This is a probing amendment. At present the clause states:
''Without prejudice to any power of any aerodrome authority to enter into an agreement on such terms as it thinks fit, an aerodrome authority may, for the purposes mentioned in subsection (2) below, fix its charges in respect of an aircraft or a class of aircraft''.
We suggest that the authority should do so. We wish to press the Government at this early stage to look beyond enabling powers and tell the Committee what they envisage being done. A whole range of groups are concerned about the future of civil aviation.
Environmentalists—I hope that we are all environmentalists in the Committee—are concerned about CO?2? and NOx emissions. They include those who live near airports, and some who live further away but under a flight path—that includes people who are affected by Manston airport, which is near my constituency—as well as those who are desperately worried about noise, those who travel on aeroplanes and the civil aviation industry, which is very anxious to know what will be done. The simple, one-word amendment is designed to probe the Government about that at an early stage.
The airlines made it clear in correspondence in the build-up to the Bill's introduction that in principle they are in favour of what the Government are trying to achieve, but they want to know where there will be compulsion and what will actually happen. I ask the Minister if the powers proposed will be compulsory, because it appears to the Opposition that there is nothing much in the clause that is not already happening.
As the Minister conceded at Second Reading, a large number of airports are already doing what is proposed, so what is the clause, which is rightly designed to give airports the power to regulate their charges according to emission noise and so on, trying to achieve? The airports already have the power, so if there is to be no compulsion, what is the purpose of the clause? I look forward to the Minister's response.
In the spirit of cross-party co-operation, I support what the hon. Member for Canterbury said about this probing amendment and I understand why he will not press it to a Division. It goes to the core of what we are discussing. If aviation, aviation emissions and aviation noise are as significant as the Government say, the Government should be trying to ensure that every aerodrome authority sets charges, for example, and draws up noise control schemes. It is a matter of ''shall'' rather than ''may'', as the hon. Gentleman said. I hope that the Minister, too, will explain precisely why the Government feel that a soft ''may'' is appropriate rather than ''shall'', given that many airport authorities are already taking the action proposed.
I begin by saying that I endorse the words of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) in his recognition that there are enormous benefits to the country from aviation, as we discussed on Second Reading. That is recognised, although not evenly by all parties. There is no question that aviation has an impact in environmental terms, and we need to rise to the challenge that it presents. Those living close to airports have genuine anxieties, which the Government and I recognise absolutely and we must move forward in responding to it.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington is right that the amendment goes to the heart of what we will be discussing. I will respond in detail as it will avoid having to cover the same ground in the new clauses and in further amendments that expand on the same argument; the extent to which there should be a regulatory framework that is imposed as a duty on local airports rather than being voluntary.
The hon. Member for Canterbury made it clear that he did not believe that aerodrome operators would voluntarily make use of the provisions in the Bill to fix their charges by reference to noise or aircraft emissions. He also said—there is some contradiction in his position—that many airports are doing that already. There is tension in that respect, but I hope that we might be able to reach a consensus on the matter.
The amendment seeks to clarify the legal status under which airports are able to levy those charges. Many, if not most, airports are already making considerable progress in working with their communities and with consultative committees to find a way forward. That good practice should be encouraged and developed. However, the provisions in the Bill have been introduced specifically in response to some airports—I name Manchester airport in particular—that have made it clear that they seek legal clarification of the powers that they wish to use. Manchester airport may want to fix its charges by reference to aircraft noise or emissions, and it seeks the cover of legislation to do so. It intends to make use of the provisions.
Can the Minister clarify what seems to be a missing dimension? Different airports around the country may choose different noise limits for local residents or within the airport boundaries. Is there a mechanism somewhere in the Bill—I have not found one—that will enable a Minister to set a national noise target? The amount of noise that wakes someone up at night or disturbs them during the day surely does not depend on whether they live in Manchester or Windsor.
I was just about to come to that point. My answer is the same as my response to the entire argument, which is that there are enormous differences in airports and aerodromes and therefore a single formula is not likely to catch what is required by those living near airports. It is true that an individual may be affected by the same level of noise whether they are living in Manchester, London or anywhere else in the country, but a contour—a profile of noise in a particular area—will have a very different impact on different communities, depending on levels of population density and where the aircraft fly from. That is why a single formula is unlikely to work.
The Government's policy—that of this Government, and also previous Governments—has been that the local issue of the environmental impact of an airport should be resolved locally where possible. I remind the hon. Gentleman—and the hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening) who raised similar points—that a previous Minister for Aviation, following a consultation on control of aircraft noise, said in 1991:
''The responses generally to the consultation supported the principle that aerodromes should be locally accountable. I am taking various steps to reinforce this approach, building on the existing mainly voluntary system of control at most airports.''
''It is far better for aerodromes to adopt and enforce effective noise measures themselves and to be accountable for local people voluntarily about what they are doing.''
That was the previous Government's approach, and there was consistency in terms of this requirement for local, and therefore locally variable, conditions to be established.
The point that I was trying to make—perhaps I did not put it clearly enough—was that it does not matter where in the country someone is, outside the perimeter of an airport, if they have an aircraft coming over at 90 dB, because that will disturb them. I wonder whether a bigger framework is needed, in which it is recognised that even if noise contours are interesting, what matters to each individual is the noise that hits their eardrums. The provisions, even though they give those local powers, do not fulfil the national responsibility to ensure people's peace and quiet in their areas.
It is precisely those powers, most of which will be locally implemented in local circumstances, that are designed to bear down on levels of airport noise. In many cases, such as in the case of Heathrow, raised by the hon. Member for Putney, that is exactly what has happened. Levels of noise—the noise contour—have come down over the course of time, even allowing for a level of additional movements.
I shall explain to hon. Members a little more about the reason for having a varied response to account for local circumstances. Such a response reflects the diverse nature of airports and their operation. Hon. Members might recall the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) on Second Reading about the possible effect of the Bill on airports in the highlands and islands, including the beach at Barra. That is a good example of how the amendment, in placing an absolute duty on airport operators to fix their charges with reference to noise or emissions, would risk placing an undue regulatory burden on some airports, particularly small ones. At Barra, the twin-engined plane uses the beach as its runway, and its take-off and descent are over the sea. Noise and emissions are scarcely an issue in that context, and clause 1 allows the flexibility to account for such cases, just as it will allow airports such as Manchester, which are utterly different in their operation, to reflect in their charging schemes the environmental impact of the aircraft that use it.
The Minister has been courteous about giving way. Much of what she is saying makes a great deal of sense, but she still has not addressed the central issue, which this probing amendment was designed to tease out. What is the clause designed to achieve if there is no compulsion, given that the arrangements are already in place where airports want them and a growing number have them?
I hoped that I was able to explain that quite early on when I cited Manchester as an example. It is a very busy urban airport seeking clarification of its legal status if it wants to introduce the charges. It is concerned with being able to levy charges if it deems at a particular moment that that is appropriate to its circumstances, and it feels unable to do so at the moment because the legal powers are not clear enough. That is the central thrust of the clause.
A number of issues are being confused. I do not think that anyone objects to locally variable schemes, but the Bill seems to allow even quite a large airport to have no scheme at all. Although there might be a case for small airports that have very little traffic or very little international traffic not having a scheme, there is surely a good case for all big airports having some sort of scheme, but the Bill simply will not require that.
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has to say and I hope that my final paragraph will respond to some extent to what he has said. I am aware of his concern and that of many hon. Members that some airport operators might not want to take up the powers even though local circumstances mean that there is a strong case for doing so. Proposed new section 38(4) of the 1982 Act, in clause 1, gives the Secretary of State the power to direct specified aerodromes to use the powers in the clause. It might be used in cases in which the voluntary powers are ineffective. The argument is that local circumstances are very varied. We want to work towards a partnership approach—which in many cases has been successful—to allow the clarification of legal powers for airports such as Manchester, and to have in reserve a power that can be used if there are grounds for concern and the airports have not been levying the charges. I hope that that explains a little more of the Government's thinking in making this a power rather than a duty and I ask the hon. Member for Canterbury to withdraw the amendment.
Thank you, Sir Nicholas. With regard to the grounds that may be reviewed by the Secretary of State and Ministers to reverse a proposal of a local airport, what criteria would be reviewed?
I shall have to reflect on that question and clarify exactly what the criteria will be. As I said to the hon. Member for Canterbury, the thrust of the measure is exactly what many of the amendments and new clauses deal with. If the hon. Lady will allow me to get back to her, I hope that I will be able to answer her question.
I am happy to withdraw the amendment, particularly in the light of what the Minister has just said. I accept that, as currently worded, the probing amendment would be unworkable and, on the basis that we shall return under subsequent groups of amendments to the many issues that have not been covered, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
No. 17, in clause 1, page 1, line 15, after 'pollution', insert 'and/or climate change'.
No. 18, in clause 1, page 2, line 6, at end insert 'and/or climate change'.
