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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have sought to restrict the opportunities that would enable it to do that. The vigilance that I describe is attached to all imports into Iraq which would enable it either to develop that capacity or to gain access to such use.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, again I should like to make it clear so far as concerns bombing that those efforts are made in defence of our air crews, who are under attack and have been for the past two years. It is only in response to unjustified attacks made on us that we respond.
Whether the performance penalty regime proposed when the National Air Traffic Control Service becomes a public/private partnership is consistent with the undertakings given to the House that safety would be of paramount importance in the new arrangements.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, there is no inconsistency between the proposed performance penalty regime for National Air Traffic Services Ltd and the Government's undertaking that safety will be of paramount importance. The delay term has been set at a level that is designed to give NATS an incentive to reduce delays without in any way undermining the primacy of safety as a factor in the operations of NATS.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Does he recall a question that I asked when he made a Statement on the Hatfield rail disaster? I asked whether there was some inconsistency in the performance regimes and suggested that they might be perverse incentives. Will he please reconsider his answer? If air traffic controllers take into account the possibility of delays and penalties, their attention may not be fully fixed on their paramount duty of safety.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend recognises my interest in this matter, which is as a consultant with the British Airline Pilots Association. Does he also recognise that only the Airline Group has seen Members of this House? The other groups have so far refused to do so or have not replied to the request that we should be seen. Is my noble friend aware that the Airline Group is the only one of the three groups that operates on a non-profit-making basis? Is that not a good idea?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, my department has encouraged all of the bidders in the NATS process to meet the trade union interest. I believe that those meetings have now been held. I hope that any request for further information will be responded to sympathetically. However, your Lordships will understand that we are currently in the middle of a bidding process and that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual bids.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, during the three-month delay to the PPP, the Minister was, among other things, going to seek to persuade the controllers and employees of NATS of the merits of the Government's proposals. How successful have those efforts been, bearing in mind reports that I have seen in the press that the controllers are now threatening to strike?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, my colleagues and I have visited West Drayton to see controllers and we have been to Swanwick. I have addressed meetings of managers at NATS and we have had meetings with trade unions. I have another meeting with the trade union leadership tomorrow. We have also seen pension trustees. We understand that it is natural for people to be concerned during a time of change. However, the Government have done much to meet legitimate staff concerns, and we remain open to dialogue. I shall take forward that dialogue when I meet the trade unions tomorrow. We are determined to secure a satisfactory outcome to the PPP and a strategic partner who will enhance and complement the operational excellence of NATS by bringing in new skills in the fields of project management, customer relations and financing.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, my understanding is that we already have contracts in place for senior managers, who are incentivised in terms of performance. During the years that those contracts have been in place, safety standards have not been adversely affected--in fact, they have improved. Safety remains the first and most important target for operational managers. The very small number of contracts that were on offer and that continued to have a very small percentage of incentive would not be detrimental to the very high safety standards that are set.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the way in which those bonuses are structured ensures that no individual flight is ever taken into account when assessing any kind of incentive. Rather, a general incentive over general performance right across the en route sector is involved.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, is the Minister aware that not all delays are necessarily caused or can be rectified by air traffic controllers? Other causes include the military use of airspace, bad weather and handling on the airfield at an airport. Are penalties envisaged in that context?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the measure of delay that we have introduced is, as I said earlier, less than that recommended to us to ensure a smooth transition to the new regime. It does not include delays due to air traffic control at airports or to flow management problems that are attributed to other en route service providers. Moreover, it does not have any effect on consequential delays that are caused to subsequent flights as a result of knock-on effects. We will also exclude the impact of extreme weather, which removes a potential conflict between safety and financial penalties. That keeps safety paramount, as we have always intended.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I trust that the House will forgive me if I draw its attention to some administrative difficulties--I put it no more strongly than that--which arise in relation to tomorrow's business. I refer to the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Tomlinson. The Motion calls
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, that places in a difficult position those of us who take seriously events in the European Community. Documents should be readily available and provided in time for one to be able to participate in a debate on them. The latest copy of the Treaty of Nice that I have is dated 12th December. Its reference number is 533/00, and it is 197 pages long. I assure your Lordships that it is not free from ambiguity. I suspect that your Lordships will agree that that characteristic is fairly often typical of some emanations from the European Commission and other European bodies.
I gave notice to my noble friend Lord Tomlinson of the situation. I have the document dated 12th December before me. However, although a later edition was published on 22nd December, we have been unable to see it. Before participating in tomorrow's debate--if indeed I do--I would like to be familiar with the treaty to which I may refer.
Past experience has shown that when the Commission amends documents which are dubious to begin with--such documents are numerous--the ambiguities often appear in a more general and sometimes more obtuse form in the revised version. I should be glad to have the guidance of the House as to whether, in the circumstances, we wish to proceed with the debate. I warn noble Lords that I believe that, if they study the Treaty of Nice in its revised form, it will take well over a day simply to read it. I shall be glad to receive guidance on the matter, and I am sorry that I have had to raise it.
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