We have set a policy framework which expects industry to manage and provide mitigation for aviation noise. Within this, the overall level of civil aviation noise in the UK continues to decrease. Last October, I introduced a suite of new policies which enhance the way the impact of noise on communities is assessed in airspace changes. At the same time, I announced the establishment of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise. Through the development of our new aviation strategy, we are now looking also at the regulatory framework, to make sure we have the right protection in place for local communities.
The Secretary of State will be aware that complaints about London City airport have gone up dramatically since the introduction of the new concentrated flightpaths. Although quieter aeroplane engines are welcome, will he do all he can to ensure that there is a fairer spread of flightpaths along the east Thames corridor, particularly affecting my constituents in Romford, Hornchurch and the whole London Borough of Havering?
This is a very important issue, and one that my Department and the Civil Aviation Authority are reviewing carefully. Notwithstanding the work needed in the shorter term to address noise from City airport, I believe that the outcome of our airspace modernisation programme, using new technology to manage airspace, will enable us to manage the impacts on communities much better and make a real difference.
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation issued new, tighter guidelines on noise. Given that about 1.5 million people in London and the south-east already live within the 45 dB Lden noise contour, where the WHO now says there are adverse health impacts, will the Government reassess their approach to Heathrow expansion?
It is important to recognise that the change in technology—the arrival of a new generation of lower noise, lower emission and lower fuel-consuming aircraft—will transform the environment around Heathrow and all our airports. One just has to listen to a Boeing 747 landing at Heathrow compared with, for example, one of the new Airbus or Boeing aeroplanes to realise the huge difference. As the older aeroplanes are phased out, I expect noise at all airports will be reduced, and that is a good thing.