§ Lords Amendment: In page 10, line 5, leave out "of an equal number".
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
These words are being deleted because they are superfluous. There is no requirement to have an equal number of representatives from the Authority and from the staff side because, under the following subsection, in the case of disagreement between the two sides a form of arbitration is put forward. It is, therefore, thought that the phrase which the Amendment seeks to delete is unnecessary.
I might add that the staff side have agreed to the Amendment.
§ Question put and agreed to.1195
|New Clause A.—(GRANTS TOWARDS COST OF SOUNDPROOFING DWELLINGS.)|
|Lords Amendment: In page 13, line 9, at end, insert:|
|"A.—(1) If it appears to the Minister that dwellings near an aerodrome owned or managed by the Authority require further protection from noise and vibration attributable to the use of the aerodrome than can be given by measures taken or to be taken in pursuance of section 14 of this Act he may by statutory instrument make a scheme requiring the Authority to make grants towards the cost of insulating such dwellings or parts of such dwellings against noise.|
|(2) A scheme under this section shall specify the area or areas in which dwellings must be situated for the grants to be payable, and the persons to whom, the expenditure in respect of which and the rate at which the grants are to be paid, and may make the payment of any grant dependent upon compliance with such conditions as may be specified in the scheme.|
|(3) A scheme under this section may require the Authority, in any case where an application for a grant is refused, to give the applicant at his request a written statement of its reasons for the refusal.|
|(4) A scheme under this section may authorise or require local authorities to act as agents of the Authority in dealing with applications for and payments of grants and may provide for the making by the Authority of payments to local authorities in respect of anything done by them as such agents.|
|(5) A scheme under this section may make different provision with respect to different areas or different circumstances and may be varied or revoked by a subsequent scheme under this section.|
|(6) Before making a scheme under this section the Minister shall consult the Authority.|
|(7) Any statutory instrument made under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."|
§ Read a Second time.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 2, to leave out from "aerodrome" to "require".
The effect of my Amendment would be to extend the number of airports where the Airports Authority could, if the Minister chose to make an order, give grants for soundproofing of dwellings to those living near the airports concerned. The whole House will agree that when making his statement to the House in March this year, the Minister of Aviation made a fundamental change of principle in this matter, a change of principle which cannot simply by itself be allowed to go through. The changes that have been made as a result of the Minister's decision have far-reaching effects, some of which I hope to examine.
Hon. Members will be aware that the soundproofing of private dwellings has been suggested as a means of alleviating the undoubted suffering that is experienced by people who live near 1196 London Airport. During the last few years, it has become increasingly clear that the problem of aircraft noise is proving an ever-increasing burden upon an ever-increasing number of people. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen an article in Discovery for May, 1965, in which some interesting proposals were put forward for possibly reducing the annoyance from aircraft noise.
That follows up the Wilson Committee's Report on Noise, which was presented to Parliament in July, 1963. The importance of the problem of aircraft noise in relation to all other kinds of noise is shown by the fact that one-third of the Wilson Report was devoted to aircraft noise.
The Government have introduced their new Clause in a most extraordinary manner. It was introduced by a side-wind into the House of Lords without giving this House an opportunity of dealing with the matter fully at the appropriate time. Be that as it may, we shall, no doubt, have an opportunity of discussing it when the main principle of the Clause is discussed.
1197 The Government are taking power to provide that:If it appears to the Minister that dwellings near an aerodrome owned or managed by the Authority require further protection from noise and vibration … he may by statutory instrument make a scheme requiring the Authority to make grants towards the cost of insulating such dwellings or parts of such dwellings against noise.Under the new Clause, the Minister may make an order if he so chooses. He has stated in the House of Commons his intention to make an order dealing with certain areas near London Airport. He has the power to make orders, if he so chooses, applying to Heathrow, as he already has done, and to Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick airports. In respect of any aerodrome owned or managed by the Authority, the Minister may make a Statutory Instrument to permit the making of grants. I do not think that he has that intention, but he has that power.
Therefore, in the new Clause the Minister has gone much further than his original statement might have led one to suppose, because a subsequent Government or Minister, even the present Minister, might, if convincing arguments were put to him, consider that the claims of Stansted, Gatwick or Prestwick were so great that it might be necessary to make special grants for those areas also for the soundproofing of dwellings. The Minister would be entitled to do that under the provisions of the Bill if the House accepts the Lords Amendment. I hope to show that this is not good enough.
When taking such wide powers as the Minister is taking in the Clause on what ground should he stop there? I shall advance the case that he should consider taking further powers, powers which he does not have to exercise if he does not choose to do so, which in years to come may be extremely valuable to succeeding Ministers of Aviation and powers that do not have to be exercised at present but which would obviate the need for legislation should a future Government decide that the noise level at other airports had reached such an intolerable pitch that it was necessary for residents in the area to be protected in the way that the Government have decided.
1198 I am fortified in the hope that the Minister of Aviation might reconsider the matter by some remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, on the Report stage of the Bill in another place on 1st April. He said:… when I was asked by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, whether we had a closed mind about either the area or the amount concerned, I said that we did not have a closed mind. I pointed out to him that all that we were asking for here was an enabling power, and that the details of the schemes would be spelled out in the Statutory Instrument. It is precisely because we feel that there is a need for flexibility that we cannot accept this particular Amendment",which had been moved for the purpose of widening the scope of the grants.
The noble Lord went on to say:If we find that the area detailed is not the correct one, if we find that for some technical reason it ought to be extended, then it will be possible for another Statutory Instrument to be laid before the House. Similarly, with the matter of the grant, if it is found that the £200 figure is an unrealistic one, then, again, I should have thought"—these are the important words—it would be much more convenient to the House to consider another Statutory Instrument, rather than to have amending legislation." [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 1st April, 1965; Vol. 264, c. 1238–9.]That is my view of the matter. It would be much more convenient, should the problem ever have to be tackled at other airports, that it should be done by Statutory Instrument rather than that we should have to go through the whole process of having another Bill before the House.
There is a strong case for extending this provision to local airports which are not covered by the scheme. I must here declare a personal as well as a constituency interest. I am the director of a company which has the lease of another airport which might perhaps be adversely affected if my Amendment were carried, so perhaps that interest is, in fact, a drawback. My constituency interest is obvious to the House.
It must not be thought that because the problems of London Airport are so enormous, this does not mean that the problems of other airports are not also grave. The Minister, who has the power to deal with Stansted and Prestwick, may be interested to know that during 1964, movements of aircraft at Stansted totalled 1199 32,065. The total movements of aircraft at Prestwick were 24,089. The number at Southend was 39,103, which was much greater than the movements at either Prestwick or Stansted.
I do not pretend that our problem is as grave, because jet aircraft do not use Southend Airport and the problem is one of curbing the noise of jet aircraft. We are today making legislative provision and there probably will not be another opportunity to consider legislation in this subject for many years. I do not see why we should tackle the problem in a mean-spirited fashion if it can be done otherwise.
I hope that hon. Members have had an opportunity to study where the movements of aircraft take place. I have with me a remarkable and revealing document concerning the number of aircraft movements at other airports. Birmingham, for example, has over 40,000 movements a year and it is not covered by the Bill. At Edinburgh, Turnhouse, which is not covered by it, had 42,004 movements in 1964. Manchester had 45,000. There are others also with a large number of aircraft movements.
If, by an unlucky chance, I fail to persuade the Minister, I dare say that it will be on grounds of impracticability rather than of broad principle, because I am sure that as an honourable man he would not dispute that if an equal problem arose at another airport, it should be treated equally as people who live near London Airport are to be treated.
I shall, therefore, say a few words about how, surprising though it may seem and surprising as it may be to the Minister, who did not have this in mind, such a scheme as I suggest would not work too badly. First, however, let me say that for many years we in Southend have had the problem of airport noise. In 1954, my predecessor led a deputation to the Minister who was concerned with aviation—I think, the Minister of Transport—conveying a petition with 20,000 signatures concerning the problem of airport noise which existed at that time in Southend. I myself have been a member of deputations to Service Departments to try to persuade them to change some of the flying regulations which existed then and which exist now. What we have to consider is what is to be the policy in future.
1200 8.0 p.m.
Southend is in the remarkable position of being a very densely populated area near an airport with many aircraft movements. As everyone knows, this has produced obvious problems, problems of noise and safety and others which must be met when considering the inhabitants of Leigh-on-Sea and Westcliffe-on-Sea. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) will deploy the case of those in his constituency who are equally affected, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
But Southend has a problem slightly different from those of most other airports. Who knows what might happen in 10 or 15 years? Who knows whether the day will come when jets will be regularly using Southend Airport?
