Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2002
JAMIESON MP, MR
360. You no doubt read the report of the proceedings
that took place prior to Christmas where the BAA suggested that
there was some £10 million additional costs towards security.
As someone who travels in the airlines, I do not see that at all,
I do not see any improvement at all. Has the Government done an
audit on that figure and is it willing at any point to pay out
any form of compensation?
(Mr Jamieson) Are you saying that BAA said £10
361. £10 million additional cost on security.
(Mr Jamieson) Our role in government is to make sure
that the security and safety issues are being met and we in the
Department have inspectors that go out and check that security
is at the levels we want.
362. How recently has that happened? Are they
still doing it? Will you give us a note on that?
(Mr Jamieson) I can say that it is very regularly.
363. I am sure. We are not criticising you,
we just want an up-to-date account of how often recently.
(Mr Jamieson) One figure I happen to hold in my head
is that there have been 50 visits to Manchester Airport, to give
you just one example of the level of checking that there is.
364. Thank you, but I still need a detailed
(Mr Jamieson) Yes indeed.
365. I do not know what the note will contain
but what I would want it to contain is whether the Government
are of a mind, if the figures that BAA have given us of £10
million for the period up to the end of March 2002 is proved to
be right, to give some grant to BAA for the additional costs of
security, which is not of their making but the Government's making?
(Mr Jamieson) The proposal we have at the moment for
£40 million extra assistance to the airlines covers insurance
and it covers the issues I talked about earlier. At the moment
we have no plans to make any extra funding for security available
to airports. This is a difficult issue, but we see this in terms
of the airlines. It is a compensation issue specifically for the
four days. The difficulty would be if we had some on-going commitment
to security to the airports. This could be seen then as a subsidy
issue rather than compensation, and it would also be, of course,
subject to discussions within the European Union on state aid
rules. At the moment, it is our feeling still very strongly that
security and the cost of security at the airports should be met
by the consumer and ultimately the person who pays for the cargo
or pays for the ticket.
Mr Donohoe: One final question to Mr Griffins,
and you can answer it as well, Minister, if you want, going back
to an earlier point: do you not think it is long overdue that
these negotiations are taken away from the United Kingdom Government
and given to the European Parliament to determine and to negotiate,
given that it is, after all, a pan-European negotiation that would
be more likely to bring about success?
366. We know how helpful and how well-equipped
and how expert they are for doing all the negotiations for all
of the bilaterals throughout the whole of the European Union.
(Mr Griffins) In due course they may well be just
Chairman: Thank you very much, that is as far
as we are going down that road. Miss McIntosh?
367. Staying with the negotiations, Mr Griffins,
you did say that it is possible that negotiations will be concluded
within the next two months. You then went on to say in reply to
Mr Stevenson's question that it would be very nice if they achieved
agreement on opening up America on cabotage, wet leasing and foreign
ownership. My first question to Mr Griffins is are you actively
negotiating the open skies within that two month time framework
on those three issues of cabotage, wet leasing and foreign ownership?
(Mr Griffins) The answer to that is no because I do
not believe that is achievable within the next two months.
368. I am assuming that he may like to reconsider
then the answer he gave Mr Stevenson where clearly you were specifically
asked, Mr Griffins, when the negotiations might be concluded and
you said, yes, before the initial opinion presumably of the Advocate
General of the European Court of Justice. You then went on to
say to Mr Stevenson that, yes, it would be nice if we achieved
agreement on open skies, cabotage, wet leasing and foreign ownership.
Can I confirm that you are not actively including this as part
of the present active negotiations?
(Mr Griffins) I think yes we can and if I can correct
what I must have said wrongly, I did not intend to say that we
were negotiating for what I termed Nirvana, which was full access
to the US market with the hope of achieving that in the next few
months. I did say yes to the question that there was a possibility
of our concluding an agreement and that agreement would be based
on the pragmatic approach which I believe was broadly endorsed
by the Committee last time we presented it to them, which was
achieving that through a system of alliances, but alliances which
were acceptable to the competition authorities as a first step.