New Clause 5
'(1) For the purposes of monitoring the emissions of carbon dioxide from aircraft operating in or out of the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State shall, by regulation, require all aerodrome authorities to report annually on the emissions of carbon dioxide from all commercial flights, both domestic and international, departing from aerodromes within the United Kingdom.
(2) The reporting of carbon dioxide emissions to the aerodrome authorities at the airport of departure shall be a requirement of all aircraft operators without prejudice to nationality.
(3) The reporting of emissions by aircraft operators specified in clause (2) shall be calculated on the basis of the total fuel used on each departing flight over the length of the route, to be multiplied by a standard emissions factor, to be established by regulation.'.
I do not want to labour the food analogies too much, so I shall try to make this my last such attempt. What is missing from the Bill is the main course, which is greenhouse gases. It is entirely appropriate that we should tackle noise and, at a local level, NOx. However, it is also appropriate that we should tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
Given the extent of work that would be required, amendment No. 16 is a probing amendment. It is an important opportunity to put the Government on the spot and to hear the Minister's thinking about how the Government see the whole area of greenhouse gases emissions from aviation developing, and what role the Government feel that they, the airport operators and the airlines can play now, pending a decision at some indeterminate point in the future where emissions from aviation would be included within the EU emissions trading scheme. That is probably seven years away, perhaps longer.
Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 seek to ensure that greenhouse gases are included, and that the scope of the emissions covered that are relevant to local air quality should be extended to greenhouse gases. If we are starting to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, there will be a need for an organisation, such as the CAA, to take responsibility for holding an annual record of emissions from aircraft flying within or out of the UK. New clause 5 seeks to do that. As the Minister will know, airlines do not currently have any duty to report carbon dioxide emissions. However, a few airlines, such as British Airways, choose to disclose that information in their annual environmental reports. The data for other airlines are difficult to obtain.
Equally, the Minister, who welcomed the launch of the sustainable aviation strategy from the different players in the aviation industry, will know that a number of airlines—British Airways, Virgin and Easyjet—have given an undertaking to establish a common system for reporting total CO?2? emissions, and fleet fuel efficiency by the end of this year. That would include the total direct CO?2? emissions from individual companies, the aggregated and individual airline fuel efficiency in grammes per revenue tonne kilometre—a rather complex concept—and progress towards the 50 per cent. fuel efficiency target.
New clause 5 seeks to ensure that what some of the airlines have said they will do actually happens in practice. That includes not only the big players, such as British Airways, which are adapting a more responsible attitude to reporting the CO?2? emissions, but might bring into play some of the other operators.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that the emission control measures—the greenhouse gas monitoring measures—that seem to be available in the Bill do not hang together with national targets and the Kyoto protocol? They seem somewhat piecemeal. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's approach is a better way of making it tie in with the national objectives.
The hon. Gentleman is right; the Bill specifically looks at local air quality. It does not pick up on the issue of greenhouse gases, which is an international issue that needs to be addressed. New clause 5 would bring into the fold some of the other airline operators, such as Ryanair whose views on climate change are regrettable. To have the CAA reporting on emissions on an annual basis would establish a benchmark against which to measure the performance of aircraft flying in or departing from the UK.
These are probing amendments, but they are significant none the less. They seek a response from the Government about how they can start to tackle emissions from aviation now, not in 2012. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how the Government plan to address what I consider to be the most important global issue before us today.
There is much in the sentiment behind new clause 5 that the Conservative party shares. Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 seem, prima facie, to be redundant. I should have thought that ''pollution'' must include impact on climate change. If it does not, I congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington as that would be a big hole in the Bill. I think that the Minister will tell us that they are redundant. New clause 5 resembles amendment No. 3 which we tabled some time ago and will reach shortly. I do not want to try your patience, Sir Nicholas, so I will look at it only for a moment.
In his opening remarks the hon. Gentleman made two points: I strongly agreed with the first and was left a bit puzzled by the second. He is absolutely right that in the long term the most important single measure of the Bill's environmental success will be its impact on global warming. That commands agreement across all parties and across the major pressure groups. I was pleased by the positive references that the hon. Gentleman made to the airlines, which contrasted slightly with the tone of some of the Liberal Democrat contributions on Second Reading. The sustainable aviation strategy addresses that directly. On that point I am wholly with him.
The second point which left me a little confused was why he focuses only on CO?2? emissions, unlike our amendment No. 3. That seems odd because it was clear in our debates on Second Reading and in Westminster Hall, that one of the key areas that environmentalists are discussing is the uplift factor for aviation emissions, which the amendment seeks us to record regularly. What multiplier should be applied to the level of CO?2? emissions, in view of the other pollutants, principally nitrogen compounds but also water vapour, that come out with the CO?2? emissions?
The current figure being bandied about is 2.7. I do not accept that that figure is well established. Indeed, Tyndall in its study made it clear that it is only a best guess. Will that figure be taken even remotely seriously, as less than half the impact on global warming of aeroplane flights is from CO?2? emissions directly? More than half—the other 1.7—is from the other factors that go in with the CO?2?, the so-called uplift factors, including the nitrogen compounds.
I am puzzled about why the amendment focuses on only a detailed, specific and—dare I say it—slightly burdensome approach, and although I welcome the fact that it would include the airlines, it would leave the recording ultimately in the hands of the aerodromes rather than the Secretary of State. The amendment could have encompassed the wide range of emissions and put the responsibility on the Secretary of State, who is, after all, directly answerable to Parliament.
I will stop now, because I want to say more about the issue when we debate later groups of amendments. I support the sentiment behind the amendment—that global warming is the big issue.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, on occasions, there are advantages in tabling a relatively simple amendment to allow us to debate the concepts? I recognised that it was a probing amendment.
Indeed, and I make it clear that I support the sentiments behind the amendment—that global warming is the biggest issue and that we need far more measuring and regular reports. However, on the basis that the hon. Gentleman has made it clear that it is probing amendment, it is right that he is likely to withdraw it.
An interesting semantic point has been raised about whether one can have a form of pollution or an effect from an aeroplane that does not lead to climatic change, such as the increase in cirrus clouds produced by vapour trails, which I am told have no pollution effect. If nothing else, I suppose that the amendment has teased out the distinction.
New clause 5 is basically designed to tie down the aerodromes and airlines to producing specific information. We have to travel down that road at some point, because if we accept the principle of polluter pays and want to be serious about emissions trading, we must be serious about accumulating appropriate data to use in that process.
It always makes me feel uncomfortable when there is an outbreak of unanimity, but we are at one on the basic principle and in recognising the importance of climate change and the fact that aviation must play its part. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington for a recognition that the aviation industry, through its sustainability agenda, is engaging constructively in the debate on the way forward.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, and as those who contributed on this point on Second Reading know, the provision is outwith the scope of the Bill. I am glad that we have had the opportunity to spend a few minutes on it, but we would all accept that it neither could nor should be central to the thrust of the Bill. On the specific point, I can confirm the understanding of the hon. Member for Canterbury that clause 1, by referring to
''emissions produced by the aircraft'', allows all emissions to be taken into account, including greenhouse gas emissions. In a sense, therefore, amendments No. 16, 17 and 18 are already covered by the Bill.
The key thrust of the comments of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington is a Government agenda that we have been driving forward internationally, particularly through the development of the emissions trading scheme in Europe. I hope that we would all agree that it is sensible for the agenda to be tackled at an international level, as many issues remain to be worked through properly, including the allocation of emissions for international flights.
The hon. Gentleman is right in a sense, but we are waiting for a European Commission paper on the next stage of the ETS, and we must be clear about what we want to achieve. There is no point in setting up a monitoring system until we are clear about what we want to monitor and what the allocation processes might be. The hon. Gentleman referred to some of the areas of science that are important and not subject to disagreement on the principle, but the science is still unclear on, for example, the issue of radiative forcing. To move forward and achieve what I suspect we all want to achieve, we shall have to do so on the basis of a more solid international agreement on that science. No one country is going to be able to make the kind of progress that we wish to see until we have established that.
Hon. Members know that a greenhouse gas trading scheme is already in operation in Europe, and that we have been working to include intra-EU air services in the EU emissions trading scheme. It is a priority for the UK presidency of the EU to see whether aviation can join that scheme in 2008, or as soon after then as possible. The hon. Gentleman gave a different time scale, but we remain absolutely committed to that happening either in 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter.
As I have said, I do not disagree with the principle of new clause 5, but I think that its purpose—creating the monitoring regime—is premature. We need to ensure that we move forward to an international agreement on aviation joining the emissions trading scheme, and on some of the issues of disputed science and the allocations of emissions. Following on from that, I am sure that there will be an opportunity to discuss again exactly which monitoring regime should be put in place to ensure that the trading scheme delivers effectively the kind of reductions in greenhouse gases over the long term that we all wish to see.
