The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, the aviation industry is vital for prosperity, but can affect the environment too. Our policy is to promote improved standards for noise and emissions at source; to encourage noise control at airports through local consultation; and where appropriate to regulate directly. The aviation industry should meet the external costs it imposes. The air transport White Paper, later this year, will establish a framework for the long-term sustainable development of aviation in the United Kingdom.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, although aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it pays no tax on the petrol that it uses? Should not something be done about that too?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree entirely. The point about greenhouse gas is an important one. We need to identify what steps can be taken to reduce it. That involves working with the international civil aviation organisations, which Britain is doing. This country is taking a lead in trying to reduce emissions as much as possible.
Earl Peel: My Lords, is the Minister aware of a recent report by the Countryside Alliance indicating that, entirely due to distortions in fuel tax, a farmer moving a load of apples to his local market pays more
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, that is a most interesting question. I was totally unaware of such a report. I am unable to know whether it is right or wrong and what the comparison is. The noble Earl's question goes rather wide of that on the Order Paper, which relates to the aviation industrynoble Lords shake their heads, but it was about fuel in relation to the rural economy. I do not know about the comparison referred to, which is somewhat wide of the Question.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend recogniseI speak as the president of BALPAthat the airline industry and the trade unions do their best to mitigate the problem of noise? Sometimes they may make mistakes, but on the whole I wishas I hope my noble and learned friend doesthat other industries would copy their example.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I entirely recognise the efforts made by pilots to reduce noise, as far as it is possible for them to do sofor example, in the way that landing and take-off occur. It is a problem from which other industries could learn.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister to add to the answer that he gave to the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. Bearing in mind the parlous state of the airline industry and the need not to disadvantage our own airlines, is it possible for the Government to take the lead internationally not only in attempting to reduce emissions, but also in attempting to impose tax on aviation fuel? The Minister did not make that commitment. Is it the Government's intention to do so?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I did not make any commitment one way or the other because I am obviously not in a position to do so. It is not my intention to make a commitment one way or the other. Emissions from aircraft are an important issue. The right reverend Prelate is right to draw attention to the fact that the airline industry is under pressure, for reasons known to all of us. This matter should be addressed primarily on an international basis.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, in answer to a Question in another place on regional flight surcharges, the Minister replied that it was simply a matter of customers shopping around. In view of the comprehensive Answer given earlier by the noble and learned Lord, does he stand by the assertion that associated issues such as ground congestion and noise are really just a matter for market forces?
Baroness Byford: My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister further. He said that the Government are taking a lead internationally. What plans are in hand, what consultations are taking place and how quickly will we have some response to them so that we can debate the issue further in this House?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, for example, Article 2.2 of the Kyoto Protocol requires states to work through the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of work to promote stringent, technically feasible and economically reasonable standards in that respect.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, did the Minister know that if one was to buy a light aircraft in Germany with a silencer attached to it that had been certified under the same JAR regulations as apply to planes in this country, the authorities in this country would require that silencer to be removed and put through a whole new certification programme? If we are leading the world and doing so with the world, should we not start setting a lead in reducing noise by not having to have silencers recertified?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I thought that I had answered that question. It is not appropriate for me to go through the specific heads of each technical proposal. I am saying that we are taking the lead in relation to the work in the ICAO.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, irrespective of whether the noble and learned Lord believes that the question asked by my noble friend Lord Peel was outside the terms of the main Question, will he write to my noble friend and deal with the issue that he raised?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the UK emissions trading scheme was launched by my department last August. We are on course for the scheme to go live in April. As part of that, the department published draft legal rules for consultation on 18th December 2001. We anticipate releasing the final rules for the scheme later this month.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, if firms are going to be expected to trade from April, are not the Government leaving it extremely late to provide them with the necessary rules so that, for instance, they can make their bids in the allocation of the £215 million incentive money that the Government have made available? That may well be all right for firms that are currently in the market, as it were. But what about the rules for new projects? Is it true that they are not likely to see the light of day until well into the summer? Are the Government aware that there may be a number of new projects showing substantial potential reductions in emissions? They will simply stand still until the new rules are available and people know where they stand.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are a number of different ways of participating in the scheme, as the noble Lord will be aware. Those who commit themselves to absolute reductions will have clear rules in time to start in April. There are those who are already involved in sector agreements and others who may be further down the line. The mainstream rules will be produced by April. There will be project rules slightly later. As has been agreed with all the representatives of industry with whom we have consulted, it is important to get the system up and running as rapidly as possible. It will give UK business and the City the chance to be the front runners in the area across the world. There has been substantial business involvement in the design of the scheme. We can meet the tight but achievable target of starting the main part of the scheme from April.
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