369. Also, you did say earlier that you are
not a competition authority and not responsible for that. Can
I ask Mr Griffins further, when he prepares his written note to
this Committee, is he aware that British Airways told us at our
last evidence session that in September their cargo measured in
cargo tonne kilometres fell by 38 per cent in September alone
and in October it fell by 23.8 per cent, were you aware of that?
(Mr Griffins) The answer is yes, but merely as figures
because I read the transcript of that last hearing.
Miss McIntosh: My final question is to Mr Jamieson.
The CAA have called for primary legislation. The Air Travel Trust
Fund, which was set up in 1975, is now in debt and primary legislation
is required to provide the powers to impose a levy to recoup the
cost of a fund for holiday makers. The CAA have said in written
evidence that they expect an increase in the number of collapses
of companies, possibly including larger companies. Will you give
an undertaking to this Committee today that you will make parliamentary
time available to bring such primary legislation before this House
before the summer session this year?
370. I do not actually think that is accurate.
The ATOL schemes are already set up. The existing machinery is
there. I do not want to spend a lot of time going over the set
of circumstances. If there is any alteration in the existing machinery,
certainly in the existing legislation, will you give us some information
on that? In fact, if you check, I think you will find primary
legislation is not required and is already in existence.
(Mr Jamieson) I think the simple answer is the answer
I gave earlier that if there were catastrophic collapses then
we would obviously have to act proportionately and appropriately
and time would have to be made available.
371. Would you seek to recover that through
(Mr Jamieson) That would be one option.
372. An Aviation White Paper this autumn?
(Mr Jamieson) Sorry, I did not hear that.
373. You promised us an Aviation White Paper,
Mr Bennett wants to know when we are going to get it?
(Mr Jamieson) It will be produced in the autumn.
374. It is still on course?
(Mr Jamieson) Yes, indeed. We are totally committed
to that and we are still very much on course.
375. What about all those jobs in the UK which
are associated with the airline industry, particularly in the
air frames, those sorts of things, the skills, is the Government
doing anything to protect those skills within the country?
(Mr Jamieson) This is a difficult area, Chairman.
As I talked about earlier, it is very difficult for us to take
action that is going to interfere artificially with the market.
All throughout the airline industry from the people who are actually
operating the airlines right down to the people who are making
the meals and the sandwiches that go on the aeroplanes, all of
these people have been hit in some sort of way and that is very
much regretted. What I can say to Mr Bennett is this: some of
those jobs that have been lost, and very regrettablyfortunately
we are in a position where our economy is doing well, it is still
buoyant and doing well in comparison to many other countries which
have been affected by September 11thmany of the jobs, not
all, have gone in areas of very high employment in the South East.
376. I understand that. There is a particular
problem, is there not, about the time it takes to train the people
to do aircraft maintenance and to do some of the air frame manufacture.
Now that skill base is getting substantially reduced in this country,
are you not alarmed at the contraction of that skill base?
(Mr Jamieson) I think if it contracted
very substantially, and we felt that was a risk to impeding future
growth and recovery, then I think it would be appropriate for
us to take action. Those very skilled people, we are not aware
of those people being laid off in large numbers. Sadly I think
a lot of the people who have lost their jobs in these circumstances
are often people with low skills and some of those people who
do the low paid, low skill jobs, it is those largely, I am afraid,
who have suffered in the present circumstances.
377. The use it or lose it rule is a very important
one. What is the Government's attitude towards that?
(Mr Jamieson) We are working with the European Union
on this issue, Chairman. At the moment the summer slots for this
year will be protected for next year and we are anticipating that
there will be a decision that the winter slots will be protected
again for next year. This will be very much an interim measure
and it would be a measure that would, if you like, react to the
present circumstances but it is not something, I think, we would
see going on a long term basis.
378. Minister, you may say that if in fact this
is frozen this will give an unfair advantage to some airlines?
(Mr Jamieson) That is a matter we will have to consider,
it is a matter we are carefully balancing because, equally, some
of the airlines will recover very rapidly, they will get their
traffic back next year we hope, but it is an area where we have
a very, very careful balance and obviously it is something which
we have had to give very careful consideration to.
Chairman: Minister, you are very kind and I
think you have been saved by the bell. Thank you very much.