Clause 1 — Aerodrome charges: noise and emissions

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 1:00 pm on 12th October 2006.

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Photo of Mark Todd Mark Todd Labour, South Derbyshire 1:00 pm, 12th October 2006

I shall speak about the Government amendment and ask for a clearer explanation of how it will work. Let us suppose that residents object to the charges that an airport chooses to levy because they regard them as inadequate for the purpose—they do not, for example, think that the charges clamp down hard enough on the huge Antonovs that thunder out from the airport and want the charges raised.

Presumably, under the amendment, the Secretary of State must find a way of determining whether to exercise his or her powers to vary those charges or suggest that they might be wrong. He or she will have to decide how to consult on the "interests"—I quote the amendment—of the local community. It is difficult to know what those interests might be. They might be the employment interests of local people, or their concern about noise or about environmental pollution of other kinds. They might have a wide range of concerns about the airport.

By passing an amendment that is so vague about how those interests might be interpreted and determined, the Government do themselves no great favours. They must—I hope that in the brief time available to her my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to respond to this—define a methodology, first, for defining how those interests could be determined. There would presumably be consultation with local residents. As I said, the general term "interests" is used. There is no reference to concern about a particular matter.

Secondly, there must be some methodology for determining what is a proportionate charge to levy in respect of a particular offensive act, such as causing noise or, as my neighbour Mr. Garnier mentioned, nitrogen pollution. It is not clear how those powers will work, and a challenge at judicial review is not merely likely but almost certain. Unless the Government define the processes much more clearly, they will certainly face a challenge in the courts by residents in my area.

I want to know two things. First, how will we determine what the interests of the local community might be? Secondly, how will we decide what are proportionate charges to the nuisance that is experienced?