7th November 2005

Lords battle over new Civil Aviation Bill

The Government’s controversial Civil Aviation Bill which would abolish limits on the number of night flights at Stansted and elsewhere received a rough ride when it was debated in the House of Lords this week.

Peers from all the main political parties attacked the Government proposals, not least Essex County Council Leader Lord Hanningfield who is also the Conservative transport spokesman in the House of Lords and one of the major critics of the Bill.

“There is no such thing as a quiet aircraft. There is noise from all aircraft,” he remarked. “Virtually all night flights disturb the peace. Therefore it is important to retain the limits on the number of night flights.”

Labour Peer and Uttlesford resident Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall reiterated the call for limits on the number of night flights to remain. “Even the most modern aircraft can be pretty noisy when it is right over your head in the middle of the night,” she said, referrring to “mounting concern across all parties and the country about the impact of aviation on our environment and quality of life.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Lord Bradshaw made clear that his party was similarly worried by the fact that a noise quota may replace the noise number.

Lord Hanningfield also drew attention to the “considerable mistrust” of airport operators in relation to the fairness, objectivity and transparency of the current in-house arrangements for reporting on aircraft noise, emissions and track keeping, and for recording and handling complaints from members of the public. He called for an independent watchdog rather than allowing airport operators to continue acting as “judge, jury and policeman.”

Baroness McIntosh similarly referred to the “deep suspicion and mistrust” with which communities view the self-monitoring by airport operators and called for the Bill to be amended to give the CAA the responsibility to act as regulator and overseer of environmental standards, in line with similar calls from Conservative and Liberal Democrat benches.

During the course of the debate, Baroness McIntosh also paid tribute to SSE which has been active in briefing Parliamentarians on the Civil Aviation Bill. “I am indebted to the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign which has provided excellent briefing on the Bill,” she said, before going onto describe her first hand experience of the community affected by the operations of Stansted Airport.

ENDS

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport