Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)



  420. One understands that, but of course you are implying that it is only September 11 that has caused difficulty and, in fact, it is not.
  (Mr Jamieson) I think, had the situation as it was prior to September 11 obtained when the growth over the previous year was, on average, probably in the region of 4-5 per cent, had that continued to take place I think they would have been in a very different position today than they are now.

  Chairman: We will doubtless come back to that.

Mrs Ellman

  421. Minister, do you require your officials to keep you informed of any expectation BAA might have of the Government, should it invest in NATS?
  (Mr Jamieson) Of any expectation—?

  422. Of any expectation in relation to possible changes in Government policy.
  (Mr Jamieson) I would think officials would, in the course of events, keep me informed of such things, yes.

  423. Can I ask Mr Griffins, has he kept his Minister informed of the precise expectations BAA might have on Government policy should it decide to invest in NATS?
  (Mr Griffins) I regard it as my duty to keep my ministers informed and had they made any conditions I would have informed them. They have not.

  424. Mr Griffins, you did refer to an expectation of Government. What did you mean by that?
  (Mr Griffins) There is an expectation of a Government contribution—financial contribution—as a responsible shareholder to the solution, and that is what we told the Committee last time and what we have said publicly.

  425. That is the only expectation?
  (Mr Griffins) That is the only expectation, yes.

  426. Has the Government considered alternative ownership models for NATS, given the record of Railtrack?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think the simple answer to that is those were all considered prior to July last year. Yes, other models were considered at that time and were discussed in some considerable depth. We are now in a situation where we believe that the PPP is working well and I am pleased to say that that seems to be the view of the CAA as well, from the consultation document we have in front of us.

  427. How many contingency alternatives have you worked into this?
  (Mr Jamieson) There is provision within the Transport Act that in extremis there are provisions, but we look to be a very long way away from that situation.

  428. Are you aware that the United States is reported to be considering the Canadian model, NAVCANADA, for its air traffic control? Would that have an influence on you?
  (Mr Jamieson) No, I have no information on that.

  429. Are you concerned that the CAA acts both as a safety and economic regulator for NATS? Do you think those two responsibilities could be in conflict?
  (Mr Jamieson) No. I think that was an issue from previous recommendations from this Committee, so the CAA took on those roles, and the role of providing services was separated out from the safety regulator.

  430. You are satisfied there is no conflict there?
  (Mr Jamieson) Yes, I am satisfied there is no conflict.

Mr Campbell

  431. Minister, on the assumption that BAA becomes a strategic investor in NATS and, subsequent to that, if the CAA were to allow higher charges at airports to airlines, do you think that would create a conflict of interest?
  (Mr Jamieson) No, because the CAA acts as an entirely independent regulator. I think from the document you have here their analysis shows that they are independent. I do not think there would be any conflict of interest there. If we did see any conflict of interest that arose, then obviously we would have to look at that most carefully.

  432. So you would not anticipate any change in policy in relation to airports in the south east subsequent to that?
  (Mr Jamieson) I cannot see any reason why we would do that, no.

Andrew Bennett

  433. Where are we up to with the Aviation White Paper?
  (Mr Jamieson) The consultation documents will be with us this summer. There have been very long and protracted discussions going on in setting up those consultation documents, but those will be with us. The White Paper is expected towards the very end of the year.

  434. The summer. Can you be a bit more precise than that? Some of my constituents think we have already had it.
  (Mr Jamieson) Yes, somebody pointed out to me mournfully that we are only ten days away from the nights drawing in again. We certainly hope before Parliament rises for the summer recess. It is our ambition to have the documents ready by then for consultation.

  435. Would it be possible that you would delay in publishing those documents rather than dash the unwritten expectations of the British Airports Authority?
  (Mr Jamieson) No.

  Andrew Bennett: Would you agree that it is pretty important that if we are going to have an extra airport in the south east of England it is not dominated by British Airports Authority?


  436. Do you understand the question, Minister? We are saying to you, if there is some nod and a wink in the general direction of the location of another airport in the south east which benefits the BAA, would it seem unlikely to you that this might be interpreted as being part of a deal?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think we have got to see what the consultation paper says—

Andrew Bennett

  437. If we are talking about transparency and there is not any hidden agenda from the British Airports Authority, is it not very important that those consultation documents are out in the open as soon as possible, so that people know exactly what is in them and that there is not some back-hander that is, in effect, coming from the Government for helping them out of the NATS difficulty?
  (Mr Jamieson) I would agree that the documents should be out as soon as possible. It was our hope to get them out earlier than the present moment. They have been enormously complicated and getting the documents right and consulting the various bodies internally just to get them ready for consultation has been very, very difficult indeed. However, I can assure you that that is in no way related to the matters that we are discussing today. It is entirely separate, and the teams of people working on them are entirely separate as well.

  438. Are you happy that the CAA is both the safety and economic regulator? Is there a conflict between those two?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think that question came a moment or two ago and I said that I was content with the two roles, yes.

Miss McIntosh

  439. I would like to refer to the table that the Minister very kindly furnished us with on 7 June. I just want to get confirmation of the figures. The Minister said earlier, and the figures seem to bear this out, that two months after September 11 the November figures were forecasting a 12 per cent reduction in air traffic. That corresponds with an 11 per cent reduction in February/March 1991, round about the time of the Gulf War.
  (Mr Jamieson) Mrs Dunwoody, I wonder if you would just bear with me. When we looked at the previous graph that we produced (we looked at it in more detail earlier on this week), we felt that just in presentation it was not as good as it might have been. In other words it was not very easy to read and it took some interpretation. The figures are complex. What we have done is reprinted the graph in colour which helps differentiate the lines, which is difficult. We have also got the zero line in the right place, so the axes on the graph are in the right place. We have also projected back—

  Chairman: We are delighted to know that your educational skills have not deserted you, Minister.

  Miss McIntosh: Can you confirm the original table? These figures actually contradict your earlier figures.


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