The Concorde noise monitoring results which I gave to the House on 13th October are now being studied by the manufacturers to see whether there is any possibility of further reductions in noise levels being achieved by modifications to operational procedures. The Department's results are broadly comparable with data so far published by the Greater London Council.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why in that answer on 13th October he gave only the maximum readings, and why the readings were shown in a unit of measurement not commonly used internationally for measuring aircraft noise? Will he see that the professional Concorde-knockers do not get assistance from his Department in the production of one-sided figures? Will he give an undertaking to call a meeting with the manufacturers and trade unions in Britain and France to see what action they could or should take in the event of the Port of New York Authority using distorted or incorrect figures to prevent Concorde from landing at Kennedy Airport?
I do not accept that the unit of measurement employed at Heathrow is in any sense unconventional. It is a recognised unit of measurement and indeed tests were carried out, particularly as to siting of noise checkpoints, mobile as well as fixed, in association with a number of interested bodies, including environmental groups and local authorities. Of course there is a distinction between the measurements at Heathrow and generally agreed international measurements as set out in Annex 16 of the Chicago Convention. It is an internationally agreed level which is taken into account by the manufacturers in planning engine performance in relation to noise, and in my view it will be closely studied by the United States and other authorities.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that publication of these figures was ill timed at a moment when people are trying to sell the aircraft around the world? Was the British Aircraft Corporation right to say that strict noise procedures were not being carried out? Does he agree that inexperienced pilots have been flying the aircraft? What discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the British Airports Authority about new take-off and landing procedures for supersonic aircraft in view of the problems they face?
The hon. Gentleman has asked a number of questions. He said that publication of results was ill timed. I can only answer by saying that the procedures in a democracy often result in matters being published at moments which various interests may consider to be ill timed. Nevertheless, there has been a proper public interest among hon. Members on both sides of the House in demanding that noise measurements of Concorde's proving flights should be monitored and made known. I take it as my duty not to suppress information but to make information available to the House and to the public.
As for the pilots being inexperienced, naturally we have not yet had a great deal of experience of flying this aircraft, and part of the testing programme was aimed at developing the experience of pilots. However, I do not accept that they were inexperienced in any other sense, but clearly their familiarity with the handling of Concorde will have been greatly enhanced by the proving flights that took place in the summer.
Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that current investigations into Concorde noise levels will not hold up the first commercial flights of Concorde out of Heathrow?
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the recommendation by the Noise Advisory Council that Concorde should not be allowed to take off and land at night? Will he confirm and enforce the strict ban on Concorde being allowed to manoeuvre at night over residential areas?
I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, and I appreciate that he lives in an area greatly affected by aircraft movements. I assure him that there will be no taking off or landing in any normal circumstances of Concorde after the appropriate night-time period begins.
Does the Secretary of State not agree that, had the figures that were released after the tests at Casablanca been available at the same time, they would have put a rather different picture on these alarmist figures? Therefore, will he have a word with his colleague, the Secretary of State for Industry, to see why the copy of the report on the Casablanca tests, which is stated to have been placed in the Library, is still not available?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—whose presence on the Opposition Front Bench I note with interest and pleasure—for his, as usual, well-informed intervention on this important question. It is true that a separate set of tests has been conducted under Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention and that those tests were conducted at Casablanca. Those tests, which are internationally accepted tests, produced the general conclusion that we had ourselves previously affirmed—the expectation that Concorde's noise would be broadly comparable not with the most modern of subsonic jets but with the Boeing 707–320C and so on, and those results have been confirmed.
I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the timing of the later publication of the Casablanca results, in relation to which there were certain problems. We should have liked to have them as nearly as possible published with our own figures. I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry what the hon. Gentleman has said about copies being available in the Library.
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Industry expressed on 13th September his appreciation of the hard work done by all concerned in bringing to a satisfactory conclusion an intensive programme of endurance flying. The issue of a United Kingdom type certificate is a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority. The Chairman has told me that, subject to the demonstration of a revised cruise technique satisfactory for all expected atmospheric conditions, the issue of this certificate will be possible in ample time to avoid any delay in introducing the aircraft into airline service.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is vital for the success of this project that the certificate should be issued as soon as possible, especially as the French already have their certificate? Is he aware that there will be a delay between the operations of Air France and British Airways unless this certificate is issued quickly? Will he use his good offices to make sure that the Government urge the Civil Aviation Authority to issue the certificate as soon as possible?
This is a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority. The concept of type certification is a little different in each of the two countries. In Britain it covers certain aspects that the French cover in operational control rather than by a certificate. I have no doubt that the Authority will note my hon. Friend's observations.
May I press the hon. Gentleman to make sure that the certificate is granted without any further delay? The French are operating the same aircraft by the same methods. Does he not recognise that there is a danger that we shall be in a comic opera situation—not able to operate an aircraft that the French have already certificated?