On the basis that the Minister has clearly set out, that she is seeking to achieve the more ambitious target of getting aviation emissions within the EU trading scheme by 2008 in recognition of the impact from aviation of greenhouse gases, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 16.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Before we move on to the next amendment, if hon. Members get a little warm, and wish to remove their jackets, I am happy for them to do so. I congratulate them on their discipline in not derobing without the sanction of the Chair. Secondly, I intend to allow a wide-ranging debate on the amendments that have been selected under clause 1, so I give notice to the Committee that it is not my intention to permit a clause stand part debate. I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind and participate if they wish as the remaining amendments are debated.
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 9, leave out 'attributable' and insert 'directly related'.
This is a small probing amendment, which considers the use of the word ''attributable'' in clause 1. Subsection (2)(c) contains the words:
''controlling the level of noise or atmospheric pollution in or in the vicinity of the aerodrome so far as attributable to aircraft taking off or landing at the aerodrome''.
I think that that means what it appears to mean, but in focusing on the wording ''directly related'', rather than ''attributable'', the amendment is a first stab. The airport authorities will have considerable powers confirmed in law to them—we think that they already have them, but we are clarifying that they definitely have them. In some cases, they are fairly monopolistic organisations: well over 90 per cent. of the landing slots around London are controlled by the British Airports Authority. They are imposing them on airlines in a tight, competitive market, and we should pin down whether emissions are a direct consequence of the aeroplanes themselves.
Airport authorities have, for example, enormous terminals, which use lots of heating in winter and lots of air conditioning in summer: they push out lots of emissions. It would not be beyond the wit of a clever lawyer to argue that if a badly designed airport terminal was creating large emissions, it was due to the passengers and those who work at the airport because of the flights taking off or landing.
I could make other small points but I will not detain the Committee with comments about noisy and smoky old vehicles pulling baggage around and the state of airport buses. My point is that in future, when these proposals have been toughened up as expected, it would be grossly unfair if, on clever legal advice, airports were to be told that they could shove on to the airlines—
I agree with my hon. Friend. It seems to me that the Bill's intention is not to capture other legislation on emissions but is purely related to the emissions generated by aircraft. I fully support what my hon. Friend says—that other emissions that are common to most businesses should not accidentally be brought within the Bill's framework.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. How people get to and from airports is a legitimate issue and there will be much scope for debating it, not least in the Crossrail Bill, when we consider the impact on rail access to Heathrow and the number of extra journeys that Crossrail will create.
De facto, the clause proposes fining aircraft by imposing higher charges on them. It would be unfair if, on legal advice, airports, especially those of the British Airports Authority with its monopoly powers, were able to make operators shoulder matters for which the airports are wholly responsible. They build the terminals, after all. The clause as drafted may be adequate in that respect, but the amendment is designed to tease out from the Minister whether she is confident that it relates only to the directly attributable emissions and not to those from airport buildings and their surroundings.
So far, I have been comfortable with the amendments proposed by the official Opposition. However, this amendment may have unforeseen consequences; it may push at the boundaries of the science. If the words ''directly related'' were substituted, would the Minister confirm that a possible scenario is that of a chemical interaction between an aircraft's emissions and other particles in the atmosphere which could lead to greater pollution in the vicinity of the airport? If the change proposed was made, could the airlines argue that the pollution was not directly related to emissions from the aircraft because it was caused by a subsequent chemical reaction? That could have the consequence of loosening the controls rather than tightening or maintaining them and providing clarity in ensuring that the emissions or pollution for which airlines are responsible are from their aircraft, rather than their taking responsibility for pollution from other sources. I hope that the Minister will clarify that point when she responds.
I am extremely loth to tread on what, if the hon. Gentleman is correct, will be lawyers' territory. In the event of these matters being tested in court, it is, almost by definition, impossible to predict the outcome of the arguments. However, the Bill makes it clear that the emissions to be charged for are those caused by the aircraft, and creates the framework in which the charging authority must satisfy itself—
My understanding is that the reference makes it clear that it is about emissions caused by the aircraft. I shall seek further guidance in the hope that inspiration will come to me. Inspiration has now come to me to confirm that this would be covered by the provisions as currently drafted. My understanding is that it will be for the airports to satisfy themselves that the emissions concerned are caused by the aircraft. That will have to be determined to a certain extent at local level, within the context of local conditions.
The broader point is valid, in that we all recognise that roadside emissions are a contributory factor in local air-quality problems at airports. In cases in which there is evidence of a problem, those emissions have to be monitored separately, and that is the case at the designated airports and many others. In addition, action is under way at a number of airports to tackle roadside emissions directly. Those airports will be in a more confident position. They will be a little further down the line in being able to demonstrate that they have, for example, permits for airside vehicles and licensing arrangements for vehicles in and around the airports. They will be able to demonstrate that they are taking action separately to control roadside emissions, which will make them more confident in respect of the action that they take on aircraft emissions. I am confident that under the current phrasing of the Bill it is clear that the airport levying the charges must attribute those to the aircraft that it believes caused the emissions.
Certainly my understanding is that there are airports that are engaging in monitoring and control of emissions from vehicles in and around the airports, and that is a separate issue to emissions from aircraft.
I believe in the principle of the polluter paying for the pollution that they cause. Judging by what the Minister has said, I welcome the measures in the Bill that identify that the airline may pay for the pollution that it causes. I think, from her answers, that I am also comfortable that the principle that the polluter pays in respect of other emissions that come from airports can be dealt with elsewhere.
I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 2, line 24, at end insert—
(a) The Secretary of State shall report on the effectiveness of any charges made under subsection (1) in reducing noise and emissions.
(b) The first report under this section shall be in respect of the period of twelve months beginning with the passing of this Act.
(c) Subsequent reports under this section shall be in respect of the period of twelve months beginning with the end of the previous reporting period.
(d) Any report made under this section shall specify the sources of information used in its compilation.
(e) The Secretary of State shall—
(i) lay a copy of each report under this section before each House of Parliament, and
(ii) publish each such report in such manner as he thinks fit.
(3B) The Secretary of State shall, by regulation, following the publication of each report made under subsection (3B), set targets for emissions and noise reductions by aerodrome authorities for the following twelve month period.'.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 29, in page 2, line 31, at end insert—
'(5A) The Secretary of State shall, by regulation, set targets for the reduction of noise and emissions by aerodrome authorities, using charges made under subsection (1), within a twelve month period following the passing of this Act.
(5B) Targets made under subsection (5A) shall be revised downwards annually thereafter.'.
New clause 6—Reduction of noise targets—
'The Secretary of State shall review no less than every 5 years, the maximum noise limits on aircraft taking off from designated airports and shall take account of the target of reducing the perceived external noise of new aircraft by 50% by 2020 compared to 2000.'.
With amendment No. 3, we are looking at the heart of the Bill. I shall not trouble the Committee by reading out the amendment, as there is quite a lot of it, but it focuses on reporting. When tabling the amendment, we made it clear that we wanted it to stretch across the full range of emissions and noise. I do not want to detain the Committee by restating in detail the argument that I advanced earlier when I said that there was a flaw in the Liberal Democrat approach although I supported the principle behind it. Essentially, my party believes that we must consider emissions as a whole, including the NOxes, the nitrogen compounds. We support the principle that there must be more reporting.
The amendment focuses on the Secretary of State. We think that the Secretary of State, because he is the person responsible to Parliament, should be responsible for reporting on effectiveness. We would require him to report every 12 months, and to provide copies of the report to Parliament.
We think that the report should make clear the sources of the information used. One of the concerns that was raised frequently in the debate on Second Reading was that the airport operators have too much power: at some points in the process they seem to be acting as policemen, lawyer, court and everything else.
There are other ways of measuring the noise of aircraft. I shall give a parallel example. One of the problems experienced by my constituents is the noise from Shoeburyness military testing centre. I support much of the activity there—it is essential for military purposes—but it causes considerable nuisance to my constituents. It is a nuisance of a kind that is analogous to aircraft flying; there is a combination of noise and rather more low frequency problems, which occasionally cause damage to my constituents' houses. The Ministry of Defence has from time to time called in independent noise and vibration consultants to measure the noise; they sometimes come to different conclusions from Qinetiq, who are the site operators.
The amendment would gently press the Secretary of State to make clear the sources of the information used for the reports on noise and emissions, because there are a variety of different sources for emissions, and a number of ways of measuring nitrogen oxides. Indeed, measurements are already taking place on roads, for which the Department for Transport is directly responsible. I think that those sources would add something to the value of the report.
My hon. Friend starts to get to the heart of the problem, which is the absence in the Bill of provisions to compel airports—or indeed the Secretary of State or any other body—to measure actual facts and data, rather than using estimates on which a control framework is based. That is perhaps the main issue for my constituents in Putney, in terms of noise created by aircraft landing at designated airports. That matter is at the heart of some of the amendments already tabled.
There is no point in having a robust framework for managing carbon dioxide emissions if we are not in a good position accurately to measure the actual emissions. I hope that, as we go through the remaining debate and scrutiny today, we will reach some firm conclusions on the need to start measuring the actual pollution, whether it be noise, carbon emissions, nitrogen oxide emissions or any other emissions that we believe could be created by airports, but that are not at present being measured.
