Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we do not have a directive other than yours which is so effective against noise in the Chamber.
I beg to move,
That this House takes note of Commission Document No. R/1051/76 and the Department of Trade's second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 14th June 1979 on the limitation of noise emission from subsonic aircraft, and welcomes the Government's intention to support this measure.
I welcome this opportunity to debate this document before the House. It was on the agenda for a Council of Ministers' meeting on Tuesday, 26 June, but I have heard today that that Council meeting has been cancelled.
The Commission document has been submitted for scrutiny by Parliament and the Scrutiny Committee recommended, in its fourteenth report in Session 1978–79, that it be further considered by this House because the instrument raises questions of legal and political importance.
There are two aspects of this measure to which I invite the attention of the House; its influence on aircraft noise and its control and, secondly, the role of the European Economic Community in this matter.
The House will agree that control of aircraft noise is an important matter. The directive requires member States to comply with noise measures which are a minimum. It does not preclude the imposition of stricter measures by member States. These minimal measures that the directive prescribes are set out in articles 1 to 5. The first requires member States to apply to categories of aircraft specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation the noise emission standards that ICAO has itself specified for those categories, but they go further than that. In addition to requiring the ICAO standards to be applied to categories of aircraft that ICAO has specified, they give effect to three recommendations of the European civil aviation conference, which recommend the application of ICAO standards to classes of aeroplane outside the original scope of those standards. Hon. Members might find it helpful if I expand a little on that.
The European civil aviation conference recommended, first, a prohibition on the use of non-noise-certificated subsonic jets added to ECAC registers by dates which national Administrations were free to set, but which, however, must be not later than 30th June this year. That may seem confusing. If so, the House will find it no more confusing than I did the first time that I read and tried to understand it. The essence is that it is not possible to prohibit registration but it is possible to prohibit the use of aircraft registered after the due date. That is a matter not of Community law but of British law.
ECAC secondly recommended a similar prohibition of the use of non-noise-certificated light propellor driven aircraft added to registers after 31 December this year, and thereafter a prohibition on the use of all non-noise-certificated subsonic jets on national registers to be effected between 31 December 1984 and 1 January 1988. It followed that in countries accepting the ECAC recommendation such aircraft continuing in use after the specified dates would require to be noise certificated. That sounds more difficult than it is. The directive requires that aeroplanes falling in these categories, if they are to be used at airports in member States of the Community, must be noise-certificated by those latest dates. Its provisions for certain categories of exemption include those also agreed in ECAC.
The United Kingdom has already—as indeed have other European States—given effect to a rule based on the first ECAC recommendation and we have announced our intention of introducing the other two. A new draft noise order will shortly be laid before Parliament that will bring us fully into line with the requirements of the directive. It will in fact go further than the requirements of the directive. Except in very minor respects the order is identical to that laid before the election, which, but for lack of a quorum in the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments &c., would have been considered by the House in April.
The second matter that we have to consider is the part that the Community has to play in limiting aircraft noise. At present the noise emitted by aircraft is subject, within the Community, to the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European civil aviation conference. The requirements are applied in the national law of member States to a greater or lesser extent. That measure would ensure standardisation of the extent to which our Community partners enforce these measures internally and provide each member State with a means by which it could ensure that aircraft from other member States conform to the existing international standards. That mutual agreement to enforce international standards is a sensible and straightforward approach to limiting aircraft noise.
The directive would not prevent the United Kingdom from introducing more stringent regulation for United Kingdom-registered aircraft as the new order will do. At present, where United Kingdom requirements are more stringent than those in the international agreements, we require foreign-registered aircraft to conform not to our more stringent requirements but only to the international standards. This would remain unchanged, except that we would require EEC aircraft to conform to the standards in the directive.
Article 7 of the directive does, however, exhort EEC member States to take measures with the aim of ensuring that aircraft that are not on the register of a member State but use aerodromes in their territory, meet requirements at least as stringent as those in the directive. It will be helpful to have the co-operation of member States in dealing with third countries on the question of aircraft noise.
The right hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood me. The main part of the directive will be enforceable under Community law, but there is also within the directive an exhortation which is not, as I understand it, enforceable. Had it been so, I would not have referred to it as "an exhortation".
The directive will be a small but useful step in improving the environment of the Community and will ensure that member States do not gain an unfair competitive advantage by operating air fleets under less stringent noise control.
I turn now to the question of the Community's powers, which understandably has raised a good deal if interest among hon. Members. Under the Treaty of Rome, if this directive is adopted member States would be required to act jointly rather than independently in international fora on aircraft noise.
Let me explain how this would work in practice. The main international forum on aircraft noise is the committee on aircraft noise of ICAO. This is a technical body, where national experts are acting in a personal capacity. We shall continue to take the line that such experts' meetings are outside the Community's authority. Decision-making in ICAO is done by the Council, a permanent body of 30 elected members. The Community is not a member of ICAO, nor does it enjoy observer status. The United Kingdom and three other member States are on the ICAO Council. They already co-ordinate informally on ICAO business, but they are careful not to be seen to act as a single body.
This is important in ICAO, where political issues are rarely raised and where the power blocs are little in evidence.
I ask the Minister to clarify one point. When he said that the Community would be obliged to act in conformity on aircraft noise matters, did he just mean on engine noise? I take it that there would be no consequent obligation upon member States to abide by the same kind of regime of curfews or other measures designed to reduce the impact of noise on the population around airports.
My hon. Friend is correct. This directive relates to the enforcement of ICAO noise standards. Those standards concern, of course, the measured noise of aircraft. They are not concerned with curfews or any other such matters that are bound to be different for individual airports in individual countries.
