, but I certainly did not give the categorical pledge the hon. Member suggests I gave.
Does the Prime Minister remember that at this meeting at Smallberry Green School, when he answered questions on this subject, he spoke from a note and promised a lowering of the permitted noise levels? Does not he agree that that was calculated to influence the electors of west Middlesex in his favour, but in point of fact all the usual Conservative west Middlesex Members were returned? Would not he agree that he promised that, and will he say how he is going to bring about this decrease in permitted noise?
I did not see the hon. Gentleman at the meeting, but he has got it wrong. I did not answer questions. On looking at the transcript, I see that I said:
I am sorry, you will have a chance of asking questions at the end of the meeting to some of my colleagues when I go on to my next engagement …
I have already said what I explained at that meeting—first, the failure of the
previous Government to deal with this problem, and, secondly, the things which I gave a pledge would be looked into, and I have made it plain that my right hon. Friend is doing that.