Monthly Archives: October 2000

NATS privatisation – government must think again

Following the House of Lords vote last night against the sell-off of National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Dr Gavin Strang MP for East Edinburgh and Musselburgh has urged Ministers to halt the privatisation.

Speaking in Edinburgh today, Gavin Strang said:

‘This is an important and significant defeat for the government. I urge Ministers to collectively reconsider the privatisation plan which is deeply unpopular with the British people, and with Labour supporters in particular.
‘The top management of NATS should be devoting all their ability and working time to ensuring that the New Scottish Centre at Prestwick and the New En Route Centre at Swanwick, near Southampton, are operational as soon as possible. They should not be entangled in a complex privatisation.

‘The Transport Bill now provides for the sale of 75% of the equity in NATS. And Ministers made it clear during its passage through the Commons that if there were to be a disagreement between the ‘private strategic partner’ and the other major shareholder, they would go for a complete private flotation.

‘UK air traffic control is the best in the world. The international airline pilots who fly the world say so. That is why the British airline pilots’ association, BALPA, is opposed to privatisation, as are the unions representing the engineering staff and support workers and the air traffic controllers themselves.

‘The air traffic controllers are concerned that the standards which will be set by the ‘independent regulator’ are likely to be lower than those which NATS currently adheres to. I believe that is one reason why the general aviation community are overwhelmingly opposed to the government on this.

‘Polls show that the British people are opposed to this privatisation. The privatisation plan was described by the all-party House of Commons Transport Select Committee as ‘the worst of all the possible options.’

‘The privatisation of air traffic control was not put forward to improve the safety of our skies, but for financial reasons – first to raise money for the Treasury, which we now know will be less than expected, and secondly because the Treasury would not let NATS borrow from the private sector. But it is now clear that the government’s surplus will be over £20bn this year.

‘The Keep Our Skies Safe group of Labour MPs will be meeting next week to consider the new parliamentary situation. We will be doing all we can to urge Ministers to take this opportunity to reconsider the privatisation of NATS.’

MP writes to protect the Post Office

Gavin Strang MP has written to Stephen Byers MP, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, about measures to protect the future of the Post Office.
Speaking in his Edinburgh East & Musselburgh constituency today, Gavin Strang said:

‘I welcome the Government’s commitment to halt the run-down in the Post Office network which occurred under the Conservatives.

‘The Government has promised that the Post Office will develop in three areas.

1. ‘As a Universal Bank, to provide local banking services accessible for all. The Post Offices in my constituency say that this new bank is very important for securing the long term future of the network.

‘To set up the new bank, the government will need the high street banks to cooperate. But in July the British Bankers Association made a very negative statement about the bank.

‘I have asked Stephen Byers what progress has been made in establishing the Universal Bank.

‘We cannot allow the Universal Bank to be scuppered.

2. ‘Providing Internet access and enabling people to exploit e-commerce.

‘I believe that this will only work if there is someone actually available to sit with the client at the terminal and guide them through the necessary steps. People who are not used to this technology – including many elderly people – will need help if they are to benefit from the new facilities.

‘I have asked Stephen Byers if it would be possible to subsidise this assistance via the new sources of funding that the Labour Government has put in place for the Post Office.

3. ‘As General Government Practitioners, with an enhanced role in providing Government services, becoming one-stop shops for advice and information on government services.

‘I have asked Stephen Byers to set out the areas where he envisages further work could be transferred to Post Offices.

‘From the tiny village to the inner city, our local Post Offices play a vital social and economic role. It is vital that we ensure that this country has a thriving network of local post offices for the future.’