I certainly welcome my hon. Friend's intervention. The amendments do go to the heart of the issue. There is consensus in the Committee that the kind of issues raised by the Tyndall report, to which reference was made many times on Second Reading, are the crying concern in aviation matters. That does not mean that those issues are the only concern; we are also concerned to have a healthy and vibrant aviation industry, and to give many people an opportunity to travel that previous generations would never have dreamt of, but those issues are at the heart of the matter. There is a definite need for the Secretary of State to prepare some sort of proper schedule of information.
In her reply to the earlier debate, the Secretary of State said quite rightly that such matters have to be the subject of international agreements. Britain cannot go it alone on getting aviation into emissions trading, something which the airport operators themselves call for in their excellent document ''Sustainable Aviation''.
However, saying that the agreement will have to be international does not detract one jot from the fact that an international agreement is completely worthless unless the individual countries are preparing proper data on which its implementation can be based. Proposed new subsection (3A) in amendment No. 3 is designed to set out that data collection.
Proposed new subsection (3B) is brief and proposes:
''The Secretary of State shall, by regulation, following the publication of each report made under subsection (3B), set targets for emissions and noise reductions by aerodrome authorities for the following twelve month period.''
I am sure that the Minister will say that we are not ready and must wait for an international agreement, but just as there is a compelling case for getting hold of the data that we need to fulfil any international agreement, many of us cannot see any reason why Britain should not set an example with some targets for reducing emissions.
Noise is a national matter. I do not need the Minister to remind me that there are international agreements on noise, but, unlike the effects of CO?2? emissions, its effects are local rather than global. Noise affects those who live around airports and, as my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State constantly reminded us on Second Reading, people who may live a long way from an airport but are none the less directly under flight paths. We should not be timid in setting targets.
The debate is moving in an important direction from my perspective, and we can start to see how local, national and European regulations could fit together. It is incumbent on our national Government to start talking about what they believe is excessive noise. That would give residents in Putney and other places close to airports, but outside what would normally be regarded as an airport's immediate vicinity, a better understanding of what they should be expected to put up with. It would also give them a chance to say what they think is excessive. That could then set the context within which a local debate could happen.
That is clearly something that we could decide nationally, but it could then fit into a broader framework. Indeed, I suggest that Britain leads the debate in Europe by trailblazing and establishing what we think is excessive noise, perhaps linking to other bodies such as the World Health Organisation, which has already gone down that path itself.
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, I should say to the hon. Lady that interventions should be brief. She is clearly following the debate closely, but I would ask Committee members to keep interventions brief.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for a good intervention, and I hope that we will hear from her in a longer speech. She made clear on Second Reading the extent to which she is championing her constituency and other interested parties around Heathrow, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie).
New clause 6 specifically concerns aircraft noise limits and the target of reducing perceived external noise. I have no doubt that the Minister will say that it is too ambitious, and I am well aware that it would create problems with some of the international agreements that we have signed. It has been pointed out that operators from some of our new European partners have aircraft that would have trouble meeting the limit and are likely still to be in service by 2020.
I do not intend to push the new clause to a vote. However, I want to try to tease out from the Minister what progress she is hoping to make on maximum noise. We shall come later to some of the issues concerning how noise is measured, such as whether we have night caps, or whether noise can be spread out, so I shall leave those for a later debate. However, maximum noise, which the new clause addresses, must surely be a crucial issue.
Over the last generation, it would be churlish of any speaker not to acknowledge that the suppliers to the airlines, the aircraft builders, including our own British Aerospace as part of its consortium, and the engine maker Rolls-Royce, have made huge progress. Aircraft are less noisy than they were a generation ago, although the number of flights has grown enormously.
I would in no way wish to disagree with new clause 6, but can my hon. Friend clarify what he means by ''perceived external noise'' of new aircraft? My concern, and that of my constituents and other hon. Members' constituents, is the actual noise on the ground. Is that how that is to be interpreted?
Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. One of the problems that we had on Second Reading was the issue of how noise is measured. I shall not bore the Committee by repeating my earlier point about Shoeburyness, but it is clear that there are direct methods of measuring noise that can be done independently of the theoretical noise that aircraft are supposed to make. Those several different methods measure the different noise levels and the profile of the noise, particularly at the bottom end, where low-frequency rumble is probably the most damaging noise of all. ''Perceived noise'' should be the perception on the ground, as my hon. Friend said.
I turn now to the Liberal Democrat amendment No. 29. I do not have a huge problem with it, although it is less ambitious than what we are trying to do. Trying to reduce targets annually is comparable with our new clause. I do not have a problem with that, as the aim of all the amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives is to probe the Minister on what she envisages doing. The Bill is all about empowering: what all Opposition Members, and, I suspect, some Government Members here want to know, is how will the Bill translate into action? Are we going to see more charges, are we going to see the data collected for it, and are we going to see real reductions in noise and the various forms of emissions?
I wish to say a few words about amendment No. 29, which I think is broadly similar to the proposals put forward by the official Opposition. Its purpose is to ensure a reduction in noise and emissions. The Minister said a few moments ago that the noise created by individual aircraft is reducing. Clearly that is reducing year on year. The advantage of this would be to give the industry the steer it needs.
I had an interesting meeting a couple of days ago with one of the associations representing airports. Its view was that one of the strongest drivers for introducing the chapter 3 planes and their reduced noise levels was the fact that the aircraft manufacturers and the airframe manufacturers were given a clear steer that they would have to achieve those targets. The industry considered those targets difficult to achieve and there was nothing in the pipeline to help, but it responded to the steer and addressed the issue.
The person I was speaking to then told me that the industry was disappointed that no clear steer was given on chapter 4 aircraft and so there was not a huge amount of difference between those two in terms of noise. Had a stronger steer been given to the industry there would have been every prospect that those aircraft would have been considerably quieter. Both the Conservative amendment and our amendment No. 29 are aimed at ensuring that the overall envelope of noise and emissions reduces. That is entirely appropriate.
Our amendment would address the problem of Coventry airport. How can the issue be addressed where both the airline and the airport are so closely linked? Clearly it would be a challenge to require the airline that is linked to the airport operator to levy charges for noise and emissions. If the Minister does not feel that this is an appropriate way of dealing with Coventry airport she must tell us whether she feels comfortable with the regulatory arrangement that is currently in place. If she is not, surely the Government are duty bound to come forward with some proposals. I know that it is a complex issue that the Government wish they did not have to address, but they must do so for the benefit of the local community.
There is no disagreement between the two Opposition parties. We may take a slightly different approach but the end game is the same. There is one point about which there is a possible difference of opinion and the hon. Member for Canterbury could perhaps intervene to clarify this. New clause 6 states that the Secretary of State
''shall take account of the target of reducing the perceived external noise of new aircraft by 50% by 2020''.
My reading of that is that it would not give the aviation industry the steer that it needs. If all the Secretary of State would do is take it into account, but then perhaps accept that there are reasons why it is not appropriate to hit that target, that would not give the industry the steer that it needs to go out and hit those very challenging targets.
The hon. Gentleman is right in the sense that it would not compel the Secretary of State to do it. The amendment seeks to tease out the Secretary of State's plans. This is an important target. People want to see a further reduction in aircraft noise built on the progress that is already made in terms of the total noise.
I had concluded my remarks. I look forward to the Minister's explanation of how she will deal with the regulation of Coventry airport.
I just wanted to make a few, thoroughly unhelpful remarks. Amendment No. 3 works on the presumption that we are in a data vacuum, as the hon. Member for Canterbury seemed to imply. I presume that we will not be in that situation; if there is to be a charging regime and carriers are to be charged on a regular basis they must know what they are being charged for. The issue is whether that information—the stream of data—is commercially confidential or will be disclosed. I would like the Minister to clarify that point because if the data is out in the open, it would provide a reasonable basis for assessing the effectiveness of a scheme. I would hope that in a good scheme, the number of penalty charges would come down in time showing that the scheme worked, which would save everyone the burden of collecting further and additional data—assuming that the standards set by the scheme were adequate and appropriate.
It is a bit of a quibble, but the Liberal Democrat amendment and the Conservative amendment No. 3 set targets for emissions that are lower and lower each year. The logician in me says that if that is continued indefinitely there will be quiet airports with no noise whatever, assuming that the legislation remains in place. It is an inelegance in the amendments, and I hold my hand up if I have played any part in it.
I therefore warm to new clause 6, which is fairly specific in its requirements. However, I also have a quibble with that proposal: whether there is a place in legislation to specify figures on emission targets that may be relative to developing technology and the like and whether we will want to revise them upwards or improve them later, but we may subsequently be bound by legislation in that respect.
Although the spirit of these probing amendments is sound and their intent is good, I have reservations about their practical operation in legislation.
If I may, Sir Nicholas, I shall speak again in the light of the two constructive contributions to the debate. It is worth stressing that the British aviation industry is already committed in principle to halving; it is in the sustainable aviation document. However, it is important to realise that besides British airlines, many other operators fly out of our airports, including Ryanair, which is not British although it is in the British isles. As we know, it is an Irish operator, which has distanced itself from the target. Airlines are committed to the target only for new aircraft, not for existing aircraft.