The lack of politics in ICAO is particularly significant in so far as it concerns the Community. Its four representatives on the Council of 30 give it a powerful influence, considering that the EEC is but nine States—though numbering several major civil aviation Powers—out of an ICAO membership of 144. Member States and the Commission are well aware of this.
I am satisfied that the extension of the Community's authority which the directive will produce is justified by the extra powers that it will bring to enable us to limit the noise of aircraft from other member States.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this takes the position far beyond that which relates to shipping? The Labour Government resisted strongly the suggestion that the Community should take a joint line at IMCO. Will he explain to the House that by the assumption of this area of authority on the part of the Commission, that authority will also extend to wider aviation matters?
I shall come to that point before I sit down. I have stated already that the directive will not oblige us to act in the sense of a total package deal at ICAO. It is accepted by member States and by the Commission that that would not be the best way to proceed, as, as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out, would be the case at IMCO.
There will be less noise. The purpose of adopting the directive is to make it possible to enforce lower aircraft noise limits throughout the Community. Although we would be able to enforce such limits unilaterally on our aircraft it is often difficult to enforce them on the aircraft of other countries. The directive will ensure that the Community moves in step in enforcing international standards in order that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) can sleep more peacefully at night—provided that I can persuade the House that the extension of European authority will not be a bad thing for the United Kingdom in itself.
If the hon. Gentleman asks a question I hope that he will have the courtesy to allow me to answer it. If my answer does not satisfy him he can come back to me. We are intent on seeking powers, through the Community, to ensure that all aircraft registered in the Community comply with the ICAO standards. That is the essence of the matter. There is the additional advantage that we believe that it will enable us to act more powerfully to enforce standards to third-party aircraft coming into the Community. It is an advantage for the Community to act as one in any such action.
This is a complicated matter and obviously it will be of great advantage to us, but when my hon. Friend talks of enforcement, does it mean that we shall have the power to fine, stop or ban aircraft from other European countries which do not come up to ICAO standards—apart, of course, from our own aircraft which we can deal with?
I apologise for the fact that the mechanism is slightly complicated. It means that in exactly the same way as we will refuse to allow aircraft which do not meet the ICAO noise limits to operate, our fellow members of the Community will move in time with us in the same way to control aircraft noise emitted by aircraft of their fleets.
This measure was brought before the Council under article 84.2 of the Treaty, which provides that
The Council may, acting unanimously, decide whether, to what extent and by what procedure appropriate provision may be made for sea and air transport".
Hon. Members will have seen press reports of a comprehensive civil aviation programme which was put forward by the Commission last week. This has not yet been presented to the Council of Ministers, and therefore I am unable to comment on its contents.
Although, naturally, I hope to be able to take a constructive view of its proposals, acceptance of this directive in no way commits the United Kingdom to the acceptance of further measures in civil aviation. I shall consider each proposal on its merits and, in the light of the likely effects of any further extension of Community authority which might arise from such proposals and after due consultation, I shall take action accordingly, provided that the House is kind enough to give me the necessary authority.
Is there not great merit in further harmonisation of civil airworthiness re quirements within the member States of the Community, and perhaps a further movement in that direction, eventually leading to common airworthiness requirements, and perhaps even a single regulatory and airworthiness body?
It is always possible to predicate some such ideas and some day on which they may perhaps be put forward by the Commission or others, but they should be considered not only on the merit of the particular proposal but from the point of view of whether we wish to extend the authority or competence of the EEC in those areas and others which might open up beyond. We shall take both factors into account.
It should not be assumed that, because we see an advantage in allowing the Community to extend its influence into the area of aircraft noise, which is essentially an environmental matter, we would see a similar advantage in allowing an extension into the wider aviation issues.
The hon. Gentleman says "It is not up to them", but I am not sure to which "them" he is referring. He was the Minister who extended the competence of the European Commission on matters affecting marine affairs and has taken the view that this does not open up a much wider area. We take a similar view.
The Minister should not make these assumptions. If he researches history a little more carefully he will see that I was not the Minister who took that step. What the House is concerned about and what the Minister seems concerned to skate over is this: is there not ample precedent to establish that once the Community has grasped jurisdiction in this way it feels impelled—and feels that it has the authority to do so—to extend that jurisdiction far more widely? Indeed, the grasping of something that is fairly innocuous is the usual precedent that is established in these matters.
The hon. Gentleman may make that claim, but if we accept this directive we accept a directive that gives the Community power to impose ICAO noise standards. We do not give the Community power to extend into matters of certification or regulation in other areas.
I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but it is important to get the facts straight. In reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) he said that this directive, if accepted, would enable the United Kingdom to impose tougher standards. Why cannot the United Kingdom impose ICAO standards at Leeds or anywhere else by saying that unless an aircraft comes up to ICAO standards we will not allow it to land or take off? If that were so there would surely be no advantage to be gained from this directive.
The question of imposing standards of noise or anything else on aircraft at particular airports or in particular countries is fraught with difficulty unless done with the agreement of the other States concerned. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps recall that some difficulties arose in the case of the United States and Concorde. It is far better that we mutually agree that we shall impose as a minimum the ICAO standards throughout the Community on the same dates and in the same manner.
As I said earlier, we shall consider each Community measure on its merits, balancing the advantage to the Community against the loss, however great or however trivial, of national authority. This is one area where the balance lies on the side of acceptance and I therefore intend to support the directive when it comes before the Council. I ask the House to support the Government proposal to do so.
There has been reference to marine engines. Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the position of hovercraft which are extremely noisy? Do they fall under the terms of any of the directives that will be coming to the House?
