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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, we should be straightforward about this. The noble Lord, Lord Marshall, made a substantial and extremely interesting speech, as he was entitled to do. But it was no more directed against the amendment in a precise way than other speeches made in the House. I suggest to the Government Chief Whip that these are important issues about which the House feels deeply. We should have one rule for all Members and there should be a degree of latitude. Let common sense prevail and let us hear what others have to say.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, the Government showed, in answers given by the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday in another place, that they cannot intervene in railway matters. I want to make very clear that we are presenting the Government with an opportunity to ensure that any new arrangements embracing NATS will not be structured so that service is in any way subordinated to profit.

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Finally, it is essential that other parts of the Bill are enacted because we need an effective and powerful Strategic Rail Authority and the many other matters of which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, spoke in his introduction.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I have listened with great care to what has been said, as I have as regards all previous debates on this Bill. Most contributions were constructive and I listened with particular respect to the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, given his unrivalled experience of aviation and business generally through his work with the CBI.

We accept that there is concern about the timing of the PPP. The amendments introduced in another place last night provide an undertaking that we shall not rush that process. I am grateful for the practical approach taken by noble Lords opposite, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara.

Let me expand some of the issues about which I spoke earlier. We shall put in place new air aviation directions and ensure that the CAA is empowered to control airspace policy. That is a subject which should be discussed further. In response to my noble friends Lord Brett and Lord Clinton-Davis, yes, we shall continue to talk to staff representatives and to address their concerns. We shall facilitate meetings between the trade unions and the bidders so that they can talk about plans for the future organisation of NATS and the implications for staff. We shall talk further to the unions about the 5 per cent employee share scheme in order to inform our final decision on how tens of millions of pounds will in fact be dispersed to staff. We shall also discuss further with pension trustees any additional clarification that they may seek.

My noble friend Lord Brett asked about the scope that there may be for discussions around regulation or operational parameters in the next three-month period. As I have said, we remain open to constructive discussions about the operation of the PPP. The legislation lays down specific processes and the main criteria under which the PPP will be created and maintained. Since the beginning of this process we have made clear much of our thinking on the non-legislative framework for the PPP, both as part of the consultation process and during the passage of the Bill. That said, we are always willing to listen to constructive suggestions on the working of the PPP.

As to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Brett, about further reconsideration of the trust option, there have been lengthy debates here and in another place about the merits and otherwise of trust models. Consistently the Government have made it clear that we believe that the PPP offers a number of advantages over a trust model and for that reason remains our preferred option. However, we have made it clear all along that the PPP model in no way precludes it being run as a not-for-profit company, provided all the Government's criteria are met.

We shall ensure that both the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS are well organised for their new roles and that those roles are fully understood before

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they are separated. We shall take steps to ensure that the protections in relation to safety, which your Lordships have introduced, are understood. We shall also hold further discussions on any aspects of concern with users, including the general aviation community and other stakeholders, and on matters of airspace policy. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, touched on the dimensions of national security and the golden share, which will be brought within the process over the next three months.

I have listened carefully to the debate this afternoon. Therefore, to show how seriously we propose to make use of the three-month deferment, I am happy to undertake, as was requested, to come to your Lordships' House at the end of that period--around the end of February or the beginning of March--and to make a further Statement to the House. That will give an opportunity for noble Lords to hear about those further discussions and to hear our response to any concerns that may have been expressed.

I take to heart the injunction made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, to ensure that the issues are better understood by the public. In the best interests of all involved, particularly the public interest, we shall work to build a well-informed consensus across air traffic services, across the aviation industry, and we shall do that over the next three months. That is our promise to the House. I believe that it is a reasonable way to move forward and that it reflects the spirit of this and recent debates here and in another place. Therefore, I commend the Commons amendments to the House.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, this afternoon we have had a good debate on this subject. We have had the benefit of two new speakers on the Transport Bill in the form of the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge. I do not intend to comment on the constitutional arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I felt that I had addressed those fairly well today and at previous stages of the Bill. We welcome to the debate the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, with his great hands-on experience in relation to this issue.

The Minister told the House something different from what was said in another place by the Deputy Prime Minister. Last night the Deputy Prime Minister added to my worries by saying that we needed to work on the detail. No wonder, therefore, that rebellion in another place rose to new levels. The public know all too well what it means when the Deputy Prime Minister has to work out the detail.

The Minister today has met this House in a different way. Where the Deputy Prime Minister revealed the holes in the policy, the Minister promised to fill in some of the gaps. As I understand it--and he will correct me if I am wrong--he promised that during the three-month period the Government will decide on the strategic partner and the nature of the final agreement. The Minister talked about the outcome of consultation with staff, with the unions, with the controllers and with the airline pilots. He talked about the nature of the employee shareholding; the nature of

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the new relationship between the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services; the way in which national control over air traffic control can be maintained, as I asked him to do; and the situation of the golden share, especially bearing in mind their position with regard to the BAA judgment. He has undertaken to return to Parliament in three months' time and to report on those matters in a Statement on which I hope that there can be a proper and full debate.

I also raised the issue of safety--

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the noble Lord has obviously had quite extensive discussions with the Minister about this matter. Did he also have a discussion with the Minister as to how the matter will return to this House? Will it be by means of a Motion, will the House simply take note, or will there be a debate?

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I hope that we shall have a report and a Statement to the House on which we can have a full debate. I hope I am right in saying that that is what the Minister said we shall have. The Minister indicates that that is right. We will need a full report and a Statement covering those particular issues, which we have been promised in three months' time.

I turn to the matter of safety. Never during debates on this issue have I questioned the matter of safety. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge. I hope that what I said about safety and what the Minister has undertaken to do will satisfy the general public, the press, the media, the pilots and the controllers that safety is not an issue. Even if we may not regard it as an issue, certainly there are those outside, in the big wide world, who do. It is essential that those fears are allayed.

If I am right in what I have said and in what the Minister has undertaken to do, I believe that there has been a considerable shift in the position that was taken last night in another place. That will ensure full public and parliamentary debate to a greater extent than we have secured so far. In effect, the position is still maintained that nothing will be implemented much before the expected date of an election in the spring.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, whether anything is implemented much before the election is not the point. It is a matter of whether it is implemented before or after the election. If the noble Lord is proposing not to press the amendment, can he make it clear whether the House will have an opportunity to vote on whatever is said in three months' time? Surely we need to know that key point before we vote tonight.

4 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I was about to deal with the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott. The amendment that we are considering today defers this for three months, which takes it to March. My original amendment deferred it until after

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the election. I can see some advantages to the Government's amendment, which means that this will be a live, hot issue until the time of the general election. Whether or not they want to, the Government will have to make decisions about it at the time of the general election.

As regards a debate, the House can vote on any kind of debate that we have. If the Minister tables a Motion for debate, any noble Lord can propose an amendment to that debate and a vote can take place at the end. That is the procedure of the House.

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