Speaking in Brighton at the Keep Our Skies Safe (KOSS) meeting at 1pm at the Norfolk Hotel, Gavin Strang MP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, and convenor of PLP KOSS said today:
‘Pilots internationally acclaim Britain’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) as the best in the world. We need to keep it that way.
‘The government’s complex privatisation scheme for National Air Traffic Services is opposed by the British Airline Pilots Association, by the air traffic controllers themselves and by their support staff. The House of Commons Select Committee on transport called the proposals the ‘worst of all the possible options’.
‘When it comes to safety in our increasingly crowded airspace, the relationship between the pilot and the air traffic controller is crucial. We need them both on side for any changes we make to air traffic control in this country.
‘Is Labour to fight the next general election as the Party which believes in high quality public services? That is what delegates here in Brighton want.
‘Or are we going to be portrayed in the election campaign as arch-privatisers who privatise public services that the Tories over 18 years did not dare to sell off? The future of air traffic control is a litmus test of Labour’s credibility here.
‘NATS needs to stay in the public sector. It is a monopoly provider and should remain independent of airlines and other vested interests. It cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. It has to be operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
‘Privatising NATS would not be like privatising an airline, which could increase its profits by providing more services, serving more destinations and so on. All NATS does is keep planes safely apart. So all NATS could do to boost profits would be to cut costs. And this leads to real safety concerns.
‘Privatising NATS also raises real worries about national security. Air traffic controllers, the police, the RAF and the government have to work together seamlessly in the event of a crisis – far better managed within the public sector than if our air traffic control was handled by an outside, private company. In addition, if NATS were run by a private company, potential conflicts of interests could arise.
‘NATS is the best in the world. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, is the message which air travellers would like to convey to the government.
‘The Government should think again and stop air traffic privatisation.
‘Keep our skies safe.’