I beg to move, as an amendment, to leave out from 'aircraft' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'but, whilst agreeing with the international standards suggested by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, believes that they are best achieved through that body; regards extension of EEC competence in the field of aviation as undesirable; and deplores the duplication of existing machinery and the creation of additional bureaucracy.'.
There is no dispute about the need to control aircraft noise. This debate rellates solely to the question whether this directive is the right method. I would like to make one preliminary observation on the draft directive. As the explanatory memorandum makes clear, acceptance of the draft directive would severely restrict the freedom of this country to operate an international agreement that is entered into. We would not be able to introduce domestic legislation in future on these matters unless the EEC had first agreed that we could do so, even though we had been a member of the international organisation concerned and had agreed to do so there. There can be no dispute about this matter. It is contained in the Government's explanatory memorandum.
We regard that principle as wrong and an additional reason, although not the main reason, for opposing this draft directive. Once the Commission has acquired competence in this area, the next step will be for it to ask politely, but eventually to require, that member States, acting in Council, accept the presence of the Commission either as an observer or, more likely, on the basis of experience of the past five or six years, as a participating member, jointly with the member States, in the international organisation concerned.
A further step eventually will be the exclusion of the member States from the international organisation and their replacement solely by the Commission acting on behalf of the Community as a whole.
I ask the Minister to tell us tonight what the Government's attitude will be when any such proposal is put forward by the Commission. I do not say "if". This is not hypothetical. It will be put forward by the Commission, and we want to know the Government's attitude.
This draft directive very much raises the issue of competence. This is an issue that has exercised both this Hosue and the House of Lords quite a lot in the past few years. The House of Lords produced a report—Paper No. 131—last year, and there was a subsequent debate in the other place on, I think, 4 July 1978, when many fears were expressed by the noble Lords then present about the use of article 100 for extending Commission and Community competence.
The relevance of article 100 to this debate is that in a much earlier version of the draft directive in 1976 the Commission called in aid article 100 as the reason for putting forward this particular proposal. Only since then has it been changed. I shall come back to that later.
I find it rather surprising that noble Lords in the other place, which is supposed to be one of the constitutional watchdogs for this country, should be waking up far too late to the dangers inherent in the growing process of harmonisation within the Community and its laws. The watchdog did not bark during the passage of the European Communities Bill in 1972, and it is rather late in the day—I do not say pathetic—for the other place to bark now, when the intruder is not merely at the gates but is sitting comfortably in the living room.
The Scrutiny Committee of this House had some reservations about this draft directive, and these are set out perfectly fairly by the Government in the latest explanatory memorandum. In effect, the Committee saw no reason why the Community should be seeking competence in this field. The explanatory memorandum also contains a statement that Ministers are, or were—they may have stopped now—considering the implications for Community competence of this directive. There is nothing more about that in the rest of the explanatory memorandum or in the Minister's statement tonight, and I hope that he will enlighten us. What has been the outcome of that consideration? Have the Government finished their study of the issue of Community competence, and, if so, what has been the result?
We have three major worries about the extension of Community competence. First, it is a fact that when the Community seeks to extend its competence and puts one foot forward and wins that step, it then being established, it will proceed to take further steps. The Commission is always there. It is virtually a permanent part of our constitution. We have to accept it while we are in the EEC, but that means that the Commission is constantly seeking not merely to undermine national sovereignty but to extend its own area of influence and competence.
Hon. Members may or may not agree with that, but it means that every time the Commission extends its competence it extends the bureaucratic hold of Brussels over all that goes on in the Community. Ministers in the individual countries change from time to time. Governments change. Fortunately, this Parliament does not. Parliament goes on, like the Commission, and it is to Parliament, not to Ministers or individual Members, that we must look to resist further extension of Commission competence.
We have to watch every move that the Commission makes. I am glad to see that the Government's civil servants, according to a recent answer from the noble Lord the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, are given that task. They have to watch all the time to make sure that the Community is not extending its competence into areas where it should not.
The second reason why the draft directive should be opposed, on the ground of extended competence, is that it represents a bad bargain for us. There is a small gain in that better standards of aircraft noise and better methods of control are to be introduced a few years in advance of the general implementation of the ICAO standards which have been accepted widely by many countries. We are getting a short-term benefit and losing a long-term advantage. We are paying a price for the short-term benefit because we are accepting an undesirable and permanent extension of Commission competence into a new area. It is bad enough when competence is accepted in an existing EEC sphere of influence for the Community.
I am arguing on a matter of principle. I hope that one is still allowed to do that when discussing relatively small directives. This directive has wide implications.
Hon. Members who take an interest in aviation will know that
On 12 June 1978 the Council adopted a programme of work on initial measures for a common air transport policy.
"Programme of work" is a new expression for the Community.
That programme assigns priority to several areas. This is the first step. We have seen the subsequent steps. The programme covers
common standards restricting aircraft nuisance to the environment; simplification of formalities … implementation of technical standards; provisions concerning aids to airline companies; rules on competition, mutual recognition of professional qualifications for air crews and ground staff; working conditions of air crews; right of establishment; possible improvements to inter-regional air services; search, rescue and recovery operations; and investigations into accidents.
The document states that
The institutions of the Community are currently … drawing up proposals for legal acts in those areas.
and continues by pointing out that such a programme on priorities
cannot yet be regarded as an expression of a coherent common policy on air transport.
So, there is much more to come. The document states that
A common policy would have to aim at creating a common airspace and at negotiating, in accordance with common rules only, landing rights within and outside the Community.