I reiterate my earlier point: the aim of the amendments is to tease out of the Minister what is in the Secretary of State's mind in terms of delivering the proposal and creating a level playing field, working with the British airlines who want to achieve the target.
We must consider the low rumble of an aircraft versus the concept of maximum noise being extremely disturbing to people. That is at the heart of our debate and it is why I am not in favour of removing the movements limit. It is very important that we define what we believe to be excessive noise.
A Bill that proposes to rely purely on the quota system for managing noise is dangerous. When we measured the noise of 747–400 planes going over Wandsworth, we found that they seemed a lot louder—74 per cent. louder, in fact—than the quota system would have suggested. We need to be able either to address at European level the European directives and legislation on which we rely to monitor and manage noise in Britain, or to find a way of acknowledging them nationally and therefore taking a lead.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Does she agree that nothing in the Minister's saying, ''Oh, but we've signed this agreement and because aviation is international we have to abide by the agreement and the rest'' prevents the Government from setting up independent noise measures? If we can then show that those have a track record of diverging heavily from the internationally agreed ones, we have something to go back to the table and negotiate with in future.
I absolutely agree and I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is incumbent on the Government to ensure that any system that we use to measure noise is robust, and that when we discover that it is not, we are seen to be acting to address the anomalies. It might be possible to use the quota count system, but not if its estimated noises are so divergent from actual noises as measured on the ground. Perhaps there are flaws in the existing plan. Our experience legally in Wandsworth—I have taken advice on the matter myself—is that we can take into account actual noise as well as the estimated noise currently used in the quota count system, and I urge the Government to do so.
Tribute was paid to you at the beginning of the Committee, Sir Nicholas, and I wanted to pay a special tribute, because I was under the impression when you were calling people to speak that you were calling out ''Comrade'' and I was very impressed by that. Then I thought that you were showing favouritism to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. I was even more disappointed to discover that you were actually calling out ''Tom Brake'' and not ''Comrade'' at all.
My constituents suffer the greatest noise. It does not matter what chapter the aeroplanes are—we could get the epilogue or even vertical take-off planes and my constituents would still suffer tremendous noise. I am, however, encouraged by the debate because right across the Committee hon. Members are genuinely concerned about noise. It is really impossible to bring in any statistics to help my constituents, but I wanted to make the point that it is important that we continue to consider the issue as a Parliament. I am interested in what my hon. Friend the Minister has to say about help for my constituents, who suffer intolerable noise. No amount of reduction in aircraft noise will really help them, until planes are, as the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) suggested, completely silent.
Rather than speaking a number of times, I shall refer now to the problem of emissions from traffic. We have already talked about that. I know that there is money, and money could be spent on improving the roads close to Heathrow, which would mean an immediate improvement. Such a step would pay for itself a number of times over in only a few years, but that matter does not seem to be addressed.
I am, however, encouraged by the Bill and by the attitude of hon. Members. If the Minister and the Secretary of State go along with that, I think that we will begin to tackle the serious problems that my constituents face. I repeat, so that people are not under any misunderstanding, that my constituents, probably more than anyone else's in the Room, understand the problem, because they work at Heathrow. If they do not, their relatives do and certainly their next-door neighbours do, so they are great supporters of Heathrow airport, but Heathrow has a special problem, which other airports have not yet encountered—I hope that they never reach the point at which they have to face the same problems as we do. I compliment hon. Members on what they have said today and I appeal to the Minister to take note of those comments. We have to take an overall look at the problems that aircraft cause. I want my constituents and everyone else's to enjoy air travel. I do not want that to be restricted, but we cannot keep piling it on to one airport.
May I add that it is particularly incumbent on the Government to consider night-time noise? Certainly many of my constituents are pragmatic about the fact that they live reasonably close to Heathrow and use it. They recognise that it is a vital part of our economy, but I draw to the Minister's attention in particular the fact that night-time noise is most disruptive to their lives, especially in the context of excessive noise and rumble noise, as it has been called.
During the election campaign I was in an area of my constituency called Colnbrook, trying to elicit the key issues for the people there. As I was asking the question, an aircraft went overhead. I could not hear a thing, and the lady to whom I was speaking could not hear a thing, so we stopped speaking for about 15 or 20 seconds while the aircraft rumbled over. I then said, ''Are there any particular issues that you are concerned about in this area?'' and she said, ''Well, there are weeds on the pavements and that really upsets me.'' It is interesting that, despite the crashing noise of aircraft, people under flight paths tend, as has been said, to accept it over time.
In an ideal world, aircraft would be silent and non-polluting. The principle of stepped targets, which has been brought up by several hon. Members, is a key one. Coming from a business background, I know that people are looking for certainty. If people know that in 20 or even 30 years' time a certain goal has to be achieved by a step process or they will be in trouble commercially, they tend to achieve that goal. As the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington has said, chapter 3 and chapter 4 aircraft designs, and the steer that the Government gave for chapter 3 aircraft, worked well. The aircraft manufacturers knew where they had to go. The more vague steer on chapter 4 aircraft meant that that has not come about in the same way. I strongly urge the Minister to consider the principle of stepped targets.
Some targets are very welcome in certain areas, such as what we are discussing. To make a quick general dig, the hundreds of targets in other areas of our lives are less necessary than those in key national and international issues over which individuals and small organisations have little control. There is a general harmony: all parties in the House want the level of aircraft noise to come down, but there is perhaps a little disagreement about the use of targets in that process.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I should like to highlight his example of weeds on the pavement by citing a parallel one. When I visited Shoeburyness, which causes so many problems for my constituents, I was struck by how supportive the local community was—the people living right on top of the range. Many work for the MOD or closely within its framework and have got used to it. They know exactly where they are with the MOD. The gist of my hon. Friend's speech is introducing predictability and dependability, so that people know that there will not be a lot of noise at night. Knowing when noise will occur would make a big difference, and it is why the amendments should tease some proper answers out of the Minister.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. We are in agreement that what is important is certainty.
To go back to the example that I gave about people not really hearing noise, there is one area of concern, to which my postbag testifies, as I am sure do those of other hon. Members, and that is night-time noise. That is currently the key issue. I am concerned that as a result of the proposed measures, the movements limit—perhaps inadvertently—will disappear. At 4.30 am, what matters is not general noise quotas or theoretical engine noise but the noise of the Hong Kong flight coming in. It is one flight that destroys a good night's sleep.
Were I able to have a dream in Windsor, without being woken up at 4.30 am, that dream would be that clear targets should be set each year for the reduction of the noise level from aircraft on the ground, and for emissions. That would give people certainty, even if they were under a flight path, or moving into an area that was affected by aircraft noise, that three, five, ten years ahead—
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that simply putting charges in place will not be sufficient to reduce the overall level of noise and emissions?
I agree that variable landing fees, levies and charges are a mechanism, not the outcome. The point that I am trying to make is that it is the outcome that people want.
I am sure that the Minister will have heard me, on many previous occasions, talking about the actual noise on the ground. We seek a reduced level of noise on people's eardrums; that is the outcome. The Bill is a lot more to do with mechanisms than outcome.
I support the Bill to the extent that it enables some of those targets to be set, or, at least, gives the aerodromes a route by which they can achieve some of those goals. However, it is incumbent on the Secretary of State to set those targets a long way in advance, while taking into account the international and European context. I urge the Minister to introduce some of the measuring techniques and target setting within the next few months, so that people can rest assured that they know what will happen in the future.
We have rehearsed quite a lot of arguments that will come up a little later, so I will try to deal in general terms with some of the points that were raised.
I shall start by saying that I suspect that I shall disappoint Opposition Members, because the basic premise from which we start is the one that was laid out in the air transport White Paper. In terms of certainty, I would argue that setting a framework, as we did in the strategic document for airport development, gives people a fairly clear steer on where the Government are seeking to go in the long term, even if in some constituencies there will be people who are very unhappy about it.
Many of us, in our opening speeches on Second Reading, emphasised that there is a balance to be struck; between the value that aviation brings to the country's economy, through employment and the benefits of travel, and the great importance of tackling its wider environmental and local environmental implications. In essence, therefore, I am not in a position to agree to targets, because I believe that those targets would conflict with the balance that was laid out in the White Paper.
I do not have them in front of me—[Interruption.] Yes, I am sure that inspiration will strike me in a moment. However, as hon. Members know, the general context is to seek to bear down on noise and emissions. A great deal has already been achieved; in particular, a great deal has been achieved at Heathrow in terms of noise, and that needs to be recognised. However, the White Paper set out that framework some time ago, and it is set against the background of continuing development of the aviation industry. I therefore believe that the kind of target structure that is proposed by hon. Members will fundamentally conflict with the balanced approach taken by the White Paper.
The Minister is right that there is a balance to be struck. Certainly, we as a party support a healthy aviation industry. However, does she accept that the reality is that CO?2? emissions have risen under this Government, and that aviation has been responsible for part of that rise? The levels fell in the few years before the Government took office. That is the first party-political point that I have made, but it is something that she must recognise.
