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Lord Prior: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask him to reflect on two points. First, bearing in mind the announcement about BSE today, and all that has been said, can he be certain in his own mind that the advice he has been receiving is what he wishes to do? This is a major issue of safety. He has to be absolutely certain about his own views on the subject and not perhaps pay too much attention to the expert advice he might be given.

Secondly, will the Minister always remember that what originates from the Treasury--I think that the Treasury has quite a lot to do with this--is not always correct?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, given his experience both in government and business, I listen to the noble Lord, Lord Prior, with great respect. As I said earlier, we are going forward in the belief that the investment of £1.3 billion, which we believe will be unlocked over the next 10 years, will create a higher and safer platform of technology which will enable air traffic services in the United Kingdom to continue to lead the world in safety, and, indeed, where possible, to export that expertise in safety, not only to Europe but around the world.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I pay tribute to the large number of speeches in support of our amendment from all sides of the House and, on occasion, from unexpected quarters. We have been debating this amendment for 57 minutes. I shall resist the temptation to rehearse the arguments. I believe that the number of people who spoke on our behalf and on our side of the argument fully justifies my testing the opinion of the House.

5.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 15) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 94.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Dholakia, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Geraint, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Jacobs, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L. [Teller]
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B. [Teller]
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Walmsley, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greengross, B.
Grenfell, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkhill, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Molloy, L.
Morgan, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Turnberg, L.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

26 Oct 2000 : Column 523

26 Oct 2000 : Column 524

5.55 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 16 to 18 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Duties of licence holders]:

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Clause 12 [References to Competition Commission]:

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Commission's duty as to modifications under section 16]:

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston moved Amendment No. 21:

    Page 12, line 18, at beginning insert--

("(A1) The Competition Commission must exercise its functions under section 16(2) and (3) so as to maintain a high standard of safety in the provision of air traffic services; and that duty is to have priority over the application of subsections (1) to (4).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston moved Amendments Nos. 22 to 26:

    Page 12, line 18, leave out ("Competition").

    Page 12, leave out lines 33 to 35.

    Page 12, line 36, leave out from beginning to ("interests") in line 39 and insert ("The only interests to be considered under subsection (1)(a) are").

    Page 12, line 46, leave out from ("must") to ("as") in line 1 on page 13 and insert ("apply them in the manner it thinks is reasonable having regard to them").

    Page 13, line 2, at end insert--

("(5) The Commission must exercise its functions under section 16(2) and (3) so as to impose on licence holders the minimum restrictions which are consistent with the exercise of those functions.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 1. With the leave of the House I shall move them en bloc. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 27 [Air traffic administration orders]:

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Directions in interests of national security etc.]:

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston moved Amendment No. 28:

    Page 24, line 32, at end insert--

("(3A) In exercising his powers under subsections (1) to (3) the Secretary of State must have regard to the need to maintain a high standard of safety in the provision of air traffic services.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39 [Directions relating to the environment]:

[Amendments Nos. 29 to 33 not moved.]

Clause 41 [Meaning of transfer scheme]:

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 not moved.]

Clause 43 [Transfer schemes made by CAA]:

26 Oct 2000 : Column 525

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 37:

    Page 29, line 8, at end insert--

("( ) No direction to make a transfer scheme shall be given under subsection (1) before the first Session of the next Parliament after that in which this Act is passed.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 37, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 43 and 46. The purpose of these amendments is to delay the coming into effect of a scheme to transfer NATS to a public/private partnership until after the next election.

It must be clear to everyone that the privatisation--public/private partnership as the Government prefer to call it--is highly controversial. Noble Lords will be glad to know that I do not propose to rehearse all the arguments again that we heard at Second Reading and in Committee in this House, and indeed that we heard on the last amendment on which we have just voted. Nor shall I remind the House once more of the attitude of the Labour Party when in opposition and the famous quotation from the then transport spokesman that "our air is not for sale".

We heard this afternoon a powerful case for the Canadian trust model, as was said, a model favoured by the Transport Select Committee in another place. An amendment to that effect in another place caused the third largest rebellion so far from the Government Benches there.

In short, there seems to be more than enough controversy in the Government's proposals and such an enormous about-turn from what they were saying before the last election that we believe the electorate should have a chance to see these proposals in the Labour Party Manifesto before the next election.

There is a precedent for this kind of delay. In 1982, during the passage of the Telecommunications Bill, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, now my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, said,

    "but neither the transfer of the assets and obligations to the new company nor the issue of shares to the public will take place before the next general election. We are content that the public should decide whether or not this important step should be taken".--[Official Report, Commons, 29/11/82; col. 39.]

In other words, because the BT privatisation proposals had not been in the manifesto, and because it was then a controversial issue, the Conservative government of the day thought it only right and proper to put the issue before the electorate.

In his Statement on Tuesday to another place on the Hatfield derailment, the Deputy Prime Minister reminded us that in opposition in 1992 he suggested that we did the same with rail privatisation. He said:

    "In fact, our argument was that the then Government waited to sell British Telecom until after the election, so they could have done the same with Railtrack".--[Official Report, Commons, 24/10/00; col. 151.]

In other words, the idea of a delay was at that time in the mind of the now Deputy Prime Minister.

The NATS proposal is every bit as controversial as were those relating to BT and Railtrack. But the big difference is that, whereas the BT privatisation was something people would have expected from a

26 Oct 2000 : Column 526

Conservative government, the privatisation of NATS is the very last thing anyone would have expected from a Labour Government. That is all the more reason for the proposal to appear in a manifesto before being acted upon.

The Government will no doubt argue that the industry urgently needs the investment. Indeed, there is a need for investment. These amendments do not stop any of the preparations taking place, as they did not with regard to BT. But I believe that the Government plan the PPP to happen by spring next year. Everyone is expecting an election next spring, too, so the delay need be only a couple of months at most.

That is not really the point. The point is that the proposal is controversial and it should be put before the electorate in a manifesto. I beg to move.

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