If that is not a forecast of a gross extension, step by step, of Community competence, I do not know what is. Those are matters which are within the purview of this Parliament and this country. The Minister is already partly committed by the work programme agreed in July last year.
The hon. Gentleman told me in a written reply today that
The EEC Council of Ministers has taken no general decision in relation to policy on sea and air transport.
If a work programme is not a general decision, what is it?
I am, indeed. There is no secret about this. I have already given the date of June 1978. The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends were not in power then. I am merely making the point that his own Government will accept this.
As the hon. Gentleman may well find, there are many matters on which junior Ministers as well as senior Ministers sometimes disagree with their colleagues. The doctrine of collective responsibility does not mean collective fault on every issue. If the hon. Gentleman wants that sort of thing, he should find a few different colleagues. There are a few people of independent mind on the Government Benches.
I think that I should try to clarify the position. The mere fact that a work programme is undertaken at the instance of the Commission in no way binds member States to an acceptance of any conclusions that are reached. No detail is investigated by individual Governments while that work is going on.
I am pleased to have my hon. Friend's assurance, but I know from experience in different Departments—I think he will admit this—that once a work programme has been undertaken it rolls forward and there is increasing pressure on member States to see progress made. We all know—those who do not should know—the pressure on the President of the Council of Ministers at the end of his six-month presidency, which will not recur for several years. Presidents are under great pressure to tie up a package of concessions and agreements to crown their tenure of office with glory. It is at such times that the concessions are made. We are opening the way to that.
The third reason why we are opposed to Community competence in this area is that it means the transfer of powers once more from national Parliaments to the Commission, not in a way envisaged in the Treaty of Rome. The more power given to the Commission, the greater the temptation—as the Commission operates in a political vacuum, under the broad supervision of the Council of Ministers—for the directly elected Assembly to try to step into the breach.
I can summarise my feelings and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends about the extension of Community competence with an analogy that I hope will not be considered too farfetched. The Community is like a railway system, with a number of stations on the line. The first station, the Treaty of Rome, is long past. The last station—we do not know how many stations there are—is a federated United States of Western Europe. Some hon. Members may support that. Others do not. There is no disputing that those stations exist and that the Community's destination is the station at the end of the line, the federation of Western European States.
It is a rather peculiar railway. There are two lines running from the first station to the last, going through every station, but, unlike passengers on normal railway systems, passengers at any station can take a train only in one direction. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I am sorry if hon. Members do not like my trying to show why Community competence is so important for the future of this country and the House. I am sorry that they do not care about sovereignty. If they do not care about sovereignty and the work of the House, they should not be here. They should be outside Parliament.
The trains on the system go in only one direction, and the train that we are considering is marked "Air transport". We have seen only one part of it.
I am sorry that hon. Members are so flippant. They will live to regret that attitude. There is no doubt but that the Community is heading in the direction that I have specified. No one on the Government Benches has denied that. Indeed, a numer of hon. Members welcome the direction that it is taking. My hon. Friends and I am worried that once the train has started on its journey there is no way of turning it back. Once we have accepted one extension of Community competence, there will be no way in which, in the long term, we can prevent further extensions.
It is no consolation to be told that we can delay the journey and that we shall arrive at the destination later rather than sooner. Some of us do not want to reach the destination at any time. I strongly suspect that the British people do not want to, either. It is not a matter that was put to them during the referendum campaign or during the general election.
We shall do well tonight to take stock of where this humble draft directive, with its wider implications for the sovereignty of this place and the United Kingdom, is taking us. I urge Conservative Members, especially those who have some doubts about the direction that the Community is taking, seriously to think before supporting the Government. I hope that at least they will abstain when we press a Division on the amendment.
Unlike the signatories to the amendment, I must declare an interest. I am a director of a civil air transport company and before I took up that appointment I was selling civilian aircraft. I address myself especially to the amendment, as I endorse wholeheartedly the remarks of my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State. He explained the position extremely clearly. He said, in short, that if we are to reduce the impact of aircraft noise it is wisest to adopt a co-operative approach. That is an entirely sensible attitude.
I do not welcome the last phrase in the amendment, which
deplores the duplication of existing machinery and the creation of additional bureaucracy.
Over the past few years there has been a welcome move towards a more effective European approach to civil air transport. For example, the Association of European Aircraft Constructors has been seeking joint airworthiness requirements. It would be better for us all if there were an effective counterweight in Europe to the FAA. That is why I intervened in my hon. Friend's speech. At present it is exceedingly expensive to sell an aeroplane from one Community country to another. If it is wished, for example, to sell an aircraft from Britain to France or Germany it has to be validated by the
individual airworthiness body of the buying country. That is an impediment to trade, and business suffers.
From a safety standpoint, we have an approach to airworthiness that is second to none in the world. Recently comments have been made about the lack of adequate fatigue testing of civil air transport aircraft on the other side of the Atlantic. We believe that our standards are superior. At a time when the European aircraft consortium—Airbus Industrie—is becoming an increasingly dominant force in the civil air transport market, it would be well if the European airworthiness bodies were brought together.
The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) criticised common crew training and standards. How ludicrous if members of the Community are not able to accept, for example, an airline transport pilot's licence or commercial pilot's licence without question from another member State. How ludicrous to query common air space and moves in that direction. We already have Euro-control, without which we could not fly safely down the airways of Western Europe. Does he imagine that, in a Community which is never more than three hours' flying time from one end to the other, we should not be moving in this direction? Does he think that it is good sense that the air space of, for instance, Luxembourg should be totally sacrosanct when it takes only about five minutes' flying time to cross it?
