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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460-467)




  460. Doing what?
  (Mr Jamieson) That has brought about efficiencies.

  461. In what sense? They have not yet done anything about the assistance, as far as I know they have not changed the way in which companies are operating, we already have problems with the software.
  (Mr Jamieson) The problem with the software, Mrs Dunwoody, would have existed whoever had owned NATS.

  462. I make no estimate of whether it would or would not. You have told us that in the run up to the PPP they probably were not very efficient and now they are. I am saying if it is the same management could you identify where?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think with new private sector management in there, they are effecting certain efficiencies in the way they operate.

  463. They are opticians, they are handing out glasses to the controllers.
  (Mr Jamieson) Also, I think considering the very considerable problems that they have had, financial problems, and the problems that they have had since September 11, I think to have opened Swanwick in the way that they have has been very successfully handled and I think they look a very good and professional organisation.

  464. We have always had the greatest admiration in this Committee for the National Air Traffic Services who have operated under an extremely difficult regime with great pressures on them, none of them to do with the efficient working of the National Air Traffic Services so I do not think there is any question of us criticising them, Minister, I am just interested in where this enormous change has taken place. Are you quite convinced that sufficiently diligent measures were taken before the PPP to look at, and indeed analyse, the sensitivity of the financial and business forecast?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think it was handled very carefully and diligently at the time. I think all the other models were looked at very carefully. I think as I have said earlier had there not been a big downturn, particularly in the transatlantic traffic, we would have been in a very different situation today in that the financial position would have been secure and all the other things that the CAA are saying about NATS as it stands today would have been true also. I think the financial position would have been secure as well.

  465. Finally, Minister, could I just ask you to put your imagination into a situation where for one reason or another no other equity buyer comes forward and the banks then decide this is a rather poor investment and they require Her Majesty's Government to take the rest of the shares off their hands or alternatively to put this organisation into administration, what would the attitude of Her Majesty's Government be and do you think that is totally unbelievable as a scenario?
  (Mr Jamieson) I think it is extremely unlikely. There is provision within the Act. If in extremis the company was not operating effectively and the finances were not operating effectively then there is a provision there to put it into administration. I can say with very considerable confidence that is not the sort of discussion that we are having. The discussion that we are having is that it is a company that is operating well, there are financial difficulties which the CAA and we have recognised and we are looking to get the extra equity partner in there to assist the company. Once that has been done and the Government has played its part in putting its share in, I think that NATS has a very good financial future as well as the future that clearly it has in supplying the air traffic services that it does.

  466. Finally, you give us a 100 per cent guarantee that Her Majesty's Government intend to maintain, whatever the situation, exactly the same percentage of equity in the company?
  (Mr Jamieson) Yes, that is our intention.

  467. Thank you very much. We are always delighted to see you all.
  (Mr Jamieson) But none more delighted than us, Mrs Dunwoody, to appear before you. Thank you very much.


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