§ Mr. Channon
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but who knows? At this stage, such a possibility cannot be ruled out. Who knows what will happen to the noise level at Southend or any of the other airports which I have listed?
From the Lords Amendment it will be seen that the Minister is giving the Authority the power to deal with the grant position. The Minister will make a Statutory Instrument saying that in such and such an area the Authority can have a scheme for making grants. The Minister himself will make the scheme in the Statutory Instrument specifying the areas in which the dwellings will have to be situated and the persons to whom the grants can be paid and the rate at which they can be paid.
By a fortunate chance, as their Lordships have been very wise to provide, under subsection (4) he is also the person who may authorise or require local authorities to act as agents of the authority in dealing with applications for and the payment of grants, and he may provide for the making by the Authority of payments to local authorities in respect of anything done by them as such agents.
It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there might be a scheme, should the need arise—and I am not saying that it has arisen yet—by which the Authority could make payments to local authorities authorising them to act as 1201 agents in this matter not only for London Airport, but for the airports which the Authority itself does not control. I do not see why that is absolutely impossible. Indeed, it may be an extremely good idea. After all, in their wisdom their Lordships have said that a scheme may make different provision in respect of different areas or different circumstances and that it might be varied or revoked by a subsequent scheme.
There is plenty of scope for initiative in this matter. The Minister is known as a man of initiative and of energy in applying his mind to this and many other problems. He is not afraid of controversial decisions. He must not shirk this duty of trying to widen the scope of the Bill to meet the case which I am advancing. It is not impossible that in 10 or 15 years, unless other action is taken—and if other action is planned, perhaps we can be told about it—we will have a situation in which the inhabitants of areas near other airports will be as aggrieved as those who now live near London Airport.
I am one of those who believe that airports in this country will grow and that there will be more airports—I hope so. I think that there will be more air travel. Unless there is effective research into aircraft noise, it will be a continually growing problem. Of course, research is going on and a great deal of good work is probably being done, but the end is not yet in sight. No ray of hope for the inhabitants of areas near airports has yet been produced.
I must tell the Minister that my constituents were not at all happy to hear that he had been to hear supersonic booms a few weeks ago, booms which might affect them and other people living near airports. There is great and growing concern about aircraft noise. I need hardly pray in aid the Wilson Committee on noise because hon. Members know it very well. In paragraph 243 there is ample evidence that aircraft noise causes much annoyance.
I commend to the Minister paragraph 333 of that Report from which I will quote just two sentences. They are:It is essential that the lessons of Heathrow should be applied at other airports. The important lesson is that, as the noise extends far beyond the physical perimeter of the airport, the environs must be as carefully planned 1202 as the airport itself if serious nuisance is to be avoided.There are places where it is too late and where there is already a great deal of residential accommodation near airports, but I hope that the Minister will hold out some hope that he is prepared to extend or to consider extending these provisions—and tonight is his last chance. I hope that he will accept my Amendment so that other airports will be covered by the Bill should the need arise.
I do not think that the Minister will be giving much away if he accepts my Amendment. After all, he would not have to make a scheme and no one would be compelling him to do so. He might not have to make the scheme for many years, but the powers would be there and we would be saved the necessity of having other legislation to deal with the matter, other legislation which would waste the time of the House. Governments are reluctant to bring forward legislation if they can avoid it when there are so many other pressing issues about which they wish to legislate.
My proposal would give a future Government a loophole to make grants if necessary. The grants would not be compulsory or mandatory in any way. All the Minister would have to do would be to make a scheme which would be subject to annulment. He would not be losing much if he took this power and extended the scope of the Bill in a way which he did not at first intend. When he first introduced the Bill, he did not intend to have grants for sound proofing, but when the Bill reached another place he showed that he was willing to have second thoughts about these matters.
I hope that the House will agree with me that if noise should reach an unacceptable pitch near airports other than London, any Government prepared to make grants for sound proofing for those who live near London Airport would be morally bound to take the same powers to make grants for the other airports similarly affected. I do not see why the Government should not take these necessary powers. If the evil does not arise, the powers need not be used and the Government would lose nothing. However, they would gain a great deal of good will, especially from my constituents, if they accepted the Amendment.
§ Mr. Braine
I am very glad to support my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) who has advanced a powerful and compelling argument for his Amendment. He referred to an airport on the boundaries of his constituency. It is true that it is known as Southend Airport, but, alas, it is in my constituency. If his constituents are sometimes perturbed by the noise which is inseparable from the operation of a busy airport, so are mine. I am bound to tell my hon. Friend that the indignation of my constituents is all the greater in that they have no democratic control over the owner of Southend Airport, namely, the Corporation of the County Borough of Southend-on-Sea.
I entirely agree with their Lordships' Amendment. It seems to me to be a most timely and reasonable provision. Those who live near London Airport, or who have airports in or near their constituencies, know only too well the effect that persistent aircraft noise can have on many people, especially at night, particularly those who sleep lightly or who suffer from some nervous trouble or ill-health. Hon. Members will recall that Prospero's Island was "full of noises" but they at least were of a kind "to give delight and hurt not". Unhappily, our island today is full of hurtful and maddening noises. In fact, noise has become a major social problem and nowhere does it cause greater nuisance and greater distress than in neighbourhoods bordering on airports.
There are people—and I am not looking at anyone in particular—who say that we have to learn to live with noise, that it is part of the price that we have to pay for technological progress. One reason why I am on my feet this evening is that I refuse to accept that. It is a wholly unacceptable doctrine which holds that technical progress justifies a deterioration in the living standards of some of our fellow citizens.
Noise can and must be reduced, and where, in the case of an airport, this is particularly difficult—both my hon. Friend and I concede that it is difficult—it seems only right that remedial measures should be provided, and that those who cause the noise should contribut to those measures. I thoroughly endorse the steps which have been taken in this regard.
1204 The Wilson Committee did not mince its words with regard to London Airport. My hon. Friend quoted from its Report, and I propose to quote a further passage where the Committee said:We are agreed that the noise to which many people near London Airport are subjected is more than they can reasonably be expected to tolerate …. people should be given grants to help them make life more tolerable for themselves, at least indoors.I like those last words, "at least indoors".
In short, the Committee argued that where people lost an amenity through no fault of their own, someone should compensate them, someone should help them. I think it is a thoroughly sound principle that those who cause the noise, and in the process profit from it, should contribute to that compensation. By accepting that principle at London Airport, the Government have created a precedent of interest and importance to all who dwell near a busy airport, and that includes airports which are not covered by the Bill.
Why should a wholly acceptable Amendment proposed by their Lordships be restricted to the four international aerodromes which are to be vested in the new Authority? In what way is a nuisance to householders so much greater at Gatwick or Stansted than for those who live at Rochford and Southend, or how much greater is the nuisance at Gatwick and Stanstead now than it may be at Southend in a few years' time?
No doubt one could measure the nuisance in decibels. There are scientific methods of computing these matters. A Member of Parliament could measure them in terms of the complaints that he receives in his postbag, or by the number of cases of illness known to the local authorities to have been aggravated by noise. As my hon. Friend said, Southend is now one of the busiest airports in the country. I cannot say whether it is the third largest airport, but it is certainly one of the busiest in the country, and is not going to grow any less busy.
The noise there has been a major source of irritation to my constituents for many years. In 1959 I had occasion to raise the problem of a school which stands in the approach funnel, or the 1205 public safety zone I think it is called, of the Southend Airport. I went to the school to present the annual prizes, and had to break off my speech every now and again because of the noise of aircraft overhead.
As I told the House on 9th November, 1959:The main school is within 800 yards of the north-east-south-west runway of Southend Airport. This means that the school is within what the Ministry of Aviation calls the approach funnel to the airport or the public safety zone. It means also that every 15 minutes of the school's working day an aircraft takes off or comes in directly over the school building, making teaching difficult and sometimes intolerable for both staff and pupils. I know this myself, because I have attempted to speak in the school at such a time with aircraft overhead."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 163.]The House may not remember that, but my constituents have reason to remember it because as a result of raising the matter here we got a new school. On that occasion the principle was recognised that if intolerable conditions were created the community had to make the necessary adjustment and had to find the necessary funds. Since then I have had continual complaints about aircraft noise.
Some years ago when Southend Corporation applied for an extension of the existing runway, the application was strongly opposed not only by the Rochford Rural District Council, which is in my constituency, but by every conceivable organisation—parish councils, ratepayers' organisations, and so on—in the area on the ground that there was already a serious noise nuisance, and that any extension would increase it.