We all realise that the passenger in Western Europe has not had the best possible deal from current civil air transport policies. We pay far too much for scheduled airline traffic in Western Europe and anything the Commission can do to achieve a more competitive environment, which favours the consumer, I would wholeheartedly welcome. I support everything that the Minister said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) has saved me from having to make a point that I wished to make—that, although we cannot, at this late hour, enter into the important debate about the relative sovereignty of the United Kingdom and of Western Europe, the existence of Euro-control is a demonstration in one important sphere that there is no hope of solving some of the major problems of Western Europe by resorting to the ancient bleatings of down-trodden sovereignty. There is no way—
I am sure that we can support that work, but if Western Europe is to achieve a sensible dimension to many of its decisions, not least in the sphere of air traffic control and many others, it will have to learn to think and act and operate and be competent as Western Europe. Unless this House, whether in the exercise of its sovereignty or otherwise, seeks to assist that ideal, we shall not be assisting our own interests.
I want to turn to a narrower but not unimportant point. Governments, when pursuing the interests either of safety, which are always presented to the House as paramount, or of minimising pollution, which also tend, these days, to have almost a righteousness of their own, often present legislation as though it is totally self-justifying, and one must never ask any more about its costs or its implications. I know how often the Minister, in another incarnation, used to emphasise the importance of costs.
What are some of the economic implications of this legislation? How many aircraft will suffer accelerated depreciation? How many aircraft in Western Europe as a whole will have to be modified? He knows as well as I do how expensive aircraft modifications can be. Perhaps looking further ahead, does the legislation require the aircraft manufacturers to undertake particular research? The Minister knows how expensive advanced research, whether to minimise noise or to achieve any other aeronautical criterion, can be.
The implication is that the cost of travelling by air will rise. Someone has to pay for this control of what is termed "aural pollution". That someone is the airline passenger, eventually, or those who use aircraft for freight. Whether Governments are talking about achieving higher standards of safety or of pollution control, in this sphere or any other, the time has come when, almost as a matter of principle, we should always be told the cost as we approach asymptotically to the ideal.
We shall never reach 100 per cent. safety or 100 per cent. control of pollution. We shall probably never reach 100 per cent. of any of these ideals. But we know—we have had experience of this in the last few years—that, as one approaches 100 per cent. 90 per cent. can be achieved comparatively economically. The next 5 per cent. cost probably as much as the first 90 per cent. The next 2 per cent. costs probably twice as much as all that has gone before. As Governments raise standards we move steadily into the era of very high cost indeed. It would be illuminating if my hon. Friend could say what are the economic implications of these desirable objectives.
I wish to address two questions to the Minister, to clarify matters.
First, very little was said about the enforcement of these proposals. If this directive were carried through and applied to this country, who would be responsible for its enforcement? For instance, if an aircraft from an EEC or outside country landed here, or attempted to land, and created excessive noise, who would then proceed against it under these proposals?
Secondly, we are dealing not with a regulation but with a directive, or EEC legislation which is not automatically legally binding in this country. Am I right in assuming that if the Minister went to Brussels and the directive were approved there, a further statutory instrument would come before the House which we should have the right to debate and vote on?
I tried to put the points raised by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) to my hon. Friend when he opened the debate. I congratulate him on doing a difficult job.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we should impose standards when foreign aircraft land, or prohibit such aircraft from landing. Who should pay the fine? Would the aircraft be confiscated? What is the mechanism by which the sanction would be imposed on the defaulting aircraft?
This is the first opportunity that I have had of debating with the Under-Secretary of State for Trade in our present roles. I regret that we are in this position. However, that is the will of a democratic society.
In the previous Administration I was Minister with responsibility in this area. Unlike many of my colleagues, in other respects and in debates, I engaged in a good deal of friendly co-operation with the Minister. That may come as a surprise to my hon. Friends. However, the Minister has considerable expertise in this area, although I am not sure that I necessarily trust his judgment on this issue. That, however, is a matter for legitimate debate.
Aircraft noise is hardly the most sublime noise ever to have penetrated the ear of mankind. It represents a pestilence for many people. I do not think that any hon. Member on either side of the House would argue that this country should not do whatever is reasonably practicable to mitigate such noise, or take action, as successive Governments have done, to tackle the question of noise at source, by phasing out noisier aircraft. The previous Government did that and we were proposing to put forward further measures on that subject. I am sure that the Minister will announce similar proposals in the not too far distant future. There are other policies which have been undertaken, such as night jet quotas and possibly even the closure of airports at night, the latter being the subject of a separate study. There are noise insulation grants and other perfectly justifiable steps that are taken to make life more tolerable for people who are affected by aircraft noise.
I must say that occasionally this noise gave rise to some extraordinary situations. I recall that on some occasions at 3 a.m. my wife and I were interrupted in our sleep by a lady who rang from Ealing to tell me that one of my aircraft had flown over her house. I never had the presence of mind to say "Thank God, it was one of ours."
The fact is that there are people who are driven absolutely frantic by this form of nuisance, and it is right that Governments should do whatever they can to mitigate it. Certainly it is right that successive Governments have done everything that they could in the international fora that are available to ensure that standards that have been agreed and practices that have been recommended by ICAO in annex 16 and its amendments to the international convention on civil aviation will be followed. We have actively supported the work of ICAO and of ECAC.
I hope that the Undersecretary will not be assailed in quite the same way. I think that we should conduct our debates in a more civilised way than by passing telephone numbers on to the lady from Ealing.
Having reflected on the work that we have done in these international bodies, I think that it is clear that it would be undesirable that we should have a plethora of organisations, each attempting to achieve the same goals. I do not think that that would be conducive to the attainment of the objectives that I have set out. It is not helpful to have an unnecessary bureaucracy. It is not right that airlines should be subjected to additional and often unnecessary form filling and inquiries being made to no real purpose.
