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Aircraft Noise (Heathrow)

Volume 938: debated on Monday 7 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will reconsider the areas covered by the Heathrow Noise Insulation Grant Scheme so as to include other areas within the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and in particular those directly under flight paths.

The present scheme will close on 31st December. I shall consider whether any new insulation scheme is necessary in the context of decisions on airport strategy which will be discussed in the forthcoming White Paper.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I am glad that he is reconsidering the matter. Does he agree with me that, although it will be a long time before all aircraft are quiet, any householder who is inconvenienced unreasonably by aircraft noise should be entitled to a grant for double-glazing wherever he lives?

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to prejudge the result of the consultations that will follow publication of the White Paper. That I cannot do. What I am prepared to concede is that the present scheme, which was devised in 1966, is deficient, and I think it is right, therefore, that we should review the position afresh.

Will my hon. Friend give urgent consideration to the effect upon the medical services in hospitals beneath flight paths? He has had correspondence from me recently on this matter, but I am far from satisfied with the action that the Government are taking to protect medical services when these are disrupted by loud noise.

This is one of a number of difficult problems. We have to consider not only hospitals but it schools, and some progress has already been made there. Certainly I should not close my mind to the consideration of the matter referred to by my hon. Friend. I suggest, however, that we must take into account public expenditure in this area, and I cannot envisage that it will be possible in the foreseeable future to extend the scheme as widely as my hon. Friend hopes.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in London the limits of the scheme are currently determined by reference to borough boundaries, although the borough councils have no say in the matter, and that the borough boundaries bear no relationship to the pattern of aircraft noise? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is completely irrational, and will he look at this aspect critically when he deals with the matter?

The scheme was designed in 1966 and accorded with the general principles enunciated by the hon. Gentleman, but I believe that it is now seen to be deficient and that it should be reviewed. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that local administrative boundaries do not necessarily bear a proper relationship to the question of aircraft noise. I agree that it is high time that we look at the situation again.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, important though the question of extending insulation measures is, people afflicted have occasionally to open their windows and to go outdoors? The noise is a massive assault on people in the surrounding area. How is the Department getting on with ending flights of the noisy Trident and in stopping night flights?

My hon. Friend may not have observed that we are taking steps to ensure that noisier aircraft movements at night are phased out over the next 10 years. That, I suggest, will be an encouragement, but the only way of getting to grips with this problem is to obtain quieter aircraft. That is a longterm project, however, and, apart from the mitigating steps that I have announced already and those which I shall be announcing, I suggest that the future should be judged on the basis of how quickly we can get quieter aircraft into operation.