At a representative gathering called by the council in December, 1961, it was resolvedThat no further extension of the existing runways or the construction of new runways should be permitted at Southend Airport, Rochford and that any attempt to carry out such works should be resisted by every possible means.In the evidence that was adduced at the time it was contended that the existing noise arising from the airport was particularly detrimental to the health and wellbeing of aged parsons resident in the district. It was said: 1206It is understood that there are frequent cases arising in the Rochford Hospital and Connaught House where patients and inmates display visible signs of distress caused by aircraft noise.Only two days ago the chairman of the local council wrote to me saying that people in the district were still worried about this problem. I am not complaining about the way in which the airport is managed. It is extremely competently managed, and I am sure that the commandant and airport staff do everything that is humanly possible to minimise the noise that is caused. Nor do I wish to dissent in any way from what my hon. Friend said about the fact that we have airports here and that they are likely to grow. I hope that we shall have many more of them, so that the traffic can be more widely spread.
§ Mr. Channon
I agree with my hon. Friend that the corporation and the airport manager in particular take the most detailed trouble to deal with any complaints that arise, and do their best to minimise them as far as they can.
§ Mr. Braine
I have no responsibility for Southend Corporation, but I agree wmth what my hon. Friend has said about the airport staff. After all, if my constituents complain, they do so to the Rochford Rural District Council, or to the airport commandant, or to me. I make no complaint on that score. I merely say that the nuisance at Southend is considerable, that it is growing, and that the Minister should have the same discretion to make an order as in the case of the four airports named in the Bill.
I do not think that there is anything more that I can say. My hon. Friend deployed the argument in considerable depth. His Amendment would secure what we want. It would meet the complaints of my constitutents. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the Minister has a reputation for imagination and courage. I hope that he will give up to it tonight and give us some hope that the present illogical position is something that he cannot accept and that he will, on the contrary, accept our Amendment to their Lordships' Amendment.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
I support the Amendment to the Amendment for a number of 1207 reasons. The main one arises from aircraft movements, which are not studied by this House or by the country as much as they should be, and which throw a grave doubt upon the whole idea behind the Airports Authority. As the Minister knows, the figures of aircraft movements—taken in this instance in relation to noise—have been quoted by my hon. Friend as being 39,000 in the case of Southend, 45,000 in respect of Manchester and 40,000 in respect of Birmingham, in one year. In the case of Prestwick, however—and it is one of the few aerodromes named in the Bill—the number of movements per year is only 24,000.
Surely that shows that we are getting a little out of gear and that the construction of our ideas in the Bill is a little outdated. We ought not to think simply in terms of aircraft movements which are brought out by the question of noise. No one in the House—least of all the Minister—will contest the evils which can arise from aircraft noise.
My hon. Friend has made an effective case for the mitigation of the noise factor. The Minister has acknowledged it by the Order in respect of London Airport. No one who has been to Kennedy Airport, in New York, and stayed overnight in the first-rate international airport hotel, which is effectively insulated against jet noise, can fail to understand how efficient proper soundproofing can be, at what is clearly reasonable expense, in respect of double windows, and so on.
My hon. Friend is on the right lines in suggesting a broadening of the powers of the Minister in respect of his rather belated application. It is belated. It should never have come from the other place. It should have been thought of in the first place by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and introduced in this House, where we could have amended it and produced it in a proper form. That having been said, it is a good Amendment, which is made better by my hon. Friend's Amendment to it, which broadens the whole area in which these grants can be made and the powers of the Authority in making its decisions.
I suggest that the Minister should think very hard about my hon. Friend's 1208 Amendment. The Minister has been convicted, rightly, of dilatoriness in introducing the concept of noise in the Bill. He is an honourable and sensible Minister, and I am sure that he will admit the strength of my hon. Friend's argument and be prepared to accept his advice, deleting the words suggested from the excellent Amendment of their Lordships.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on his ingenuity in producing an Amendment to the Lords' Amendment which is acceptable to the Chair—an achievement in which I have dismally failed, although I thought that my Amendment was most elegantly drawn.
I welcome the Lords' Amendment. It would be churlish of any hon. Member on this side of the House to do anything which would restrain hon. Members opposite from carrying out at least one or two of their election promises, however dubious the occasion was upon which this promise was made and however doubtful the method by which it is achieved. I share my hon. Friend's view that it was highly improper to bring the Amendment in in the House of Lords in this form, making our task in dealing with the matter extremely difficult.
The Government have seen fit to carry out this promise at the expense of the Authority. I do not know whether the Authority will have enough money to do what the Government have shouldered upon it. The Government have carried out their electoral pledge not at their own expense, but at the expense of others. That is another unsatisfactory aspect of the matter.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West about the risk to his constituents.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I thought that the maximum risk to his constituents occurred many years ago, when I took one or two lessons in flying from Southend Airport. I do not think that anything quite as bad has since overtaken the worthy citizens of that area. It is true that the mere quoting of aircraft movements can be deceptive. The movement of Austers is not likely to disturb 1209 the sleep of the most sensitive, and when we consider whether there should be an extension of the facilities, as suggested in the Lords' Amendment, we must bear in the mind the nature of the movements which take place in other areas.
I am concerned not about Southend, which has much to commend it, but about Ringway Airport, which is an international airport and where the conditions are much nearer those obtaining at Heathrow than any other airport in the country. I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that the number of movements at Manchester is very few in comparison with those at Heathrow. In terms of major movements of civil airline traffic, they are only one-fifth, on average, of the movements at Heathrow, Nevertheless, we must remember that Heathrow has a number of runways—I think that there are six—whereas at Manchester, as those who have caught the crosswinds know to their sorrow, there is only one.
Although Manchester Airport has only one-fifth, of the commercial movements of Heathrow, nevertheless it has roughly the same proportion of runways. Therefore, the burden which falls on the people living in the area of Manchester Airport is perhaps proportionately almost as high as that at Heathrow.
It is also true to say that this burden will, in the relatively near future, increase because there are two matters affecting the activities at Manchester which will cause even more concern to my constituents. First, there is the proposal to reduce the angle of glide from 3 per cent. to 2½ or 2 ¾ per cent. which will certainly increase the noise level. Secondly, the one runway is at present in the process of extension. When this is completed, aircraft fully loaded will take off from Ringway and cause much more inconvenience and noise in the area.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
The hon. Gentleman is making the argument, I think, that because there is only a single runway at Ringway in use and a large number of runways in use at Heathrow the noise and nuisance caused in the glide path area is only about the same. Will he accept it from me that this is not the case, because his argument depends upon the assumption that all the runways at Heathrow are in fairly equal use and that 1210 therefore the burden is spread fairly widely? One runway is mostly in use and, therefore, people in that area suffer a very large percentage of the total nuisance.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that point had not escaped me, but I considered it hardly necessary to elaborate it.
I was saying that in the next month or so there will be developments at Ringway which will render this airport less acceptable to the immediate residents. Therefore it is highly desirable that my hon. Friend's Amendment be accepted so that this problem at Ringway might be dealt with.
To my mind, Ringway is now a very fine airport, very efficiently managed by Mr. Harvey, the director. It is probably one of the best airports in Europe, apart from Heathrow. The houses in the area, particularly at the Heald Green end, come into very close proximity indeed with the runway. It is proposed, by altering the angle of glide, to bring aircraft into even closer proximity to the houses. Therefore, my constituents have much more to be concerned about even than my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West.
May I say this in their defence. On the whole, the residents, particularly those in the Heald Green area, have not been unduly carping and demanding in their criticisms and complaints. The manner in which they have complained has been extraordinarily restrained because they realise that, however inconvenient aircraft movements may be, they are inseparable from progress, and they do not wish to put their own personal convenience in the way of legitimate progress. It is, nevertheless, the case that they are put to very grave inconvenience indeed. In particular, the schools in the glide path are seriously affected. These people are as justified as any residents in the Heathrow area in wishing to be brought within the ambit of the Bill.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister will accept the Amendment. I doubt whether he is as imaginative, far-seeing and honourable as my hon. Friends have made out. We shall see in a very short time whether he is. I am prepared, at any rate for a few moments, to give him the benefit of the 1211 doubt, whatever my feelings may be about the matter.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
This has been a delightful debate in anticipation of some of the points which may be raised on the main Amendment. But I like very much what I taste as hors d'œuvres, because it means that hon. Members opposite who were unable, or perhaps unwilling, to persuade the last Administration to do something about ameliorating the noise and nuisance around airports are now only too delighted that the Lords have suggested the Amendment and that we are considering it tonight. I am glad to discern their support for what is undoubtedly a very considerable breakthrough. This is a very important advance.
