Aviation and the Environment

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:24 am on 27th February 2001.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 11:24 am, 27th February 2001

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. When in London, I live about 300 yd north of runway 27 right. I happen to be an aviator, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands my description; I mean the northern parallel runway at Heathrow. I am well aware that jumbo aircraft arriving at 4 am during the summer can disrupt people's sleep patterns. I understand that; I am talking about getting the balance right.

The hon. Gentleman seems unwilling or unable to acknowledge the efforts that the industry has already made, particularly in the United Kingdom. For instance, improved burn technology and air frame efficiency and better operating procedures have cut the consumption of fuel per passenger mile in the past 40 years by no less than 70 per cent. That fantastic achievement was achieved in part by the International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations on noise, and the fuel crisis of the 1970s may have helped; but it is also the result of the industry's determination to operate more fuel-efficient aeroplanes. It did not happen by accident. It needed investment.

The Government have lauded their investment in the aerospace industry. For instance, Rolls-Royce has received another £250 million to develop the 900 and 600 variants of the Trent engine. It is hoped that those engines will produce even further efficiencies in power performance and reduce fuel consumption and, therefore, pollution. The aircraft will also become quieter. Everyone must know that aircraft have become less noisy. One needs only to hear a Boeing 707 go past to know that--although the only ones to be seen nowadays are probably owned by corrupt and incompetent African dictators, of which there are quite a few. However, at air shows one can hear the difference between a 707 or a B52 and an Airbus. It is amazing to see an Airbus go overhead at that incredible angle and seem just to hang in the sky.

Credit ought to be given to the aerospace industry, and we should certainly sing the praises of the British industry. I am sure that you would be extremely upset if I did not mention the contribution made by your constituents at Hawarden, Mr. Jones, where the Airbus wings are made. They have joined others across the United Kingdom to ensure the success of the British aerospace industry by making more efficient and quieter aircraft. The aircraft entering airline fleets today are typically 20 decibels quieter than comparable aircraft of 30 years ago. Ours is a success story.

I agree with the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire about the ludicrous nature of our planning arrangements. I congratulate the Minister on obtaining his position as Aviation Minister. Will he please ensure that the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions looks urgently at the matter? We cannot go on dealing with planning procedures in this Neanderthal fashion. The terminal 5 inquiry has been going on for five or six years and has cost hundreds of millions of pounds. The issue is simple. Of course there are passions on both sides, but there are arguments for T5 and against it; let us hear them and make a decision. We should stop fiddling around in this extraordinary way, damaging the United Kingdom's economic effectiveness and continuing the uncertainty for people who live in the environment of Heathrow.

I agree with the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire on the planning issue. If he wants to stop night flying at Heathrow, then fine; let us find a brand new airport, as has been done in Munich. We would need a brand new greenfield site. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to tell us what part of North-West Leicestershhire would be suited to the new site.