It is true that noise has improved as airliners have become quieter, but the problems that my hon. Friends have raised, such as aircraft operating outside the envelope and problems at night, have worsened in some respects. That point was echoed by the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) as well. As the number of flights increases, there will be plenty of scope for them to worsen still. Will the Minister accept that her answer will fill a lot of people with gloom?
The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear me say that I hope not, because the argument about balance is important too. People who travel and who are employed and benefit economically from the aviation industry also have an interest, and it is a fact of politics that we have frequently to deal with conflict between different interests.
Let me deal with some of the specific points that were raised. Noise was mentioned on Second Reading, and it emerges elsewhere in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Putney will accept that, particularly in the context of the sustainable development of Heathrow White Paper, a great deal of work is being done, which could also be applied elsewhere, to consider how noise is measured and establish whether the onset of community annoyance is still valid. Indeed, the EU directive due to come into effect in 2007 will create the opportunity for another means of monitoring, which could consider in particular matters such as the weight of aircraft and night noise movements.
The hon. Member for Putney mentioned what she called the restrictions of EU regulations in terms of the actual versus the certificated noise. We need to be careful that we do not throw out the baby with the bath water. We have a regulatory framework that allows us to ensure that noise monitoring is fit for purpose as part of the Heathrow expansion and that we are learning constantly from the science. On the wider issue, the sustainable development of Heathrow project includes scientific panels to consider whether the current monitoring of air quality is robust and stands up to independent peer review. The Government are in a position to say that we must constantly look at the science to be sure that our systems are robust and people can have confidence in what is monitored. It is not in anyone's interests not to do that.
That leads into the issue of movements, which Members have mentioned and to which we will return. Scepticism about movements limits has been voiced by Opposition Members, but I hope that even if I do not reassure them, the statement from HACAN will. HACAN confirms:
''The Civil Aviation Bill doesn't propose abandoning the movements limits as such. It merely confers the power to do so. At Heathrow it may not be used before 2012'' because of the current night flights consultation.
I hope that hon. Members can be reassured that we have no sinister intention on the movements limit, and the introduction of the scope for using noise contouring should be a powerful incentive, in a way that a movements limit on its own is not, to bear down on noise by encouraging the use of quieter aircraft. It is important that we always examine different ways of addressing the problem as it is one on which we all agree. We all want noise minimised as far as possible, and we want to strike the balance between the needs and interests of local communities and of the aviation industry.
New clause 6 refers to the aviation industry's target stated in its recently produced sustainable aviation strategy to reduce the perceived external noise of new aircraft by one half by 2020 as compared with 2000.
The Minister has moved on from responding to amendment No. 3. Although she made a large number of comments, they mostly relate to the output. She does not seem to have answered the first point, which is why should there not be a 12-monthly report on measures. I take her point that there is now a diversity of noise measures, although I was not quite clear what the framework is for using them. What is the objection to having a 12-monthly framework for reporting on these matters? It would hardly be an expensive arrangement and it would be a good way of reassuring public opinion.
The hon. Gentleman is correct. I was taking a number of different points together. Let me finish my point on new clause 6 and then I shall return to amendment No. 3. The strategy is very much welcomed by the Government. We hope that the industry will manage to meet it, but we do not believe that it is appropriate to make the Secretary of State responsible for policing a target that is adopted voluntarily by the industry or to give that target statutory force.
Amendment No. 3 would require the Secretary of State to report annually on the impact of airports' charging schemes on reducing noise and emissions. I do not believe this would be an appropriate requirement. Firstly, the levels of noise and emission at an aerodrome may quite possibly vary for reasons other than the imposition of charges relating to noise and emissions arising from the Bill, such as changes in the type of aircraft using the airport, changes in the local economy, or improvements in operational practice driven by an airline operator's wish to improve fuel efficiency. In other words, the sense in which the monitoring would be done in order to establish the effectiveness of the Bill is not covered by the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. I do not think that I could have heard her correctly. She read out a list of factors that were unrelated to the charging policy but some of them seemed to be directly related to it. The first was changes in the type of aircraft using the aerodrome. Surely one of the purposes of an emissions-related charging system would be to encourage operators to use aircraft which emit less emissions and noise at that aerodrome. I simply do not follow her logic on that.
Of course that could be a consequence. It may result in an entirely different set of practices such as changes in the way that the airport is being used. Basically, the requirement to monitor implies a degree of causation in response to the clauses of the Bill, whereas a whole of range of factors can be brought to bear on an airport that are not necessarily a consequence of the Bill. The major argument is that the Government do not believe that this level of oversight is appropriate for airports that are not designated under section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
Clearly there will be penalty charges under these schemes. Some airports will go out of their way to indicate where the penalty charges have fallen, on whom they have fallen and the extent of the breach. Does the Minister expect that when these schemes are established in non-designated airports, all details of all penalty charges when levied will be in the public domain or can they be protected under any circumstances by the plea of commercial confidentiality?
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman but a couple of specific points have been raised which I have not answered. My understanding is that the charging schemes are part of the airport's conditions of use and that many are publicly available such as those of the Manchester airport group and the British Airports Authority. If another operator suspected anti-competitive behaviour he could lodge a complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority or the Competition Commission. In that sense it is variable, but it should be accessible if there is any suspicion that the charges are not being levied in a way that is fair to all concerned.
That leads me to the issue of Coventry airport, which was raised by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. The key answer to his question is that aerodromes are required to offer their facilities to operators on a non-discriminatory basis, which means that any penalty scheme would need to apply equally to all airport users including freight operators. I understand that Thomson is the main scheduled carrier out of Coventry but the airport has other users, including Hapag-Lloyd Express, and freight traffic. If there were any suspicion that Thomson was being treated favourably, other operators would rightly challenge that and, if it were proved, the airport would be in breach of its duties. That provides a strong safeguard that the airport would not be soft on favoured companies. The need for non-discriminatory treatment applies to penalties but also to landing charges and to the use of services.
I understand the Minister's point that there would be a level playing field between the principal airline and other users of the airport, but that does not address the issue of the impact on the local community and the extent to which the airport operator may choose to take action in relation to noise or emissions.
There is no requirement to introduce a penalty scheme in the first place. If a penalty scheme is introduced, it must be non-discriminatory. The broader point then applies to Coventry as it does to other airports but if there were reasons to be concerned about the need for noise charges and noise penalty schemes such measures would have to be introduced, as they would be at other airports, in a non-discriminatory way, and applied equally. I hope and believe that that would be enough to deal with the matter.
I emphasise that any additional action to tackle the environmental impact of aviation must give due regard to the effects on the competitiveness of the UK economy and the impact of consumers, as well as on local communities. That balanced approach is at the heart of the ''Future of Air Transport'' White Paper.
In relation to the non-designated airports, will the Minister clarify whether the Government have any remit whatever to review the effectiveness of the charges?
Again, I shall have to wait for inspiration to strike me on that point. The Government retain the ability to intervene to designate if all else fails. Considering how the schemes have operated so far in different parts of the country there is reason to believe that the partnership and voluntary approach within the permissive powers—some exist now and some have been clarified within the new legal framework being introduced by this Bill—will be enough to respond to that. Those powers will continue to exist as a fallback if there are reasons to believe that the airport authority is not delivering the quality of service that the local community has the right to expect.
The balanced approach is at the heart of the White Paper and I invite—
Adam Afriyie rose—
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; I appreciate that she was coming to the end of her speech.
I completely disagree with the hon. Lady on the setting of targets, especially in relation to new clause 6. It seems obvious to me that one has to have a target; it is not worth having tools and mechanisms if there is no target to achieve. I would like the opportunity to vote on the proposal.
I can only repeat that this is an issue of balance; there is evidence of a capacity to bear down on noise, and new powers in the Bill strengthen and clarify the airport authorities' ability to do so. However, it would not be appropriate to constrain new and expanding airports with targets.
The air transport White Paper strikes a balance between benefit to aviation and the economy and the need to preserve the environment and do the best for local communities. The permissive powers and the new controls set out in the Bill enable us to do that without the additional regulatory structure of targets.
I was rather disappointed by the Minister's response. As she tried very hard to deal with our points in detail and was generous in giving way to interventions, I do not want to introduce an acrimonious note into the Committee, but there is a real difference between the Government and the official Opposition in this regard. Obviously, I leave it to the Liberal Democrat spokesman to speak for himself, but I suspect that that applies to the Liberal Democrats, too.
The Minister makes the point in the context of amendment No. 3 that different airports have different circumstances. My party is not strongly in favour of detailed and burdensome regulation. The main point of the amendment was to try to tease out of the Minister what the Government think about the gathering of information, which is crucial, and about the setting of targets. I am rather disappointed that she feels unable to agree with us on the modest new clause 6. It does not say very much.
As I said, the Minister said that different airports around the country have different circumstances, but the new clause refers only to designated airports, so that point is hardly relevant, and the designated airports have been designated precisely because of the sorts of factors that we are discussing.