I agree with all the points which have been made about noise at airports being a nuisance to those who reside in the areas concerned. But I say this to the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney). The difference between us on this side and the former Ministers who were responsible for this matter is that the present Ministers are prepared to do something about it, whereas the Ministers in the last Administration, whom the hon. and gallant Member supported, were not prepared to act. If there is to be any blame, the delay in bringing this forward is because hardly any work was done in preparation for the scheme in advance of the election, and we had to start almost from scratch.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who made a very persuasive and attractive speech. It was a very good constituency speech, and all those in Southend concerned about airport noise will appreciate it. The hon. Member used the opportunity to quote liberally from the report of the Wilson Committee. I will quote one of the key paragraphs from that Report, because I believe that it will help him to explain to his constituents why it is impossible for us to accept the Amendment which he put forward. I quote from paragraph 319 on page 79 of the Report where it says:In our view these arguments"—that is against paying a grant—are outweighed by those for paying a grant. The situation at Heathrow is, itself, unpre- 1212 cedented. The noise in the residential areas close to the Airport is the worst known in this country, and the people who suffer from it have no right of legal action to secure its abatement. Also, a grant for improving sound insulation is more a[...]in to a house improvement grant than to compensation for living in a noisy area. We accordingly recommend that grants should be paid towards the cost of improving the sound insulation of existing houses near Heathrow Airport.The Wilson Committee spent a great deal of time on its Report, and we are all appreciative of the tremendous job it did. The Committee did not consider that the noise at any other airport warranted this sort of proposal. That is why, as the Minister made clear in his statement on 10th March, at this stage we are concerned to do something about the noise at Heathrow about which the Committee was concerned.
§ Mr. Braine
I should have thought the hon. Gentleman's argument more powerful if the powers being taken in the Bill did not extend beyond Heathrow, but they include Stansted, Prestwick and Gatwick. Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) nor I was asking that the Minister should immediately pay out, or cause to be paid out, grants for other airports. A case would have to be established. We were asking that just as has taken powers—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot make a second speech on an intervention.
§ Mr. Braine
I accept that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would withdraw the argument he has advanced about powers being taken to extend the provision to airports other than Heathrow since the Bill already covers three other airports? Why not extend it further where a case can be made?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I was about to go on to that.
One of the points made by the hon. Member for Southend, West was that we should avoid coming back to this House again and again to ask for more approval. That is why we are proposing the use of Statutory Instruments. The Minister can still take conditions into account if noise increases at other airports for which the Airports Authority will be responsible. That is why there 1213 is an Amendment on the Notice Paper which we are to consider shortly and why it is drafted in the way in which it appears. It is in order to anticipate that, perhaps in a few years' time the Minister may wish to make a Statutory Instrument in regard to another airport.
The hon. Member for Southend, West quoted from speeches made in another place and I wish to say that the comment on the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in another place was entirely in accord with how we approached this. I should like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the very fine job which the noble Lord did in helping to guide this Bill through another place. The position as he stated it is exactly right. If the Minister finds that another airport under the Airports Authority is creating the same sort of nuisance as that at Heathrow, to which the Wilson Committee referred as being unprecedented and excessive, the Minister will be able to make an Order in regard to that airport.
I want to come to the fundamental reason why this Amendment is unacceptable. What the hon Member for Southend, West and his hon. Friends are suggesting is that the British Airports Authority should accept responsibility for paying and administering grants—presumably the financial responsibility as well—to airports which do not come under the Authority. They are putting forward the point of view that, because of the noise at Southend Airport, the Airports Authority should pay grants to householders around Southend Airport. Surely anybody in a reasonable state of mind can see that this is quite unacceptable. How could we ask the Airports Authority, which is responsible for four international airports, to accept the responsibility and the possibly very considerable financial cost of paying grants to householders around every other airport in the country where this noise grows?
I accept that it is up to the Minister to make a Statutory Instrument, but I will ask hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that if we were to accept this form of words, it would lead to considerable confusion. Many municipalities which are responsible for airports would be confused as to their relationship with the new Airports Authority which is about 1214 to be set up, and the Airports Authority itself would not have a clear-cut line of responsibility. The possibility is that it would have to accept at some time in the future—merely as a result of the Minister deciding that the noise at Southend and Ringway had increased—responsibility for those airports.
I ask the House to resist this Amendment because we cannot possibly ask the Airports Authority to accept financial responsibility for sound insulation around other airports than those for which it is directly responsible. I agree with many of the points which were made about the noise and the nuisance around many airports in Britain. This, of course, includes the municipal airports which have been referred to. I ask hon. Gentlemen to get the matter in perspective at this time. Of course, in the future, the position at Southend and at Ringway may become more serious. The number of movements at Heathrow is now about 175,000 per year, and of that number, about 20,000 are jets. No other airport in Britain approaches even a third of that figure. Therefore, it is quite obvious—we have to be realistic—that what we are considering now will apply, in the first stage, only to Heathrow.
While we are doing this, however, we feel that it is advisable to give the Minister power to introduce Statutory Instruments in regard to other airports under the Airports Authority. It would be too confusing and, I think, quite unfair to expect the Airports Authority to start trying to bring in provisions for all the other airports in Britain. When this is done, if it has to be, it will have to be done under a separate Bill.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
Of course, we have great sympathy with the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary in their attempt to limit the sceme to Heathrow. We would agree that the Wilson Committee made a very clear case, in the paragraph which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted to the House, of the very exceptional circumstances at Heathrow. I should not have thought that my hon. Friends could disagree with it.
The point where, with respect, the Parliamentary Secretary has got himself into a little difficulty in his argument 1215 arises out of the procedure used to effect this desirable result of enabling grants to be made for soundproofing in the Heathrow area. The Bill, and the Amendment to which we will be coming shortly, enables the Authority to pay the grants to Heathrow by virtue of giving it power to do this to the other three airports as well.
Once the Parliamentary Secretary and his noble Friend deployed the argument that we must be flexible and that we could not tell whether in future the noise level reached within the general area of Heathrow might not also apply to some other airports, it becomes extremely difficult for the argument of the Government to defend the limitation to the three other airports which come within the province of the Bill.
I have considerable sympathy for the Parliamentary Secretary when he says that it would be rather distorting the purpose of the Authority to ask it to be empowered to pay grants to provincial airports over which it will not have the full range of competence, compared with its competence over the four airports named in the Bill. I accept that, but, equally, the Minister must recognise that tagging on to a Bill which had already left this House this procedure to enable the Government to empower the Authority to deal with the problem of Heathrow causes the difficulty that looked at morally, once one goes further than Heathrow and talks about giving legislative powers to the Government of the day to extend it if the case should arise, then it is extremely difficult, certainly morally, to argue that the provision should be limited to the other three international airports.
One might expect a far higher incidence of large, powerful jets landing at these airports, but we have had ample evidence supplied by my hon. Friends to show that in some provincial airports, with the extension of internal flying—and I know that the Minister and the majority of hon. Members hope to see an extension of the use of aircraft in this country—if flexibility is the reason for including the three other international airports, it is difficult to see why it should be limited in that way.
1216 Having said that, I think that some of my hon. Friend will agree with the Minister and the Wilson Committee that the case for Heathrow is, as of now, overwhelmingly greater than that at any other airport. However, that does not mean that that will indefinitely be so. After all, is that not the argument which the Government claim justifies them in including the three other airports?
The House finds itself in this difficulty due to the procedure followed by the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with this perfectly desirable aim. It is a pity that it was not possible to have a short enabling Bill. I appreciate that it is difficult for Parliamentary time to be obtained. Leaders of the House always say that it is difficult, however desirable the aim, to find Parliamentary time. This applies even when a Minister asks for time. However, had an enabling Measure been produced, the House would have had a better opportunity to discuss this issue, as well as the other points which will be raised on the important Amendment to which we will be coming shortly. Meanwhile, I am inclined to think that we must accept the view expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Lords Amendment, put and agreed to.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 10, after "areas", insert "which shall include glide-paths".
Before proceeding it might be helpful if I explain what a glide-path is. It is the angle—at the moment, of 3 degrees—of approach of an aircraft, in this case London Airport, to the threshold of the runway. Lest there be confusion from a reading of my Amendment, I should, perhaps, underline that it relates to dwellings beneath the glide-path. I am not implying that there are dwellings on the glide-path itself.
As has already been indicated—from extracts from the Wilson Report and otherwise—a great deal of misery and unhappiness is caused to hundreds of thousands of people living around London Airport, not just in the airport vicinity, but also in a larger area around Heathrow. The Richmond division of Surrey, which I have the honour to represent, has 1217 most of its area under the direct line of the main and most-used glide-path into London Airport. The constituency consists of Petersham, Kew, Ham, Barnes, Mortlake and East Sheen.