Therefore, what we are testing tonight are two important questions. First, can the Minister establish to the reasonable satisfaction of the House that the creation of yet another body dealing with the subject of aircraft noise, namely, the EEC, will achieve some positive environmental benefits commensurate with the additional staff, expenditure and effort that will be required, without duplicating the work of the other agencies that already exist?
It is fair to point out that the Scrutiny Committee could see no such reason why the Community should seek this additional competence in this field.
The second question that we are testing is whether the Minister has been able to satisfy the House that the acceptance of this fairly innocuous and fine-sounding draft directive will not lead to the argument on the part of the Commission that it is entitled to assume a far wider competence over aviation matters, which could be prejudicial to our own national aviation interests.
In the light of these important issues, the previous Labour Government approached this matter with considerable and entirely justifiable concern. We accepted that there might be some help afforded in improving the environment of the Community, although for the United Kingdom, as the Minister has pointed out, the proposals added nothing to what we had already announced or proposed to announce. But, having said that, is it right that we should also consider the price that might have to be paid?
From a reading of the Commission documents, the main benefit appears to be that one or two nations within the EEC, and certainly not the most significant aviation States, might otherwise be somewhat laggardly in adopting the standards of ICAO to which I have referred. Luxembourg and Italy were identified as being laggardly and I should like to know the latest developments in those two countries. If this draft directive had never been thought of, would the Italian Government not be falling into line with the rest of the members of the European Community who have voluntarily agreed to deploy the policies recommended by ICAO?
The hon. Gentleman retailed the benefits that might accrue from the adoption of the draft directive, but he did not deal satisfactorily with the possible disadvantages. Is there not a risk that all that will be achieved is a larger bureaucracy, more researchers and other people being employed, more offices being occupied and more questionnaires, all demanding the deployment of more resources to achieve marginal benefits?
The Conservative Party is scathing about bureaucracy in this country, even when it is the author, as in the case of the Health Service and local government, but its silence is deafening when it comes to increasing bureaucracy in the EEC. Further, the Conservative Party is prepared to aid and abet it.
The expertise currently available to the Community, not only in aviation as a whole, where it is most limited, but in this particular field, is inadequate and would have to be supplemented. Do not individual member countries already have scarce resources to deal with problems of noise abatement? Can this country spare additional officials to supplement the expertise that may be required in Brussels?
The hon. Gentleman said nothing about the cost. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with that point.
Why cannot the objectives of noise abatement and the implementation of agreed standards be realised through the existing organisations, as the Scrutiny Committee points out? We make a considerable contribution to these organisations. There are dangers in the duplication of effort.
I have been in touch with a number of airlines. One of their concerns is that there would be an obvious need effectively to monitor all the agencies and keep the industry informed of developments within them. What proposals will the Minister make to ensure that those objectives are achieved? How can we ensure that the industry is able to make its views fully known in the relevant organisations?
Even more fundamental than these practical points is the extension of Community competence, a matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins). The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) said that it would be desirable massively to extend Community competence in the field of aviation. He is entitled to that view, but we are equally entitled to explore the inherent dangers. That is why, when we were in office, we placed a reserve on the whole question of competence.
It is the kernel of the Minister's case that these issues can be neatly compartmentalised and that dealing with aviation noise is an end in itself. If there is any question of an extension, there he is, proud and strong and able to resist further incursions. I am not so sure that that is accurate. There have been previous precedents of the Community producing an apparently harmless draft directive, and then seeking much wider jurisdiction and authority. One precedent easily creates another, and they could soon accumulate and become law.
I am not satisfied with the assurances that the Minister has given on that score. In this context there was a debate in another place on 4 July 1978. I am not permitted to quote from speakers in another place who are not Ministers, but one noble Lord said that basically he was disturbed about the ease with which members of the Commission sought to seize additional areas of jurisdiction. He recounted the story of some officials who were being probed by him and others as to how far they would want to press the argument about the assumption of competence. It was suggested to these officials that there were some areas of family law, abortion, and other matters which were not within the Treaty, which is related to economic matters, and therefore were not within the Community's competence, They solemnly replied that they did not think that that was a self-evident proposition. That is the sort of thinking that causes great concern on the Opposition Benches.
That was not only the view of one member of another place. That distinguished lawyer, Lord Diplock, was very concerned about the danger of acquiescing in the creeping surrender of our national sovereignty in almost unlimited fields of law. I suggest that these words should be heeded with great care.
We understand that the Commission is anxious about the European Court of Justice in bringing the competition rules of the Treaty of Rome to bear on air transport, but have the Government really thought out the consequences of helping the Commission to speed up the process, and perhaps doing so unnecessarily? What is in store for the United Kingdom, particularly if the thoughts of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood come to fruition? Should we appease the insatiable appetite of the Community in this regard? Should we not consider our own national interests in this creeping form of control?
It is right to consider the position of our own aviation industry against this background. Our aviation interests are more extensive than those of our European partners. Therefore, should we risk subordinating our national interests to Community-wide considerations? Do not we have more to lose in terms of our share of European air transport than anyone else? While the European proposals in general are fairly unspecific, the balance of advantage in accepting the draft must remain in doubt and let there be no doubt that there is still considerable vagueness about a number of the ideas being ventilated about air transport in the EEC.
I want to know more about our relationships, in view of the directive, with other international bodies such as ECAC and ICAO.
The Minister was a little confusing in this respect. I hope that he can say a little more about that subject.