New clause 6 is designed to work with the grain of what the British aviation industry is already constructively proposing. It refers to ''new aircraft''. That is the target coming out of British airlines, anxious both to be seen to be promoting a responsible attitude to the environment and, quite rightly and reasonably, to be operating on a level playing field with the foreign competitors that compete against them in a very tight, difficult market in this country.
I cannot see why the Minister does not agree to the new clause, so although I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 3, we will seek a vote on new clause 6. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I have to advise the Committee that we will not take that vote at this moment. It depends on precisely what the Opposition spokesman is seeking to achieve. He could have a vote on amendment No. 3, but if he is determined to withdraw that amendment and to indicate to the Government that he wants to have a vote on new clause 6, I am happy to agree to that and we can have the Division at the appropriate stage in the Bill.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
This amendment is relatively small in terms of the number of words, but it is of particular interest to those who live around non-designated airports. In terms of aviation movements, those airports represent quite a small minority, but in terms of the number of airports, they represent a very large majority. We seek to replace the word ''specified''—that appears to mean the same as ''designated'', but I would be grateful if the Minister clarified that—with the words ''designated and non-designated'', so that the arrangements in the clause apply to all aerodromes. It came up again and again on Second Reading that the Secretary of State has powers in respect of designated airports, but not in respect of non-designated ones.
As it is quite short, I shall read out subsection (4), which would be amended:
''The Secretary of State may by order direct specified aerodrome authorities''— we would like that to say ''designated and non-designated authorities''—
''to fix their charges in exercise of any power conferred by subsection (1) above; and any such order may contain directions as to the manner in which those charges are to be so fixed.''
I do not want to go into a lot of material that we have already covered—you would probably restrain me if I did, Sir Nicholas—but I think that, for the Committee's benefit, I can anticipate what the Minister is going to say. The Minister will say to us that there is no need to extend the clause to non-designated airports because the Bill confers on the Secretary of State the power to convert a non-designated airport into a designated airport.
Ms Buck indicated assent.
The Minister nods helpfully. I think that the Minister's nod also confirms that ''specified'' means the same as ''designated'' for those purposes.
The Minister may say that if she wishes, but it seems to many of us that there is no reason why the Secretary of State should not have that quite modest power. It is only a power, and not a requirement, to extend the provision to all airports. Why should the Secretary of State not have the power to press on an airport the requirements of the clause in terms of fixing of charges, where there is public pressure to do so, without having to go through the business of designating the airport, with all the other legal consequences that that will have?
One group that is particularly concerned about this issue are the Leicestershire constituents of my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). Another group that is concerned is a small number of constituents at the extreme end of my constituency who, with the boundary change, will shortly move across from the constituency of Canterbury to that of my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). What those two groups have in common is that they are not adjacent to an airport—in one case, Nottingham East Midlands Airport and in the other, Manston—but are under its flight path, or the flight path for some of its flights.
Such groups tend—I shall allude to the Shoeburyness experience without going over the same ground again—to be much less supportive of an airport than the people who live immediately around it, many of whom work there and are used to it. Indeed, some of the constituents of the shadow Secretary of State live a long way from the airport and have only comparatively recently found themselves heavily affected by flights.
This charging regime is already in place in many airports but the Minister, for reasons that I understand and which my party supports, wants to encapsulate it in law to prevent some expensive piece of litigation in the future. However, the question that the Minister needs to answer is why those arrangements should not be potentially put in place for the benefit of all airports rather than just for the small number of airports that are designated. The amendment is short but simple, and it goes to the heart of the concerns of many people. I urge the Minister to consider accepting it.
The hon. Gentleman was half right in predicting what I was going to say. Where he was not right was in assuming that ''specified'' means ''designated''; it does not. It means an airport that the Secretary of State can specify for that purpose.
I shall first outline the broader reason why I disagree with the amendment. The Government's policy, as we have stated in earlier amendments, is that decisions on how to deal with the local environment should, as a general rule, be left to those local circumstances, reflecting the diverse nature of airports and their operation. The new subsection contained in clause 1 gives the Secretary of State the powers to direct specified, not designated, aerodromes to make use of the powers in section 38 as amended by the clause. The Government's intention in making the provision is to ensure that where an airport operator is unwilling to take up those powers, even though local circumstances mean that there is a strong case for so doing, the Secretary of State could ensure that charges might be fixed by reference to noise or emissions of aircraft.
The hon. Gentleman's amendment would mean that rather than being able to make such directions to specified airports, all airports—both designated and non-designated—would have to be directed to fix their charges with regard to noise and emissions. The Government are not comfortable with that blanket approach, for the reasons that I have given.
I do not think that I can answer that in terms of the mechanism. My understanding of it is that it is where the Secretary of State believes, on the basis of information provided—[Interruption.] No, I am absolutely wrong. I apologise. It is specified in the order.
I shall keep talking for a moment, to give time for the information to be passed to the Minister. Can she clarify what that means? Will it be by statutory instrument, by orders that will come out with the Bill, or by resolution? I see that the inspiration is just arriving.
The inspiration tells me that the matter is dealt with in section 38(4). I am not sure whether that answers the hon. Gentleman's question. It is specified in a statutory instrument made under section 38.
I beg to move amendment No. 15, in page 2, line 31, at end insert—
'(5A) Aerodrome authorities, both designated and non-designated, shall publish details of any charges made under subsection (1) for the purposes set out in subsection (2).
(5B) Aerodrome authorities which make charges under subsection (1) shall be under a duty to—
(a) monitor emissions and noise levels on an annual basis;
(b) publish annual figures for pollution and noise levels; and
(c) publish a statement of intent as to what levels of emissions and noise can be expected for the following twelve month period and what actions they intend to take to reduce noise and pollution levels.
(5C) Airlines may appeal to the Secretary of State against any charge made by an aerodrome authority under subsection (1).'.
The amendment proposes that aerodrome authorities, both designated and non-designated, should publish details of any charges made under new subsection (1) for the purpose set out in subsection (2). They would also have a duty to monitor emissions, and publish annual figures and a statement. Crucially, airlines would have a power of appeal against charges.
Dealing with new subsections (5A) and (5B) together, the Bill, as I and my hon. Friend, the shadow Secretary of State said several times on Second Reading, gives airports a number of powers. However, it does not give them many duties. I agree with the Minister on the principle that, wherever possible, matters should be resolved locally. That has been a current theme: everybody would like to see matters resolved locally if that is possible. There are also occasions, examples of which we have heard about in this debate, where matters cannot be satisfactorily resolved locally. We think that it is perfectly reasonable to ask that aerodrome authorities, which have been given these powers, should publish the details of the charges that they have made. They should not be kept as commercial in confidence, so that people who want to feel reassured that something is happening in airports about which they are concerned can see what is going on.
We are asking that airports monitor emissions and noise levels annually, and publish the annual figures and statement of intent. It hardly seems unreasonable to remind people that the very considerable powers that we are clarifying—that is the word that the Minister uses in the Bill—can be used legally. They are powers exercised by a virtual monopoly in the case of south-east England, as the British Airports Authority controls well over 90 per cent. of the flights in and out of the area. It is nearly a monopoly, which deals with airlines that, in contrast, are involved in extremely tight competition. It does not seem burdensome that they should be required to publish those details.
That brings me on to proposed new subsection (5C) in the amendment. In the past few weeks, I have had a number of meetings and exchanged correspondence with airlines. Not one representative has said that they are opposed to the Bill, and the way in which the British airlines signed up to the excellent document ''Sustainable Aviation'' shows the extent to which they want to play the game. They want to be seen to be responsible and to be doing the fair thing. However, the point that they made to me, which was reinforced by the British Air Transport Association, is that the Bill lacks checks and balances. For airlines dealing with an extremely powerful negotiating partner in the British Airports Authority—as they do in south-east England—it would be reasonable for the Bill to include a provision such as that in proposed new subsection (5C).
There is a case for saying that the proposal is at its strongest when we consider the designated airports—basically, the British Airports Authority airports. It seems reasonable that airlines should be able to appeal to the Secretary of State if they think that the charges are unreasonable.
One difficulty that we have had with many clauses of the Bill concerns the breakdown of responsibilities among a range of bodies, including the CAA, air traffic control bodies, the Secretary of State, individual non-designated airports and the British Airports Authority. There is a string of overlapping responsibilities. As the body who is ultimately answerable to Parliament on climate change, which is at the heart of much of the Bill, the Secretary of State is the appropriate person for the airlines to appeal to.
If the hon. Gentleman said that the clause would be better drafted if it mentioned the CAA, we could debate that. Personally, I think that it should be the Secretary of State because he is answerable to Parliament, and we should bear in mind that the CAA does not have a responsibility in its charter for the health of the aviation industry. That may be astonishing, but it is true: its focus is entirely, and rightly, on the interests of the travelling public. The only person who can pull all the factors together within this complicated and fragmented structure—that is not a criticism of the Government, as it has always been complicated and fragmented—is the Secretary of State.