All this area, particularly Barnes and Sheen, is beneath the glide-path into London Airport and the centre of my constituency is exactly 7½ miles from the threshold of No. 5 and No. 1 runways of London Airport. Aircraft tend to turn from both the Watford stack and the Epsom stack on to the glide-path over approximately Hammersmith Bridge, but occasionally they drift to the South and turn over the constituency of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who I am pleased to see in his place.
My reason for moving the Amendment is to discover why the soundproofing grants are not also to apply to dwellings in the area beneath the glide-path. Why should they stop in the areas as detailed in the statement made in the House of Commons on 10th March by the Minister, before the New Clause was attached to the Bill in another place?
It might be helpful at this stage if I say something about the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary, who rather implied that the previous Government had done nothing at all about this matter. I know a little about this subject, because I have been battling over it ever since elected to the House of Commons. I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman that so far no Government has done nearly enough about this matter, but it is unfair for him to imply that the last Government did nothing at all. As I shall later detail, they took some important action.
What are the reasons for the present sudden outburst of enthusiasm on the part of right hon. and hon. Members opposite to assist in eliminating or reducing aircraft noise round London Airport? I may, of course, be wrong, but I cannot help feeling that it stems from a speech, no doubt an excellent speech, made by the present Prime Minister at an election meeting on 1st October, 1964, when he made some very strong and very formidable pledges. Those pledges were reported in the Financial Times of 2nd October, 1964.
I mention the Financial Times, because this is the newspaper to which the Prime 1218 Minister himself referred when questioned on the subject in the House. He implied that some of the other reports were not, perhaps, 100 per cent. accurate, but that the Financial Times report was. This is an important matter, because when the Prime Minister made his speech as reported in the Financial Times he did not indicate that there was any restriction to the area where sound-proofing should apply round London Airport. His pledge was that the area affected by noise from the airport—
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
It also happened that there were three or four marginal seats in the area.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the local authorities were pressing the previous Government for the sound-proofing of private houses long before my right hon. Friend made that speech at Isleworth—and what was done?
§ Mr. Royle
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that they were pressing and that the previous Government did nothing about it. My only point is that the sudden spurt of activity on the part of hon. Members opposite seems to have emanated—though perhaps my impression is wrong—from the Prime Minister's speech at that election meeting. That is by the way, but in view of the Parliamentary Secretary's earlier comment I just make the point.
I warmly congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his efforts on this issue. He set about trying to find a means of providing sound-proofing for houses round London Airport. Whilst I am at present marginally dissatisfied with him, for not having gone wider, if he were able to accept my Amendment there would be no marginal disapproval from me at all. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary's effort has largely resulted in the ideas we have seen incorporated in the new Clause. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not allowed to make the statement himself, but I am glad to see that he is handling this stage of the Bill tonight.
There are a number of reasons why the areas beneath the glide-path into London Airport should be included within the terms of reference of the Authority. On 1219 9th December, 1964, I asked the Minister of Aviation whether… he will give an assurance that he does not intend to lower the glide path into London (Heathrow) Airport below an angle of three degrees.Here we come back to the three degree angle about which we shall hear again and again this evening.
The Parliamentary Secretary replied:I am not at present proposing to lower the glide path below its present angle of three degrees."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 196.]I view the words "at present" with some consternation, as they seem to indicate that at some future date he might well consider lowering the angle from three degrees to two and a half degrees, which would immediately have a very bad effect on people living beneath the glide-path itself.
I want to emphasise the importance of maintaining the three degrees. Such an angle at present puts an aircraft at a height of 2,000 ft. over the East Sheen cross roads, in the centre of my constituency, and it means that aircraft join the glide path at Hammersmith Bridge, where they turn on to it from the stacks at Watford and Epsom, at about 2,500 ft. Decreasing the angle will immediately bring a great amount of noise distress to people as far out as Putney, I believe, and certainly in Barnes. It would mean that aircraft would traverse my constituency, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) at a much lower height.
It is, therefore, very important that the three degree glide-path is maintained. The tact that the Parliamentary Secretary in that Answer indicated that this was at present the plan makes one feel that if, at some future time, there was an alteration in the angle it would become even more vital to include in the provision for sound-proofing residential dwellings beneath it.
I now want to refer to the action taken by the Ministry of Aviation in the past to help to relieve the noise problem. Hon. Members on both sides have been battering at Minister for many years on this score. The first thing that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) did was to set up a system of 1220 height checks on the glide-path coming into the airport. That checking system was set up in 1960. The very fact that the Minister agreed to it not only showed that the Government were prepared to do something, but that the Ministry was prepared to acknowledge that there was a great deal of noise which caused a great deal of dissatisfaction and discomfort to people below the glide path itself.
I pay tribute to the amount of hard work done by people in the Ministry. Members of the Department have put in a lot of work and have always received complaints with great sympathy and care, from the general public and Members of the House. Evidence of the fact that they have taken this trouble was given recently when an aircraft noise van from the Department's public relations section visited my constituency.
More important is the fact that the Department has agreed, after a lot of discussion, to shift the amber airway farther over to the east. I have pressed the Ministry to do this for some time. Now it has done it to make certain that aircraft arriving from the Watford and Epsom stacks can join the glide-path at 2,500 ft. or more. The amber airway at the moment is fairly close to the area where aircraft turn in on to the beginning of the glide-path. This means that congestion develops as aircraft swing in from the two stacks. The very fact that the Ministry has agreed to shift the airway, which is a big operation involving the resiting of several beacons and costing quite a sum of money, shows that it has recognised that a great nuisance was being caused, not only 7½ miles out, which I indicated earlier, but 9 miles out, where the aircraft turned to join the glide-paths into London Airport. The Department understands, sympathises and knows the discomfort suffered by residents beneath the glide-path.
There is another matter which I would like to mention, connected with the height checks of aircraft on the glide-path. I received this morning from the public relations section of the Department a list of the aircraft monitored approaching London Airport and the percentage of infringements. I was interested to see that, in 1962, 1,372 aircraft were monitored approaching London Airport, of which 1.9 per cent. infringed the height regulation—in other words, were below 1221 the 3-degree glide path. In 1963, there were 1,948 aircraft monitored of which only 0.9 per cent. infringed the regulations. During the whole of last year 1,038 aircraft were monitored of which 0.3 per cent. infringed the regulations.
This was impressive, but if one looks more carefully at the figures, it will be seen that whereas 1,300 aircraft were monitored in 1962 and 1,900 in 1963, only just over 1,000 were monitored in 1964. There may be a good reason for this, but I should be grateful if we could be told why there has been this significant drop in the numbers of aircraft monitored on the glide-path over this period. Members of the public tend to think that a certain amount of jiggery pokery goes on with these figures. I do not think that this is so.
I have made careful inquiries. I think that the dedication and effort put into it by members of the Department, both at London Airport in working the P.A.R.s in doing the height checking, were effective. I have been to see them at work. On one occasion I took representatives of my two local papers with me. We were impressed by the effort they put into it and by the skill with which they were checking the height of aircraft.
I come to the Parliamentary Secretary's letter to me, dated 18th March, 1965. I am sorry to keep pillorying the Parliamentary Secretary, but he clearly has to bear the burden of answering my many tiresome letters on this important subject. I was glad to read his final paragraph, which, I thought, was very good:I should end by assuring you and your constituents that we are not in the least callous about this problem. We recognise that a good deal of disturbance is caused by aircraft and we are constantly seeking ways of making life a little quieter for people who live round airports.Tonight, the Parliamentary Secretary has an opportunity to make life a little quieter for those who live beneath the glide-path by accepting the Amendment.
I come now to the real crunch of the Minister's statement earlier this year and to the importance of including the glide-path in the Department's proposals. I refer to the Wilson Report. It has always struck me that it is possible to find parts of the Report which happily agree with the suggestions which people might be putting forward, some of them diametri- 1222 cally opposed, but I have found parts of the Report which support the case that I am making tonight that glide-path areas should be included.