I also ask the Minister to say something about the effect of the draft directive, if implemented, on our freighting interests. British operators have a growing fleet of good cargo aircraft. A great deal of business is done with African countries, often in places where airports are far from satisfactory in terms of loading and unloading. There is a risk that we shall reach a position in which quieter and bigger aircraft—too big and too sophisticated, perhaps, for that type of market in terms of loading and unloading palletised freight—are used and consequently, the directive could have unhappy consequences. I understand that it takes many of these countries a good deal of time to turn round a 707. How would the valuable freight be carried in these larger and quieter aircraft?
May I also put a question about the DC10? The recent events affecting that aircraft give rise to anxieties. It is not appropriate to comment on matters directly affecting the crash, or the views expressed by the CAA. That, no doubt, will be raised at another time. But there must now be a doubt about future purchases of the DC10. There is likely to be a problem in that respect in future. Since we may not get these quieter aircraft on to the market, will EEC countries be able to acquire insufficient quantities of other aircraft within the time scale suggested by the directive? It may be that my doubts are ill-founded, but it falls to the Minister to clarify the point.
The hon. Gentleman should not have given such a swift welcome to the directive. Happily, there is time for the hon. Gentleman to think again, because the meeting of Ministers is not now to take place on 26 June. The Minister will be spared that remarkable experience, at least for a short time. I hope that he will reflect on what has been said from the Labour Benches and that he will be able to answer some of my questions. If he cannot deal with all of them—although I am sitting down a little earlier than I had planned, to give him more time—I trust that he will write to me about those that he cannot cover.
With the permission of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall try to reply to the not inconsiderable volume of questions that have been put to be my the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Dr. Davis) and other right hon. and hon. Members.
I refer first to the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins). I should at once put him and his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central right over this question of what the amendment refers to as
the duplication of existing machinery and the creation of additional bureaucracy.
I am not sure, even now, that either of the hon. Members has quite grasped the point. That must be my fault in not explaining it adequately. This directive does not create additional bureaucracy or machinery—beyond the machinery and bureaucracy required for the members of the Community to receive from the Community a letter—presumably franked with a 9p stamp, or whatever it costs in Brussels—telling them that they are required to implement the standards of ICAO which are already in existence.
ICAO does not require that the Community should create a noise certificate. That idea, which was put forward way back in 1976, has been dropped. It does not require that there should be new conferences, in new places, about these things, with hordes of new officials and experts. It requires only that the ICAO regulations should be implemented. That is the essence of the matter.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is being naïve, because he will find that the Community does not exist like that. At the very least I think that he will be entitled to expect a lunch, because that is how it does its business.
If the hon. Gentleman feels that the argument that I might have lunch at the expense of the Community is one that should restrain us from taking measures which we have agreed will help to control aircraft noise, he is putting a pretty thin case.
The hon. Member for Waltham Forest made a great deal of the acceptance of the Community in ICAO. I think that he misunderstands ICAO. That would require the agreement of that body. There are 144 members of that body. I am not of the opinon that they would necessarily be overly anxious to welcome the Community, as the Community, into their midst, even if that was the proposal which we, as members of the Community, were to put. I do not think that it will work in that way.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether we had considered the extension of Community competence. I might have expressed myself inadequately, but I was genuinely of the opinion that I had said something about that in the remarks with which I began this debate.
The hon. Gentleman said that there was a small gain in terms of aircraft noise. There will be a gain, but I think that the point that the hon. Gentleman misses is that the ICAO recommendations are not mandatory on anyone unless they are put into the national law of the countries concerned, and the directive will oblige members of the Community to implement those recommendations in their national law.
The hon. Gentleman produced, like some horrid spectre, this idea of Community action to improve standards of air safety, or even to improve competition. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not oppose measures to improve air safety, and I am sure that if what I was introducing tonight was a proposal that on this matter a group of States should agree to bind themselves to implement this proposal of ICAO neither the hon. Gentleman nor anybody else would object. What the hon. Gentleman is afraid of is the train which he mentioned, and we understand that.
Some of my hon. Friends would take that train a long way. Some would like to reverse it, and I believe that the same is true of the Opposition Benches. In being so quick to criticise what happened under his Government the hon. Gentleman perhaps laid himself open to the charge that the train about which we were talking was the gravy train, which it was difficult to get off.
I do not want to be too unkind to the hon. Gentleman about that, but I did not think that it came well from him to discover that this issue of competence and the proposal of the Community, to which I referred in my speech and with which the hon. Member for Hackney, Central dealt very well, was such a terrible thing. It was so dramatic tonight. It was so frightening that our flesh was made to creep, but it was not enough to frighten the hon. Gentleman into standing up and saying anything about it when his Government were in office. I do not believe that it frightens the hon. Gentleman at all.
I did not know about the working part at the time. Furthermore, as far as I have been able to discover, the matter was not reported to Parliament or to the Scrutiny Committee.
In that case the hon. Gentleman, once again, is making savage criticisms of his colleagues. I cannot take seriously the extent to which he claims that he is alarmed by the measure. I take seriously the extent to which he is alarmed about the potential of progress to some form of federal State—we all take that seriously.
I should like to refer to the question raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). Turkey is not a member of the Community and will not be bound by the directive unless and until she becomes one. The directive does not apply to associate members.
We are anxious to put any pressure that we can upon all countries inside and outside the Community to accede to annex 16 to the ICAO recommendation.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) for his warm expression of thanks for my remarks—even if he got the impression that I may not be as warm as he is about the proposals for a substantial expansion of the Community's authority in the other matters affecting the air transport industry.