The Minister said a great deal about striking a balance. In fact, she said more than that: she rightly noted that on Second Reading people from all parts of the House talked about striking a balance between the needs of the aviation industry and their customers—a large proportion of our constituents enjoy from time to time the opportunity of taking a holiday that would not have been possible a generation or two ago—and the various environmental, climate and noise concerns that we have mentioned.
In striking that balance, is it not fair, as we propose in proposed new subsection (5C), to consider the balance between the terrific power of the airports and the British Airports Authority on one hand and the airlines on the other? I am not suggesting that the likes of British Aerospace are weak players, but every airline has, to some extent, been frail since 9/11. The fact that they have had to build up these large cash balances and protect them, even in the case of the strongest players, reflects that, and the idea that there should be no appeal of any sort here seems to many of them to be unreasonable.
There is an analogy in the rail industry. The people who control the track—Network Rail, Railtrack or whoever—charge people and carriers from time to time. But there is an appeal mechanism. There is a rail regulator. There was much discussion about the privatisation of justice on Second Reading: an appeal mechanism counteracts that.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We will return to the privatisation of justice. It also brings us back to that point that you and your advisers, Sir Nicholas, needed the wisdom of Solomon to split these overlapping amendments. The privatisation of justice is an issue here. It seems a rough form of justice if there is no appeal at all. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to the points on new subsections (5A) and (5B) and on having an appeal mechanism in (5C).
I am comfortable with amendment No. 15. It goes with the grain of other proposals. The Government should consider it helpful. It could ensure that they have a means of assessing whether airlines are meeting the targets for reducing noise and emissions as set out in the White Paper. During an earlier exchange the Minister was handed a note on that point. I hope that she can tell us precisely what those targets are in relation to noise and emissions and perhaps accept that the amendment would enable her to monitor effectively the targets set in the White Paper.
I am afraid that again I must disappoint the hon. Member for Canterbury by asking him not to press his amendment. First, as I said in response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), details of an aerodrome's charging policy will be available as part of the condition for use of the aerodrome. In the case of BAA, which runs the designated airports, the conditions for use are made publicly available on the internet. Similarly, Manchester is an example of a non-designated airport that does so. The Government do not believe that it is necessary for this requirement to be made statutory as in amendment No. 15.
Amendment No. 15 also provides that airports making charging regimes under new subsection 38(1) should be placed under a duty to monitor their emissions and noise levels and publish their figures. Again, we do not believe that these reporting requirements need to be statutory. While we believe that the charging scheme has a valuable role to play, which is why we are clarifying the role in the Bill, it is not the only influencing factor on noise and emissions from aircraft.
The larger airports, which are more likely to take up the powers of new section 38 have already been designated under section 35 of the 1982 Act and have consultative arrangements in place. Nottingham East Midlands airport, for example, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, monitors noise and reports to the local consultative committee. A number of noise monitors, both fixed and mobile, are in place to help. Reporting on noise and emission monitoring will take place through those arrangements.
As regards noise, the largest airports are covered by the Aerodromes (Noise Restrictions) (Rules and Procedures) Regulations 2003 which implement the European directive on noise-related restrictions. Where operating restrictions are proposed, it places obligations on the airport operator, or the Secretary of State in the case of designated airports, to take into account a range of information. That is set out in full in annexe 2 of the directive. It includes a description of the effect of a noise climate without further measures and, for those measures already planned to lessen noise impact over the same period, forecasts noise contours, including an assessment of the number of people likely to be affected by airport noise.
The amendment would require aerodrome authorities to say what actions they intend to take to reduce noise and pollution. Insofar as that involves operating restrictions covering noise it would overlap with existing requirements on airport operators. As I said in responding to amendment No. 3 and others in the group, in the case of an expanding airport it will not necessarily follow that establishing a noise and emissions charging regime will lead to reductions in noise and emissions—the balance argument that has been rehearsed a number of times in the debate.
On the right of appeal, proposed new section 38(4) allows the Secretary of State to direct an aerodrome authority to fix its charges in exercising powers under section 38(1). The direction may cover the manner in which the charges are fixed. I am not persuaded that there is any need for the Bill to include a separate right of appeal.
Let us suppose that there is a systematic failure—for example, an aerodrome forces a carrier to circle unnecessarily, thus creating extra emissions. The carrier would have no option in a contested claim between it and an airport authority, because the scheme specified by the Minister could not be used. In such circumstances, would not the carrier have no alternative other than simply to pay up?
I am reluctant to discuss a specific example, but my understanding is that if the airline is sufficiently unhappy with the way in which the airport or aerodrome implements charges it can make a case to the Secretary of State to issue a directive. If a direction was made under section 38(4) and the aerodrome objected, it would have the power to seek judicial review. There are checks and balances in the system that are adequate to meet concerns about the right of appeal, and on that basis I ask the hon. Gentleman to seek leave to withdraw it.
I am rather disappointed with the Minister's answer. If I understood her correctly, she said that what is proposed in (5A) and (5B)(a) is already happening. Much of the Bill is about putting on a statutory basis what is already happening, and (5B)(b), publishing annual figures, and (5B)(c), publishing a statement of intent, are hardly burdensome.
Surely it is all the more imperative to accept the amendments given that the Government are not setting targets to control noise. It is perhaps the only remaining mechanism to put in place more formal arrangements for bearing down on noise.
I thoroughly agree. The Government's attitude to targets has been very negative so far, although we will have more opportunities for discussion later.
In respect of (5B)(b) and (c), the annual figures are collected anyway and in many cases published, and publishing a statement of intent is not burdensome. The Minister's only significant objection is on the meaning of ''reduce''—whether it means a year-on-year reduction. If it could be construed in that way, I accept that there could be a technical problem with the drafting of the amendment in respect of an expanding airport, but it hardly amounts to an objection to the central point for the airport to have to say what it is doing.
Surely it is a question of mixing tactical and strategic issues in relation to an airport. It is all about tactically, year on year, seeing noise reduced rather than about the strategic question of an airport that expands and invests capital.
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. When they have a weak argument, Governments always respond to Opposition amendments by saying that there is a technical error in the drafting and Opposition spokesmen usually reply, as I do now, by saying that the Government may well be right. In (5B)(c) the wording could have been brushed up but its intention is clear: we want people to state publicly what they are doing about these matters; many choose to do so anyway.
It strikes me that there are so many reporting requirements from so many different places. Airlines are required to report on health and safety and all sorts of personnel issues, so it seems bizarre that there is no statutory requirement for them to report on a key aspect of what they do.
I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend that the amendment would not constitute burdensome new regulation. It would simply provide minimal information on something that is of huge public concern. Much of the information is already being provided and the amendment would simply put its provision on to a statutory footing.
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, whose long-standing campaign on deep vein thrombosis was an important feature of the last Parliament. We shall come later to amendments that he has tabled. I hope that he will be more successful with his hon. Friends in this Parliament and, indeed, in this Committee. I do not think that he meant quite what he said just now. There is no requirement on health; there certainly is on safety, of course.
This is quite a technical issue, but it is important to have it on the record of the Committee. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right. There are strict statutory requirements through air navigation orders and other instruments to regulate the safety of airlines; there is none for the health of passengers.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point entirely, but it still brings me back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor, which is that this is a highly regulated industry. Asking airports to produce information that good ones already do would simply be making that a statutory duty when we are putting on to a statutory basis powers that many of them choose to exercise anyway.
The thrust of the argument is that the major airports, which are designated and have consultative committees, are the ones about which the concern is expressed. For very small airports, the amendment would be an unduly heavy regulatory burden, so I am at something of a loss to understand what added value the hon. Gentleman thinks it would provide. By his own admission, most airports already do what we are discussing.
I am becoming confused about the Minister's position. Please let us be clear that the amendment deals with authorities that are making charges under subsection (1), so we are dealing with airports that already regulate their charges. We are not dealing with the aircraft in Barra, which was given as an example earlier; we are dealing with the authorities that are inside the game with which the Civil Aviation Bill is concerned. If they are making charges on that basis, they must be measuring emissions and noise. What is wrong with asking them to publish the figures? I think that we have now gone round and round far enough. I shall finish with a quick point on our proposed new subsection (5C).
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Bill creates all sorts of new mechanisms and new statutory obligations, or makes them clear or tidies them up, so it should be of interest to the Government and to everyone to see what their effects are through some sort of statutory report in which they are clearly disclosed?
That is absolutely right. The provision would not apply to those not making the new charges under the arrangements; it would apply only to those that were in the game, and many already are. We are putting the power on to a statutory footing. Why not put the corresponding duty on to a statutory footing? Proposed new subsection (5C) makes the parallel point. I understand what the Minister says, but why not give the airlines the appeal mechanism for which they are asking? I do not envisage it being used often and nor do they, but it would mean that there was a degree of balance. For that reason, Sir Nicholas—I am sorry; that was a rather longer winding-up speech that I intended—I am unwilling to withdraw amendment No. 15.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.