I ask the House to turn to paragraph 321 of the Report. I am coming on now to deal with this strange new method of indicating noise called N.N.I.—noise and number index. The Wilson Report contains at the end a map showing the various areas where the numbers of N.N.I. applied. They varied from the airport boundaries to quite long distances away. Paragraph 321 makes this point:The noise and number index is the obvious criterion to be applied in deciding which householders should be eligible for a grant. There is, however, abundant evidence that personal factors have great influence on the degree of annoyance which is induced by the noise. Thus, the social survey showed that while there are some people seriously disturbed at all levels of exposure in the area covered by the survey, there are also many—about 30 per cent. of the adult population—who are unconcerned by the noise, whatever its level. We know too, that the demand for houses near the airport is high. The level of exposure to noise, as expressed by the noise and number index, cannot therefore equitably serve as the sole criterion for a grant, though it must be a main qualification.This indicates that there are other aspects which may be taken into account, aspects such as I have indicated this evening. Paragraph 304 of the Report suggests that the N.N.I. should be applied to the areas where sound-proofing on dwellings should take place.
The right hon. Gentleman said this in the House on 10th March, in reply to a question from me:I am very glad that the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. A. Royle) mentioned the Parliamentary Secretary, who has paid particular attention to this problem. I believe that the solution that I have announced will go a good way towards alleviating the problem for those living within the 55 Noise Number Index contour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 416.]What the Wilson Report says about this in paragraph 304 is rather different from what the right hon. Gentleman indicated in his statement. It says:The range 50 to 60 NNI, which we suggest in paragraph 302 as the critical range above which annoyance becomes intolerable, refers to aircraft flying during the day. People are much more sensitive to noise at night than to noise during the day.The Prime Minister recognised this in his speeech on 1st October, when he said that he would cut down the number of 1223 night jet flights into London Airport and that thesurvey provides some evidence, but not a great deal, regarding annoyance at night. Our tentative conclusion is that the concept of noise and number index is probably also valid for aircraft flying at night, but that the same degree of annoyance is produced at night at a NNI which is about 15–20 units less than the corresponding NNI during the day. (In other words, the critical range, which is 50–60 NNI by day, is 30–45 NNI by night.)This is evidence that there should be an extension of the air areas as detailed by the Minister in his statement to the House on 10th March.
One sees from the map in the Report that whilst in 1961 the 50 NNI red line goes only just outside Hounslow and touches the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, if one turns the page to see what would happen in 1970 one finds that the 50 contour line goes over the river at Richmond, and if one extended the map one would certainly have the nuisance by night going out even as far as 9 miles, which is the point in which I am interested where aircraft join the glide path near Hammersmith Bridge after leaving the two stacks. This seems to me to be a most important argument for extending the areas as detailed by the Minister in his statement to the House.
I come now to what is the bitter bit as far as my constituency is concerned, and that is the actual noise from which my constituents are suffering. The cause of the noise under the glide-path is quite different from the cause of noise on the ground or on take-off. I must underline that our problem in Richmond is quite different from that around the airport or in the area of take-off. Our problem is a landing problem, because 80 per cent. of all landings at London Airport come in on the glide-path which starts near Putney and by Hammersmith Bridge.
The noise from an aircraft landing does not come from the back end of the engine, but from the front. It is the front which causes the noise that disturbs people who are below the glide-path. The longer the funnel preceding the front end the less noise, and putting silencers on the rear does not help in any way to solve the problems of those who live beneath the glide-path.
1224 9.15 p.m.
The Comet is designed so that the funnelling entry through the wing into the front of the engine is very deep. This is why a Comet flying overhead on a glide-path is far less noisy than the Boeing 707 or the DC8 which have their engines slung below the wings with no funnel into the engine such as the Comet has. The engine is set right forward with the result that there is tremendous noise, particularly from the Boeing 707.
For this reason, I do not share the concern of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite about the effect that the Concord will have when it comes into service. For one thing, the sonic bang will not affect anyone around London Airport or anywhere else in the area with which we are concerned because the Concord will not fly at supersonic speed over London Airport. It will not begin to fly at that speed until it is well clear of the airport itself.
People near the airport may, however, be irritated by sonic bangs because there are many major airline routes over the United Kingdom and foreign airlines will, we hope, be operating the Concord. So that, over the southern half of the country, Concord aircraft may be flying at supersonic speeds and cause a certain amount of nuisance by sonic bang.
The only problem the Concord will present, in our problem under the glide-path, will come from the positioning of the engines. But I understand that the present plan is that the engines will be set well back, with quite a long funnelling in the wing, so that, for the reason I gave earlier, as the noise caused by an aircraft landing comes from the front of the engine and not the back, I do not believe that the noise of the Concord coming in to land at London Airport will be much worse than that of the 707, even though the engines themselves will be much more powerful and the aircraft slightly heavier.
There is another aspect of the noise problem, namely, the disturbance and worry which is caused particularly in schools. I have here a letter which I received a couple of years ago which expresses very strongly the feeling in schools and among people trying to carry on their daily work beneath the glide-path into London Airport. This letter came 1225 from the education department of the Surrey County Council, in connection with the Richmond County School for Girls. The governors of the school had requested the department to write to me concerning thefrequent and serious disturbance to the work of the School caused by the excessive noise of some aircraft using London Airport.The letter states thatThe Governors themselves had an instance of the difficulty at their last meeting when the noise of an aircraft passing overhead made it impossible for them to hear the report of the Headmistress which was being given at that time.The governors added thatIt is quite impossible for teachers to continue aural lessons and the necessity frequently to interrupt such a lesson must inevitably seriously disturb the concentration of the pupils. A further and equally serious problem arises especially in this and other grammar schools in that the concentration of pupils sitting for the General Certificate of Education and other examinations is disturbed.I quoted that letter in the debate on the subject of aircraft noise on 10th November, 1961. If I received that complaint in November, 1961, the House can judge the amount of discomfort and disquiet being caused now, with the tremendous increase in the use of jets coming into London Airport over the past three years.
I have spoken for a long time, but the House will appreciate that this is a most important matter for my constituents and many thousands of people living in the area who find their lives and, I believe, even their whole attitude of mind, quite often distorted by the noise which they suffer. I am sure that the House will forgive me for having spent some time in urging acceptance of the Amendment. I have explained the reasons for my proposal to the House.
In conclusion, I wish to underline the point so that the Parliamentary Secretary is under no illusion about what I am urging. I understand that the glide-path would cover an area 9 miles out from the threshhold of the runway and would be 2 miles in width. Therefore, these proposals for the soundproofing of private dwellings would cover the areas mentioned by the Minister in his statement, a statement which was overwhelmingly welcomed by hon. Members on both sides, but, as I say, it would extend to cover the glide-path area to 1226 which I have referred, 9 miles out and 2 miles wide.
The noise beneath the glide-path is, we all know, intolerable. The fact that it is intolerable is admitted by the hon. Gentleman's Department. The Wilson Committee confirmed that there is serious nuisance caused after dark. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary most carefully to consider the points I have put and to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
The hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. A. Royle) at one point in his speech gave the impression—I am sure that he did not really intend it—that the area of nuisance did not include Putney except rather occasionally.
§ Mr. A. Royle
I certainly did not intend to give that impression. I tried to underline that Putney suffered very much from it and, indeed, being at the beginning of the glide-path, is an important area to be considered.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am glad to receive that correction. I thought that the hon. Gentleman could not mean what I understood him to mean. Perhaps this misunderstanding only serves to emphasise how short we are of facts. All the facts ought to be known, but we do not know as much as we should, and I hope that whoever is to reply to the debate will fill some of the gaps.
One gap in our knowledge is this, Where exactly does the glide-path begin? I understand that it depends upon which of the runways is being used. I should like to know whether the northern of the southern of the two east-west run ways is most regularly in use. I suspect that it is the southern of the two which is most often used, being entered by the bulk of the aircraft coming in to London Airport after going over Putney Bridge. That certainly is the impression in Putney.
As the hon. Member has said, the point at which aircraft join the glide path is a point of acute noise. There is no doubt the people of Putney suffer considerably and are suffering increasingly from this. I do not know whether it is generally realised that whereas the Wilson Report in 1961 projected that we should reach a situation of intolerable noise by 1970, we have already reached that point in 1965. In other words, we 1227 have anticipated numerically the development which the Wilson Committee did not expect to arrive until 1970. Therefore, we are already in that intolerable situation. What will be the reality of the situation by 1970 defies imagination.
I welcome the Amendment to the Lords Amendment and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to accept it. I do not, however, think that either the Lords Amendment or the Amendment to it touches the fringe of the problem. As has been said of the Wilson Committee, it is rather like the Bible: all sorts of inferences can be drawn from it. One which is unmistakable is to be found in the Appendix on the subject of noise, in which the Committee said:We have three pieces of evidence suggesting that the total annoyance caused to the population is roughly the same by day and by night.The Committee detailed the three pieces of evidence which suggested that it was not the case that night noise is much worse than day noise.