I should tell my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) that all recommendations of ICAO are required to be economically reasonable. He asked how many aircraft would suffer accelerated depreciation. I am afraid that I cannot tell him that, but I can tell him that well over seven years' notice will be given of the ending of the service of those aircraft. Any prudent airline will take that into account.
If noise levels are unacceptable, if airfields have to be closed and new ones built, and if expensive double-glazing programmes have to be undertaken to insulate from noise, that will involve substantial expense. It would be better to ensure that new aircraft coming into service were as quiet as it was reasonably possible to make them.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) referred to enforcement. The burden of enforcement rests on the State of registry, which is obliged to prohibit the use of aircraft which do not conform to the standards. Legislation is needed, and it will be provided in the form of the order to which I referred earlier. It was laid in the last Parliament but, unhappily, there was not a quorum in Committee and it was not able to be discussed.
It will be within the power of the House, as I understand it, to perform its usual curious procedure on such matters. We shall discuss whether we have considered the statutory instrument in Committee. That is the normal procedure.
The hon. Member for Hackney, Central asked whether these provisions will do anything or will merely add to cost and duplication. I think that I answered that in what I said to his hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest. Will they lead to the Commission claiming further extensions of competence? I would say from my knowledge of the Commission that it will almost certainly lead it to claim more. It is claiming more under the programme to which the hon. Gentlemen referred and which it was authorised to carry out much earlier. But claims are not concessions, and we can refute those claims if we decide that it is in our interest and that of the Community to do so. We shall judge them on their merits. If there is a need for Community action to enforce some safety standard which is important I believe that we might agree that it is worth an extension of competence, but we should have to consider very carefully indeed whether such an extension would have adverse consequences which were greater than the beneficial ones in the provisions now before us.
The hon. Member for Hackney, Central also asked who were the laggards in Europe. To the best of my belief the country with the biggest problem in complying with annex 16 is Italy, with its DC9 aircraft. The hon. Gentleman asked whether more and more people were to be employed and whether the EEC could do the job. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion to the need to control public expenditure as much as he seems to welcome mine in respect of some aspects of increasing it, as he would have us believe. I do not believe that I am increasing it by any worthwhile amount. He asked why it could not be done through the existing institutions. He knows the answer to that question. The existing institutions do not exercise mandatory power.
The hon. Gentleman also asked how industry will make its views known. It will make them known in the way that it has always done, namely, through ICAO by coming to the Government. No new ways are required, as the industry knows.
I believe that the hon. Gentleman answered his own questions about the extension of EEC authority, both in putting right his hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest and in taking his stand, quite rightly, on the limits to which competence would be extended, when he agreed to limited extensions of competence on marine matters.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulties of the freighting industry and the problems that it will hit with aircraft which may not be noise certificated—
|Division No. 14]||AYES||11.47 p.m.|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N.)||McDonald, Dr. Oonagh||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Deakins, Eric||O'Neill, Martin||Straw, Jack|
|George, Bruce||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch (S. Down)||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Kerr, Russell||Rooker, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Leighton, Ronald||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|McCusker, H.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. John (Deptford)||Mr. David Stoddart|
|Adley, Robert||Glyn, Dr Alan||Newton, Tony|
|Alexander, Richard||Goodhew, Victor||Onslow, Cranley|
|Alton, David||Gorst, John||Page, Rt. Hon. R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Gow, Ian||Parris, Matthew|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Gower, Sir Raymond||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Greenway, Harry||Pawsey, James|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N.)||Penhaligon, David|
|Beith, A. J.||Gummer, John Selwyn||Pollock, Alexander|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hamilton, Hon. Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Best, Keith||Hampson, Dr. Keith||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Havers, Rt. Hon. Sir Michael||Renton, Tim|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Hawksley, Warren||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Boscawen, Hon. Robert||Heddle, John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW.)|
|Boyson, Dr. Rhodes||Hicks, Robert||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Bright, Graham||Hill, James||Rossi, Hugh|
|Brinton, Timothy||Hogg, Hon. Douglas (Grantham)||Sainsbury, Hon. Timothy|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Holland, Philip (Carlton)||St. John-Stevas, Rt. Hon. Norman|
|Brooke, Hon. Peter||Hordern, Peter||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Jenkin, Rt. Hon. Patrick||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Buck, Antony||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Silvester, Fred|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Jopling, Rt. Hon. Michael||Sims, Roger|
|Butcher, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Speed, Keith|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Knox, David||Speller, Tony|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Squire, Robin|
|Carlisle, Rt. Hon. Mark (Runcorn)||Lang, Ian||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Lawson, Nigel||Stevens, Martin|
|Channon, Paul||Lee, John||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Le Marchant, Spencer||Stradling Thomas J.|
|Clark, William (Croydon South)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Clegg, Walter||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Thompson, Donald|
|Colvin, Michael||MacGregor, John||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Cope, John||Mackay, John (Argyll)||Thornton, George|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Trippier, David|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Major, John||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Marlow, Antony||Wakeham, John|
|Dover, Denshore||Mawhinney, Dr. Brian||Waldegrave, Hon. William|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Ward, John|
|Durant, Tony||Mayhew, Patrick||Watson, John|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Wells, P. Bowen (Hert'fd&Stev'nage)|
|Eggar, Timothy||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)||Wheeler, John|
|Faith, Mrs. Sheila||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Miscampbell, Norman||Wilkinson, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Montgomery, Fergus||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Morrison, Hon. Peter (City of Chester)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Murphy, Christopher||Wolfson, Mark|
|Forman, Nigel||Myles, David|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Neale, Gerrard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Needham, Richard||Mr. David Waddington and|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Neubert, Michael||Mr. Carol Mather.|