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Mr. Dalyell: Is the hon. Gentleman advising other Liberal Democrats to vote for the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh (Dr. Strang)?

Mr. Moore: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Only last Thursday, I had the pleasure of accompanying him on an aircraft up to Edinburgh, and I know how seriously he takes these issues. In answer to his direct question: yes, we shall be supporting the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh and voting against the Bill.

The public, staff, unions and pilots all oppose the privatisation proposal. Ultimately, for Liberal Democrat Members, it comes down to a simple judgment: we have a world-leading and highly respected air traffic system that requires investment; that investment could be made available, but, instead, we are being asked to gamble on an untried and unproven private sector. Is it any wonder that people are so opposed to the proposals?

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Moore: I have two more sentences, I am afraid.

We would like to support many parts of the Bill, and will return to those points in Committee. This evening, however, we will vote for the amendment and against the Bill.

5.45 pm

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East): I will detain the House briefly on just three points. First, however, I declare an interest listed in the Register of Members' Interests as I chair a bus company which is part of the National Express group.

The privatisation of National Air Traffic Services is the most controversial part of the Bill, has taken up much of our debate so far and is the subject of the amendment

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moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh (Dr. Strang). I do not want to spend the bulk of my time on NATS, but if any member of the Government can be trusted to act properly on it, it is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. He hasnot come only recently to the principle of private involvement. More than a decade ago, when the Opposition transport team was comprised of him and me, my right hon. Friend, in the face--as now--of scorn from the Conservatives, advanced the philosophy that the Treasury could not do everything. Indeed, he said, if left to its own devices, it would do very little. Private sector finance was needed, he said, for many industries that had been traditionally publicly owned.

I was subject to enormous pressures at that time as my right hon. Friend sent me--hon. Members might wonder who could have been better--on a charm offensive around some of London's more expensive restaurants to meet captains of industry. Alas, we did not know in the late 1980s that it would be eight or nine long years before my right hon. Friend and my party took their rightful places on the Government Benches. If the captains of industry had known that, they might have been more reluctant to pick up the tabs. So, my right hon. Friend has not come lately to the view that we need some private money. The touching faith of some of my hon. Friends in the Treasury's advancement of moneys needed for air traffic control and other parts of the traditional public sector is somewhat misplaced.

I have listened carefully to the debate so far, particularly to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), the Chairman of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. She was somewhat scathing about what she called the Exeter experience. NATS does not provide air traffic control services at the majority of airports in the United Kingdom. Indeed, of the 28 airports that have more than 6,000 air transport movements a year, NATS serves a minority. Seventeen airports employ their own air traffic personnel, and only 11 use NATS.

To those of my hon. Friends who express understandable concern about safety, I have to say that I remain to be convinced that landing at Belfast international airport, which uses NATS, is inherently less dangerous than landing at Belfast city airport, which provides its own controllers. I remain to be convinced that someone expecting to land at Birmingham airport, which uses NATS--and is the nearest to my constituency--who is diverted for some reason to East Midlands airport, which provides its own air traffic controllers, will grip his or her seat even more anxiously. I cannot see matters that way, and the safety angle, though understandable, has been somewhat overblown.

Dr. Strang rose--

Mr. Snape: Although I have only a quarter of an hour, I am happy to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh because he moved the amendment.

Dr. Strang: Ask pilots. They are frightened.

Mr. Snape: I do not believe it. I have spoken to representatives of everyone involved in aviation. Many

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prefer the status quo. It is almost always more comfortable to leave things as they are rather than change anything. But, after perhaps too many cynical years in the House, I believe that the long-term income stream needed for air traffic control services in the UK requires us to find a different way forward. I do not want to be personally offensive towards my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and Musselburgh because I accept that he feels worried about this matter. However, I cannot help but feel that if he still sat on the Government Front Bench, he would troop through the Lobby in favour of the Bill tonight. To personalise this important matter does no service to what should be--

Dr. Godman: You are personalising this.

Mr. Snape: I am not. It is true that my right hon. Friend would have voted for the Bill had he still been a Minister. I have to say that it must be a source of annoyance to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), whom I have known for many years, that many of the signatories to the amendment have been voting against Labour Governments for most of their political careers, except, of course, at election time, when they usually have a picture of the leader of the day on the front of their election address. One or two of them do not need any excuse to vote against their own party--it helps them to prove that they are better socialists than the rest of us.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Snape: No, I have already given way once and I only have 15 minutes. I do not include my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) in that accusation. I know that he always votes according to his conscience.

I welcome the provisions on the rail industry. I cannot understand the attitude of the Conservative party. Indeed, I barely understand the speeches of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) who--temporarily, one hopes--is the Opposition spokesman on transport matters. Two weeks ago, he made a speech and went home ill. He disappeared again after today's speech, leaving the rest of us in that condition.

The right hon. Gentleman attacks the setting up of the Strategic Rail Authority and, presumably, the work of Sir Alastair Morton, its chairman. I believe that the setting up of the SRA is very much overdue. The work in which the SRA envisages getting involved is essential for the railway system. The Labour party did not welcome the previous Government's rail privatisation. But we are where we are, and it seems that only the SRA has the power to weld together the disparate groups running the railway industry into a national railway system.

To make trains more attractive to the car owner--I realise that the Conservative party pooh-poohs such a philosophy at present, although it did not in the fairly recent past--we need a networkwide system of express trains which, because of their speed, comfort and safety, attract people who would otherwise use their cars for long journeys. If each train operating company concentrates exclusively on its own geographical area, that will not be achieved. I realise that there is some access between train operating companies and involvement with different train

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operating companies on the provision of long-distance services, particularly cross-country services, but it is not enough, in my view. I hope that the SRA will bring pressure to bear to ensure that a genuine alternative to the car for long journeys is provided.

I hope that the SRA will consider the seating on new trains. I do not share Richard Branson's view that trains are aircraft that never get off the ground. I certainly do not share his views on ticket prices for some of his services. However, I think that aircraft-type seating, particularly in multiple-unit trains, is not acceptable on a long journey. It is certainly not attractive enough to lure people away from the alternative of using their car. I hope, therefore, that the SRA will look carefully at such services. To get genuine jam-busters for the railway industry, Sir Alastair Morton will have to bring his renowned muscle to bear.

The SRA has shown a great interest in the provision of rail services in the west midlands, where lies my constituency. The Conservative party has voiced its opposition to the SRA, which has recently set up a review of rail capacity in the west midlands--something that the previous Government never provided. The review will:

The review will also:

    "Consider capacity solutions which would encompass the role of light rail and the development of terminal complexes."

The Conservative party is against all that. What sort of transport policy does it embrace these days? Of course, we can all ride in our cars--I have one as well, before any Conservative Member makes a sarcastic comment--but we cannot keep driving into towns and cities at 8.30 or 9 o'clock in the morning and home again at 4.30 or 5.30 in the afternoon and expect to do so in any reasonable comfort, without enormous congestion and pollution resulting.

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