That leads to one or two conclusions The first is that although soundproofing may help to diminish night noise at the cost of partial asphyxiation of sleepers or non-sleepers—perhaps we should call them wakers rather than sleepers in Richmond and Putney, certainly in the summer months—it will do nothing whatever to eliminate nuisance or distress which is caused to people during the day. As I have pointed out, the Wilson Report suggested that this was an equal problem.
At London Airport, about half the landings appear to take place on the northern of the two east-west runways. I should like to know what the distribution is. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, will be able to say what proportion of landings take place on the two east-west runways, how many take place on the northern runway and how many on the southern, and what is the point of joining the glide-path for the two runways. The point of joining it varies, I believe, according to whether the northern or the southern of the two runways is used. It would be helpful to know something about this.
1228 I know that limitation on landings is something which my right hon. Friend the Minister is reluctant to impose, but he has brought himself to impose a limitation on the number of landings which take place at night. I should like him to say whether nuisance has not, in fact, reached the point, even though he may be most reluctant to contemplate it, at which we must begin to consider the possibility of limiting landings by day also.
The reason for that suggestion is another point which arises from the Wilson Report and which one knows from experience to be the case. The amount of distress rises sharply as the frequency of noise increases. Tolerance to noise declines with frequency. In other words, people become incapable of standing the noise if it is frequently repeated; and it is now being repeated at the point of the glide-path so often in the summer that a reduction in the number of landings would have considerable effect in alleviating the distress suffered by the constituents of hon. Members whose constituencies cover the area of the glide-path.
This matter has reached the point at which it is a distress to health, both physical and mental. It is appropriate that the Clause follows the previous one, which deals with the question of health. All along the glide-path this point has been reached and passed.
I do not intend to make a long intervention. Most of the things which have to be said on the Amendment have already been said. There are, however, two sorts of things which have to be done in this matter. First, there are the short-term ameliorations of the problem and, secondly, the search for a long-term answer.
In the short term, we have to consider not only soundproofing, but an actual reduction in the number of landings, not only at night, but during the day. Other ways call for knowing a few more facts. I understand that we do not know the actual level at which aircraft join the glide-path. It has been suggested that this should be about 2,500 feet. It is widely believed that aircraft frequently join the glide-path at levels much lower than that. Sometimes sharp adjustments 1229 of level have to be taken at the point the glide-path is joined, and it can be a distressing and noisy business when an aircraft is trying to find its right place to join the glide-path. If that could be done further out, the situation in these areas might be improved.
Those are some of the short-term things which could be done to try to ameliorate something which is very serious and which is causing distress and which is now approaching the point of physical and mental distress. The point has already been reached when not only general but individual medical evidence of this can be produced.
On the long-term solution there is no answer but to build a new international airport near the coast and ultimately to face the position—very difficult for any Government—that the long-term future of an airport in the centre of London—and this position has been faced elsewhere in the world and there is no reason why we should not do so—is as a national interchange airport connecting with an international airport which at some time we shall have to site much nearer the coast.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) about the eventual need to site London Airport on the coast. I know that there is a strong body of opinion which takes that view, but surely the whole object of London Airport being a communications centre for this great capital would be defeated if that happened. Nearly all big international airports are located within a boundary of 15 or 20 miles of the world's leading cities and if London Airport is to survive in any way as a main communications centre for London, it must remain where it is at Heathrow.
I agree that it raises very big problems. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle), who moved his Amendment to the Lords' Amendment in a very lucid and detailed way. We have been discussing glide-paths, but the word is something of a misnomer. It conjures up a picture of a very graceful aircraft coming in silently, but my constituents and others who live in the area tell me that the noise is tantamount to a hurricane when aeroplanes come in to land, or when they are taking off from London Airport.
1230 We sometimes forget that the areas affected are further spread than the immediate environs of London Airport. Most of the detailed research has been done in the constituencies of hon. Members who have dealt with and lived with this problem for many years. I see the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. A. E. Hunter) in his place. Such constituencies are seriously affected.
I represent Brentford and Chiswick, which is not a primary case, but certainly a strong secondary case. I agree with my hon. Friend and with the hon. Member for Putney that the impact of noise on individuals varies tremendously. Some have a very high degree of tolerance and can live and work in conditions which would drive others mad. It is by no means only people who are neurotic who write from these fringe areas to Members of Parliament to complain about aircraft noise and how it is getting them down. Many people are affected. It is a symptom of modern life and modern stresses and strains.
It would be foolish to advocate indiscriminate soundproofing, which would be far too costly and very wasteful, but there are special cases. The Parliamentary Secretary would take an important step forward if he would begin to bring into effect provisions for helping special cases over a wider area. These would be cases where people could produce medical certificates to show that they were affected by noise, institutions of learning, and buildings in which there were sick people. I have a small maternity hospital in my constituency and I should have thought that the noise incidence there was quite alarming on occasions.
We tend to overlook the fact that there is a serious noise problem away from the immediate approach to the runways. I am told by experts that a lot depends on atmospheric conditions appertaining at any one time, and also on wind levels and the actual piloting. The hon. Member for Putney said that it was all very well coming in at a certain defined angle, but if the joining point is chosen somewhere along the glide-path which affects constituencies in the outer Greater London area, one finds that often they suffer a sudden burst of noise.
1231 Summer is always the worst time of the year for noise. Few people can tolerate sleeping without the windows open, and, therefore, they get bursts of noise. It is not just the noise of a passing aircraft. It is a frightening experience for anyone who comes up against it for the first time.
I have talked to ex-Royal Air Force pilots who have said that they have been convinced that the plane was going to come on to the roof on the house in which they were staying, and that they had been badly shaken. I know from experience in attending engagements in the area which I represent, in Hounslow Town Hall, which is now the centre of my local government area, that meetings of the council are brought to a halt by the noise of planes passing overhead. I was there on one occasion taking the Chair at a meeting of about 500 people. There was so much noise that the proceedings were held up for several seconds at a time.
Again on the question of sleep, I know that a large number of people living in the environs of London Airport do not get a proper night's sleep. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) is present. He was a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation, and had a well-publicised visit to London Airport a year or so ago. He spent the night at the very end of the runway, and slept like a top. I think that my hon. Friend is one of those who can sleep within the sound of gunfire, and under all sorts of conditions, but there are some people who, under those circumstances, would not have had a wink of sleep.
Mention of my hon. Friend brings me to the point that there have been one or two innuendoes that the last Government did not do very much about the question of aircraft noise. They did a great deal. I saw the atmosphere change—it had nothing to do with me—when I was in the House during the last Parliament. Ministers took a great deal of heed of the cases that we brought to their attention. We had five or six debates on the subject, and Ministers became much more stringent in their approach to dealing with pilots. Having discussed this matter with a number of pilots, I am 1232 certain that penalties are very severe for any infringements which occur.
I know that the former Ministers were working on this the whole time, and they got a system which was second to none as regards height and noise checking. Everything possible was done, outside of sound-proofing. We are now going to consider sound-proofing, and I welcome what the Parliamentary Secretary said tonight. I have a feeling that it all rather stems from the Prime Minister's speech on 1st October last, during the election campaign. We challenged him about this afterwards. I got the impression—and I am sure that many others did, too—that aid would be over a much wider area, but we are grateful for something, and we shall be interested to see how it works out.
It would be a good idea if the hon. Gentleman could consider the special cases which are affected under the glide-path, particularly where there are nervous people, and invalids. I should like him to say how much research is going on at the moment into aircraft noise as regards engines, and also how other international airports tackle this problem. Do they give grants for the immediate area, or do they go out to the glide-paths, as we would like them to do in the London area? I am sure that the problem will increase despite the optimistic figures which are published from time to time, because there is a constant increase in the number of aircraft and in the number of flights undertaken.
I hoped that the hon. Member and his Minister would be planning, not for the lifetime of their Government, because they will not be in office, but for the next 10 or 15 years, because, as in the case of roads, it is no use trying to cope with the situation as it exists at the moment: we must remember that in 10 or 15 years' time a large number of people will be seriously affected in a vast conurbation like London.
With those remarks I welcome the Parliamentary Secretary's attitude and businesslike approach to the whole question. He can be assured that we shall be on to him the whole time in an effort to keep him up to the mark.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I rise briefly to support the arguments put forward by my two hon. Friends and 1233 the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). The problem of what to do about noise is by no means confined to this country. In one respect it is an international problem, because it affects the Government of every country which has an international airport. All Governments which are so placed have somehow to cope with the growing problem of noise. The question is, what is to be done about it?
Clearly something must be done, but clearly, also, there is a point beyond which it is difficult to do very much. We all recognise this. In the statement made in the House on 10th March the Minister of Aviation put his case on the basis that the qualification for any grant for soundproofing rested upon the 55 Noise Number Index—that fascinating mathematical calculation of vibration to which my hon. Friend has referred. No doubt it is highly accurate and highly scientific. I admit that in a sense this is a judgment of Solomon. The line must be drawn somewhere, and if it is not drawn at 55 N.N.I. are we to draw it at 50, 54, or what? This is not a party point; it will affect every Government which has an international airport. A decision must be made as fairly as possible within the means of each affected Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) reminded the House that the Wilson Report did not say that the 55 N.N.I.—not the National Noise Indicator as some people seem to think, but the Noise Number Index—was the sole yardstick, although it may be a yardstick. The 55 N.N.I. inevitably varies according to circumstances. It can overlap areas, some of which are technically in and others which are outside. It can vary according to whether it is night or day, or whether the wind is in one direction or another, or whether the pilot of a given aircraft is slightly infringing the regulations. There is always a human element of error.
After the right hon. Gentleman made his statement to the House on 10th March I put down a Question about my constituency, which was marginally outside the area concerned, and the Answer that I received on 17th March confirmed that most of my constituency was just outside, on the basis that if 55 N.N.I. was the yardstick, most of Windsor and adjacent areas 1234 had less than 50 N.N.I. now and would not have more than 53 N.N.I. in 1970.
Nineteen-seventy seems to be the relevant year, but as the hon. Member for Putney pointed out, although many of the Wilson Report calculations are based on 1970, those calculations, which were then thought to be on the 1970 horizon, are now on the 1965 doorstep. Therefore, we cannot just put off this matter for another five years and say, "It is all right for the time being. We will think about it again five years from now and see whether the N.N.I. has altered in any given area".
We are dealing with human beings. I am not at all certain that the nerve system of the human race reacts with mathematical exactness according to a 55 N.N.I. In fact, I am pretty certain that it does not. The nerve system of the human race reacts to noise according to a number of circumstances quite outside the control of the airport, the pilot flying the aircraft, the Ministry of Aviation, or anybody else. It reacts according to whether the individual in question is young or old, in good health or sick, or whether he is tired or fresh. There is no absolute mathematical human reaction to the vibration on an indicator.
For an enormous number of householders in my constituency, there are times when it is quite impossible to carry on conversation with the windows open if an aircraft is flying overhead. This applies to the glide-path, too, not only on take-off. Therefore, one has to shut the windows, however hot it may be, in the middle of summer. Even then there are times when one has to give up conversation altogether. There are times when it is very inconvenient indeed and sometimes injurious to health—for instance, with illness in the home or in hospital. Difficulty is caused in schools. This inconvenience applies in all public institutions. There are times when the noise becomes well nigh intolerable. This is a fact. Whether the N.N.I. is 53, 55 or 56, I simply do not care. All that I know is that the build-up of noise from time to time is well nigh intolerable.
I ask the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to think very carefully about the points made by my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Putney. 1235 There is no party point about this. Nobody is trying to score off anybody else. This is a national problem, no matter what party is in power. Would the hon. Gentleman please think again about this matter and examine very carefully the proposal made by my hon. Friend and supported on both sides that in order to qualify for a grant for insulation, not only should the 55 N.N.I. be varied at discretion, but the glide-path should be included?
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
The Government have introduced their scheme for giving grants to householders living within the 55 N.N.I. area to soundproof their dwellings against jet noise. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, being men of honour, had to do that, because in his great speech at Isleworth on 1st October, to which reference has been made, the Prime Minister made loud promises to all members of the audience that something like this would be done.
Of course, as has been said, that speech undoubtedly had an influence on the election, because it won the votes of a number of people who thought that a great deal would be done about this matter if the Labour Party was elected. I am sorry to tell the Parliamentary Secretary that, although I know that he has worked very hard on this scheme, he will not win very many votes at the next election, since although he has satisfied people within the 55 N.N.I. area, there are many people outside it who feel very dissatisfied because they will not get the grant. People living on one side of a street will get a grant and people living on the other side will not.
This area of grant comes just in my constituency, to its borders. I support the Amendment because the glide-path goes over my constituency, over Brentford, Chiswick, Richmond and the northern part of Twickenham. If the Amendment were accepted, a large number of my constituents would be brought within the area of grant.
I wish to take the argument a little further. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has assumed that the wind comes from the West. For 270 days of the year it does, and aeroplanes take off over the constituency of my hon. 1236 Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) and glide down over Richmond, Brentford, Twickenham and Hounslow into London Airport, making a great deal of noise. For 95 days of the year the wind comes from the East and on those days aeroplanes take off in the direction of the glide-path and make a great deal of noise over Twickenham and Richmond. For that reason, I wish to press for the area of the glide-path to be included.
On those 95 days and on every day on which the wind blows from the East I receive letters from my constituents—I do not get so many on the other days—and if the Amendment is accepted they will be protected. Usually, there is an easterly wind in the summer when people have the windows of their houses open at night. They are more affected then by the noise. On some days the wind can change from West to East. Aeroplanes may be taking off in the morning in a westerly direction, but in the middle of the day the wind changes, there is a gap of about 15 minutes and instead of planes stacking over Epsom they stack up over Watford and come in from the West, and take off to the East. Then the noise over my constituency, and the constituencies of my hon. Friends is tremendous.
The other day I was at the opening of the new autonomics building at the National Physical Laboratory. The Minister of Technology was unable to be present—owing, no doubt, to an important Cabinet meeting, where surcharges or other Government problems were discussed—and he sent the Parliamentary Secretary. The words of Lord Snow, in opening this building, were lost every few minutes because of aeroplanes taking off and coming in from an easterly direction. It was not the "Corridors of Power", but the corridors of the air which affected us so greatly on that occasion.
If we ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology what it is like to live in Twickenham he will know that the noise there—as no doubt the hon. Member knows as well—is severe. That is why I am adding my voice to those urging this Amendment. If the Amendment were accepted, a large number of my constituents would be brought within the area of the grant provided for sound proofing.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The debate has shown that there is a considerable interest and approval for the idea of sound insulation for homes near Heathrow. The hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. A. Royle) was concerned to widen the area within the scheme which the Minister proposes to lay before the House towards the end of this year. I must say that when I first read his Amendment I thought that he was concerned to build castles in the air. I thought that he accepted that there was some imprecision in his Amendment. Indeed there is, and for that reason alone I should have to ask the House to reject it. However, I want to deal with the substance of his remarks because I know that he has for many years taken a deep personal interest in the problem of noise around Heathrow, particularly that affecting his constituency. I only wish that he had had more success than he did in persuading his colleagues in the last Administration to adopt something similar to the scheme which we now propose to the House.
Regrettably, he did not succeed in that, but we are bringing in a scheme which, I think, goes a long way to satisfying his anxiety in this respect, although it does not include his constituency. However, if he will read very carefully the wording in the new Clause, he will notice from subsection (2) that the areas below the glide-paths are not excluded, because it is possible for the Minister to specify virtually any area in which these dwellings may be situated. It is up to the Minister to determine where these would be. So if, at some time in the future, it is decided that the noise nuisance outside the area which the Minister has already specified in his statement of 10th March is serious enough to justify grants being paid for sound insulation, it would be possible for him at that time to bring in a Statutory Instrument to extend the scheme.
§ Mr. A. Royle
Would not the hon. Gentleman admit that the situation now is serious enough for the areas which I mention in my Amendment to be included in the list of the areas of the statement on 10th March?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
No. We do not accept that. We accept that the Wilson Committee researches into this gave us a very good guide line for the noise nuisance around Heathrow. The hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe) made a very helpful and interesting speech. I accept that, in his constituency, there is a great deal of concern about the noise from Heathrow. He made the point that noise affects different people in different ways. What may be acceptable to one person may be quite unacceptable to another. If we follow what he was saying, it could be argued that practically every house in the United Kingdom should have some sound insulation because at some time or another an aircraft is bound to pass over that house.
Certainly in the Metropolis and its environs, almost every part of the suburbs suffers from aircraft noise at some time or another. The glide-path to Heathrow is sometimes very extensive. Therefore, if we accept that there may be some people—a small percentage: 5 or 10 per cent.—in these localities who are annoyed and irritated because, occasionally, an aircraft goes over, whether by day or by night, and makes a noise which they find to be excessive, we should have to start paying grants to all these localities. That, of course, we cannot do.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. What I said was that I accepted that one had to draw the line somewhere. I ask that the rigid adherence to the 55 N.N.I. should be varied with reasonable discretion in marginal areas.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
That is what we are doing. It would have been possible for us to have accepted a higher—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.